An interview with Ted Prior, star of The Deadliest Prey — and one extremely rare giveaway!
The blonde hair. The bulging muscles. The thousand-mile stare.
Ted Prior is no stranger to cult cinema.
Multi-talented as an actor, filmmaker, model, musician and FX artist, Ted has lent his skills to screen and stage since his youth. He is beloved by cult cinema fans for his roles in Troma productions, his sci-fi buddy flick with David Carradine, and most of all, his collaborations with his director brother David A. Prior.
Together, the Prior brothers have created some cult and camp favorites, including Killer Workout, Sledgehammer, Born Killer, Raw Nerve and Raw Justice.
But the film they are most celebrated for is their 1987 one-man-army movie, Deadly Prey – a wild and ferocious underground film that is part The Deadliest Game and part First Blood. In it, an army of mercenaries who train by hunting live targets pursues an unstoppable killing machine. That killing machine is Mike Danton, and he is played perfectly by a muscle-bound and mullet-headed Ted Prior.
One reason I believe Deadly Prey is so beloved is that it is a time-capsule example of post-Vietnam War American films – particularly those that came out during the 80’s VHS boom, when indie filmmakers flooded the Mom n’ Pop video shelves with their more cost effective alternatives to big studio releases. It is one of many angry film fantasies from that era that vented the country’s frustration over the outcome of that war – films like Missing in Action, Steele Justice and of course the Rambo series.
But the other reason Deadly Prey remains one of the Prior’s brother’s most popular movies is that it never gets preachy, never takes itself too seriously, and it knows how to deliver truckloads of explosive fun even upon repeat viewings. It is over the top, ultra-violent, and shamelessly hammy.
When watching a movie like Deadly Prey, cult cinema fans can’t help but remark: “Man, they just don’t make them like this anymore.”
For twenty-seven years, that has been true. But now it’s 2013, and Mike Danton is back, baby!
Nearly three decades after the release of the original, the Prior brothers have teamed up once again to bring us the sequel to their bullet-riddled blast from the past.
The Deadliest Prey once again pits Danton against his old trainer and nemesis Colonel Hogan (David Campbell reprising the role), who has just been released from prison, where he did nothing but dream of revenge. Having assorted a new team of bloodthirsty soldiers, Hogan sets up a new game of cat and mouse with Danton – and this time he’s streaming the whole thing on the web.
Fritz Matthews returns as lookalike brother of Lt. Thorton – who also can’t wait to get a little payback, Tara Kleinpeter stars as the sexy and sadistic Sophia, and even David Prior himself makes a cameo as a kidnapper.
Truly in the spirit of the original, and even recreating some of its most memorable moments, this new sequel is bound to get Prior fans bouncing in their seats. That’s why we’re showing it as part of our Terror in the Park cult film festival. Better still -we’ll be joined by the film’s stars Ted Prior, David Campbell and Art James.
Ted pulled up a stool here at Tavern of Terror to talk about the new sequel, video slashers with sledgehammers, and the art of using severed arms as weapons.
Hello, Ted, and thanks for joining us. Tell us a little about The Deadliest Prey. What made you and David decided to make a sequel after all these years?
Hey guys, pleasure to talk with you. To answer the question, a few years ago I was invited to a screening in Hollywood of “Deadly Prey.” I had NO idea why someone would be having a screening… So I called and got a hold of the guys (Cinafamily) and they seemed to be cool and really loved the movie, so I thought what the hell. I brought my 10 yr old son thinking I could be a big shot in front of him. You know, dad stuff. Long story short the theatre was packed and I had a blast with my kid. The next day I called my brother and said “You’re not going to believe what happened last night”. And from that point we figured why not make a sequel.
What were David Campbell and Fritz Matthews’ response when you first ran the idea by them?
When I brought it to Campbell he said “Do I get to win this time?” And of course I had to remind him of who the star of the movie was! The wildest thing was getting a hold of Fritz. We hadn’t seen or heard from him since the 80′s and out of nowhere he contacted my brother while we were writing the sequel! That shit’s crazy! So of course we had to figure out how to bring him back. And he was thrilled to do it if for nothing else but to have fun with some old buddies. And that’s we did.
