Todd Stadtman passed away on January 9th, 2021 Todd was a musician, writer, movie lover, and cofounder with me of the Infernal Brains Podcast. Most importantly, he is my friend and I’m going to miss him dearly. Many people knew Todd from his long career as a musician, but I really am not someone who listens to a lot of music, so I knew Todd mostly from the cinema aspect. That’s what I’ll be focusing on here.
I first met Todd back around 2007-8 when I was still in graduate school, I had stumbled across an old program for a Jane Bond film festival and googled some of the titles of this fascinating genre I had never heard of, and one of the top hits was this website from Todd Stadtman called The Lucha Diaries. He was attempting to watch every Santo movie (which he managed), and then after that expanded to more Mexican cinema, and then funky films from across the globe. The writing was great, and he lived close by (I was in Santa Cruz at the time while he lived in San Francisco) so I shot him an email. I don’t do that often, and it’s even rarer when the person writes back, but Todd did, and soon we were trading emails and eventually met up in person at a bar in the Mission called Docs Clock. I’m normally very shy and reserved so I brought along my wife and we ended up chatting for hours. I’m not 100% certain but I think this is when we also then went to a burrito place and Todd’s amazing wife Liza dropped by, but that may have been a later time at the same burrito place. For once, meeting someone you met on the internet didn’t mean that you were meeting up with crazed killers and we hit it off well enough to start making plans to go see movies together. Todd and I became semi-regular movie buddies, whenever a festival had something weird or a revival theater had something cool we’d see if we could meet up. We also had just some days to hang out or go out on double dates with our wives. We don’t make a lot of friends easily so it was nice to have another set of cool people to spend time with. Todd was personable and easy to get along with, his boundless enthusiasm for cinema winning him many fans. Todd was an active participant in the Drive-In Mob on Twitter, a movie watch-along that I was rarely home in time to join in, but I enjoyed seeing the commentary run by on my feed as most of the films were familiar favs.
Todd and I created and cohosted a podcast called the Infernal Brains. At this point it was both of our first forays into podcasting, so we had to learn everything as we went. The first few episodes have some questionable quality audio, but we were both working our best to make it sound as good as we could. Beyond skype calls, some episodes were recorded in Todd’s kitchen as we searched for the best audio quality we could muster (We tried both a shared microphone and literally sitting across from the table from each other recording on our own laptops!) We went from having a few notes about the films to literal stacks and stacks of papers, it was like we were preparing for finals before every podcast. We took the “brains” part seriously, and there is no way I would have sounded anywhere near as clear and prepared as I was without his help. You might also notice most episodes are 80% Todd talking, which was by design as Todd had the gift of gab and could just go on endlessly about what he loved, with me occasionally steering him back on topic. The Infernal Brains podcast is one of the best things on TarsTarkas.NET, and I’m eternally sad I just got too busy with night school classes to keep up with it. Todd kept up the enthusiasm with his other podcasts he cohosted, including the Taiwan Noir podcast, which is another must-listen.
Whenever I’d find a new weird movie or stumble across a formerly lost film suddenly appeared on the internet, I’d think how Todd would like it. We traded movies a lot. I mean a lot. I literally have a stack of vcds/dvds on my table that I was slowly transferring to external drives (very slowly), and Todd’s handwriting is on some of them. A good chunk of the movies on this site and FourDK are films we traded with each other. This is where Shaitani Dracula went from just a weird disk I owned to a cult movie phenomenon. Through Todd I met DurianDave, who was another cool movie guy who knew a lot about older Cantonese and Taiwanese cinema, especially the Jane Bond films and stars Connie Chan and Josephine Siao. Todd and I was also part of a loose alliance of cool movie bloggers called the Mysterious Order of the Skeleton Suit, which might have been the last of the old style movie blogger leagues. The internet has seemingly become just a few major websites and blogging is on the outs, which makes Todd’s loss even bigger, as he was still active on his site.
