Born and raised in Roanoke, Virginia, Charles E. Cullen found an early fascination with film and storytelling. At age 8, he created his first film with his father’s camera. Titled "The Land Of Oz", the film was comprised of five minutes of a dummy falling off the roof of the Cullen family home. Looking to exhibit his work, Charles screened the film for his friends on the front of the kitchen refrigerator.
Influences were found at an early age, as Charles would have his mother take him to movies and concerts. The films of Sam Peckinpah, Martin Scorsese’s "Taxi Driver" and Stanley Kubrick’s "A Clockwork Orange" became the foundation of his study of cinema and his fascination with the special effects that added to the impact of the stories being told on the screen. An age 10 excursion with his mother to a performance of Alice Cooper’s Welcome To My Nightmare concert solidified his penchant for extreme showmanship.
While his interest in artistic expression continued to grow, Charles continued his school studies, receiving a degree in Civil Engineering from Old Dominion University. Using this knowledge, he worked as a bridge engineer for Norfolk Southern Railroad and Branch Highways. Although utilizing his college education, Charles never lost sight of his passion for film and entertainment, and in 1989 he began production of his first feature film, "Boogieman".
Shooting on a shoestring budget with friends and acquaintances from around town, Charles created the original Cullen Classic, shot in sequence and using a one take only approach. Containing enough violence for three movies, "Boogieman" (based on a 1978 Cullen short film "The Electrifying Boogieman") also started the development of Charles’ own unique brand of humor. Many of the cast and crew would become long term fixtures of Cullen’s film stable and Cullen Studios was born. Shown in local nightclubs, "Boogieman" started to develop it’s own small cult following.
Not one to rest after his first feature, 1990 saw the production of the film’s sequel, "Boogieman 2", with Ken Tignor reprising his role as the Mayor, a character that would become a staple in Cullen’s future projects. Continuing the saga of the notorious killer, "Boogieman 2" found Charles expanding on the dark humor that would become a trademark of his films.
Continuing on with his educational path of life, Charles started a stone masonry business, but never lost sight of his love of entertaining. Along with his masonry work, he furthered his interest in the arts as a professional photographer, painter and jewelry craftsman, eventually opening a store in a local mall, The Monster Shop.
Utilizing the store to sell his artwork and jewelry, Charles also showcased his talent for character creation in The Monster Shop, giving a home to his love of puppets and characters that could only see life through the creation of these papier mache and foam individuals. Visitors of The Monster Shop had no idea that they were witnessing the early phase of Charles’ entry into the world of television, but we’ll get to that in a bit.
Although he was using his talents in different ways, the itch to return to storytelling brought Charles back to filmmaking. After a back injury in 1997, Cullen sold his masonry business and used the proceeds to fund his return to cinema. Looking to up the scale of his previous productions, "A Modern Day Western: The Sanchez Saga", saw Charles move to the arena of shooting on film.
Armed with an Arriflex 16mm camera and applying the influences of Peckinpah and 70’s action movies. Cullen unleashed the tale of Reno Sanchez, an old west murderer transported into modern times through the use of hallucinogenic tequila worms. Banding together with fellow outlaw time travelers, the violent group embarks on a journey across America in hopes of becoming a successful country-western band with a final destination of Nashville. Pursued through the time portal by Texas lawman, Sheriff Jesse Lobo, the time displaced criminals carve a bloody path across the country in their quest for musical glory.
Filled with odd and colorful characters, "A Modern Day Western" displayed Charles’ comedic skills as much as it did the bloodshed. Working without sacrifice, the film found Cullen eating meal worms (tequila worm stunt doubles) and walking through a field of live rattlesnakes.
One would think that making an epic two hour western would wear a filmmaker down, but in 1998, Charles completed two films, shot simultaneously, "Super Badass" and "Night Of The Bums". Crossing genres between the two films, "Super Badass", an action/comedy, told the tale of a surrealistic bounty hunter facing criminals such as Bucko The Clown, Light Bulb and of course, The Boogieman, while "Night Of The Bums" returned Cullen back to his horror/comedy roots as three witches poison the city’s homeless population with a batch of tainted wine, turning them into blood thirsty zombies.