I see you’ve dropped the mullet and jorts (jean shorts), although there is a brief nod to them in the gear-up scene!
Let’s get something straight – my ass is 54 now and there is no way in hell I’d be in those damn shorts again! (laughs) Can you imagine?! I’m still not sure if I should have ever been in them. Gotta love the 80′s!
Speaking of gear, there is a wide variety of artillery used in the film. What were some of the more interesting weapons you got to use?
In a film called Battle Ground I got to ride on a tank while it was racing through the woods. That was pretty cool.. I’ve also fired out of helicopters and stuff like that, but in this film really its mostly hand to hand and small arms.
Danton is older and wiser this time around. I liked seeing that he’d learned from previous mistakes. For example, he steals a pair of boots this time, so not to go barefoot again. Were these winks to the audience intentional?
Yes, totally inside joke type stuff. But here’s the deal on the boots – it damn near killed me to run around in the woods barefoot in the original. I told my brother when we were writing the new script that I can do one shot of me really barefoot, then somewhere along the line I have to get somebody’s boots. No way in hell would I go through that again. That’s exactly why I say that in the movie. It wasn’t a joke – that shit hurts!
There are many more winks, and many recreations of some of the original’s best scenes. Did you ever think you’d be beating a man with his own arm again?
The way my life has played out I’ve learned “It aint over till it’s over!” Way too many times things in my life have come back around that I would have never have expected. This is certainly one of those times.
You mentioned to me that you made the fake arm from the first movie. Any tips for aspiring FX artists?
I don’t really have any tips for FX guys but I would say to filmmakers that think they need a lot of money to make a movie: where there’s a will, there’s a way. Dave and I have never had any formal training in film-making. It was always about going out and making it happen, one way or another! We needed an arm, so I made one. What nobody ever notices is the shoulder and stump that shows after I cut off the arm. That was the trickier part.
In the commentary on the Sledgehammer DVD, David credits you with making all the gore effects, including the memorable opening credits. Were these your first foray into props and FX?
Yeah, for sure – and it shows!! My parents were both artists, so I grew up around all kinds of art projects going on in my house. I think that’s what made me try this stuff. My father was great at making cool stuff out of nothing. Basically, that’s what I did. I remember drawing the poster thinking it came out pretty cool. Now I look at it and laugh. Those were the days.
What are some of the other FX you produced for films?
Never really did too much straight FX stuff. It was always prop related stuff like fake barbed wire or a hatch lifting from the ground… stuff like that. Once in a while I’d build a model helicopter or boat to blow up. Truth is, the sets are what I spent most of my time building.
The sequel, like the original, never gets pretentious or overly complicated. It just brings the fun from the very beginning. Do you think most of your movies take that route?
That’s kind of the idea. When you don’t ever have much money you have to get creative and pace is key in that equation.
The original has a very dark ending. Was there a desire to create more closure for Danton?
Honestly, the only thing I wanted to make sure of is that we stayed true to the fast and furious pace of the first. Not to mention the fun. Now from an actor’s perspective, hell yeah! I added a line in the movie where I’m telling the solder to go back to Hogan and let him know that “He’s not the only one who’s waited 27 years for this!”
You had mentioned to me that your son, Michael, would play Deadly Prey in the yard instead of playing army. He must have been ecstatic to make his film debut in the sequel with you, playing Danton’s son. What was that like for you both?
Awesome! I can’t begin to describe what a great father-son experience we had. But at the end of the day, I’m still just stupid dad who doesn’t know shit… Kids! I keep trying to tell him how fuckin’ cool I am but he never buys it! And here’s the real kicker: when he plays Deadly Prey, the little bastard plays Fritz! I mean, what the fuck?
You’ve worked with a wide variety of stars, including horror movie icons like Lance Henriksen, Michael Ironside, Traci Lords, Stacy Keach and Wilford Brimley. Have any amusing stories to tell?
