Note: This interview was conducted for RS in 2005
Films become legendary for different reasons. Some are plagued with problems; others manage to transcend the art form and become something else entirely. Then there is the rarest beast indeed, the movie that no one knows anything about. You know it exists, you’ve seen it. You even recognize some of the actors. But somehow little was documented about the actual making of it. A film that fell into that category would certainly be The Prey. A fun, if bewildering, slasher film that despite its low-budget and niche interest has managed to maintain itself in the genre. If you love slashers, you’ve seen The Prey. You may not have loved the film, but I’ll be damned if you weren’t curious about its incarnation.
Jackson Bostwick played Ranger Mark O’Brien, the sweet would be hero who tells the infamous ‘wide mouth frog’ joke (he also plays a mean banjo). Jackson was kind enough to sit down and answer a few of the burning questions horror fans have been asking themselves for the last two decades. His answers were quite interesting…
Retro Slashers: How did you get involved with The Prey?
Jackson Bostwick: My acting coach at the time, Lurene Tuttle, recommended me for the part. I went in, read for the director, and got it. They loved a picture I had of me with a two-week beard growth and asked me how long it would take for me to duplicate it. I told them two weeks — duh — and to let me know the start date and it’ll be ready.
RS: I always see varying dates on the release of the movie. When was it actually shot and released?
JB: It was shot in 1978. I’m not sure of the exact release. I know New World picked it up later.
RS: Edwin Brown made a lot of movies for the adult industry. What was he like to work with?
JB: I don’t recall a lot about Ed Brown and his producer wife, Summer, but I do know they were a good team on the set and were very “adult” and professional in their approach to the work at hand.
RS: The Prey was a pretty bare-bones/minimalist movie. Do you remember how long the screenplay was and what it looked like? By that I mean did you know that a good portion of the film would be filler consisting mostly of nature photography?
JB: It seems the script was around 86 pages (or less) in length.
As far as any acting was concerned, I could have phoned in most of my part. But the locations and getting into the outdoors was a hoot.
The Prey was filmed in and around Idlewyld, USC’s summer music camp, in the 9,000 foot mountains above Palm Springs, and Tapia Park over the Santa Monica Mountains opposite Malibu.
I don’t remember seeing a call for a lot of stock footage in the script, but then again, it probably wasn’t listed to a great extent in the Tarzan scripts either — just thrown in whenever nature (or the Ape Man) called for it. (In our case … whenever.)
RS: Debbie Thureson was really good in The Prey and then seemed to disappear. Do you know what became of her or do you have any stories about her?
JB: I didn’t know a lot about Debbie, then or now. I don’t think she became a nun in Austria, or a tour guide in the foothills of Zimbabwe; I guess she just kinda drifted away into oblivion.
I do recall in the final scene of the movie, however, when I’m supposed to be killed by the mutant love child (who later played Lurch in the “Adams Family” movie); Debbie was having a great deal of difficulty with her emotional CLOSE UP when she sees the forsaken one come up behind me. As I recall, Ed Brown was ready to literally break her neck right after letting the bad boy cinematically break mine. Debbie was rather wanting in any film technique.
RS: Lori Lethin is a very popular actress in horror. What do you remember about her?
JB: Lori was very energetic and bubbly and did a fine job in The Prey. She had a cute figure and was fun to work with and she later worked with my friend, Lurene Tuttle, in the MOW, The Day After (she does quite well with this part, also).
RS: I think the scene fans remember most is the ˜Wide Mouth Frog Joke” scene. Was that written in the script or did you come up with it?
JB: The joke itself wasn’t written in the script. I was verbally told it by Ed before we shot, then I ad-libbed and embellished on it. I did it in my own words for the scene. The fawn did it just for the bananas.
RS: What about the banjo? Did you tell them you could play and they added it?
I self-taught myself the Earl Scruggs style, three-finger technique, and then later took instructions from Herb Peterson (who was backing a then up-and-coming singer, Emmy Lou Harris). I told them I could play, and I guess they saw they could save some money on stock footage shots of nature, so they threw it in.
RS: Of course I have to ask about Jackie Coogan. He had an interesting life and was obviously a seasoned performer. What was he like?
JB: Jackie was a very professional actor to work with and as I knew him, a very warm a funny person. He had recently had a stroke before we did the film, but I never really noticed it that much until he signed my script. It took him at least 30 seconds just to write, “The Kid.” Like Red Skelton, Dorothy McQuire, Ann Baxter, Broderick Crawford, and many other greats I have worked with, I’ll never forget him.
RS: What did you think about the final product?
JB: It’s not a Lawrence of Arabia by any stretch of the imagination, but it beats watching a home movie in a closet.
RS: On IMDB, you are listed as the voice of the Jinn in The Outing (aka The Lamp). Is this correct and how did that come about? By the way, I love that movie!
JB: “This is correct, Keeper,” or so the Jinn would say. Not a large part, but a lot of fun.
I was set to do a little film called Break Dancers from Mars with Linda Day George for the Producer of The Lamp (now called, The Outing), Warren Channey. Tobe Hooper of Texas Chainsaw Massacre fame was going to direct Break Dancers. That fell through, but then came The Outing.
RS: The Prey is one of those films that is either loved or hated but it has also endured all these years. Does its popularity in the horror world surprise you?
JB: There aren’t many surprises left for me in the horror world, anymore, but for anything to “still have legs” in that realm is quite refreshing.
RS: You’ve done a lot of work in the genre. Do you yourself like sci-fi and horror? What has been your favorite project so far?
JB: Sci-fi, horror, and fantasy are my favorites with action/adventure close on their heels. These fields are where dreams and imagination can best run their course and allow for that pure escapism that any of the media can provide — especially film.
Escape from DS3 was a fun project. It was one of two films I did for Ann Spielberg (Steven’s sis). The other one was, The Killings at Outpost Zeta. Good luck in finding them anywhere.
RS: When can you tell us about your newest film, Dodge City: A Spaghetto Western, which you also produced? When will we be able to see it?
JB: The new film Dodge City, like the old western town of Dodge City, needs a lot of help. Make no mistake, I didn’t produce it. As to when you will be able to see it … probably, not in this life.