Dr. Chopper Release Date: 2 August 2005 (USA) Genre: Horror Director(s): Luca Bercovici (uncredited; Ghoulies, Luck of the Draw) & Lewis Schoenbrun Writer(s): Ian Holt Starring: Costas Mandylor, Ed Brigadier, Chelsey Crisp Mark Headley served as a producer on two films for York Entertainment. According to the directors who worked with him, Headley’s lack of […]

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Dr. Chopper
Release Date: 2 August 2005 (USA)
Genre: Horror
Director(s): Luca Bercovici (uncredited; Ghoulies, Luck of the Draw) & Lewis Schoenbrun
Writer(s): Ian Holt
Starring: Costas Mandylor, Ed Brigadier, Chelsey Crisp

Mark Headley served as a producer on two films for York Entertainment. According to the directors who worked with him, Headley’s lack of common sense and a total disregard for everyone but himself has led to them saying that working with York was pretty much the worst professional experience of their lives.

Headley has spent most of his career with different kinds of ‘producer’ hats on his head. For the most, the films he’s worked on have been garbage, including Vampires on Bikini Beach and Animal Attraction III. The two directors whose lives he reportedly made miserable in a short period of time, Rolfe Kanefsky and Luca Bercovici, are both respected in the business. That’s a statement that Headley probably cannot lay out. Rolfe Kanefsky has accused Headley of skimming off the top in the past. Not long after speaking to Rolfe I was told that Headley was allegedly fired from a production shortly before Dr. Chopper began shooting for just what Kanefsky accused him of.

Luca Bercovici shot about three quarters of Dr. Chopper before he’d had enough. “In thirty years of being in this business I have never been witness to, or subject to, malfeasants and such incompetence on this level. There were days that Mark Headley, who was never on the set and didn’t answer his cell phone, didn’t arrange for there to be food. I bought dinner for the entire crew one night. The litany of wrongdoings in a short period of time is breathtaking.” This comes straight from the vocabulary-filled mouth of Luca Bercovici, who was kind enough to spare forty-five minutes of his time a few days back.

The final straw came when second producer Miranda Kwok, a relatively inexperienced producer/actress who Luca describes as a “problem solver with negotiating skills who is universally loved by everyone,” was “fired, ambushed, and banned from the set” by Headley for solving some problems that Headley showed no interest in fixing. While Kwok was nice enough to continue helping out on the production, Bercovici had enough. At this point he went back to L.A. to talk to Tanya York, who promptly refused to see him, all while Headley chose to break off contact with him. “I went back up to Arrowhead and managed to make Headley irrelevant. It would’ve been a victory of sorts had a time bomb that he left smoldering not went off. He never really secured the location. He managed it so, with me out of the loop for about an hour, so much chaos and confusion formed that people just went home. It began a long, dragged out battle about whether I was going to return.” In the end Luca decided not to come back, requesting for his name to be taken off the film as well. “If I had left my name on it I’d have been cosigning the piece of execrable.”

Lewis Schoenbrun, editor of films such as Scarecrow Gone Wild and Tower of Blood, was then brought in to direct the last three days of production. According to Schoenbrun, he’d expressed interest in directing to York before, and was actually in talks to direct either Dr. Chopper or Big Bag Boogeyman. The fact that they were both being rushed into production stopped Schoenbrun from coming aboard as director, feeling that he couldn’t get a quality movie done on a hurried schedule. When York called him to finish the shoot, though, he jumped at the opportunity.

The final result of what came out of this production mess is, well, a big mess. It’s not nearly as bad as Bercovici believes it to be, but that’s not saying much. Dr. Chopper is your basic slasher film, just instead of college kids being stalked by the standard killer we have Dr. Chopper; an eighty year old man who is seeking immortality along with a couple of his demented nurses. Costas Mandylor, who apparently became a name actor without anyone telling me, is along for the ride as well. He plays a Park Sheriff who is distraught over his wife’s death. We know his wife died because, in a particularly hammy scene, he sits with a gun to his head and yells at himself while overacting.

The worst parts of the film come from random bits of dialogue that are impossible to hear. According to Bercovici, something got screwed up in post-production. “I know our mixer did not shoot it like that. What you see on the DVD must’ve come straight from the Avid. There’s absolutely no atmosphere. It’s just the weirdest fucking thing.”

It’s hard to screw up the basic elements of a slasher flick, and Dr. Chopper doesn’t do that. Then again, it never goes beyond that point either.
DVD: Barebones, along with that wonderful York Entertainment menu screen.

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