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Telling the Story of Ed Gein, Hold the Gore

April 30, 2001

In his own bizarre way, late Wisconsin farmer Ed Gein has probably inspired more unforgettable Hollywood movies than Joan of Arc or Billy the Kid. Never heard of Ed Gein? Well, if you ever saw Alfred Hitchcock's classic 1960 thriller "Psycho," or the 1974 cult slasher, "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," or the 1991 Oscar-winning film, "The Silence of the Lambs," you've already gotten a taste (excuse the pun) of what serial killer-cannibal Gein was really all about. "He has inspired so many iconic films," marveled producer Hamish McAlpine, whose new, unrated psychological thriller, appropriately titled "Ed Gein," opens Friday at the Galaxy in Hollywood. "I think serial killers hold a fascination for all of us." Though other films have patterned their archvillains after Gein, McAlpine points out, none has ever told the true story of Gein, a serial killer-cannibal who preyed on women in rural Wisconsin in the 1950s. "He was a farmer who basically went to pieces when his mother died," McAlpine explained. "He would literally scour the obituary columns of middle-aged women and go out with his pick and shovel and bring them home. It got so bad that in no time flat, he was eating them and making furniture out of them. . . . He then started on his neighbors. He lived in a small town called Plainfield. By the time the second woman had gone missing, you didn't need to be a rocket scientist to figure who was the most likely culprit." McAlpine said the filmmakers made a conscious effort to avoid exploitation. "You don't see him hacking off pieces of flesh or anything disgusting like that," the producer noted. Directed by Chuck Parello ("Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer"), the film stars Steve Railsback (who played Charles Manson in "Helter Skelter") as Gein and Carrie Snodgress as Gein's mother. McAlpine said "Ed Gein" is part of a planned trilogy that he plans to film that includes serial killers Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer. As for Gein, McAlpine said, he has become embedded in America's subculture. "Apparently there are 182 [Internet] Web sites devoted to Ed Gein," he noted. "There is even an Ed Gein fan club. You can buy Ed Gein memorabilia. You can buy a bust of Ed Gein, Ed Gein ashtrays and even Ed Gein calendars."

TV Academy Salutes Two Shows for Diversity

Weekly network dramas featuring minority casts or lead actors have had a rough time this season. CBS canceled "City of Angels." ABC's "Gideon's Crossing," starring Andre Braugher, did not catch fire with viewers and may not return next fall. Showtime, however, has had some success in developing dramas featuring largely minority casts. The cable networks' "Soul Food" and "Resurrection Blvd." will be saluted Thursday by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in a program titled "Diversity in Motion: A Case Study of Diversity in Prime-Time Dramas." "Soul Food," which has drawn a devoted black fan base, is based on the 1997 film about a multi-generational African American family; "Resurrection Blvd." the first weekly drama with a predominantly Latino cast and crew, focuses on the Santiago family of East Los Angeles. Both dramas have been renewed for a second season. "We really got involved with these shows not just because of the diversity aspect, but because of the characters and the universes they inhabit," said Pancho Mansfield, senior vice president of development for Showtime. "And we're very happy that they both have crossover audiences." Producers and creators of the dramas will be on hand for the tribute, which will be held at 7:30 p.m. at the academy's Leonard H. Goldenson Theater in North Hollywood. Also participating in a panel discussion will be several cast members from the series: Nicole Parker, Malinda Williams and Vanessa Williams from "Soul Food," and Michael DeLorenzo, Ruth Livier, Elizabeth Pen~a and Tony Plana from "Resurrection Blvd." The program is open to the public, but reservations are recommended, and can be obtained by calling (818) 754-2890.

--Compiled by Times staff writers

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