Filmmaker Roger Watkins, who wrote and directed such adult film classics as Her Name Was Lisa under the name Richard Mahler, passed away on March 6 at his home in upstate New York. He was 58.
Born on September 17, 1948 in Binghamton, NY, Watkins began making films at the age of ten. He continued to pursue his passion for movies while studying at SUNY Oneonta, where he studied with film professor and author Paul Jensen. As a young apprentice filmmaker, Watkins worked alongside directors Nicholas Ray, Freddie Francis and Otto Preminger, among others.
In 1972, Watkins scripted, directed and starred in what would prove to be the most notorious and enduring film of his career: the grindhouse classic Last House on Dead End Street. Originally titled The Cuckoo Clocks of Hell, the now-infamous gorefest about a Manson-like filmmaker shooting snuff movies was shelved for nearly a decade until distributors re-cut and retitled the film to cash in on the success of Wes Craven's Last House on the Left.
Watkins got into porn in the late '70s when an assistant cameraman introduced him to New York producer David Darby. A string of exceptional and often very dark hardcore films followed, including Corruption, Midnight Heat and American Babylon. Adult stars Jamie Gillis, Bobby Astyr, Samantha Fox, Vanessa Del Rio and Ron Jeremy all worked with Watkins during this period.
While he spent much of his career shrouded in obscurity - cult-movie fans debated the director's identity for years - Watkins began to receive recognition in 2000 when he finally came forward to take credit for Last House on Dead End Street. In 2001, AVN listed Her Name Was Lisa among the top 50 adult films of all time.
As a posthumous tribute to Watkins, Ultra Violent magazine (www.uvmagazine.com) plans to issue an audio CD of the director reading his unproduced screenplay Hobo Flats.
"Roger was both an idol and a friend," said Ultra Violent managing editor Art Ettinger. "I will miss him dearly. I consider myself fortunate to have known Roger these past six years. He will never be forgotten."
An in-depth interview with Watkins can be found here.