Robert Englund in full Freddy Krueger mode  

Ready Freddy ...Go

We go back to the beginning of a legend as we look at the original Nightmare on Elm Street, and its place in Wes Craven's career

A Shivers feature by Grant Kempster

  Selected from Shivers #76

In a quiet suburb of Cleveland Ohio on a cold night in the 1940's, an intoxicated old man pulled his long coat around himself and jammed his snap-brim hat a little further down as he shuffled his way home. As he walked past a two-storey apartment a seven-year-old boy on the edge of sleep heard the noise and climbed out of bed and peered out of the window to see where it was coming from.

Somehow sensing the young eyes upon him the inebriated man looked up and in one fearful moment their eyes met. The young boy immediately backed away, his breath caught in his throat. He counted to a hundred, then slowly returned. The man was still there. Seeing the boy, he leered at him and began to walk towards the door of his building.

Childhood memory

Frightened for his life and that of his family the young Wes Craven woke up the entire house, convincing his older brother to investigate with a baseball bat, but luckily the intruder was nowhere to be found. It was this childhood memory, of the dark stranger in the brown fedora who obviously enjoyed scaring the hell out of kids that ultimately culminated in the creation of one of the world’s most famous screen villains, Freddy Krueger.

Born on the second of August 1939, Wesley Earl Craven became interested in literature from a very early age. Through Junior High where he began to write poetry, to High School and College where he gained a Masters degree in philosophy, creative writing was something that was instinctive to the young Christian man. In fact when a career beckoned Wes became an English teacher at a local school which for some time seemed to be his true vocation, but then something happened.

Coming from a very religious background that frowned upon the movie-world, the young Craven’s eyes had yet to be shown the joys of film-making. But on discovering a group of High School students making small films on 16mm, Mr Craven decided to start up a film-club, which went on to produce a number of short films, but which ultimately took him away from obligations as an English teacher, thus losing him his job.

Cabby Craven

For six months Wes drove New York cabs and then through pure chance he became involved in an independent feature which was being directed by a young up-n-coming man by the name of Sean Cunningham. It was a relationship which led to the production of Craven’s first movie entitled Last House on the Left which he wrote over the course of a long weekend and was shot for just $50,000...

Grant Kempster

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Images © New Line • Feature © Visual Imagination Ltd 2000. Not for reproduction