Thursday, April 29, 2010

Yul's son doesn't even name ADIOS SABATA in his book.

From: YUL
The Man Who Would Be King
A Memoir of Father and Son
by Rock Brynner

By now, he told me firmly, he regarded himself as a character actor, as if this were a rite of passage that the family ought to note. He was quite realistic about aging, and recognized that he had passed the point where he could play romantic leading men on the screen - such scripts just weren't proposed to him anymore. Instead, he was being offered roles as villains that, more and more often, were extremely violent. But by this time, for a variety of economic reasons, the film business was in such dire straits that even Henry Fonda was making spaghetti Westerns - and so was Yul. These were Westerns, shot in Italy and Spain, in which only the famous star spoke English; all the other characters were played by gnarly-looking Italians who merely mouthed the English dialogue, which was later dubbed. This was not the goal Yul had had in mind when he had studied with Michael Chekhov, but he regarded it as a personal insult when I pointed that out, as he noted that I myself was being supported by these awful movies.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Steve McQueen and Rock and Yul Brynner

From: YUL
The Man Who Would Be King
A Memoir of Father and Son
by Rock Brynner

"Dad, who's going to play the other cowboys in MAG SEVEN?"
"Why do you ask?"
"Well, I heard you say you were still looking, and there's this guy on TV who's really cool. He carries a sawed-off shotgun, and - I don't know, he's kind of like a teenager. His name is Steve McQueen. He'd be really good. He's already starred in one movie: THE BLOB...

"Your father's got exactly the right idea, Rock," McQueen said to me one afternoon on location outside Cuernavaca. Then he paused. "Perfectionism... you dad's perfectionism is legendary. Just learn to do one thing better than anyone else, doesn't matter if it's Ping-Pong or drawing a six-shooter real fast. Work to be best. Oh, you'll lose plenty of friends that way. Like Yul says, 'So, I won't win the Nice Guy of the Year award.' Anyway, I heard you'd seen me on TV, and put in a plug with your dad. I just wanted to thank you. You've got quite some father, Rock." And he paused again it occurred to me that my dad was a hero to my own cowboy hero. "He's gonna be a tough ol' man for you to live up to, all right." I didn't need Steve McQueen to tell me that. " 'Specially if he ever gets mean to you. He's real competitive."...

Preparations continued for a sequel to THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN called RETURN OF THE SEVEN. When Yul had first hired Steve McQueen for the original film, McQueen had promised, informally, to appear in any sequel. But when Yul sent him the script to RETURN, McQueen's agent went back on Steve's word on his behalf. My cowboy hero had backed out on his word, and the little faith I had left in heroes was shatttered. Yul had half expected him to fink out, and went about finding a whole new cast for the sequel...
In the spring of 1966, Yul went to Alicante, Spain, to shoot RETURN OF THE SEVEN. The cast was a bunch of young, interesting men, who, everyone assumed, would soon be as famous as Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, and James Coburn ever were - they were Bob Fuller, Claude Akins, and Warren Oates. There was no obvious reason why this could not be as good a film as the original - indeed, so much had been learned on the first film that the second should have surpassed it. The fact that it was shot in Spain instead of Mexico need not have made much difference. There was the great Emilio Fernandez as the bandido this time. The director, Burt Kennedy, was no slouch. Why then did it have a cut-rate feel about it? It was as if an idea that had proven itself was now exploiting itself...

One day a plump, beared customer in dirty jeans and dark shades came up to me in the sushi bar. He looked like a low-rent biker. "Are you Rocky, Yul Brynner's kid?" he asked, and when I nodded cautiously, he removed his shades. It was Steve McQueen.
In words that I can barely remember, he said he's always meant to stop by this roadside shack. Recently THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN had been shown on television, and a carpenter working on his house mentioned to him that I worked at this sushi bar - that was why he was stopping by. Trying my best to ignore his appearance, I sat down with him at a table. He explained that by disguising himself as an ugly biker type he was free to move about publicly, the way ordinary folk do. I tried to picture Yul doing that. Then McQueen told me he'd been reviewing his life carefully for some months. "Yul and I fell out over some stupid thing, a couple of years after we made that movie." He paused. "I don't remember. Maybe it was something in the press. Or the plans to make a sequel. We had an argument about The Deal. I'm sure he doesn't remember exactly either, it was such a trivial thing." McQueen was wrong; Yul remembered perfectly.
"Anyway, I stopped by so's to ask you to give him a message, next time you speak to him." He paused, but this was a different kind of pause. It was difficult for him to say what he had to say. And yet during the several seconds that he paused, it was obvious that something had happened, something had changed inside his soul.
"Ask Yul to forgive me. I was always very grateful for what he did. He transformed my career and, with it, my life. Then we had some stupid argument because I wouldn't appear in RETURN OF THE SEVEN, and I never saw him again. Well, I came here today to ask you to give Yul a message. Tell him I did wrong, and I'm sorry for it. I never stopped feeling bad about it, because there's no doubt, THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN was the film that made me a star. And I never did forget that, or forget him."
I promised to give Yul the message, mentioning that Dad and I didn't talk much. I was going to say something about how unwell he looked, but then he might reasonably have asked what the hell I was doing working as a short-order cook. So I just told him that he'd been a real hero to me.
"I remember, Rock. You first suggested me to your father, because you were a fan of my TV show. I never forgot you either, all the time I was a star."
"But you're still a star," I objected. Steve McQueen didn't need me to tell him that. Then I was called back in to the office to finish the accounts, and we said good-bye. A few months later, Steve McQueen was dead.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sergio Corbucci on his last Western.

