Ed Gein revisited
Film with Weyauwega roots now on DVD
By James Card
Ed Gein, the Butcher of Plainfield, made an appearance at the Gerold Opera House on May 19.
The story of the serial killer and body snatcher was turned into a micro-budget horror film called “Ed Gein: The Musical.”
It premiered in 2010 but after years of being unavailable, the locally made film is now on DVD.
The event at the Gerold was a kick-off for the DVD tour. The screening of the film was the main event and the cast played live music from the film and hosted a question-and-answer session with the audience.
Dan Davies wrote the screenplay and stars in the film. He grew up in Waupaca and graduated from Waupaca High School. The legend of Ed Gein loomed large in his family.
“My grandpa’s best friend was the arresting sheriff. My grandpa said he was not the same man after 1957 after what he had witnessed. All of the horrors in the house and the barn – the skeletons and bodies and faces. My grandpa knew who Ed Gein was. He worked at the fish hatchery in Wild Rose and he’s see him once in a while and my grandpa said, ‘Ed is an odd duck.’ My grandma knew Bernice Worden really well. She was the lady murdered in 1957. My grandma was a teacher in Rural and she would buy her teaching supplies at Worden hardware store,” said Davies.
Davies studied at UW-La Crosse and later in the mid-1990s he was drinking some beers with Ian Teal, the co-founder of Wega Arts. Teal was thinking about doing a serious documentary about Ed Gein.
“I would like to do a musical about Ed Gein and make it comedic and fun I said and he looked at me like I had three heads and I knew I was onto something,” said Davies.
“In the movie, what we wanted to do was to touch on how did this normal person – ostensibly started off normal – turn into this monster? We wanted to make it understood that there is a recipe for monsters. His dad beat him severely and they think his mom maybe molested him. That combination is deadly and he turned out the way he turned out,” said Davies.
The story of Ed Gein influenced the modern horror genre of film. The author Robert Bloch married Weyauwega-native Marion Ruth Holcombe and they moved to Weyauwega in 1953. His sixth novel, Psycho, was loosely inspired by Ed Gein. Alfred Hitchcock’s film Psycho was based on his novel.
“The Lakeshore Motel is what they patterned the Bates Motel on. And the house is in Waupaca. Hitchcock hired his designers to take photos. They went to Plainfield and there was nothing there. The next biggest city was Waupaca. If you look at the original house in the movie, there is an exact replica in Waupaca,” said Davies.
He has heard two different references of which house it exactly was.
“I’ve heard some people say it was on Main Street, about halfway down away from the downtown area. The other is the house near the Crystal Lounge. That house that stands alone. I’m of two minds and maybe they took an amalgam of both and created it. They built the house from the ground up on the Paramount lot from those photos,” said Davies.
Davies wrote the screenplay for the film but he didn’t have any music.
Meanwhile, Will Keizer, a Nashville musician, put together a project studio in Appleton and was going through the phone book looking for clients that might need music or audio services. A few blocks away were Davies and his business partner, Steve Russell. Keizer walked over and introduced himself.
“They looked at each other like they were just having a conversation about how they were going to make the music for this film. He told me the name of the film and I laughed. Okay, I get it but I’m going to need to read the script,” said Keizer.
“If you’re going to do something about a crazed, depraved person, put it in a genre where you can stretch with it. If it’s shot like a documentary or a drama, you’re hamstrung. Those are parameters and you can’t get beyond that. With a musical you can do just about anything, it’s fantastical,” said Davies.
“All of the parody songs take place in Ed’s mind. That’s his fantasy world. He thinks he’s suave and a ladies’ man but on the outside he’s a creep,” said Keizer.
It was filmed in 2009 in Fremont, Omro, Appleton and Neenah and all actors and production staff were people from the northeast Wisconsin region.
Keizer made some small editing changes and they signed a distribution deal with SRS Cinema. The DVD can be purchased at www.edgeinthemusical.com and it can be streamed on Amazon Prime.
During their 2010-11 tour, they had more than 500 theatrical screening in 11 states, including one at the Rosa Theater in Waupaca.
“When I was a little kid, the first film I seen was Star Wars on that screen. I was with all my brothers and sisters and it was really a special night. I remember pointing at that screen and saying, ‘Someday I’m going to be on that screen, too.’ And juxtapose that 30 years later, I was on that screen. So dreams do come true,” said Davies.