Whether known to some as TV's most recognizable caped superhero in the popular '70s Saturday morning show Shazam! [1974-1975], or as the beleaguered forest ranger Mark in the backwoods slasher The Prey, actor Jackson Bostwick has enjoyed a versatile career in both television and film.
The Prey is not just an earnest variation on the early '80s slasher craze (ignited by the rip-roaring success of 1980's Friday the 13th), but it's also an enjoyable splatter flick in its own right.
Bostwick was kind enough to sit down with The Terror Trap and shoot the breeze about his role in the nature-drenched horror-cum-bizarre romance.
The Terror Trap: First off, tell us how you got into acting.
Jackson Bostwick: Well, I was on The Dating Game and a representative from Paramount, who had been in the audience during the taping of the show, suggested that I should give acting a try. So I went over to the University of Southern California and was admitted as one of the eleven original members of the MFA program there.
[Anecdotes such as this one are gone into in much greater detail in Bostwick's forthcoming book, Myth, Magic, and a Mortal.)
TT: We've heard you're an expert in Jeet-Kune-Do and Wing-Chun Kung-Fu. True?
JB: Well, I definitely wouldn't call myself an expert but I did train with Dan Inosonto for a long period of time and some of the skills he teaches in those arts do tend to sink in after awhile.
TT: How did the part of Mark O'Brien (the Park Ranger) in The Prey come your way?
JB: Lurene Tuttle was one of my acting coaches at the time. I was also helping teach some of her classes. Anyway, she suggested me to the producers (Edwin and Sandra Brown) for the part of the forest ranger.
Oddly enough, the Browns loved a picture I had with a scruffy beard and they asked me how long it would take for me to grow it. I told them to give me two weeks before we start...and they did. And that was it.
TT: Where exactly was The Prey filmed?
JB: Idyllwild, California. In the mountains above Palm Springs, around the USC Music camp.
TT: You seem very comfortable with the animal and nature scenes. Would you consider yourself an "outdoors person" in real life?
JB: Absolutely. To be a little out of place in the Hollywood scene, I love the outdoors and hunting and fishing.
TT: Were there any problems with the vultures? Many people would have a built-in fear of going anywhere near them...
JB: I had worked with an African Condor on one of the Shazam! episodes, so I knew to respect their beaks and never allow them a digit to latch on to or it would be snipped off, like pruning a rose.
TT: Was the charming scene in which you tell a joke to the deer ad-libbed or was that in the script?
JB: Both actually. It was just written in the script as 'The Wide-Mouthed Frog Gag With Deer'. But on film, I ad-libbed the whole thing of course.
The joke had been narrated to me by Ed Brown beforehand and I subsequently just embellished it with my own words on each of the several takes we did.
TT: Did you enjoy your scene with the original Uncle Fester himself, veteran actor Jackie Coogan?
JB: Yes, Jackie was an absolute pleasure to work with. I think this was the last movie he did before he passed away.
TT: Sad to say, it was. Such a hardworking man too. Coincidentally, there's another Addams Family connection in The Prey...
JB: Yes. Carel Struycken, who later would play "Lurch" in the 1991 Addams Family movie, is the monster/mutant who turns the campers in the film into 'the prey' - including myself, unfortunately.
TT: How much interaction did you have with the rest of the cast?
JB: Very little off set. I did see Lori Lethin a couple of times after she did The Day After (1983) but other than that, we all went our separate ways.
TT: Any anecdotes about working with either Lethin (also in 1981's Bloody Birthday and 1987's Return to Horror High) or Debbie Thureson?
JB: Both of them were easy to work with and I thought did their roles well. I think personally I leaned towards watching Lori a little more...but they both had their own things going at the time and were very affable.
TT: Do you have any interesting tidbits from the shoot?
JB: Well, the picture you see on the table in the scene while I'm playing the banjo shows me holding a bass I caught at Lake Mead. And the inset over that shot is a
picture of my real mom and dad.
TT: The Prey boasts some early make-up effects by John Carl Buechler (who would go on to be special effects designer for such efforts as Halloween 4 and Nightmare on Elm Street 4).
Interestingly enough, Buechler was also the director of Friday the 13th Part VII. What did you think of his FX work here?
JB: I suppose for the time period...I thought Buechler's work served the movie well.
TT: Scattered rumors have it that The Prey was trimmed of some gore so that it could get an 'R' rating rather than an 'X'. Honestly, we don't really 'feel' there's much here in the way of such cuts, but nevertheless - do you recall anything like that?
JB: I don't know if that was the case but I do know that the Browns had done some adult films before (and after) The Prey, so maybe some of the stuff that was toned down was with the kids skinny-dipping in the stream. Just kidding.
TT: Hah! Maybe.
How do you feel about the shock climax in The Prey...the character of Nancy (played by Thureson) abducted by the creature, taken to his cave...where soon after, a baby is heard crying?
JB: Poetic justice. Nancy was a whiner in the movie, so maybe this gave her a better grip on life.
TT: Yeah, deal the cards you're dealt.
You play the banjo well in one segment. Do you consider yourself an accomplished musician?
JB: More like fair to middlin'. As with the martial arts, one tends to pick up on things as one keeps at it.
TT: What year was The Prey actually filmed how long did the shoot last?
JB: To my best recollection, it was filmed in 1978 and took two weeks with a couple of days of pickups to film.
TT: Thanks for your time, Jackson.
JB: It's been a pleasure.