I grabbed this short interview with Richard Stanley at the late, lamented Scala Cinema Club in King’s Cross. The occasion was Splatterfest in 1990… or, possibly, the launch event for Maitland McDonagh’s Argento tome Broken Mirrors / Broken Minds, the following year. Buggered if I can remember! Sorry…
Part of my problem is that I’m fascinated by weird shit …
… anything from witchcraft and tribal magic, right across the board to artificial intelligence and genetic engineering … really weird shit, and the problem with really weird shit is that if you start dealing with it in a screenplay, people can’t take it unless it’s scary. So that’s the only way of putting across something really weird, through the horror genre ... Santa Sangre: I‘d like to see a lot more stuff like that.
Wouldn’t we all … but unfortunately we won’t!
Right! (Laughs) Simon Boswell, who scored Santa Sangre, also wrote most of the music for Hardware and Dust Devil.
You’re a great admirer of Boswell’s work, then?
I wasn’t a great admirer, but I did like the Santa Sangre soundtrack ... he‘s pretty good, and was within our price range. We were pretty limited, by financial constraints, in what we could go for. Boswell’s been a bit overlooked, because of the kind of movies he’s been scoring…Lucio Fulci, Lamberto Bava, that sort of thing. The main Hardware theme was his, then there was a covert input from a whole bunch of other weird people … lggy Pop, Carl McCoy, etc.
My original conception for Hardware was to take something as hard-edged as an Italian horror movie and stick it into a really contemporary setting with a lot of the stuff that was going around, basically. That‘s why it‘s like a gothic horror movie set in the year 2000, with the crawling hand, the shower scene, all that stuff that’s instantly recognisable … and we kinda computerised it, dressed it up as science-fiction ...
My films will probably just get a lot weirder – there‘ll be less sudden sharp shocks, it‘s going to be more about real physical unpleasantness. What I like about the Italians, and what‘s important to me, is doing stuff that will hurt people. Argento really knows how to hurt people … when that guy‘s teeth get banged on the corner of the table in Deep Red, that really hurt me. I wrote a big sex scene in Hardware that nobody will ever see because it was nixed by both Palace and Miramax – where the girl’s screwing the guy and loses interest because she’s watching a documentary on the holocaust on TV, which really combined sex and … had some of the worst documentary footage of all time. So that’s sex, horror, and a dash of social comment, which is what I thought exploi tation cinema was all about. Obviously I was wrong, because they made me cut it.
I was very surprised to see a clip from Dust Devil broadcast on the BBC’s Halloween special, considering the way that the clip in question mixed sex and violence…
I know! That’s why we gave it to them, because we figured that’s the moment that’s going to give us the most problems with the censor, so the scam was to get it on the BBC, then when it’s submitted for certification, we could just tell them that it’s already played on the Beeb, so what’s the problem! I was very surprised myself … TV’s getting a bit slack recently, I mean I was surprised that they screened Lisa And The Devil with the whole necrophilia scene intact.
Something else from Argento that had a big impact on me was Four Flies On Grey Velvet – the car accident scene! (Laughs) Great car accident scene … world class … never seen a better one! Argento was in London one time and I was supposed to have supper with him, but his daughter got hurt in a car accident … I also like Bud Spencer as “God” in Four Flies … never quite got over that … completely shattered me!
So It’s safe-to Argento’s been a major Influence …
The guy is obviously some kind of poet / genius in that he‘s pushing the boundaries of what is technically possible to extraordinary limits, but at the same time he has the genuine eye and soul of a poet. Even though it’s sometimes hard to work out exactly what‘s going on, it’s OK because the sheer visionary power of it is quite dazzling. I also feel that he‘s totally misunderstood because he‘s never had the kind of exposure he would have had if he’d been working with what people on the outside would consider “serious” material. But it’s clear now that his work actually supports serious analysis – the more you look into it, the more you find some fascinating shit going on … so yeah, I’m fascinated
How is that fascination reflected In something like Hardware, for instance?
There are many things I filched from him, e.g. his style of editing… cutting in on a shot rather than doing a track… the expressionistic use of colour and the fact that he has the guts to do things with lighting and his camera that don’t make any kind of sense in ordinary reality – creating a kind of magic reality… which I think is a good incentive, sets a very high standard indeed.
Weren’t you going to direct a Poe film for him at one stage?
The idea was that there were going to be many more 45-minute Poe adaptations sold to TV … myself, Michele Soavi and Tom Savini, in fact, were approached to do them and the scripts went around, but then Two Evil Eyes went nowhere at the box office so it was cancelled, which was a shame because I was all ready to plunge into it. I’d love to work with those guys, to get hold of a really good Italian filmmaker and give him a good script and an English dialogue coach ... if they made sense, or had some kind of understandable story, these films could maybe breakthrough to a larger audience. There‘s a whole bunch of movies out there, like The Church, that nobody ever watches.
I saw that in Italian and it didn’t seem to make a lot of sense, but it was really well done, brilliantly shot … technically just brilliant. I don’t think it would make very much sense in English either, actually, I kept noticing that people were being killed and then reappearing in later scenes, which was a bit confusing. The director is a really good guy… Michele Soavi… I wrote a script for him, called The Catacomb Club … a real exploitation thing, about rat people who come out of the London underground!
Sounds Iike some Of the imagery Soavi used in The Sect …
A lot of Michele and Dario’s work seems to be drawing on the old East European conspiracy theories, and it‘s all drawn together with that copy of Fulcanelli’s Mysteries Of The Cathedral that you see on the coffee table in The Church, which helps to pin down where it‘s all coming from. Michele‘s films have this consistent theme of demonic pIumbing…. that seems to be the thing he‘s most interested in… the well, the clock-work structure of The Church, and so on, it‘s certainly very close to his heart … so the ideas we have been batting around are mostly “demon plumbing” movies!