The story of the director's first time behind the camera

By George Mannes
Updated July 08, 1994 at 04:00 AM EDT

”I don’t think I am a horror-film director,” says Oliver Stone, and if you dig out his 1974 directing debut, a piece of back-of-the-store video arcana called Seizure, you’ll probably agree.

Stone, who would direct far more bloodcurdling scenes in Heaven and Earth, did show a flair for casting in Seizure that would make John Waters proud. The story of three unearthly strangers who terrorize a house full of people, the movie features a pre-Fantasy Island Herve Villechaize, along with Doctor Jekyll and Sister Hyde‘s Martine Beswicke, and ’60s teen idol Troy Donahue. Jonathan Frid, vampire Barnabas Collins from TV’s Dark Shadows, plays the tortured writer who wonders whether his nightmares are responsible for the ordeal.

The 25-year-old Stone was a few years out of film school, working as a cabdriver and a messenger, when he helped put together the project (which he coscripted and coedited). It was shot for $130,000 at a lakeside house in Quebec, which doubled as a residence for most of the cast. Not just a cost-cutting maneuver, Stone says, ”[It was a] Method live-in.” Stone remembers good times on the set, but says things turned ugly when checks started bouncing: ”Villechaize was fun to work with until he didn’t get paid, then he got the most angry. He [began] threatening the producers.”

Stone was ”mad and passionate,” Beswicke says. ”I just knew that he was destined to do great things.” Costar Joe Sirola wasn’t as impressed: ”He didn’t seem to know what he was doing. He didn’t know camera angles or anything. After Platoon, I sent him a wire saying, ‘Either I’m a terrible judge of talent or you’ve improved tremendously.”’ ”It was for me a learning experience I’ve never forgotten,” says Stone. And where did that first feature get him? ”Back to cabdriving,” he says.