Sunday, May 31, 2009

Bernard Gordon's Western that didn't get made.

From HOLLYWOOD EXILE or How I Learned To Love the Black List by Bernard Gordon

Gordon was hired by Philip Yordan to come up with more projects to make after CAPTAIN APACHE.

He set me up with a desk, a Selectric typewriter, and plenty of paper in a fine apartment he had fixed up above the very spacious garage at one edge of his Beverly Hills property. For source material, he dumped on me a stack of scripts he had acquired at bargain rates. These scripts had all been written by an American, Marc Behm, who lived in Paris. Behm was a compulsive writer who could and did turn out screenplays in a matter of days, and, according to Yordan, had a closet bulging with such scripts. Yordan bought them wholesale for about $1,000 apiece. Then he pawed through them to see, from time to time, if there was anything there he could use. Actually, Behm was a talented writer who had a few respectable credits, such as co-writer on the Beatles' second feature, HELP. But none of the Behm scripts Yordan bought ever made it to the screen.I went to work reading these scripts to try and find at least an idea for basis for a practical production. As once before on KRAKATOA, I had to work on spec, but the genuine prospect of returning to Madrid and of becoming a producer made me willing to gamble.I finally settled on a Western of Behm's that turned me on. It was about a beautiful Indian girl who, having been raped by a gang of scruffy outlaws, for revenge sets out to kill them all. By herself. The script had some of Marc's originality, weirdness, and whimsy, but it was woefully weak in character motivation, story development, theme and the kind of ideas necessary to give it unity and direction. I pounded away at the typewriter, pleased with the way the script was going.
When I finished and gave it to Yordan, he read it swiftly and, for the only time in my experience with him, compared my writing to his own."It's just what I would have written," he said. "Only better."
He put Sidney Harmon to work on casting. It looked as though this would be the next picture on the schedule after CAPTAIN APACHE. I called my version of the script THEY ALL CAME TO KILL...
During these last months of 1970, as I was getting my feet wet in production, I also wanted to schedule my script of THEY ALL CAME TO KILL, but we proceeded instead with another old potboiler of Yordan's, BAD MAN'S RIVER. This was something he or someone had written years ago in Hollywood, one of the many scripts in Yordan's backlog. When I protested that KILL was a good script and ready to go, Yordan agreed that others liked it too, but he told me that Ben Fisz had nixed it because he didn't believe that a Western should be made with a woman lead. End of story - except that not much later another major American film was shot in Spain, a Western with Raquel Welch in the lead. HANNIE CAULDER bore a startling resemblence to THEY ALL CAME TO KILL: a woman raped by an evil gang deals with a bounty hunter, personally exacts revenge on her violators. I was bitter about this and wondered whether it was possible that Yordan felt it necessary to reinforce his position by supplying a script with his own name attached.

Saturday, May 30, 2009


From HOLLYWOOD EXILE or How I Learned To Love the Blacklist by Bernard Gordon

Bernard Gordon first worked in Spain when Philip Yordan hired him as a writer to work on projects at Samuel Bronston's company and at Yordan's Security Pictures. Both of those concerns ended, but then Yordan made a deal with Cinerama Releasing and he brought Gordon with him. The deal with Cinemara ended with KARAKATOA EAST OF JAVA, so Gordon returned to Hollywood to try to find work. Meanwhile, Yordan set up a new film, ROYAL HUNT OF THE SUN, "uncharacteristcally, he was for the first time risking his own money on a production without other financing and without a release deal."

"After I had left Madrid, while Yordan was still in Europe working on ROYAL HUNT OF THE SUN, he had also been developing new contacts and financing sources in England. His new associates were Ben Fisz (pronounced 'Fish'), a shamelessly extravagant promoter with overweening filmmaking ambitions, and Bobby Marmor, a pleasant, low-key man who had made a fortune in London real estate. Fisz interested Marmor in the romance of filmmaking; Yordan plugged into this combo because Marmor had money and excellent financial connections with the London merchant banks. Yordan could provide the Hollywood contacts and expertise plus invaluable Madrid contacts and know-how. With the money he had earned from Bronston, he was also in a position to contribute his share to the creation of a small studio in or around Madrid, the site of their new empire.

