by Sidney Pink
Part of my coproduction deal called for our acceptance of none other than Espartaco Santoni as Fernan Gonzales, as well as a Spanish director, Javier Seto, who had written the original script. I never expected anything more than an exploitation picture, and so it mattered little to me that Espartaco would play the lead. As for the Spanish director, we had built into the contract our control of the final quality of the movie, and that gave us the protection necessary to handle any director. Espartaco was, of course, delighted to be in the same movie as Cesar Romero, and while he had never heard of Frankie Avalon, he accepted by assurances that it was a plus for all of us.
Five days after our script submission, I received a call from Dick Lederer; he would recommend the project to Ben Kalmenson with the right to recommend script changes or additions to the cast. I assured him that to the extent we had the power to make changes, he would be heard and his suggestions followed. Now we had fulfilled our obligations to MD, and I returned to Madrid a conquering hero.
A whole contingent met me at the Barajas airport on my return. Even Maruja was there to greet and thank me. She was so happy for her husband that she forgot any thought of her own future and gloried in her husband's opportunity just as if it had been hers. But Espartaco was still not satisfied; he needed to feel the accomplishment was his as well as mine, and his jealousy was all-consuming. Although he went through the motions of appearing pleased, it was obvious that he was disgruntled. I didn't learn the reason until later.
Javier Seto contacted me with the request that he and I, as well as his co-writer Luis de los Arcos, meet at the earliest possible time to discuss my script changes, so all alterations could be made in their Spanish work script. I remember my first impressions of these two when they entered my apartment. Luis de los Arcos, with whom I continued to work throughout my entire production career in Spain, was a character. He was so emaciated he resembled a skeleton, and he reeked of gin. I always knew when Luis was about to enter a room - his aroma arrived ahead of him. But he had the brain of a genius. It had been so abused by excesses of drugs and alcohol that it had become erratic, sporadic, and unreliable, but the genius was still there.
Luis could write (in Spanish, of course) on any subject; he had the capability of producing a completed script after hearing only a bare story line. He thought like an international writer, and his scenes were always succinct and spare. One of the despairs of my Spanish production era was Luis's inability to write in English. Everything he wrote had to be redone in English by me, and we collaborated on everything I did in Spain. He had been institutionalized several times but was always able to talk his way out of the hospitals. He collaborated with Seto on VALLEY, but only about story line, not scene or dialogue continuity. Despite all of his inconsistencies and aberrations, the most intelligent and talented man I have ever met was Luis de los Arcos.
Javier Seto, on the other hand, was the complete antithesis of Luis. He was fat and pear-shaped. Although he had no real talent, he was a great student of the cinema. He was earnest and completely dedicated, and as an assistant director for some of Spain's best directors, he had mastered the fundamentals of moviemaking. Javier Seto was willing and most eager to learn, but he had one miserable failing: If he disagreed with you, he no longer heard you. Most of the time that he worked with us he attempted to understand what we needed and cooperated, but when he felt his Spanish pride and machismo challenged, he became as stubborn as Sancho Panza's donkey.
We were able to complete all of the major dramatic scenes with him directing, but we had to replace him when we got to the battle and action scenes. Javier allowed me to work with Luis directly once he realized that he was out of his depth in attempting to understand our new script. Since it had been approved by Warner Bros., Espartaco gave the order that only I was authorized to make changes. Luis and I sharpened and honed that script to near perfection. When I felt we had a completed shooting script, I sent it back to Dick Lederer for final approval. Then I headed back home to my family for a rest and to resume my Spanish lessons.
Our coproduction agreement required us to provide the English shooting script (done), a major company distribution contract (done), a minimum of three international star names (done), and the cost of these actors' stay in Spain. We also had to pay the salaries of the American actors and the costs of any purely American scenes that would not be used in the Spanish version. If at a later date we added any scenes not called for in the script, these would also be at our expense. In return, we received distribution rights to the entire Western Hemisphere and the Far East including Japan. Thanks to Leslie Faber, we were able to make a British Lion deal with a substantial guarantee, payable on delivery, and for that we received fifty percent of the rest of the world.