Posts Tagged With: David Warbeck

“Let’s Have A Drink… It’s Margheriti Time!” The ANTONIO MARGHERITI Interview

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Almost as much as he enjoyed his participation in the wild and wonderful world of Italian exploitation cinema, David Warbeck enjoyed hooking up its exponents with those in the fan press who revered them more than all the Speilbergs, Scorseses and Coppolas of this world put together. It’s a bittersweet experience for me to remember the days when I’d answer the phone to find David urging me to hot foot it down to his Hampstead pile because some pasta paura luminary (e.g. Fabrizio De Angelis) was visiting him. Over the years I’ve become vague about the exact dates of some of these delightful days but one in particular is difficult to forget… there were lots of jittery-looking commuters on The Northern Line on 20/03/95, in the aftermath of media speculation over that morning’s nerve gas attack on the Tokyo Metro system and whether it foreshadowed wider chemical assaults on the world’s major transport hubs. Nevertheless…

It’s a real pleasure to meet you, Signor Margheriti… what have you been up to?

I’m talking to Terence Hill about doing a movie, which would be fantastic. I like Terence very much, and perhaps this will be the right vehicle for him to make a change. Terence and Bud Spencer made money In Germany with every movie they made, sometimes they were making movies just for the German market, because they were seen to be too old in the rest of the world. Now they are tired of what Terence did in the western, and this is my way of proposing something different for him, you know? He plays an expert in electronics… very smart, does crazy stuff, but mostly a genius in electronics, and apparently he dies in the middle of the picture… but his ghost, an electronic ghost, carries on through the rest of the picture. Only at the end do you realise he’s spent the last three days covered in rubble but still alive, so they put an electric plug in his body and give him a shock. The electronic ghost disappears and everybody starts to cry because they miss him, but it turns out he’s escaped from the hospital. It is a very funny story, maybe it is good for the new generation…

How is the Italian film production scene now… still very flat?

Yes, everything’s still very flat, and because Berlusconi became a political guy, he doesn’t have anything to do with film production anymore. TV Rai aren’t doing anything… they have a new woman president now, who is very good, but they aren’t doing anything in film production these days… and the Lire’s going down every day.

Even the Japanese economy is stalling these days…

… and the Americans. Everybody but the Germans. What we need is another war, then the world can start all over again… we have to kill people because there are too many of us! Maybe we will fight on the same side in the next war… I didn’t learn English until it was too late, because when I was younger we were enemies… Mussolini called you English “Perfidious Albion” (Laughs). I had to wait until after the war to learn, which was a pity, because now I have terrible English.

Oh, far from it… way better than my Italian, anyway. You’re still making movies, and I think you’re the only still-active director from what people now talk of as a “Golden Age” of Italian horror cinema. I mean, Riccardo Freda is still alive…

Yes, but he doesn’t work now. He’s in his 90’s, lives in Paris…

Were you aware at the time that you were working in this “Golden Age” of Italian popular cinema, or did this only become apparent to you in retrospect?

It’s a great memory, we had a lot of fun… but we didn’t have very big budgets! We had to improvise a lot for the special effects, and so on. I’m lucky, because I forget these things easily at my age – the arteriosclerosis wipes so much from your mind!

How do you remember working with Barbara Steele, Signor Margheriti?

What’s with this “Signor Margheriti”?

(David Warbeck interjects) John is a great admirer of yours, so he’s addressing you respectfully.

Well that’s very nice, but you must call me Tony… Barbara Steele? She was perhaps not a great actress, but she was a great presence. You sensed her presence. She was very good, and she was a real star… in my opinion, she was perfect for that kind of a picture. When she was on the screen she was the star of the picture, and she was a very nice lady, too. She did possibly the best picture of Mario Bava…

… Black Sunday?

Yes, La Maschera Del Demonio, a very beautiful picture I think. That is the best picture of that era…

Your picture The Long Hair Of Death has a similar storyline, and also stars Barbara Steele…

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Yes, Barbara Steele and a Polish girl who’s killed at the beginning of the film but comes back. That was a different kind of picture, they wanted to do more of a historical picture with horror elements … I don’t know if that was the right idea. It’s not a bad picture, but it’s not Danza Macabre – that’s a ten times better picture!

Did Sergio Corbucci work with you on Danza Macabre, as is mentioned in some reference works?

Sergio Corbucci prepared  Danza Macabre. He wanted to do that picture but later he gave it to me, and I gave him another picture on another occasion. We were very close friends, Sergio and I. We’d do one picture with me directing one part, him directing another, and he’d sign it, then another the other way round. The whole period was fun. Sergio did all the Toto pictures, maybe 30 or 35. Sergio is dead, 5 years ago he died, and he’s still made more pictures than me, because with Toto he did one picture every 15 days, editing too because it was direct sound, maybe ten pictures in one year.

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You later remade Danza Macabre (as Web Of The Spider)…

Eleven years later, we were given the opportunity to redo it in colour, with better actors – Klaus Kinski, Tony Franciosa, Michelle Mercier instead of Barbara – which turned out to be a mistake. It was an interesting experience, but didn’t bear much comparison to the first one, in my opinion. Danza Macabre was the first picture at that time, to my knowledge, to talk about lesbianism, and it was so well done, so sensitively handled, that even the terrible censors we had at that time in Italy – guys who used to put on mask and then take an axe to your film (laughs) – didn’t cut a single frame. That element was so important to the story that it was impossible to take it out. They cut just one little bit in the beginning where she made love with the gardener. And the rest of the picture in my opinion was very well done … sometimes you do good pictures, you know, the whole combination of actors, the crew, the script, the right moment and it all comes together – we made that picture in just two weeks, with one day’s special effects with the dead people who become alive in their tombs… a nice picture but not too much work. Everybody did what they had to do and the picture was finished before schedule – why shoot more?

So why remake it?

Well, the producer was so pleased with that picture that after 11 years he wanted to do it again, imagine, with Cinemascope, colour, stereophonic sound, with American, German and French actors, you know … put it all together. It was different you know, completely different, though the script was exactly the same. George Riviere was very good in the first one, Tony Franciosa did a little too much in the second one. Michelle Mercier was very beautiful, she played “Angelica” for years, you remember, but she was no Barbara Steele. She was a beautiful woman from this planet, whereas I always got the idea that Barbara was from some other planet! She had the… I’ve done so many pictures, and I think I can say that when she understood a scene, when she was into a scene 100%, she was perfect. Maybe she was not as great an actress, but she was definitely a star, and absolutely perfect for that kind of picture. In Bava’s film she was great, that was more of a fantasy picture… you remember the scene with the coach at the beginning? Mario’s best picture, together with one science fiction picture he did in this period…

Planet Of The Vampires?

Terrore Nello Spazio – I think that’s the one I meant, yes …

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Didn’t you take over the picture Nude… Si Muore aka The Young, The Evil And The Savage, from Bava?

Nude… Si Muore is an English script from a group called Woolner Bros, and they wanted to do the picture with Mario… it wasn’t a horror picture, just a suspense picture set in a college. It would have been a good subject for a Dario Argento picture, in fact it’s like a Dario Argento picture ten years before Argento started to make movies! Mario didn’t do the picture, I don’t remember why, he was probably working on something else, but because I had done these pictures with the Woolners, we had a company in America together under my name and theirs, and we made the decision to do that picture. I cast Mark Damon and many English actors and actresses, because I came over here to do it. We had a 30 year-old lady to play the part of a 16 year-old schoolgirl… she was so beautiful when I saw her in a stage show in London. They said it is not possible to make her up as a schoolgirl but we got away with it. Very funny actress, I saw her in something like vaudeville, unbelievable stuff. But that was a suspense rather than a horror picture… (looks up her name) Sally Smith… Leonora Brown was the girl who played with Sophia Loren in Two Women, she was the young girl who was raped, you remember? Alan Collins… you know I counted up, and I’ve made 18 pictures with Alan Collins, “the Italian Peter Lorre” as they call him. “Alan Collins”, who is really Luciano Pigozzi, is the actor I’ve used more than any other, he is like my invention, you know?

You also had Michael Rennie in that picture…

Michael Rennie was … Michael Rennie! (Laughs) He had suffered a heart attack about a year before we shot that picture. Every time we had to shoot a scene with some action, he would come to me and say: “Tony, what do you think? Maybe we could have Franco come in with all the policemen running and I arrive later and have a look…” What he meant was: “Don’t make me run, I don’t want to die!” (Laughs) A terrible story. He would open the door and step out before you could tell him to jump out, because he was really  sick, you know?

Your other giallo was 7 Deaths In The Cat’s Eye

…with Jane Birkin…

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… and Serge Gainsbourg.

It was a suspense picture, a story in a castle, good story. Venantino Venantini was dressed as a priest, it was only revealed at the end that he was the killer. That was quite a nice picture, with Hiram Keller (the American actor who was in Fellini Satyricon)… Anton Diffring… they were all very good, I have a very good memory of that picture.

Was it because it was a French co-production that you had Gainsbourg and Birkin?

Well, it was a French co-production, but Jane was very hot at that moment in America too. Alan Collins was in there again, of course. In my opinion it was a good picture… not so successful in Italy, but it did very well in France and not bad in America. When we started with that picture the producer wanted a suspense film but also he wanted horror, and he wanted me to do something elegant, not crude. There is a violent murder at the start, but the rest of it was really quite stylish, with the set, the scenes at the dinner, etc… not Visconti, but it was very well done, elegant, and it turned out very well for that producer because he made a lot of money from it in France, but under a very strange title: Les Diabeleusses (“Two Devil Women”), which is nothing to do with what was in the picture!

What was Klaus Kinski like to work with?

Together with Werner Herzog, I think I’m the director who made more pictures with Kinski than anyone.  I did six pictures with him and in the first one I shot him with a Winchester, in the second one I tried to poison him, in the third I tried to kill him another way, because he was so infuriating, but I must respect the memory of him, he was wonderful, the  most talented actor I ever used in my life… completely crazy, of course, but a fine actor. Nobody believes me when I tell them how beautiful the crazy Klaus Kinski looked when he was young, but look at this photo I’ve got of him… it’s from my first picture with him (And God Said To Cain…), a suspense picture with a mysterious American arriving in a western town one night and killing six people during the course of that night, but each time in an intriguing way. He shot down a bell to kill Alan Collins, for example…

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… another good picture I made with Alan Collins was The Unnaturals in London, with terrible weather and the characters have to stop at a castle. Inside is Alan Collins with his terribly old mother, a German actress and during that night, obviously full of lightning (acts out the sound effect), they start to do a seance – is that the right word? During this seance there are murders and we start to realise that everything we are seeing has happened before and will happen again, these people are already dead… a very strange picture, very nice and very well done, with a very good German actress, Marianna Koch… Joachim Fuchsberger was very good in it too… Claudio Camaso, who was the brother of Gian Maria Volonte, one of the very best actors, who died a few months ago..

Gian Maria Volonte died ?!? Good grief, it didn’t even get a mention in the press over here!

Yes, they had nearly finished a picture when he died. It’s has just opened, a crazy picture about a dictator…

Like yourself, Volonte worked with Sergio Leone …

In the first Dollars movie, yes …

What are your memories of Leone?

Very good! To me there is no question, he was a genius. He did really fantastic films. I particularly like the last picture he did, Once Upon A Time In America, unfortunately they sold the film to the Alan Ladd company in America… I can’t understand their decision to cut out so much of it. They said the picture was too long. Remember when Bertolucci did 1900, he made it in two parts because the audience would not sit down for five hours to watch a picture? That was a big mistake, because if they’d shown it with two big intermissions, with music, it would have been a great spectacle, like Napoleon by Abel Gance.

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The Americans also cut down Leone’s Duck, You Sucker!, on which you worked…

Yes, it’s very difficult to please everybody. If you try to do that, you please nobody, so really you must have your audience in mind when making a picture, then everything is possible, it might catch on in other markets. But if you do the picture and you have an adventure story with a revolution, and great special effects also, it’s maybe too much, that was perhaps Sergio’s mistake.

You were responsible for all the miniature work on that film…

Yes, all the stuff with the train. Only when the actors go into the train is it full size, all the rest is miniatures, and I insisted to Sergio that it be like that… he didn’t want it, but I made him understand. When you see the train for the first time, almost in the middle of the picture (makes train sound effects), the light coming towards you in a long shot, then you see the miniature. From this moment, every time you see the train, that’s what your frame of reference is, and then when at the last moment the locomotive goes against the other train, everybody’s expecting to see the join, because normally you would change photography, everything, but here nothing’s happened, because it was the same. For more than one hour in the picture, you’ve been seeing this miniature. In my opinion that’s the only sensible way to do this, because you don’t have the big change, you don’t see the join, and this increases the impact.

Your colleague Alberto De Martino also did some work on Duck, You Sucker!!

He was shooting second unit in the last battle, because they were over schedule and Sergio was also the producer, with many other things to do, so Alberto had to finish it: all the adventure after the explosion of the train, the train on fire, when he takes the machine gun and starts shooting, all the fight… that sequence was all Alberto, but Sergio’s personality was so strong that Alberto shot exactly what he wanted anyway, and even if they hadn’t, Sergio would just have cut it out. I shot more footage on that picture, just to do the train, than I would have shot for the whole of one of my own pictures. There was so much material to edit, and unfortunately when I saw the finished film later that year, I realised that some very good special effects stuff I shot had not made it into the picture, like big close-ups of the train wheels, etc.

You say Leone was a perfectionist who shot a lot of footage… is it true that you also worked with another perfectionist – Stanley Kubrick – on 2001?

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No, I was over there at this time to see the president of International Metro… previously I had made a package of four science fiction pictures for Metro one of which – Wild, Wild Planet (above) – was very successful. Everyone was so happy about my little picture that they wanted me to work on 2001. But it was two completely different film worlds, you know? One was all about perfection, professionalism, whereas mine is about coming up with something at the last moment, because otherwise I’m going to kill myself, you know (laughs and mimes pointing gun to head)… So for one reason that was a good idea, otherwise no. I was talking to them in London, in Los Angeles… it was very good for me anyway because I got to know the English effects guy who also directed Silent Running … what was his name?

Doug Trumbull…

Doug, yes, he had the idea to use just one light in space, which was the key to the success of that kind of special effect… anyway, I was in America waiting to hear abut 2001, until somebody offered me work on another picture and I said to the 2001 people: “Sorry, I’ve got to work”. I like to keep working, you know?

Is it true that in 1966 you actually directed the film Spara Forte, Piu Forte… Non Capisco (Shoot Loud, Louder… I Don’t Understand), which is usually credited to Eduardo De Filippo?

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I directed much of that picture, yes, with Marcello Mastroianni  and Raquel Welch. Raquel was very young then, and so beautiful… I had to shoot a dream sequence with her naked beneath some netting, but it didn’t end up in the picture because I just couldn’t shoot it. Everyone said: “Oh never mind Antonio, the back projection was wrong”, “this was wrong”, “that was wrong” or whatever, but I think the truth was just that, for some reason, I couldn’t keep my mind on my work that day! (Laughs)

Another couple of films you worked on with another director were the Andy Warhol pictures Flesh For Frankenstein and Blood For Dracula: there’s a lot of confusion about who actually directed what on those pictures…

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The thing is, they were ready to do the picture… Carlo was very scared because originally they wanted to do both in 3D, and… Andy Warhol was a genius, yes, and Paul Morrissey was a very intelligent man, but he had previously directed movies like Flesh, pictures like that with no technique at all, no chance to get something coming from out of the screen at the audience. Carlo was very scared that things wouldn’t work out, so he worked a kind of blackmail on me, he said: “Tony, you want to make that picture in Australia? If so, you have to make this picture for me. You have to be with them before you can shoot the other picture”. But it was a great human experience for me on that shoot… in the beginning I was kind of a supervisor, but as it went on I was doing more and more because we had to shoot a lot of sequences with special effects and I took care of all that. When the first edit of the first picture, Flesh For Frankenstein, was finished, Carl said: “But What’s happening with the kids? You have to take care of that”. So I wrote a new story about the kids, and later I shot all the stuff at the beginning of the picture with the spider and them playing with the hand, and so on. We put more story in and with the two kids I had a chance to bring it all together and do more special effects and stuff. It was just friendly – I got my money for sure – but it was an informal thing, not to be creative. Carlo needed the picture to have an Italian nationality, which was impossible with that picture – there was Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey from America, Udo Kier from Yugoslavia (Germany actually – BF)… not one Italian, with the exception of “Anthony Dawson” (Laughs). But Carlo says: “No, I want it to be an Italian picture”, so I signed it for Italy and some parts of the world, and Morrissey said to me: “Do you want the credit as director everywhere else?” I said: “No, open with your name in America”… in the rest of the world they think it was mine, but in America it was Paul Morrissey’s and I have another credit. But it was a very funny adventure because they didn’t have a script, just 14 pages of what was to happen, and they made decisions with the actors what the dialogue would be, re-writing the script all night for the next day. That was another bad idea, because they left out so much good stuff…. hey, what do you call that thing in David’s garden?

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It’s a squirrel, Tony…

Squirrel? Squirrels are beautiful – when they are fried, ha ha! But those films were a great experience for me, lots of fun, and Carlo kept his word – as soon as we finished that I got to make the other picture.

Which was Hercules Vs Kung Fu… with that one and pictures like The Stranger And The Gunfighter, you were one of the first to mix western and oriental cinema in a manner that is now very much in vogue…

Well, that was more down to Carlo Ponti than me, that was how he wanted to go, and I was just doing it for the money, you know? The Stranger And The Gunfighter was originally entitled Blood Money, it was a fun film to make, a nice script and beautifully shot, with a lot of Chinese locations in the second half. Columbia did OK with it in the US, so I made another picture with them.

You’ve made so many movies with our host, David Warbeck

I first saw him in Duck, You Sucker!, you remember he is the IRA man who betrays James Coburn, and I said: “What a fantastic face! I must have that face in my movies”… so we talked and then we made our first film together, The Last Hunter, also known as The Deer Hunter Part 2…

With John Steiner…

John, yes… he’s in real estate in LA now. I was there last week and I wanted to see him, but it was not possible because I had to go off to St Louis. I was trying to find his number, but all those people had to change numbers when the big fire destroyed much of LA last year… some of them became millionaires because they had a very good insurance arrangement! Richard Harrison owned three villas in Malibu, completely destroyed, and many people I knew lost their house because it was such a terrible fire.

Harrison’s the guy who turned down the Clint Eastwood role in A Fistful Of Dollars…

I don’t know if that’s true or just a story, but he was always saying: “Sergio offered me A Fistful Of Dollars but I said no, I’ll do Giant Of Rome with Tony because it’s more secure.” He was always telling me that story but in my opinion when we were making Giant Of Rome, Fistful Of Dollars was already done. I think I did Danza Macabra just before Giant Of Rome, and Danza Macabre had its opening at SuperCinema, I think, a few months after the opening of Fistful Of Dollars. Maybe I’m wrong… but no, I’m quite sure. Anyway, you know, all actors and directors have some sad tale to tell. It’s a part of the fantasy of our work – if you take out all the fantasy then you’re just left with the truth… with shit, you know!

Is it true that you gave Ruggero Deodato his chance to direct?

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I was working on so many movies simultaneously at that time, and Ruggero was my assistant director. I wanted to concentrate on shooting Giant Of Rome with Richard Harrison, so I let Ruggero take over Ursis, Il Terrore Dei Kirghisi, but he experienced a kind of crisis and I had to return and help him out. So I was shooting Giant Of Rome during the day, then I would take a shower, go to Cinecitta to shoot the other one, work till 2 AM, then a few hours later it was time to start on the other one. And I did that for two weeks… I understood, because Ruggero had really been thrown in at the deep end, and you know he was the only assistant I had in my career – and I’ve had many – who was very good. He understood things, picked up what you told him immediately, and in my opinion as well as being a very nice, charming person, he’s a good director, technically one of the best, though he hasn’t been lucky in his career.

As a boxing buff, I’m really interested to hear how you found working with Marvelous Marvin Hagler in the Indio films…

Very good – the first picture wasn’t too good though, because he had only a small part and also he was working with Brian Dennehey, who is a great actor, and he hit him!  Dennehey’s a great actor, also on the stage, but poor Marvin the boxer, who arrived for the first time on a film set after doing just a coca-cola commercial…  but he resisted, he didn’t fall over. Marvin says his secret is that, although he isn’t very tall, he had very big feet, so when you hit him, he doesn’t fall over! (Laughs) But Brian hit him, and he didn’t have much to do in the first picture, but the producer gave him the chance to do the sequel, and when he got the chance to act he was very good, so he will be the partner of Terence Hill in this new picture I’m going to do, a black / white, salt’n’pepper teaming. I think it will work because he’s such a strange guy, Marvin, so weird, and he’s not bad… did you see the tape of Indio 2? He did quite well. Sure, he’s not an actor but he’s not a boxer who has problems after the boxing… his mind is straight, perfect, you don’t get many like that. He destroyed a lot of people. I remember when I saw him the first time he had this little beard, you know, to look tough. I go to meet him in the Manila hotel because I didn’t have time to meet him in America. The first thing I said to him was, I think you should shave the beard and he was so angry he became white, if that is possible (laughs). I don’t know what is wrong with this man, he looked at me like I was crazy, like he wanted to kill me, and later he started thinking about it, and he said: “Maybe”.. I said: “What do you mean, maybe? You  have to do it!” (Laughs) I risked my life! The production manager, an Italian guy, was very tall, and all the way through this exchange with me and Marvin, he was getting shorter and shorter! (Laughs) So funny… that was our introduction. The same thing happened when I met the other black guy who killed loads of people …

Tony King?

