Saturday, April 30, 2016

In Memory of Vince Rotolo (B-Movie Cast)

B-Movie Cast
Vince Rotolo
 Monster Bash 2015
Though I never met Vince Rotolo, news of his sudden death hit me hard. I can't imagine what his wife, friends and family must feel.

Ever since I discovered the B-Movie Cast (BMC) several years ago, I've been a faithful listener. Hardly a Sunday went by where I didn't relax on a lazy afternoon and listen to Vince and his co-hosts (including wife Mary) discuss B-movies in detail. It became my go-to source of entertainment for B-movie news. I even included it in a post about my ten favourite podcasts.

In the beginning of each episode, Vince would usually dedicate some time to mention and mourn the passing of an actor or actress. He always did this with great respect and dignity because chances were that he had watched that celebrity in a movie he enjoyed. If the actor/actress was old, he would always say that it was sad but he/she lived a full life. For others, he would say he/she was way too young.

In a cruel case of irony, Vince Rotolo also died too young.

I don't remember exactly what episode I first listened to of BMC but I think it was just before his long-time co-host Nic Brown joined the show. Mary and Juan "From the Creepy Swamps of South Florida" Ortiz would come in later, solidifying the team and making it one of the best podcasts produced.

Before recruiting his co-hosts, Vince flew solo, like the Charles Lindberg of podcasting. His initial episodes were unpolished and his hosting skills were those of a novice but he more than made up for it with his childlike enthusiasm which was infectious to the listeners, as well as his wealth of knowledge. As the show progressed, he acquired better recording equipment and became much more comfortable, confident and capable behind the microphone, resulting in a higher quality show. He still had trouble pronouncing Stanley Kubrick along with other names but that was part of his charm and he always made an effort.

One of my favourite things about BMC was the running gag of "torturing" Nic with Torgo's theme music from  Manos The Hands of Fate. Whenever that movie was mentioned by someone, Vince was always quick to play a music clip of Torgo's theme, resulting in Nic reacting in mock agony as if he he was being inflicted with pain. Nic has made it no secret that he thinks Manos is awful and does not even enjoy it for a so-bad-it's-good movie.

The first time I heard the gag, I had no reference to draw upon because I had never watched Manos The Hands of Fate, let alone heard of it. I was late to the MST3K party and had only seen a few episodes up until that point, Manos not being one of them (I've since seen it). As I listened to more BMC episodes and heard the gag more, I would always get a chuckle out of it but I began to feel left out, causing my curiosity to grow about the cult film. I had to find out what this movie was all about.

Not long after that, I happened to be watching TVO one night and a short documentary happened to be showing. It was called Hotel Torgo. It looked interesting so I decided to watch it. As I watched, it seemed very familiar to me. I suddenly realized it was about that Manos movie that Vince always talked about. I then recalled that Vince had also mentioned watching Hotel Torgo. A great coincidence, I thought to myself.

What really piqued my curiosity about Manos was when Hotel Torgo displayed some text on screen which read, "since the release of Manos, the cast and crew have all passed away or mysteriously disappeared."

Whoa! Is that intriguing or what?!

My curiosity was reaching maximum capacity. I wanted to know what happened to those actors and the film crew. How did they die? Was it a curse? Was the little girl dead or missing?

Those questions would soon be answered thanks to Vince in another episode of BMC which I'll address shortly.

I finally decided to search the internet for a way to watch Manos and thankfully the complete movie was (and is) available on YouTube, as a result of it being public domain. This was before the restored HD version was announced and released on Blu-ray and DVD.

Let me make this clear. I watched the original version. While most of you experienced Manos for the first time through the friendly filter of MST3K, I toughed it out without the help of Joel and his robot companions. I'm not going to lie. It was rough getting through the movie but I persevered. I think we would all agree that it's a bad movie but to my surprise, I could not stop thinking about it. I was especially transfixed by two of the characters; Torgo and the Master. There was something mesmerizing about them and the actors' performances. I didn't know it then, but this was the beginning of my obsession with the cult of Manos. Since then, I've created many projects inspired by Manos and we have Vince to thank or blame, depending on how you look at it.

Alright, you've been very patient.

Remember earlier when I mentioned that Vince would have answers to questions raised by Hotel Torgo? That's not completely accurate. He would be the one asking the questions but the one providing the answers would be Jackey Raye Neyman Jones, aka Debbie, the little girl from Manos!

Seemingly back from the dead, Jackey was the interview guest on BMC episode #87 and blew the lid off the Hotel Torgo myth. It was a huge bombshell and one I'll never forget. That was the very first time I heard Jackey in an interview and also the first time hearing her actual voice, since she was dubbed in Manos. Before this I didn't even know she was alive!

Mind blown!

After this, I watched Manos (still without Joel and the bots) several more times now that I knew some of the details and backstory. Jackey was regularly interviewed on other podcasts and I listened to those as well and absorbed all I could as she debunked much of the Manos mythology.

It was while listening to one of those interviews that I was inspired to create a mockumentary of Hotel Torgo. It would be my own way of riffing a movie but instead of robots, I would use the cast of Manos and a couple of Jackey's interview clips. I didn't want to be too hard on the documentary makers. After all, it was an entertaining film and it did make me want to know more about Manos. Plus they're fellow Canadians so patriotism and politeness prevents me from going too far.

One of the interviews had a creative commons license and was free to use with attribution.

It was imperative however to use part of Vince's interview of Jackey.

As I said at the beginning, I didn't know Vince personally nor did I ever speak with him. I went ahead and contacted him by email and asked him if he would grant me permission to use an excerpt of his interview for my mockumentary. It was only a day or two later (or maybe it was a week) that I received his reply and without any questions or hesitation, he told me to go right ahead.

For that reason, even though Manhunt: The Search for Castmates is dedicated to John Reynolds at the end of the video, I'd like to also dedicate it to Vince Rotolo. I will be forever grateful for his generosity. If you watch it you will see his name in the credits.

Any listener of the B-Movie Cast knew it was no secret that Vince was fond of Manos and that has rubbed off on me. He was the one who introduced me to it. I was really looking forward to his thoughts on Manos Returns, one day. Sadly, that day will never arrive.

I'll miss Vince but it can't compare to what his wife Mary is going through. My heartfelt condolences go out to you, Mary.

I'd also like to say to Nic and Juan that that I'm very sorry for the loss of your friend and colleague.

To Vince's many other friends, family and listeners, I'm also sorry for the hole that this leaves in your lives.

Vince was a huge fan of Ray Harryhausen (as is Mary) and for that reason, it was decided that a donation to Ray's and his wife Diana's foundation would be a great way to honour Vince's memory. Being a fan of Ray's movies myself, I couldn't agree more.

A post from Nic Brown on the Bmoviecast Fans Facebook group:

If you would like to send a donation in honor of Vince's memory, we all agreed that the The Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation would be the best choice. We know Vince was a fan and meeting Ray a few years ago was a dream come true for Vince.
Here is their site- They are a recognized charitable foreign organization by the IRS.

Another way I plan on honouring Vince is by going through the BMC archives and re-listening to some of my favourite episodes. One of those is episode #8 in which Richard Kiel (Eegah) is interviewed. It's sad to think that these two great men are no longer with us. One was a physical giant and talented actor and the other was a giant of the B-movie community and a kind, humble person.

Finally, there is one other way you could honour Vince Rotolo. As he could often be heard saying on his podcast, grab yourself a beer and TV dinner and go watch a B-movie.

Goodbye, Vince.

End of transmission.

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