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This is an edited transcription of an interview conducted with John Bruce Jones on July 10, 2018, for BookOfTheDead.ws by Danish fan Jesper Mørch.

John played the afro'd waiter in Torro, Torro, Torro!, one of the natives in Cleveland Smith, Bounty Hunter, as well as helping out on a number of other Super-8 Short productions, along with features The Evil Dead, Crimewave, Thou Shalt Not Kill... Except! and Evil Dead II




John featuring as the afro'd waiter in Torro, Torro, Torro! (1981)



So far, you're completely unknown to most Evil Dead fans, even though you've worked behind the scenes on The Evil Dead and even been in a few of the Super-8 shorts. I believe you said you first met Josh in a book store?  
 
Yes. I was at a bookstore looking for the novelizations of Romero's Martin and Dawn of the Dead. Josh was talking to the guy at the register and he asked me why I was looking for George Romero books. I replied that I was a George Romero fan and we struck up a conversation. It was during the course of that conversation that I learned that he was wrapping up a Super-8 feature (Stryker's War) and that he had some friends doing a feature film, and that they could use any help they could get. That was Book of the Dead. We exchanged phone numbers and that was the beginning of my affiliation with Renaissance Pictures.


Did you know about all the Super-8 movies back then and wanted to become involved, what happened?  
 
No. I learned about that shortly after meeting everybody. I was thrilled to meet other Super-8 moviemakers. All of my own likeminded friends had long moved away.


So you also made Super-8 movies at the time?  
 
I had been making little Super-8 films since I was a kid with the other kids in the neighborhood. I was actually doing one when I met Josh.

John Bruce Jones' portrait photo (2018)


So it was almost inevitable. Are any of your shorts available to watch online?  
 
No, all of that stuff is lost to the ages.



John featuring as the afro'd waiter in Torro, Torro, Torro! (1981)
All The Evil Dead-guys used to help out on each other's movies', did you experience the same?  
 
Yes, they were always very helpful, even if the projects weren't realized for various reasons.


Did you also do Three Stooges-inspired slapstick, what was your inspiration?  
 
No, I wasn't as much of a Three Stooges fan as those guys. My inspiration was Romero. Particularly Night of the Living Dead.


So you made a zombie flick?  
 
A few different ones. All horrible.


You had a semi-big part in Torro, Torro, Torro! as the waiter running along the table with the huge afro being chased by the lawnmower, the 'afro turf' scene.

Like most of the Super-8's, it's an amazingly silly movie but still quite elaborate. Loots of setups and many people involved. Did you feel like you were in an actual movie or just goofing around?  
 
Ha! Yeah, there were some good gags in that one. It was actually shot in 16mm. Everybody did it for fun to help Josh and Scotty. That's how things were back then. Everybody simply helped out everybody. But no, it was a pretty small production. They just did a lot with it.



John; far left native in Cleveland Smith, Bounty Hunter (1982)

John, with Scotty's hands in The Sappy Sap (1985)


You are also in Cleveland Smith, Bounty Hunter, playing one of four highly energetic natives, though with all the face paint and whatnot, it's difficult to see which one. This is one of my favorite Super-8 shorts and looks like it was great fun to make...?  
 
Cleveland Smith, Bounty Hunter was also shot in 16mm, I believe. I was only on that one for a day, but it was a fun day. I was one of the natives dancing around the big kettle that Cleveland was in. Just watched Torro, Torro, Torro! again. Still hilarious. Watched Cleveland Smith, Bounty Hunter. I'm the native who rips some leaves from a branch while marching around the kettle. I watched Attack of the Helping Hand! for the first time in decades. Linda Quiroz was a real cutie. Nice girl, too. Found The Sappy Sap on YouTube. I forgot about that one. When Scotty gets backfired by the tailpipe, it's his hands wiping my face. An unfinished Renaissance Pictures short with Scotty, Cheryl Guttridge, Bruce, and myself. Good times.


You are credited on Thou Shalt Not Kill... Except!  
 
Yes. Huge learning experience. I was a production assistant on that one. It was grueling, torturous fun. Ugh. PA work is pretty demanding on a big budget picture. It's fairly horrible on a no-budget production. A LOT of grunt work, stuff nobody wanted to be bothered with... Essentially all the heavy lifting. It was mainly me and Kurt. I can't remember anyone else who was willing to put up with it. At one time they needed a particular car on Thou Shalt Not Kill... Except!. I think they had it, but it wasn't drivable. Scott and Josh had me and Kurt tow it with my horrible car out to the location. It was a nightmare. We stuck an old plate on it to make it look legit, but the State Highway Patrol pulled us over. They gave us a pretty hard time, too. They took the plate and broke it in half, essentially telling us to "get that piece of shit off the road". I'm paraphrasing, but the message was quite clear.


Must have been frustrating then but makes for a great story later. You told me your first day of involvement on The Evil Dead was shooting the opening titles. Do you mean the swamp footage or the actual titles?  
 