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That Raquel Welch gets everywhere these days…

No, Tony King was an angel, he never killed anybody…. it was Jim Brown (above), who I had acting in a Western. One day I was in a canyon with him and the other guy, Big Fred Williamson (a very nice guy), and I said to Jim that he was to say to Fred: “Cover me” or something, while he ran to his place… so Jim comes to me, with all the production people and crew behind me, and he says: “Tony – I don’t like that.” I said to him: “You have to do that, because the story is that you run over there and get a machine gun and kill your opponents – that’s all in the script”, and he said: “OK, we’ll shoot it, but tonight we must discuss it.” And I said: “Let’s discuss it now – what’s the point of shooting it, if we’re not going to use it?” Anyway, he started making these noises like he was really angry, came over to talk to me and I turned round to get a chair for him… and everybody was gone, including the producer –  they had all run away! Why? Because in the picture before, 100 Rifles, somebody said he had thrown his girlfriend through a window, so everybody was very scared of him, and if you see him, so big… but he’s also very clever and one of the best chess players ever, unbelievable! When I turned I started to laugh because nobody was there and that was the moment, it eased the tension, so we discussed it there and I convinced him, he said OK, OK. Only then would they all came back. From that night on, every night we would sit in the hotel discussing everything, but very nice to be with him.  Afterwards, after the picture opened and everything, a friend of mine was in a party and somebody introduced Jim to him and he said: “I am a friend of Antonio”, and there was a long moment’s silence – suspense (laughs) – and Jim said: “He’s really a man”… from him that was the greatest compliment ever. I liked Jim very much, but unfortunately he was not lucky, had some problems to do with the Black Panthers, he kind of disappeared… I saw him recently on television in the States, it was about the player who killed his wife…

O.J. …

O.J., yes, and they went to Jim’s house and interviewed him about the case –  he was fat with white hair, very sad to see him.

I recently discussed a lot of these movies with Quentin Tarantino… I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but he’s a big fan of yours, collects everything you’ve ever done on video…

Why would he want to collect all these terrible movies? (Laughs) I’m lucky, because at my age, the arteriosclerosis has wiped most of them from your memory… hey, maybe he could get me a copy of Danza Macabre… that one’s very hard to find, you know. But I’ve made some terrible pictures, like Yor in Turkey with prehistorical animals, a very stupid picture though it did very well, in fact it’s probably my most successful…

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… and this one (he’s signing my Japanese programme for Cannibal Apocalypse – BF)… not a great picture, but that boy Lombardo Radice was a good actor… I sometimes do pictures, when I need the money, where I just read the agreement and not the script, I say: “OK, that will be a very beautiful picture” and afterwards maybe I am ashamed, but I keep working. You do it because you want the house in town, you want the house in the country, you want this, that, maybe a beautiful girl… whatever you want, everything costs a lot of money, and that’s the reason why I’ve made 70 pictures! People ask me: “Why so many pictures?”, I say: “Because I want money… and I’m not about to rob a bank or anything!”

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Slashing Budgets Was His Pleasure… House Of Freudstein Is Proud To Present The FABRIZIO DE ANGELIS Interview

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(This interview was conducted at David Warbeck’s Hampstead pile, The Convent, in 1996.)

How do you remember that remarkable director, Lucio Fulci?

I used him as director for four or five pictures by my production company, Fulvia. I went around the world with Lucio, a fantastic man and a fantastic director. He has become an increasingly popular director, but I think many people still don’t realise how good he was. Although Lucio only made “B” pictures, he was one of the ten best directors in Italy.

The timing of his death was so sad, because he was about to undergo this major critical re-appraisal… books are being written about him, he was about to collaborate on a film with Dario Argento…

Fulci was the best director, not only for horror, but also for adventure, comedy… whatever: a complete director, better even than Argento. The master is Fulci. Argento comes after him, and so do all the other Italian directors. Fulci is the teacher for all.

Did you have any problems with Argento, the producer of Dawn Of The Dead aka Zombi, when you brought out Zombi 2 aka Zombie Flesh Eaters?

Yes, we had problems, we had to go into court with our lawyers against the lawyers of Dario Argento, over the title. We won because we were able to prove that the legend of zombies has existed for years, it cannot be copyrighted.

You first met Fulci when you were both working for the producer Edmondo Amati?

Yes, Amati was my master, I worked as his production manager for three or four years. I think I made ten or twelve pictures with him as executive producer. Later I started to produce myself, after I left Fida, but I still have a very good relationship with Amati. Anyway, in this time I met Fulci, who was making pictures like Lizard In A Woman’s Skin for Fida, and when I was about to make Zombi 2, I decided to call Fulci to direct it, because at that time he was very down: after Zombi 2 he was up again, he was doing very well.

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At one point I gather you were considering Enzo Castellari to direct Zombi 2…

This is true, Originally we called Castellari, later we decided on Fulci. This is the real  story.

How would you compare and contrast Fulci and Castellari as directors?

Castellari is a good director, very good for action pictures…

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… a real pro, though as I keep saying, Fulci was a cut above all of them.

When you started working together, did you see any evidence of Fulci’s famous eccentricity?

(Laughing) I already knew that Fulci was a strange man… the first morning when we were shooting Zombi 2 in Manhattan, with the boat in the harbour, we had many problems… which is pretty normal for me. Fulci seemed to be very angry as we were trying to get the first shot, and suddenly he announced that he wasn’t going to do it. I called Lucio over with the rest of the crew, and I said: “Bye bye, if you won’t do it, then the picture is finished” Suddenly he was no longer furious, he said: “I’m only joking, I’ll get to work”… a fantastic character!

I heard that the original guy who was made up as a zombie to fight the shark underwater had a panic attack and ran away…

Yeah, that’s right! (Laughs)

Is it true that some footage which Fulci shot for Zombi 2 ended up in Zombi Holocaust?

No, not true.

What did you think of the way the American distributors re-cut Zombi Holocaust before releasing it as Doctor Butcher M.D.?

Really? I don’t know anything about that… very strange!

Zombi 2 was a huge international success…

Yes, in the United States, all over the world… but I think The Beyond is a better picture.

That one is widely recognised as a cult classic, now…

But originally you know, it was not a great success. After two years or so, people started picking it up. If we had made that picture two years later, it would have been a big hit. It never became a big hit in terms of money, but eventually it did become a big critical success. I think it’s definitely the best picture of Fulci.

Fulci told me he was very upset about the fact that the Italian video release of The Beyond leaves out the famous pre-titles sequence…

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Maybe. I never saw the video but if Fulci said that, it must be true…

What did Fulci and Sacchetti contribute, respectively, to the conception of The Beyond?

On every picture that I made with Fulci, the idea to make the picture was mine, then I would call Sacchetti and Fulci. I gave them the idea, and then together we wrote a treatment, then the script. On The Beyond for instance, I called them and said: “Let’s make a picture about people in a house where they discover The Beyond”… this is the idea that we set out with. Sacchetti is very good for this type of picture, Fulci too of course, so it was really a collaboration between those two, to develop this idea, so when we set out to make the picture we knew what we were doing.

I know Fulci attributed much of The Beyond’s success to the fact that you were a “hands-off” kind of producer, who didn’t interfere on the creative side…

Yes, but I always stayed very close to Fulci – and also my other directors, Castellari or whoever – observing what they were doing, so when I myself started directing I knew what it was all about.

After the success you and Fulci had with Zombi 2, how come he made City Of The Living Dead for Dania / Medusa?

In this time I made many films with Fulci. I had like an exclusive contract with him, but I gave him a permit for two or three months to go and make that film with somebody else… mostly in that three or four years, however, he worked only with me, and we made five pictures together.

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You had censorship problems with The New York Ripper…

Where?

It was banned in the United Kingdom…

I don’t remember this. We didn’t have any problems with this picture in other markets… I remember I was producing New York Ripper at the same time as one of Castellari’s Bronx Warriors films, and I had the Fulci troupe and the Castellari  troupe together in the same hotel…

I don’t think Fulci was very fond of Castellari…

They were OK. I think he was jealous because some evenings I went to dinner with Castellari… other evenings I would go with Fulci. Maybe there was friction because they were both very strong characters and I had both of them in the hotel, during the last week of Fulci’s shoot for New York Ripper… Castellari was looking at locations for the Bronx Warriors film, which we were going to start the next week.

I believe you and Fulci argued over the Egyptian prologue to Manhattan Baby, which he didn’t want to shoot…

Yeah.

I actually love that movie, though it’s generally regarded as your weakest collaboration with Fulci…

I like the movie too, but it wasn’t very well understood. It wasn’t a particularly strong movie, but a good atmospheric one. I like it a lot, and I think it will be rediscovered one day.

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Why was your working relationship with Fulci not continued after Manhattan Baby?

We didn’t collaborate again because many producers called Fulci, he went on to make Conquest for another producer… Giovanni Di Clemente gave him a contract for two years.

It didn’t work out very well for him, though… I gather they ended up fighting each other in court!

Yeah, they did.

Are you surprised that all these movies you made such a long time ago have this growing cult following, all these magazines dedicated to them, and so on?

No, I’m not surprised that people are still interested in these Fulci movies, in fact I am convinced that with the passing of time, more and more people will discover Fulci, realise how good he really was and learn from his work.

In retrospect, was Fulci as “difficult” a man as he’s been painted?

Sure, Fulci could be difficult to work with, but a lot of this was down to the fact that his first love was the movie, and people came a very definite second with him. To me he was a nice man, a nice collaborator, but he was certainly a perfectionist, he always wanted to get the best out of the people he worked with…

He had this fantastic team around him for the pictures that he made with you…

Fulci knew very well the right people to make a picture with. Sometimes he would tell me that there was a particular person that he didn’t like, but he knew that the person was good for the picture, so he would call him. He always called the best people… everybody says that Lucio Fulci was difficult, but the really difficult person is Umberto Lenzi… a very, very difficult person.

In the early days of your career you were production manager on Lenzi’s crime flick Violent Naples (1976) …

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Later I produced his film Cop Target, with Robert Ginty… Umberto is a good director, but not a very nice person.

You’ve also worked with Aristide Massaccesi…

I worked with him about twenty years ago, we produced two pictures together (Emanuelle And The White Slave Trade and Emanuelle And The Last Cannibals – BF). He’s a good man, a good technical director, though not on the same level as Lucio Fulci. Now, many years on, Massaccesi works in only one line, the “sexy” line, and I think he is the star of that line, as “Joe D’Amato”…

He only makes “hard” pictures now…

Yes, he changed directions, and he is a big name in sexy movies.

That’s the only way he can make money now… it’s a bad time for film-making in Italy, isn’t it?

Sure, it’s not a good moment for our type of picture.

What went wrong? Even ten years ago, there were so many pictures being made, now virtually nothing…

The problem is the dominance of American films… the Italians only do comedy films with no international appeal, the American pictures come along with their 100 million dollar budgets… it’s impossible for us to make the same picture. We can compete with the United States for ideas, but not with the money, it’s impossible. Our type of picture is finished, mostly because the Germans are not buying them anymore. They’d rather buy one American picture that makes lots of money than ten of our little pictures. The same in Japan, they know it will make a lot of money theatrically and on TV. Now we make just comedies and some pictures for television.

Do you have any hopes for an improvement in the situation?

I hope that in two or three years we will make the money with Europe, it will go well. We need two or three years…

What, more co-productions?

Yeah… another two years, also because the new generation of film-makers is not ready yet. Right now they’re young, they don’t speak German, Spanish or whatever. Another two years and we will be making big productions with Europe…

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Looking back again, you produced Alberto Martino’s picture 7 Hyden Park… I gather that he and the star of the picture, David Warbeck, didn’t get on very well…

Yeah (laughs)

You produced another of David’s pictures, Quella Villa In Fondo Al Parco aka Ratman, supposedly with Giuliano Carnimeo directing, though I’ve heard that you actually directed most of the picture…

Yeah…

Was he not up to the job?

Carnimeo was a director of Italian comedies, and he could not adapt to this different type of picture…

Unlike Fulci, who was so versatile…

Yeah.

How did you find this tiny Guy, Nelson De La Rosa, who plays Ratman?

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This was strange – I was in Santa Domingo to produce a picture called, er…

Overthrow?

Overthrow, yeah…  and one time I was in this bar with two actors, setting up a shot. They were sitting at a table, and suddenly I noticed that the table-cloth was moving. I was wondering what was under there, and suddenly a very little man ran out from under the table. Immediately I said to one of my crew: “Get the number of this man, I’m going to make a picture with him… I’ll call it Ratman!” So I got on with the job, and at the end of the day I was given the number. I called him, and we made the picture three months later…

David Warbeck had already made a movie called Panic with Tonino Ricci, a few years earlier. In that one he also fights a rat monster, and he even has the same co-star…

Yeah, Janet Agren.

Some sources claim that a sequel was made to Quella Villa, but I haven’t been able to find out anything about it…

No, there was no sequel.

You worked with Luigi Cozzi on Paganini Horror…

Cozzi is really a writer… he has a lot of good ideas about effects and so on, but I don’t really consider him to be a director. He doesn’t understand anything about timing…

What was the exact extent of Daria Nicolodi’s participation in that picture?

Nothing much… Cozzi knows her, and because she was the partner of Dario Argento, we thought it would help to sell the picture to have her name associated with it.

Why did you start to direct your own pictures, from Thunder onwards?

I was in America and I had just completed the last of the Fulci films and the last Bronx Warriors film, and my plan was to make another film, three months later, in Arizona. That was Thunder.

You had the same actor, Mark Gregory a.k.a. Marco De Gregorio…

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Yes, and I wanted Castellari to direct it again, but by this time Castellari had signed contracts with other companies… you know, when I took Fulci, Fulci was down; when I took Castellari, Castellari was down… after they made pictures with me, they were doing well again. Fulci and Castellari are the best directors for my type of picture, but  they were both committed to other projects. There were no other available directors that I liked, so I decided to direct Thunder myself, that’s all there was to it.

Did you find it easy or difficult to step into directing?

Not difficult, because I always watched my directors closely and was able to pick up what they had been doing. Thunder was an adventure film and it went very well, having great success in the United States and all over the world.

When you are producing and directing the same picture, does De Angelis the director fight with De Angelis the producer over budgets…

Yeah, there is a conflict… I tend to give other directors bigger budgets than I give myself.

Whatever happened to Mark Gregory? He was a crazy, mixed-up kid, by all accounts…

He was stupid because I wanted to send him to the United States to study English and sign him to a 2-3 years contract, but another producer called and offered him a lot of money to do one picture, after which he was finished.

A bad career decision…

Yeah, he disappeared after that.

I interviewed another actor that you worked with, Giovanni Lombardo Radice…

Oh yes, he was a nice boy…

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“Who, me? Aw, shucks!”

He said that you gave him a really hard time on the film Deadly Impact…

Yeah?

Was he complaining too much, or was that true?

It’s true, yeah (laughs).

You directed Killer Crocodile, then you produced the sequel with make-up effects ace Giannetto De Rossi directing…

Yeah…

Has he got it in him to succeed as a director?

I don’t think so. It was my fault, I needed to have a big crocodile, and the only man in Italy who could make it was Giannetto de Rossi. He really is the top man for special effects, and he should stick to what he is best at, but I knew that he wanted to direct, so I called him and told him that if he made me a big crocodile for the first picture, I would let him direct the second… my fault.

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You were dissatisfied with the job he did on Killer Crocodile 2… is that why the film is padded with a lot of footage from its predecessor?

Yes, to cover the gaps.

You recently made Favola, a kind of fairy-story, again with David Warbeck…

Yeah… Favola is a TV Movie. We used the girl  Ambra Angiolini, because she is a real phenomenon with the young people in Italy right now.

What about our host today, David Warbeck… what are the qualities that have led to you using him in your films again and again?

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David is the best actor I know, there is no type of role that he cannot cover. He is such a friend, I can call him from anywhere in the world and he will arrive, even if he has not seen a script, because there is such trust between us, you know? This is very important…

Do you have any projects that you are keeping up your sleeve until the market is ready for them?

For some time now, maybe five years. I have been making pictures for young people, 10-15 years old, and now I feel that I want to make something stronger, like the films I did with Lucio Fulci.

Some of your former collaborators, when I interviewed them, complained that you made a lot of money from these films, and they didn’t. I think it’s only fair that I give you a chance to reply here…

Well, I pay as much as anybody else pays and you know, many of the people who complain are still working for me, so I can’t be that bad. Another thing – they only remember the pictures that went well, but they shouldn’t forget that for every Zombi 2, there are several Manhattan Babys!

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Happy Birthday, Sweet Freudstein (With Big Thanks To Irene…)… THE 1st HOUSE OF FREUDSTEIN ANNUAL REPORT

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It’s turned into the purtiest Blog you’ve ever seen… and just a year old, today!

In the latter part of 2015 I was already doing a music blog, the now defunct Boot Room Of Ozymandias. Only available to a small circle of fellow Prog Rock enthusiasts, it was, frankly, a bit crap. It did, however, afford me the opportunity to learn the tricks of the blogger’s trade while dropping most of my clangers away from the public gaze.

The yen to do a film blog was kindled in me by none other than Irene Miracle. The lovely and talented star of Inferno, Night Train Murders et al was well chuffed with the interview we’d done (which appeared in issue #167 of Dark Side magazine) and wondered if there was any chance of getting it on-line. Her admirers around the world (particularly her fanatical Japanese following) would just lap it up, she assured me. I asked DS editor Allan Bryce if he would consider running this piece on the web site of his august organ but at the time he was experiencing some problems in that department and about to change web master. When I mentioned this to Irene, she asked me why I didn’t consider setting up my own film blog. Why not indeed…

At the end of 2015 I closed The Boot Room (though that re-emerged, mutated and upgraded, as http://www.theozymandiasprogject.wordpress.com in May 2016… I wish I could devote enough time to making that as it good as it should be but hey, I’ve only got one pair of hands and 24 hours in a day) and on 01.01.16 officially launched http://www.houseoffreudstein.wordpress.com upon an unsuspecting world, leading off with the aforementioned Irene Miracle interview. She wasn’t bullshitting about how well it would go, either. A year on, she’s still fighting it out with David Warbeck for the laurel of most-visited posting and yes, many of the days on which she’s scored particularly strongly seem to coincide with days when we’ve had a lot of Japanese visitors. A woman of indisputable discernment, here’s wishing Irene every success with the various projects she has in development, notably Bangkok Hardtime.

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(http://www.dawnland-movie.com/ChangelingTheMovie/IreneMiracle)

Me Me Lay (or Lai, depending on what source you consult) grabs the bronze, unexpectedly (to me, anyway) relegating Lucio Fulci to fourth place and our look at Soledad Miranda on Severin BDs registered as the fifth biggest draw for most of our first year. Any Severin coverage tends to generate a strong response, actually and their Barbara Steele triple bill BD leap frogged Ms Miranda on the day of La Steele’s birthday, 29.12.16. Soledad certainly did her ratings no harm at all by the imperious manner in which she shrugged her kit off in the gif we used to advertise that posting on social media. Oh go on then, here it is again…

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Our Top 10 postings for 2016 are rounded out by Torso (anything Martino and / or Fenech related seems to be well received), our survey of Italian Exorcist knock-offs and two more Severin releases. Gregory and Daft’s brain-boggling Zombi Holocaust / Doctor Butcher set narrowly edged out their Burial Ground for both the number 9 spot and our pick as HOF Release Of The Year.

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This just in from our medical correspondent… Butcher stuffs Strange!

You’ll be seeing a lot more of that kind of stuff in 2017… I can take a hint, you know! In the meantime it would be nice if some of our less favoured postings started to pick up a few viewings in the New Year… I was particularly pleased with my breezy account of the Freudstein family cinema outing to check out Doctor Strange (this at the behest of my rabidly Cumberbitch daughter)… currently residing at the very bottom of our chart!

Despite the odd minor disappointment it’s been a good year,  in which we’ve made a lot of new cyber friends (and even met some of them) and had rather a jolly time e.g. celebrating the month of Scalarama, reporting from Nottingham’s spiffing Mayhem Film Festival and mounting well received Weekenders devoted to Paul Naschy, David Warbeck and Sergio Martino (with preparations for new ones in 2017 already underway.) We’ve scoured every corner of the globe for cinematic treats ranging from the Art House (The Quay Brothers) to the outhouse (Jesus Franco), from gothique Italian horrors of the ’60s to contemporary releases like Attack Of The Lederhosen Zombies and leavened the mix with such occasional mainstream / big budget efforts as the aforementioned underperforming Doctor Strange. We try to cater for all tastes here at The House Of Freudstein…

… which means that in 2017, among more weekenders, major interviews, reports and reviews we’ll be hoping to cover a lot of stuff we haven’t really touched on in our first year… a few Spaghetti Westerns wouldn’t hurt… and  Poliziotteschi… yeah, you can expect a tidal wave of Crime Slime any time soon.

In the meantime, thanks for your support and Happy New Year from we Freudsteins…

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Thanks, Pal!

Categories: Features | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lucio Fulci Grabs You By The Pussy… THE BLACK CAT Reviewed

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BD. Regions A/B. Arrow. 15.