As if filming two movies at once wasn’t enough (a feat many filmmakers have tried and failed at), Charles, along with playing the lead in "Super Badass", cast himself in two roles in "Night Of The Bums", as an acid rock star bum and as the Mayor’s wife. The trademark mix of violence and humor continued with the pair of films which also included the first appearance of a puppet character in a featured role. With The Puppet Man along for the ride, a new venture was on the horizon for Charles E. Cullen.
After three feature length films in two years, a break was in order, but in typical Cullen fashion, there were still stories to be told. With a desire to break from the routine of working with actors and crew, Charles created what was to be the beginning of a new era in the life of Cullen Studios. With puppets in tow and a stage created in the bathroom using the shower curtain as a backdrop, "The Worst Puppet Show Ever Made" was born, and television in southwest Virginia would never be the same. Although the first show was done as a joke, Charles submitted the material to the local public access channel and much to his surprise, it was aired.
Not expecting much from the no budget entertainment format, viewer interest shocked Cullen and a second episode was created, this time with a contact address. As the marionette Mariachi Brothers continued to torment their effeminate nemesis LaPierre, Charles was pleased as viewer mail grew to enormous proportions for a local access show.
Although the television viewers were finding themselves glued to the screen, the cable outlet in nearby Salem had decided to pull the show based on it’s oddly violent content. With the show’s demise in Salem, Cullen found an ally in the local cable affiliate of Cox Communications and the production of The Worst Television Shows Ever Made had found a permanent home.
Driven by the popularity of "The Worst Puppet Show Ever Made", Charles started work on what would become a cable phenomenon, seven different shows, entertainment for every night of the week. "Chicken Chat", "The Worst Music Videos Ever Made", "Local Livestock", "The Worst Educational Show Ever Made", "The Worst Talk Show Ever Made" and "The Worst Short Stories Ever Made" gave Cullen the opportunity to use his skills as an all around entertainer in every possible format. From talk shows to storytelling to educating viewers about everyday things, his humor, oddly endearing demeanor and unique style attracted the interest of an all ages audience.
Television viewers began sending copies of the shows to family and friends around the country and the viewer mail response became nationwide. Cullen was amazed when he received a call from a Los Angeles agency that wanted to pitch his material to MTV as a national show, but he eventually turned them down with their request that he change his persona more to the likes of Tom Green. Charles’ own unique brand of humor and style had grown through the variety of the television shows and his filmed output, and a change in his style did not seem in order.
Charles began to release songs that he had performed on the television shows to the public through his own label, Corrupted Clown Records. Original cassette releases of his bizarre country music were an instant hit with fans of the TV shows. 2001 and 2002 saw the release of five Charles E. Cullen’s Worst Band Ever Made recordings on CD, "Ship Of The Damned", "Caring For Your Own Dead", "Grandaddy Bought Me A Copperhead", "Where’d All The Flies Come From?" and "Hog People", bringing his musical output into the digital age. With his dark sense of humor, Charles now had home music audiences howling with tracks like "Young Gay Monkey On Roller Skates", "Blood On The Microphone" and "You Look Good In Black & Blue".
Leaving one avenue yet unexplored, Charles and his Worst Band Ever Made gave their first live performance in November of 2000 at The Grandin Theatre, marking the first time that he had performed outside of the film and video medium. Billed as The Worst Live Performance Ever, Charles played to a packed house with a show described as "an unorganized catastrophe of music and whatever else he decides to do".
As his popularity as a pop culture icon grew to yet larger proportions, Charles was asked to write a weekly column for the online arm of his local newspaper, The Roanoke Times. The wit and odd wisdom of Charles E. Cullen became a hit with visitors to the site, leading to the newspaper hosting the official website of the Chicken Man, www.charlescullen.com, complete with audio and video clips and an online store.
