Samurai Vampire Bikers from Hell The Story of the Production

Scott Shaw
Samurai Vampire Bikers from Hell
The Story of the Production

By Scott Shaw
Fade In:

I began writing my Story of the Production Series as a means to get the inside of the what’s what out to the people who have loved, hated, been curious about, and perhaps had even developed certain erroneous beliefs about the facts and the factors of the Zen Films I’ve created. Initially I wrote about
The Roller Blade Seven, Max Hell Frog Warrior, Guns of El Chupacabra, and The Rock n’ Roll Cops, (not in that order). …All of these films were done in association with Donald G. Jackson. I composed those pieces believing that because he brought such a chaotic influence into those productions that the reader would, most probably, find them the most interesting to read about. Like I’ve stated in the past, the films I do are relatively boring and mostly free from chaos. This being said, it seems that Samurai Vampire Bikers from Hell has continued to be a viewed, discussed, and reviewed piece of cinematic art. …This, even though the film was created over thirty years ago. So, I thought I would take a few minutes and provide all of you people who have assumed that you knew what you knew about the goings-on of this film the actual facts. Read on…
The Inception
I came up with the concept for Samurai Vampire Bikers from Hell during the time when Don and I were filming
Roller Blade Seven. The title just kind of came to me one day and with it the various visions of how I would like the story to be portrayed.
Yes, I understand, it is a very high-concept title and perhaps that was the true failing of this film. Without the money to do that title justice, I was left to work only with the bare essential. This being said, I think something true and artistic was created within the boundaries of what I had to work with.
I remember telling Don the title of the film as we were in the process of filming one of my Roller Blade Seven scenes at the San Fernando Mission. I guess it was at that moment that the film’s certainty began to become a reality. You know, the speaking of it to someone else and all that…
I have well documented how I got financially (and otherwise) massively screwed over during the creation of Roller Blade Seven. So, I won’t go into it here. But, and because of this fact, I brought SV up with very little financial resources. I did, however, believe that Don and the Executive Producer of The Roller Blade Seven were my friends and that they both appreciated the contribution I made to making RB7 a reality; namely: the dialogue taken from two books I wrote, my music as the soundtrack, my editing, my acting, and the list goes on… I was wrong however, as I will explain in a moment.
The Foundations
Don and I had finished RB7 and Return of the Roller Blade Seven. They sold very well at the 1992 American Film Market and the Executive Producer massively raked in money on her investment. I receive nothing in payment, however. Again, I won’t go into that here, as you can read about it elsewhere…
When we created RB7, Don and I had offices at the Hollywood Center Building on Hollywood Blvd. As RB7 was done, I decided it was time to make another film. The video revolution had just hit. In fact, Don and I filmed the footage that became the first Zen Documentary, “
Interview: The Roller Blade Seven Documentary,” with a rented Canon L1, Hi8 camera.
Shooting in 16mm was very expensive but I realized I could make a film for vastly far less money if I shot it on video. Thus, I believed I had found a pathway to make SV.
The Cast
I called up my friend Kenneth H. Kim to become a big part of this film. I had met him while we were both cast as characters in the film, Capital Punishment, and had gotten him his role in RB7. But, he walked away from the film about a month into production as Don had diminished his promised role as one of the actual Roller Blade Seven and had re-cast him as the, none-the-less, very essential character, Utility Ninja.  But, that character was always masked. That’s not a great way to make your mark on Hollywood. The final breaking point came when Don used Ken’s car, which had a hatchback, as a camera car as they filmed me riding my Harley. He had enough. He quit. And, I totally understood.
In any case, I felt very bad about all that. So, when I was ready to bring up SV, he was first on my list to be provided with a major role in the film.
Another person I called up was the man who played the character, Marcus. I had met him prior to RB7 when we were shooting a commercial where he, I, and a couple other Harley enthusiasts rode our Harleys around Hollywood. He was a nice guy, had a good look, and had a nicely customized Harley.
…We all spent way too much money customizing our Harleys back then.
I had actually brought him in to audition for RB7, but Don didn’t like him. Don, playing the games that Don loved to play, had him and me go into this long improv scene. This really pissed me off, having to do that, but there was no one else in the office at the time for him to work off of. Ultimately, Don thought the guy couldn’t hang in the world of improv, so he didn’t get the role.
I contacted him and he was immediately good to go. There were a few problems, however. He had sold his Harley. I guess he needed the money? And, he had cut his long hair. Though I initially had really hoped to have several of the central characters of the movie ride their Harleys in the film, this was my first awakening to the fact that this probably was not going to happen. But, he was a good guy. So, I planned to use him: Harley, long hair, or not.
I also contacted Douglas Jackson, (no relation to Donald G. Jackson). We had met while doing what was then referred to as an, “Industrial,” later known as an, “Infomercial,” with the great actor and musician Martin Mull. Doug was cast as a priest and I as a spaced-out heavy metal guy. He was a good actor and I thought he would make a great central bad-guy in the film as he was so normal and reserved looking—playing against character and all that…