Even while Lucio Fulci’s zombie quartet was wowing the splatterati in the early ’80s, any attempt to do critical justice to his underrated non-Z offerings was thwarted, if not by sheer unavailability then by the poorly panned, scanned, expurgated and washed-out looking video releases that some of them did manage… One On Top Of The Other, Lizard In A Woman’s Skin, The Naples Connection, Manhattan Baby and “The Eroticist” all suffered in this way, as did the film under consideration here. All have subsequently been resurrected and reappraised in all their diverse digital glory and now it’s the turn of Fulci’s 1981 effort, The Black Cat…

Fulci only got the gig directing Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979) for Fabrizio De Angelis after both Enzo Castellari and Joe D’Amato had turned it down. When that one scored big time at international box offices, De Angelis overlooked the obvious claims of Fulci to direct his quickie cash-in on his own quickie Dawn Of The Dead cash-in, 1980’s Zombi Holocaust (possibly in an attempt to boost profits by cutting costs, possibly because he just couldn’t get on with the notoriously irascible Fulci), ultimately signing up Castellari’s dad (!?!) Only when City Of The Living Dead aka Gates Of Hell (1980), wrought by Fulci and his crack team of collaborators (Salvati, De  Rossi, Frizzi) for rival producer Giovanni Masini, brought home the Grindhouse bacon, did De Angelis see fit to liaise once more with Lucio for that crucial 1981 brace of low-budget living dead miracles The Beyond and House By The Cemetery. In the meantime Fulci had undertaken this predictably looser-than-diarrhoea Pasta Paura variation (“freely adapted”, as the credits readily admit, by Biagio Proietti) on Poe’s portentous pussy parable for producer Giulio Sbarigia.

Much loved by UK horror hounds, Fulci obviously found these British Isles a convivial environment, as witnessed by his swinging London giallo Lizard In A Woman’s Skin (1971) and the Beachy Head opening to The Psychic / Sette Note In Nero (1977.) Here he appears to have gone native, turning in a rendering of The Black Cat that you might swear, if you didn’t know differently, had been produced by Amicus in the early ‘70s. This impression is underscored by the iconic presence of Asylum star Patrick Magee (on top scenery-chewing form) in the role of Professor Robert Miles, whose attempts at communicating with both the eponymous evil moggy and recently deceased inhabitants of his village recall nobody as much as doomed maverick record producer Joe Meek. Rumour has it that this role was originally offered to Peter Cushing.

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The rolling pea-soupers that frequently fill the screen are another nod to the iconography of Brithorror but also reminiscent of the prevailing weather conditions in City Of The Living Dead’s Dunwich. Needless to say, the man who directed that priest-hanging, brain drilling, gut-puking atrocity doesn’t let all this eldritch atmosphere obstruct the unfolding of the expected cavalcade of ultra-violence… I mean, Daniela Doria’s in this film (misspelled as “Dorio” in its titles, though a victim by any other name…) for Chrissake! Surreptitious hanky panky is often the cause of DD’s demises in Fulci’s films and here, as “Maureen Grayson”, she sneaks off with the amorous Stan to make out in a boat house, only for that darned cat to make off with the key and sabotage the air conditioning, so both of them  suffocate (which apparently involves foaming rabidly at the mouth), their putrefying corpses (in a typically gratuitous Fulci touch) subsequently being gnawed on by rats.

Because their disappearance follows hot on the heels of a guy going head first through his windscreen then burning to death in the wreckage of his car (after another run in with that malevolent moggy), Scotland Yard bike over one of their finest, Police Inspector Gorley (!) to this rural backwater. As played by David Warbeck, his double act with local beat bobby Wilson (“Al Cliver” / Pier Luigi Conti) makes for a characteristically skewed and perversely enjoyable Italian take on British police procedure (and approved hair styles!)

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Not that this dynamic duo can do much to quell the ever-accelerating accumulation of bodies… the local drunk is stalked through a derelict building by you-know-what until he falls from a beam and is impaled on some handy-dandy spikes. Then the feline fiend starts a fire in the house of Maureen’s mom (Dagmar Lassander), who ends up crashing through the bedroom window in her flaming flannelette nighty (wasn’t that a George Formby song?) Warbeck ends up in hospital too after his own run-in with the eponymous flea-bag, though Fulci’s decision to cut the sequence of his convalescence and spring DW as a surprise survivor at the picture’s climax meant that his customary directorial cameo, this time as a doctor, also had to go.

Did I nearly forget to mention Mimsy Farmer as “Jill Travers”? If so it’s because her turn as an ex-pat American photographer (who spends her time strolling around local cemeteries and climbing down into the catacombs and ossuaries with which Fulci apparently believed our English countryside to be littered) is one of her least effective forays into the field of Pasta Paura. As for her misfiring love scenes with Warbeck… put it this way, David – normally gentlemanly to a fault –  remembered her to me as “that odd bitch”! He also told me that Fulci advised him not to worry too much about acting in The Black Cat because the script wasn’t up to it! The film is indeed an entertaining albeit insubstantial souffle, which only serves to underscore the intensity of Magee’s mesmerising central performance, a performance that is doubly (trebly?) impressive given that he was simultaneously battling the poor script, alcoholism (not very effectively) and Fulci (the director intimated to me that their troubled working relationship culminated in an actual fist fight!)

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“C’mon, own up… who farted?”

Of course the other factor holding everything together is that Fulci (when he could take time out from beating up his lead actors!) was a considerable visual stylist. With the aid of favoured DP Sergio Salvati he mounts painterly compisitions and delivers familiar low slung steadicam shots (here rendering feline POV), signature tracking zooms and ultra close-ups on characters’ eyes (while uncharacteristically resisting the temptation to force sharp objects into them.) Editor Vincenzo Tomassi, art director Massimo Antonello Geleng and production designer Massimo Lentini all make sterling contributions to that Fulci look. Makeup FX technicians Franco Di Girolamo and Rosario Prestopino substitute satisfactorily for the De Rossis and music wise, the absence of Fabio Frizzi barely registers, given a splendidly quirky Pino Donaggio score that perfectly compliments Fulci’s visuals by alternating the beautiful (wistful woodwind motifs) with the bizarre (droning bag-pipes!)

Arrow’s 2K restoration of The Back Cat presents all this sound, vision and feline fury with admirable clarity, restoring this previously marginalised title to the pantheon of late ’70s / early ’80s Fulci classics where it belongs. This edition boasts, furthermore, some truly nifty bonus materials. In “Frightened Dagmar”, Frau Lassander reflects on her lengthy exploitation career and how the roles dried up when she attained “a certain age.” Interesting that the supposedly misogynistic Fulci found roles for her when her bloom had faded though, as she laughingly recalls, he nearly did set fire to her for real. I’m yet to check out the audio commentary by erstwhile Fango editor Chris Alexander but can’t help wondering if Stephen Thrower might have been a better choice to deliver it. Thrower fans fret ye not, though, as he’s all over the rest of this disc. The featurette From Poe Into Fulci: The Spirit Of Perverseness hints at the painstaking approach to Fulci studies which make the upcoming, updated edition of his Beyond Terror tome from FAB Press such a tantalising prospect. At Home With David Warbeck is a lengthy interview with the much-missed actor at his Hampstead pile, The Convent. Looks like it was recorded on super-VHS at best but Jeez, did it bring back some wonderful memories. Shortest and sweetest though is In The Paw Prints Of The Black Cat where ST, in suitable rambling attire, takes us on a walking tour of the film’s Hambledon and West Wickham locations, including the caves where Mimsy Farmer had a rummage among them bones and Francis Dashwood before her had hosted his Hellfire Club bunga-bungas. By its very nature the shortest of shorts, this one had me wishing that it could have gone on ten times as long. You get a trailer and a reversible sleeve of course but no booklet… apparently that was reserved for the pricey box set in which Arrow previously  paired The Black Cat with Sergio Martino’s Your Vice Is A Locked Room And Only I Have The Key, a title which I’ll be reviewing in these very blog pages shortly.

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He thought he saw a puddy tat…

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Categories: Blu-ray / DVD Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

One Night At MacColl’s… CATRIONA MACCOLL Interviewed In 1995

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Despite that punning title (and its allusion to a Liv Tyler film you’ve probably already forgotten), the following interview with the delightful Catriona MacColl actually began at The Convent, David Warbeck’s listed Hampstead pile on the evening of 07/10/95, and was concluded by phone a couple of days later, with a Joe D’Amato interview sandwiched in between for good measure! By God, those were the days… The event was Eurofest ’95 at the Hampstead Everyman and I believe it was here that Catriona’s eyes were opened to the devoted following she had built up among Horror fans. She has subsequently graced countless conventions, festivals and fan events.

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Catriona, my readers will be wondering what you’ve been up to since starring in The House By The Cemetery…

I live in Paris now, and I haven’t done so many movies in the last few years, unlike David Warbeck I haven’t been working quite so much in Italy. Just recently I’ve been working on French TV. Last week I finished the first episode of an American TV series that is going to be called Troubles, I believe, with Nigel Havers.. a completely different genre but quite dramatic, nevertheless.

I believe you started off in showbiz as a hoofer?

I did indeed, I went to the Royal Ballet School for eight very pleasant but very arduous, exacting years.

And how are your feet, these days?

Mine aren’t too bad, because I only did two years professionally. That’s what took me to France, I went to dance in Marseilles with a fairly infamous character – I’ve worked with a lot of them – called Roland Petit, he’s a fairly decadent character, married to Zizi Jenmaire. Then I suffered an ankle injury … classic story for a dancer because we push our bodies so hard … it was nothing that was going to bother me in everyday life, but it really took away all the pleasure I was getting out of dancing. So there I was, wondering what to do with myself next. I didn’t really want to go back to England, because living in the South of France is pretty glamorous when you’re 18 or 19. To cut a long story short, I ended up joining a repertory company in Nice, dancing a bit and playing small parts. After two years with them I was playing Ophelia in French, and I realised that I was getting a bigger kick out of acting than dancing. I had found my niche. So I was having a great time, flirting around with all these extraordinary people… Nureyev followed Roland around quite a lot, he’d come to watch us dance and we’d go to glamorous parties at his house … Roland introduced me to a French agent and I started working on French TV, two years after that I got Lady Oscar with Jacques Demy, who was a prestigious French New Wave director … one of his biggest claims to fame was discovering Catherine Deneuve. So I was getting established in France. I tried to work in England, you’ll can probably see from my C.V. that this coincided with my marriage to the English actor Jon Finch … another infamous character (laughs), though he’s settled down a bit these days. The marriage lasted six year and I did do several things in England, but I wasn’t terribly well understood – they saw me as the woman from France, the continental actress, and I’d say: “No, I’m as British as you” but they wouldn’t have it.

A bit like Jane Birkin, who was stuck with this odd, trans-Channel sort 0f identity …

I guess I must have that, too. I’m not aware of it, but people tell me I have this kind of Continental touch and over here directors would either be swooning over me because I’d worked with people like Jacques Demy and the other French directors they’d studied at Film School, or they’d look at me and say “Who? What? You’re English, what are you doing working in France?” So when my marriage to Jon ended I tried to pick up the thread of my career In France and the industry over here was in recession anyway… and I’ve just always seemed to go down better in Europe, must be something to do with the way I am.

A certain “je ne sais quois” …

I’ve pondered this over the years, and although I say it myself and it might sound a little immodest, they tend to like more sophisticated women on the Continent. In Britain they like the more “street-wise” type of actresses and there are many wonderful ones that I greatly admire, but they’re slightly scared of sophistication, they don’t know what to do with it. As a result, various actresses of my ilk have had to leave and normally they’ve had to go to America. It hasn’t always worked out for them, but they’ve given it a go. It did work very well for Jayne Seymour… though I’m not so sure she’s as sophisticated as all that, actually,

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I think it’s safe to say that Demy’s Lady Oscar (1979) was a unique project… I’m quoting from a contemporary review, here: ” … an English adaptation of a popular Japanese comic-strip about 18th Century France, shot with mostly unknown actors in France by a Franco-British crew on Japanese money.”

Yes! (Laughs)

You play a girl who was raised as a boy and becomes the bodyguard Marie Antoinette, before getting politicised and throwing her lot in with the masses …

Yes, the screenplay was taken from 20 volumes of a Japanese strip cartoon (“Versailles No Bara” – Ed), written by a woman (Ikeda Riyoko – Ed.) They originally approached George Cukor to direct it. He declined and recommended Jacques Demy for the job. So they rushed over to France, commissioned Jacques to write the screenplay with an American writer… so already that was a strange mix … then they set about trying to cast it. They were looking for American actresses, they saw five hundred of them for that part, then George Cukor said to Jacques you should get English actors for this, because it’s a historical movie and that’s what they do well. Jacques agreed and went to England but they still couldn’t find a girl they agreed on because there was a big cosmetic contract tied up with this movie…

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… most of the money was coming from a big Japanese cosmetics company that is now a world leader, but in those days was still trying establish itself in the market place. All the top executives had to agree on this girl, but they couldn’t. Jane Birkin was up for it, and also Dominique Sanda, the actress who appears in a lot of Bertolucci’s films, but the Japanese decided that they didn’t want anybody with any sort of “a past” attached to them, which counted Jane out…

She’s certainly got quite a saucy past…

… definitely, so they decided to go for an unknown, and they still couldn’t find the girl. Jacques was in despair. Finally, very late in the day, he just happened to ring up a childhood friend of his, a TV director in France who had been his assistant, and this guy Bernard said: “The girl you want is standing right next to me at this very moment!” I was doing a TV drama with him in Brittany at the time … so I was duly packed off the next day to meet Jacques Demy and his wife, the whole thing was a bit like a fairy story … Jacques had screened samples of my previous work the day before my first interview with them, and I came highly recommended by his closest friend. It went like a dream, so at the end of the interview he slammed his fist down on the table and insisted: “If Catriona’s not doing the movie, then I’m not doing it either!” and all the Japanese started going berserk, flashing Polaroids at me, phoning Tokyo and talking in Japanese … to cut a long story short, three days later I’d signed the contract. But there was a downside, because it took a year of my life, I had to learn how to fence…

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… how to ride and shoot for about 11 weeks … then I went to Spain with about four different Japanese camera crews to shoot stuff for the cosmetics campaign, we shot a New Year’s Eve special in Tokyo, I was there for several weeks to promote the movie, we went to various film festivals, and I literally became an overnight star in Japan. The sad thing was that this movie has never really been seen anywhere else, and it should have done a lot for me … even Louis Malle, who’d seen it at a private screening, came up to me at a party in Los Angeles and said “You’ll do fine now, you’re off”, you know? Unfortunately I suffered this big come-down because it didn’t happen, the film just disappeared. It took me a long time to find out why … apparently they made so much money off this movie in Japan that they weren’t too bothered about selling it anywhere else. People wanted it, they tried to buy it, but it’s like working with people from another planet, working with the Japanese. ..

… a nation of Fulci fanatics!

That doesn’t surprise me at all, actually. The Fulci movies came shortly after Lady Oscar … it was so disappointing for me because I really thought my career was going to take off on an international level, and it should have done because I was playing this wonderful part, a woman dressed a man, 18th Century costume, etc, etc. It really was the part of a lifetime, and it struck a definite chord with Japanese youth at the time. I hadn’t realised that I would be bombarded with all these questions about feminism and what it was like to be dressed as a man, we were already miles ahead of that on the feminist track in the West, but they were still battling their way through all that stuff …

They still are, I think …

Yeah. They thought this “liberated” me, having a sword and dressing like a man, it was quite difficult for me to talk to them about this without just saying: “For god’s sake, c’mon!”, you know … anyway, even though it didn’t do what it should have done for me, Lady Oscar was a tremendous experience, I loved it… really mind-boggling, it holds a special place in my heart. It was shown at the 1979 London Film …

Yeah, that’s where this review comes from, which I’m currently perusing … you’ll be delighted to hear that it says: “MacColl looks fabulous.”

That’s nice …

… and indeed you still do.

Well thank you, John! (Laughs)

Now: Lucio Fulci …

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(Rolls eyes) What do you wanna know?

Well, for starters, how you met him, your early impressions, etc … don’t worry, I’ve met him myself, so I know what a wacky guy he is …

Completely wacky and probably getting wackier as he gets older. This came about because the Italian agent I was with at the time…

Count Perroni?

Yes! He’s worth going to Italy for on his own, another of these infamous “characters” that I seem to attract. I really liked him, probably should have stayed with him, but I went with another agent who I thought would be better for me, though that’s not the way it turned out. So anyway, he had been over to England to do the rounds of various agencies, looking for blonde, blue-eyed, fragile heroine types. I got a call saying they wanted to fly me out to Rome within 24 hours to meet Lucio Fulci, and I thought it would be silly of me to say no. So off I went, and we had this rather formal meeting in these baroque, rather decadent, quite wonderful offices that Perroni had … still has … and it was like I’d arrived in a different world. Instead of going to some grotty little office in Soho, there I was in this mini-palace in the middle of the old part of Rome and of course it was absolutely wonderful. Then I found out that they had a problem with my name …

Which seems to be spelled differently in the credits of every movie …

Well, my given name is Catriona, a good Scottish name … in fact it’s the Gaelic version of “Katherine” … but when I went out to Italy to do the first movie with Lucio, our mutual agent over there just looked at me in horror and said: “Let’s call you Katherine, like the great ‘epburn … I’m afraid you’ll never make a career in Italy with the name ‘Catriona”’, and I indignantly asked: “Why not? It’s a beautiful Celtic name!”, so he told me: “It means something else in Italian… it means ‘big fat Katherine’!” I thought they should bill me as Catriona anyway, as a kind of a gimmick, because as soon as anyone saw me they would realise that I was anything but big and fat. Anyway, I had a formal meeting with Fulci, I was very dressed-up and obviously he liked that, we got on well and I can’t remember that we even discussed horror movies actually. But they gave me the script that night to read for the next day, I hadn’t ever read a horror movie script before so I didn’t quite know what I was letting myself in for …

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This would be the City Of The Living Dead script?

Yeah… and I thought: “Well, this is a bit over the top, isn’t it? But what the hell!”, and I suppose it was probably Perroni who persuaded me to do it. I remember at the same time I had been asked to do a small part in an internationally-respected Swiss director’s film…

Was this Claude Goretta, the guy who made The Lacemaker with Isabelle Huppert?

Yes… whatever happened to him? I had the choice to do this small part in a wonderful European director’s movie or “sell out” (laughs) and star in a horror movie. Perroni persuaded me that the latter was the correct course, and certainly the money was much better and I dunno, the whole thing seemed rather decadent and baroque and I thought: “What the hell, let’s go for this.” I got on quite well with Lucio at our first meeting. I haven’t seen him for some years, I don’t know what he’s like now, I would guess that he’s like an exaggerated version of what he was like then. He did amuse me, I’ve never been frightened of these “characters”.. that kind of thing excites and stimulates me rather than frightening me off. I thought: “I’m going to get the better of you, and win you over.” It wasn’t a fight, but as with Jack Palance in Hawk The Slayer, when everybody was terrified of him, I thought the same thing: “l’m gonna win through this – I’m gonna like you and you’re going to respect me.”

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Was Fulci trying to draw something out of you by being such a hard-ass?

No, my strength came out in spite of him, naturally, because that’s what I’m like in real life. Now that I know myself much better than I did then, I would like to concentrate even more on the paradox. I could see, with hindsight, watching House By The Cemetery for the first time since we made it, why I got the part, and why I was right for it and I would like to explore these two sides of me a bit more, have other parts that are a bit more demanding .. I feel ready to explore the strength and the weakness, the fragile side at the same time.

The script you saw for City Of The Living Dead… was it pretty much the finished article, or as loose as we hear these things sometimes are?

No, I would have said it was pretty tight actually, right down to that graphic detail. I thought a lot of that might be watered down before shooting, but in fact those bits turned out to be substantially accurate. I don’t know quite how much care goes into the writing of these things, but it seemed to me that they stuck quite closely to the script they had.

How much of the conceptualisation for these things was down to Fulci, how much to writers Dardano Sacchetti and his partner, Elisa Livia Briganti?

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I’m not sure, I mean they were around for various points in the shoot and there was one in particular, which was probably Sacchetti, who seemed to have quite a close relationship with Lucio. You kind of felt that they were intellectually on a par … it might seem weird to say that in connection with a horror film …

But Fulci’s a very cultured guy …

Oh he is, definitely, and he doesn’t take kindly to fools and I think that’s what he respected in me, when he found that he didn’t have a neurotic, hysterical girly on his hands …

Another actor from City Of The Living Dead, Giovanni Lombardo Radice, told me that he never saw Fulci being nasty to anyone without good reason …

Exactly. As long as he respects your own intelligence, and feels that you’ve got something to offer, and that you have a certain strength… I wouldn’t say that he doesn’t enjoy humiliating people slightly, there is a certain perversion inside him… just look at the movies he makes, that’s gotta come from somewhere, but it’s almost a compliment, a bit of a back-handed one, you kind of feel that if he bothers to even play around with all of that slightly, he’s just seeing whether he can get back a bit of what he gives out and I think I can say, I hope that he’d agree, that he met his match with me. There was a real mutual respect between us.

Yeah, I know that he asked you to appear in a couple of his subsequent films … Demonia, for instance.

He did ask me to do one or two but I was on to other things by then.

There were even ones where he cast definite “Catriona MacColl lookalikes” (e.g. Martha Taylor in Manhattan Baby) …

Really? Well, that is a compliment, isn’t it? I was aware, on occasions, of various actresses who behaved, perhaps, a touch hysterically or non-professionally … that annoyed Fulci and then he would take pleasure in being a bit cruel to them, humiliating them. I didn’t necessarily like that, but perhaps in a certain sense they deserved it. Hard to say, because he is a very strange man.

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I’m told that Ania Pieroni was only cast in The House By The Cemetery because she was a good friend of the producer, Fabrizio De Angelis, and Fulci was very scathing about her …

Well there you are … as a matter of fact, I think she looks rather peculiar, personally.

