In his spare time, Ben Martin, head of sales and marketing for Pittsburgh-based Conair Group Inc., wrote, directed and acted in a B-movie horror/film noir titled One Last Stop in a Violent Town.
And you thought he was just another bald guy at the office.
Martin plays Dutch Stiles, a warehouse robber and single father who wants to go straight after one final score. Well, not exactly straight in the conventional sense, because his plans include becoming a ``monster wrangler'' for his masked friend, El Mando.
Throughout the three-hour film, seedy characters insert themselves into the proceedings: fellow robber and relentless womanizer Floyd Eddy; white-collar sleazeball Sammy Grimes; Stiles's love interest and Eddy's ex, Sabine Amberton; and the aforementioned half-luchador, half-Batman, El Mando.
Conair employees Eric Pitchford, Jim Healy, and Mike Purucker played Eddy, Grimes, and El Mando, respectively. Crystal Rohm portrayed Sabine.
The film is no lark.
``Including writing, I have been working on this movie for five years,'' Martin said in a recent telephone interview.
Martin fully acknowledged his limitations while filming.
``We couldn't spend a ton of money on special effects,'' he said. ``We weren't going to out-Hollywood Hollywood. There are a lot of compromises, but I'm still pleased.''
The film introduces horror aspects into the staid, Superfly-esque ``one last score'' plot. Werewolves crash parties; Sytharee, a swamp thing from the local lake, ruins beach time; two bat creatures won't leave the cast alone.
Martin explained where he got the idea to combine two disparate genres.
``I think people who are passionate about films get vague ideas in their heads. I wanted to do a movie about regular folks who do bad things: crooks, louses, grafters. But I didn't get excited about the movie until I came up with El Mando,'' he said.
``In American film, when someone says there is a monster outside, no one believes him. In Mexican horror films, there is no question. The monsters are real. They are part of everyday life. I wanted that feeling that the monsters were real.''
Pitchford added: ``Ben tries to break down the stereotypes. He makes some monsters the most sympathetic roles in the movie.''
On the film's Web site, Martin explains that monsters are not that different from all living things. Some are good. Some are sinister. He establishes this theme by opening with Nietzsche's quote, ``He who fights with monsters might take care lest he become a monster.''
Martin staffed his film with volunteers ranging from his wife, Bethanne, who was executive producer, to friends like John Gallagher, who did lighting and sound and played the well-dressed hit man Fogerty. Naturally a few co-workers were coerced into the production.
``I do whatever Ben tells me to do,'' Healy, vice president of automation, joked. ``I thought it'd be fun.''
Having screened his film May 7 at the Oaks Theater in Pittsburgh, Martin is content with the result.
``We kept it fun,'' Martin said. ``We didn't take it too serious, but still had some little life lessons. The film language worked, but it didn't get artsy-fartsy.''
``We always knew it was a low-budget film that would have some weaknesses, but the story's good enough,'' Pitchford said. ``I think it's a smart movie. I told Ben that from the start.''
Martin's next project is producing a One Last Stop DVD. It will feature creator commentary and a blooper reel. He hopes to finish it by Christmas.