Mr. Stitches is in your house. He’s in the walls. He’s in your closet. He’s under your bed.
Enjoying his writing duties, Charles published his first written work, a children’s book based on one of his songs. "Chicken Truck" tells the story of Henry, a Cornish Rock Rooster on his way to a processing plant whose journey leads him to find true love with a roadrunner named Lucy. An animated version of the story followed soon after publication of the book.
With many longer stories building inside, Charles returned to full length features. Over the next three years, he filmed four new Cullen Classics, "Killer Klowns From Kansas On Krack", "The Dead Have Risen", "The Day The Whole Fucking Earth Blew Up!" and "Ray The Rooster". Moving to shooting on a digital tape format, creating feature films has now become a more cost effective way to tell the more in depth stories.
Looking for a larger outlet for his material, Charles and crew sought out television stations nationwide to air his programming and Cullen TV has spread from coast to coast. Shows are currently airing in Minnesota, New York, California and Hawaii. The search for greater opportunities also led to the release of Charles’ first CD release outside of the United States. "Welcome To The World Of Charles E. Cullen", a 20 track compilation from his first five domestic CDs was released in the United Kingdom in early 2005 by Sheffield Phonographic (Thee SPC). Two new domestic releases followed shortly after, "Below The Dog" and West Virginia Whorehouse".
As 2006 began, "This Will Only Hurt For A Minute: The Charles E. Cullen Story", a new documentary by Hollins University student Janet Lubas, made it’s theatrical debut at the Grandin Theatre to an enthusiastic crowd. The documentary made the film festival circuit throughout the year and was released on DVD through Cullen Studios.
Late 2006 found the need for a midnight double feature, spawning two new films, "The South Will Rise Again" and a feature length vehicle for one of Charles’ most beloved characters, "Mr. Stitches". Shot simultaneously, the two films continued the horror tradition of Cullen Studios (and the long running tradition of even longer running cinematic shootouts).
Charles’ love of old exploitation films provided the impetus for the next Cullen classic in 2007. "Judgment House", a throwback to the Reefer Madness days of scare films, combined film and animation to tell the tale of a hot-rod racer sent to that halfway point between heaven and hell to confront the demons that led to his untimely demise.
Television stations kept adding the Charles Cullen Show throughout the year with new stations in West Virginia, Georgia and Connecticut joining in the fun. The mid-point of the year saw the release of a new CD/DVD package titled "Beyond Help", a collection of depressing, alcohol induced songs for those on the edge.
After receiving a gift of two real mummy cats, Charles decided to immortalize them on film with a title all their own. "The Curse Of The Mummy Cat" was released in late 2007 as a send-up of classic spaghetti westerns, complete with lawnmower bandits, treasure hunters and a Spanish witch in tow.
In October of 2007, joining forces with Music Video Distributors (MVD), the Cullen catalog reached a new level of national distribution. "Night Of The Bums" was reconfigured as a special edition DVD packed with commentary and extra bonus features. More titles will be given the special edition treatment and released in the near future.
After numerous contacts from the Colletti brothers (aka Evil Monkey Brothers), Charles signed on to perform at a one night only concert extravaganza. Titled, "A Space Monkey Odyssey", the show promises to be an outrageous night of music and showmanship in this multi-media presentation of the Collettis’ original rock opera to be staged at The Jefferson Center in Roanoke.
October of 2008 saw Charles team up with local television producers from Appalachian Media/Valley Vision to create a cult themed movie show, presenting the best, weirdest and worst films in cinema history. Unlike other shows of it’s kind, Theater Of Fright brought a different perspective with a host that had actually created a few cinematic gems of his own.
Charles continues to pursue new avenues to exhibit his material and with opportunities around every corner, look for Charles to expand his ever growing legend to your town soon. Sit back, grab a cheap beer, and prepare for a wild, wild ride!!
Another fun and creative film by Charles E. Cullen.
Visit the website to purchase and view the "Night Of The Bums" Trailer at http://www.1store.us/CharlesECullen.html