|Intro||American film director, producer and screenwriter|
|Is||Screenwriter Film producer Film director Wrestler Athlete Actor|
|From||United States of America|
|Type||Film, TV, Stage & Radio Sports|
|Birth||10 September 1954, Wellston, USA|
Fred Olen Ray (born September 10, 1954) is an American film director, producer, and screenwriter of more than 150 low-to-medium budget feature films in many genres, including horror, science fiction, action/adventure, crime dramas, and holiday films.
Ray is the head of Retromedia, which releases DVDs of both his own productions and archival films. He has also worked for other well-known independent studios and on a few occasions for major Hollywood studios. He is also cited as an inspiration for many independent film-makers. He loaned a 16 mm camera to Quentin Tarantino so he could make My Best Friend's Birthday.
Aside from his work in the film industry, Ray was also a professional wrestler. His wrestling name was Fabulous Freddie Valentine.
Fred Olen Ray was born September 10, 1954 in Wellston, Ohio, just across the border from West Virginia where the Ray family had all been raised for the previous 150 years. He has always been a passionate film fan, and as a teenager he regularly read Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine. Being a fan of horror and science fiction films such as Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein and the AIP movies of the 1950s and 1960s, Ray started making his own movies at the age of fourteen.
Early work and The Brain Leeches (1970s)
Ray served in the Navy. When he got out he went to work at a local television station. He worked as an credited still photographer on his first film in 1975, Shock Waves, with Peter Cushing and John Carradine. Ray then began making movies on the weekend using station equipment, starting with The Brain Leeches (1977) made for $298. Ray co-wrote the screenplay with political essayist Brad Linaweaver, whose career trajectory took a turn toward science fiction and film after the experience.
He made Alien Dead with Buster Crabbe. He decided to move to Hollywood to be close to the film industry. He was interested in working in make-up and special effects, "probably from all of those years of reading Famous Monsters magazine," he later said. He found out "it soon became apparent that you would always be between jobs and I was looking for something that would actually earn me a living. I think I became a director because that was the fastest way to get a film made on the independent side of things."
Ray succeeded in raising money for a low budget horror film, Scalps (1983), which featured cameos from Carroll Borland and Forrest J. Ackerman. The Tomb (1986) starred Cameron Mitchell and John Carradine. Ray switched to action films with Armed Response (1986), which starred David Carradine and Lee Van Cleef. Ray had affection for this movie because "it had a great cast and was one of the first times I had more than two nickels to rub together." He then turned to science fiction: Deep Space (1987), Cyclone (1987). Beverly Hills Vamp (1988) was a horror comedy with Eddie Deezen. Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (1988) was made in only a few days and turned out to be a big hit. Less popular was The Phantom Empire (1988).
After Alienator (1989) he was reunited with Deezen for Mob Boss (1990), another comedy. He entered sword and sorcery movies with Wizards of the Demon Sword (1991) and made the more popular Bad Girls from Mars (1991). During this time he published a book he had written, The New Poverty Row: Independent Filmmakers as Distributors (1991).
Ray co-directed Scream Queen Hot Tub Party (1991) with Jim Wynorski, shot in one day. Ray moved into erotic thrillers with Inner Sanctum (1991) starring Tanya Roberts. It was a hit and Ray would make others in that genre, including Inner Sanctum 2, Mind Twister (1994) and Possessed by the Night (1994).
Evil Toons (1992) was a comedy-horror, then he co-directed another with Wynorski, Dinosaur Island (1994). Witch Academy (1994) was the last of his "scream queen" movies. After Attack of the 60 Foot Centerfold (1995), he made Fugitive Rage (1996), Friend of the Family II (1996), Inferno (1997), Hybrid (1997), and The Shooter, which has been referred to as Ray's best film. Dear Santa (1998) was a family film and Billy Frankenstein (1998) a comedy.
2000s to present
In 2001 he made the film Critical Mass. He later said he was a "Critical Mass kind of guy. I like to shoot things and blow stuff up. I also like comedies. Don't like erotic thrillers."
He established a DVD company called Retromedia. Ray made a film called Bikini Airways "on a lark and it did really well," said Ray. This led to a series of Bikini films.
In 2007 he reflected on his career:
Money is always a barrier. The more they give you, the more they expect, so you're always caught short, regardless. I don't think anything I've done was ever budgeted properly for what was expected of me, but that's just the nature of the business, I guess. There certainly are films I did because there was a paycheck attached. It's a working man's world and it doesn't pay to get too idealistic about things like directing low-budget movies if you have a family to think about. I usually try to find something that interests me in each and every project. It's not really possible to phone it in. Making a film with no money or schedule is ten times harder than it is to make a big budget show where you're surrounded by a gang of super-talented people.
Budgetary constraints notwithstanding, Ray has on occasion been able to attract A list actors to appear in his films. Two time Academy Award nominee Peter Fonda played Marshal Kane in the 2010 Ray film American Bandits: Frank and Jesse James. But, sometimes, even star power isn't enough to rescue a low-budget film. One reviewer described American Bandits as perhaps "the most boring Jesse James film ever made".
In 2017, he received a "Living Legend Award" at the Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival.
In his craft, Ray has used many pseudonyms, some used earlier by the B-movie director, Sam Newfield.
Fred Olen Ray has four sons from two marriages. Two of his sons work in the film industry as well, the eldest being director Christopher Ray.
Fred Olen Ray is currently unmarried, and resides in Studio City California where he continues to write, produce, and direct.
- Grind Show - Weirdness as Entertainment (1993)
- The New Poverty Row: Independent Filmmakers as Distributors (2011), ISBN 978-0786467556