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Ray Dennis Steckler, RIP

LAS VEGAS–According to his Web site, actor, director, producer Ray Dennis Steckler died here. Jan. 7, a couple of weeks short of his 71st birthday. He was the producer, director and one of the stars of the movie in episode 812 – THE INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES WHO STOPPED LIVING AND BECAME MIXED-UP ZOMBIES. MSTies may also remember his bit part as “guy thrown into pool” in the movie in episode 506 – EEGAH!
Born in Reading, Penn., Steckler learned about film photography during a hitch in the Army, and relocated to Los Angeles after he left the service. He worked on the crew of several TV shows (Alfred Hitchcock himself once reportedly fired him from the set of “Alftred Hitchcock Presents”), then got his first cinematography experience on Timothy Carey’s “The World’s Greatest Sinner.” He also served as cinematographer in “Secret File: Hollywood,” Frenzy,” “Goof on the Loose,” “Scream of the Butterfly,” “The Velvet Trap” and “The Erotic Adventures of Pinocchio.” He wrote the screenplay for and acted in 1961’s “Drivers in Hell” (aka “Wild Ones on Wheels”).
Steckler also worked with Arch Hall Sr., directing the movie “Wild Guitar.” Steckler also appeared in the movie, using the stage name Cash Flagg. He was also billed as Cash Flagg in 1963’s TISCTSLABMUZ. Cinematographers Laszlo Kovacs and future Oscar winner Vilmos Zsigmond both worked on that film, in one of their first gigs in the business. It also featured Steckler’s wife, Carolyn Brandt. Later came the serial killer saga “The Thrill Killers” “Lemon Grove Kids Meet the Monsters” and the inexplicable “Rat Pfink a Boo-Boo.” (It was supposed to be titled “Rat Pfink AND Boo-Boo” but according to legend someone at the lab “screwed up”). Steckler also did some of the cinematography for “Eegah!”
Some of his films were shown in “Hallucinogenic Hypno-vision,” which essentially meant the ushers (and sometimes Steckler himself) would run up and down the theater aisles wearing monster masks. He also directed the video for Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit.”
Here’s a Stecker anecdote that only MSTies will appreciate: In 1969, just after he had wrapped production on “Super Cool,” Steckler was walking to his car when he encountered Coleman Francis, drunk and lying in the gutter. Steckler felt so bad about Francis’ condition that, even though he had finished work on the movie, he decided on the spot to add some scenes just to give Francis some work and some badly needed cash. Steckler gave Francis some money and told him to report to the studio the next next day. Steckler and his crew were astonished when Francis showed up for work bright-eyed, clean shaven and nicely attired (Francis had used the advance pay to buy a decent second-hand suit and make a trip to the barber), which was a bit of a problem, since Steckler had wanted him to play the part of a disheveled bum.
In the ’70s, Steckler moved to Las Vegas and continued crank out low-budget work, including 1971’s “Blood Shack” (aka “The Chooper”). Steckler began using pseudonyms for his direction (including Wolfgang Schmidt, Sven Christian, Sven Hellstrom, Harry Nixon, Michael J. Rogers, Michel J. Rogers, Cindy Lou Steckler–Steckler denies that he ever used the name Cindy Lou Sutters), especially when he began to dabble in porn. Titles from that era include “The Mad Love Life of a Horny Vampire” and “Sexorcist Devil.” He later opened a video store in Las Vegas, called Mascot Video, selling it in 1995.
He sold videos of his works via the Web, including six volumes of footage of young actresses and dancers in nude auditions. He was very accessible and always cordial with fans, though, like many moviemakers, he was not a big fan of MST3K and reportedly he did not find the MSTing of TISCTSLABMUZ amusing.
He had two daughters with Brandt. In 1985 he married his second wife, Katherine, and they had two daughters. He also had two grandchildren.

61 Replies to “Ray Dennis Steckler, RIP”

  1. Rotten as British Teeth says:

    For years, my impression of RDS was one of disdain; he struck me as a guy who would sell his own mother for afew extra dollars, or hit his wife and kids for any reason at all. This was probably due in part to his performance in “Zombies”, which comes across about as loathesome as any actor can create.

    Then I read about what he did for Coleman Francis, and the ensuing info about his treatment towards fans and his devotion to his family, and my view softened considerably. Even his criticism of MST doesn’t make me think less of him (hell, I’d probably say similar things if put in his position). It’s too bad that he didn’t realize that there’s no such thing as bad exposure anymore, and that MST’s treatment only gave the movie a new life among viewers at large.

    btw- wouldn’t “Cash Flagg” make a great name for a punk band (if not used already)?


  2. Meadows says:

    Adam’s personal story about RDS signing his MST3k version certainly makes me feel a little better. All in all, he was probably a pretty sweet guy.

    Oh, and Rotten. . .check it out:


  3. WouldntYouLikeToKnow says:

    So what…


  4. Joel Kazoo says:

    [i]By the way, should be pointed out that he re-married in the 80’s. So Carolyn Brandt was actually his ex.[/i]

    Oh, I knew that!

    [i]Might not be what set him off although she IS the mother of his two older daughters so…[/i]

    There’s your answer!


  5. Julie S. says:

    For me, many of movies that were riffed by MST3K, especially TISCWSLABMUZ, would be extremely creepy and unwatchable without the MST treatment!! It’s also funny and sad that some of these self-proclaimed “artistes” who make crappy films take themselves way too seriously and can’t see how much MST3K has cranked up their credibility factor just a notch.
    Both die-hard MSTies, my husband and I adore this episode, so around our house it’s not uncommon to hear: “Nothing runs like a Bulgarian car!”; “Your hair won’t clear the door.”; “Let me take your last known photo.”; “Ortega taco shells are made from people!” and, (the best for last): “You dirty, filthy peeeeg!!” :wink:


  6. Rotten as British Teeth says:

    Meadows: thanks for the link! Just listened to a couple of their songs. I’d go see them play if I lived in the Cincinnati area. Based on the spelling, I wonder if the knew anything about RDS and “Zombies”.


  7. Meadows says:

    Here’s a trailer for RDS’ swan-song and supposed “sequel” to TISCTSLABMUZ:

    “Cash Flagg is BACK…and he’s OLD!”

    This one looks even more unwatchable than “Strange Creatures”. No Vilmos Zsigmond here! And that Courtney Love wannabe he has playing the fortune teller is shrill and annoying. I’ll take greasy Maoam Estrella and her fakey accent any day.


  8. BtaraKtahn says:

    Thank you, Mr. Steckler. You will be missed. :cry:

    For fans of “Incredibly Strange”, try tracking down the DVD version with the commentary by Joe Bob Briggs. It’s not the bots, but it ain’t bad! :mrgreen: It also has an interview and commentary by Ray Dennis Steckler and a conversation with Carolyn Brandt, as well.


  9. Mrs. Glen Manning says:

    The name “Cash Flagg” is currently being used by an awesome band out of Cincinnati Ohio. The name was chosen as a homage both to Steckler and to MST3K. The singer/gutarist/genius behind the band is Brendan Bogosian, a long time staple of the punk music scene. You can check them out at MySpace music,or google cash flagg cincinnati bands. Be sure to listen to their song “TV Babe”, lyrics by Bogosian, that mentions several MST3K movies.


  10. Buzz Windrip says:

    Didn’t realize he’d passed away. I saw him at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas probably around 1986 in a video booth for his company. He was a very nice guy to chat with, even gave me a poster for TISCWSLABMUZ which I still have. I met three people at that show: Russ Meyers, Mr. T and Ray, and for Ray to stand out there is a real tribute. RIP, you will be missed.


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