Saturday, July 24, 2010

First pilot for new Zorro series

by Sandra Curtis

John had insisted on creative consultation rights for the series, but he found himself in conflict with the producers over how much they would be willing to accept him as a creative partner. The problem he confronted with Goodman-Rosen, the line producers, was to be revisited with each new Zorro project. Hollywood producers have a notorious reputation for paying rights holders and expecting them to disappear once the contracts are signed, but rights holders must exercise controls to protect the integrity of their characters to insure the property into the future. John's concerns regarding the pilot were summarily ignored by Goodman-Rosen. His chief complaint was the violence. The plot involved numerous killings and generally lacked humor; a critical part of the Zorro formula. Gertz felt that the music was terrible and that the original casting was by and large a disgrace.
Nancy's treatment had again been abandoned in favor of the concept of the producers, Goodman-Rosen. Antonio de la Cruz, the nephew of Don Diego, takes up the mantle of his boyhood hero when Zorro is killed by the commandant, Monastario. One element of Nancy's treatment was retained: Antonio played a clumsy scholar with glasses whose heroes were da Vinci and Cervantes.
The pilot featured Patrick James as Zorro and Patrice Martinez as the female lead, Dona Maria Constansa Arrillaga, a spoiled, rich girl to whom Antonio was betrothed. Antonio does not endear himself to his arranged marriage partner,harboring memories of Maria as a fat and homely child. Yet she has grown into a feisty, dark-haired beauty. Maria's feelings about Antonio echo his own about her. She is, however, very impressed with Zorro. In the climax, Antonio uses his knowledge of da Vinci's principles of flight to build a hang glider, which he dramatically sails into the plaza to rescue falsely convicted men from execution.
Location shooting took place on the southern coast of Spain near Almeria in November 1987. Many of the extras were retired Brits who had abandoned their foggy isle for the warmth of the Mediterranean coast. Almeria ahd been the location for filming many spaghetti westerns, possibly even some of the European Zorro films from the 1960s and 1970s. Gertz fumed on the set, watching a nightmare unfold before his eyes.
Based on a disastrous pilot, interest in teh revival of Zorro as a live-action hero fell short of attracting the required funding partners. The fox once again seemed headed toward a short-lived revival. Although Patrick James looked the part of Zorro, his limited acting experience had not prepared him to meet the challenge of playing the fox. The producers went back to the drawing board, revamping the concept and addressing some of Gertz's concerns. The story line reverted to a traditional Zorro scenario without the oppressive violence. The fox had partially been rescued.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Ian McCulloch on Donal O'Brien

From: A Trilogy of Terror
An interview with Ian McCulloch
by Jason J. Slater & Marcelle Parks
Diabolik number 1 (1997)

Donald O'Brien who played the mad doctor in ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST stayed in Italy for a number of years to make horror and war movies. Like his character in Girolami's film, he quickly became typecast as a monster, Nazi or something on those lines.

He was a nice Irish chap based in Paris, wasn't he? After the film had finished, he had this horrible accident where he banged his head and was stuck in a hospital in Paris for a long time. O'Brien was in a very bad way, no one knew if he could live, walk or even go on. If he has sort of gone on then I'm very pleased for him and that's fantastic.

[The fellow's name was Donal O'Brien, but reportedly he had to get identification listing his name as "Donald O'Brien" because his paychecks - as well as his film credits - kept misspelling his name. The near fatal accident reportedly occured in 1980 but he was able to resume working in a few years. The interviewer seemed unaware of O'Brien's career in Italian Westerns co-starring with Tomas Milian in RUN MAN RUN and with Richard Harrison in JESSIE AND LESTER, TWO BROTHERS IN A PLACE CALLED TRINITY.]