Sergio Corbucci: For CHE C'ENTRIAMO NOI CON LA RIVOLUZIONE? (aka WHAT AM I DOING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE REVOLUTION?), I returned somewhat to the theme of a film I'd done with Tota and DeSica, I DUE MARESCIALLE; the story of a rascal who is forced to impersonate an heroic man and becomes a hero in spite of himself. It was a very funny film. Gassman was in it, much like his character in LA GRANDE GUERRA, and there was Paolo Villagio, this new comic just getting started. With CHE C'ENTRIAMO NOI CON LA RIVOLUZIONE?, which would almost have been title CHE C'ENTRIAMO NOI col Western (or WHAT AM I DOING IN A WESTERN?) - I said farewell to the genre, which had been a magnificent adventure that had spanned almost a decade, with some rare returns to other sorts of films.
Pity that this adventure was a bit spoiled by Enzo Barboni, the only unworthy son of our enterprise, who with LO CHIAMAVANO TRINITA (aka THEY CALL ME TRINITY) dealt a death blow to the Italian Western, in the sense that he - my collaborator on twenty films and on almost all my Westerns - finding himself able to graduate to directing a little Western exploited everything we'd done together, even the films done with Toto - with the result of turning it all into a mocking comedy. He took Terence Hill, who was then developing as an imitation Franco Nero because of his resemblence to him, and paired him with that big lug Bud Spencer, turning them into a sort of Laurel & Hardy - a little strange, a bit rascally - and it had a big success. But he killed off the Western because after it had been made so ridiculous, no one could even again take a gunfighter blazing away seriously.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The disappointment of TARAS BULBA

From: YUL
The Man Who Would Be King
A Memoir of Father and Son
by Rock Brynner

The notion of filming Gogol's classic TARAS BULBA had occurred to Yul years before. Now he approached the historian and novelist Howard Fast to write the screenplay. Fast, however, could not bring himself to overlook the historical reality that the victims of Taras Bulba's cossack army were Polish Jews. Yul could overlook that fact, in order to tell the story of a father who destroys his greatest treasure: his own son.
Eventually Waldo Salt and Karl Tunberg wrote the screenplay for producer Harold Hecht, with J. Lee Thompson directing. The relationship of father and son was usually central to Yul's films, and there was a reason for this paternal aspect to his image: he often played authoritarian characters. This sweeping epic that spans thirty years depicts the ultimate parable of authoritarianism, as a devoted father murders the beloved son who betrays him. Yul worked hard to create a rich, robust character for Taras, whom he described as a mythical figure. "In my mind he is fifteen feet tall, in order to make the things he does convincing. He has the facility to mesmerize his cossacks into doing what he wants them to do. He has a great love for his son. Taras has a peasant streak in him, but even though he kills Andrei, his son, for betraying the cossack cause, he learns something from Andrei. His world is changed, broadened, he places more value on people." At some considerable cost.
Yul wanted to track this character over the decades, to show how his idealistic nationalism exceeded his paternal instinct. He even proposed that the movie be filmed strictly in sequence - that way, when he was playing Taras as an old man, he could have the caps taken off his front teeth. There was never a film Yul cared about more, not even THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV. It might have been a best performance he ever gave on the screen, but in the end that didn't even matter. TARAS BULBA turned out to be a terrible movie.
A lot of factors contributed to this bitter failure, including some stupid dialogue and the worst painted backdrops of medieval Poland you've ever seen. Yul's carefully crafted performance was edited without reference to the timing and emphasis that Yul and the director had planned in detail. Finally, the film was butchered in the editing room, to make it short enough to show on a double bill.
The single irrecoverable blow to the film was the casting of Tony Curtis as Yul's son, Andrei. Curtis had given a number of excellent performances in films such as THE DEFIANT ONES and THE SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS. He had acquitted himself well in SPARTACUS. But in TARAS BULBA his performance just didn't work. Part of the problem was that, at the beginning of the story, Curtis had to play a teenager; in trying to summon up a childlike quality, he created a character who was only childish. And during the filming, he fell in love with his costar, Christine Kaufmann, and ended years of marriage to Janet Leigh. Not only was Tony Curtis in the film, on the movie marquee he was its star. For the first time in his career, Yul had accepted an extra hundread thousand or so to take second billing. Even though Yul was playing the title role, TARAS BULBA had become a Tony Curtis movie.
When Yul saw the final cut of TARAS BULBA, he wept. The end result was so far from his original dream as to be unrecognizable, and for several nights thereafter he hardly slept. There and then, once and for all, something inside him broke. His aesthetic trust had been violated, and no professional undertaking would ever be quite the same again.

"There's too much money, and there are too many idiots involved, Rock," he said late one night, sharing a beer with me. "I can't put my heart that far out on the line for an industry that no longer cares enough to be proud of the result. They're hacks, just earning a living. The cocksuckers ought to be parking cars - instead they're calling the shots for the whole film business.
"Well, to hell with it. From here on in, I'm just there for the money, like everyone else. I can't go on being the only one who cares. I'll just pick up my check and go on my way. A great performance in a lousy picture is not going to get seen by anybody...
"But, as the star, I can't ensure the quality of a film. And, because of the editing process, I can't even ensure the quality of my own performance. From now on, that's all they're going to get from me. No script revisions, no directorial help. Fuck 'em-"
"And the horse they rode in on. Right, Dad?"
"That's the spirit, son."