There was also Tipsy LaFabula. Great gal! I met her while Don and I were doing some random casting near the end of the RB7. She was just one of those beautiful, very-broken, porcelain dolls. I always felt very close to her and I hoped to help her make her way through Hollywood in any small way that I could. I even planned to take her to the 1993 Tokyo International Film Festival with me, but her father was fearful that I would sell her to the highest bidder. I, of course, would never do anything like that but I understood his fears as she was such a striking looking individual. So, she didn’t make the trip. To this day I believe that trip could have changed the trajectory of her life. Anyway… You can first see her, in regard to a Scott Shaw Zen Film, in the first Zen Documentary, Interview: The Roller Blade Seven Documentary. We went on to do other films and additional life things together, as well. Again, great person!  
I also brought on Selina Jayne and Roger Ellis, who were both in the RB7. She was the Spirit Guide and he was Stealth. I had come to become friends with both of them and saw that they were very talented people so I, of course, cast them as central characters in SV.
RB7’s infamous Kabuki, Claudia Shultz, was also a must. She had quit RB7 near the later stages of production. She was just done with Don’s BS and all of the seemingly wasted time she had put into the project. Ken had a lot of faith in her, so I was happy to make her a part of this film. 
Here’s a fun fact for you… On the poster for RB7, that’s not Claudia. She was gone by that point of time. We brought on another actress and made her up to take over her character of Kabuki for the poster shoot.
Later, in the second stage of production on SV, I cast Saemi Nakmura. SV was her first Hollywood role. She had come to L.A. from Japan to make it in the film game. After SV she did go on to act in some high budget films. Very nice individual!
Finally, enough cannot be said about Susan Jay and her involved in the foundational elements of SV. Like Tipsy, I had met her during one of the later casting sessions for RB7. The film was basically done but Don and I were looking towards the future. She spent some time with Don and I as we were picking up the final pieces of the film, as well as doing the voice over for the jacuzzi scene with the character Hawk in RB7, “Solid,” “Hard,” “Steel,” “That’s my samurai sword.”
During the post-production of RB7, I would often spend the night at her place, in the Hollywood Hills, instead of traveling down to my beachside apartment in Redondo Beach. Plus, we did use her in the scenes that make up the Zen Documentary, Interview: The Roller Blade Seven Documentary. In any case, we became very close.
Suzy was not only a great help in pre-production and casting for SV, but she was the person who actually purchased the camera that we used in the film, a Sony CCD V5000, which was one of the best prosumer cameras on the market at the time. That was the camera that we used for the filming of the movie until it was taken from me. I’ll speak to that in a moment…
To tell her story, Suzy was based out of Toronto and had come down to L.A. to see if she could make her film career happen. I was happy to help, in any small way that I could, but I’m sure she never expected to become part of all that she took on with becoming a major component of pre-production for this film. Again, I can’t say enough nice things about her, though she did leave me high and dry at Cedar Sinai Hospital Emergency Room one night. But, I will get to that a bit later in this piece.
I had put her phone number out there in the ethos for all production services for SV. I had left this long detailed message on her line, and she was getting the tons and tons of phone calls from all of the cast and crew and industry people who were looking for jobs and that kind of stuff in Hollywood. That had to be hard to deal with. Sorry!
The pre-production on SV was fairly easy. It’s like one of those things when you’ve been working out a lot and you are in really good shape and then you’re asked to make that long run. You’re really prepared so it does not bother you at all. As I had been living through all the constant chaos of RB7 for the past several months, I was in-shape and ready to go.
Production Begins. Well, Almost…
My initial plan was to shoot on the soundstages we had in the back of the building where our offices for RB7 were located. I had Suzy call up and bring in the cast and the crew. On 11 April 1992, Samurai Vampire Bikers from Hell went up. Well, almost…
As for my cameraman, I used the guy who had done the patented, “Rollercam,” on RB7. Ken told me that the guy was kind of a dick as he apparently talked shit about me on the set of RB7 when I wasn’t in earshot. But, Hollywood is so full of this kind of nonsense, it didn’t really bother me. I just needed someone with actual camera experience, as I couldn’t shoot the film because I was going to be in it, so I hired him.
We were all there, we went to the back stages, we set up, and we started shooting. We got a couple of scenes shot. All good! But, then the problem erupted…
The Executive Producer from RB7 decided to come and look at what I was doing. I guess she got pissed that I was doing something that did not involve her. …Or whatever reason she had in her mind. I really never knew what the problem actually was??? I smiled and said, “Hi.” She scowled at me. Okay… A couple of minutes later I get a call from Don via my voicemail/pager, “She’s going to shut you down!”  This, even though he had assured me that it would be fine if I shot on the stages. A few minutes later up comes the building security guard. A guy that I had become good friends with. He tells me we all had to leave. What could I do? I shut down production.
Now, this was really fucked up! I thought she was my friend. I guess that’s my problem, I see everyone as friends. Plus, she had just made a whole lot of money, at the 1992 American Film Market, from two films that were largely my creation. She later took the movies to MiFed and Cannes where they sold across the globe, not to mention RB7 eventually being broadcast on USA Up All Night. She made a lot of money but shared none. A lot of bad things have been said about this woman, and I understood why. But, I always liked her. In fact, even after this, we remained distant, yet cordial friends. But, she did really fuck me over and that was wrong! Welcome to Hollywood.