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Why a new Zorro TV series produced in Europe?

by Sandra Curtis

The old Disney series [starring Guy Williams] hit the airwaves in France, airing on FR-3 in 1985, causing a nationwide sensation. Zorro fever struck France with a force equal to the one that captivated Americans during the heyday of Dallas. The Disney show aired in the most desirable time slot in France, Friday night at nine o'clock. The interest spilled over to merchandising. Kiosks featured new comic strip Zorro stories in Edimonde's Le Journal de Mickey. Products ranging from puzzles to chocolates to bedsheets and everything in between were marketed.
Over the previous two years, John Gertz had been running the Zorro business part-time while he completed the coursework for his Ph. D. Nancy Larson continued screenwriting and was selected to attend the prestigious Sundance Institute to develop her film THE WIZARD OF LONELINESS. Gertz-Larson Productions had evolved into Zorro Productions, Inc. Now, two roads diverged before John. He could devote his energies full-time to reviving Zorro as a classic character, or he could write his doctoral dissertation. John took a year's leave of absence from school to see how he'd fare in the business world and saw the leave extend as he grew Zorro into a successful international property.
Riding the wave of success in Europe, Gertz interviewed agents in early 1987 to see if they could generate interest in a new live-action series. Along with Bob Cristani of the William Morris Agency, John pitched Nancy's treatment to seven production companies in two days. Twenty-four hours later, all seven came back with offers to do the show. They closed a deal with New World Television, which was willing to commit to a minimum of twenty-five episodes, the number required for European participation. A network sale would have been more lucrative but it also would have meant a limited production order. Gertz didn't want to see the show cancelled again after only five episodes. [Which is what happened to the Gertz-Larson Productions and Walt Disney Studios series Zorro and Son for CBS-TV back in 1983.]

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Ian McCulloch on Marino Girolami

From: A Trilogy of Terror
An interview with Ian McCulloch
by Jason J. Slater & Marcelle Perks
Diabolik number 1 (1997)

The director of ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST was a veteran of Italian comedy television films. How was it to work with him in a horror movie? Did he find it difficult to work within such a genre?

This chap? (Ian points at the credits of a theatrical poster). Remind me what his name was.

Marino Girolami which is his real name instead of the pseudo Frank Martin.

Marino? He was just a really, really nice fellow. He was obviously quite old, you know. I take it he's dead now as well?

Yeah, he died in early '95.

He was much older than Fulci and he seemed to have a long career in making films. He was so straightforward, but he was also a bit of a bully, never to me but to the minions around who were supposed to be doing something they weren't doing right. You know, he was so much fun to talk to and it was great to have someone like that. We were driving through Rome one day and he said to me that (Ian points as to imitate Marino) "You see that statue over there? That's me." When Mussolini brought the Olympic Stadium in Rome, they had various statues of their athletes all over the place, and one of a boxer is Marino because he was at one time the European boxing champion (Note that the statue can also be seen in the weirdo documentary THE WILD WILD WORLD OF JAYNE MANSFIELD). But he was friendly, open and would talk to you. His English may have been not that good but it didn't matter to him. So against all odds, and although it was very silly, ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST turned out to be a far happier film than I expected.

[Marino Girolami was a much more experienced director than just a maker of Italian television comedies. 1962's L'IRA DI ACHILLE (aka THE FURY OF ACHILLES) was his 36th or 37th directing credit (depending on whose count you believe). When Richard Harrison introduced me to him, he said that Marino was the quickest film director of whom he knew; quick but good. In fact, he made films so quickly distributors asked him to credit other directors so as to not glut the market. He was responsible for a whole series of Westerns made in Spain credited to other guys: POCHI DOLLARI PER DJANGO (A FEW DOLLARS FOR DJANGO, credited to Leon Klimovsky and recently claimed by Marino's son Enzo G. Castellari who reused some footage for his first directoral credit SETTE WINCHESTER PER UN MASSACRO, aka PAYMENT IN BLOOD), ANCHE NEL WEST C'ERA UNA VOLTA DIO (aka BETWEEN GOD THE DEVIL AND A WINCHESTER, credited to Dario Silvestri by directed by Marino says star Richard Harrison) and REVERENDO COLT (aka REVEREND COLT, credited to Leon Klimovsky but directed by Marino says Harrison). Despite his diverse experience, his most popular successes in Italy were comedies such as PIERINO CONTRO TUTTI, which has recently been released in the U.S. on Mya DVD as DESIRABLE TEACHER. ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST was originally theatrically released in the U.S. as DOCTOR BUTCHER M.D. ]

