An e-mail chat with David Schmoeller, director of ‘Tourist Trap’
The 1979 horror film Tourist Trap
When I was a teenager back in the 1980s, I watched the horror film Tourist Trap (which is reportedly one of Stephen King’s favorites). It creeped me out and was one of those horror films that did a pretty good job of mixing in some dark comedy but without sacrificing the scariness of the film. Misti, my middle sister, and I used to drive our Dad crazy by making the “AAAAAAAA!” sounds of the mannequins for weeks after the movie. In fact, whenever we get together we’ll still do that again as an in-joke within the family.
Here’s the trailer:
And here’s one of my favorite scenes in the movie:
A year or so ago on Netflix, I rented the 20th anniversary edition of Tourist Trap and watched the movie twice–once in the standard format and then a second time listening to director David Schmoeller’s commentary. Zowie! What a wealth of information! If you’re someone like me who thrives on movie trivia, this special edition was just what the doctor ordered.
Three of my favorite pieces of information from Schmoeller’s commentary:
1) The lead female actress, Jocelyn Jones, was a classically-trained actress while the lead actor, the crusty Chuck Connors, was self-taught. During filming, Connors would often ask Schmoeller why Jones had to go through various routines (such as breathing exercises) before filming a scene.
2) Connors had intended to use this movie as a sort of new stage of his film career as a horror movie villain.
3) The script originally called for nudity during the lake scene, but in the director commentary Schmoeller said he was too bashful and embarrassed to bring it up with Tanya Roberts and the other actresses during casting. When they got to the lake to film the scene, Schmoeller finally asked them if they’d be willing. Their collective answer: no.
Admittedly, Tourist Trap isn’t as scary now as it was when I was a teenager nearly three decades ago. But it’s still great fun to watch and still has very strong, creepy overtones. People disappear every year in America and most are never found. This movie seems to answer the question of what happened to a few of them. Plus, the idea of making them into living mannequins is very creepy also. I could very easily see this being remade.
There are two questions about the movie I have especially wondered: 1) Why didn’t any of the other actors and actresses (aside from Connors, who died in 1992) participate in the movie commentary and 2) Will there be a remake or sequel?
I sent an e-mail to Mr. Schmoeller, and he was kind enough to respond:
1) The producer didn’t want to go through the trouble or spend the money to add any more extras.
(I suppose that when you factor in plane fare, staying in a hotel, meals, time in the studio, it adds up).
2) Schmoeller revealed he has an option to do a sequel or remake of Tourist Trap but, at this point, nobody has agreed to finance it. He does, however, have another mannequins-coming-alive movie set in a shopping mall and is working on getting the financing for it.
If you’re a fan of Tourist Trap, visit Schmoeller’s website at www.davidschmoeller.com for more information.
Richard Zowie is a writer, journalist, columnist, fiction writer and blogger who has an unpublished short story based on a mannequin that used to terrify him when he (Richard, not the mannequin) was a child. Post comments here or e-mail Richard at email@example.com.