Bristol Bad Film Club speaks to the director of Deadly Prey!
In the world of cult films, there are few people with as distinguished a filmography as David A. Prior (apart from maybe Roger Corman and Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman). During the late 80s and early 90s, the American screenwriter and director was behind a slew of low-budget films that found sizeable audiences, thanks to the popularity of VHS.
Through his own film production and distribution company, Action International Pictures, which he founded with producers David Winters and Peter Yuval, Prior wrote and directed over 15 films including Aerobicide, Operation Warzone, Raw Justice, Mankillers, Night Wars and, of course, Deadly Prey.
As you’d expect from a low-budget production company, a lot of Prior’s films used the same cast and crew including David Prior’s brother Ted (Deadly Prey’s Mike Danton), established actor Cameron Mitchell and the likes of Fritz Matthews and David Campbell.
We were lucky enough to speak to David ahead of our Deadly Prey screening about making the film and its enduring popularity.
Q: I read an interview with you were you said you went to the “David Prior School of Filmmaking” – was it purely a lot of ‘learn by doing’ when it came to many of your films?
A: There is always something to learn, but I think I learned all I needed after two or three movies, especially when you get involved with the editing. That really teaches you what you shot right and what you shot wrong.
Today, people shoot movies on HD-video and can see all their shots as they are happening. In my day, there was no such luxury. The only way I saw the shot was after the negative was processed and a work print of it was sent back to us.
So basically, you would shoot the whole film in the dark and piece it together later.
Q: The 1980s are a goldmine for action film lovers – did you find it was easy to get distribution for your films?
A: At Action International Pictures, we did our own distribution; but it would have been very easy, just not as lucrative, to go with other companies. The movies that we were making then were exactly what the buyers around the world wanted.
Q: The turn around between your films was very quick. Is it true that Deadly Prey was shot back-to-back with ManKillers?
A: It was not shot back to back, There were several months between those two. Mankillers was second and I would think the reason for a quick turnaround is obvious – buyers around the world wanted action, so I added the hot babes and they liked it even more!
Q: When you were first making Deadly Prey, what were your inspirations for the character of Mike Danton (played by David’s brother Ted Prior) and the film itself?
A: The inspiration for the movie was the short story “The Most Dangerous Game” (which also inspired the cult classic ‘Gymkata’). For the character of Mike Danton, the main influence was clearly John Rambo – only tougher that he was in First Blood.
SPOILERS AHEAD FOR DEADLY PREY
Q: You manage to do a lot with what I assume was a relatively low budget. How did you manage to get all those military vehicles that feature in the film?
A: Those vehicles are part of The American Heritage Military Museum. We got them in the film simply by shooting those scenes on their property.
Q: One thing I always notice whenever I watch the film are those hand grenades on Hogan’s desk. Is he using them a paper weights? It seems rather dangerous…
A: Who knows man. We put them there for a reason, but 28 years later I can’t tell you why…
Q: Did Ted ever complain about having to cut around the forest in just a pair of denim cut-offs, or was he game for anything?
A: The worst part for him was being barefooted. He would cover the bottom of his feet with duct tape, but that didn’t help much. Apart from the few mornings when it was chilly out, he also didn’t really mind the shorts.
Q: I have to ask about the ‘cutting off arm, slapping in the face’ scene. Whose idea was that and how did it come about?
A: It was my idea when I wrote the script. I wanted to do something that I did not believe had ever been done – and now it has.
END OF SPOILERS
Q: Have you been amazed at how Deadly Prey has continued to find an audience over the years? Why do you think of your entire back catalogue that it is the film that has gone on to generate such a cult following?
A: It was quite surprising actually, but I am still somewhat unsure of how big the fanbase is. We recently made and released a sequel for it – The Deadliest Prey – and it’s been getting great reviews, but we’re trying to spread the word. Your readers can check it out at www.deadliestprey.com
Q: Tracking down your back catalogue is quite a challenge. Do you have any advice for fans that want to track down some of your earlier work?
A: I honestly don’t. You have to try Amazon or eBay. I don’t have most of it anymore myself. If we are ever able to make a little money with the Deadliest Prey, then we would look into releasing some of the older ones on DVD.
Q: Tell us about your current projects?
Relentless Justice will be coming out very soon. It is a great revenge movie with a great cast that includes Eric Roberts as well as Ted Prior and David Campbell and other notable actors.
I’m also still working on Assassin’s Fury that was shot a couple of months ago. but we still need to go back and do some reshoots. I’m also writing on a screenplay for a larger company but am not at liberty to talk about it just yet.
David Prior, thanks for your time!