Saturday, June 20, 2009


From HOLLYWOOD EXILE Or How I Learned To Love the Blacklist
by Bernard Gordon

Bernard Gordon had been hired by Philip Yordan to help write & produce films for his new studio in Spain. While in pre-production on CAPTAIN APACHE, he had to deal with a prior film on which he had no previous dealings.

A TOWN CALLED BASTARD still had to be attended to. When we viewed the first cut of BASTARD, we all agreed it didn't make sense and that production would have to be reopened. Again, I realized this was a commonplace with Yordan. Finish a film inadequately, then worry about making changes when it was, in effect, too late. Strangle a production with too little money, then spend a great deal more than was saved on fixing it up. Like (THE DAY OF THE) TRIFFIDS.
I was asked to write an "envelope" for BASTARD, something to help to make sense of the plot's mishmash. Yordan got Robert Shaw, one of the principals of the original film, to come back for the new scenes. I wrote a half-dozen envelopes. Some were rejected by Yordan, some by Bob Fisz. I don't know how we ever agreed about anything.
(Later, Irving Lerner, who had directed THE ROYAL HUNT OF THE SUN for Yordan, was "pressed into service" to do the reshoots for BASTARD.)
Back on BASTARD, one scene involved Robert Shaw on a horse leading a captive prisoner on another horse across a small stream. It seemed simple enough to me, but this time Yordan complained about the scene no matter how many times we shot it. I was lunching with Yordan and Robert Shaw when Yordan vented his vexation at Irving for not knowing how to direct the scene. "You'd think by now he'd know how to shoot two men on a horse so that it looks like something is happening."
This kind of buck passing annoyed me. "Did it ever occur to you that the director needs something to work with?" I asked. "If he had a scene with anything written, anything but two men on horses crossing a stream, he might be able to put a little drama into it."
Shaw, who knew Yordan was responsible for the script and had a fine sense of it all, was delighted to hear Yordan taken to task. He chortled happily...
Irving did make some real contributions. As we were shooting a lively scene of dancing in the cantina, he wanted the cameraman to move around loosely, catching shots of the dancers from different angles. He knew, as a film editor, how he could use such snippets of action, but the cameraman insisted he had to light the scene for one angle, then stop and relight it for another. It would have taken a week to do the scene that way, and it still wouldn't have been right. Irving told the cameraman to put the camera on his shoulder, sit in a wheelchair, and have it pushed around among the dancers. Hand-held? No tripod? No light changes? The cameraman froze. With my authority, Irving handed the camera to the assistant, sat him in a wheelchair, turned on the music, started the dancers, then pushed the wheelchair with the assistant and the camera all through the moving crowd. It worked beautifully.
During the shooting of the cantina scene, Jean and I were sitting in the trailer with Shaw and another fine English actor, Michael Craig. We were cozy in there with the butane heater to fight off the freezing winter night. We reminisced, killed a couple of bottles of good Spanish brandy, got pretty high, and had a fine time. When this was all over about two a.m., we returned to town in Shaw's Mercedes 600. Still not ready for bed, Shaw came up to our apartment and sat around another couple of hours while we killed another bottle. Jean fell into bed long before this was over. I couldn't keep up with drinkers like Shaw, but in the interest of a career, I tried. To my admiration, as I watched helplessly from a chair, Shaw was able to get up finally and walk steadily out of the apartment.

1 comment:

  1. One of my favorite bad movies; actors come and go as the filming schedule permits and a jaw-droppingly bad scene of Michael Craig dancing to THE BATTLE OF NEW ORLEANS. I believe not only Gordon was high while this one was being made. Great sets though, and a great, though misused, cast.