by Sidney Pink
(Forced to sue American International Pictures inorder to get money owed for the theatrical release of ANGRY RED PLANET and REPTILICUS as well as to fight that company altering without permission the film JOURNEY TO THE SEVENTH PLANET, Sidney Pink took his family on a vacation to Mallorca.)
It took almost two months before I received the translated script from Madrid, and when I read it, I realized it would take a long time and herculean effort to turn that over-long, verbose, dull work into an acceptable international shooting script. Its characters were boring, the perfect example of the Spanish movie industry's inability to comprehend international tastes. Spanish writers believed a hundred words were better than one picture, and so they talked away about the battles that were going to be fought. The script included only one battle scene, and while that one could be spectacular, it took place at the very end, and no American movie patron would sit that long and wait for it to take place.
It was a formidable task, but I liked the story. It was, in essence, David and Goliath all over again, and its hero was potentially fascinating. It took place in the twelfth century when the Spanish peninsula was divided into small, hostile kingdoms. The Moors, the most civilized people of the world at that time, had begun their invasion of Spain and were subjugating the country village by village and province by province. Their fighting methods were fearsome, and they showed no mercy. Most of the kings of the provinces paid tribute to the Moors to keep them from raiding and pillaging their lands. Spain barely survived under that constant threat, and life in the northern provinces was a constant nightmare.
Abderraman was the caliph at that time, headquartered in the south. The kingdom of Castile was the smallest of the northern provinces but also the most warlike. Fernan Gonzales was the youngest son of the king of Castile; he refused to accept the Moorish presence and was banished. This same Fernan Gonzales became a hero as the first man to stop the Moorish tide of conquest in Europe. Had it not been for him and his grandson, El Cid, Europe today would bear all the marks of a Moorish civilization. At Hazinas (Valley of the Swords), he stopped the Moors in a decisive battle from which they never recovered.
The story in our script came from ancient ballads recounting the exploits of this legend, steeped in mysticism and supersition. It made for great visual moviemaking. Fernan himself was a most colorful and interesting personage. I delved deeper into his history than the original author, who had been content to accept the original ballad of a jester of the age, Jerifan. We researched history as written in the museums and libraries. I discovered that the word guerrilla had been coined by this same Fernan who said, according to the manuscripts attributed to him, "We can not beat the Moors in a war, but we are quick and deceptive; we can beat them in a series of little wars." The Spanish word for small war is guerrilla, and so that modern word comes from Spanish antiquity. I was completely absorbed in the history of the period, and the script we completed showed it.
At this same time, I was taking Spanish lessons from a teacher in Mallorca. She was a brilliant woman, the widow of a college professor and forced to earn her living by teaching gringos the language. Carmen was an excellent teacher but I was a poor student. My head was too full of my AIP problems, which were not going well, and I was distracted by the chore of having to write what was essentially an entirely new script. Carmen's son, Luis de las Bayonas, lived in Madrid, and he later became my translator, teacher, right arm, and good friend through all my years of production in Spain.