Friday, February 10, 2012

Worth Mentioning - In Memory of Bill Hinzman

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

This week, Cody pays his respects to Bill Hinzman with a viewing of The Majorettes. 

This past Sunday, I was shocked to hear the news that Bill Hinzman, best known as the first zombie to appear in the 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead, had passed away at the age of 75.

As I wrote in my appreciation article on the Hinzman-directed film FleshEater back in October, it's been a goal of mine for the last year to be involved with the making of a FleshEater sequel in any way possible. It's a cruel twist of fate that the year I spent dreaming of our collaboration is the same year that he was diagnosed with cancer.

Sunday night, I watched FleshEater again. I have no idea how many times I've watched that movie in the last year, but I've watched it a lot. I then had the thought that the best way to pay my respects to Mister Hinzman this week would be to write about his other directorial entry in the horror genre, a film that he made a couple years before FleshEater.


Based on a novel by Night of the Living Dead co-writer John A. Russo, who also wrote the screenplay adaptation, The Majorettes is a slasher about members of a high school majorette squad getting knocked off one-by-one by a camo-clad killer with a hunting knife, who baptizes the girls after he murders them.

The film presents us with several suspicious characters: Harry, the dimwitted janitor who spies on the girls in the locker room and takes pictures as they undress. Mace Jackson, the local drug dealer/gang leader who had a personal connection to one of the victims. With the baptism aspect, the killer could even be an overzealous preacher. 

There's also more going on beyond the stalk and slash, much more than the typical '80s slasher, things that aren't even necessarily connected to the baptizing killer.

One of the most disturbing elements in the film deals with the nurse caring for the grandmother of one of the majorettes. The grandmother has been immobilized by a stroke, Helga the nurse is an evil woman who's plotting to orchestrate the murder of the majorette as soon as she turns 18 and inherits $500,000. If the girl dies, the money will go to the grandmother, and when the grandmother dies it will go to Helga. Since the grandmother can't speak, Helga sadistically shares every bit of her plan with the woman. I've had a loved one who was severely affected by strokes, so watching how Helga treats and speaks to the grandmother so deeply disturbs me that I can hardly stand to watch it. Helga is the mother of Harry and there's a big contrast between mother and son: Helga has a European accent, Harry is full-on country American.

Another major subplot deals with Mace Jackson's gang and the quarterback who saw Mace and one of the victims together. These subplots culminate in a genre detour into action/revenge about an hour into the film, as gunfire and explosions ensue. It's pretty awesome.

Bill Hinzman and John Russo both make cameos, and their Night of the Living Dead cohort Russell Streiner plays the preacher. There are some familiar faces from FleshEater, including Hinzman's daughter Heidi Hinzman as a little majorette who gets baptized, Kevin Kindlin as the machine gunning quarterback, Terrie Godfrey as the majorette in danger from Helga, and Tom Madden as a gang member.

The special effects are by Gerald Gergely, who went on to handle the effects on FleshEater, and FleshEater co-editor Paul McCollough co-edits with Hinzman here as well. McCollough was also the cinematographer and composer. There is a very unique sound effect in his score during the kill scenes.


Hinzman directs the film well and there's some great stalk and slash imagery. The first reveal of the killer behind a car parked at a "lover's lane" of sorts is a fantastic shot. Another standout shot has the killer watching a girl through a window as she changes into a bikini before a night swim, the focus switching back and forth between the girl and the killer's knife, shining in the moonlight. 

Hinzman delivered two highly entertaining horror movies with The Majorettes and FleshEater, and watching these films makes me wish that he had directed more. He had been trying to get FleshEater 2 together in early 2011, and I really wish it would've happened. I desperately wanted to work with him, it would've been amazing, a dream come true.

Hinzman leaves behind a great film legacy. His role in Night of the Living Dead has earned him a solid place in film history, he'll always be remembered for it. His daughter Heidi Hinzman carries the torch on in the film industry, as the little majorette and the little angel from FleshEater has grown up to be a 2nd Assistant Director. 

1936 - 2012

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