40 Fiery Facts About “The Burning”

The early 1980’s is synonymous with the slasher boom that occurred following the success of Halloween.  These included soon to be classics like Friday the 13th that would spawn entire franchises, as well as many holiday themed slashers as filmmakers tried to put out as many of these as humanly possible.

But one such slasher gem from 1981 that often gets overlooked is The Burning.  So in honor of its 40th anniversary today, we thought it would be fitting to look at 40 fiery facts about The Burning!

1. Inspired by the Cropsey urban legend from the Hudson Valley in upstate New York. It was often told around campfires, thus the movie was set at a summer camp and the character was called “Cropsey”.

Burning 1
Many of the cast and crew (who were from upstate NY), they had heard the legend since they were kids.

2. The film’s original title was “The Cropsey Maniac”.

3. Co-written and produced by (the now disgraced) Harvey Weinstein, this movie launched his and his brother Bob’s careers. Given the recent accusations and criminal conviction of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault, the movie itself has something of a troubled legacy.

4. Their mother, Miriam Weinstein was also a production assistant for the movie.

5. Unfortunately, the earliest accusation against Harvey Weinstein was from an event that took place during the filming of this movie. He was alleged to have harassed a production assistant for denying his advances.

6. Prior to directing The Burning, Tony Maylem was mostly known for documentaries, which is why the movie has a gritty, almost voyeuristic approach with Cropsey.

Burning 6
Maylam was also known for directed music videos back in the UK.

7. Tom Savini wanted to do the effects on this movie so much that he turned down an offer to do Friday the 13th Part 2, even after doing effects for the original one year earlier.

8. Savini admitted that part of the reason he turned down Friday the 13th Part 2 was disagreeing with the plot point of having Jason be an adult when he was just a child in the last movie.

9. Despite being heavily compared to Friday the 13th, the script and production for The Burning started before that movie did. It just took longer for each step, which is why Friday the 13th was released first.

10. Composer Rick Wakeman was offered payment based on a percentage of the movie’s gross, but he turned it down opting for a flat fee because he thought the movie would flop (and he wasn’t entirely wrong). It’s not fully known what the percentage was or whether his flat fee was more or less than that number would have been.

11. Tom Savini reportedly only had three days to come up with the burn makeup for Cropsey’s face, and he was largely unsatisfied with how it looked.

Burning 11
It definitely looks gruesome, but Savini’s issue was that it didn’t look very accurate in terms of what a burn victim would look like.

12. Given its low budget, the production didn’t have much of a costume department, and just had most of the cast wear their own clothes.

13. Many of the night scenes were shot during the day with a filter on the camera, since it was easier than night shoots.

14. When Cropsey’s legs are kicking while on fire, the stunt was performed by Tom Savini himself.

15. For Cropsey’s POV, they rubbed Vaseline on the camera lens to make the image look more surreal.

16. The stunts were done by a then 17 year old Reid Rondell, who tragically died 4 years later in a helicopter crash on the set of Airwolf.

Burning 16
He was only 22 when he passed…

17. According to Tom Savini, when he was applied the gruesome and bloody makeup to the actors for their death scenes, he would play classical music in the background.

18. Since many of the people involved didn’t have much film experience, they quickly went over budget, not realizing how much certain things would cost.

19. Part of the camp scenes were shot at the William H. Pouch Scout Camp in Staten Island, New York. It’s still open today, and even features drive-in movies.

20. Tony Maylam claimed that he had a lot more footage of Cropsey, but he wound up cutting a lot of it out, to make the character seem more elusive and mysterious.

21. Features a very young Jason Alexander in his first acting credit.

Burning 21
Admittedly, it’s really weird to see Jason Alexander with a full head of hair.

22. A very young Holly Hunter also appeared in a small role. She said that despite the bit part, she made more money than she had at any other job and it granted her a SAG card.

23. Apparently none of the actors were able to “properly hold” the garden shears, so each shot featuring that was performed by Tony Maylam himself.

24. Filming lasted 5 weeks, between August and September 1980.

25. Actress Carolyn Houlihan had previously been Miss Ohio USA in 1979 prior to filming.

Burning 25
According to Tony Maylam, she had agreed to do a nude scene when taking the role, but was very nervous and uncomfortable about it when it came time to shoot it (mostly because of how many people were on set).

26. The movie was edited by Jack Sholder, who would go on to direct A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge.

27. For the film’s finale, they shot in a real abandoned copper mine that was apparently so dusty and filled with debris, that it left Tony Maylam with coughing fits for weeks.

28. Originally the climax was scripted to be in a cave, but of the two caves they scouted, one collapsed and the other was filled with bats.

29. Tom Savini also performed the final axe swing that that kills Cropsey at the very end.

30. Savini also did a publicity tour (which he claims he was never paid for). He traveled to many different radio stations to promote the movie.

31. The Burning was among the 72 movies on the UK’s “Video Nasty” list that were prosecuted and banned for obscenity. It was eventually released in the UK in 1992 with 19 seconds of footage removed.

Burning 31
It hurt the movie’s box office at the time, but now it wears the “Video Nasty” title as a badge of honor!

32. The brutal raft murder scene was apparently what landed it on the “Video Nasty” list.

33. While the movie itself was by no means a hit (only grossing $750,000 on a $1.5 million budget), it did very well in the Buffalo area, where it was shot.

34. Initially there were talks of a sequel, but after the disappointing box office returns, it was scrapped.

35. Despite the less than stellar box office, it was decently reviewed and currently holds 80% on Rotten Tomatoes.

36. Ranked #9 on Paste Magazines “50 Best Slasher Movies”.

37. The Cropsey legend was later retold in a 2009 documentary, aptly titled Cropsey.

Burning 37
It’s a fascinating documentary that looks into the origins of the urban legend.

38. There’s also a segment about Cropsey in another documentary called Killer Legends.

39. When it was released on DVD in 2007, the packaging listed the rating as “R”, but it was actually the uncut version.

40. The Burning finally got an HD release in 2013 when it was restored and released on bluray.

Which of these did you already know?  Which ones surprised you?  Let us know in the comments!

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One thought on “40 Fiery Facts About “The Burning”

  1. I love The Burning. It’s one of those slasher films that gets not as much attention as it should. This and The Mutilator are two of those cliche slashers that I always love watching. Good list! I love unknown facts for films and The Burning is one that deserves it. Good job!


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