In fact, she had me barred from ever entering the building again. My first thought was to rent an office in the Hollywood Center Building just to mess with her power grab. So, I spoke to the management, set up a meet, saw the spaces that were available, and got the paperwork to rent an office. But, I realized that would just be an investment in spite. And, that’s not really who I am. Plus, the building was full of asbestos and I would have had to sign a release that if I got sick from it, I could take no legal action. So, I shifted my focus. Though, the truth be told, due to that incident, the whole RB7 rip-off that I underwent, and a few other things, I did hold some fairly negative feelings about her and Don Jackson for a long period of time.
Anyway… Ken took the situation very hard. I could tell he was very upset as we were getting booted. He later expressed that due to his experiences with RB7 he thought the whole production would fall apart. But, that’s not who I am. I’m not a quitter. Sure, it was embarrassing but sometimes when you’re in the driver seat you’re the one who must take the hits. 
Me, I took a different pathway that day. My long-time friend Vincenzo, who I had also cast in the film, and I went to a strip club and got drunk. Though Ken was invited, he declined. For me, that just seemed like the best antidote.
Okay… After that slap across my face, thanks to the Executive Producer, I had to take a different pathway if I hoped to make Samurai Vampires a reality. I decided to dump the Rollercam guy. …Just didn’t like his negativity. I called up Sergio, the Assistant Camera on RB7. Nice guy and a great cameraman. I always liked him. Plus, he had his own lights! He gave me the special rate of $200.00 a day for his services. AOK.
As I no longer had the soundstages, I needed an interior location to film some scenes. Tipsy offered me her Laurel Canyon home.
Again, Tipsy was such a great and interesting person. She drove this old-school hearse that had, “Honk if you’ve done LaFabula,” painted across the side. …A car that she always parked right in front of her house and could often be seen driving around Hollywood. Anyway… Thanks to Tipsy, we had our set.
Knowing we were safe from interference, I had Suzy call in a much larger cast than on our previous shoot and schedule them for production beginning on the next weekend after getting kicked off the set.
In terms of the cast, some were Zen Filmmaking alumni, others were people I had known and had worked with in A-productions, still others were new additions to the Zen Filmmaking family. Perhaps the most interesting of these, which deserves a mention, was Keanu Reeve’s sister. I had probably seen her headshot and liked her look, but it would have been Suzy that actually called and cast her. But, I did not know she was Keanu’s sister. Hell, I didn’t even know her name when she showed up on the set. I just looked at her and put in her in the bedroom scene with an actor I had worked with in the A-Market and myself. We did our stuff and that was that. That’s Zen Filmmaking! …Had I known who she was, I probably would have created a much larger role for her.
The man who was to play Marcus showed up and, as it turns out, he thought his charter would play better with long hair, so he got hair extensions. Back then, professional extensions were very expensive; in the neighborhood of a $1,000.00. Sure, they looked nice. But, that was a high price to pay to be in a No Budget Zen Film. Those extensions probably cost more than the entire budget of the film.
The one thing that did occur, in association with the character of Marcus, was that I realized Don was right. I had the intention of playing the Marcus character up much larger in the film, but the guy could not improv. He could not even deliver lines I fed him with much believability. But again, that’s Zen Filmmaking. If it doesn’t work, move on.
…Speaking of Don. Though I hadn’t seen him since prior to the debacle at our soundstage, we did pass voicemails back and forth. He wanted to come by and check out my set. But, I was falling into a passive anger with him due to a lot of things that don’t need to be discussed in association with this essay. So, I just ignored his requests.
We filmed a lot of stuff that evening. But, as the night went on, Tipsy was getting fucked up. And, she was not a happy drunk. An actor came and told me that she was getting pissed at me. For what, I didn’t know??? But, I get it, sometimes when you’re drunk and you’re not in a good state of mind you need to focus your attention/intention onto someone. I guess I was the ideal target. That’s okay. I was the central focus for all of this Zen Filmmaking nonsense that was taking place. I went and talked to her and she immediately chilled. I put in her in a scene with Suzy and she was all good.  Again, I was so thankful that she let us use her home in the first place. Thanks Tipsy!
That was Friday night, 17 April 1992.
On Saturday, we shot some cemetery stuff and some other outdoor stuff at this cool park that is in the Hollywood foothills during the day. For night, I was planning to go downtown. The one mistake I made was that I had Suzy call up the cast and told them to meet us at Jay Burgers. This was a burger stand, with great burgers, located in East Hollywood over on Santa Monica and Virgil. The problem was, I didn’t really think through how many people, in how many separate cars, this would equal. When Ken and I showed up, there were a shit ton of people waiting for us in the parking lot, all people we had never met, and Jay wanting to know what the Hell was going on. Ken and I bought a burger in order to hopeful quench his anger and we headed off downtown.
That’s the night we filmed that great and important scene with Kim Bolin, “Hey, I thought you guys were going to take me to Hollywood?” “Hollywood… Hollywood’s just a state of mind.” That’s a line I just came up with on the spot and feed it to the actors. Important statement, I believe.
After that, we filmed around the downtown area. I noted in my Production Notes that we began shooting at 2:30 PM and finished at 2:30 AM on that day.
On Sunday, first we shot some outdoor fighting sequences at a location that I like to call DeSoto Jungle. It’s a secret forested outdoor location in the Northwest Valley.
For the evening, Ken had somehow got hold of an entire floor of a downtown office building where the tenants had moved out. How he did that and/or how much that cost him I never knew. But, it was a great set where we could pretty much do anything we wanted.
Back then, Ken was a really connected guy. I would often be very impressed with what he pulled out of his hat. This office building situation was an ideal example.