It’s very odd, because she does look very beautiful in two Dario Argento films, Inferno and Tenebrae …

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Lucio took a special sadistic pleasure in making her look as dreadful as possible. I wouldn’t put that past him at all … if she was imposed upon him, then that could be how he would get his revenge and in a way that’s quite funny, depriving her of the accoutrements that she was used to having in order to make her look good … I mean, she has this rather heavy sort of face, heavy features, and I kind of got the impression that she didn’t really know what she was doing in that role, I mean maybe she was used to playing a particular type of part, a sexier Italian mistress type of thing …

One actress who always suffered very badly in his movies was Daniela Doria …

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Yes, now that’s interesting. “Why her?”, one wonders. “Why does she go on doing them”, for starters and “What is it that Lucio’s got against her?” Clearly something, in a way. I don’t really have to do anything too horrible things in these movies, as the heroine I’m mainly running around screaming and nothing too hideous happens to me, certainly I don’t get my eyes poked out or anything, thank God … so from my point of view it was really a kind of a challenge to play these parts, because I had to explore my own sense of fear. And I found it more interesting than I thought it was going to be.

Your most gruelling scenes are probably in City, I’m thinking of the maggot storm … and I believe you had some problems with the scene in which you’re buried alive …

I didn’t want to do the maggot one at all! The make-up men had applied this sort of face-mask to me, which was supposed to keep the maggots off my skin, but I wasn’t convinced, so my eyes and mouth were screwed tightly shut throughout it. They had to psyche me up to do it with a double brandy, after I’d stopped crying. I think I probably hated Fulci during that take, because I felt that was the only time when he enjoyed rather humiliating me. But he was very nice to me afterwards, put his arm around me and said: “See, it was alright really…”

Easy for him to say …

Yeah, that’s when I did feel his perverted side coming to the fore. As for the “buried alive” scene, that came at the beginning of the story and I hadn’t really given too much thought to how it was going to affect me, spending all that time in the coffin. You sign up for these things, you don’t think about it too much and suddenly there I was in this coffin in a cemetery in New York. That was OK, but when we came to shoot the interiors in Rome, Lucio suddenly announced that there was going to be an axe smashing repeatedly through this coffin and stopping just a couple of centimetres from my head. At this point I thought: “Right, I should phone my agent and see if I really have to do this … I might be about to end my career with an axe stuck through my head for real!” So the special effects man explained to me that the mechanism they were using was totally safe, but I wasn’t sure if I could believe him, and he ended up getting into the coffin himself to show me how safe it was. So then I thought “I’m really going to have to go for this.” The problem then was that I Couldn’t keep my eyes open every time this thing crashed down and nearly hit me in the face, because your natural reflex reaction is just to close your eyes when something is threatening to hit you right between them. Lucio was getting more and more tense as the time wore on, so we were treated to a bit of a tantrum that afternoon, and he ended up jumping into the coffin himself to show me how easy it was, but that was him, so in the end we had to cheat our way through that one, piecing it together from various shots … it really was a problem. I asked somebody at the Eurofest, if I close my eyes in the scene as it appears on video, and I’ve been told that I blink, very quickly.

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Are you surprised that people remember these things in such minute detail… and generally at the cult status which the films have achieved?

As far as I was concerned when I made them, it was just a job of paid work. I didn’t really think much about it, although I suppose I haven’t gone out of my way in the past to tell people – in this country in particular, where they’re a bit sniffy about this sort of thing – that I’ve done a load of horror movies. But now that they’re becoming this cult thing, it’s become almost fashionable to have been in them. I’ve suddenly realised that the whole thing has changed, I mean I just saw Ed Wood … have you seen it?

Yeah, wasn’t Martin Landau’s performance fantastic?

Absolutely incredible – but the whole thing made me laugh so much, because the whole thing was a celebration of the genre as well, and although it’s tragic on a certain level because of what’s happened to Wood, he has become this cult figure, even if it is as “the worst director in the world” … and there were endless scenes that reminded me of both of the Eurofest, in a way and also of all the movies I made, and I thought well, maybe everything is coming around full circle…

Were your Italian movies really quite that chaotic?

Well, they certainly had their moments! (laughs) Lucio isn’t the worst director in the world by any means, he’s very professional and they weren’t a chaotic as that, he knows what he’s doing and he makes it look real, he hasn’t got these cardboard cemeteries and everything. He’s a true pro …

I think Fulci’s limiting factor is the resources he’s given, whereas if you’d given Ed Wood a massive budget, in the words of one of his collaborators: “”he still would have made a tasteless piece of shit!”

Oh, absolutely. But that whole sort of genre, B-movie thing seems to be so fashionable these days and I’m thinking maybe I should make some more, if somebody asks me …

I wish you would … before you suddenly stopped making horror movies, you were on the verge of becoming a sort of ’80s answer to Barbara Steele. I don’t know if you remember her, she was a bit of a reluctant cult icon …

Yes I do, as a matter of fact I’ve spoken to her on the phone several times. She’s a friend of a friend of mine in Paris, she was supposed to come and live in Paris but she hasn’t made it over from L.A. yet.

The corollary to all this “cult status” business is the dim view that has been taken of these movies by the censors …

The “video nasties” thing, yeah? I think it depends who sees them, obviously I don’t think I’d like any young children of mine to get their hands on them. They are gory, that’s true, but so very gory, so way-over-the-top that it puts them in a rather surreal, unreal dimension. They are frightening, but I think he anticipation of something horrible is always more frightening than when you actually see it. To be absolutely honest with you, at the time I was doing these films it didn’t occur to me that they might be thought of as being somehow… questionable, I think I was as much amused as anything else to how they were going to achieve half of these effects, and while making them we laughed a lot anyway, which I think is the only way to get through things like ..

… being covered in maggots …

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Well, I didn’t laugh much during that, I must admit, but generally speaking we did because the whole thing seems so ridiculous when you’re standing there in front of it. You know…  you’ve just seen the guy in the monster suit sitting in the canteen drinking a cup of coffee, or whatever. When I watched The House By The Cemetery again at Eurofest, I was struck by all the frightening scenes that the little boy, Giovanni Frezza, was involved in, and people might think that it must have been very distressing for him, but it wasn’t like that at all – his mother was with him on set at all times, Fulci was always kidding round with him and making him laugh. So they’re not frightening when you’re actually making them, and with regards to other people’s opinions as to whether you should do them or not, I mean to me it was just a job, you know … I’m a working actress. I wouldn’t do a porn movie, but everything else has its place, and I do think there’s been an over-reaction to these film. Anyone who went out and did something violent after seeing them must have been psychologically disturbed in the first place …

(At this point there was a break in the conversation while Catriona was called away to answer the front door).

OK, I’m back.

Who was it?

A man came to read the gas meter.

I’m getting this surreal mental image that it was Joe the plumber turning up in his bandanna and bib-and-brace and everything and he was going down into your cellar to get his eye poked out…

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(Laughs) I was just thinking, I do want to make one thing clear, that on the whole I don’t agree with gratuitous violence or sex, in fact, in films but I’m obviously talking about the three I did with Fulci, because several people on Saturday mentioned some of his later movies, including one that was particularly repugnant and violent in terms of what the women in it were being put through … I can’t remember the title of it..

Sounds like The New York Ripper…

That’s it.

Well, it’s a pretty notorious movie …

Well I’m just talking about the three I did with Fulci, I don’t have any point of comparison, not having seem that many of his others. I think that mainstream psychological thrillers are possibly more disturbing. The less gore you see, the more frightening it can be, if you see what I mean … because you’re living it and identifying with the characters, on the edge of your seat waiting for the violence to happen, whereas in these movies, though they are frightening, the fact that you see the monsters and you see what they do actually makes it less frightening.

Fulci is undoubtedly best known for in-your-face graphic imagery, but he’s also good with suspenseful sequences … I mean there are ones like you being rescued from the coffin in City Of The Living Dead and also the kid in The House By The Cemetery nearly being decapitated with that axe …

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Yes, I think Lucio would probably do quite a good job of making a psychological thriller, if he turned his hand to that…

He made an excellent suspense film in the late ’70s, actually, Sette Note In Nero…

There you are then, I hadn’t seen that one .. but The House By The Cemetery is probably more of a psychological thriller than the other two.. whereby you really feel for this poor woman who’s stuck between the real world and this other world, not knowing whether it’s really there or just in her head … is she going crazy or not? These are the kind of psychological aspects that I mean. But they clearly have a place, these movies, in the history of cinema, that’s something which I realise quite clearly now, having attended this event on Saturday and met all of these fans. It would be interesting to find out why you see so few girls there … what do you think? Do men feel more powerful when they see women in danger?

There’s definitely a sadistic element in there, but also perhaps a chivalrous urge, with the hero saving the heroine, the damsel in distress … I mean, in the cinema this goes at least as far back as The Perils of Pauline.

Perhaps that’s why men like these things more than women, who would identify more with the sheer fear and horror being endured by the female character on the screen ..

People say Fulci’s a sadist, Fulci’s a misogynist…

… a pervert (laughs) and all the rest to of it. I’m sure he’s got all the answers ready for all of those accusations.

Yeah, he refutes them very well. He told me that he lived with a psychotherapist for several years …

I remember her, yes, he was living with her when we were making those films.

… and she left him because she saw New York Ripper and it convinced her that he was a sadist, a misogynist and all of this. He told her that if hadn’t spotted these supposed defects in the several years they’d been living together, it didn’t say much for psycho-therapy …

That’s interesting. All I can say is he clearly didn’t hate me but I do wonder what’s going on in his head, what his relationship with his mother was like (laughs), and so on. He respected me, maybe the fact that I was foreign played a part.. I don’t know what his view of Italian women is … it’s a strange society, Italy, because although it’s quite matriarchal, the “momma” thing, it creates all these macho men, so you’ve got this strange paradox.. although they have this tremendous respect for their mothers, I’m not quite sure what they think of women in general. Particularly as far as actresses are concerned, you’re either the mother or the whore, there might be a very fine line in between as far as they’re concerned. I remember Fulci had a wonderful script continuity girl …

Rita Agostini?

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Yes, she was absolutely wonderful, had a great sense of humour… she and I got on fantastically well and Lucio clearly respected her a great deal. Perhaps he respects strong women and it.. I’m sure his psychotherapist lady friend must have been quite strong as well … but perhaps if he feels a weakness in a female he has a desire to humiliate her in some way … probably goes back to his mother ((laughs), whom I’m sure is a very strong lady although I don’t think I ever met her … she’s probably not with us anymore but I think she was then because sometimes he talked about her. I wouldn’t be surprised because they do seem to have a strong hold over their sons, it’s particularly pronounced in Italian society.

I think the paradox of machismo is that these guys are strutting around, with this great idea of their own worth, but this idea is actually given to them by their mothers, so in a way they’re reliant on women to buttress their masculine self-image …

.. and confidence, yes. Certainly in the past – not that much these days, thank God – there was a kind of ambivalent attitude attached to actresses, you weren’t particularly respected, as if there were something slightly whorish about it. But I personally didn’t get any of that from Lucio, he respected me and was depending on me to do a professional job for him.

When I met you I was amazed at how elegant and petite you are, and yet in these movies you’re running around, screaming, all these terrible things happening to you … how did you ever stand it all?

There’s a lot of energy in there, isn’t there? I’m just one of those people who has hidden resources, I’m renowned for it. I think I just dug into that inner strength really. I was quite struck, actually, when re-watching House By The Cemetery, by how highly charged it was, emotionally, all the time … quite liberating actually, you do feel a lot better afterwards, because you got to let it all out.. it’s quite satisfying in a strange therapeutic sort of way. I hadn’t seen House By The Cemetery since just after we made it, so that’s twelve, fifteen years, whatever it was. I think you could say I was pleasantly surprised, if that’s an apt expression, by the quality of the piece … the print was half-way decent, which also surprised me … the camera-work and everything … I thought it was pretty qood!

That was probably your best role in this trilogy you did with Fulci, I mean the characters are never too well drawn in these things but your character had much more of a back story in The House By The Cemetery than the one in, say, City Of The Living Dead…

Right, and I think that’s why I like The House By The Cemetery, and The Beyond too, much more than I like City Of The Living Dead. I don’t really like that one at all…

What the hell happens at the end of that one? I’ve never been able to figure it out…

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Well, various people were asking me about that at Eurofest. I’m afraid I can’t really elucidate it that much … I can’t even remember it very well, it’s such a long time ago since I saw it. I suspect Lucio just thought it was a trendy kind of way to end it, “Let’s just burn the film stock up”, or something … I guess they were stuck for an ending. Clearly it didn’t work, because nobody seems to have understood it.

I think that film was a little thrown together, compared to the others. I mean, you have this urgent mission, to find this priest and kill him before All Saint’s Day …

That’s right.

… and yet you and the other main characters just seem to be wandering around, stopping off for a bite, etc …

Yeah, just hanging around in sewers. You’re right, that wasn’t very good. I really don’t like that movie very much at all, I find the other two much more interesting, both from an acting point of view and in every other respect. I’m glad we did that one and then progressed to the others, that was the right way round to do it.

Fulci talks about “the anti-fascist sub-text” of the head-drilling scene in City Of The Living Dead, about The Beyond being inspired by the writings of Antonin Artaud … did he ever let you actors in on any of these allegedly allegorical and metaphysical underpinnings, or do you think he’s just rationalising after the fact?

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No actually … I ‘d certainly be very interested to hear what he had to say about certain films, but he never let on to us, if he’d thought all of that out in advance. He is a highly intelligent man though, and he’s got to get his inspiration from somewhere … it would be quite hard to rant on about that if you hadn’t thought it out in advance. It’s difficult to work out where he’s coming from … what do you think?

The standard line is: “The doubts of a tortured Catholic.”

Yeah, that’s quite likely, but none of that was ever shared with us actors. One got the impression that he was just churning these things out, you know… “Another day, another dollar.”

Other actors have told me that Fulci, fairly typically for an Italian director, concentrated more on the technicalities and left them pretty much to their own devices …

Yeah, I would say that was pretty much the case, it was certainly true of Fulci. He didn’t like being asked questions. If I asked a question, he would always listen but I think that was because he had a certain amount of respect for me, more than anything else. I tried not to ask him too many because as you say. my characters weren’t particularly well developed and everything was pretty clear cut, and I knew he was depending on me to be a bit of a trouper …

How did you get on with the producer, Fabrizio De Angelis?

De Angelis was always perfectly pleasant to me, though I didn’t have much contact with him. He was a cool, removed kind of character, perhaps a little bit difficult to get to know.

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Catriona with Beyond stunt man Larry Ray…

How much did Fulci rely on the team of collaborators he had around him at that time? I mean, a couple of films later that team broke up …

Oh really? That’s interesting, that it broke up … do you happen to know why, as a matter of fact?

I think he fell out with De Angelis and went to work for other producers … it’s widely felt that his subsequent films were never as good as the ones he made with the collaborators he’d had since the mid-seventies …

That’s probably true.. I think he depended tremendously on Rita, for a start.. I’m trying to remember the name of the lighting cameraman …

That would be Sergio Salvati. ..

… he seemed to understand Lucio perfectly well. It’s hard working with Lucio, I think, if you don’t have some kind of inner communication with him. Again, I don’t think Lucio needed to say anything in particular to either of those two, they just knew what he wanted and got on with it. The make up artists as well, of course, he relied so heavily on them and they were just brilliant.

I was going to ask you about your memories of Giannetto De Rossi…

He was one of the best in Italy, and I’m sure he still is. Are there not two, the De Rossi brothers?

Giannetto and Gino, I think (apparently cousins – Bob F.)

I wish I could remember, it was so long ago…. it was mostly the assistant, Franco Rufini, who worked on me … he was absolutely wonderful. The Italians really are the top guys in that line, I think, and they’d all done lots of different films, it’s the same with everybody over there – the directors, actors, technicians – they all move in the same circle and one day they’re working with Federico Fellini, the next with Lucio Fulci and it doesn’t matter at all, there isn’t the same sort of taboo attitude as there is here, which is great.

I’ve always liked this cross-pollination between “worthy” and more populist pictures …. presumably De Rossi, Rufini and co need to have a sensitive “bedside manner” when they’re putting you through all these fiendish make jobs?

Yeah, they were fantastic, I mean always terribly caring. They have to have some psychological understanding of actors, because they’re the first people you see at 6.30 in the morning, when you’ve just crawled out of bed and the last thing you want is to have stuff put all over your face and be hit with maggots, so they really do treat you with kid gloves, they listen to your problems and try to build you up, psychologically, in that hour-and-a-half or whatever, so that you’re awake, full of energy and raring to go. I particularly remember Franco being wonderful, it was a great pleasure to work with him and I was also slightly in awe of those guys, because they had worked with so many great actors and directors, too …. Antonioni, Fellini, Sergio Leone …

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Something that looks really stunning is this vision of Hell that you and David run into at the end of The Beyond…

I think that was done on the very last day of shooting, it was just before Christmas and we were all keen to get it over with, though there was quite a nice atmosphere because everybody had the festive spirit. When you’ve been with a film crew for that long, six weeks in Rome and a few weeks in The States, you’ve got to know everybody quite well and there is a real camaraderie that builds up, which is very pleasant.

That’s the second time you’ve mentioned a scene towards the end of a Fulci film that was shot pretty much towards the end of the schedule … was that just the way that things worked out, or did Fulci – contrary to general practice – tend to shoot scenes in their scripted sequence?

Let me think … no, these things aren’t generally shot in sequence, though the more “in sequence” it is, the better for us actors. I can’t remember if it was the same sound stage we’d been working on or whether it was the one next door, perhaps we had to get rid of one set and put up another one and that’s  why they did it at the end. It was obviously more practical for them to create that sequence then … I’m sorry to be so vague about all this …

Well, it was so long ago … was it painful to wear those contact lenses?

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Terribly … terribly. In fact it was absolutely ghastly. We couldn’t see anything, we had to keep them in for as little time as possible, because they were so painful. Again, Franco did his best to make things as comfortable for us as possible, putting drops in our eyes, making sure the lenses were as clean as possible and everything, but I don’t think I could have worn them for very much longer than we did.

I don’t want to quiz you scene by scene by scene, because if I start that, I could go on for ever, but there s a scene in The Beyond which always makes people laugh, because the guy in it has been so badly dubbed …

Ah yeah …

You go into a book shop looking for this occult tome and there’s this weird little old guy cackling “It’s a very nice book … very, very interesting!”

I remember that one, yeah. They’re usually pretty well-dubbed, because the Italians are great specialists at dubbing, but sometimes it was very difficult, again because of the logisticsof movie-making – people do make these mistakes and it does affect the quality slightly, though perhaps it doesn’t matter too much in the horror genre. People get hired who aren’t actors, at the last minute they realise they need a book-seller or whatever, so they’ll drag somebody in off the streets, somebody who has something to do with the a film crew, or somebody local who fancies himself as an actor, or something ..

As we mentioned, sometimes the producer’s girlfriend ends up in the movie …

In Italy that often happens. It happens all over the world, of course, and if they’re good then nobody says anything about it, but if they’re lousy … (laughs) … then everybody seems to know why they were in it. It’s a shame in a way, about the dubbing, because there are some small roles which are totally ruined as a result.. there’s one in particular actually, in The House By The Cemetery, I seem to remember Dagmar Lassander at the estate agency with this guy who says …

“That Freudstein house … that Freudstein house!”

Yes, he’s dubbed a bit weirdly … I mean, arguably it gives the scene more of a weird, strange, ethereal quality, but I just remember him being awful … I don’t think he’d ever acted in his life before, and he was very excited about it all, but he was dreadful, absolutely dreadful, and of course when you come to dub them afterwards it can be quite difficult.

Any memories of your female co-stars in these movies? Dagmar Lassander, Janet Agren, Cinzia Monreale …

I remember Dagmar being a laugh-and-a-half, she and Janet were the kind of strong women that I think Lucio respects. Lucio really liked her, you could tell that he did, and it was the same with Janet… she’s Swedish isn’t she? Very professional, a good actress, too … delightful to work with, as was Cinzia.

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What about the guys? Christopher George, David Warbeck, Carlo De Mejo, Paolo Malco …

Christopher was terribly sweet. I did kind of feel that I could lean on him a bit because he was such an old pro and he didn’t seem phased by anything … I remember being very upset when I read about his death in Variety a couple of years later. He was a very nice family man who talked a lot about his wife and children …

She went on to direct didn’t she … Linda Day George?

Did she? She used to be an actress … good for her. Very attractive woman. David Warbeck is a case unto himself, as I’m sure you already know (laughs). He’s a delight to work with, always laughing, full of anecdotes, totally into what he’s doing, but still having a good time. Another thing I like about him is that he doesn’t bullshit about what he’s doing, he knows the quality of some of it and he’s not pretentious in any way, which is something I really admire. He just has a ball. I’m delighted that things are going so well for him and that he’s got so many fingers in so many different pies.

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Carlo was really delightful, quite a serious actor … he was Alida Valli’s son, so he had an awful lot to live up to. He was very into theatre at the time so we talked about that quite a lot. He was absolutely charming, and seeing him in these films was one of the things that changed my attitude towards them. Paolo Malco is absolutely divine, another serious actor … he got on particularly well with Lucio, which was nice because it meant that Lucio, myself and him could see each other socially outside of the film set and we did. We had various wonderful dinners at Paolo’s fantastic apartment … I think we actually filmed some stuff in his apartment, the early scene in House By The Cemetery where they’re looking at the photo of the house, for instance, though of course it was supposed to be in New York. Paolo had a very deep respect for Fulci, but I remember that he was absolutely amazed, as we all were, by the way Fulci was forever spilling his drinks over himself, and he very often looked as though he was wearing his meal on his clothes. It was quite extraordinary, I don’t now what it is, whether he’s genuinely in another world … from what you’ve told me, he clearly hasn’t changed one iota, and I’m glad he hasn’t. Lucio is one guy I certainly won’t forget in a hurry, that’s for sure, one of those people who left their mark, but in quite a sweet way … one of the world’s great eccentrics, definitely.