"To my surprise, this dream seemed to be evolving credibly. With money supplied by Marmor and Yordan, and with Yordan using his film and legal connections in Madrid, they acquired a property just outside Madrid. Working on and off with my own projects, I was startled to learn that they had developed the lot with a few buildings for offices and dressing rooms. A warehouse was to serve as a sound stage, and they had constructed a modest Western street on top of the hill dominating the property. Yordan, commuting back and forth to London and Madrid, showed me the script of the first film they planned to shoot. Under Ben Fisz's supervision, a writer in London had scripted A TOWN CALLED BASTARD. Yordan was supposed to rewrite and cure its problems. He gave me the script to read. I wasn't asked to participate, so I refrained from any criticism of the work, but since this looked like a 'go' project, I felt left out. I speculated on the meaning of this. Did Yordan feel he could handle the rewrite on his own without my help? Or had he not asked me because Bronston wasn't around to foot the bill for my work? Or did Yordan need to prove to his new partners that he, personally, was the man who could be trusted to deal with all the script problems?

"I kept my mouth shut until Yordan finally asked me, 'What do you think of the script?'

"'It's interesting,' I said, 'though I think it has some problems.'

"Never insensitive, Yordan let it go at that. If I wasn't interested in volunteering comments, he wouldn't ask for them. Actually, the BASTARD script was a bloody, violent, and confusing exercise that, presumably, catered to the booming desire for more and more sensational films. After much travail that didn't involve me, it was eventually made into a film, but Halliwell dismisses it as a 'sadistic Western with an opening massacre followed by twenty-two killings (count 'em). Pretty dull otherwise.'

"Yordan got my attention when he announced, 'They started shooting BASTARD in Madrid.'

"'Who's the director?'

"'Bob Parrish.' Parrish was an American director with many substantial credits who was at the time working principally out of England.

"'Who's the producer?'

"'Ben Fisz is in charge until I get over there.'

"So it was real.

"'You want to go back there with me?'

"'Doing what?'

"'You'll be the producer.'

"I was ready. 'When do we go?'

"'September.' He was unequivocal...

"'How do I get paid?'

"'You won't. Same as me. You'll have a big expense account and own a piece of the pictures along with me. You'll make a lot more than salary that way.' I had my doubts, but the way things were going for me in Hollywood, I couldn't say no. He went on. 'I have to get another script ready to shoot in September.' It was early summer.

"'I'm going to work with Milton [Sperling]. He owns a book.' He was referring to paperback Western, CAPTAIN APACHE, which in fact Yordan did work on full-time with Sperling. 'Meanwhile, I'd like you to start working on some scripts. We'll need a whole program.'"

Friday, May 29, 2009


Vittorio Cottafavi: MESSALINA, VENERE IMPERATRICE (MESSALINA) was a film that I didn't like very much. It was too ornate. The familiar story of Messalina didn't seem to me too interesting. I didn't see how I could change her into a character that had life and variable moods. In her, everything was too deliberate. What interested me instead was the experience that I could have with the Technirama system. The character of Messalina is curious, because we are dealing here with a pathological case, a woman deprived of humanity. She was an abandoned woman from the beginning, who looked inside herself and not out at the World, incapable of love and of hate but doing these two things at the same time. What I did like in this film are a few small scenes that observe the daily life of the Romans with great detail. The sequence of the games in the square, where two actors recite the Miles Gloriosus: people sat on benches or on the ground, and two poor actors without even a theatrical backdrop who recite in front of the houses, as a show for the poor people, for those who could not afford the ticket to the arena.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

delli Colli on Leone & Morricone

Tonino delli Colli interviewed by Nighteagle

MM: When you took over the direction of photography, beginning with THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY, one revolutionary method was introduced to generate the right mood, or state of mind among the actors during the shooting: the music of Morricone on the set. That was unprecedented on western movie sets.
TDC: Morricone and Leone, what a duo! One cannot be without the other. Yes, with THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY there were first attempts to bring in the "invisible actor", the music , into the scene. In ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST this become a completely developed technique. The music kept going and going, sometimes I had to tell Sergio to turn it down or cut if off, because I couldn´t be heard by my crewmen during a take. Sergio and Ennio had some fierce dabates often, but Ennio was more convincing. Sergio was kind of superstitious. He always selected tunes and melodies that other directors had refused previously. For example, in ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA, the main theme was a love theme written by Ennio much before, for a movie of director Zeffirelli, a movie that was never realized. This happened quite often, Sergio retrieved pieces of music that Ennio had put away in some drawer...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Italian Western camera operator