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Sergio Leone on Rod Steiger

Sergio Leone: Steiger is a child without any personality of his own, who assumes a different character in every film, and even takes it home with him. Three months before the start of DUCK YOU SUCKER, he began taking lessons from a Mexican woman to learn the cadence and accent of one for whom Spanish is one's mother tongue, and how he'd express himself in another language (i.e. English). That's the sort of character he was going to play in the film. Well, for the three months preceding the first fall of the clapper, then throughout the shooting, and after till the end of dubbing, Steiger always spoke that way, on the set and in private. To the point that some girls who looked him up in New York for the weekend (he was divorced at the time) asked me: "What's happened to Rod? He speaks in such a way that, even in intimate situations, you can't understand a word he's saying."
For DUCK YOU SUCKER, the choice of Steiger and Coburn was somewhat imposed by the Americans. So, obviously, in order to adapt a movie that was already costing a lot to my criteria, I was forced to rewrite the screenplay day by day as we shot, and to tell the actors not to ask me today what we'd be filming tomorrow. From the start, Steiger complained a lot, even saying to me: "You belong to the type of presumptuous director, like Fellini and Rosi. I've worked with you, and I know that you detest actors, but I must make you aware that there are only six true actors in the world, every continent has one and you'd better learn to live with that."
I said, "Since it seems that I've hired one of those six, would you please do me the courtesy of telling me who the other five are, so I can remember in the future not to hire them."
Whereupon, we began to see eye to eye, also because, upon his nth outburst, I made such a scene a kilometer away. Whatever the reason, he became very docile, he didn't even protest doing the same scene over thirty times as happened for certain takes. I came to realize that on the first take, he'd chew the scenery, and the best method to obtain what I wanted was to tire him out.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Rodd on HORNETS NEST.

From: Rodd Dana
The Actor with the 3-D Name
Interview by Michael Barnum
VideoWatcHDog No. 143 Sep 2008

How did you become involved in the film HORNETS NEST?
Perhaps somebody called my agent for somebody who looked and sounded very American.

Did you have an opportunity to get to know Rock Hudson during the filming? Any recollections or stories about him?
As near as I recall, he was not very friendly and stayed pretty much surrounded by his "entourage".

How about Sylva Koscina and Giacomo Rossi Stuart?
Only saw La Koscina once and never spoke with her. I had known Giacomo from Rome; we played cards a couple of times. I was only on the set one day, then back to Rome.

Was this an American production?
Near as I recall, it was a co-production.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sergio Leone on DUCK YOU SUCKER

Sergio Leone: I was only going to produce GIU LA TESTA (aka DUCK YOU SUCKER, aka A FISTFUL OF DYNAMITE), and I proposed Peter Bogdanovich as director to the Americans. He had done revisionist takes on some old genres successfully (i.e. PAPER MOON and WHAT'S UP DOC?). But he wanted to "revisit" the Western along very conventional and stale lines, and, in any case, he understood he wouldn't be able to get away with that - not with me around, and not with that budget! - and he turned it down. I thought about Peckinpah, who'd have worked, or of my assistant director Carlos Santi - with me supervising, but the actors rebelled at this proposal. "Euro" was anticipating lots of cash returns, and we were ten days away from starting, and so I ended up directing it myself, and - slowly, slowly - I became enthusiastic about it, even though, at the beginning, I was feeling frustrated. I was already aching to do ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA. There had been problems with the actors, because I wanted Jason Robards and Malcolm McDowell - two seperate generations - but Steiger and Coburn worked out just fine: the intellectual in counterpoint to the naif set down into world war, which also represents the world of today with all its horrors and looming problems. It's necessary to take as the subject the smallest characters taking on the biggest situation. In the end, it's the small character that explains to the intellectual - the slightly presumptuous intellectual who wants to serve the naif.
A Pygmalion in reverse in short.
And in the end, the intellectual throws away his books.
A character in the film says at some point: "He who talks revolution, talks confusion", and this was another theme at the heart of the film; a film in which the historical framework simply supplied a pretext to speak of much more general things.

Monday, April 19, 2010

More on SICARIO 77, VIVO O MORTO.

From: Rodd Dana
The Actor with the 3-D Name
Interview by Michael Barnum
VideoWatcHDog No. 143 Sep 2080

The only other story I can think of concerns the day we filmed a sequence with a motorcycle. I was supposed to crash it through a barricade at 60 miles per hour, so, on the day of shooting, we wanted to rehearse the shot. I was supposed to ride up to the barricade and stop just short of ramming it, so as to give the camera people a good line-up. As I approached, the throttle jammed, accelerating the Spanish vrsion of a BMW to about 70. I couldn't stop. I destroyed the barricade, which was the only one they had, and had to dump the bike 50 yards across the golf green to save my own life. The poor director nearly had that same coronary all over again, and we had to wait all afternoon while they had a brand new wooden barricade made to order. The Spanish stunt director trashed the guy who had rented the bike and had his own Norton brought to the sight. I was delighted as I had a Norton back in Rome. The BMW was a piece of junk, and I wasn't very comfortable with it. I had raced bikes for Duccati for six years and could handle anything, but I knew that first machine was a potential death trap the minute I got on it.
When and if you see the film, you will chuckle at the Italian version of the killer bazooka that my character carries in a golf bag as he rides off astraddle his trusty cycle to get the bad guys. They never could get the thing to work. Well, I think it did work once, and seems to me it nearly burned down a set on the golf course where we were shooting. Nothing the Italians ever made in those days seemed to work the first time... or the 2nd... 3rd... 4th... The machine guns always jammed, and the handguns were always going off when you least expected them to. Everything was a hand-me-down from films of the '30s and '40s. We always felt lucky to have gotten out alive after using much of the equipment.