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Remember Aldo

I was probably 11 when I first became aware of Aldo Sambrell. Burt Reynolds in NAVAJO JOE gave a physically thrilling performance as a man seeking revenge on the gang of scalphunters that murdered his wife and village. The leader of the gang was evil personified and the actor who played the role filled it with chilling conviction. Who was that black-hatted actor? He was billed for that film as Aldo Sambrell. Later on I realized that he was in the three Sergio Leone directed Westerns starring Clint Eastwood - but he never again had quite the high-profile role that he had in NAVAJO JOE.
After NAVAJO JOE burned his face into my consciousness, Aldo popped up in scores of movies that I saw - including THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD, THE LAST RUN w/George C. Scott and FACCIA A FACCIA with Tomas Milian and Gian Maria Volonte. His billing seemed to change alot - Aldo Sanbrell and Alfredo Sanchez Brell were just two of the variations.
In 1984, I started my fanzine SPAGHETTI CINEMA (with Jerry Neeley and John Sullivan) and in issue #7 I decided to attempt to review every film featuring Aldo. I entitled the article "Spain's Best Villan" - only later realizing that I had left out an "i". (This article was partly inspired by the fact that Spanish language stations in L.A. were showing a pile of movies featuring Aldo about which I had been previously unaware: ATRACO EN LA JUNGLA, SOL SANGRIENTO, VUDU SANGRIENTO, LAS MUNECAS DEL KING KONG.) Thanks to the fanzine, I made contact with quite a few fans of these kinds of movies, one of whom was Michael Ferguson. Mike got up the money to visit Spain and later wrote me that he had found the offices of Asbrell Productions and met the man himself; Aldo Sanbrell. He mailed to me a photo which Aldo had kindly signed. (see above)
Years later, again thanks to the fanzine, I met Don Bruce, who had decided to visit every location used by Sergio Leone in the making of the Westerns. While in Spain, he met Aldo Sanbrell, and eventually decided to pay Aldo's way to visit Los Angeles to attend the 2002 Golden Boot Awards - an annual celebration of Western movies which was a fund raiser for the Motion Picture and Television Fund. Kindly, Don also invited Tom Betts and me to attend. Not only did we get to meet with Aldo at the Beverly Hilton event, but Don invited us to breakfast the next morning at his house where we would interview Aldo near Don's swimming pool. It was a great chat, but the highlight for me was when Aldo pulled out his portfolio and resume - which included a photocopy of my first article on him from S.C. #7. It turn out that Mike Ferguson had given him a copy of that issue, so he knew who I was before I met him.
Don paid Aldo's way to attend the 2004 Golden Boot Awards and I was able to visit with him again. It was a real pleasure.
So, the news that he had been hospitalized at the end of May due to a series of "mini-strokes" was upsetting. And while there were reports that he may be sent home from the hospital, there were also reports that he was having trouble speaking and remembering.
On July 10, 2010, he died in the hospital in Alicante, Spain. He left behind a wife, Candida, and more fans than he probably knew that he had.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Ian McCulloch on Richard Johnson

From: A Trilogy of Terror
An interview with Ian McCulloch
by Jason J. Slater & Marcelle Perks
Diabolik number 1 (1997)

I get the impression from ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS that Richard Johnson just didn't want to be there.

From the movie itself? I think he was a fantastic actor. When I first joined the Royal Shakespeare company, straight from university, I didn't know much about acting. I was told to go backstage to the back of the audience on every production to see what people were doing and how they were doing it. One of the shows was called THE DEVILS which Richard was doing and he was just fabulous and I saw him in about four other plays and he is a marvellous actor, immensely professional. I think he had a big success in a detective thing two years before ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS which had a huge success in Italy and I think he knew he could walk through the film. He knew that he could act for the film in a professional way. I mean he's a wonderful actor and he just gets on and does it in the same way as any other actor; he did anything he wanted to do, without thinking. He could have swamped everyone off screen with his acting, he had tremendous power and passion. I think Fulci was a little wary of Richard, he treated him with great respect, far more respect than any of us and I think he was also a little wary of me because he didn't know me or what I could do. I mean, I think I'm pretty awful in it.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

