by Bernard Gordon
At work on HORROR EXPRESS, I made every effort to respect Sacristan's special status and macho image. I let him keep his office and saw to it that the new production manager trod carefully in dealing with the cacique, but word must have spread through the small Madrid film community that Sacristan was out at the only foreign-run studio. Out was out and my effort to remain on good terms with him were doomed, as I later learned.
Another complication arose, one I didn't anticipate. The studio real estate had been purchased and paid for by Bobby Marmor and Yordan. Everything - all the construction of the sets and buildings - had also been paid for by them, but Spanish law did not permit foreign ownership of any media, including film studios, so the nominal ownership had been vested in some Spaniards (one being Sacristan) and our studio accountant. The attorney, Paco Lizarza, may also have had a piece, though he was careful to keep his skirts clean, since what had been done contravened the law. The studio's muddled ownership would come back to haunt us.
Creating a truly Spanish production company to produce HORROR EXPRESS and subsequent Spanish nationality films was even more complicated. The same nominees who "owned" the studio became officers and shareholders, plus Eugenio Martin and me. Amused, I gave my consent to become one of the minor corporate officers, with a share or two of meaningless stock. There were no assets and the stock had no value. Since I was strictly a minority shareholder, there was no conflict with Spanish law. When the film was almost completed, Lizarza informed me that Spanish fiscal inspectors were snooping around, suspicious that our financing was not really Spanish and that the whole operation was fraudulent.
"You have to understand, Bernie," he said, so earnestly that I could see sweat on his brow as well as the dandruff on his shoulders, "the fiscal inspectors here are the most highly educated and trained officials in the whole country. Something like the people they send to the Ercole Normale Superieure in France." I was familiar with that setup. "You have to understand," he emphasized again, "in Spain maybe you can get away with murder if you have the right connections. But you don't get away with violating the currency laws. You'd be surprised at the people they send to prison for that." He paused to let that sink in. "It doesn't matter who you are or who you know."
I could only assume that he was referring to the fact that I was a foreigner. "So what do we do now?"
He hunched his shoulders, "We're not in trouble yet. I'll try to handle it."
I had never considered the legal violations involved as truly significant because we were in fact bringing money into the country, honestly financing the films and creating employment for Spaniards. Where was the harm? But the government took a dim view of all this because, under the cover of Spanish nationality and its benefits, we would ultimately be exporting films to lucrative markets all over the world and never repatriating the proceeds to Spain. When Eugenio, not the most courageous man in the world, heard what was going on, he almost fell apart. I didn't feel very snappy either and made myself scarce when the inspectors came around to the studio. I never heard the end of this saga but assumed that Lizarza and Sacristan had somehow satisfied the expert snoopers.