[JA Kerswell talks with Mary McDonough who did Final Girl duties in MORTUARY (1981)]

I was delighted to be able to speak to the lovely Mary McDonough about her role in the often sadly neglected early 80s slasher movie MORTUARY, which she described to me as "... a trip to make. So much going on!" She discusses the film in her autobiography, which has just been published and is highly recommended.

Mary McDonoughQ. How did you get involved with MORTUARY?

I auditioned for it. Went through my agent.

Q. Do you recall where the film was shot?

It was shot in Malibu at a big house called Gulls Way Estate. We shot in the Valley Reseda skating rink, I believe for the skating rink. CSUN (California State University, Northridge) for the school. Don’t forget the actual mortuary we worked in!

Q. Of course, you are perhaps best known from your time on Waltons' Mountain, but was MORTUARY your first theatrically released film?

Yes it was. Still one of my only.

Q. Melissa Sue Anderson from TV's LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRARIE also appeared in a horror movie in 1981 – HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME. She said it made a pleasant change to be chased by a homicidal maniac! How did you find your stint as a Final Girl?

I loved it! I had always wanted to be a final girl because I loved horror films so much. There was a lot of tension on the set, and we worked like Vampires all night long, but it was fun. I always wanted to be what I called the “airhead ingénue“. I even drew a picture of my character with blonde roots.

Mary McDonoughQ. The film was Christopher George's last film. He sadly died of a heart attack shortly after making it. What are your memories of him and his wife Lynda Day George?

Christopher was a great man and so fun to get to know. I was so sad for Lynda when he passed. A shock for sure. He was no nonsense and he gave me and Lynda some gruff as mother and daughter. Lynda was really sweet and we bonded through some long nights together. She didn’t want to slap me and it kept looking fake, so I told her to just go ahead and slap me. WOW, she had a good swing!

Q. Also, what are your recollections of working with Bill Paxton and David Wallace?

Bill was totally into the part. He seemed like a method actor. When we shot in the real mortuary, he actually sat in on an embalming. He was funny and really into it.

David Wallace was truly your all American guy. The director yelled at us because he wanted more passion from us. Then I had a hard time saying some dumb lines but we stuck together to get through it. It made us closer. Can you say, "Hey boogeyman, let's boogie!". I mean, really? It was so dated, even when we filmed it! I hated that line and I hate that whole scene.

Q. I love the roller disco scenes in MORTUARY (no early 80s slasher should be without one!). Did you have fun making the movie?

It was a blast. I knew Curt Ayers for years so it was so good to have him there. He made us all laugh. A great time with great hair and tight jeans!

Q. Like a lot of slashers from that time, MORTUARY got caught in an over-saturated market, and didn't see a release until 1983. Did you see it at the time and have you seen it recently?

I haven’t seen it in years. Is it still available?

Q. Did you ever see the trailer for the film, that has Michael Berryman digging a grave? It seems to have nothing at all to do with the film!

I will look at it. It doesn’t have anything to do with it. No one gets buried, Bill keeps them alive!! Or at least embalmed.

Q. Finally, do you have any recollections about the film that you would like to share – no matter how small!

I didn’t do my “nude” scenes. I had a body double. I wouldn’t do the nudity. It seemed really gratuitous to me. David didn’t do his either. So in the mortuary it is my double AND in our “love scene” it is two other people. It was wild to have these people disrobe and then pretend to be us. Then have us have clothes on for the close ups. Too funny. If you notice my body double has tan lines!!! Like I have EVER had a tan???!!!! LOL.

Relevant Links

Read the review of MORTUARY.

Listen to the Hysteria Continues podcast dedicated to MORTUARY, which features an audio interview with actor Curt Ayers.