Doug also stepped up to the plate and began to become an essential part of the production on that night. As the evening wore on, some people were getting hungry. Me, I never eat when I am in the middle of a film. I just don’t like the distraction. But, actors are actors. Doug, seeing this, and being much closer to them than I, (as I was actualizing the scenes), he went out and bought everyone burgers. Thanks! He also became an essential part of the production of my next two films,
Samurai Johnny Frankenstein and Samurai Ballet. Maybe someday I will write, “The Story of the Production,” for those two films, as well.

We shot a lot of foundational scenes for the film at that location. We finished the shoot at about 2:30 AM.

As this was Sunday, and the next day was a work day, Monday, Ken told me, as we were tearing down the sets, that he was actually going to go to work. Impressive!
It was my hope to shoot the majority of SV over one weekend. And, this is what we accomplished. I can’t say enough about the cast and the crew as they all were an integral part in making that happen.
Biker Down
The next week comes along. On Wednesday the 22
nd I was scheduled to go and see Soundgarden with this girl I had met at this camera and film development business, that Don and I frequented during RB7, located on La Brea. On my Harley, I was going to pick her up when BAM, a car hits me from behind, sending me over the handlebars and onto the payment, as I was pulling up to a stop light. I was fucked. My Harley was fucked. And, the guy was standing there saying it was my fault. How the Hell was it my fault when the guy hit me from behind? Obviously, I didn’t get to go to see Soundgarden at the Roxy.
A couple of curious things happened in association with this incident. As I was being put into the ambulance, I noticed that the Rolex I was wearing was not on my wrist. I asked the EMTs about it, but they just played it off. Finally, I started to get really intense about it. I mean, that was not a cheap watch. Low and behold they found it. The one guy looks at it, “Oh, is this a Rolex?” I grabbed it out of his hand. The assholes were obviously trying to snake it from me in my disheveled condition.
In the emergency room of Cedar Sinai, the male nurse, finding out I was a filmmaker, was all talking shop with me. He had an idea for a reality show about the ER. Just then, the actor who played Renko on Hill Street Blues, Charles Haid, was rolled in and placed next to me. He had apparently been on a set and had a drink of some strawberry something of which he was very algetic to. We passed a few words and jokes back and forth. Seemed like a nice enough guy.
This is not really all that important. It’s just one of those things that illustrates and details the symbolism of the Hollywood goings-on.
Anyway, they did the x-rays of me. Patched up my cuts and scrapes. Then, they wanted me to check in, at least overnight, for observation. But, that’s just not me. I was bleeding and broken but I was still able to move. I checked out.
My checking out became a problem, however… I’ve told this story in other places, but as it happened in association with this film, I feel like it needs to be detailed here, as well.
I limped my way to the pay phone. This was back in the day, long before smart phones, that if you didn’t know a person’s phone number you couldn’t call them as everyone had unlisted phone numbers. So, first I called my main girlfriend, the one who had moved her stuff into my apartment one day when I wasn’t looking. But, she was at work and felt like she couldn’t leave. I thought that was fucked up, but the girl is still around. She was and still is a worker bee. If that would have been her calling me, I would have dropped everything to go and get her in a flash. But, no. She told me I’d have to wait until she got off work, which was several hours later, if I wanted her to pick me up. That choice she made has bothered me to this day.  
Just a word for the wise. People never change. Keep that in mind.
So, then I called Suzy. I told her the story and she hung up on me. Okay, I get it… I had gotten a bit exasperated with her and walked away from whatever it was we were doing a couple of days before. So, she was pissed at me. But again, if she had called me in that condition, I would have gone to get her. I guess she provided me with proof as to my assumption about her? Anyway…
