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ORANGE COUNTY CALENDAR: ARTS, ENTERTAINMENT, LEISURE

Fan Finds a Home for Monster Hobby

September 29, 2000|DENNIS McLELLAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Growing up in Las Vegas in the early 1970s, Brett Butler fell in love with science fiction, fantasy and horror movies.

"When I was 8, if you didn't want to talk about monsters, there wasn't anything to talk about," recalled Butler, who filled his bedroom with monster models, monster movie posters and plaster skulls with flickering candles. His father even built him a plywood coffin, which he played in and, on two occasions, fell asleep in. "I know. It's twisted," Butler said.

At 37, Butler is married, living in Orange and working in attraction maintenance at Disneyland. But one thing hasn't changed: He's still a big fan of science fiction, fantasy and horror movies. "Even bigger," he said. "It's gotten much worse with time."

Now Butler wants to share his movie passion with the public by presenting the kinds of films he fell in love with as a child.

Butler's Shock Theatre debuts tonight at A Captain Blood's Village Theatre in Orange with a screening of the classic 1958 fantasy-adventure film "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad." The movie, which stars Kerwin Mathews and Kathryn Grant, also will be screened Saturday night at the Cypress Family Twin.

Butler will host the film, which includes spectacular special effects by the legendary Ray Harryhausen. The "Sinbad" screenings also will feature vintage snack bar ads and coming attractions.

Butler plans to showcase vintage movies every three or four weeks at the two theaters, with each screening including a guest from each film. This time out, invited guest Richard Eyer, who played the genie in "Sinbad," had to cancel his appearance.

For October, Butler has scheduled "The Bride of Frankenstein." The 1935 film will screen Oct. 20 at A Captain Blood's and Oct. 21 at the Cypress Family Twin. The scheduled special guest is Ray Ferry, owner of "Famous Monsters of Filmland" magazine, who will present a 15-minute slide show offering a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the horror classic, which stars Boris Karloff and Elsa Lanchester.

Butler borrowed the name Shock Theatre from a late-night local TV program in Las Vegas in the early '70s that specialized in horror movies. The show was hosted by Jim Parker, who billed himself as the Vegas Vampire.

The turning point in Butler's youthful monster mania came when he was 8 and won first place in a costume contest at a Shock Theatre stage show: He dressed as a miniature version of the Vegas Vampire, who was so impressed that he invited Butler on his TV show every couple of weeks over the next two years.

"He always introduced me as his little cousin from Transylvania," Butler recalled. "He was my hero."

Butler's Shock Theatre is an extension of sorts of a cable access show of the same name that he produced and hosted between 1992 and 1994 on KYOU at Santa Ana College.

Unlike the Vegas Vampire, Butler would host the films by dressing like monsters from each movie. For "Night of the Living Dead," he portrayed a rotting zombie. "Every 20 minutes, I'd give facts about the movie and every time I'd come back I'd be falling apart a little more," he said.

For "Little Shop of Horrors," he edited the movie so that there would be freeze frames in the film and he would enter the scenes in black and white a la Rod Serling to discuss the action.

Last spring, Butler linked up with Terry Fitton of Monsters in Motion, a Placentia dealership specializing in horror, sci-fi and movie memorabilia, to present classic science fiction, fantasy and horror films at A Captain Blood's. Butler served as producer and host of what was called Radiation Theater.

The first program in March, a showing of "Creature From the Black Lagoon," drew an audience of about 200. "Forbidden Planet," which screened in May, attracted a sold-out crowd of more than 500. (The screening included a fully operational Robby the Robot.)

Butler said he and Fitton had a difference of opinion about what the shows should be like, so he struck out on his own. (A Monsters in Motion spokeswoman said Radiation Theater screenings have been temporarily discontinued.)

Butler has no visions of Shock Theatre becoming a money-making venture. "I'm lucky if I break even on it," he said. "This is just a hobby.

"Basically, the reason I'm doing this is that these are movies I grew up with and I love and I want to see on the big screen. If I can invite a few friends and folks to watch them with me, it's great."

*

Dennis McLellan can be reached at (714) 966-5986 or by e-mail at dennis.mclellan@latimes.com.

BE THERE

"The 7th Voyage of Sinbad" screens at Captain Blood's Village Theatre, 1140 N. Tustin Ave., Orange, 8 tonight. (714) 538-3545. It also will screen at the Cypress Family Twin, 9832 Walker St. 8 p.m. Saturday. (714) 828-1660. $7.50 adults, $5.50 children.

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