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CM & FANS 2

“Hey, is that Joe D’Amato over there? Behind the guy in the plaid shirt?”

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The Warbeck Weekender, Part 3… A Classic DAVID WARBECK INTERVIEW Revisited

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Easter Monday, 20.04.92… much of the world’s attention was focussed on Wembley Stadium, where the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert was unfolding but I had other things on my mind, i.e. an interview with somebody who had starred in two of my all-time favourite movies (The Beyond and A Fistful Of Dynamite) as well as appearing in any number of highly entertaining ones. This handsome dog – who doubled as a male model and trebled as the best James Bond we never had – braved Lucio Fulci’s zombies, was  kidnapped by Sergio Leone and helped Antonio Margheriti through his real-life battle with a cannibal pancreas! But it was while tackling troglodytes with Joan Crawford that he learned the secret of turning shit into gold. Ladies and gentlemen… The David Warbeck Interview!

So, I’m a bit of a cult, am I? (laughs)

I think the fans appreciate the fact that you’re not sniffy about the exploitation movies they love… you don’t look as if you consider it all beneath you.

Oh God, no! I think they’re wonderful! It’s an incredible pleasure, really. I was brought up in New Zealand, and out there you did amateur theatre and all that sort of thing, just for the socialising and the fun of it, and it was all amateur and unpaid, so to come to Europe and have money thrown at you for having a good time… I could never quite believe my good luck! It’s been going on for almost thirty years now and I still love the hokum of it all … I think it’s an incredible privilege to be dashing off around the world at somebody else’s expense, staying in hotels, enjoying all the daily dramas of the film world… you know, the ship hasn’t turned up, or they lost ten extras or something…  it’s a great, great privilege. There are so many wannabes and would-bes and half-way house people and whatever, who bitch because The North Pole’s too cold or the Caribbean’s too sunny, or something, but all the great people I’ve worked with… I mean the real greats, the Anthony Quinn’s and the Joan Crawford’s and all that lot, we’ve all had this conversation and I’ve come to realise what they feel anyway … the whole business is such a great pleasure.

Tell as something about your start in the business.

Well, after acting in New Zealand for a while, I won an award to come to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, and promptly got expelled from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, for reasons I’m not allowed to go into … reasons involving Geraldine McEwan, the principal’s wife. So I took off, and because the expulsion note from the principal was so weird, he was such an arse-hole, I got an awful lot of offers for TV work and bits and pieces. That’s when I did all the Hayley Mills stuff, and Amilia Quint with Beryl Reid … do you remember that one?

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Vaguely, but I was very young when they first broadcast it.

It must have been about 25 years ago, but it’s still one of my favourites, a television film with Norman Rossington, and we were making home porno movies… Beryl was a Roman slave and we’d be gladiators, or French sailors on the dock and she was just having a very eccentric time, until her British publishers decide to bring her back to relaunch her book and she has to get rid of this undesirable element … it was a very scatty thing. So we did all that and then the modelling came up. It just wasn’t done in those days, the attitude was that if you’re an actor you don’t model, and if you’re a model, you can’t act … all that snobbery, which still exists today, and which I find totally perverse. Anyway, I realised that there was a fortune to be made – very boring stuff – modelling, so we set about that methodically, and I must say did very well, internationally. Meanwhile the film work was kind of popping in and out, so we just carried on with the movies, though I still do commercials, advertising and stuff.

How did your introduction to the Italian scene come about?

That was during one of my very rare plays, in Birmingham Rep. I was doing The Barretts Of Wimpole Street, and my English agent said: “We’ve got this barmy Italian who wants to see you about something”. So we went down to the Dorchester, the door opened, and there was this huge guy giving me a bear-hug, saying: “You’re the one, you’re the one, come with us now, come to the airport” and I said: “What?!?” So then I rang my agent to ask who these people were and what it was all about, and he said: “Have they offered you a drink?” and I said: “Yeah, the lot” He said: “Get out of there, they’re trying to kidnap you!” I said: “You’re kidding!” That was Sergio Leone, and the film was …

A Fistful Of Dynamite!

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… Fistful Of Dynamite, yeah. So off we went, filming with James Coburn. I wasn’t sure so what the hell was going on … it wasn’t quite my first italian movie …

What was that, then?

Oh shit, I should have all these names for you … it was a very impressive movie. My associate agent in Rome rang London, I went out there to meet them, and they were setting up a film to be directed by Alberto Sordi, who’s like God out there … it was an Italian version of Day For Night, and the Italian title translated as The Problems Of Producers With Headaches, something like that. It starred Dagmar Lassander, whom I’ve worked with on many films, and we did an Italian version of Lady Chatterley’s Lover … guess who the lover was … and that was just so mad … totally barmy … it was just a hiccup film, later I went back and the Leone film happened. That was a mega success in Europe, ran for two years in Rome, France too. To this day … I was with my lady wife in Venice, about a year ago, walking around, and you know all these little bands they have, playing outdoors? Well, when I came into sight, this little band struck up my theme from Fistful Of Dynamite! You know how these guys are. I turned around and mouthed: “You’re kidding!”, caught the guy’s eye, and he just gave me a big wink. I always go around in slight stunned disbelief that people like your lovely self are still interested … it’s an unbelievable run I’ve had.

You’re effectively only in two scenes in Fistful Of Dynamite, but your presence haunts the whole movie, because of the ongoing, unfolding flash-backs …

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Well, the original film was over four hours long. Bogdanovich started directing it …

Wasn’t there a rebellion by James Coburn and Rod Steiger to convince Leone to direct it?

I never managed to get the complete, true story behind that… Bogdanovlch was the flavour of that year, having just made The Last Picture Show, and the Italians have always been trying get into the American distribution market, it’s the big thing for them… they’ve got another big push underway at the moment. Anyway, Sergio’s films, the “Dollar” films and so on, were massive hits in Europe, but the American buyers were snobbish about Italians doing “their” thing, i.e. Westerns and wanted Bogdanovich’s name on it to get distribution. That was what it was all about, pretty straightforward, so they got him on board and I think he directed for three, maybe four weeks – not much – and it was worked in such a way that it was impossible for him to go on, at which point Sergio took over. It was a political thing that Sergio worked, it’s no big secret, so that if the film was a failure, he could blame it on Bogdanovich (“How could I overcome such a crippling start?”) but if it succeeded, that was down to il maestro, Sergio Leone!

How much of Peter Bogdanovich’s footage remains in the version that we see today?

This I honestly don’t know for a fact. Anthony Dawson… that’s Antonio Marghereti, with whom I’ve made about eight films now, was directing second unit on Fistful. That was how I got into the main run of Italian movies, through Antonio … anyway, he told me part of the story, while reminiscing about “dear old Sergio”, and all that lot, but Sergio only died a few years ago, so one keeps ones politics a little bit polite. But I honestly don’t know … I suppose their must be snippets of Bogdanovich’s stuff in there, they wouldn’t re-shoot everything.

How do you remember Sergio Leone?

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He was mad about things, like cars and gadgets. This is why his films are full of guns, old cars, wonderful machines and so on. For example in the Irish sequences we did for A Fistful Of Dynamite, while looking through a museum for the cars and stuff, he found a wonderful 1930s bus and said: “We must work this into the film” while we were blowing up Mexico, and I said: “How the hell are we going to do that?” and he said: “I know! It is a country bus going through the country and … (excited) yes! Yes! It is full of virginal Irish schoolgirls going to school!” So the hotel we were staying in was absolutely packed with virginal, miffed-looking schoolgirls and Sergio spent a lot of time shooting this bus going up and down … of course this shot was never used, except I think that a very distant shot of it crops up at one point in the picture.

But the guns, whenever there was a gun scene he would say: “No no, like this! ” and take the gun from the actor and demonstrate … he would always act out the machismo of the draw, firing the gun, then he’d swagger off …

He was a very macho guy, wasn’t he?

Oh, Sergio was a peasant! An absolute … not quite a thug but he was a peasant, a real rough Roman. This was all very fine and macho with the films he was making, but then they got him on the Cannes Film board – he was on it for years – and when he was interviewed they always put shelves of books behind him, trying to portray him as an intellectual, which was something he definitely didn’t like and used to react against. Later on he was very ill with his heart, but I was always meeting him at festivals and he was always saying: “David, you must do Once Upon A Time In America, you must do this, you must do that” and I’d say: “Fine, you’ve got my number.”. Finally the call came through and my agent said: “David, David, Sergio Leone wants you in Paris now, get on the next plane – he’s got a very good deal, he’s got all the money and everything. he wants you to work for a few days – it’s a great offer”. So I whizzed off to Paris and we shot – wait for it – a furniture polish commercial for French TV! Imagine

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That was about 18 months before he died. While we were doing this we went for dinner in Paris with a very rich French lady, and for a whole evening he expounded, in great detail – we had a whole evening of it, he just took off – this epic film he was going to do in Russia, the siege of Leningrad thing and how it was all being sorted out with Gorbachev and so on. So that sounded massively exciting, with his visual scale it would have been colossal… out-Leaned David Lean! There was no question about the man’s ability and his visual flair … the machismo thing was always a bit heavy going but, y’know, we hardly ever spoke to each other much, it was always “yes-no”, “stop-go”, grinning-to-each-other sort of stuff … this is one of the strange things about acting. in terms of both theatre and film, a great deal of work is done telepathically. It’s something that I was forced to come to terms with years ago, because I did a lot of these Italian fotoromanzi … do you know what they are?

Yeah, like comic strips but with photos instead of drawings … they have them in teenage girls’ magazines over here … and in VIZ!

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… as demonstrated by Marisa Mell and friend.

Italian fotoromanzi range from being just “he said / she said”, “girlfriend / boyfriend” things to … we shot “Mayerling”, which involved 200 extras running around a mountain, castles, kings and queens, a lighting crew, incredibly elaborate and nobody actually moved, you know, we were all frozen there with bubbles coming out of our mouths. It was big scale stuff, grand. I didn’t know a word of Italian in those days, though I had a three year contract with them.

So you were getting by on body language and stuff …

Yeah, and you had to understand everything they wanted on the spot, you had to get a lot of story-line packed into one page After a while it was a matter of a gesture with the hand, twiddling it to the left or the right to indicate which way your body should be leaning, and “smile just a little bit more” would be a finger-pinch up in the air or something, so after a while it would be easy to just turn and look at the person and know exactly what they wanted. I find that quite fascinating. Johnny Hough, who I did Robin Hood (below) with here, also Twins Of Evil, he was like that with us, he was great. That was one from the early days. He’d just say: “C’mon Dave, you know what I want”, and it’d be: “Right-o”, you know, no discussion necessary… Margheriti, of course, was the classic example of that.

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I adore and admire Margheriti more than any man I’ve ever met in the business, I put him on top of my list. This is partly because he has such visual flair … I’m always terribly stimulated turned on, energised, whatever, by visuals, so to meet somebody with a real visual mind… all Italians are very visual and Margheriti certainly is. I can see how he visualises things and that’s how he can make films work even when the resources aren’t really there. I go along with Leone on this – words are very sexy, and so on, but film is a visual medium, and there are some wonderful lines of dialogue in some wonderful films, but the kind of thing I like doing is stuff in which you’re not talking too much.

What about dubbing? Do you usually get to use your own voice?

I try to … It depends. If it is just a lot of action stuff, I suppose it doesn’t matter too much, but I remember one I did where the producer said: “We’re going to put a real American voice on this” so fine, I agreed to have it dubbed by somebody else and when the film opened, they’d put this great American faggot voice on it! So here was this great American jungle hero saying [adopts appropriate Julian Claryesque tones]: “OK men, I want you to follow me down the mountain”, and I thought: “Oh gawd, never again!” That was a Margheriti film…

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The visual side is brilliant with Margheriti, as I said, but the other thing that I admire about him is how he coped making Treasure Island In Outer Space, when he nearly died! It was a massive, massive contract, a huge project for TV Rai, but what happened was that during all the films he’d made in jungles in previous years, in the Phillipines and so on, he had been suffering with a gall-stone problem and was in constant pain. We were all saying to him: “Go on, Antonio, get yourself off to the hospital” and he, was saying: “Oh no, I’m OK”, being macho about it. Finally the whole thing blew up, so he went to have his stones done, and then he had to have another operation – this is something I never heard of… they had injured his pancreas, and what happens then is that the pancreas starts cannibalising itself, and when it’s through doing that… you’re dead! And the poor guy did almost die … I think it’s the best acting I’ve ever done in my life, because that affected me quite a lot.

I had flown out to Rome to met all the TV Rai crowd, because I was right up there with second billing under Anthony Quinn, originally, which was pretty good considering that Ernest Borgnine was in there too. Anyway, I went off to meet them, and most of them had never even met Margheriti, so they asked: “What’s he like?”, and I’d rave, tell them that I’d done so many films with him, that he’s a man I admire, technically brilliant… if he he has got a fault it’s his scripts, because he doesn’t have a very good ear for English, doesn’t speak it very well … anyway, I kept raving on about him and they said: “Oh well, he’s coming over this afternoon” and I said: “Wonderful, fantastic” because he wasn’t supposed to be coming for another week.

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We went out to the bar, because all the studios have coffee bars out there and they had driven him from the hospital to the studio with his son Edo, who’s now directing himself… he’s another sweetheart, I’ve done a lot of work with him… in the ambulance. So there I am sitting at the bar and somebody says: “Here comes Antonio” and I turned around and was just riveted with shock: He bore no physical resemblance to the guy I remembered… Margheriti had been a well-built – probably overbuilt – robust, absolutely charming guy with magnificent, penetrating blue-grey eyes, jet-black curly hair, like a very handsome version of Fellini… you know that sort of guy with that Italian look, oh, you could trust this and go a hundred miles with it, but here before me was this cripple; like a Belsen victim or something! His hair had gone white! He came to me and I was shocked, I had to put the face on pretty quickly, and he pottered up to me, with Edo supporting him, taking impossibly short steps… there were tubes hanging out of him, bandages all over him, there’s no way he should have been out of hospital – and the biggest shock was that he spoke in this thin little piping voice, when he had been such a macho guy. I just thought “No, No, No!”, my head was spinning from the shock of seeing him in this state. Imagine the shock of having to help this guy stand up when he’s embarking on this massive epic, and all the politics that came into it, his film crew versus the TV crew, and so on …

I imagine he leaned on his son a lot at this point… it’s a real Italian film tradition, isn’t it … as in the case of Mario and Lamberto Bava.

Oh, Lamberto Bava (laughs) … they’re called “the foetus and the fart” in Italy, for some reason… “Farto e Feto”, or whatever … yes he did, Edo helped a lot because he was directing second unit, setting up all the model stuff, which his father would come along and check, being the master. It took a long time … Antonio’s tubes kept coming out, and he bled a great deal. I was stunned by the behaviour of TV Rai, who didn’t offer any assistance at all … so I became his assistant, rushing around after him trying to help, always standing behind him like his shadow – you’ve gotta be careful, because it looks obnoxious to a lot of people, like you’re toadying or something. I was appalled that nobody was offering him any help … and he fought his way back. I watched this man fight his way out of the grave over a period of about two or three months …

… and now he’s back churning them out, e.g. these Indio movies with Marvin Hagler …

That’s right yeah, a mutual friend was telling me the other day about all these films he’s doing. It’s terrible how time seems to go by so fast: You think: “Oh my God, that was 4 years ago”, and in this business we all seem to be rushing off up mountains … but I remember the first day I knew he’d recovered, that was when he finally had a row in the studio… he was screaming, his voice was back, he was yelling at somebody about something or other, a real tirade against the whole studio … I just got behind the nearest pillar and cried my eyes out… it meant he was back! It was a wonderful moment for us, because as I keep saying, I love and admire the man, we’ve been through so much together.

Including that plane crash on Tiger Joe …

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Should I talk about this? I’m a bit reluctant, out of respect for the people who died …

(What follows is an expurgated version of what David told me about the incident in question, in keeping with his wishes to respect the memories of those who lost their lives-Bob Freudstein) 

It was such a bizarre accident; I was on location with Margheriti, shooting Tiger Joe in the Phillipine jungle … the film was finished, it was Friday the 13th, and we were filming over a jungle grave-yard, so we were all cracking macabre jokes about it … it was a small plane, brand new, no-one knows quite what went wrong … I remember seeing it going down right in front of my eyes … when you’re in films, doing fantasy stuff, things can get a bit mixed up in your mind, sort of: “Was that a take, or is that real?” So when it hit me, what had happened, something Fulci told me came to mind, his line when I asked him how he came up with all this horror, y’know, electric drills through people’s eyeballs and so on, such extremes, so horrendous – and he said: “David, life is so much more horrible than anything I could ever write”, and I realised that he was absolutely right. Margheriti lost his best friend (DP Riccardo Pallottini), it was all very heavy-going for a time, and it made me respect what Fulci had said, because he’s another one who’s suffered through his own private hell… his wife died, he went through a bad separation, bad health, and all of that, this is all common knowledge, so I can talk about it.

Fulci’s just one of the real characters you seem to have a habit of working with … there must be so much you could tell us about him …

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I adored Fulci, liked him immensely, though everyone regards him as completely, barking MAD. He was a raving madman on set, but always to the correct purpose, and he was always very good with me. Yeah, I did like Fulci … his health was a bit up-and-down after we worked together, and everyone regards him as totally barmy.

I know he likes to take cameo rale in his own movies, Is that something he takes very seriously or does he treat it as a bit of a lark?

Oh, seriously, definitely. Sergio used to do that too, and a lot of directors do it… producers too, Herman Cohen (who produced Trog) did it. They all like to have their little walk-on in a scene, have their pictures taken. There’s nothing perverse about that, it’s just part of the fun, I think. Hitchcock made it a kind of a signature, so I guess that’s the way they put their own stamp on it. I don’t think it’s anything to do with being a frustrated actor or anything.

Fulci’s cameo was actually cut from the final print of your first movie with him, The Black Cat. In that film, he does show a ‘totally barmy’, or at least very eccentric idea of, for instance, how British policemen operate. Did you ever point these kind of inaccuracies out to him? If so, what sort of response did you get?

(Laughing) You’d just get a baffled look, “What do you mean?” kind of thing. The reason I laughed was because you’ve reminded me of something very funny … there’s a scene in The Black Cat where a little motor-boat was going down the river to collect a dead body which the police had to retrieve. Well first of all, everything’s done on the day, more or less, and some of us went off to try and find a boat. We got one, quite a handsome boat, of sufficient size to fit everybody in, and then the production assistant came along and said: “No, no, no… too much money, we’ll get a better deal somewhere else!” So they got, and rigged up, boat #2, which was much smaller – it couldn’t quite take us all, so if you watch that shot, you’ll see that the boat is very low in the water because of having too many people in it. Lovely Dagmar Lassander and I are on the prow and the topper was that instead of hiring extras, they dressed all the Italian crew up as English policemen … of course they didn’t stand, walk or do anything like English policemen. Anyway, as we chugged up river a little, it became apparent that the owner of boat #1 had sabotaged boat #2 – It blew up! Smoke was billowing everywhere, Dagmar was screaming – she didn’t want to end up in the water – the boat drifted, out of control, and crashed into one of these incredibly manicured landing stages on the side of the Thames. I think we dented a board, or something, nothing dramatic, but the owner had been watching all this at the window, twitching. thinking: “How can we get money out of this lot? They’re making a film, they must be rich!” So as soon as we hit this bank, she runs out yelling: ‘Officer officer, they’ve damaged my property”, and the road was full, everywhere you looked, of scarpering Italians dressed up as English policemen, who didn’t have a clue what this woman was screaming at them… it was wonderful, a film in itself…  cracks me up, I just roll around every time I think about it.

Was Patrick Magee, your co-star in that movie, as “difficult” as he’s been painted?

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No, no … he was another really good guy… it’s not really fair to go on about this problem he had, you know? He was one of the megas! Trying to work opposite that guy, with those eyes and everything. you had to come up with a whole bag of tricks … and of course playing the hero in these things is very limiting anyway, you just have to stand there looking all jutty-jawed. No, Patrick had a problem but he was lovely … his daughter was there, trying to help him though his last days. His was such a very sad story, an extraordinary talent… brought down by the bottle.

What about Mimsy Farmer?

Mimsy … frankly, I thought she was a bit odd … but she was alright, I suppose … no dammit, she was an odd bitch, for God’s sake and you can print that. I remember we were doing one scene, our one scene of “potential intimacy”, sitting on a couch and I was delivering my lines for all of I was worth and when it came time to take a break she turned to me and said: “You call that acting?” I thought she was joking at first but she hadn’t shown much of a sense of humour up to this point, she never said very much at all and I realised that she meant it. So when I saw her later on this bed, bouncing up and down with the special effects and everything, I thought: “Do you call that acting?” (laughs) 

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Did Fulci really tell you not to bother acting, because the script wasn’t up to it?

I think that was Margheriti … though I guess they’ve all said that at some stage … oh yes, it was Fulci, on The Black Cat, saying: “The script’s not up to it” and I was arguing that we had to “turn shit to gold”, which is my expression for what I learned from working with Joan Crawford on Trog. She taught me, not directly but through watching her and being with her, that in this business you take it as it comes. I’ve never turned anything down … well, just about nothing. As a rule I think: “the sillier the better”, and that’s what I was trying to get across to Fulci: “If the script’s not up to scratch, you’ve gotta tum shit to gold”, but he just shrugged his shoulders, as though to say: “If it’s not up to scratch, forget it”, you know?