I called all the other numbers I could think of, left messages where I could, but no luck. I didn't have the money for a cab, which would have had to be paid in cash back then. And, Hollywood is a long way from Redondo Beach so a taxi ride would not have been cheap. So, I sat there, on the steps of the Cedar Sinai Emergency Room, for five hours until my girlfriend finally got off of work and came to get me. Talk about embarrassing… What was my karma in that?
My Harley was totaled and the guy who hit me had no insurance. Plus, his sister was a lawyer. So, who could I sue? As my bike was fully customized, and the insurance companies didn’t cover any of that kind of stuff, I was massively screwed. I ended up getting like $2,000.00 for the remnants of my bike from the guy who had customized it for me after he parted it out. This, for a bike I had spent over $14,000.00 customizing, not to mention what it cost me new. Not good! I was very sad. 
The Riots
Though I was banged up, I had to get the film finished. We were to go back up on the following Wednesday, 29 April 1992.
I’ve also told this story a lot, but here it is again, as it is this film related…
I was driving to Hollywood to meet up with my cast and crew in the late afternoon. As is commonly the case, the traffic on the L.A. Freeways gets pretty crazy at that time of day. So, I did what I often did, and hit the streets to get from my place in Redondo Beach up to L.A. I knew nothing about what was going on. I was just going to shoot a movie.
I hit over to jam through Southcentral L.A., via the streets. La Cienega works sometimes but it can get messy up around Jefferson, so I first was on Crenshaw, but that got crowed, so I hit over to Normandie. When I crossed over Florence, I noticed that a truck looked to be broken down. I didn’t give it much thought. I drove on.
Later, as I watched the news, I saw that was where the white truck driver, Reginald Denny, got attacked and ripped from his truck. Apparently, what happens was that there was the initial impetus of the riots at Normandie and Florence. But, before it all broke loose across the city, there was the attack on Denny, then a moment of calm. I drove through there just at that moment. I guess I was somehow being protected. Thank you to all the powers from the great beyond! Because, there I was, a long blonde haired white guy, in a vintage Porsche, driving through a black neighborhood. It could have been me that was attacked.
Anyway, I get to Hollywood and we start filming. It was dark by this point and we had already filmed a few scenes when my pager starts blowing up. 911, 911, 911. I call my girlfriend back and she tells me there’s a riot going on. Wow, we had to shut down production. I drove home over the hill and via the Valley, over to the 405, as there was apparently people taking shots at the cars on the 110, which is how I would have most probably driven home. I get home and saw all the carnage taking place around the city on the TV screen. It was crazy. I guess I dodged a bullet.
Though the film was basically shot, there were no bikers, not even a motorcycle in the film. I was broke, so I couldn’t buy another Harley. The only option I could think of was to borrow a bike from one of riding friends. But, here again, it all goes character… I could not find one single person, not one so-called friend, who would simply loan me their Harley. I asked around, and the cheapest one I could find to rent was from a guy I knew who had a Softtail. He rented it to me for $100.00 for a few hours. That’s the bike you see me riding in the film.
The problem was, I didn’t even have a hundred dollars cash to my name on that day we were to film. I had a residual check, that I had deposited, but those took a few days to clear back then. This was long before the age of ATMs on every corner. The guy didn’t want to, but he took my check. I just hoped the check in my account would clear before he deposited the check I had given him. I guess it did because he never said anything. But, that’s how broke I was.
Camera Gone
The riots were over, and shortly after this, I thought it would be a good idea to capture some of the destruction that occurred due to the riots, so I was planning to go to the heart of the Riot Zone. I call up Ken so he could watch my back as I filmed. I got some good stuff, but it was not used in SV. But, that’s an entirely different story…
Afterwards, I dropped Ken off and I went up to Hollywood to go to Studio Film and Tape as I needed some more Hi8. I left the Sony in my trunk. When I get back to the car, I noticed that the truck was slightly ajar. I open the truck and it was gone. “God Damn it!” I yelled. Someone had popped the lock and grabbed the Pelican Case that the Sony was in and it was gone.