Todd and I shared movie tastes but we each had our particular favorite genres. There was still enough overlap that we’d both like the same films. Todd announced he was starting Die, Danger, Die, Die, Kill! shortly after I met him, and it was great to see (and read) him at full writing blast. That was around the time we were both at our most prolific of site updates, which means that we were in danger of picking the same obscure film to review. Once, I had just gotten done watching a movie only to hop on and see Todd had just published a review of it. When I brought this up with Todd, he admitted he had a similar experience. When searching for a lot of topics related to the genres we love, the top two results are almost always from Todd and my sites. This became a running joke between us about how little coverage the films we watched got in English language publications, but has also become a thing that other people have told me, that they were interested in the same types of films or actors/directors, but kept only finding articles from Todd or I. We had some fun with being similar on occasions, as my tastes cast a wider net even into mainstream stuff, a response from Todd resulted in us going back and forth reviewing different versions of Puss in Boots movies. Todd and I shared the philosophy that these weren’t terrible movies to mock and feel better than, but they were great fun on their own. That movies were good when masked wrestlers fight Dracula or Taiwanese kaiju rampage or funky space ladies invade Earth. Todd translated his love of genre cinema into a book, and Funky Bollywood is essential reading for any gonzo cinema fan.
I lost touch with Todd in the past few years which is something I’ll always regret. As I got too busy for some projects, we still regularly went to go see the various RiffTrax Live events together at the downtown SF theaters. Eventually, the theaters stopped carrying the events, and by then Todd had moved to Oakland. It was just too hard to coordinate me getting off work in the South Bay, driving up to SF, and then finding a theater and then getting Todd back on BART and to Oakland before BART closed. I always assumed we’d just figure something out later. We even emailed a bit back in early 2020 to try to meet up, but by then it was March, my mom was coming into town, and my wife was pregnant with our first child, so I thought I’d just push it until April. Then COVID happened with the lockdowns, and going in public while you have a pregnant wife was a thing I wasn’t going to do. Todd moved to Brooklyn later that year when his wife got a good job offer, and even after I found out, I didn’t think it was the end of the world, he had family around and I’d still be able to hit him up online. I wish I had ended things with one last meet up before he left. I found out he died due to a memorial post by Miguel Rodriguez, as I hadn’t logged into Facebook for years and that was were the updates on his health were.
Todd made me a better writer because he pushed me to do better just through sheer enthusiasm and his own good writing. He made me a better person just due to being such a good person. No one ever had a bad word to say about Todd, he was friendly to everyone. Todd had lots of different circles of friends, I was just a small part of one, but he made a big impression on me, and Todd Stadtman will always live on in me. I cried when I heard the news. I’ve been crying off and on all week. I cried when I wrote this. I’ll still be sad for a good while afterwards. I’ll probably be misty eyed every time I see War of the Gargantuas. But I’m determined to make him proud. It was hard to write this, it made it more a finality that Todd won’t be there to answer my message. Even while I was finishing writing this, someone dropped me a message about a certain Indian film director showing up with more work that Todd would have jumped on immediately. Todd led a full life, and I’m going to be as much like Todd as I can and accomplish as many goals as I can. He was very prolific with his writing, not only are there a ton of sites with articles to read, he has novels and some finished stories that have yet to be published according to a post of his. Hopefully I’ll get to read them too someday. I love you Todd, you were the cool big brother I never had. I’m sorry we didn’t get one last meetup, I’m sorry my son will never get to meet one of the men who influenced him on his dad’s weirdo hobbies. You better have access to all the cool lost films wherever you are, or I’m going to have to kick some afterlife butt one day.
And don’t settle for whatever is on Netflix, go seek out cool movies that are hard to find but looks cool, subtitles be damned. There is a whole world of cinema out there just waiting for an audience!
Cool Todd Stadtman links –
Friday’s Best Pop Song Ever
Out of the Past: The Best and the Rest of Todd Stadtman 1999 – 2007
– Only I Can Save You
TheLuchadiaries youtube channel (with live show recordings)
B TEAM – “I Fall”
B TEAM – “Eyes Bleeding”
If you know of more please let me know and I’ll add them!
Image via Todd’s Facebook