An interview with the hardest working ghoul in Australia: NIGEL HONEYBONE

An interview with the hardest working ghoul in Australia: NIGEL HONEYBONE

Apr 20, 2018

Nigel Honeybone is a popular independent skeleton who presents classic genre films on the Australian television show The Schlocky Horror Picture Show. Brandishing his extensive knowledge of some of the oldest films around, Nigel adds his own flair and humor that all horror fans can relate to. Probably the most stylish skeleton in the business, Nigel’s sense of style matches his film enthusiasm. The tidbits that Nigel divulges are amazing and insightful to budding film enthusiasts. When I began watching the show over a decade ago, it was a haven for Australian horror fans late on a Friday night. Luckily I was able to catch Nigel between sessions with his tailor, to chat to him about all the things Schlocky Horror Picture Show.

Michelle: Nigel, you are probably the busiest skeleton in the business but can you tell us about your upbringing? Where did it all begin?

Nigel: Back in 1910 I used to be a freelance the photographer, one of the first, I might add. One day, on a whim, I introduced myself to Thomas Edison. I showed him some photos I took of him and his thirteen year old niece Gertrude. Edison was so impressed that he offered me ten thousand dollars cash and a starring role in one of his new-fangled ‘motion pictographs’ in exchange for the photos and the negatives. Unfortunately, I hear those pictures have since been lost. The rest is history. After the film premiered, Edison got a lot of hate mail from upset people who were saying that my so-called lewd and crude manner was not appropriate for viewing. Edison agreed, and sold my contract to a local amateur theatre. You see, before I came along, there was something of a stigma connected with being a tall, posh skeleton. I think we were doing something very important. My stage debut was as Hamlet’s dead father, portraying him as a tall posh skeleton. This triumph was followed in Richard III, as the remains of a young prince which I interpreted as a tall posh skeleton. I began attracting starring roles. Henry VIII was scaled down to suit my own very personalized view of this famous king. I suggested that perhaps he really was quite skeletal, quite tall, and quite posh. MacBeth, Shylock and Othello followed, all played as tall, skeletal and posh, respectively. Considering my reputation for playing tall posh skeletons, many believed that the real me inside to be something very different, like a squat hunchback perhaps. Interestingly enough, I did once play a squat hunchback, but it was as a tall posh skeleton. After touring Europe on stage as Yorick in Hamlet, that new film roles began pouring in. I was under contract with Universal during the thirties, then later with the Val Lewton horror movies of the forties, Roger Corman and American International Pictures during the fifties, but I was properly propelled into the film world when, in Psycho (1960), I wore women’s clothing for the very first time. The seed of an idea was planted and, after working with director Ed Wood for five years, I realised the unlimited possibilities of tall posh skeletons who dressed in women’s clothing. I went on to wear women’s clothing in thirteen major motion pictures, including the Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) and Star Wars (1977), heartbreakingly as the remains of Aunt Beru. I had some success with merchandising though, particularly toys. It started slowly but now business was booming. I think the slow start was because of all the bad press we got early on. People were saying our toys were harmful to children. Not at all! Any permanent damage they suffer is usually just psychological. But the theme park’s doing better and, after doing a deal with Barnard’s Star Productions, we’re now producing several popular community television shows. I also have my own line of menswear, lunch-boxes, T-shirts, dietary supplements, hair tonic and feminine hygiene products, so I’m doing okay. With the onslaught of special effects came the demise of real actors in these sorts of roles and, after modelling for CGI skeletons in Total Recall (1990) and Toys (1992), the only possible step forward for a tall English skeleton was television, imparting my knowledge and expertise of the arts. I’ve been making The Schlocky Horror Picture Show every week since March 2007, first for TVS Sydney then, as of last year, for Foxtel’s national Aurora Channel 173.

Michelle: You have probably watched everything ever made, when it actually was released. What films would you recommend to a film fan, who is new to the horror or sci-fi genre?

Nigel: There’s a gazillion possible titles to choose from, of course, and which ever titles I choose today, I’m bound to change my mind tomorrow. Today, I think great examples of horror include the serial killer film Psycho (1960) – as my old friend and author Robert Bloch once told me, ‘The scariest thing about serial killers, is they could be the person sitting next to you, and you’d never know.’ And The Exorcist (1973) for its utilisation of supernatural elements. As for science fiction, I’d probably suggest Forbidden Planet (1956) for its influence on futuristic space adventure (not least being Star Trek), and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) for its concepts and realistic depiction of space travel, an epic about mankind’s obsession with food and drink, full of dialogue that would have been eliminated by any normal script editor. Arguably the most expensive ‘experimental’ film ever made, deliberately casting unknown (and rather dull) actors to make HAL seem more human. I think Stanley was a genius whose only failing was editing me out of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). He had me sing a spirited rendition of Dry Bones but then decided that, like the pie fight in Doctor Strangelove (1964), I was jarringly out-of-place and removed me from the final edit. I didn’t agree with his decision but was too good-natured to make a fuss about it.