Any stories or recollections about director Mino Guerrini?
Good director; a bit strange, very moody, did a lot of good cinema before he died quite young.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Yul Brynner makes SOLOMON AND SHEBA

From: YUL
The Man Who Would Be King
A Memoir of Father and Son
by Rock Brynner

[After a career as one of the earliest directors at CBS-TV, Yul Brynner became a star on Broadway in THE KING AND I. This led to movie roles in THE TEN COMMANDEMENTS, THE KING AND I, ANASTASIA, THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV, THE BUCCANEER, THE JOURNEY and THE SOUND AND THE FURY. However, he found, that no matter how much money he made, he spent it and now he owed the IRS.]

In the fall [of 1958], I went back to boarding school and Mom went back to heavy drinking, and life continued smoothly until Tyrone Power died in the autumn. He had been in the middle of shooting a biblical epic in Spain, SOLOMON AND SHEBA, with Gina Lollobrigida, and now the insurance company was obliged to offer a huge salary to any actor who would replace him in a role that Yul, among others, had long since turned down. The difference was that now they were ready to pay him one million dollars. The way personal income tax was structured in the 1950s, his tax bill on that million would be nine hundred thousand dollars. But there was a solution. The government allowed a total exemption to citizens who resided abroad for a minimum of five years. Yul saw this as his chance to pay his debts: one million dollars tax free was all the money he'd ever need, then he would be free to give up stardom and return to directing at last.
Virginia [Gilmore, his wife and Rock's mother] would not hear of it. It was unpatriotic, or worse. It was dishonest and immoral and unredeemable. "All you want it to be a gypsy millionaire," she screamed, since the kid was away at school, "without a care or responsiblity in the world. Well, I'm sorry, Mr. B., but you have responsibilites, whether or not you care to notice. And if you can earn money ten times faster, you better believe me, I can spend it faster still!" Or words to that effect...
Before settling down as a millionaire, Yul first had to make SOLOMON AND SHEBA. Here, for the first time since the beginning of his stardom, was a piece of unmistakable crap, on an aesthetic par with Steve Reeves as Hercules. Just two years after THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, the zenith of the genre, came this nadir. Gina Lollobrigida, with a ruby in her navel, had all the sex appeal of a fist. George Sanders, in his fifties, appeared so feeble in battle that he turned to the camera as if soliciting comfort from the audience. And Yul, as the young Solomon with Tyrone Power's hairstyle (to match previously filmed sequences), spent most of his screen time trying to keep a straight face. Both Michael Chekhov [Yul's acting mentor] and Cecil B. DeMille had died, mercifully, before SOLOMON AND SHEBA was released.
The experience of renouncing the values and loyalties that had guided him for decades was not an easy one. But at least he was out of debt at last, and putting aside a nest egg that would allow him to become the director he always wanted to be, while feeling secure that he could guarantee his son, and even his grandchildren, a college education. But the extravagance of his daily life grew as fast as his earnings: whenever he had the wherewithal, Yul Brynner was one of the all-time great spenders. "I have no respect for money, Rock, " he always reminded me. "I piss on the stuff." I took careful note of this, as part of my moral education.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

What seemed important in 1967's Italy.

From: International Film Guide 1967
Edited by Peter Cowie

World Production Survey
Italy by Gideon Bachmann

The present year marks an important advancement in Italian cinema: the recognition by the government of the necessity to aid the film industry not only as part of the economy, but as an artistic medium. The passing of the new cinema law - long awaited, much discussed, and violently disputed by all parties - makes it clear that the government means to support good films: it is now possible to obtain credits for making films even without enormous initial capital guarantees; directors can form co-operatives to produce their own films. These co-operatives are recognized as economic entities and are subsidized like production companies, enjoying various tax benefits and restitution of entrance revenue on the basis of cultural value ("premi di qualita"). The government has also recognized, after many years of struggle, the six federations of cine-clubs and film societies that exist in Italy, and has thus made it possible for these to benefit from the same legal support as other recognized cultural institutions. It is widely held that this recognition will safeguard the future existence of Italy's film clubs, which in past years, despite an increase in critical value and an expansion of activities to include public discussions and university lectures, have been threatened with economic extinction.
The threat of total annihilation of films as a mass medium, which can be seen by going to any normal cinema in Italy and finding it largely empty (this is the situation in most cinemas, except the very snobbish first-run houses in Rome, Milan and Turin) has not been the only stimulus for the government's moves, however. Over the past year a group of political and cultural functionaries have become involved with cinema, and Italy's first important film festival apart from Venice has solidified its position in the birthtown of the socialist minister of tourism and spectacle. Achille Corona was born in Pesaro on the Adriatic, and in this ugly, hospitable town, film-makers from 30 countries met for the second time in May/June of 1966 and proved that a young "new" cinema exists not only in fact, but - and more important - in spirit.
The films which are being made in Italy today fall into two clearly marked groups: those which try to re-attact the large public, and those who hope that a small public will suffice to repay their small budgets. That fact that all the classically important film-makers in today's Italy: Antonioni, Felllini, Visconti, et al, are making films in the first category, symbolizes that the crisis of the past years has not been only economic, but also, and more dramatically, a crisis caused by the calcification of film talents.
Fortunately, the situation is changing rapidly, and the new law may help in assuring the young and exciting new film-makers the economic continuity they require. Over the past year at least six, new, young feature directors made their debut, and at last four new documentary film-makers came to the forefront of local and international acclaim. Some of these: Bertolucci, Bellocchio, and Scavolini, have already reaped critical applause, and others like Anna Gobbi, Giorgio Trentin, Giovanni Vento, Gianfranco Mingozzi, Paolo Brunatto, Gianni Amico, Ennio Lorenzini and Nello Risi are beginning to be known and appreciated. Even the most commercial best-selling Italian Westerns, like PER QUALCHE DOLLARO IN PIU (sequel to PER UN PUGNO DI DOLLARI) show evidence of a consciousness of new techniques and engagements.
Critics and young film-makers alike have been expressing concern over the growing domination of the Italian distribution of films by American companies, stating that it is becoming more and more difficult to show one's films, because they must in many cases be sold, first, to an American distributor before they can be seen in Italy. This situation, however, was originally caused to a large extent by the previous law, which blocked some of the monies earned by American films in Italy, and which the American companies utilised to extend their Italian holdings, and by the near-bankruptcy of the distribution subsidiaries of the Italian producers. Whether the new law, by helping production and filmic education, can materially change the situation and increase the size of the filmgoing audience, remains to be seen.

