Little Maurice: Director, actor, sometimes musician -- Hell, beat poet. His resume is as long as his arm. After a pile of B-list semi-successes, none of which ever were elevated to the status of Cult Classic, Little Maurice has given consent to a rare interview, provided he be the one to set the subject.
"My first love, I suppose everyone's first love, was Mother. She met my father on the set of "Death Stalks on the Moon." That was a great movie, totally underrated. Astronauts, predictably, go to the moon, and what's waiting there is not a friend. She got a small speaking part as an astronaut, but she was the first to die. My mother. She didn't act after they were married, though my father," here he refers to Big Maurice Thibodeau, another B-list filmmaker, "went on to write and direct over 40 more films."
When asked about the part his mother had in raising him, Little Maurice shrugged uncomfortably and smoked his cigarette until the subject was changed.
"My father, in fact, provided the subject of my next adoration. The next three, in fact. They were on-set in various movies between the ages of seven and thirteen. Harmless crushes, but I remember them all distinctly.
"Hailey -- or was it Heather? Anyway, she was an extra on Big Maurice's film, Summer Churn, about a rock group being stalked on tour by a groupie from Hell. Literally, from Hell. Only the drummer survives, though he was to be cooked and eaten in the sequel, which was never made. That was my father's first foray into the world of handi-cams. And last, I might add. Big Maurice was always one to fall in and out of love with new technology very quickly.
"Instead of a sequel to Summer Churn, which my father felt would be somewhat akin to some late-era horror sequels -- he was never a big fan of rehashing themes that he'd seen elsewhere -- his next movie was Loose Again, a sequel to a movie which was never made. Loose was to have been a teen-romp comedy that was interrupted by the apocalypse. Big Maurice was always on about the cost of props and special effects, and as much as he would have loved to do Loose, he knew that he could not have done it justice. So instead, the sequel dealt with the fallout from the apocalypse, which was just very narrowly survived by the majority of humanity. It was a touching piece that showed the determination of the survivors as they picked up the pieces and moved on. In fact, the movie closes on the scene of the first beach party after the apocalypse. They just crank up the stereo and start to bugaloo when everything is covered in shadow, and the main character, played capably by underappreciated actor, Lance Burke, looks up and says, "Oh no, not again!" Karen Bitner can be seen stopping her beach party dance to gasp up into the sky at the unimaginable horror as the screen fades to black. Karen was my third true love."
Little Maurice sits back, exhales a long waft of smoke up towards the vaulted ceiling of his modest cabin, and refuses a break or a drink. His voice is strong and clean as he continues.
"In the summer of ‘83, my father was caught up in re-runs of Police Story. He was suffering a sort of hangover from Loose Again, a sort of malaise brought about from feeling that it was his peak. And truly, it might have been. Anyone would be happy to have that as their legacy, but the man was driven. He was a filmmaker. By God, he was Big Maurice, and he was going to make movies. And so, Police Story was on his mind as he headed back into the studio, this time to make Muscle Car.
"As with everything Big Maurice did, though, the influence, the link is incredibly subtle. My father had a big thing for cars from the 70s, the Charger, the Mustang. Even the lowly Pontiac LeMans. And so, he had a hell-demon possess a Pontiac LeMans. That was the hook that drew him in, but then he hit a wall, coming up with the plot. Would the car solve crime? Would it kill? Would it go on a road trip to discover the soul of America? Well, you don't have to wait long to discover the answer to that question. The movie's been made. And the car-hop, Angelina Mayfair, whose real name turned out to be Joan Murray, was a girl I fell for right away. She was perfect for the part, got all her lines, and was even in line for Big Maurice's next film, which was cancelled, but she was also the first of all of these loves of mine, barring my mother, to speak to me."
Little Maurice seems surprised and caught off-guard at the inevitable comparison to Christine by Stephen King's Christine, released both in book and movie form in 1983.
"If you have to say that, then you've either not seen Christine or Muscle Car. Christine has the car haunted by some crazy mechanic's ghost or something. That's completely different. And don't let the earlier release date of Christine fool you. Big Maurice had been working on the idea of a possessed car since at least '82. And anyway, we aren't speaking of my father's repertoire. We're here to talk about Angelina, or Joan, if you will.
"Her dialogue, from introduction, to the point where they part in Las Vegas, surrounded by vacuum cleaners was on point and well-delivered, and, I was sure, was going to lead to the beginning of something huge. The fact that she had a substance abuse problem was unknown to me at the time, and the fact that it led to her death in 1987 of an overdose was completely unforeseen."
Little Maurice did need a break after this. And when we came back, he was reluctant to talk in depth about any more of the girls, saying they were sweet and that he would remember each and every one of them. But he started talking about his father once more and grew maudlin.
"Oh, for my father, it was a great toil. He would put everything he had into those movies, brilliant as they were, and when they were done, it was an inevitable slide into depression. I was homeschooled in those days. I got my education at the feet of the man himself, and learned the craft of filmmaking. When he took his own life after Sweet Baboon, when the despondency became simply too much, I was ushered into the chaotic world of public school. High school, in fact.
“I have been informed that I dodged a bullet of sorts, not entering the school system at the height of self-consciousness in Junior High School. Let me tell you, though, having just lost my father, and with no clear indication of the road ahead, I had a hard enough time fitting in.
"Not that the classes were ever any problem. My father always ensured that I had the best education. And I knew, from him, how to work at something until it is done. That was the thing that drove him, I think. Just the work itself. He had a vision, and he would not stop until it was seen through.
"Now," he continued, taking a breath to steady himself, then lighting another cigarette, "I have never succumbed to the same doldrums that gripped Big Maurice. To me, it is a job, and I see it through, but I do not live the movie in the same way that he did." He seems a little disappointed in himself at this, but then he brightens. "That is, until now. I've found a project - a secret project - that I can live through. It is wonderful, and it fills me once again with the vigour that I haven't had for a movie since I the days that my father was at his height.
"I won't give a secret away, because this is not the place for it, but the subject of our conversation and the legacy of my father come together with my own rekindled passion in a sort of convergence.
"Any devotee of my father's films will remember the final line from Sweet Baboon, where Candy tells Mr. Unger, 'No matter how major or minor, the number of true loves in a man's life inevitable total nineteen. Regardless of what comes of that love, that number is absolute.'
"You will notice, if you count back through our conversation, that the number of loves in my life have been eighteen. Given this project, which has so invigourated me, and that number, I feel like I could tell you right now, but I think it is better that you find out for yourself. And you will find out. You will all find out about the number nineteen and just how true it is."
That was the end of the interview, and, though he was a gracious host and engaged in small talk, Little Maurice refused to divulge anything close to the details to which he was hinting.
That was the last time I talked to Little Maurice Thibodeau. He took his life shortly after his "secret project" film was completed, a shot-by-shot remake of the film on which his father met his mother.
About the nineteenth love of his life, he was mum until he died, but this reporter can make a guess that, as to the nineteenth love of Little Maurice's life, she stalks on the moon.