Michelle: Out of each episode you have presented, what film have you enjoyed presenting the most on The Schlocky Horror Picture Show?

Nigel: Probably Robot Monster (1953) but I’m reluctant to start mocking the film for fear I won’t be able to stop. The science presented in Robot Monster is positively inane, even French Literary Theories make more sense, and unless I’m very much mistaken, that’s a V2 rocket that destroys Space-Platform-On-A-Stick, which must mean Ro-Man is in cahoots with Werner Von Braun! Now that his involvement has been discovered, it’s evident that Werner Von Braun has worked for all three of the twentieth century’s greatest menaces to humanity. The Nazis, the USA, and Robot Monster! What an unethical mercenary cad that man was! As it turns out, the bulk of the film is actually little Johnny’s dream. What would my old friend Doctor Freud have to say about this? Johnny dreams of the entire human race being exterminated, of little sister Carla being murdered by a large gorilla, of elder sister Alice dallying with Roy, of Alice being tied up by Roy, of Alice tying herself up to arouse the Gorilla-tron who abducted her. Sigmund may well have concluded that little Johnny is one sick puppy. And remember, the first thing he says when he meets the archeologists is “You must die!” You may think Johnny is just a cadet existentialist, but I suspect he’s going to become the sort of teenager you wouldn’t want to be attending high school with. I also worry for that family living in the exposed basement or, to use it’s proper name, a hole in the ground. I’ve heard that it never rains in southern California, so at least they won’t be flooded out, but I hope the professor’s experimental drug also protects against skin cancer. But hang on, there’s a perfectly good building with walls and a roof nearby, it’s quite visible when Johnny and Ro-Man are having their conversation. Perhaps living in a hole in the ground is just a lifestyle choice. Bloody Hobbits. It’s also difficult to understand the value of the Billion Bubble Machine. What precisely does it do? I’m sure it would be a source of irresistible fascination for Ro-Man’s cat, if he hadn’t exterminated them all, that is. Speaking of which, do the children have a death wish? Both Johnny and Carla stand still and allow Ro-Man to catch and kill them. When searching for adjectives to describe Ro-Man, Nimble and Agile don’t come to mind. Ro-Man’s repeated walking up and down that hill might be part of an exercise program, he could certainly stand to lose a few Ro-kilos. And then there’s the dialogue! One of my favorite lines is “You’re So Bossy, You Ought To Be Milked Before You Come Home At Night”. Most people have a hard time responding to that one, and it’s hard to imagine any circumstances in which an adult could write such dialogue. It’s best not to try, That Way Madness Lies. Indeed, a friend of mine once compared Robot Monster to some films by David Lynch, where you think he’s telling one story, only to discover that all along he’s been telling you a different story. We put him away for his own protection, poor man.

Michelle: What is the most exciting film fact you have discovered about a film you’ve presented?

Nigel: There are so many! Italian scream queen Barbara Steele was executive producer on Queer Eye For The Straight Guy. Fay Wray appeared in seven different films while King Kong (1933) was in production. The Lost World (1925) was the first film to use paid product placement – the Corona typewriters in the newspaper office – the first film to cross-promote another film – The Sea Hawk (1924) – and the first ever in-flight movie. Quentin Tarantino learned everything about filmmaking by watching Manos The Hands Of Fate (1966). While making The Thing (1982), John Carpenter was hugely inspired by the made-for-TV movie A Cold Night’s Death (1973). The making of Horror Express (1972) was inspired by the purchase of a model train. Peter Sellers based his character in Being There (1979) on Stan Laurel of Laurel & Hardy. Starship Troopers (1997), Wild Wild West (1999), Planet Of The Apes (2001), I Spy (2002), I Robot (2004) and War Of The Worlds (2005) all started life as original scripts, and had the title added as an afterthought then re-written. Sean Connery was originally cast as Spock’s brother in Star Trek V The Final Frontier (1989) and the center of the universe – ‘Sha-Ka-Ree’ – was named after him. The plot for I Robot (2004) was stolen from the pilot episode of the TV show Probe (1988) created by Isaac Asimov. Can you imagine an alternate-universe version of The Spy Who Loved Me directed by Steven Spielberg, written by John Landis and shot by Stanley Kubrick? It could have happened! Landis was actually considered by the Broccolis as an up-and-coming writer due to his work with my old friend Roger Corman, and Spielberg was the first director considered for the job. The producers became concerned when they discovered the young filmmaker was still caught-up in the post-production schedule for a movie called Jaws (1975) which, ironically, would provide inspiration for a major character in this film. As for Kubrick’s involvement, the story goes like this: The eyesight of cinematographer Claude Renoir was failing at the time and he had a great deal of difficulty lighting the vast supertanker set with its reflective surfaces and deep dark corners. Set designer Ken Adam turned to his friend Kubrick who, under conditions of complete secrecy, supervised the lighting. Furthermore, his stepdaughter Katharina Kubrick supposedly designed Richard Kiel’s metallic dentures!