new and forthcoming films
L'AMANTE DI GRAMIGNA. Direction: Alberto Lattuada. Players: Clint Eastwood, Nicoletta Machiavelli. Production: Dino de Laurentiis.
SOTTO IL CIELO STELLATO. Direction: Renato Castelliani. Production: 1st. Nazionale Luce.
I SETTE FRATELLI. Direction: Carlo Lizzani. Production: Ager Film.
LA CINA E' VICINA. Direction: Marco Bellocchio. Production: Enzo Doria/Marco Bellocchio.
LA BOMA. Direction: Pietro Germi. Players: Gaston Moschin.
LO STRANIERO. Direction: Luchino Visconti. Players: Alain Delon. Production: De Laurentiis/Columbia.
LA CONTESSA TARNOWSKA. Direction: Luchino Visconti. Players: Romy Schneider. Production: Columbia/Vides.
IL VIAGGIO DI G. MASTRONA. Direction: Federico Fellini. Players: Marcello Mastroianni. Production: Dino de Laurentiis.
IL GIARDINO DEI FINZI CONTINI. Direction: Valerio Zurlini. Players: Virna Lisi.
L'INCONTRO. Direction: Florestano Vancini. Players: Monica Vitti. Production: Sancro Film.
IL VIAGGIO. Direction: Jerzy Kawalerowicz. Players: Lisa Gastoni. Production: Joseph Fryd.
L'ATTENZIONE. Direction: Pier Paolo Pasolini. Production: Carlo Ponti.
LA CINTURA DI CASTITA. Direction: Pasquale F. Campanile. Players: Monica Vitti. Production: Julia Film.
LA SIRENA. Direction: Franco Rossi. Players: Catherine Spaak.
ORESTIADE. Direction: Pier Paolo Pasolini. Production: Arco Film.
IL MARCHESE DE SADE. Direction: Brunello Rondi. Production: Zenith Cinematografica.
STORIA DELL'UOMO. Direction: Roberto Rossellini. Production: Arco Film.
BEATA GIOVENTU'. Direction: Gaspare Palumbo, Ermanno Olmi. Players: A. Pontillo, A. Moretto, G. Menichelli, D. Pessina. Production: Sol Produzione, Milano.
MATCHLESS. Direction: Alberto Lattuada. Players: Ira Furstenburg, Patrick O'Neal. Production: Dino de Laurentiis/United Artists.
LA BISBETICA DOMATA. Direction: Franco Zeffirelli. Players: Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Michael York, Natascha Pyne. Production: Films Artistic Internazionali di Roma/Royal Films International.
LE STREGHE. Direction: Luchino Visconti, Vittorio De Sica, Renato Castellani. Players: Silvana Mangano, Francisco Rabal, Massimo Girotti, Annie Girardot. Production: Dino de Laurentiis/United Artists.
C'ERA UNA VOLTA. Direction: Francesco Rosi. Players: Sophia Loren, Omar Sharif. Production: Carlo Ponti.
LA STREGA IN AMORE. Direction: Damiano Damiani. Players: Rosanna Schiaffino, Richard Johnson, G.M. Volonte. Production: Alfredo Bini/Arco Film.
UN UOMO A META'. Direction: Vittorio de Seta. Players: Jacques Perrin, R. Dexter, I. Occhini, Lea Padovani. Production: Vittorio de Seta.
IL NERO. Direction: Giovanni Vento. Players: Joy Nowsu, Alessandro dal Sasso, Andrea Checci. Production: Alberto Bertuccioli/Piero Donini.
UNA QUESTIONE PRIVATA. Direction: Giorgio Trentin. Players: Antonio Segurini, Valeria Giangottini, Lucia Vasilico. Production: Langa Cinematografica.
INCOMPRESO. Direction: Luigi Comencini. Players: Anthony Quayle, G. Granata, S. Colagrande. Production: Rizzoli/Cineriz.
LO SCANDALO. Direction: Anna Gobbi. Players: Philippe Lemaire, Anouk Aimee. Production: Ferruccio de Martino/Adriana Film.
UNA ROSA PER TUTTI. Direction: Franco Rossi. Players: Claudia Cardinale, Nino Manfredi. Production: Franco Cristaldi/Vides/Columbia.
LA BATTAGLIA DI ALGERI. Direction: Gillo Pontecorvo. Production: Magna.
CACCIA ALLA VOLPE. Direction: Vittorio De Sica. Players: Peter Sellers, Britt Eklund, Victor Mature, Paolo Stoppa. Production: Montoro Film.
PIU' TARDI CLAIRE, PIU' TARDI. Direction: Brunello Rondi. Players: Gary Merrill, Elga Anderson, Georges Riviere, Adriana Asti. Production: Bianco Nero di Roma/La Hispaner Films/Prosagor Film.