The swamp footage. It was very early, very cold, and very wet. That was actually the day I met Sam, Rob, and Bruce.


Can't spot you in any of the photos from that shoot, just Sam, Josh, Dart, Tim... but then there was several attempts to shoot those scenes...  
 
I don't remember Tim or Dart being there. I was at Bullard Lake. The photos are likely from an earlier attempt. I don't recall any photos being taken at the lake and didn't see any still or candid photography going on while I was working. It was Sam & Bruce in the water.

One attempt at shooting the opening sequence for The Evil Dead (1982)


You also did a lot of 'gofer' work, when Tom Sullivan and Bart Pierce worked for months on the meltdown sequence. Did you assist them with the shooting too?  
 
That was Tom, Bart, and Tim Philo. No, they had things well under control. I felt lucky that hey allowed me to observe. It was also where I saw a lot of the Tennessee cabin footage. All I could think is "WOW! This is gonna be GREAT!" Little did I know...



Bart, Bruce & Tom working on the meltdown animation for The Evil Dead (1982)

Sam overseeing Reshoots, The Evil Dead (1982)


Quite a few scenes were shot in Detroit after the Tennessee location shoot. Apart from the meltdown sequence, there were inserts shot in people's garages, etc. Were you involved in that too?  
 
No, not really... Meaning I honestly don't remember. Those guys really opened the door to a lot of work for me, so it was kind of a whirlwind. I remember some unrelated gigs with Kurt Rauf, and some commercials... Clyde's Carpets, local car dealerships... some Prince Spaghetti commercials that Sam directed, and so on...


Sam with Ethan Coen at the Book Of The Dead premiere (1981)
You were at The Evil Dead premiere at the old Redford theatre. It must have been amazing to finally see the movie that had been underway for so long. Do you remember what your first impression were and the general reception of the movie?  
 
Yes. I was relaying instructions from Sam to the projectionist. Forgot about that until now. It was awesome. All fake Hollywood, Bruce being interviewed by some hot blonde for the local news. The theater was packed. The audience loved it. It was a great time. Did you ever see the fake video we did of Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer? I think that was one of Scotty's ideas. It was during the production of The XYZ Murders, which became Crimewave.


No, I've never seen Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer - love the title though, Did you work on XYZ Murders too?  
 
Oh, yes. I worked with Scotty a lot on that one, and did a lot of gofer stuff. Actually got paid fairly well, too. A rarity.


Did you meet Brion James? Always liked him in movies, always seemed a bit like a weirdo in any movie. Paul Smith was more like a poor man's Bud Spencer...  
 
I partied with Brion James. I liked him. Crazy guy. Professionally, I believe he was just fine. Personally, he was a regular guy, just a little wacky... But aren't we all?

Paul Smith was a cool dude, too. He would get on my case about my smoking. Reed Birney was a really nice guy as well. I remember one night we went to see Christine. Kurt borrowed my keys under some pretense and moved my car while we were in the theater. We came out, and the car wasn't where I parked it. Great comedy torture gag!



Brion James as exterminator & hitman Arthur in The XYZ Murders AKA Crimewave (1985)


So Kurt's a jokester too?  
 
Oh, yes. We were all just... terrible, monstrous pranksters. Especially Scotty. The exploding cigarettes got annoying, though...


Haha, Yes, I believe Scotty's just a volcano of wacky ideas and I can certainly believe he would have to act on most of them. Were you lucky enough to get some screentime in The XYZ Murders?  
 
I was a background extra and a stand-in. I actually ran into Antonio Fargas a few years ago. He said he doesn't like thinking about The XYZ Murders. I don't blame him. I guess it was a nightmare production, but I didn't have enough experience at that time to judge. Retrospectively, it was pretty horrible. The worst parts were the ballroom scenes that seemed to go on forever, and working nights on the Belle Isle bridge during a Michigan winter. It was mostly pleasant though, as it was my first big-budget experience. The crew was great. Mostly good memories.



Variety; Cannes advert for Thou Shalt Not Kill... Except! (1985)

Variety; full-page advert for Crimewave (1985)


Did you meet the Coens too?  
 
I never met those guys, although I love their films. I remember getting The XYZ Murders script and saying "Who the hell are Joel and Ethan Coen?" Ha! Little did anyone know...


I'm a huge Coens' fan myself, probably the most original moviemakers working today. What about after The XYZ Murders? Did you continue to be around the Renaissance movie people or did you loose contact?  
 
No, there was more after that. A few post-production tasks for Evil Dead II, some commercials... We didn't lose touch until Darkman, when they went to California.



A large 10" x 14" Japanese foldover promo flyer for The XYZ Murders AKA Crimewave (1985)


Wow, Evil Dead II...?  
 
Evil Dead II... I don't remember very well. I didn't do too much on it as they didn't shoot in Detroit. It posted there, though. At one point, I was driving around with the master print in the trunk of my car. When I went to pick it up, Tapert looked at his watch and said "I'm timing you." HA! I'd never screw those guys over.
 
 
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