In 2001, Charles Band asked writer William Butler what the craziest idea he ever had was. With no hesitation he replied “Gingerdead Man!”. Band said “Great. Write it up. You shoot next month.”
Unfortunately, things didn’t pan out quite that easily.Butler’s script came in on time, but WAY over budget. Full Moon pictures was in the middle of a rebuilding phase and couldn’t afford to shoot the script as written.
“I wrote what was like a three million dollar budget picture. Charlie looked at this and said ‘We couldn’t film this in a million years!’.”
Butler struck a deal with Band. Full Moon would still buy the script and concept, but they would have it rewritten in-house. That way, it would still make it on screen. The rewrite chores fell to Full Moon regular and Critters scribe Brian Muir.This might confuse casual viewers since the opening credits cite August White and Sylvia St. Coix (Who would also be credited as the director of the second film) as the writers. Both are psydonyms. White is Muir and Coix is Butler. Throw in John Carl Buechler doing special effects in a Charles Band movie and I think this is definitely a recipe I can get behind.
Gingerdead Man starts off with Gary Busey on a rampage in a diner. I’d say that’s off to a good start. It’s pretty much all you are going to see of Busey though, just enough to establish him as the soul that gets trapped in the Gingerdead man. Band has been pretty open over the years about this being stunt casting. “We cast Busey for the bragging rights” he mentioned one year at Cinema Wasteland. If you ever see him at a convention, he’ll always be ready with a Busey story from set.
Busey for his part was confused He’d been booked for a mere two days, but was under the impression that he was in the entire film and shot off an infuriated letter to his agent telling hi they were crazy if they though they could shoot enough coverage for an entire film in just two days. Band sent word back to the agent that Busey would only be on set for one scene and that the rest of his contribution to the movie would be ADR. When Busey arrived to lay down his vocal tracks, he arrived with a girlfriend and a guitar. Band tried to get him into the booth. Busey pulled up the guitar.
“Yes. but first….a song!”
He proceeded to serenade Band before finally heading into the ADR booth to record the voice of the Gingerdead Man.
The film moves to a bakery, and Baker Sarah. She’s played by Robin Sydney, a Full Moon regular who would go on to star in every one of their Evil Bong movies (This’ll be pertinent later). It was her father and brother that were killed in the opening segment. A knock on the door and a mysterious “Grandma’s gingerbread seasoning” is left for her. What she doesn’t actually know is, these are the ashes of Gary Busey. When accidentally mixed with blood, it becomes the perfect ingredients to create the Gingerdead Man!
Across the street from the bakery, there’s a new competitor moving in. It’s a slimy chain store and it’s equally slimy owner comes by to intimidate and try and buy the bakery out. They’ll have no part of it and simply go back to work, making baked goods, gingerbread men oh, and one special Gingerdead Man!
Lorna, the daughter of the developer, sneaks in to try and plant rats in the bakery. Her boyfriend Amos joins her and it’s then that they all discover the Gingerdead Man. He runs off and finds Sarah’s drunken mom and takes revenge for every time the Pillsbury Doughboy has been poked in the belly…
Boyfriend Amos goes to the car to grab his gun while the Gingerdead Man kills the power to the bakery. Outside he scampers off to the developer’s car and runs him down. At least the baker’s competition is gone! In the meantime he heads back in to get the developer’s daughter – with a brief side argument with the rat.
In the back, Amos tries to fix the power, and Sarah deals with her crush on him. I supposed a subplot love story is inevitable though it seems like poor judgment to fall in love with a guy who thinks you can kill a demonic cookie with a pistol. a BIG pistol.
Still, with Mom in the oven and Sis in the freezer, it’s up to them to stop the evil Gingerdead Man!
What is perhaps most surprising about Gingerdead Man is how straight they play it. Oh, the Gingerdead Man still says tons of outrageous things and we get the occasional ridiculous quips “got milk?”, but by and large they play it as a straight horror film, infused with the general fun that we expect from a full moon feature. The ultimate hero at the end he is actually somewhat unexpected (and straight out of Butler’s orignial concept), although we get a bit of a Twist in the last few minutes that would be mirrored in later installments as well.
it’s not obvious the sort of franchise that this film will become from just watching the first movie, but on its own, this stands as a massively fun full moon feature.
Gary Busey was one of the first people I started seeing at conventions with autograph pricing in the $40 range. That’s a definite pass for me, but much to my delight, I discovered he does sign through the mail! Now to get Charles Band on here….