My first reaction to Ogroff was that the audio could pass (to my lo-fi tape cutup brain) for some crazy mystery reels found in the basement laboratory of Pierre Schaeffer's mad scientist cousin, banned from mention in the academic textbooks on avant-garde music, punishable by death via some torture or other picked at random from a Radio France sound effects record. And it is true, as Moutier (aka N.G.Mount, a reference / homage to another fictitious character, J.X.Williams, which served as a pseudonym for the unknown creator(s) of several strange, beautiful and copyright-infringement-ridden collage films hiding out in the more derelict zones of exploitation film history) himself states, Ogroff un-selfconsciously plunders from a bunch of sound effects records; one particularly catchy track of a man screaming which is in fact supposed to be the screams of a patient in an insane asylum getting more than it's fair share of airtime. Moutier also says they recorded some of their own sound effects, and one can easily imagine how batshit crazy an LP record of these would be, if only it existed. - edit-there is now an LP out of the soundtrack -
The sound. On Super 8 you have a thin magnetic strip about half the width of audio cassette tape, so that would be 1/16 of an inch, mono, to record sound in camera. That's unless you have expensive tape recorders like Nagra which can synchronize to film strips, which I'm pretty sure these guys didn't, so I'll explain no further. One limitation of the mag strip on Super 8 is that you can't just drop sounds in anywhere because you'll erase what's underneath, and also get a loud CLICK...THUD dropout sound at the end of the sound you just added. You're supposed to start at the beginning and always lay the sounds head covering tail to cover up all the dropouts.
Well, OK, in fact you CAN do it, and Ogroff is the proof, sounding like a defective police CB radio or Radio Shack toy walkie-talkie. Some of the lines might as well be delivered with "10-4" and "OVER AND OUT" at the beginning and end. Plus the fact that if you don't have an audio mixer what you're stuck with is whatever sounds were recorded onto the film at the time of shooting, so maybe some birds, trucks going past, people coughing, and then if you want super cheezy sawtooth phaser synth sounds (of course you do) during the action parts (which is the entire film) then you have to just plonk that on top in vaguely the right place, losing whatever was underneath. Don't worry about the volume, just keep everything on "11". Then if anyone has to deliver a line (god forbid), or if a sound effect of a screaming insane person seems like a good idea (and it always does), then you gotta love the CLIK HISSS THUD distorted pizza delivery van style of editing.
After quite a few emails and phone-calls it started seeming impossible to get anyone who was in this movie to say anything about it, or about their "friendship" with Norbert Moutier. Were they that ashamed, like Robert Kerman about Cannibal Holocaust? Was there some evil curse....nah. It dawned on me when a friend of mine, who used to buy horror films as a kid in BD Ciné (Moutier's video/comics shop in Paris, now closed), asked me "You are looking for FRIENDS of Norbert Moutier? Ahem...". and I could imagine the vibes in Moutier's shop, maybe not so far from the vibes at one time in the famous Helvete black metal shop in Oslo, Norway; jokes played on customers, sick humour and (un)healthy cynicism. From what I was told, Norbert, like many including myself in the 80s, made most of his money selling under the counter scuzzy quality vhs porn from less censored parts of Europe (in my case, in the UK, it was selling copies of Video Nasties), and if business had been particularly good that afternoon, or perhaps when a particularly juicy batch of vids came in, or just if he didn't feel like it, he wouldn't bother opening the shop, much to the annoyance of kids like the friend I just mentioned..
Feeling a rush of freedom at having given up on interrogating anyone about Ogroff directly, I looked to the lengthy interviews included (in French) on the Artus Films DVD. Here we discover that all the actors were aquaintances of Norbert's from the world of horror fanzines, and with universal respect for his own excellent 'zine "Monster Bis", it was easy to persuade them. At the time, making a fanzine showed others that you were serious about the subject, and served as a means of meeting like-minded people, which people tend to do nowadays by writing a blog. (YEAH RIGHT)
Jean Claude Guenet, who acted in Ogroff, reminisces about the two days of filming in the forest near Orleans (Moutier's home town), arriving in the morning and, as we do in the gore movies, heading straight to the nearest butchers to buy up all the tripe (cows stomach), and the van immediately getting a flat tyre, with the crew and the increasingly stinky offal stuck inside for the whole afternoon. Guenet worked in an electronics shop in Paris, and hadn't wanted to tell his boss he'd been in a film, but a customer recognized him, earning him the nickname the "star" for years after.
This does show that Ogroff had some followers, although many of them were cracking up laughing more than following, much to Norbert's annoyance. At the Super 8 festival in 1983 at the Gaité cinema where Ogroff was screened. Moutier was horrified when he realized people thought the film was a parody of horror movies, his original intentions having been more along the lines of a French Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Friday the 13th, in spite of the zero budget and dubious acting skills of many of the fanzine-writing actors. It's easy to speculate that Norbert found it infuriating that most people were unable to understand why he would take movies percieved as "trash" so seriously, doubled with an opposition to Hollywood's monopoly on what constitutes a "good film", "good" editing, etc etc..Also as Norbert himself points out, laugh if you want, but it was the first French slasher movie ever made.
According to Alain Petit, Norbert Moutier was so bothered by these reactions that he removed a lot of scenes after the festival screening, mostly those with the worst dubbing and synchronization problems (or funniest parts). Arguably these changes do at least improve the pace and make the film more relentless. Alain Petit (actor in Ogroff and author of some excellent books on "z-movies") talks about what a crazy idea it was to make a feature-length gore movie shot on Super 8. He explains that Norbert was blown away by a text which he later published in Monster Bis written by the American master of jaw-droppingly sleep-inducing zero budget movies, Andy Milligan, called something like "How To Make Movies With Absolutely No Cash Whatsoever".
In an ultra-cheap and undoubtedly Milligan-inspired move, after doing some editing and needing more outdoor scenes , Moutier called Alain Petit, who said that he was too busy to go back to Orleans to shoot more. Moutier insisted that the trip wouldn't be necessary, and showed up in Petit's Paris apartment with a piece of old carpet sprinkled with some dirt and a few leaves grabbed from the forest in Orleans, which served as an instant 'forest floor' to shoot Alain's character being finished off (sprayed in the face with red gouache paint) by Ogroff, Norbert somehow managing to be the Mutilator's forearms while holding the camera at the same time.
Anyway, I think Moutier misunderstood people's laughter. Even assuming that laughter is a criticism at all might be an error. Even on the level of "bad films" many have tried and failed to get laughs, it aint so easy either. In any case there's something else in this movie, something creepier, a kind of deranged menace hovering over the French countryside. Oh, and Howard Vernon. If he were still alive, he would've talked to me, I'm sure of it.