|Writer-director-author C. Courtney Joyner|
(he's the one on the right)
We’re a pretty easy going bunch here at Video Junkie, but we do have some rules. And rule number 187 is that you must love C. Courtney Joyner. If you don’t, you are gone, simple as that. And if you don’t know who Joyner is then you best learn quick, partner!
C. Courtney Joyner is first and foremost a screenwriter responsible for some of the most memorable B-movies of the late 80s and early 90s. He made his debut as a co-writer on THE OFFSPRING (1987; aka FROM A WHISPER TO A SCREAM), Jeff Burr’s horror anthology that proved to be one of the best omnibuses of the decade. The success of this feature was quickly followed by PRISON (1988), the pinnacle of Hollywood’s glut of horror prison pictures at the time. The hard hitting action/horror hybrid led to the sci-fi sequel CLASS OF 1999 (1990). Returning to Mark Lester’s land of futuristic education dystopia, this sequel offered some of the hardest hitting cyborgs this side of Arnold Schwarzenegger and holds up to this day in terms of slam-bang action.
Professional work aside, there is an even bigger reason to like Joyner – he is a film fan just like you and me. His knowledge on cinema is both diverse and seemingly endless. It is also enthusiastic and genuine (perfect example: a recent Facebook posting by Joyner of a rejection letter from Don Siegel circa 1977). When I called him to talk about some unmade film projects, we spent nearly a third of the time talking about everything ranging from SH! THE OCTOPUS (1937) to Charles Bronson features. In fact, if you’ve ever wondered why old Chuck is so pissed in the strip club scenes of MURPHY’S LAW (1986), it is because a certain Mr. Joyner was the man ogling Bronson’s love interest Jan (Angel Tompkins).
Joyner somehow survived Bronson's wrath:
Thankfully I was able to look past Joyner’s salacious past. Assuring me he was fully flowing with some vitamin B12 and ginkgo, Mr. Joyner graciously allowed me to pick his brain on nearly a dozen unrealized projects from his past.
#90 - HOLLYWOOD’S STRANGEST LOVE STORY (early 1980s)
|Director Virgil Vogel on the |
set of THE MOLE PEOPLE (1956)
Joyner soon found himself co-scripting the project now titled HOLLYWOOD’S STRANGEST LOVE STORY with the television veteran Heverly. Unfortunately, the interesting project never got past the writing stage. “It was going to be for NBC and I was paid,” Joyner says, “but the network decided not to go ahead with it. So that started my collaboration with Virgil.”
#91 - NIGHTCRAWLERS (early 1980s)
|Director Jeff Burr|
Also at that time Joyner began collaborating with the man who would eventually end up getting him his first onscreen credit – fellow U.S.C. student Jeff Burr. “Jeff Burr wanted to do a feature and so I wrote NIGHTCRAWLERS as a feature for him to direct,” he discloses of the beginnings of their working relationship. “Jeff had done a film [in college] that I actually did the make up on called DIVIDED WE FALL that he co-directed and co-wrote with Kevin Meyer. NIGHTCRAWLERS was going to be the first shot that we tried to get a feature going with Jeff as director.”
Ultimately, the project never happened, but this spec script did pan out professionally for Joyner in many ways. As mentioned before, he went on to co-script Burr’s feature debut. But NIGHTCRAWLERS also helped secure Joyner his first-post THE OFFSPRING gig. “That was the screenplay that Irwin Yablans and Bruce Cohn Curtis read at Voyager Pictures and that’s how I got hired to write PRISON,” he reveals.
#92 - SUBTERRANEANS (1987/1988)
SUBTERRANEANS was a pre-existing picture that Joyner was assigned. Band has previously taken out an ad in Variety for the film in 1987 that featured tiny sinister simian-esque monsters carrying away a buxom beauty. “Charlie would call you in the office and sometimes he would show you a poster, sometime he would show you a model,” Joyner explains of the producer’s movie making methods. “There were all kinds of different ways he would get projects initiated.” The inspiration for this feature came from a far more practical purpose: Band’s recently purchased studio in Italy had a set in it he wanted to use. “The set was like an oil rig that was built for another project, not an Empire picture. It was a standing set that was over there in Italy, maybe from Dino De Laurentiis or somebody. So the whole thing was written around that standing set.”
Project announcement in Variety
(alongside the ill-fated PULSE POUNDERS):
Roger Corman would be proud, no doubt. As Joyner got to work on the screenplay, he fashioned a story that would have stood tall in the 1950s monster-mania era. “It involved giant worms,” he reveals, “kind of a REPTILICUS deal where they’re drilling and then they drill into this nest of worms. They don’t know that is what it is so they go down into the caves to try and hunt them.” To put the exploitation project more succinctly, he says, “The men get eaten and the women get raped.” Sold!
|Film announcement with projected |
principal photography and delivery dates
|Film announcement with a little white lie|
Also interesting is the SUBTERRANEANS artwork lived on as it was used (most likely unauthorized) for an English VHS release of the Filipino fantasy film SALAMAMGKERO (1986). Thanks to Torsten Dewi at Wortvogel for the scan:
Make sure to check out part two where we dive into some of Joyner's unmade works from the 1990s.