Oberdan Troiani: Luigi Capuana was a Neapolitan who had a good technical background. During the war he'd been a fighter pilot, and had reached the rank of Commander. He was the classic Neapolitan who worked as little as possible. He'd arrive in the morning: "Hey Troiani, I've got to be at the dentist at one." He'd have twenty pages of script to shoot, he would call for his crane, and in one single sweeping movement he'd cover every single one of his cues. We'd finish earlier than projected. When the troupes for the other films would arrive at Cinecitta to begin filming on the same day, they'd find we were already well under way, that we'd finished for the day! I filmed a Western with him that was really rather well made (he was awfully good with those crane shots), a Spanish co-production that came out with a pseudonym attached (Lewis King), even though it was all filmed in Rome or nearby. I think it was called IL MAGNIFICO TEXANO (THE MAGNIFICENT TEXAN). Because of contractual reasons it often happened on these co-productions that the director had to be Spanish and the cameraman Italian (or vice verse). On this one we needed a Spanish camera operator, but the producer didn't want to take risks so I shot it all myself, while the Spaniard stood and watched. John Saxon was the star, an American who later became a producer, I believe. By this time, we Italians had got the feel for this sort of production and we could make these films with incredible speed, and at a third of the price of what they would have cost elsewhere in Europe.
RAMON IL MESSICANO (RAMON THE MEXICAN) was a film directed by Maurizio Pradeaux. He'd been the chauffeur for Emimmo Salvi, a producer during the period of mythological films. Salvi had written the script himself, and had found Pradeaux a financial backer from Bologna. He then wanted to make a 007 type film, Ventotto minuti per tre millioni di dollari, with Pradeaux, but gave up on the project: it wasn't the kind of film you could do on a tight budget. The only way to make budget Westerns was to consistently follow the same well-worn path. Beginning with the horses, always the same horses put through exactly the same paces. And there was always the same saloon, the usual Western village constructed De Paolis-style. The most you could spend for a film like this back then was 120 million. Pradeaux got his start this way, and went on later to direct numerous adventure films.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Duccio Tessari: For MESSALINA, VENERE IMPERATRICE, not to be confused with the 1951 version (THE AFFAIRS OF MESSALINA with Maria Felix) but this time by Cottafavi, a friend recommended a very young girl to me who had been at the Academy, saying that she needed some work experience. I needed a Roman slave-girl for a scene of torture; her dress is lacerated with whips and a red-hot iron used to 5brand her flesh. Naturally her skin was protected by a layer of rubber, on which was placed a steel plate, tricked out with a thin strip of veal in such a way that it looked like it was the real skin of the actress. Then this young thing arrived on the set, for her debut in the cinema: she was called Paola Pitagora. The crescendo of the scene was an agonizing scream that she was supposed to utter at the moment in which the iron branded her flesh. Poor Paola, she wasn't from the World of Film, and knew nothing of it. She had come from the Academy with all the baggage of Chekov, Moliere and Goldoni and therefore, despite the direction she was given, continued to give out a very subdued cry, modulated and beautifully enunciated, but that was all. Take after take, it always remained a tiny cry and Cottafavi became angry because he wanted a desperate scream, he needed a desperate scream, and the scene wouldn't work without a desperate scream. This called for a wickedly extreme remedy, and with the next take, I told the two Praetorians to inflict the torture with great force because this time the scene would be perfect. At the desired moment, La Pitagora uttered an anguished cry that came from the torment of her flesh because I, from under the camera, had hammered on her bare foot with all the strength I had. The maximum sadism in these films came from scenes of this type. And the maximum eroticism came from the kiss which was the first stage in the action that indicated that the girl was going to undress, followed immediately by a shot of the actor in whose eyes were to register the excitement of the girl's nudity. Those actors had to have a quality of expression that simulated the eroticism, because in their shot, they saw absolutely nothing, or in the more fortunate cases, a hairy assistant director who continued to intone from the script: "Here, now she undresses, you think that you see her breast, think, think." However, some of these actors just didn't have what it takes, and they appeared on the screen with expressions of total stupidity.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Which Westerns does Giuliano Gemma best remember?

