Ray Dennis Steckler: Actor and director of cult films and slasher movies who worked with Hendrix and Zappa

Ray Dennis Steckler rose above most drive-in and exploitation directors with two immortally named and enjoyable cult films, The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed Up Zombies!!? and Rat Pfink a Boo Boo.

Steckler, an ex-army photographer, arrived in B-movie Hollywood in 1959, working as a cinematographer. Under the pseudonym ‘Cash Flagg’ (a persona he retained when appearing in his own films), he also secured work as an actor.

The aspiring director had an aversion to scripts: to his mind, trying to find the ‘right’ locations and props just delayed things. He preferred to start with a general idea and a can-do attitude. But his first solo credit was the strictly scripted Wild Guitar (1962). He also acted in it and lost several teeth in a fight scene. To stay on schedule, Steckler cleaned up and duct-taped some styrofoam into his mouth to cover the gaps.

Looking for more creative freedom, he set up his own company. But it wasn’t just multi-tasking that made Steckler comparable to Russ Meyer and the notorious Ed Wood: he was similarly devoted to making films that were unlike anyone else’s, though it meant low budgets and guerrilla film-making with friends and family, including his first wife.

His first production was The Incredibly Strange Creatures (1964) about a Dr Caligari-like hypnotized murderer. It became “the world’s first monster-musical” when Steckler teamed up with a composer and found some Las Vegas showgirl costumes. “We didn’t have a big budget,” said Steckler, “but we thought a big title would make it look like we did.” As a trained photographer, Steckler tried to employ good cinematographers: Lazslo Kovacs and the future Oscar-winner Vilmos Zsigmond both worked on The Incredibly Strange Creatures.

Steckler’s freeform approach meant that his films often lurched between genres. The Thrill Killers (1964), about murderous escapees from a mental asylum, climaxes in a shootout between a cowboy and a motorcycle cop, but the most outrageous example is Rat Pfink a Boo Boo (1966). Beginning as a black-and-white crime drama, it does a handbrake turn when the heroes enter a closet and reappear as superheroes in an orange-hued Batman parody that is simply an extended chase scene. The surreality is helped by a friend’s gorilla suit and a passing marching band. Steckler sometimes claimed that the planned title was ‘Rat Pfink and Boo Boo’ but the graphic designer made a mistake and there was no money to correct it.

But where Wood remained essentially an outsider, leading a clique of misfits, Steckler, apart from his personal work, made successful promo videos for Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, Jefferson Airplane (the druggy “White Rabbit”) and others.

When drive-in and old-style exploitation declined, Steckler moved into porn and slasher films (pseudonymously as Cindy Lou Sutters or Sven Christian) that became increasingly dark while retaining his inimitable style. Las Vegas Serial Killer (1986) featured an actor called Ron Jason, who met Steckler when he came to repair the air-conditioning.

He recently completed One More Time, an “extension” of The Incredibly Strange Creatures. But Steckler denied it was a sequel. As he said, “Would Orson Welles make a sequel to Citizen Kane?”

John Riley

Ray Dennis Steckler, film-maker: born 25 January 1938 Reading, Pennsylvania; married Carolyn Brandt (dissolved; two daughters) married Katherine (two daughters); died in Las Vegas 7 January 2009.

Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam