This is an edited transcription of an email interview conducted with Kurt Rauf on February 2, 2016, for BookOfTheDead.ws by Danish fan Jesper Mørch.

Kurt was credited as a 'Fake Shemp' in The Evil Dead, appearing on screen as well as helping out behind the scenes. He also worked on a number of the later Super-8 shorts including Torro, Torro, Torro!, Stryker's War & Cleveland Smith Bounty Hunter, later progressing in the film industry as a professional & versatile crewmember.

Bruce Campbell (left) with Kurt Rauf (right)

Thanks for taking the time and sharing your experiences, Kurt.  
You're welcome! Ask as many questions as you'd like. I wasn't actually in Tennessee for principal photography on The Evil Dead. I met Bruce and Sam when they came to my high school to teach super-8 filmmaking for a workshop in 1979/80 after they had finished filming in Tennessee. I believe they had gotten a grant from the state of Michigan to teach filmmaking at various schools.

I was very lucky that my high school had a super-8 filmmaking class, taught by artist/filmmaker Ron Teachworth (who'd later go on to direct Going Back in 1982, a micro-indie drama starring Bruce Campbell. I worked on that film as a 1st AC and prop maker).

Bruce and Sam screened the super-8 prints of Within The Woods, It's Murder and The Happy Valley Kid for us. It totally blew my little teenage mind that these guys were making actual scripted movies on super-8, some of them almost feature length. I asked if I could help them shoot something and they said sure. That's where my story starts.

You've worked in almost all aspects of movie making; from prop maker to cinematography and directing. Was that always your plan to work in movies?  
I was always interested in filmmaking, especially special effects makeup. My hero when I was 6 or 7 was Lon Chaney Sr. His make-up for The Phantom of the Opera is still a classic. I grew up devouring Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine. I'd make myself up with white grease paint and toilet paper, running around the house pretending to be the mummy.

Kurt Rauf circa 1969

Like a lot of young people, I had no idea what I wanted to do for a living after high school. Filmmaking was fun, but I had no idea that people were actually making movies in Detroit until I met Sam, Bruce and Producer Rob Tapert. When I hung out at the Renaissance Pictures office in Ferndale, there was a really cool vibe. They were literally the funniest guys I had ever met. Constant jokes and Three Stooges gags 24/7. My face would hurt from laughing so much. But they were dead serious about one thing and that was filmmaking. It was in their blood and DNA. They wanted to make feature films, have fun AND make a living doing it. They were only slightly older than me and somehow they had raised money to shoot an actual horror picture on 16mm. It was very inspiring. I didn't know which job on set I wanted to do but I was a natural when it came to building models and props, so I started out in that department.

Kurt 'Fake Shemping' Ellen Sandwiess's role as Cheryl in The Evil Dead (1980)

You were fake shemping for Ellen Sandweiss in the scene where she is shot in the shoulder through the window of the cabin. You were her reaction shot, so to speak, as the actual gunshot victim was a dummy. Are you in any other scenes in the movie as a fake shemp?  
That's my only scene in the film. They filmed a lot of the special effects shots in Sam's parents' garage. They glued on one of Ellen Sandweiss' old, leftover latex masks with spirit gum but it wasn't sticking well to my greasy teenage skin. The eye holes were covered from inside with white plastic so I was blind. The shirt they put on me was so small that you can see my neck getting squeezed like a sausage. I lay down on my belly and Sam had me pop up on "action”. You can see the mask flapping around a bit as I pop up into frame. Someone was blowing into a plastic tube on my shoulder to make the blood jet out. The Karo syrup blood concoction went everywhere. I remember it being super-sticky and so sweet, it made your teeth hurt. I laugh every time I see this scene because I don't look anything like Ellen Sandweiss's character Cheryl from the previous shots. A total fake Shemp. It was a crazy, wonderful experience.

Cheryl Guttridge as Linda in The Evil Dead (1980)

Ted Raimi as Scotty in The Evil Dead (1980)

Barbara Carey as Linda in The Evil Dead (1980)

Rob Tapert as Cheryl in The Evil Dead (1980)

If you look on page 111 of Bruce's great book If Chins Could Kill, there's a series of pictures of myself and other Fake Shemp's in the original film.

The credits of The Evil Dead feature a long list of Fake Shemp's and there are still a few names I have not come across in any books, audio commentaries or websites relating to this movie. Do you happen to know who some of the following people are: David Horton, Wendall Thomas, Don Long, Stu Smith, Gwen Cochanski and Debie Jarcczewski?  
Sorry, I don't know any of them.

Kurt with Tom Sullivan's Linda dummy in The Evil Dead (1980)
Did you work in other capacities, behind the scenes on the Michigan-filmed scenes of The Evil Dead? In Josh Becker's book Rushes, he estimates that upwards of 40% of The Evil Dead was shot after the group left Tennessee...  
Yes, I helped out on some other scenes in the movie. I was given the task (along with someone else, maybe Ted Raimi?) of stuffing the mannequin torso with meat from the grocery store for the shot that precedes my fake shemp shot. We had to figure out how to keep the raw meat in the shoulder/neck area. I think we kept it in a plastic bag and staple gunned it in. I remember it being a hot day and that torso reeked after a while. We set up a few pieces of plywood to take the bulk of the blast. When they fired the shotgun (I can't remember who fired it, probably Sam) the torso exploded and sent rotten meat everywhere in the garage. It was awesome.

I worked on some of the close-ups of Theresa Tilly's character Shelly being chopped up with an axe. Actress Cheryl Gutteridge placed her hand through a hole in a fake section of the cabin floor, then a latex forearm filled with gelatin was glued to her hand. Sam then chopped away at the prosthetic arm with an axe. I think we did the same shot with her leg. I do remember thinking, "Wow, this is kind of dangerous...".

I believe Sam wanted to handle the axe, so the responsibility was on him if anything went wrong...  
During those shoots, I met Makeup Artist Tom Sullivan and Visual Effects Dp Bart Pierce, who helped Tom shoot the meltdown scene at the end of the film. It was way before CG was on the scene so they were doing double exposed matte shots in the 16mm Mitchell camera to blend together the stop-motion melting and the live action insects. I remember driving to Ann Arbor with someone to pick up the roaches and bugs that crawl out of the bodies. I think we shot the sequence in Bart's garage. It was a crazy looking setup with long plastic tubes stuffed with bugs and cotton ball plugs, poking into the "corpse". Bart would roll the camera and we'd push the bugs out with a stick. Go Michigan bugs!

I also built the monster arms that are in some of the posters and stills from the original. It's the shot of Bruce with a chainsaw raised over his head with an actress cowering in fear behind him. I remember being there for the shoot with photographer Mike Ditz.

I also helped out at the Detroit première of The Evil Dead, back when it was titled Book Of The Dead. I made a few hundred buttons to give away, one featuring Deadite Cheryl and one with the title. I think I have one stashed away somewhere. I still have the program from that night. It's my only collectible from the film. I used to have the latex mask I wore, but its since disintegrated.

One really great experience stands out from 1981. I was attending a film workshop called Focal Point, that my friend and mentor Dp John Prusak was teaching. I had two days to make a super-8 film. I called Bruce and Sam to help me. I picked a goofy little short story called Rebound by classic sci-fi writer Frederic Brown. It's about a man who is granted the power to have people do whatever he tells them to do.

The Book Of The Dead & promo buttons for the première of The Evil Dead (1980)

Sam was the star and Bruce, Rob and Josh Becker played multiple roles. Rob is great as a bookie that Sam owes money to. The guys are in almost every shot, standing on corners in the background or walking behind Sam with a newspaper covering their face. They even had a t-shirt that had "Fake Shemp” printed on the back and they would walk through the scenes all hunched over so you couldn't see their faces. It was a Fake Shemp-a-palooza! Being in a hurry, I shot a crucial scene out of focus by mistake. I still wince when I see it. Argh!

Sam was great. He's extremely funny and improvised so many scenes. I didn't really have a script so he came up with a lot of it. He even took a really dangerous prat fall down the stairwell of the Renaissance Pictures offices. He just freaking leaped off like a maniac and tumbled down. No padding or anything. Bruce's death scene at a local pond is great. He went full tilt boogie and splashes his way in on his last gasp. Sam stayed up all night and helped me edit the film and mix the soundtrack with sound effects and his voiceover onto a cassette tape recorder. Then we played it back onto the spliced super-8 film which had a magnetic track on the edge. So old school. I should post the film someday.

Bruce Campbell, Sam Raimi & Rob Tapert starring in Kurt's Super-8 film Rebound (1981)

In 1982, the guys let me tag along with them to the American Film Market in Los Angeles. That was pretty cool. I got to drive a big ass Cadillac convertible and snap pictures of the guys in various LA locations.

You have a long history of working with filmmaker Josh Becker, How did that come about?  
I met Josh & Scott at the Renaissance Pictures offices, where they shared space with the guys. Josh and Scott were writing partners and had their own production company. I think it was called Action Pictures. I worked on some of their shorts:

Kurt Rauf with Josh Becker & Scott Spiegel during the filming of Torro Torro Torro (1981)  

Scott Spiegel during the filming of Torro Torro Torro (1981)
Torro, Torro, Torro! was about a possessed lawnmower gone berserk in Franklin, Michigan. Some great stuff, ending with an epic pie fight. I think I remember it playing on HBO in the early days of Cable TV.

Stryker's War was a 45 minute super-8mm blast. Bruce plays Jack Stryker, a Vietnam era ex-marine who goes up against Sam Raimi's evil cult leader. I play one of the evil hippies and get shot in the face by one of Stryker's marine pals. Scott and Josh remade the film as a full length feature on 16mm, Thou Shalt Not Kill... Except starring someone else as Stryker opposite Sam's evil cult guru. I was just starting my career as a set electrician so I didn't work on it. Scott Spiegel sold me the super-8 camera from the earlier shoot (along with some of his beloved Aurora monster models). I've always wondered if they shot Within The Woods on that camera.

Cleveland Smith: Bounty Hunter was a riff on the old black & white Republic movie serials. Bruce played Cleveland Smith and Sam played the evil Nazi villain. I made a lot of the props. Josh and Scott tried for years to make it into a feature. I remember reading the script. It was a lot of fun, total slapstick riffing on the Indiana Jones flicks. There was even a character based on me, named Kurt who was Cleveland's right-hand man. Described as a gangly, eighteen year old wearing old cover-alls and a Detroit Tigers baseball cap. Nice! You can read the script on Josh's website.

You are also in Josh Becker's Lunatics, A Love Story as one of several mad doctors. What can you tell me about that experience?  
It was during a set visit. Josh or Bruce threw me some scrubs and tossed me in the scene where Ted Raimi fights the doctors in his mind. I think I was holding a bone saw as I go up against Ted. It was a lot of fun. It was bittersweet at the same time since I didn't work on the film as a crew member. I really missed working on films, but by that time I was making a good living working as a Gaffer on commercials and corporate videos. There weren't many film projects happening in Detroit back then.

You were Josh's Dp on Running Time, a black & white heist movie that is made to look like it takes place in real time and in one continuous shot. That is highly unusual and must have been a real challenge? I mean, you really have to plan every shot, every angle and decide where to hide all the cuts. Obviously, continuity is extremely important on such a project?  
We filmed Running Time in Los Angeles around 1996 I think. I was moving from Detroit to Las Vegas (where my wife Nancy's family lived) and making the transition to working as a Director of Photography, when Josh called me out of the blue and offered me a shot at working on the picture. It was a challenge for sure. We had a great camera/Steadicam operator named Bill Gierhart. Bill would work with Josh to block the shot and I would figure out where to hide the frigging lights. The camera would sometimes see 360° in the set so it was definitely a challenge to give it a "look" while giving the camera, actors and director room to roam in each environment. It was a little crazy. We'd block the scene, then light it. Rehearse a few times (each rehearsal took 11 minutes, the length of a 400' 16mm film roll) and then we'd shoot.

Bruce Campbell as Carl in Josh Becker's Running Time (1996)

Bruce Campbell as Carl in Josh Becker's Running Time (1996)

If Josh was happy after a few takes, he'd call wrap and we'd meet up the next day to shoot the next scene. In its own special way, it was a very efficient way to shoot a film. It really pressed the actors into learning their lines and delivering the goods. But that's their job so it was all good.

I happen to love the movie, I really think it works well and easily keeps the interest going till the end.  
Thank you. I was very proud that film critic Leonard Maltin gave it 3 out of 4 stars, calling it gritty and realistic. Exactly what Josh was going for.

I've been wondering about how Josh Becker is as a director? Reading his books, he comes across as someone who would do things in a very classic sense. By that, I mean, he strongly believes that writing scripts is a skill that must be learnt much the same as building a roof on a house. You don't just start. Also his obsession with keeping track of Oscar-winning movies and making sure he watches them in a theatre. Is he a by-the-book director?  
I think Josh is a "classic" style director. Very much about telling a story in a three act script structure. I would agree about learning to write scripts. It's a real skill to be able to tell a coherent story in 90-120 pages.

Going back, you worked on special effects of the Bruce Campbell sci-fi movie Moontrap. A great little movie, certainly not as hokey as no-budget sci-fi films often are. You are credited for motion control miniatures const-ruction? You were a model builder?  
Bob Dyke, the director of Moontrap, used to hire me to build sets and props when I was first starting out in the early 1980's. I grew up building plastic models, mainly the Aurora monster models so I was pretty good at building stuff. I'm a little hazy on the details, but I think they had a sketch or two of the general design of the Alien mothership. I went to the hobby store and bought a bunch of various model kits and supplies. I started out by building a wooden core with two mounting points for the motion control crew to use. Then I cobbled together the basic design with lots of of various pieces. It ended up being about 2 feet long. Bob and crew then took the model and aged it for filming. I also worked for a few days on Evil Dead II as an uncredited model maker. Bob Dyke hired me and some other folks to help build the miniature cabin that gets beat up by the trees that come to life. That scene was filmed in Michigan.

One of the cabin miniatures constructed for Evil Dead II (1986)  

That cabin miniature during filming for Evil Dead II (1986)

You were the Director of Photography on My Name Is Bruce. Bruce's character is almost a mix between Ash from Army Of Darkness and Ash from Ash Vs Evil Dead; a moronic blowhard who never really moves forward in life. It must have been a wonderful experience reuniting with old friends?  
Yes, it was a total blast working on My Name Is Bruce. It was like going to Uncle Bruce's film camp for a month, out in the forests of southwestern Oregon. Bruce had a really cool small town exterior built in the woods. Most of the interior scenes were filmed inside nearby local businesses. I was able to bring out my Detroit friends, Gaffer Spike Simms and Camera Operator Mark Karavite to work on the initial shoot. Key Grip Gary Sauer joined me from Vegas.

Kurt Art Directing on My Name Is Bruce (2006)
Mike Kallio, who was in charge of shooting the behind the scenes features and I kept trying to fake shemp our way into the film. We both had actual roles, he played the director of Bruce's latest B-movie and I was the B-movies Dp. We both tried to worm our way into other scenes though. I snuck into the background of the scenes in Kelly's bar and the GoldLick town hall meeting. Lots of fun.

That was quite a challenging environment to work in. The woods were laced with poison oak. When the electricians/grips would wrap cables and gear, they were pulling poison oak oil through their hands. At night we'd setup the camera and look over to see poison oak surrounding us. The only person who was immune to the stuff was Bruce. He could roll around in it all day and it never got to him, danggit!

You must have known Ted Raimi and Tim Quill from the high school days?  
I knew Ted Raimi from the original The Evil Dead re-shoots but I don't think I had met Tim Quill in person before the My Name Is Bruce shoot. They both did a great job in the film. Ted's death scene as Luigi the town's painter is one of my favourite scenes in the movie. I love that his character Old Man Wing is watching bowling at the end of the movie. So absurd. Ted is a great acting chameleon. He can switch identities in a heartbeat.

The scenes with Quill and Danny Hicks are SO funny. I would expect that Campbell runs a very relaxed and pleasant set? At least for old friends...  
I agree. Tim and Danny really know how to work off each other comedically. Bruce had a blast directing them in the GoldLick town hall scene. Bruce would call action, run the scene and then improvise stuff for the guys to do before yelling cut. I think that was during our first days of shooting. It was a 100 degrees in the room but it didn't faze them.

Bruce runs a really tight ship as a director. It's relaxed and pleasant as long as each department has their shit together. He expects a lot out of his actors and crew, as it should be. On low budget movies there's zero time to waste. If you have to wait 30 minutes to find a prop or change a lens, then that's time lost shooting.

As an old friend of Bruce, did you have any creative input on My Name Is Bruce? The colourful comic book look goes well with the not-exactly-serious tone of the movie. It's like it is never really trying to appear like it takes place in the real world...  
Mainly, I had creative input when it came to the lighting of each scene. Bruce already had most of the film blocked out in his head (and on paper) when we got to Oregon. He knew exactly what coverage he wanted to get to make his days. On our location scouts we changed things a little bit to accommodate technical aspects, like time of day and lighting crew needs.

We came back a few months after principal photography to shoot a few new scenes to flesh out the movie. Scenes like Luigi's death scene, the Sheriffs death scene and the couple in the trailers death scene. Lots of death, death, death! I Dp'ed and operated the camera on those scenes. I had a real blast doing it, and had more input into shot design in those scenes. Bruce was happy and told me that he'll have me both Dp and operate camera on the next flick.

Bruce also invited me to help do the final colour correction with him. That was fun. It was a chance to review what we had done and what'd we do differently on the next film. I learned a lot about digital cinematography from working on that film.

There was a script for a sequel called Bruce Vs Frankenstein but the film didn't happen. It was set at a horror movie convention and had a lot of cameos of real horror film stars getting killed off by Frankenstein. Too bad, it would've been funny.

You never know, it might still happen eventually. If it does, I'm sure you will shoot it.  
Bruce is busy with season two of the great new show Ash Vs Evil Dead, but I hope we'll be able to make another picture together again someday. He's a great guy to work with.

Thanks for taking the time and for sharing your life in movies Kurt. It's been both both very informative and highly entertaining.

Thanks for the interview!

The US theatrical poster for My Name Is Bruce (2006)  

Kurt working, as he looks now (2011)