[Did Dino De Laurentiis really plan to star Clint Eastwood in L'AMANTE DI GRAMIGNA? Director Carlo Lizzani ended up making the film a couple of years later with Gian Maria Volonte, and Eastwood joined the cast of LA STREGHE in '67. Did Visconti actually plan to make THE STRANGER with Alain Delon? He made it with Marcello Mastroianni. And of course Marcello and Fellini never made IL VIAGGIO DI G. MASTORNA and De Laurentiis sued and sued and sued. And did Zurlini really plan to make THE GARDEN OF THE FINZI-CONTINIS in '67 with Virna Lisi. De Sica made it in '70 and it won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language film with Dominique Sanda.
In addition to the list of forthcoming films, this article in International Film Guide chose a selection of recent Italian movies to represent the national production output:
GIULIETTA DEGLI SPIRITI, aka JULIET OF THE SPIRITS
I PUNGI I TASCA, aka FISTS IN THE POCKET
PRIMA DELLA RIOLUZIONE, aka BEFORE THE REVOLUTION
and
A MOSCA CIECA, aka BLIND MAN'S BLUFF. This fourth title is the only one not to be available on DVD from the Criterion Collection.]

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Rodd back in secret agent mode.

From: Rodd Dana
The Actor with the 3-D Name
Interview by Michael Barnum
Video WatcHDog No. 143 Sep. 2008

SICARIO 77, VIVO O MORTO was another spy film? What can you tell us about that one?
That was over 40 years ago, but there is one day's activity from that frantic period I'll never forget. We had contracted for a couple of hours to shoot a fight scene in an aerial-tram three hundred feet in the air over the Barcelona harbor between the docks and Tibidabo Amusement Park. We finished filming the sequence and the director, Mino Guerrini, radioed the Tibidabo command center to bring us back over. No response. An hour later, he finally got through to them and was told that the operador had misunderstood, thinking we had the tram for three hours, and had gone for lunch. They said they would bring us right in. The tram moved fifty feet and abruptly stopped, swinging precariously above a large Turkish tanker far below. We immediately called and were told there had been a power failure but that it shouldn't be long. Well, that was early afternoon and it wasn't until after 7:00 that evening that we were at last brought to the Tibidabo side - hot (it had been over 100 degrees all day in the Spanish August sun), tired, hungry, dehydrated and, needless to say, very pissed-off. It seemed that nobody had reported seeing an occasional person taking a wizz from the gondola, yet we each took our turns. It was lucky in a way that we had nothing to drink up there. The manager of the amusement park was very apologetic and issued each of us lifetime passes to the park! I have never been back... don't know about the others. The director was so mad, I thought he might have a coronary, which he did have a few years later.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Italian eating on location in Israel.

Aldo Tonti dishing up a plate.

From: HOW TO MAKE A JEWISH MOVIE
by Melville Shavelson

[Writer/director Melville Shavelson brought director of photography Aldo Tonti and other Italians to Israel to make CAST A GIANT SHADOW.]

When the uprooted Italians of the camera and carpentry crews were placed in their spare little bungalows, they immediately went out and bought all the spaghetti in Tel Aviv, which took about five minutes.
The chambermaids at the Avia Hotel, who took care of the houses, complained there was something mysterious going on. Every day they had to clean spaghetti off the ceilings. They couldn't figure out why. One day I was invited to have lunch with the crew, and the mystery was solved. I was ushered into a little house that had no furniture in it but a huge dining room table and chairs. Since, to an Italian, the stomach is the second noblest part of a man's anatomy, they had wisely enshrined it by doubling up on their sleeping quarters and devoting one of the houses exclusively to eating. All the chores were rotated, with everyone serving as cook or waiter or dishwasher on a regular schedule.
Except Aldo. He was enthroned regally at the head of the table like a Queen Bee ruling over a hive of tomato sauce. On a gesture from Aldo, I was presented with an array of antipasta that would have done honor to Alfredo Alla Scroffa in Rome, followed by insalata, scallopini parmigiana, and a delicate pasta cooked al dente.
The cook apologized that the pasta was not quite perfect. The cottages had no stoves, so they were cooking on tiny hot plates, and the only way to be certain the spaghetti was the correct consistency was to throw it against something. If it stuck, it was al dente.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Rodd becomes Robert

[photo from KILL OR BE KILLED]

From: Rodd Dana
The Actor with the 3-D Name
Interview by Michael Barnum
VideoWatcHDog No. 143 Sep 2008

Why the name change to Robert Mark?
That is an amusing story. When I did OPERATION WHITE SHARK under the name Rodd Dana, the film was a cult hit with the Italians. When the producer and director of SICARIO 77, VIVO O MORTO saw it, they decided they wanted me for their flick. But when I went in for a chat, they asked me if I would be willing to change my name. They said that Rodd Dana not only sounded like an Italian name, but the local gentry pronounced it "Rodanna", which had the ring of a woman's name. I said, "Look, you guys..." - in my best Italian, of course - "for what you're paying me, you can call me Chuck Wagon for all I care!" So, after going over name possibilities for a couple of days, we finally settled on Robert Mark. They were delighted. They now had a name that sounded "reeully Amurikan" and a whole lot more "Westurne" than "Rodanna". So everybody was happy; they got their way and I got rich. I used that name until I left the cinema behind in Rome in the early Seventies.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Shavelson on Aldo Tonti