It sounds as though he really managed that transformation of shit to gold with The Beyond though, which reportedly had very little script when shooting started …

The thing with many of these directors… Fulci certainly, and Marghereti… is that they have their own concept, they’ve got their own story-boards in their heads and they can play around with how they want to shoot it. Fulci had a very determined script-writer throughout shooting The Beyond and we actually had quite a good script.

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Are you aware, more than ten years on, of the cult reputation that film still enjoys with horror buffs all around the world?

I really hadn’t realised that… the journalist Alan Jones, who I see about once a year, always tells me that I should go to The Scala to  introduce a screening of The Beyond to the audience and I’m baffled as to why anyone would be interested…

No really, they’d go nuts!

I’d be glad to help out but I’m always a little baffled by that reaction because I don’t take it all that seriously in terms of living, eating and breathing the business every day, getting very concerned about where your name is on the titles… I’m not remotely serious in that way, but I am serious in terms of feeling privileged to be living this life and in terms of really trying to make the best of what material we’ve got. When I’m approached by all these fans who can quote all the details at me, know more about the films than I do, I’m always quite amazed that they attend these kind of things… I guess I’m lucky to have done so many that I can forget a few.

What are your feelings about that movie’s other lasting legacy – continuing censorship problems due to its ultra-violent imagery?

Last night I went to see Scorsese’s Cape Fear and I was incensed by that film, I think it was one of the most gratuitous, appalling films… they way they used the violence, I was appalled by the gratuitousness of what they implied… have you seen it?

Yeah.

I just thought it was an appalling movie, overall… even technically, it was appalling.

It was very disappointing by Scorsese’s standards, especially coming after Good Fellas…

Right. My wife was having a hell of an argument with me, saying: “You’ve done these Fulci movies, these horror movies, all this violence and stuff”, but this is my stance… to me there’s a massive difference between what I’ve just described and what I would call fantasy violence. Now, fantasy violence isn’t realistic … you could say that Fulci’s films are realistic, with power-drills going through people’s eyeballs and so on, but it’s done in the context of such barmy people and such barmy set-ups that nobody could take it seriously, in that sense … unlike Cape Fear, which to me was like a text-book for some loony to go out and copy. The stuff I’ve done is all about having fun.

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When I do films… please believe that this is not out of boredom, it’s just out of … sheer devilment, I guess… I always like to see if I can get a gag past the cameramen and the editing room and everybody else, and get it up there on the screen and one of the best gags I ever did was in The Last Hunter, with John Steiner. We were shooting in the depths of this jungle, and he’s an American colonel going mad, he’s saying: “Listen to those bombs, that’s my kind of music!”, and I’m doing my American: “Oh my God, the colonel’s going mad” look… all good stuff. Anyway, he was lighting up a cigarette and I said: “John, come here” and he said: “What is it, darling” and I said: “Don’t let Marghereti see, but break the butt off the cigarette, and shove it up your nose.” He asked me why, and I told him it was a gag I wanted to try … so what happened was, he’s there ranting about “the music, the music”, takes a drag on this fag and exhales smoke through one nostril… in cinemascope! It cracks me up, that we got it onto the screen.

In The Beyond there’s a sequence where Catriona MacColl and I are being chased down hospital corridors by zombies, I’m shooting their heads off, and we run out of bullets. She’s screaming that there’s another one coming and I’m looking around with this expression of angst and horror and all that, y’know – “What are we going to do?”, kind of thing. Realising the gun’s empty, I find extra bullets in my pockets, whip them out to show the audience I’ve got more… and go to reload by putting the bullets down the snout of the pistol! I had my hand low enough so it wasn’t centre-shot, and the very last frame, before they cut away – I’ve checked my copy of the video and it’s still in there – is Catriona looking at what I’m doing with total disbelief written on her face. It’s hilarious!

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Fulci used Catriona MacColl in most of his great movies from that period… what was she like to work with?

Dear old Catriona! She was a wonderful girl, a pleasure to work with… an English girl, and like myself, she was a bit mystified as to why we were being whisked off all over the world to do these films. Also like myself, quite delighted about it all. She was great, we were always sending each other up on set. It sounds a bit boring to keep saying this about everyone, how nice everybody was … though there are a couple I’d never work with again, and I’m happy to name names.

Please do!

Klaus Lowitsch … what a neurotic number he was … the guy in Treasure Island. Also Philippe Leroy… he had been quite successful in France and wound up sort of trucking around. We won’t go into the problems he had with (OK, s0 we won’t go into them! Bob) On Treasure Island we had to work together intensively for about a year and after a short time we weren’t talking at all, not even in rehearsal, and Margheriti was totally baffled by this – so we just shot through at rehearsals, but we got there in the end.

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Going back to the ladies, you’ve made a couple of movies with Janet Agren …

Janet Agren I adore, she was one of the magic ladies. I’ve worked with a few of them. Most of my leading ladies have been twits, but she’s brilliant, great fun to be with.

Nevertheless, most people would have considered one movie in which thy battled mutant rat-men with her to be quite enough… but you’ve actually made two!

Oh yes! (Laughs)

How did that come about? Was the first one a smash hit in Italy or something?

Well one of the films was was made in Dominica, which I’ve just come back from, and it featured an incredibly short person, the smallest human being in the world, in fact …

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Nelson de la Rosa…

Nelson, right! They thought: “How can we use him? We won’t have to go to all sorts of technical lengths, trick shots and so on, we’ve got the real thing!” (laughs) So they dressed him up as a rat and called it Ratman. Janet and I were running about, freaked out by Ratman, until I – as the hero – killed him.

Is it true that Nelson actually died for real during the shoot, or shortly afterwards?

N0, he’s still alive! I had an ear infection a few weeks ago in my hotel so a doctor turned up and we got talking about films and so on, it turned out that he doctors for Nelson … I should have got together with Nelson actually, I’m sorry I didn’t. He’s such a sweet man. He is alive… has to be carefully supervised, but as long as he does what the doctor says, he’s fine.

That film was officially directed by Giuliano Carmineo, but there seems to be a suspicion that its producer, Fabrizio De Angelis, was really the guilty man …

No, he was the producer, and he set everything going but the other guy … I thought he was OK, we didn’t fight or anything, he was just a bit of a lost cause, and this is where Fabrizio had to step in and whip the thing into shape. The other guy didn’t know what he was doing or maybe he didn’t really want to do it, I just couldn’t work him out. What can I say? The whole thing was complete madness, but yes, it did do very well.

The other “mutant ratman” film you did with Janet, which was directed by Tonino Ricci, actually came first. It was released on video in Britain as Panic, though I gather its original title was Bacterium…

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I knew that one as Panico… it was about a virus on the loose in the sewers of Madrid, right?

I seem to recall that they tried to tried to pass it off as a British town, certainly in the version released over here.

Yeah? The monster that was chasing us, and that we were chasing around these sewers, was Tonino’s son in a rubber suit … actually he’s the special FX man on an Umberto Lenzi movie I just appeared in …

Which is?

It was called Miguel And Roderiguez when we were making it, but don’t ask me what it’ll go out as. It’s kind of like Bonnie And Clyde or something. Lenzi’s wonderfully mad. We were taking a break in shooting and he said to me: “Wonderful, you were wonderful! I’ve got another six movies for you” and I said: “Fine, talk to my agent” and he said: ”’Don’t you realise, the last four movies you’ve done have been a series?” and I just looked baffled, so he said: “I wrote them all!” And this was the first time I’d ever met him. I really like him. He’s up there with the best of them … got a bit of a boozy past, but’s over that now, and he was a delight. They’re all fast, but he just rips through stuff, we did two day’s stuff in less than a day. It’s the same with Fabrizio De Angelis

What kind of an operator is De Angelis? Somebody you need to keep an eye on? He has a reputation as a bit of a shark …

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Well, they call him “snake eyes” … but I’ve never seen any evidence of that, and I’ve done a lot of films with Fabrizio, upward of eight. He’s a Rossano Brazzi kind of guy… God, what a handsome charmer he was… and dear old Fabrizio has the same sort of charm. I’ve seen him lose his temper hundreds of times, screaming and throwing things, but he’s one of these people – I was going to say one of the few, but there are actually a lot of them in Italy – who loves movies so passionately. You’ve really gotta meet these people and see them in action to realise that they genuinely love the business. I mean I’m thrilled, you know, I’m privileged to be doing what I do and I love it too, but I don’t quite go into it with the absolute, extraordinary passion that they have. The working hours , the sheer physical energy of it all is phenomenal. They don’t sleep for two months… don’t have time for it! It’s extraordinary and he’s one of those guys who, when he gets into it, is really fast. I love fast film making, can’t stand this hanging around for hours. He’s dead fast… always pushing this pram around with a camera in it… that’s his dolly. Or he’s dragging the camera around on a mat, because it’s quicker to set up the shot that way… can’t be bothered with all this technical stuff, it’s too time-consuming. So I like the speed of it all and off the set, if we get a moment, we can grab a bite to eat… it’s all relaxed, with all the Italian charm coming out… if anything goes wrong, he’s just standing there, cleaning his fingernails! I’ve never had any bad experiences with him. Working in Italy is just great… in Hollywood, you know, everything is so psychotic, everyone’s angst-ridden, everyone’s visiting a shrink, but in Italy it’s just like a circus full of monkeys… so much fun!

I gather that Lenzi and and Fulci eventually had quite a falling out…

Listen, you just have to take it for granted that all Italians fight to the death… it would be unthinkable for them not to and of course they have their rows – everyone does – but these are Italian rows, which means lots of screaming and carrying on. I’ve been working in Italy for about twenty years, and when I first went over there I couldn’t understand this, that they’d be slaughtering each other at lunchtime, then, in the evening, it would be “darling” this, and “lovey” that. So yes, they scream the place down, but you’ve got to bear all this in mind. There were amazing fights between Fulci and Fabrizio and one time, making The Beyond … I don’t think Fulci exactly pushed him, but I know Fabrizio fell into the cess-pool in the cellar, the one the warlock comes out of. I remember everyone being pretty gleeful, because Fabrizio is always very dapperly turned out.

You yourself had some problems with Alberto de Martino, for whom you made a couple of quickies…

Oh Gawd!

… Miami Golem (below) and 7 Hyden Park…

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What a drama! God, I could go on about those for hours…

I hear Martino was fighting the producers to get his name taken off them!

I can well believe it! (Laughs) Martino’s known as “the Mickey Rooney of the Italian film industry”, because he’s short with a turned-up nose … he and I had a lot of fights … aargh!

Is i1 true that he asked you to take off Jack Nicholson’s performance in The Shining for 7 Hyden Park?

That was my idea actually, with the shears and everything, I was basically trying to dress up an awful script with nothing going for it. It was a terrible experience. I did the film for something like £1,000 because it was a bad time in the industry and everybody was just doing whatever they could to put bread in their mouths. It was a hysterical film, with this awful English actress, Christine Nagy … well, to be fair, she was a nice girl, she’s done good stuff, but these people come over for their first film and they think they’ve “made the big time” … and she’s a “method actress“… I’m not terribly keen, shall we say, on method acting … there’s a famous story about Edith Evans on Broadway, with a bunch of method actors who are running around contorting themselves on stage before the curtain goes up, to get into character, and one of them says to her: “Don’t you prepare?” and she said: “No, I just pretend, my dear”.

There’s a very similar story about Dustin Hoffman Marathon Man, depriving himself of sleep so he’ll look really rough during the torture scenes, and Olivier supposedly told him that he wouldn’t have to go through all this if he just learned how to act!

(Laughs) I must talk to John Schlesinger about that, next time I see him. Hoffman isn’t one of his favourite people … then again, he isn’t many people’s favourite person!

Which brings me back to your troubled relationship with mister Martino. Miami Golem aka Cosmic Killer was another pretty bad movie …

Miami Golem was very funny, the familiar story of the leading lady being with some guy in Italy for two years, him telling her all the time that he was going to make her A Movie Star. This happens all the time, and when these girls finally get fed up with it and ask: “Where’s this movie, then?”, they’re told: “We’ll put you in a film with Warbeck (it’s him again!)” I’ve been in a lot of those sort of movies. So on she came, Laura Trotter. Now Laura’s speciality was walking around on her hands while not wearing any knickers …

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Bottoms up…

That’s quite a party piece!

Yeah. She came over to Rome with her tits hanging out … and she was nice actually, nice girl … her only problem was that she had a glottal stop, which meant she couldn’t speak so Martino was just transfixed with horror when this girl turns up on the set and he asks: How are you?” and she’s trying to say: “I’m fine, thank you”, but what’s coming out is: “I’m k-k-k”… so we’d shoot her from behind her back and when she’d open her mouth, we’d cut away. I remember one day Martino was attacking her, very unfairly, because of this problem, and Laura was pretty upset. We both had throat rnics on and we were walking across the street out of shot, about a hundred yards away, I was telling her: “Don’t get upset, it’s all part of the fun” and all that and: “I can’t agree with what he’s just said, it’s despicable to bully somebody like that, totally unfair” … at which point I heard this scream, turned around, and saw Martino taking the headphones off the sound-man and shouting: “I can hear everything you’re saying about me!” So I just picked up my mic and yelled: “Well it’s all true, you shithead!” The thing is that I’ve done too many films to take any real shit off anyone…

You’ve been a part of the Italian film scene for so long, you must have seen a lot of changes … is it true that the deregulation of TV there, with all it consequences for film production, has driven the industry into a bit of a low patch?

No, I’d really disagree with that, entirely. I’m not an authority on this, but my own impression is that the Italian film world is gearing up to become the film centre of Europe, the Common Market. The Italians have, for starters, the advantage of their national attitude towards film… they adore it! Everyone’s an actor in the street, everyone’s posing and wearing something … they’re a great bunch of posers … “La Belle Figura” is the common expression, “the beautiful figure” … they all do it, they all dress well .. they’re film-mad in that country, there isn’t the same thing in England at all. So the Italians are very keen and well placed to take the lead, all the studios are working to capacity … do you know Zingarelli?

ltalo Zingarelli? The guy who produced the Trinity movies?

Yeah … as a matter of fact, they’re thinking of doing the Trinity series all over again, in America this time, in Phoenix. It’s being talked about, I don’t know if it’s going to be a TV series or a series of films, we’re going to chat about that, but Zingarelli’s got some kind of contract with the Italian and American governments to come up with 2 or 3 Italo-American films a year. He’s another real character, weighs about 100 stones! He has his own film-making “family”, there are several of them over there and I’ve worked with three of them.

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My main agent in Rome is one of the most powerful in Europe – Count Giuseppe Perroni (above) Perroni’s had an incredible influence on Italian movies, much more than he’s ever been given credit for … he was, and still is, the agent for Rossano Brazzi, throughout his career, he substantially helped to set Sergio Leone up on his first Western, finding the money … Terence Hill was his client too, in fact it was he who suggested that Terence change his name from, er. ..

… Mario Girotti …

Right. Fulci’s been one of Perroni’s clients too, he has an incredible list of clients. He’s very erudite and charming, I mean apart from the fact that he’s one of my very best friends now, which is difficult … difficult mixing business with friendship, but I rate him extremely highly. It took us about two or three years to get to know each other, because I was wary of him ripping me off! (Laughs) The thing about him is that he has such an amazing web of contacts, he’s got me about 3/4 of my films. Anyway, he came to London a while ago with Berlusconi… you know who Berlusconi is?

Yeah, he’s like Italy’s answer to Rupert Murdoch …

Well, my God – Perroni, Berlusconi.and Zingarelli, put that bunch together and they virtually run Italy! 18 months ago, Perroni and Berlusconi came to London with five films and two TV series, they were looking for about two hundred actors, top money down to bottom, Berlusconi pouring money out everywhere …

Because their English is good but not quite up to the finer points of these negotiations, Perroni arranged that I accompany them as a kind of secretary, and we went to all the top agencies – my own, William Morris, going around to see who we could get … nobody! Not one job! I was appalled, shocked, horrified, because when I went to Italy about twenty years ago there was this English attitude of condescension, and it’s still here today, the arrogance, the sniffiness … “We have to have final say on the script” and all this … they are so out of touch! Final say on script went out of the window, God knows how long ago … all these stupid things, this contempt for “Italian movies”, for God’s sake … everything is international these days! So I was absolutely furious. Some of the things that were said to Perroni in my presence … well, one woman – I’d like to name her, I’ve named just about everyone else in the business – what a cow! She looks after Kenneth Branagh, and Berlusconi and Zingarelli wanted to find out when Branagh would be free to star in a certain production – we were talking about a few years hence. She said: “Oh no, he’s busy for two years”, and we were saying that there might be a gap, he might change his mind, or whatever, to which she replied (adopting supercilious voice): “No, I don’t think so”. So Perroni explained the kind of people he was looking for, and she asked if he’d be interested in Geraldine McEwan. Perroni looked at me with this quick quizzical look, signifying: “Who’s Geraldine McEwan?”, because how are the Italians going to know? Then this snooty cow turns to me and says: “I suppose you don’t know who she is either?” I felt like saying “Yes, she was the reason I was expelled from the Royal Academy!”, but instead I said: “Yes, of course I know her, I rate her as one of our most gifted actresses and a superb comedienne” and I turned to Perroni and told him how good she would be.

It’s just that you asked about the state of the Italian film business, whether it was in a trough and all that … well, compared to what is going on over here, they are light years ahead, in terms of attitude and enthusiasm. Their biggest problem is trying to get that wedge into the American distribution scene. I mean, the British film industry hasn’t made pictures for years, these days it’s reduced to special effects and Derek Jarman … I helped him set up Sebastiane, actually (chuckles) … a friend of mine wrote it, wrote it in Latin, which I thought was a great gag … and all those gay boys splashing around in a fountain (laughs): Derek Jarman – good on him!

So the Italian industry’s thriving – presumably you’ve got a lot of things cooking?

Yeah I’ve got another Zingarelli film next month, another in the Umberto Lenzi series that I hadn’t realised what I was doing… last time out I was a Gulf war hero who got decorated by President Bush! (Laughs) They’re coming out as Karate Kid 4 and 5 … needless to say, they’ve got absolutely nothing to do with The Karate Kid … they were already shown on Italian TV last month, only they were called The Golden Boy… the titles change all the time. Tobacco Road was another one. We shot it in Georgia and I was a Southern cop … we referred to it as “In The Heat Of The Nightie” (Laughs). I can’t really take that one seriously at all, me as this Southern cop, with a paunch, drawling: “Good mornin’ Maaarm !” and all this, hoping none of my friends ever see the thing. Someone took a pot-shot at me while I was dressed as a policeman for that one … that was pretty impressive, there I was “patrolling the highway” and this car just hurtles past and somebody in it has a pop at me …

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What – with a gun?

Yeah!

Good grief!

Yeah, because there are guns all over the place in the States … I hate all that!

I know you like to – and frequently get to – take part in setting up the action sequences in your movies …

That’s the great joy of working with Antonio and Fulci … Lenzi too. I’ve made something like 52 films now. I always try to get hold of a copy if I can, and watching myself in some of them, I’m absolutely amazed at how good I am (laughs) … which is not as cheeky as it sounds, because when you’re doing it there are such good people around, in the Italian ones, you have such a good team and because we all know each other so well … Rome is a small town, and you keep finding the same faces coming up again and again, the technical crew and performer and so on, and we can all swap stuff about … it’s not like the American or English way, were everyone sticks to his department and you don’t cross lines – the light man will tell me how to act and I’ll tell him where to put his lights, that sort of thing. The bottom line is that with a very fast team, you can make a million dollars look like $lO million – you light it fast, and so on, whizz through it and we usually get it down in one take, very rarely does it go to much more than three …

You get plenty of opportunities to show off your resourcefulness as an actor, don’t you, with scripts that are often very loose?

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Yes, that really is the most enormous pleasure, because I don’t care how good a writer, director or anybody is, there has to come a point where some tinkering has to be done for the betterment … not necessarily of yourself, though of course you always have an eye towards that, because yours is the face that’s up there on the screen and you’re the obvious person to blame for things that go wrong … so you’ve gotta make sure that you come out of it OK, but also, y’know, experience does count and you can contribute, if you’ve got a good director who’s at ease with that … sometimes when it’s very stylised you stick with it and you just run through, but those are very rare. Domino, which I made a couple of years ago, with Brigitte Nielson, was like that … actually I haven’t seen that one yet …

Remind me who was responsible for that one?

Oh, Ivana … what was her name? It’s her only film … she had done a bit of video, then the producer boyfriend said: “OK, here’s the film you’ve been bugging me for years for your chance to make” (Laughs). It was backed by the Vatican Bank, which I find absolutely perverse – my first Pope movie! It was totally perverse because when I met this lady, Ivana – a glamorous, gorgeous creature – in Rome, she asked me to read the script and as I was reading it, tears started rolling down my face, and she said: “Oh my god, what’s wrong?” and I said “It’s OK, I’m just going through this difficult thing at the moment”, at which point she burst into tears and said: “It’s the story of my life”, so suddenly we were hugging each other and both crying our eyes out, and I got the part (laughs) and so you know, we loved each other.