An Official Look At the European Zorros

The Official History
by Sandra Curtis

During the 1960s, over thirty foreign Zorro movies were produced, chiefly in Mexico, Italy, and Spain. Inexpensively shot, they would be classified in the genre of "spaghetti westerns."
McCulley's masked fox confronted Cardinal Richelieu with the Musketeers in ZORRO E I TRE MOSCHIETTIERI (ZORRO AND THE THREE MOUSKETEERS, 1961, Italy). Zorro returned the grand duchy of Lusitania to its rightful heir in ZORRO ALLA CORTE DI SPAGNIA (ZORRO IN THE COURT OF SPAIN, 1962, Italy). He became King of Nogara in ZORRO CONTRO MACISTE (ZORRO AGAINST MACISTE, 1963, Italy). In ZORRO ALLA CORTE D'INGHILTERRA (ZORRO IN THE COURT OF ENGLAND, 1969, Italy) Zorro opposed a tyrant who ruled an English colony in Central America for Queen Victoria. ZORRO, MARCHESE DI NAVARRO (ZORRO, MARQUIS OF NAVARRO, 1969, Italy) found the masked hero opposing Napoleon's troops in Spain at the beginning of the 1800s. An extra named Sophia Ciccaloni who appeared in IL SOGNO DI ZORRO (ZORRO'S DREAM, 1962, Italy) went on to a renowned film career as Sophia Loren. Another 1962 Italian film, IL SEGNO DI ZORRO (THE SIGN OF ZORRO) launched the acting career of Sean Flynn, the son of romantic swashbuckler Errol Flynn. The fox didn't wear his characteristic black outfit and carve a Z on a wall only once. Directed by journeyman Mario Caiano, the remake was lackluster and forgettable.
The most notable of these foreign productions starred French actor Alain Delon. As with other productions, Delon's 1974 film takes great liberty in place and story, yet preserves the basic elements of McCulley's character.

[The wife of John Gertz, one of the owners of the Zorro copyright, Sandra Curtis obviously needed a better proof reader as Zorro did not fight the Mousketeers in an Italian film.]

Friday, July 2, 2010

Duccio Tessari on the end of the Italian Western

[In 1986, Lorenzo De Luca conducted an interview with director Duccio Tessari which was published in both Lorenzo's fanzine FAR HORIZONS and his book C'ERA UNA VOLTA IL WESTERN ITALIANO.]

LDL: A typical element of American Westerns were Indians. Why was this element missing from Italian Westerns?

Duccio Tessari: Because we don't look like Indians! A tall blond stuntman can look like an American. A good Flamenco dancer - I can use him as a Mexican. But for Indians - we don't have the faces!

LDL: Why do you think the Italian Western came to an end?

DT: It was a too exploited genre. The audience was fed up, but I think that the end of the genre was also caused by Enzo Barboni. I mean parody films exault the subject - think of the Franci and Ingrassia movies. But when you take genre and subvert it; build up gags like Barboni did with TRINITY, you reach a point where there is nothing left to say.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Yul Brynner crashes car during production of INDIO BLACK.

by Jhan Robbins

Brynner's next role was a laconic soldier of fortune in a spaghetti Western called ADIOS SABATA (1971). The movie was short on plot but long on violence - a goldplated, sawed-off repeating rifle and a triple-barreled derringer got a great deal of practice. Yul made good use of both of them.
Alberto Grimaldi, the producer, had loaned him a sleek cherry-red convertible to ferry him to and from the set. Initially, Brynner made the trip in half an hour. Each day he managed to reduce his time. He had it down to twenty-one minutes when the car got out of control and crashed into a stone embankment. Fortunately, Yul wasn't hurt. However, the car was reduced to rubble. When he requested that it be replaced with another sports car, he was told that it would be best if he was driven by a chauffeur.
"Yul gave me his version of the accident," Jean Levin said. "According to him it was entirely the automobile's fault - defective breaks. In all the years I knew him, never once did he take the blame for anything. It was always somebody else's fault. Even the breakup of his marriage wasn't due to something he did. He and Doris were having lots of marital problems. I suppose the chief one was his continued interest in other women."