The all “too-soon” biopic of the ’90s most infamous serial killer, Jeffrey Dahmer – produced two years before Dahmer was beaten to death in prison – is helmed by two fierce indie filmmakers David R. Bowen and Carl Crew, who set out to make a film examining the inner psyche of one of America’s most brutal, tortured souls. The result is a obsessive, grim portrait which is not only a sincere and hardly exploitive vision, but a triumph of micro-budget indie filmmaking as well. In light of the film’s Intervision DVD release on July 12th, David R. (Rick) Bowen joins us after the jump to discuss the controversy surrounding the film’s release, which outraged the media, the victim’s families and the public.
Rick Bowen: Nearly 20 years ago the news sources of the world could not get enough of Jeffrey Dahmer, Milwaukee’s famed cannibal serial killer. Recently, the Casey Anthony case in Florida also has hit the news and cable networks nearly as hard as in the early 90’s with similar publicity. Now that Intervision Picture Corp. is releasing a updated version of THE SECRET LIFE: JEFFREY DAHMER I am reminded of the madness that Carl Crew, who portrayed Dahmer and wrote the screen play, and I were faced with when “Daily Variety” announced the Dahmer movie was finished and seeking a distributor in the Summer of 1993. CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, E Network, all in Los Angeles, along with Maury Povich in New York and WISN, Milwaukee’s ABC TV station were all scrambling to have us make the 6:00 News and their next shows. The Milwaukee station immediately flew us there for the morning show, Milwaukee’s Talking, and the next day we were off to New York to appear on the Maury Povich show. On both Milwaukee’s Talking and The Maury Povich Show, Carl and I were pitted against various family members of Dahmer’s respective victims. Though we held our ground, understandably the family members did not like the fact that the demises of their loved ones were going to be exploited in film. The fact that we did not have to pay them for the story just caused more angst. I suppose that I can understand their concern, but the Jeffery Dahmer story was the biggest news story to hit the air waves and press in decades. The very idea that someone was not going to make this movie was foreign to our minds.
We thought it very interesting that our movie was the first release to be announced on a subject that captivated the world for weeks and months. We were sure that there would be several feature films in the works and with that assumption we filmed under cover not announcing our project until it was finished, wanting to be the first to the marketplace. Imagine after all that to find out that we were the only 35mm project on the subject and that the big studios were totally afraid to approach a deal with such a subject as a cannibal serial killer story. Go figure… in today’s market all the major and minor studios, as well as, the cable networks would most likely be competing to get such a release to market as quickly as possible. I think that will be the case with the Casey Anthony story, as distasteful as that subject may be to some.
Now, thanks to the crew at Intervision, THE SECRET LIFE: JEFFREY DAHMER will get a new release and new life. I am glad that a quality company like Intervision/Severin Films has redone the film and added commentary track not found in the original video release.
Kevin Thomas, movie reviewer of the Los Angeles Times, most favorably compared the film originally released in 1993 with the studio version done in 2000 and produced with a much greater budget than the original Dahmer film. Thomas said in his review of the newer film, “DAHMER Falls Short of the Horrible Truth. Ironically, for all its painstaking qualities, it is not as successful in illuminating that troubled individual as the low-low-budget, direct –to-video THE SECRET LIFE: JEFFREY DAHMER.”
Now fans of this genre will get a fresh look at the only Dahmer film that ever really told it like it was and really got into the mind of the most notorious serial killer of all times. Kudos to Intervision for taking on the project and giving it new life.
-David R (Rick) Bowen (Director and Producer, “Jeffrey Dahmer, The Secret Life”)
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