WL You know, when you're making a movie and you're throwing ketchup around, it's almost kind of comical. It's not intended to be serious — you intend it to be a kind of roller-coaster ride for an audience. And when people take a movie like that so seriously, and look at it as being a political statement, and look at it as being some kind an outcry for violence against women and things like that, it kind of takes you aback. When I made the film, I was 24 years old and I was just trying to survive the experience. I wasn't thinking about the wider implications of what we were doing. And I think we've gone beyond that in the world today. I think we kind of look at it as being make-believe.
SFBG I have to ask you about the famous exploding head, courtesy of effects wizard Tom Savini. Did you realize that would be Maniac's defining moment?
WL I think after we made the movie, we realized it had a tremendous impact. But when we were doing it, we were like burglars in the night. First off, there is no permit in existence, in any part of New York City, or I would imagine in any part of the country, that allows to you fire a live gun on a movie set and on public streets. Which is what we did — we actually filmed that in that parking lot, under the Verrazano Bridge, with a live shotgun, double-loaded. That was our major concern: would we get busted? It wasn't until later, when we saw the dailies, that we realized, "Holy shit! It actually turned out to be something!" We rigged up three cameras and we just went for it.
SFBG You're the owner of Blue Underground, which has released top-notch DVDs and Blu-rays of Maniac and other grindhouse movies. Why did you become such a champion of these films?
WL It was kind of satisfying my own need. I always loved having people over to my house, showing them these obscure grindhouse movies that I had seen on 42nd Street in the late '60s and early '70s, and I would see their [enthusiastic] reactions. One of the things that bothered me back in the '80s and the '90s was that these movies were never really treated with any respect. So it was my intention to treat grindhouse movies the same way Criterion treats its Fellini movies.
MIDNITES FOR MANIACS: PUSH IT TO THE LIMIT TRIPLE FEATURE
Just One of the Guys (1985), Fri., 7:30 p.m.; Point Break (1991), Fri., 9:30 p.m.;
Maniac: The Restored Director's Cut (1980), Fri., midnight, $12
429 Castro, SF
(415) 621-6120 www.castrotheatre.com