A couple of months later we started shooting and I turned up at the studio, and I went to embrace her again and she almost spat at me! She was very distant. What had happened was that she’d flipped out for Brigitte and didn’t want anybody touching her protege. The next thing is she’s telling me: “You – your role has been changed!” Originally I was Brigitte’s ex-lover who’d been out hunting in Africa and had come back to get her problems with drugs and her mind straightened out, but now I’m told that, firstly, I’m Japanese, the other thing was that I was blind! So they stuck me up on these wooden shoes and covered me with kimonos and stuff – I caught Brigitte’s eye while all this was going on … she’s a very good girl, an absolute honey, I can’t give her enough rave marks – not at all like her reputation. Again, like Joan Crawford, when I worked with her in Trog, she had this terrible reputation, but you find that all the top people are so good, generous, charming and together … good fun!

… it’s the wannabes who are the bastards …

Right … but the reason the people at the top get this reputation is that they’re experienced, knowledgeable, blah, blah, and when they say: “I think we need black here” … make-up, dress or whatever … and everyone else says: “No, you mean white!” and the person knows it’s black, then you start getting a reputation for being stroppy and so on …

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What about Anthony Quinn, then … how was he to work with?

A joy – magical! He just couldn’t be better. As I said earlier, it’s just such a pleasure working with these people. Going into it, you’re terrified, because it’s like being up against King Kong: they know so very well how to use themselves on screen – but nearly all these people, these megas, are extraordinarily generous – he certainly is. So when they swing around on shot and they give it those eyes, turn on that power, you feel like flattening yourself against the wall, but in their generosity they give you things you can bounce off or give back or whatever, and he was very much that way. Very private, very quiet … we fenced around each other for a few weeks, because him being such a big star, it is appalling how the toadying goes on, people trying to ingratiate themselves. Eventually Quinn and I, his wife, Margheriti and Edo would go off to a little hotel together, sit and gossip … and bitch (laughs) … do all the good stuff … oh my goodness! Anthony Quinn was a marvellous man, magnificent, and we got pretty close … so much so that I wrote a King Lear for him.

Yeah?

Yeah, we had joked about it, you always talk about all sorts of different ideas and I said:“Have you ever done Lear?” and he said (adopts Quinnine dulcet tones): “David, that role is one of my life dreams.” He’d make a perfect Lear, as I see Lear and I’ve directed Shakespeare before at RADA, and all that lot. My Lear would be very Spielbergian, I guess you’d say … instead of being set in damp, wet old England, it would take place in the Byzantine desert. We’d shoot it in the Sahara and the Turkish desert. We’ve set the thing up, more or less, it just remains to be seen whether it’ll go.

With yourself directing?

Well, I’d dearly love to, but I really want Margheriti as the overall director, because he’s a master of special effects, and it would be full of effects, for instance … do you know the play?

Naturally.

Well, you know when he goes off in the storm – which in England is a rain-storm, of course – well, the mystery of the play, I’ve always thought, is: “What happens to his army?” You know, he’s just traipsing around from daughter to daughter, with all his retainers, and then suddenly they’re all gone! Well, how… how did they go? There’s no logical explanation in the text. So I thought-and here’s a piece of Warbeck invention for you – on his last confrontation with his daughters, when he curses them and then goes off in the storm in a furious maniacal rage, screaming at everyone as he disappears into the storm … well, we’ve set it out in the desert and ours is a giant Spielbergian sand storm. The army, of course, don’t want to go into this, because it’s certain death, but he’s out there lashing them with whips, and we’ve got camels and god knows what (all this has been storyboarded) and so he forces the soldiers to go out into this massive storm. They get a few miles then most of them try to get back, so we end up with a heap of bodies strangled outside the castle gate. All this not only gets rid of the army, it would also be a spectacular sequence and it seems to have wiped out Lear. .. that’s always the pinnacle of the play and, I suppose, the pinnacle of our movie, but from there he descends into full madness and we have some wonderful caves that we discovered while filming Ark Of The Sun God in the Turkish desert, where the whole landscape is lunar, tilted, twisted …. like a Salvador Dali painting, madman stuff. Anyway that’s the theory, and Quinn’s been fantastic, sending me Christmas cards saying: “Don’t let Lear die!”, and all that sort of thing …

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And you say it’s pretty well set up?

Well yeah,  Quinn reckons he can get ten million just on the strength of his name and he wants to go as an independent … I’m saying all this because it’s true, but at the same time I’m pessimistic that it’ll go because we’re all running about doing other things. We all got terribly excited about a year or so ago and just so many things happened in the in-between time …

(The ensuing discussion of projects that never quite  came off went quite deeply into the saga of how David very nearly landed the role of James Bond, but unfortunately he doesn’t feel at liberty to allow much of this material into print – Bob.) 

There is one which I very much regret not happening… Russ Meyer’s The Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle… it was then known as “Bang Bang Bambi!” or something …

“Who Killed Bambi?”?

Something like that. Malcolm Maclaren, of course, was behind it, I had meetings with him. That would have been very funny. It appealed very much to my sense of humour, the circus of it, the whole thing.

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You had already worked for Meyer before, 0n Blacksnake aka Slaves … there’s another guy you must have plenty of colourful anecdotes about!

Oh God … I dunno what’s printable! (Laughs) But there’s a story I like to tell that really sums him up … apart from the time he nearly strangled me at The National Film Theatre!

Oh, that time…

Derek Malcolm was doing one of his Guardian Lectures, on Russ, so I wrote suggesting that he invites me, as one of the stars of the films and of course he promptly didn’t! (Laughs.) So I gatecrashed it anyway and was waiting in line to meet Russ, this big bear of a guy… my previous memory of him was bear-hugging me on the Bambi thing but when he turns round and sees me, there’s a moment of recognition, a sharp intake of breath,  his face tums purple and he starts screaming: “Motherfucker! Fucking cunt! I’ll kill you!” and I thought: “OK, these are interesting new forms of endearment.” My arms are still out to embrace him, and he’s shouting: “I’ll sue you, you shit” and the whole tiny box room up at the NFT froze. He was waving this magazine at them and apparently somebody had shown him an interview I’d done with Alan Jones – there was clearly a mistake that had occurred in the transcription – claiming that he tried to kill his wife, Edy Williams, by dynamiting the ignition on her car! Well, the whole room was frozen rigid by then, including me, with my jaw hanging down, saying: “Russ, what are you talking about?” He’d had this very difficult divorce from Edy and apparently she’d be able to get more alimony out of him because of all this, so anyway, I said I was sorry and brazened it out, you know: “Our friends in the press get it wrong from time to time, eh Russ?” But he wasn’t buying it.

Anyway, that wasn’t the story I started off telling – that was also at the NFT and a British journo asked him, in a very condescending tone: “What do you think of having your films shown here?” and his answer, this very rehearsed routine which remains one of my favourite quotes from him, was: “This is the fifth greatest experience of my life … ” (Then he started ticking off the greatest experiences of his life in numerical order) “The first greatest experience of my life was when I had my first whore in a brothel in France during the cleanup campaign … ” Now, the audience was a mixture of cineastes and … wankers, basically, and they didn’t quite know which way to go, and Meyer continues: ” … as I was a junior in the army in those days, I didn’t have first choice, my sargeant had the first choice, but luckily when it came to my turn l got the kind of woman I like – namely, with large cantilevers and her only other distinguishing feature was a beaver the size of a blacksmith’s apron.” By now the audience is absolutely stunned, like: “What is he saying?!?” and Russ carries on ” … when I hit it, two quails flew out!” and so on. That, to me, is Russ… so off the wall!

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You’ve patched it up now?

No! I’ve just done this Lenzi film Migual And Rodriguez, with Charles Napier … you know Charles Napier?

Sure.

He’s probably more famous as the red-neck in Rambo and he got himself chopped up in The Silence Of The Lambs, too, he’s a great mate of Demme, who directed that, but he’s done just about all of Russ’s films … Napier’s was such a great face to see… you get off the plane in the middle of nowhere – Dominica, for god’s sake – and you’re just confronted by this sea of familiar faces, film faces. What a pleasure he was, God, after a 24 hr flight and you arrive at 4 0’clock in the morning and they tell you you’re on set for three hours, with no real script… “Action!” (Laughs). Thankfully I’ve got this gift of speed-reading which I’m very proud of, and which has stood me in very good stead … anyway, I told him all my experiences with Russ, and believe me, he has some wonderful stories about the guy … so scurrilous that I really can’t tell you … wonderfully barmy … give it another ten years, if he’s dead by then, I’ll be able to tell all.

Is there anything else here, apart from the stuff you introduced by saying it was off the record, that you’d like me to take out?

Oh no, I’m really not bothered anymore … I’m getting too old to worry. I’m a big boy now!

I just wouldn’t want to hear that somebody had tried to strangle you on account of something I’d written.

I don’t care, to be quite honest … poor old Laura Trotter… that’s pretty much par for the course, though.

And you’re flying out to another exotic location tomorrow?

Yep. I’m doing another one with Fabrizio De Angelis, and I’m talking about doing one in New Guinea …

I was going to wish you a happy holiday, but it sounds like you never take ’em!

John – my whole life has been a holiday! 

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David’s extended holiday ended on 23.07.97 but what memories he left to those of us who were privileged enough to know him, or who just enjoyed his appearances in so many wild films. What a life… What a guy! Gone, but never forgotten…

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The Warbeck Weekender, Part 2… Russ Meyer’s BLACK SNAKE Reviewed

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DVD. Region 2. Arrow. 18.

In the first instalment of our DW Weekender we looked at Warbeck the warrior. Tonight our attention turns to Warbeck the fop… the lover… the advocate of universal love and human rights… the union organiser…. the book keeper… all of which roles he discharged enthusiastically in Russ Meyer’s characteristically crackpot Black Snake (1973.) Meyer was unhappy with DW as a leading man for various reasons that have been amply documented elsewhere and relations between them became pricklier still when our man encouraged his fellow cast members to agitate successfully for a tea break (mad dogs and Englishmen, eh?) The director’s principal grudge against his star, though, was that when his mandatory busty leading lady (history does not record her identity) dropped out at the last moment, David recommended his UFO co-star Anorak Hempel for the role of aryan uber-bitch Lady Susan Blackwood. Now to some of us Hempel is a pleasingly archetypal “dolly bird” of the ’60s / early ’70s and she looks just great on horseback, cracking a whip but as far as Meyer was concerned, she lacked the two main attributes which he demanded from any actress (“She had two backs!” was King Leer’s disgruntled assessment) and it falls upon dusky house maid Vikki Richards (“Cleone”) to provide a token bra-busting presence in Black Snake.

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If Meyer’s titanic personal vision scaled its most vertiginous peaks in the delirious cartoon trilogy that folllowed this one (Supervixens, 1975… Up!, 1976 … Beneath The Valley Of The Ultra-Vixens, 1979), I’ve always found his unique brand of guerrilla auteurism to be most effective when pitched mischievously at the margins of the mainstream. When I was an adolescent, for instance, sneaking into ‘X’- rated double bills with more intention of catching a glimpse of female nudity than experiencing Cinema in any kind of analytical mode, I saw Black Snake (rechristened Slaves and paired with the immortal Richard Lerner’s 18 Year Old Schoolgirls) round about the same time as I caught up with Meyer’s 1970 effort, Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls. Too unschooled and stupefied with testosterone to even connect these films as the work of the same man, the question I kept asking myself during each of them was, approximately  (to paraphrase my daughter after I’d treated her to a screening of Birdemic: Shock And Terror): “Is this a real film”? Did Meyer mean it or was he putting us on? As seasoned cineastes, of course, the answer is all too painfully obvious to us in 2016.

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By the time I got to know him, David Warbeck had clearly got the joke and was happy to regale me with stories of Meyer madness, further claiming that there were anecdotes so scurrilous that he’d only be able to relate them after RM’s death. In the sad event, David predeceased his director by several years and one gathers that in his dotage, the formerly litigious Meyer would not have been up to pursuing any kind of legal case anyway. Rewinding to 1973 though, the young Warbeck on screen doesn’t seem to know quite what to make of the lunacy unfolding around him in Black Snake, looking every bit like an actor searching in vain for clues as to  where to pitch his performance… and his accent vacillates alarmingly along with the film’s ludicrous plot twists.

Ah yes, the plot of Black Snake (such as it is)… in early 19th Century England, at his stately pile, Maxwell House (!) Sir Charles Walker (DW) appraises family friend and benefactor Lord Clive (ubiquitous character actor Anthony Sharp) of his audacious plan to disguise himself as book keeper “Ronald Sopwith” and head for St Cristobal Island to discover what happened to his brother Jonathan, who has disappeared in the wake of his marriage to Blackmore Plantation owner Lady Susan (Hempel.) When he arrives in St Cristobal (looking suspiciously like Barbados) he discovers a harrowing scenario of exploited humanity, intercut with Carry On-style hi-jinks in her ladyship’s boudoir (intercut also with wobbling boobies that clearly aren’t Anouska’s.)

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His chief rival for her affections is the loathsome Irish overseer Joxer Tierney (played with lip smacking, whip cracking relish by Percy Herbert, in a role that might well have been written for Charles Napier) who spends his working day howling racial abuse at the unfortunate plantation workers and lashing out at them with the “black snake” of the film’s title (what did you think it meant?) He’s ably assisted in chastising them by a turncoat Praetorian guard of gay black cavalry mercenaries, fronted up by the seriously camp Captain Raymond Daladier (the visually impressive Bernard Boston, whose first film appearance was as himself in Godard’s Sympathy For The Devil, 1968… he also appeared in John Boorman’s Leo The Last, 1970 though Black Snake, surprisingly, seems to be his screen swan song.)

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Nor, of course, is Lady Susan any slouch when it comes to her whipping slaves, though she insists that “no what man gets whipped on Blackmoor… unless I’m doing it!” Firebrand Joshua (Milton McConnell) attempts to raise consciousness and foment rebellion among his fellow slaves, but his pacifist father Isiah (Thomas Baptiste) repeatedly persuades them to turn their other cheeks. When Isiah is crucified though, Dad drops his bible, dons a dashiki and leads a bloody uprising. “Your ol’ mate Joxer’s fallen over…” simpers their erstwhile tormentor is brought to ground “… I like you people… some of my best friends are n*ggers!” Needless to say, it doesn’t end well for Joxer.

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Caramelising white sugar in Russ Meyer’s riotous Black Snake…

Lady Susan fares even worse, hung upside down and burned alive amid the sugar cane. As the karmic carnage unfolds, DW runs around pleading with the revolting natives not to perpetrate a bloodbath, ironically oblivious to the fact that Cleone has already served up a literal one to her mistress. Oh yeah, the elusive brother Jonathan (in the hulking shape of Dave Prowse) turns up at the film’s climax as a duppy (i.e.zombie) before Meyer finally gets to whip out some truly garantuan knockers (Donna Young and Lawanda Moore are credited respectively as “first” and “second running girl”), flapping away in slow motion during a gob smacking “racial harmony” epilogue that will put any waverers wise as to whether Meyer was playing it straight or for laughs…

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… of course it was the latter, but he really does seem to take an eternity working up to his punch-line here. En route Russ tramples all over various liberal sensibilities, probably topping even 1968’s Vixen! (a veritable smorgasbord of phoney social consciousness) in terms of writing off right on causes as being just grist to his titty mill. The excellent performances by  Baptiste (who ended up in Brookside!) and McConnell belong in a much better film (and the tremendous titles sequence belongs in a Sergio Leone Western)… I wonder what the actors thought when they actually saw the finished film (McConnell never racked up another screen appearance, which possibly gives us a clue.) Where they as gob smacked as the earnest NFT patrons to whom David introduced Black Snake (with the aid of trannie conjuror Fay Presto) during a season of black consciousness raising cinema back in the ’90s? As I looked around me that evening, it was like those scenes of audience reaction to the opening musical salvo of Springtime For Hitler in The Producers. I was surprised when IMDB reminded me that Black Snake actually predates Richard Fleischer’s box office biggie Mandingo by two years but as DW told me, Meyer always prided himself on being a trail blazer, a pioneer rather than a follower. Black Snake was ahead of its time but now very much of its time… it’s difficult to imagine that somebody could possibly get away with making such a film today.

David Prowse, interviewed for Jimmy McDonough’s admirable Meyer biog Big Bosoms And Square Jaws, remembered asking the director about the relative paucity of massive mammaries in Black Snake, only to be told: “Sex is out, violence is in. This film will have every conceivable death you can think of – death by hanging, by double barrelled shotgun, by whipping, by machete, by crucifixion and by shark.” It does indeed manage to pack all of those into an unevenly entertaining hour and a half but then again, violence was never exactly conspicuous by its absence in Meyer’s other films… to quote the opening voice over in Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!: ” Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to violence, the word and the act…” Meyer was back on surer ground with the trilogy that closed his directorial career proper, in which the escaped Nazis and dynamite wielding psychos fought for screen space with stupefyingly stacked wonder women.

This Arrow release from way back is decidedly non-amorphic and looks like it might have been mastered from a laser disc. It was released (sans extras) after their decent looking Russ Meyer Collection with considerably less fanfare, suggesting that they thought it was worth putting out just to keep completists as happy as possible. You pays your money… or you doesn’t. Given the job they recently did on Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls / The Seven Minutes, perhaps it’s time for a remastered reissue of all the Meyer titles Arrow can muster?

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Now that we’ve set the world to rights vis-a-vis race relations, you might all want to visit the House Of Freudstein lobby to stuff your faces with additives and e numbers and generally fortify yourself for the remainder of our Warbeck Weekender, which concludes tomorrow night with…

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… A Classic Interview Revisited! It cuts the mustard… you’ll relish it… yeah, yeah, I know that’s really lame but could you do any better? I don’t make any money out of this shit, you know! And another thing…

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See you tomorrow…

Categories: Blu-ray / DVD Reviews | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

The Warbeck Weekender, Part 1… THE LAST HUNTER Reviewed

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DVD. Region 1. Dark Sky. Unrated.

David Warbeck had already starred on several occasions in the land of the big boot (most notably in  Sergio Leone’s Duck, You Sucker! aka A Fistful Of Dynamite, 1971) but his reign as transplanted king of Italian action trash commenced in earnest with this characteristically violent, action packed Vietnam War epic courtesy of indefatigable spaghetti exploiter Antonio Margheriti. Margheriti had spotted Warbeck while directing second unit on Leone’s elegiac epic and later recalled thinking: “What a fabulous face – I have to have it in my own films.” Almost a decade later, he got his wish.

Just as Margheriti’s Cannibal Apocalypse, lensed the same year, is so much more than the Deodato-wannabe it was hyped as (comprising instead an allegorical examination of the alienated war veteran’s plight, matched only for aching poignancy by Buddy Giovinazzo’s Combat Shock, 1986), so this supposed Cimino / Coppola copycat, which was actually announced as “The Deer Hunter 2” (“starring Jack Nicholson”!) works on more levels that the one played up the by the poster artist. Indeed, this 1980 Margheriti brace could serve as a paradigm of Kim Newman’s indispensable aphorism that the better Italian bandwagon jumpers are “… surprisingly sophisticated mixes of imitation, pastiche, parody deconstruction, reinterpretation and operatic inflation.”

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So sure, Margheriti trots out the required elements from Apocalypse Now (Warbeck is on a mission to terminate, with extreme prejudice, those responsible for “Tokyo Rose” type broadcasts that are sapping GI morale; he encounters a crazy colonel – John Steiner – who sends his men on coconut runs down sniper’s alley, in lieu of any waves to catch… incidental nicks centre on soul brothers Tony King and Bobby Rhodes, who wile away the war with dope and Hendrix) and The Deer Hunter (Russian roulette and rat cages, disillusioned idealism and sexual betrayal, a protagonist who opts to stay in the inferno that is war because he has become so alienated by its rawness from the superficialities and uncertainties of the life he previously knew… shades of  All Quiet On The Western Front… etc…

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But these are essentially pegs for the publicity department to hang a campaign upon. In The Last Hunter, Margheriti goes native, essentially remixing themes from a peculiarly Italian genre… this, so much more than Cannibal Apocalypse, is Margheriti’s true, albeit disguised, contribution to Cinecitta’s man-eating cycle, unfolding in a booby trap laden jungle strewn with ravaged human remains… a setting indistinguishable from that of any Lenzi, D’Amato, Martino or Deodato gut crunching saga. Meanwhile Margheriti muses obsessively on the iconic screen presence of Warbeck (looking much better here in a greasy vest than Bruce Willis has ever managed) and scours the emotional labyrinth of a menage-a-trois that unfolds through the same flashback structure by dint of which Warbeck’s character comes to haunt Duck, You Sucker!!

“Tokyo Rose” turns out to be Margit Evelyn Newton, who was was Warbeck’s youthful collaborator in anti-war activism and the girlfriend he shared, in an ambiguous “open relationship” (again, the spectre of Duck, You Sucker!) with the doughboy whom we saw blowing his brains out in the film’s pre-titles sequence. Warbeck’s agonising about whether or not he’s sold out doesn’t stop him from giving Margit an all-American sock-on-the-jaw , but at least she’s spared the astonishing dismemberment she undergoes at the conclusion of Bruno Mattei’s Zombie Creeping Flesh (1981). His patriotic duty now done, we expect Warbeck to fly off into the sunset with Tisa Farrow’s pert, freckle-faced photo journalist (a sort of distaff Tim Flynn.) Instead he elects to stay in the vicious jungle that now mirrors his devastated mental terrain. The film’s closing helicopter zoom, with our hero receding into the distance amid encroaching napalm blooms, looked kinda cheesy when I first saw The Last Hunter, but would be given the kind of poignancy that Margheriti was aiming for (indeed, it’s now almost unbearably poignant) by the revelation that cinematographer Riccardo Pallotini died in a ‘copter crash while supervising precisely such a shot for Margheriti and Warbeck’s next collavboration , Tiger Joe (1982) and by the subsequent, scandalously premature loss of Warbeck (who never quite hit the heights in his film career, but was indisputably a top-drawer human being.

