The Wild Wild Interview
by Michael Barnum
Video Watchdog No. 128 Dec/Feb 2007
SECRET OF THE SPHINX was one of the first James Bond 007 knock-offs to come out of Italy, hot on the heels of GOLDFINGER. Was it a nice change of pace from your sword and sandal films?
It was great, particularly going down to film in Egypt. It was a wonderful experience and an education. My co-star Maria Perschy was beautiful and wonderful to work with. She was an Austrian (by way of Germany) actress. And Duccio Tessari was, indeed, a good director. The picture, however, just missed. Not by a lot, but it just missed being a really good film.
This wasn't your only foray into the spy genre though, was it?
No, I later did TARGET GOLDSEVEN [TECNICA DI UN SPIA, 1967], which was filmed in Portugal. Erika Blanc was my co-star in that film and she was a very funny gal. I don't recall where she was from originally, but a lot of these beautiful blond, buxom girls would come down from other countries and the producers, or directors, would put them in pictures and they'd be sleeping with them or whatever. I tried to stay out of all of that [laughs]! One day, Erika and I were lying in bed on the set while the lighting was being set up, and she said to me, "You know, Tony... I have starred in eleven films and I have slept with eleven producers!" [laughs] I said, "Well, thanks for sharing that, Erika!" [laughs]
I once read an interview with actor Gordon Mitchell in which he mentioned that it was wise to never get involved with the actresses in the films in Italy, because you never knew when one of them might be dating the producer!
That's right! Really, a lot of the time they weren't even very good actresses and you would wonder how in the world they got the lead, but then you'd realize [laughs]! Let's face it, there were producers and directors who became producers and directors primarily for this reason.
KNIGHTS OF TERROR [IL TERRORE DEL MANTELLI ROSSI, 1964] is a rather obscure historical adventure that you did with Scilla Gabel.
One good thing about that film was that we shot inside a wonderful castle, right across the bridge at the Tiber river, the Castello di Sant' Angelo. We shot right inside that beautiful castle, which is quite a tourist attraction. The exteriors were shot outside a different castle on the outskirts of Rome. I didn't really enjoy shooting that picture, however. The cameraman was Spanish [Julio Ortas], and the other lead actor was French [Jacques Dacqmin], and then there was Scilla Gabel, who was either French or Italian. My name had been established a little by this time, but I felt like I was on the outside looking in during the filming. The director [Mario Costa] didn't give me the time of day, for some reason. There was a clique between him and the girls and the French actor, and I always felt like an outsider. So I just minded my own business and did my dialogue and fencing and swashbuckling and whatever was needed.