From: HOW TO MAKE A JEWISH MOVIE
by Melville Shavelson

About those thiry houses: by the time the Mirisches were certain the picture would be made, all the available housing in Israel was gone for the tourist season. Only at the insistence of the government were we enabled to take over three floors of the Avia Hotel, near the airport, and buy thirty cottages the hotel had just completed on the hotel grounds, with the understanding that we would sell them back when we left.
Thus was born Little Italy of Tel Aviv. The Cesar, nay, the Nero, of this colony was the most talented, inch-for-inch, cameraman in the world. His name is Aldo Tonti and he is five feet tall when measured to the tip of his uptilted cigar. Aldo has photographed so many motion pictures in Italy and around the world for so many years, no one knows his true age.
For a while, Aldo was Mussolini's official photographer, but he quit, it is rumored, because Mussolini was too much of a liberal for him. Aldo rules his camera crew - made up almost exclusively for his sons - with an iron hand and a walking stick carved out of the bones of his last director. He shouts at them, punches at them, insults them, curses them, and promises to fire them as soon as he catches his breath. No one minds, because Aldo is a pussycat and they don't want him to realize he's been found out. His crew loves and protects him with a fierce loyalty their wives will never know.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Rodd on working with Gordon Mitchell

From: Rodd Dana
The Actor with the 3D Name
Interview by Michael Barnum
VideoWatcHDog No. 143 Sep 2008

You have a impressive, well-choreographed fight scene with Gordon Mitchell in KILL OR BE KILLED. It is a wonder you both weren't injured. Was it difficult to rehearse and film such a scene?
As a matter of fact, Gordo and I put that scene together in one morning. He arrived in Manziana, where we filmed the bit on a ranch at 7:00 that morning. We choreographed it in less than an hour, began filming at 9:00 and were finished before lunch. Gordo was a dream to work with, a real first-class pro. We were both athletes and had both been boxers, so this fight scene was really a fun walk in the park. He was not only a pro, but also a gentleman. Everyone who knew and worked with Gordon Mitchell loved and respected him. I'll bet you didn't know that he had been a biology professor in California before he got into acting!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Italian carpenters in Israel for CAST A GIANT SHADOW

From: HOW TO MAKE A JEWISH MOVIE
by Melville Shavelson

[Thanks to John Wayne liking the idea of doing a movie about the American Colonel David "Mickey" Marcus, who helped Israel win its first war after being declared a nation, writer/director Shavelson was able to get the Mirisch brothers to mount the production in Israel.]

On March 14, 1965, the first wave of American, British, and Italian technicians for CAST A GIANT SHADOW arrived in Tel Aviv and demanded their expense checks. I arrived with them, script in one hand, pencil and eraser in the other, and holed up at the Dan Hotel until a house could be secured for my wife and family to join me.
Why we were bringing so many of our crew with us requires a bit of explaining. In America, every Jewish mother wants her son to be a doctor or a lawyer. In Israel, there are so many doctors and lawyers that if the lawyers didn't get sick and the doctors didn't get in trouble, they would both starve.
Consequently, in Israel every Jewish mother wants her son to grow up to be a carpenter. In a country that was building housing, at that time, for close to a hundred thousand refugees a year, a carpenter was assured of year-round employment at a salary no doctor could approach. No self-respecting carpenter wanted to give up that kind of security to work on a motion picture that was going to tear down everything after they built it.
When the Histadrut, the national labor union, heard we were hiring Italian carpenters, they immediately protested. We offered to hire any Israeli carpenter who was willing to work for us. No such person ever showed up. So we hired our Italian carpenters, flew them from Rome, bought thirty houses for them to live in, and paid their living expenses. And it cost less than if they had been natives of Tel Aviv.
Sometimes it hardly pays to be Jewish.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Rodd on being a violin-playing Ringo.

From: Rodd Dana
The Actor with the 3-D Name
Interview by Michael Barnum
Video WatcHDog No. 143 Sep 2008

In KILL OR BE KILLED you portrayed a violin-playing Johnny Ringo.
At this point in my life, it is not something I look back on with a great deal of pride. As Westerns of the genre in that period, I suppose it was a passably good flick, but I wasn't too happy with it. I though the echo-chamber effect with the violin was the height of Italian cornball. And I remember hating the idea of having to "finger-sync" the phony violin. Then, to top it off, they didn't use the same music in the final cut that I had mimicked the bowing to during filming, so nothing turned out in synchronization. It looked and sounded awful. When I first saw the film, I laughed so hard the poor producer nearly had a stroke. He said I had no respect for what he thought was a great idea. He was so right. In addition, I remember they gave me less than a day to practice the damn thing. I had never touched a violin in my life. That violin was the main thing I despised about the script from the beginning. I would rather have played castanets! I remember a bitter argument ensued when my agent almost pulled me from the film after she saw the final cut. She agreed that, even for Italian cinema, it looked and sounded dreadful. She and I both had pushed for poor Ringo to at least be allowed some dignity and play the guitar... maybe even a harmonica... but a violin... God! At any rate, this was what Maestro Tanio Boccia wanted, and they were paying me well enough, so I finally said, "Oh, what the hell!"
I had just left med school and didn't really have a great love for the world of Italian cinema. This was just the rainbow I as pursuing at the moment, to make a living and finance my playboy lifestyle. I wasn't into making this my life's work. In fact, I really didn't know what I wanted to do with my life. I suppose that's why the accident occurred in Spain. I needed a new direction.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Rodd on the cast of KILL THE WICKED!