Even though I knew everyone who worked at Studio Film and Tape, aside from the niceties, I was just in there for a couple of minutes. But, I guess all those riot-orientated people had gotten used to the smash and grab and they figured anyone who went into a shop like that probably had some equipment in their truck. The camera was gone!
Hand-in-hand with this, I started to receive aggressive phone calls from a friend of Suzy’s demanding that I give back the camera. This woman was married to a really high-end and very well-known theatre Producer/Director, and she came at me, at least my message machine, with a lot of attitude and threats. I really did not need it! I was under a lot of pressure and was pumping anxiety. I was a mess. Plus, I didn’t have it. The camera was gone. I don’t know if those calls were motivated by Suzy or just her friend wanting to step in and help. But I get it, when a relationship goes South, some people want that engagement ring back. Me, all I ever got was a fax from Suzy hoping to rekindle what we had. But, she had gone back in Toronto. What could I do? So, I never responded to the phone calls or the fax. But, I did feel really-really bad. I would have given her the camera back if I still had it. Or, paid her for it, but I was dead-ass broke.
Post Production      
I edited SV at EZTV, which was an edit and film showcase facility over on Santa Monica Blvd in West Hollywood. Due to the fact that I had to do a linear edit of the film, it took me a bit longer and was a little more complicated than I had initially believed; at least in terms of edit organization. It took me a week or so of all-day edit sessions to get the film cut. Ken would come by sometimes in the evening, after he got off work, and I would show him what was being created. Though it was not the movie I initially envisioned, it was becoming its own unique entity.
As there were no bikers in the film, just me picking up Tipsy on that rented Harley, I used some stock footage to fill out the movie. Again, not what I had hoped but getting actors, who owned Harleys in the film, proved to be much harder than I imagined. Yes, I got tons of headshot with guys sitting on a Harley. But, when they were called none of them owned one.
I completed the first pass of the film and I thought it was pretty good. Pretty good at least in terms of what I had to work with but there was no big pay off.
I sat on the film for a short time, knowing the film needed something more. Mostly, it needed some more action. I had some discussions with Ken and again he came up with this great location. It was a large garage facility owned by the family of one of his filmmaking friends.
It is important to note that we had begun the production of a second film, Atomic Samurai AKA Samurai Johnny Frankenstein, just at the time we had finished initial production of SV. I had taken the money I had finally gotten from my Harley, and as broke as I was, I bought another Sony CCD V-5000. We needed a camera to finish SV and SJF. What else could I do?
In any case, we went through another casting session and brought on some very talented people. Including one man who had just finished co-starring in one of the American Ninja films. Plus, some cast members that went on to do some good things with their career. We simultaneously filmed scenes for both SV and SJF at that location.