Michelle: It was a shame to see the show relocate after so many years. How was the transition from Australia’s public access channel TVS to the cable network Foxtel and also online streaming via The Vortexx?

Nigel: I presented The Schlocky Horror Picture Show on community station TVS Sydney every single Friday night, from March 2007 to Christmas 2015. Unfortunately the government wants to close down community TV stations around Australia, and started with Sydney and Brisbane, so we moved Schlocky Horror to Adelaide Channel 44 where it is still screened every Friday night at midnight, one of their most popular shows. Foxtel, Australia’s cable network, has a permanent community station called Aurora as part of their original license agreement. Now, because community stations were closing down, many of their program providers ceased production, so last June Aurora needed more material and agreed to take a chance on Schlocky Horror, which has since been screening nationally every Saturday night. It’s been terribly successful, one of the most popular shows Aurora has, and my Facebook fanbase has exploded! So that’s my career on Australian TV. A little like Halloween, TV horror hosting is primarily an American tradition. Australia has only ever had a handful of horror hosts, from Deadly Earnest in the sixties, to Tabitha Clutterbuck in the nineties, to yours truly. On the other hand, the United States has literally dozens of horror hosts, one or two per state, broadcast via Public Access TV or, more commonly today, on the interweb. There are so many hosts, there are several interweb TV stations dedicated to screening nothing but horror-hosted movies 24/7 including The Monster Channel, Outer Space International (OSI 74), and The Vortexx. Soon after the show started screening in Sydney, I sent them all episodes of the show and, every couple of weeks, they’ll screen them. The Americans seemed to like the shows and invited me to attend the annual horror host convention known as HorrorHound. Unfortunately, due to the troubles I have getting through customs, I couldn’t attend, and instead they asked me to record segments for them to screen, including tributes to US hosts like Vampira, Zacherley, Mister Lobo and others. This exposure, plus my weekly movie reviews on Horror News, led to my being nominated for the respected Rondo Award seven years running, eventually winning in 2014.

Michelle: You also write for the page Horror News Net. Any tips for aspiring film reviewers about writing for websites in the modern era?

Nigel: Practice makes perfect…well, almost. Horror News is an American site that, as its name suggests, specialises in news in the horror industry, including film reviews and articles. When they started in 2008 they asked for reviewers via Facebook, and I offered up transcripts of my shows. Soon I started writing reviews for films I would never have the chance to present on TV, resulting in about 665 reviews and articles so far, and still going strong. It’s been a learning process for me, and I’ve developed a simple style I tend to employ:
1. View the film;
2. Research;
3. Begin with context/history;
4. Plot synopsis;
5. Cast and crew info;
6. Review;
7. Legacy;
8. Collect/prepare photos.
There’s a huge difference between my written reviews for Horror News and my TV transcripts. I will write the first draft scripts for each show, for instance, which are re-written and edited by my producers Garfield Barnard and Tim Newsom, who always insist on entertaining the audience by inserting a gag or joke at the end of almost every paragraph. Because of this, I can come across as rather heartless, but I love all the movies I present, in one way or another.

Michelle: It’s been a busy road for yourself and the Schlocky Horror Picture Show. What is store next for yourself and Schlocky?

Nigel: Right now Garfield and Tim are recycling old 4×3 episodes and turning them into 16×9 for screening on Aurora, which should keep us going to the end of the year. Meanwhile, I’m working on our next new season which will hopefully go before the cameras in the next few months, and I’m pretty excited – along with the usual classic horrors like Attack Of The Crab Monsters (1957), The Mole People (1956), The Day The Earth Caught Fire (1961) and Reptilicus (1961), I have a number of new-ish independent sci-fi films lined up too, like Birdemic (2010), Plan 9 (2015), Alien Armageddon (2011), Prometheus Trap (2012) and Weresquito Nazi Hunter (2016). Speaking of which, I must get back to work, so right now I’ll bid you a fair fondue…I mean, a frail frond…a frontal fondle? Ah, that is, a fond farewell until we meet again so I may bewilder you with another amazing oddity on the best show with the worst films ever: The Schlocky Horror Picture Show! Toodles!

To see Nigel Honeybone hosting the Schlocky Horror Picture Show or to learn more about him or the show, visit any of the following services and pages listed below.

Adelaide Channel 44 – http://www.c44.com.au

Aurora Channel 173 – https://www.facebook.com/AuroraTV/

Horror News – http://horrornews.net/author/nigel-honeybone/

The Monster Channel – https://channelstore.roku.com/details/84826/monster-channel

Nigel Honeybone page – https://www.facebook.com/schlockyhorror/

The Schlocky Horror Picture Show group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/schlockyhorrorpictureshow/

The Vortexx – http://www.horrorhost.net