Giuliano Gemma: Besides Tessari's...Ringo, I recall PER POCHI DOLLARI ANCORA by Ferroni (FORT YUMA GOLD), and then two films I made with Michele Lupo: ARIZONA COLT and BEN AND CHARLIE, which was later renamed AMICO STAMMO LONTANO ALMENO UN PALMO (approximately: ‘Let’s keep our distance’)...It was a good story about two friends who are can never agree on anything, but are miserable when separated. We shot part in Spain, part in Italy, and it was a well-made film. I found Lupo well suited to this sort of pop-adventure movie. He has the right rhythm; the right feel for this sort of thing.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Riccardo Freda's SPARTACUS

Riccardo Freda: When (Stanley) Kubrick was making SPARTACUS, the Americans bought the negative of my 1953 SPARTACO (SINS OF ROME) for 50000 dollars and made it disappear, even though by now it was a pretty old film, and in Italy had certainly exhausted any further possibility of being re-released. My SPARTACO had been a film of compromise, and I wasn't totally happy with it. My original story was very hard-hitting and the terrible condition of the slaves was graphically described. But there was De Pirro at the Ministry who attacked me over this, insisting that nobody had ever been allowed to speak badly of the Ancient Romans. The screenplay had been taken from Tito Livio (Livy) and other historical documents, and described the true conditions of the slaves, the reasons for the revolt, and it was this that had frightened them. The film was eventually made and turned out quite well, it was full of spectacle, gladiators, and romantic intrigue...

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Why Robert Siodmak for CUSTER OF THE WEST?

From HOLLYWOOD EXILE or How I Learned To Love the Blacklist by Bernard Gordon

(After a bad meeting in director Robert Siodmak's hotel room in Madrid, Philip Yordan, Julian Zimet and Gordon took the elevator down.)

I expressed my annoyance. "The man is useless. He hasn't an idea in his head. You want my opinion? Don't even consider him."
"I'm hiring him."
I was really astonished. "Why?"
Yordan gave me my next lession in the Realpolitik of filmmaking. "We need a star or we have no deal. We have no script to show to a star, so what do I do? I go to Robert Shaw and ask him to do the picture. He wants to be helpful. But without a script, how can he agree? I tell him I'll get him a good director. He agrees that he'll sign on if I get an experienced director. How do I get a respectable director to take the job? I still have no script. I find out Siodmak is hungry. He has an impressive track record, but he's out of work in Switzerland. The phone isn't ringing. He's dying to do another picture and pick up another fee. So I get Siodmak and I've got Shaw - and I get the four million bucks to make a picture."...
The final twist on all this Yordan didn't bother to mention until years later. Siodmak came cheap. He was paid only $100,000, probably a third of what any established director would have been paid for a four-million-dollar epic....
Much later Yordan told me that Siodmak had been suffering from cancer and was urinating blood during the shooting of the film. This altered my feelings toward the man, and, in retrospect, I think of him as functioning gallantly in the face of a fatal condition.

Friday, May 22, 2009

James Bond and me.

FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE was the first James Bond film I was allowed to see.
My family took guidance from the Legion of Decency, so we didn't see DR. NO as it was classified "B: Morally Objectionable In Part For All." Imagine our concern when we discovered, after having already seen it, that HERCULES UNCHAINED was classified "B". My older sister went to the Catholic Chaplin at Camp Sukiran and asked if we had committed a sin, and the priest replied "No". The ratings were a guide to the content of the movie and as long as we weren't swayed to believe that the morally objectionable behavoir shown wasn't objectionable, it would be okay to see the movie.
So, my family went to see FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, the second James Bond film, but the first to come out after we got the okay to see "B" rated movies. I loved it from the lethal training exercise in the Spectre garden to "She got her kicks."
Then DR. NO got a re-release and we saw it and I loved it too.
But, as excited as my family was with the James Bond films, many people that I knew didn't know about them. That changed with GOLDFINGER. Everyone got excited about GOLDFINGER. No one shared my irritation that it made no sense for Goldfinger to explain his plan to the assembled gangsters, divide them into those that stayed and Mr. Solo who left, only to kill them all seperately. Now I understand that this was thought to be a clever way for Bond to overhear the plan and for the filmmakers to show how lethal the gas was - but it really hurt one's ability to re-watch a movie when it just became more and more apparant how stupid the plotting was.
And this was the movie that really made James Bond a popular success. And so most of the subsequent films used it as the blueprint from which to build.
I credit the return of director Terence Young, who did DR. NO and FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, with the fact that I loved THUNDERBALL. But then YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE was disappointing, George Lazenby made ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE a chore to sit through and DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER was dreadful.
So, I gave up on the Bond movies. I did not go to see LIVE AND LET DIE. Roger Moore and Paul McCartney were not tempting.
But there I was in Fargo, North Dakota, waiting for a Greyhound bus to take me to visit an high school friend living in Montgomery, Alabama and I had a few hours to kill. A nearby multiplex was showing THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN and it had Christopher Lee and Britt Ekland in it. I went, I saw and I was nauseated.
Years later, in L.A., I got Select-TV because it was showing The Hammer House of Horror TV series, and I ended up catching up on the unseen Bond films. Select-TV merged with rival On-TV and then the time came to get cable and the Z Channel. That's how I kept up with James Bond, without much enthusiasm.
As did a number of other people, I went to see NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN hoping that Sean Connery and Irvin Kershner - who had changed my mind about seeing any more of those STAR WARS movies - would bring back some of what I had previously enjoyed, but I mostly came out thinking that I hoped to never see Kim Basinger or Barbara Carrera again.
The change from Roger Moore to Timothy Dalton - who was in a movie I love called THE LION IN WINTER - sparked some interest, but THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS on cable TV did nothing for me. Steve James told me that LICENCE TO KILL was better and I agreed, but mostly I thought I'd like to see more of Carey Lowell - but not on Law & Order I discovered.
When the role of James Bond passed to Pierce Brosnan the publicity effort for the new Bond film reached a level higher than any that I could recall. And it coincided with my raising a little girl to whom I was trying to impart a love of movies. Though she had never seen a James Bond movie, she was aware of the question, "Will Pierce Brosnan make a good James Bond?" So we saw GOLDENEYE at the Cinerama Dome, her favorite theater, and she reported, "I thought he made a good James Bond."
With that I tried to get her to watch the three Sean Connery films that I loved and discovered that she wasn't interested.
"But you said you thought Pierce Brosnan made a good James Bond and I want to show you the original James Bond."
"I said that I thought Pierce Brosnan made a good James Bond, but I didn't say that I was interested in seeing any more James Bond movies."
And, actually, neither was my wife. She loved the Sean Connery/James Bond movies, loved the books, and had no interest in any more of the movies.
So I caught TOMORROW NEVER DIES on cable, mostly because of Michelle Yeoh and THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH on DVD, mostly because of Sophie Marceau. I still haven't watched DIE ANOTHER DAY or the two new ones starring Daniel Craig.
But there I was at the Burbank Central Library with the special two-disc DVD set for OCTOPUSSY in my hand and the feeling that I never really gave the film a chance. So, I gave it a watch and spent the time wondering if the train stunts in Jackie Chan's POLICE STORY 3 SUPERCOP were inspired by this movie and wondering if OCTOPUSSY's filmmakers were aware of how much their movie was a rehash of GOLDFINGER.
And you know how I feel about GOLDFINGER.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