Sadly, we had to let Sergio go on that day. I had spoken to him the night before and given him the call time and all that but he was a no show. We waited and waited. I called him and paged him but received no response. Finally, at about 10:00 AM, when the stores open, we went to a nearby photo shop and bought some photo floods and gels to light the scenes. Ken’s friend was a film school grad, so he had no problem taking over the role of cinematographer. We get back to the garage and we are setting up the lights and finally Sergio shows up. But, we had already spent his wages on the lighting.
I told Sergio if he wanted to stay and work for free he could, but we had no money to pay him. Sergio didn’t want to work for free, so he left. Obviously, he only cared about the money and not the film.
Though we got some good stuff at the garage location, the movie still needed something more. The final day of shooting on SV occurred at DeSoto Jungle. Tipsy LaFabula and Doug Jackson were on board. As well as a great cast of characters that were now set to appear in two Zen Films. All great people! This is also when and where we shot the scenes with Saemi. Mostly, we filmed fight scenes with a few of the needed storyline filler shots.

That was that. Production was officially over. Except for me going out and filming some second unit kind of stuff of churches, power plants, and the like, production was done.

In the PS department… Joel Ciniero also needs to be mentioned as a great help and contributor to the production of this film. He was a photographer who was introduced to me by Ken. Not only did he do the poster shots for this film but he also shot the scene at the beach where Ken and my characters are at a fire pit and I burn a bunch of the copies of a book I wrote, The Passionate Kiss of Illusion. Like Doug, Joel went on to be a big help in the production of my next two films. Plus, he was also the photographer who shot a lot of my martial art magazine articles in the early 1990s.

After not seeing him for a couple of decades, one day I was standing on a corner in San Francisco, speaking to an old friend, I turn around and there he was. He saw me, and came to say, “Hi.” He had relocated to that area many years the previous. It was good to see him again. Amazing really, via such an abstract circumstances. Good guy. Can’t say enough nice things about him.
The Aftermath
I finished the final edited on the film and created and laid in the soundtrack. I got it out to the various magazine that delved into this style of cinema. A few reviewers liked it, mostly it got panned. But, that was okay. I did get a couple of interviews based on this film. And, Ken and I did end up on the cover of Backyard Cinema in relation to this film. All good!
Though it was released on video, it more or less sat in a state of oblivion for a time. This was, of course, before the internet becoming a major source of film distribution.
Though I thought the edit on the film was okay, I knew it did lack something. Some years later, when I got a new MAC G4, I decided to go back into the original footage and reedit the entire picture. This was the first film I had ever edited on a computer. Prior to that, the edits I did were all done via decks and controllers and at high-end edit facilities. The times they were a changin’… So, if you’re one of the few people who owns one of those copies of the original edit, it is rare, rare, rare.
What I came up with, was what I believed, a far better film. Though it followed the same storyline, its presentation was revealed in a more clearly defined format. The one thing that I realized when doing the re-edit was, however, some of the scenes would just not meet international distribution standards. Though Sergio was a good guy and a competent cameraman, he was a bit lazy. Some of the stuff he did, especially the stuff involving highly color lighted scenes, would simple not meet the requirements of professional scoping, as he never white balanced the scenes. Thus, I cut those scenes from the film. Sadly, people like Selina Jayne’s scenes, due to the mistakes of Sergio, had to be cut from the film. I really liked her and I really liked her performance. But, to meet international standards, the scenes had to be removed.  
With the new cut and a new soundtrack, the film found a much larger audience. First on VHS, then on DVD, and later via streaming.
To compensate for the necessary cuts in the final version of SV, a bit later on, I released a second version of the film, Alexander Hell Vampire Hunter. In this cut, all of the scenes of people like Selina are present as well as some scenes that were not shown in the original edit of the film.
I also, later, did the Zen Speed Flick Version of the film, Samurai Vampires: A Zen Speed Flick. All of these versions are currently available via Amazon Prime Video.