Each movie has a life of its own, and so many moment to moment experiences, that it’s hard to put them into words. I’ll say this: Dave Carradine and I did some serious damage back in the day, that’s for damn sure! I don’t like to talk too much about that stuff for all the obvious reasons.
Speaking of horror films, there is a seldom seen fright flick from 2011 called Breath of Hate that credits you as “Danton.” What’s that about?
(Laughs) Yeah, here’s what happened. I was 1st AD on the flick and the guy who was supposed to play a bartender in a 5 or 6 line scene with Jason Mewes didn’t show up. So I jumped in and did it! The character didn’t even have a name other than “bartender.” So I said, “Let’s call him Danton.”
You have roots in horror – your and David’s first film, Sledgehammer, is credited as being the first shot-on-video slasher movie. This became a revolution in the 80’s as everyone with a camera began pumping out flicks about machete-wielding madmen. What inspired you guys to go the slasher route first?
That’s really a question for my brother. I just remember trying to figure out how to make a movie logistically simple. One or two locations and a limited cast.
You returned to the slasher genre with Killer Workout. I’ve long been into fitness as well as slasher movies, and from the moment I’d heard about that movie I started a long hunt to track it down. It doesn’t disappoint. It is one of my favorites of yours! Was your own passion for fitness a motivator to make that movie?
I believe we were just trying to capitalize on the fitness craze that was going on at the time. Also we had a gym that we could shoot in – free location! Hell yeah, let’s shoot, and a little T&A never hurts!
Very true! It’s one of the best things about the movie! Have you and David ever discussed making sequels to Killer Workout or Sledgehammer, being that they remain popular and that the slasher genre lends itself to sequels so easily?
We have talked about Sledgehammer a time or two but nothing really serious.
What about some of your other movies? Any plans to launch more sequels?
Not really. We did DP2 just based on my experience at these screenings. But Dave and I never rule anything out.
We’re excited to have you host the movie premier for us. You’ll also be there through the weekend signing autographs and selling merchandise. This is your first convention appearance, correct?
Well, the first in a long time. I’d get invited to the VSDA in Vegas every year during the late 80′s/early 90′s… it was a blast.
What’s next for you? Got any teasers for us?
Nothing really on the board at the moment. Most of my energy has been going into stuff like this. I’d like to see DP2 get out there and do well. Building the website and staying on top of all these events has been a lot more work than I was expecting but it’s always fun!
Thanks, Ted, we look forward to seeing you at 80’s in the Park for the big screening of The Deadliest Prey!
Can’t wait, man. We’ll have a blast. Thanks!
Find out more about The Deadliest Prey on the movie’s official website.
We will be screening The Deadliest Prey as part of our cult film festival for 80’s in the Park.
Friday, September 27th at 8pm. Cinemaworld in Melbourne, FL.
The screening will be followed by live Q&A with stars Ted Prior and David Campbell.
OUR DEADLY PRIZE GIVEAWAY
Alright now, you videovores, here is a very special and very rare opportunity for you to win some exclusive goodies straight from the Prior brothers. Ted and David each have a killer prize lined up for you!
One lucky winner will receive a mint condition, Japanese copy of the original Deadly Prey on Beta from circa 1987! This is the real deal, folks. This extremely rare gem has been sitting in David A. Prior’s personal collection for over 25 years — a video collector’s holy grail!
On top of this, Ted has come up with a creative prize as well.
One of the most famous scenes in Deadly Prey is when Ted’s character, Danton, beats a man with his own severed arm. It’s about as badass (and batshit crazy) as it gets.
Now is your chance to win a novelty, severed arm that is hand signed by Ted Prior!
One very lucky winner will receive both prizes.
To enter, just follow these three easy steps:
- Like Tavern of Terror on facebook
- Like The Deadliest Prey on facebook
- Leave a COMMENT BELOW telling us what your favorite Prior brothers film is!
You have until Wednesday the 25th at 10pm EST to enter! US residents only. One winner will be chosen at random and notified via email.