Franco Giraldi: Coming from Trieste to Rome and falling into Cinema, as one did in those days, I worked as an assistant director (for Pontecorvo, Lizzani, and especially Peppi de Santis who was my master [Giuseppe De Santis, best known for showing the world Silvana Mangano's milky thighs wading amidst BITTER RICE], I immediately felt like an outsider. The cultural baggage I carried with me from Trieste wasn't of any use, it didn't have anything to do with that kind of cinema. So, maybe out of timidity, insecurity, fear, maybe from my native Triest-ine tradition of learning a job from the bottom up, I sought to learn my trade well, while serving my apprenticeship. After a while, I began to get calls for second-unit work. That means filming disaster scenes, gun battles, explosions for somebody else's movie. I found this amusing, and it gave me a certain independence, and I did it with the carefree thoughtless that characterized me in those years. So, awaiting my debut as a director in the "first person", I did some films as second-unit director, including some scenes for FISTFUL OF DOLLARS by Sergio Leone, those in which the actors -let's say Volonte- did some secondary bit of business, while Leone directed the more basic story, true and proper. (It has been claimed that Giraldi was responsible for the cemetery scene in which Volonte guns down the already dead soldiers.) The completely unexpected success of that film gave me professional leverage, and while Leone was fighting his legal battle with the people who'd produced the film, they asked me to do a Western for them. The only tone I felt I could work in was a "juvenile" manner, partly because I'd been a huge fan of the true Westerns -Ford and so forth, a taste I owed perhaps to fellow Triestean (Tullio) Kezich (esteemed film critic), who'd been the first scholar of the phenomenon. In the other Westerns that I shot, I maintained this kid-oriented tone, full of landscapes, action, and all the possible conventions: little trains, vast horizons etc, etc. Let's say my Westerns are revisitings of the classics, but in a very ironic key.That first movie went very well, it was liked, and even the critics didn't treat me too badly. They were very indulgent in their reviews of SETTE PISTOLE PER I MACGREGOR (SEVEN GUNS FOR THE MACGRGORS). Apart from anything else, the film had the merit of costing very little. The actors were almost all kids from the circus or stuntmen. They had to be given that they had to do lots of crazy bits of business. But I tried to make them act a little, too. The hero, however, was an American, who'd been a male model till very recently. I think his name was Robert Woods. Generally, all those films were shot on crazy schedules. Mine was done in nine weeks, which is nothing for an action movie, where, after all, there's the need for detail work, and for making changes. I shot it in Spain, near Madrid and Granada, because in that genre which was already so half-cocked, I detested the idea of not being able to give at least a minimum of authenticity with plausible looking landscapes.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Thomas Hunter on ANZIO

Interveiwed by Julian Grainger

JG: Was there any director you worked with that particularly impressed you?
TH: Um, hmmm. I don't think so. I thought Edward Dmytryk did a good job with our film [THE "HUMAN" FACTOR] except for the first five minutes.
TH: On ANZIO he was pretty good. Mitchum at one point decided he wasn't going to shoot that day because he was hung over. He was playing cards with Peter Falk in his trailer with Reni Santoni and one other actor so Dmytryk came to us in our trailer instead - Giancarlo Giannini and another actor who played the sergeant in ANZIO, a very good actor - Earl Holliman. And Dmytryk asked us if we would do our death scenes. I said "Sure". We were shooting right on what was actually a battlefield during WWII and they had the special forces come out there and comb the area for old munitions and mines but... these guys in the trailer (Mitchum, Falk and co.) are using this as an excuse not to work. [They were pretending that] it wasn't safe yet. It wasn't safe for Mitchum's head! And we took a vote, the three of us in our trailer, and I said "Look I've been in the Marines and if the Italian Special Forces have been through this, then the chances are there is nothing wrong and I think this is bullshit." So we took a vote and decided to work. And we had to walk right past the trailer and we saw Reni Santoni giving us the finger – with a big smile as we walked past. All three of us gave him the Italian salute.
JG: ANZIO has a tremendous cast: Arthur Kennedy, Robert Ryan...
TH: But then again it is wasted on the screenplay. It was really lightweight given what it could have been. It's very hack. The way [the screenplay] is constructed.You can forgive a lot of dialogue if it is well 34constructed. And he [Dmytryk] really didn't know how to handle Mitchum, not from a discipline point of view but from a performance point of view. I mean ANZIO isn't about a war correspondent who writes this down, that's too contrived from my point of view. For my money it didn't work.We were shooting the amphibious scenes in Taranto and the first day we were supposed to shoot it Dmytryk called it off because De Laurentiis had decided that we were going to use rubber rifles and here they were practically flopping over. Rubber M1s! So Dmytryk said "That's it. We're not going to shoot until he gets us something real." So Dino had to cough up some more money and give us the real thing. He probably got it from the naval base because he and the Italian commander were buddies. Mitchum was great in ways but he IS a bad boy. The daughter of the base commander, a little Italian teenager, came up asking for his autograph and he said "I'll sign it but I'll sign it on your ass" [laughs]. So she hiked up her skirt and he did. And I thought "Oh boy! If this gets back to the commander we're out of here."
JG: In the ANZIO cast are all sorts of Spaghetti Cinema regulars - did you know Mark Damon?
TH: Yeah, Mark was a friend of mine. He was part of the Mel Welles crowd. I also knew the guy who wrote the screenplay for LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, Charles B. Griffith.He's a wonderful person. I knew him [Damon] when I went back to Hollywood too. He was always more of a businessperson than an actor. He was always on the phone to his account man in some brokerage firm in New York. But he became a great businessman.And there was John Thompson, do you know of him?
JG: I know that he worked with Mel Welles and then as a producer for Cannon Films.
TH: John was a good friend of mine. He spoke three languages perfectly and he has been producing a lot of Italian films. And off course Cannon didn't know how to handle him.
JG: Did John Thompson start off as an actor?
TH: Sort of. He was part of my workshop. All these guys were part of my workshop.He was in a play called COMPANY K.
JG: Is John Thompson still alive?
TH: John is still alive and he lives in California and he is back and forth between Italy and California. He's married and he's happy for a change. In fact I brought him as an assistant onto a movie I made because he needed a job. I got him on THE MAGNIFICENT TONY CARRERA.
JG: And Wayde Preston?
TH: Wayde played our commander. And then you had the Brit, a real ex Royal Marine, Anthony Steel. At Taranto we had the Marine Corp. coming in from Vietnam - they were on liberty - and they came to our hotel because they wanted to meet Robert Mitchum. I was with them and we had a ball that night. It was so unreal seeing these spiffed up dandies in their ivory clean, starched liberty uniforms who had just come back from Vietnam. And then there's us, the actors, the fake rangers, drinking it up in the hotel bar still wearing our sandy, grimy uniforms with black under our eyes and everything, like we'd just come back from a long day's war.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Director Pietro Francisci before Hercules.