The film did fairly well in Japan for a time. Like I say, “Sometimes a movie is better in a language you don't understand.” It was looped in Japanese and a couple of other language in a few other countries.

Some years later, the 1999 American Film Market was approaching and Don Jackson suggested that I re-release SV through our distribution company along with our other films at that market. He came up with the alternative title, Hellzone Rangers. A distribution campaign was set up using that title. Though it is pretty rare, you can find some copies of the movie out there with that title.
So, that’s the story of Samurai Vampire Bikers from Hell. A little, no budget movie, that for some reason people continued to want to watch and to speak about. As always, good or bad, that’s nothing more than a point of view.
If you feel like it, check the movie out. You may be inspired by what can be created with virtually no budget, just some people who want to make a movie.



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Here’s a fun/interesting one for you. I was digging around in the Zen Filmmaking Archives and I came upon this long forgotten treatment for the sequel to Samurai Vampire Bikers from Hell, “Bloodsteel: Samurai Vampire Bikers from Hell 2.” Though this film will probably never be made. (But, I guess, you never know???) In any case, enjoy the read.
Bloodsteel: Samurai Vampire Bikers from Hell 2
In the aftermath of a cataclysmic event that has unleashed supernatural horrors upon the world, a lone samurai, Alexander Hell, burdened by a dark secret, roams the desolate wasteland. Haunted by a mysterious curse that grants him both the power of the undead and the soul of a samurai, he encounters a motorcycle gang like no other – a group of undead warriors led by a powerful vampire lord named Vladokai.
Forced into servitude by Vladokai’s ancient blood pact, the samurai becomes an unwilling member of the “Bloodsteel” gang, a fearsome and ruthless group of samurai vampire bikers. As they traverse the hellish landscape on their demonic motorcycles, the samurai must come to terms with his newfound existence and confront the demons that lurk within him.
The world has become a nightmarish realm populated by demonic creatures, rival vampire factions, and other supernatural terrors. The Bloodsteel gang, with their samurai swords and vampiric powers, becomes a formidable force in this unholy apocalypse.
As the samurai delves deeper into the mysteries of his curse, he discovers a sinister plot that threatens to plunge the world into eternal darkness. To break free from the vampire lord’s control and redeem his soul, he must navigate through treacherous alliances, face ancient adversaries, and confront the ultimate evil that lurks in the shadows.
In a series of high-octane battles, intense motorcycle chases, and supernatural showdowns, Alexander Hell clashes with demonic forces and rival vampire factions. The samurai must unlock the true potential of his cursed existence to save what remains of humanity and vanquish and send the vampires back to hell.
“Bloodsteel: Samurai Vampire Bikers from Hell” is a pulse-pounding supernatural adventure that combines the honor of samurai warfare with the thrill of motorcycle mayhem, all set against the backdrop of a post-apocalyptic world infested with the supernatural. Get ready for a ride through the depths of hell and the resilience of the human spirit in the face of darkness.

Also, if you feel like it, you can watch a few versions of Samurai Vampire Bikers from Hell on YouTube. Maybe it will show you what you can do in one weekend, with no budget, if you put your mind to it.
Samurai Vampire Bikers from Hell
The Wide Release Version of the Zen Film
Alexander Hell: Vampire Hunter
The Extended/Full Release Version of the Zen Film
Samurai Vampires: A Zen Speed Flick
The Zen Speed Flick Version on the film