Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Jim (Sorority House Massacre 2) Wynorski Finds Love

With the holiday season winding down, I’m thinking of one of my favorite elves, Jim Wynorski. Jim, who’s directed dozens of Roger Corman movies since Chopping Mall in 1986, has something of the girth (as well as the beard) of Santa Claus, and no doubt could do a great Ho-ho-ho. But Jim, for all that he’s pushing sixty, remains at heart a fifteen-year-old boy. That means he loves movies that are naughty in an adolescent way. His aesthetic, as he once boiled it down for me, is simple: “Big chase and a big chest . . . If you put those two ingredients in a movie, you’re going to have a good time.” Still, though he’s made films with titles like The Devil Wears Nada, Jim retains a youthful naïveté that helps him grasp a child’s-eye view of the world.

Which led him to make Munchie, a kid-friendly trifle about a magical creature who brightens the life of a lonely young boy. Because I was deeply involved with the film’s screenplay, Jim invited me to show up at the Concorde studio, with my family in tow, to take part in a major sequence. We were to play guests at a wild and crazy party thrown by the irrepressible Munchie (voiced by Dom DeLuise). “Wild and crazy” in this context meant a lot of oddly assorted guests dancing around young Gage’s living room in colorful costumes. My husband took a day off from work, and my children were released from school to participate in this “educational” experience. Having been on movie sets before, I knew there’d be lots of waiting around before we were needed. So I didn’t try very hard (shame on me!) to get the gang to the Concorde lot at the assigned call-time. To my chagrin, Jim was running ahead of schedule, and we were whisked through wardrobe and onto the set before the hair-and-makeup department had a chance to grab hold of us. Jim positioned us in a prominent spot, and filming began.

The sequence took most of the day to shoot. During the lunch break, a crew member flagged me down. I was wearing a rather sexy harem girl outfit, but my hair was short and my face was bare. In a few moments I was tricked out with lipstick, rouge, eye shadow, and a glorious cascade of chestnut locks. If you chance to see Munchie, look for me on the dance floor, just behind the main actors. Magically, from shot to shot I go from short hair to long and from paleface to glamour girl. Fortunately for my reputation as a Hollywood extra, Jim Wynorski has never been obsessed with detail.

What he is obsessed with is eye candy. He filled his cast with voluptuous women (including Loni Ackerman as Gage’s good-hearted but definitely hot mom and Wynorski’s sometimes-squeeze Monique Gabrielle as a classroom teacher). The script also called for a cute little girl to catch Gage’s eye at the party. Jim being Jim, he was determined to come up with a young actress whom a preteen boy would find enticing. He chose an adorable thirteen-year-old with a dazzling smile. Her name was Love, and this was her first film. Today she’s a TV star: Jennifer Love Hewitt.

The following year, Jim starred her in a variation on It Happened One Night, featuring a poor little rich girl and the gruff private detective (Howard Hesseman) assigned to track her down. Little Miss Millions, originally called Home for Christmas, is the most innocent and charming film in the often-lurid Jim Wynorski canon.


  1. Great piece Beverly. I loved your book on Corman.

  2. Thanks so much! I don't know who you are, but you're obviously a person with great taste! I hope you continue to read (and enjoy) "Beverly in Movieland." And, of course, best wishes for a very happy new year.

  3. I think there's a Wynorski movie on every weekend on television after hours, lol. I sometimes get him and Fred Olen Ray mixed up. Their movies are often very similar. I never did see this MUNCHIES follow up. I'd be interested to know why Wynorski switched from directing silly, if entertaining exploitation pictures to porn. I wonder if it was a financial decision, or one he had wanted to do for some time? Possibly it was a natural progression that is alluded to in his quote included in the above post?

  4. Jim is a restless guy. He always needs to keep busy. I don't think there was ever a conscious plan on his part to move from exploitation into soft-core, or whatever. He just goes with the flow!

  5. I have been a big Jim Wynorski fan (you're surprised?) since he left Fangoria magazine to work with Mr. Corman and company starting with Screamers - I think - a formerly Italian movie formerly titled Island of the Fishmen - for which Mr. Wynorski was instrumental in developing an ad campaign that caused a bit of a ruckus when compared to the movie it promoted - is this one I can turn over to you to tell, Ms. G?

  6. Thanks, Mr. C -- I'm so glad you brought up Screamers, which gives me a terrific opportunity for another Jim Wynorski-related post. Coming soon!

  7. You were involved with the screenplay of 'Munchie', and you even made an appearance in it? That's so cool! That film, and 'Munchie Strikes Back' were two of my absolute favorite films when I was young. Today I own them both on DVD, and they remain a huge part of my childhood. That little imp really helped me through some tough times as a kid.
    I have a couple questions- (1) Did you ever see the Munchie puppet(s)? (2) How was the puppet operated, how did it work? (3) How many people did it take to operate? (4) How many puppets were created and used? (5) Do you know what happened to the puppet(s) after the film(s) were completed? It would be so sad if they got trashed. I'd love to see them on ebay someday!

  8. Hi Anonymous! How nice of you to write! I don't know the answers to your questions, but I think I can track down someone who does. Wish me luck! And I hope you continue to read Beverly in Movieland.

    1. Thanks VERY much! I have a huge fascination with film animatronics!

      So, you never actually saw the Munch himself that day on the set? ;)

      I think that's so cool that you contributed to the screenplay. I'd like to know how you got involved with it. And were you involved with Munchie Strikes Back in any way?