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During the initial “video nasty” witch hunt in the UK this film was released by Inter-light and later by Intervision in a very similar sleeve that omitted previously featured shots of Warbeck undergoing fiendish tortures at the hands of the Vietcong. Why bother? The Last Hunter still ended up on Section 3 of the DPP’s nasty list and anyway, as the star himself once told me (he was paraphrasing Lucio Fulci): “Real life is more horrible than anything anybody could ever dream up for a film”… an observation vindicated by the tragic events surrounding participants in Antonio Margheriti’s The Last Hunter.

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Dark Sky’s 2.35:1 anamorphic wide screen transfer looks pretty good though of course the grainy nature of some of the combat stock footage herin is accentuated in the digital format. Extras include a theatrical trailer and and a winning, 20-odd minutes featurette by David Gregory in which Margheriti’s son and assistant, the agreeable Eduardo, acts as our guid on a sentimental trip around Rome’s De Palis studios, where Margheriti (and many of his exploitation peers) shot most of the “jungle exteriors” for their films in the ’70s and ‘80s. He indicates the sound stage where the climactic sewer scenes of Cannibal Apocalypse were acted out, and relates how the ‘Nam flashbacks in that one clinched for his father the job of directing Last Hunter in the Philippines on sets left over from Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. Edo expounds on the beauty of that country (to which he, his father and star Warbeck would return on several subsequent occasions) and also the difficulties of working in its oppressive heat. His thoughts returning to De Paolis, he indicates the clumps of trees that were often pressed into service to provide linking shots  from the Philippine jungle and the water tank in which Warbeck fought off various rats and snakes.

Edo reminisces about working with Warbeck and John Steiner, his own small role in The Last Hunter (as “Stinker Smith”) and the pleasure his father apparently took in devising grisly demises for him… also Margheriti’s love of the special FX work for which he was world renowned; the cheap and cheerful, make-and-match spirit under which these films were crafted (Edo remembers how Margheriti and Luigi Cozzi raided each other’s props when shooting Yor and Hercules respectively on adjacent sound stages); and their shameless opportunism (“We put a “2” behind the title of a lot of successful American films”)… a joyful memoir of the golden age of Italian exploitation (from somebody who actually lived it) in which David Warbeck participated so conspicuously.

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The Warbeck Weekender continues here at houseoffreudstein.wordpress.com tomorrow night with a look at David’s leading role in Russ Meyer’s er, idiosyncratic Black Snake aka Slaves (1973.) But first, some important messages from our sponsors…

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UnPalanced: CRAZE Reviewed

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DVD. Region Free. Nucleus. 15.

Neal Mottram (Jack Palance) is the oldest swinger in town and just about the least successful antique dealer in the world, but the antics that go on in the cellar under his shop would cause Fiona Bruce to raise her eyebrow (even higher than usual)… robed acolytes prostrate themselves before an African fetish doll representing “the all-powerful God of love, Chuku” while dusky beauties remove their shirts and gyrate energetically. All good clean fun, but when the deposed former head of Mottram’s coven turns up to claim the Chuku carving for herself, claiming that “Aleister left it to me” (geddit?) she ends up accidentally impaled on one of its claws. Mottram rolls her up in a carpet and dumps her in the river. Shortly thereafter, while fretting about his finances, he discovers a fistful of doubloons in a secret drawer on one of his pieces and comes to the conclusion that Chuku is paying him off for the blood sacrifice he accidentally made. This is the point where, to quote the art work: “Black magic explodes into murder” (doncha just hate it when that happens?) Transformed from libertine dilettante to true believer, our increasingly koo koo, Chuku-worshipping antique dealer bumps off a series of victims in honour of his idol.

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First to go is loose-living strumpet Helena (the scrumptious Julie Ege), who after a sex and drugs bender with Mottram (nice work, fella!) fails to treat Chuku with sufficient reverence and ends up having her face roasted in Mottram’s basement agar. Dominatrix Sally (Suzy Kendall, labouring under an alarming bed spring perm) is talking Mottram through her price list for specialist services when he throttles her to death (briefly quoting Hitchcock’s Frenzy in the process) and, in an overly convoluted piece of plotting, he sets up a tryst with a blowsy ex Dolly (Diana Dors) only to drug her so he can slip away and stake his rich, elderly aunty (Edith Evans, no less) through the neck on her croquet lawn and cite his alleged night of passion with Dolly as an alibi. Chuku keeps his side of the bargain, as previously overlooked Ming vases start turning up in the shop. Mottram inherits his aunt’s worldly chattels too, so I guess Chuku helps those who help themselves.

Detective Sergeant Wall (Michael Jayston), the Gene Hunt of his day (come to think of it, it was Gene Hunt’s day, too) is determined to bring the arrogant antiques dealer to book for these dastardly crimes but as his boss Superintendent Bellamy (Trevor Howard, no less) keeps telling him, they’ve got no evidence. Mottram’s crimes become less and less meticulously planned, however, under the influence of his blind faith in Chuku’s protective powers and slowly but surely, the noose begins to tighten. First Dolly clues Wall in on Mottram’s penchant for black magic, then he gets into an axe wielding tiff with long-suffering boyfriend Ronnie (Martin Potter) while their place is being staked out by Detective Wilson (David Warbeck) and it all ends, predictably, in tears.

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Just when you thought they’d gone a bit quiet recently, Nucleus return with this delirious dollop of early ’70s horror hokum. Craze (1974) is just one of the journeyman horror efforts that Freddie Francis directed, with increasing reluctance, as a sideline to his distinguished career as a cinematographer. He had already directed Palance in a very similar role (as an obsessive collector of Poe memorabilia) in Torture Garden (1967) but whatever familiarity existed between them obviously didn’t empower Francis to negotiate a scintilla of restraint in his star’s performance (though admittedly Hugh Griffiths, during his brief appearance as a solicitor, chews the scenery even more alarmingly than Palance.)

It’s been suggested that Francis, like just about everybody else who ever met Palance, was intimidated by him but Jonathan Rigby proposes, in the bonus featurette Crazy Days, an alternative theory, i.e that Francis really couldn’t be arsed by this point. Rigby, as ever, proves a value for money rentapundit, drawing from a seemingly bottomless well of information and anecdote on his subject. His dedication to duty extends to going through copies of old girlie mags to establish which one Palance was reading during his phone conversation with Kendall (I have to say, this is an area of research that I’ve always found particularly rewarding.) I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find out that Rigby has the Chuku figure in his own basement, for which reason I’m not prepared to say anything remotely negative about him… and anyway, who could take possibly take issue with his judgement that “with the accompaniment of a few beers, Craze remains a ridiculous but very entertaining film.”6a00d83451d04569e20192aad95d68970d-500wi.jpgThat’s largely down to the astonishing cast that veteran exploitation producer Herman Cohen assembled for this one, chock-a-block with up-and-comers, has-beens, never-weres and reliable character actors. In the posthumously rediscovered interview that I did with David Warbeck, shortly to premiere in Dark Side magazine, he talks a lot about Craze and having now watched it for the first time since pre-Cert days, I was surprised to see just how little screen time he actually gets in it.

Additional extras include a PDF of the US press book plus trailers for this and other Freddie Francis pictures along with coming attractions for other titles that Marc and Jake have already released or will soon be releasing. As presented here, Craze looks pretty good for a 42 year-old exploitation picture although to justify its billing as “first time uncut on DVD in the UK”, three brief sequences that were not in the available negative have been sourced from an obviously inferior 1″ master by these die-hard completists.

Like the man said… ridiculous but VERY entertaining.

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FULCI MENTAL JUNKET… “My Lunch With Lucio”

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It was twenty years ago, today (yep, this very day)… that Lucio Fulci passed away. I had intended to mark the occasion by finally publishing here the complete text of my interview with him, which has only previously appeared in excerpts (e.g. in Dark Side when the news of his death came through.) It now appears though that the interview will make its unexpurgated world debut in another and very exciting context, which I will announce on this blog if / when confirmed. In lieu of that, I’ve taken the opportunity to wallow in nostalgia with the following updated account of the weekend (09-11th December, 1994) that I spent with Il Maestro in London during his triumphant appearance at EuroFest 2 in Hampstead. Like Mark Twain, rumours of Fulci’s death had been greatly exaggerated, and although he joked that in ten years or so he would be experiencing The Beyond personally (sadly, it didn’t take anything like that long) the legions of fans who travelled from all over Britain, and indeed Europe, had come to praise Fulci, not to bury him …

Friday evening

Having completed the filming of interviews with the BBC (I’ve enquired with the Corporation as to what happened to this footage but nobody knows or seems to give a toss) and a London cable channel, the grand old man of Italian horror is holding court to a couple of Dutch fanzine proprietors / festival organisers amid the opulence of Beyond star David Warbeck’s palatial Hampstead spread as I am ushered into his presence, at the end of a torturous car-crawl through London’s grid-locked traffic. Resplendent in the red and black hunting hat he sported while top-lining his own A Cat In The Brain, Fulci firmly grasps my hand and fixes me with an Old Testament glower as he growls “Maaartin… I ‘ate journalists!” (uh-oh!) Looks like my long and fervently held ambition to meet and interview him is going tits up already. “But…” he continues with a chuckle “… to me you are not so much a journalist as a friend of Lucio Fulci”. As you can imagine, dear reader, this comes as quite a considerable relief.

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Fulci smooches up to Mario Bava back in the ’50s…

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… and with our very own Bob Freudstein in 1994

I’m also introduced to Fulci’s charming daughter Antonella, a very sweet and helpful lady who, as well as assisting her father, follows an independent career of her own as a rock and film journalist (she’s currently preparing a piece on Amando de Ossorio.) Due to the interpretative skills of Antonella and the inestimable Loris Curci, the first interview session goes splendidly, with some fascinating insights and hilariously scabrous anecdotes (“Mama mia!” Fulci tends to exclaim when the names of certain people are mentioned: “He has the intelligence of an idiot!”)

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Later, at the dinner table, the assembled company enjoys David Warbeck’s fabled hospitality in full force and effect, while Fulci rhapsodises over A.C. Roma’s recent 4-0 stuffing of Lazio before launching into an unprintable roll-call of your favourite Italian exploitation stars and their scandalous sexual liaisons, which keeps us all in stitches. Other anecdotes, which I can recount here, revolve around Al Cliver / Pier Luigi Conti’s allegedly meagre I.Q., Auretta Gay’s feat of shitting through the string of her tanga (“After that we called her ‘Ca-ca-ca’ Gay’!”), and Tisa Farrow’s similarly cavalier attitude towards defecation, plus how her stint as an inept New York taxi driver ended in her losing an eye (what better qualification for a Fulci heroine?) Fulci’s having a ball, playing the role of Pasta Paura’s elder statesman to the hilt (why not, he’s certainly earned that laurel) and thankfully at no point does he appear to be hallucinating scenes of cannibalism while tucking into his meal, a la A Cat In The Brain …

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Saturday

Having spent the night kipping on a sofa at Mariano Baino’s flat (where the hospitality is perhaps less lavish than at David Warbeck’s place, but every bit as graciously bestowed and gratefully received) I arrive at the Hampstead Everyman just too late to catch my cameo in Mariano’s Caruncula, obviously one of the Festival’s stand-out moments. News filters through on the grape-vine that the Manchester Film Fair has just been raided by Trading Standards Officers. Bad timing, officers – all the gore-pups are in Hampstead today, and right now they’re checking out the new multi-director anthology movie De Generazione, which starts in promising style with two Peter Jackson-flavoured episodes (Piergiorgio Bellocchio’s Our guys Are Coming , then Marco and Antonio Manetti’s Home Delivery) before, er, degenerating into under-achieving artiness. Alberto Taraglio’s creepy Is TV Bad For Children? marks him down as one to watch, but Asia Argento’s pretentious Outlook is more typical of the collection’s general tone (although I’m able to forgive Dario’s daughter on account of her feisty performance as a hippy hit-girl in Alessandro Valori’s Squeak!, which at least closes the proceedings in agreeably manic style.) Apparently we’ve been “treated” to a couple of episodes that were cut from the Italian release print, but most of the punters seem to feel that they’ve seen more than enough …

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“Degeneration”, of course, could also serve as a convenient summary of what’s been happening to Italian horror and indeed, a much better reception is afforded to a film which predates De Generazione by virtually 15 years, i.e. Fulci’s classic The Beyond, soon to be the subject of a major Fangoria retrospective by Mr Curci and introduced here by its star David Warbeck. As usual, David and his entourage laugh like drains every time he appears on the screen, and there are reverential murmurs of approval for Fulci’s customary cameo. We cheer on the pipe-cleaner spiders, chuckle at the spectacle of David reloading his revolver through its snout, encourage Cinzia Monreale’s dog to “attack, Dicky… attack!” … and that frigid vision of Hell still raises the hairs on the back of your neck. In fact, seeing a slice of classic Fulci on the big screen again after all these years reminds you of the impact these films originally had on you, the sense that you were watching something quite unlike anything else you’d ever seen before, an impression perhaps diluted by subsequent years of video over-familiarity. Indeed, the heartfelt howls of audience anguish that accompany this ‘X’ print’s several censorship cuts brings it home to me that a lot of people here today have only ever seen this movie on uncut bootleg video: David Alton’s worst nightmare, an upcoming generation of video nasty brats … ample testimony to the continuing pulling power of Lucio Fulci.

Speaking of pulling power … what a ladies’ man! To rapturous applause, Fulci takes the stage (with Warbeck and Loris) to compliment the female fans on their pulchritude and announce that he’s looking for his next wife (the lady producer of The Doors To Silence pursued him but was apparently rejected on the grounds of halitosis.) Fulci also announces his mission to marry Antonella off to card-carrying Fulci fan Quentin Tarantino… “Then, at last, I will be rich!” Fulci acclaims Tarantino as “a genius”, but those who’ve incurred Fulci’s wrath are not spared his waspish wit: “Wes Craven is a very successful guy” he opines: “ … so why does he have to rip off A Cat In The Brain and call it his New Nightmare?” The audience are equally amused by Fulci’s description of John Savage as “a once-handsome actor, now weighed down by drink and his social problems”, by way of introduction to the British premiere of The Doors To Silence.

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From The Land of the Big Boot…

Most importantly though, Fulci announces the news over which I’ve been sworn to silence for these last couple of months: his next film is to be a remake of the classic Mystery In The Wax Museum, produced and presented by… Dario Argento. I think you could safely say that audience response is enthusiastic! The punters are still getting their heads around this bombshell as The Doors To Silence commences. I’m delighted to finally catch up with this picture, complete with its original jazzy score (subsequently changed by producer Joe D’Amato, whose infectious penchant for pseudonyms resulted in the picture being credited to “H. Simon Kittay”, much to Fulci’s chagrin.) For an hour or so Fulci skilfully keeps this virtual one-man show on the road, but by the end of Door’s feature-length running time the slimness of its premise (essentially a low-fi reworking of Ambrose Bierce’s An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge) and the paucity of resources afforded by producer D’Amato have taken their toll. I discover that while watching it I’ve been sitting next to Cathal Tohil and Pete Tombs, authors of Immoral Tales, a wide-ranging, lavishly-illustrated door-stop of a guide to European erotic and horror cinema. It’s a wee (not so wee, actually) cracker, so scour your local quality bookshop (or indeed, t’interweb) for a copy now.

As Messrs Tohil, Tombs and I soak up the atmosphere (and alcohol) in one corner of the bar, Signor Fulci is being besieged by fans on the other. Although he’s just told the audience that “like a father with many children, I love all my films … even the illegitimate ones”, this obviously doesn’t extend to Zombi 3 (finished and ruined by Bruno Mattei), across stills from which he scrawls “I do not like this film!” If Fulci is entertaining any doubts at all as to his cult status, the frantically haggling German nut-case who’s just got to buy that hat off him will surely dispel them … meanwhile I’m handing out flyers for the latest Giallo Pages (am I setting a new record for most plugs in one piece or what?) and meeting many readers. I even get to sign a few copies of Seduction Of The Gullible. Thanks to everybody who came up to say hello. Skipping Zombie Flesh Eaters and Dark Waters, Mariano, Loris, Mark Ashworth and I adjourn for a pizza.

Sunday

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The apple never falls far from the tree…

Granted a morning audience in il maestro’ s hotel room to conclude my interview, I am urged to inform the fans that Fulci didn’t receive a penny for signing memorabilia. Speaking of which, our hero lets himself in for a terminal bout of writers cramp by agreeing to autograph mountains of stuff for me (he’s particularly taken with the Japanese Zombie Flesh Eaters cinema programme and its pop-up zombie!) as he grills me on my impression of Quentin Tarantino and his eligibility; Antonella proudly shows me the runic symbol from The Beyond tattooed on her arm and I quiz her father about the upcoming Argento collaboration: “It’s going to be a ferocious film, I hope some courageous British distributor will bring it over here for a theatrical run. It has a good script, which I just finished … Dario made some suggestions, which I took on board”. Is he daunted by the prospect of working with such a powerful personality as Argento in the producer’s chair, bearing in mind the stories we hear of Argento “taking over” Michele Soavi’s films? “No, no , no …” protests Fulci: “You have to remember that I’m an older man than Soavi, and indeed Argento, so he will show me the proper respect. He’s a very intelligent, cultured man. Don’t forget also …”, he chuckles: “Lucio Fulci is a strong personality, too!” Right – so couldn’t there be a clash? “Argento will be in America in March, anyway, shooting Stendhal Syndrome while I’m shooting Mystery In The Wax Museum in Turin …” responds Fulci: “ … then he’ll return to work on the post-production. Who knows what will happen in the future, but so far we’ve had no problems at all”.

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The collaboration of these two titans of Tiber Terror is a tantalising prospect for Spaghetti horror buffs, a consummation devoutly to be wished, but for Fulci it amounts to even more than that – the Italian horror film’s last stand, no less! “If Argento and I together aren’t enough to turn things around, then who is there that can do it?” (Who indeed?) Fulci’s apocalyptical pronouncements, still pounding in my head, combine with the intoxicating effect of hanging out with one of my heroes, not to mention the impenetrable architecture of this bloody hotel, and I find myself circling its infernal corridors for half an hour, seeking a way out to the street and keeping a wary eye out for pipe-cleaner spiders.

Back in Hampstead, Sunday dinner is a slice of garlic and mozzarella ciabatta from the deli over the road, then it’s once more into the fray, dear fiends. Today’s audience are a rather listless bunch compared to yesterday’s, possibly on account of the fact that it contains a much higher proportion of journos, complimentary ticket holders and general liggers (I even manage a rare meeting with Mr Bryce)… and who’s this black-garbed figure, with the face of a debauched cherub, making his way over to say hello? Why, it’s none other than Eyeball editor Stephen Thrower, a man about whom I’ve had the odd printed spat, back in the day when I felt the need to defend Samhain against every slighting comment made about it by the London horror mafia. As is almost invariably the case in these instances, we get along (reasonably) famously and I’m delighted to learn that he’s penning a tome on Fulci for Nigel Wingrove’s new Redemption Books imprint (interesting bit of trivia there for those of you reading this in 2016.) I also run into the ever-genial Norman J. Warren, who is apparently about to clinch the financing for that Fiend Without A Face remake / sequel he seems to have been banging on about for years. Always nice to see Norman.

Fulci arrives, scales the stage and puts on another barn-storming performance. “Censorship is a hypocritical exercise of power …”, insists this frequent victim of it: “Instead of censoring my films, they should censor the news!” He reprises most of his best lines from yesterday (e.g. “It’s the censors who should be shot in the brain… but it’s a very small target?”) and adds a few new ones, most of which are wasted on this comatose crowd. Even in this subdued atmosphere though, he brings the house down by answering a fan’s enquiry about the advantages of Cinemascope by informing us that it’s the best format in which to watch Sharon Stone uncrossing her legs!

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Also wandering around the bar we find Doug Bradley, fretting over how Liverpool F.C. are getting on against Crystal Palace (a lack-lustre O-O draw, it transpires) and also about how to make a link between the Hellraiser series (which he takes the stage to answer questions on, teasing is with the prospect of – would you believe it? – “Pinhead In Space”?) and Zombie Flesh Eaters, which he’ll be introducing. I assure him that the film is a big favourite of Clive Barker’s. Problem solved, I settle down to watch an un-cut Italian print (“Zombi 2”, doncha know …) with semiotician / lad-about-town / future Giallo Pages contributor Xavier Mendik, who runs this country’s only academic course on Italian horror cinema at Southampton University … carve his name with pride! It’s difficult to view Tisa Farrow, Al Cliver and Auretta Gay in the same light, given some of the stories I’ve heard about them this weekend (and it never was easy to take Ian McCulloch’s hair-do in this film seriously), but for me and many others in the audience our first exposure to the uncut squashing of Olga Karlatos’s eyeball in its full Cinemascopic majesty is an experience we’ll always cherish (… whaddya mean, “sad bastards”?) I hook up with Darrell Buxton and Chris “I kissed Chow Yun Fat and I liked it” Barfield (rest in peace, dude) for the return to Saint Pancras, stopping for a moment of meaningful reflection outside the barred doors of what used to be The Scala. On the red eye special back to the The Great East Midlands we run into none other than Phil Hedgehog of Nottingham’s Forbidden Planet notoriety, who’s keen to hear our tales of les folies de Fulci… Phil, you shoulda been there!

Thanks to Lucio Fulci, of course, to Antonella, David Warbeck, Lois and Dave, to Mariano and Marilyn, to translator Loris Curci, Paul Brown and anybody else I’ve forgotten to mention.

Fulci shoots from the hip

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