From: Rodd Dana
The Actor with the 3-D Name
Interview by Michael Barnum
Video WatcHDog No.143 Sep 2008

Prior to your involvement in these two films, were you aware of this new Italian breed of Western?
Burt Reynolds was a friend and when he came over to Italy to do a Western for Sergio Corbucci, I hung out on the set a few times. Burt thought Italians were a bit nuts, as did we all, but then along came Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood, and - "Bingo!" - the Spaghetti Western was a hit. Tony Russel turned down the role in A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS. I doubt he's ever stopped kicking himself. I don't think any of us had any faith that these people, who were great at making Latin-lover melodramas and great comedies, could ever make successful Westerns. Oh, well. Had I not fallen off that horse in Spain, I probably would have gone on to make more of them.
GOD DOES NOT PAY ON SATURDAY has quite a cast.
Larry Ward was a good friend; I last saw him a couple of months before he died - in L.A. sometime in the '80s, I think. I'm still in touch with his wife, Roberta Haynes. Furio Meniconi was one of the gentle giants. He always reminded me a bit of the Duke: very kind man, good actor, lots of fun. Maria Silva was good to work with, don't know what ever became of her. I think that, in the Madrid cinema scene, she was fairly famous at the time.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Corbucci on the difficulties of making Epic Films.

Sergio Corbucci: The first difficulty in directing films like IL FIGLIO DI SPARTACO (aka SON OF SPARTACUS, aka THE SLAVE) was that of your voice being heard, because - despite the megaphones - the open air dispersed the sound, and there was, for instance, two hundred horses to tell "Action!" So making yourself heard was a little bit difficult. Another was that of costuming the people; the hundreds of extras that arrived three or four hours before shooting that needed dressing as ancient Romans and had to be checked out so that they didn't leave on anything that contrasted with these costumes. The things that made me most perplexed before the beginning of the film were the battles. Many times I wondered, "How do I do it? How will I resolve it?" Then there were the things that had to be decided on location at the last moment, things that couldn't be decided on the drawing board.
Once, during work on IL FIGLIO DI SPARTACO, there was a curious episode. The scene was planned for Steve Reeves and Jacques Sernas to arrive by horse from a distant dune and do and say certain things. And from the position far away where we placed the camera, I then had to give "Action!" to the actors by radio telephone. So from the established position, the two riders came up at a gallop and arrived at the agreed point in front of us. But arriving in front of the camera were not Reeves and Sernas, but rather Rory Calhoun and another actor, also dressed as Ancient Romans, but with costumes different to those in my film.
I thought I was seeing things. And I thought it was strange when they started performing an action infront of the camera that was totally different to what I had planned. The explanation came an instant afterwards when we discovered that there was another crew a kilometer away on the other slope of the dune that was filming IL COLOSSO DI RODI, and the actors had taken the wrong direction.
Above all I was a fan of the Western and therefore my Ancient Romans were a little bit derived from the Pioneers, the Sheriffs. The sword to the side was like a gun. Indeed, it was in this way my films of the genre differentiated from those of Francisci and of Cottafavi. But then it really seemed quite proper that the Western was solely an American prerogative, and impossible to make by us.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Sergio Leone on THEY CALL ME TRINITY

Sergio Leone: When I went to see the first TRINITY, it seemed an imbecilic event; everyone laughing at it, and I didn't understand why. Terence Hill, alias Mario Girotti, told me once that they didn't think they were making a comic film, and at first it struck them as having turned out badly, too. The public was tired of seeing and hearing these idiocies in the Italian Westerns that came out in series. Enzo Barboni imitated me here and there; he'd been my cameraman years before. He was a good natured man - a naif - who understood that it was a small step from the exaggerations typical of the cretinous Westerns to comedy. But perhaps he arrived at this epiphany accidentally, only after the film was finished.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Shavelson and Gable making IT STARTED IN NAPLES.

From: HOW TO MAKE A JEWISH MOVIE
by Melville Shavelson

One final trauma to complete this Italian opera. I have mentioned the late Clark Gable without thinking it necessary to repeat what everyone who ever worked with him knows; that he was one of the finest and most considerate of men at all times, not only to the little people, which gets you publicity, but also to the director, which sometimes gets you nothing but contempt from your brother actors. However, he did have in his contract a clause which declared his working day finished at 5:00 P.M., whether we were out of film or not.
I had been shooting a courtroom sequence with Gable, Sophia Loren, De Sica, and four actors playing the judges - an Italian court has four judges and no jury, a kind of spread-the-work-among-us-lawyers idea. On the second day of shooting, an assistant director informed me that the chief judge hadn't shown up. When I inquired why, he told me, quite simply, that the actor had found a better job.
Five minutes later, when they pulled me down from the catwalk where I had gone for a short stroll, the assistant tried to calm me by explaining that there was no reason to get upset, since the actor had sent his brother to take his place.
It was then that Bob Surtees, the Academy Award-winning cameraman - but not for our picture, I must sadly add - endeared himself to all of us for all time.
"I wonder," he mused softly, "if Gable has a brother who'll work after 5?"

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Duccio Tessari from HERCULES to TITANI

Duccio Tessari: ERCOLE ALLA CONQUISTA DI ATLANTIDE (aka HERCULES CONQUERS ATLANTIS, aka HERCULES AND THE CAPTIVE WOMEN) had a peace-loving Hercules, in a context that already was a little bit science fiction, with a kind of atomic bomb that destroyed Atlantis; the radiations, the Nazis and all the rest. With ARRIVANO I TITANI (aka SONS OF THUNDER, aka MY SON THE HERO), I pressed on much further in that direction, thanks also to the help of (producer Franco) Cristaldi, and I was able to do a film that was decidedly epic-satirical. I used a lot of music in this way, for example, when the Negro is running away, he smashes down a little bridge that crosses a brook, and there's a musical comment like THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI, and that's how it went. There were comedic tones and very witty dialogue. At the end, the Titans look at each other, they look at the public, and they exclaim "This has truly been a titantic production." This film, which was greatly liked in France, was a little bit like the end of the genre, because at this point, it was the only one to have desecrated it.