Fiorenzo Fiorentini: With Pietro Francisci, I did ANTONIO DI PADOVA, and many other films like LE MERAVIGLIOSE AVVENTURE DI GUERRIN MESCHINO (THE MARVELOUS ADVENTURES OF GUERRIN MESCHINO), IL LEONE DI AMALFI (THE LION OF AMALFI), LA REGINA DI SABA (THE QUEEN OF SHEBA). They were well-crafted productions, but always financed with so little capital. Even when big productions like the Maciste series came along, Francisci was the man who could always complete the film by spending a tenth of what the others spent. GUERRIN MESCHINO, for instance, was a Swashbuckler (called in Italian: Cappa e Spada - Cloak and Sword) shot with only six horses that somehow he made seem like two hundred. In IL LEONE DE AMALFI, the palace of Saladin was only a model built by Bava, but it looked like an immense Fairy-tale Castle. In short, it is Francisci and (Mario) Bava who created all of these things, both with a love of film and with a skill for cutting costs. The whole of Italian Cinema was rebuilt on these foundations. And it is certain that even today the industry would flourish anew if only these principles were followed.
GUERRIN MESCHINO and LA REGINA DI SABA already contained all the elements of the films of Maciste, they were already fables of that type. As a director, Francisci was punctual and precise and at the screenplay stage had already sorted out all the details that a scene would demand. He was a true professional.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The enigma of Philip Yordan

While his book HOLLYWOOD EXILE or How I Learned To Love the Blacklist is a memoir of his career in moviemaking, Bernard Gordon spends much of it analyzing Philip Yordan. It was in Yordan's employ that Gordon was his most productive. Gordon sums up Yordan in two paragraphs:

"Yordan has been generous about filling me in with some of the stories I've related in these pages, spending hours on the telephone with me. I may not have portrayed him as an unsullied hero, but I hope he comes through as the fascinating, unflappable, if flawed, human being he is. We did, indeed, have a long and symbiotic relationship. (Symbiosis is defined in Webster's Dictionary as 'the intimate living together of two dissimilar organisms in a mutually beneficial relationship," and this seems to describe us.) Yordan has become something of a Hollywood legend and enigma, and, because of my relationship with him, I am constantly asked for the 'bottom line': Was he a phony, a fraud, someone without talent for anything but self-promotion? Could he write? How did he amass so many respectable writing credits?

"Granted that I would not, under any circumstances, wish to trash him, it is fortunate that I do not feel the need to do that. I knew him as a man who genuinely considered himself a writer, a man who could and did sit down and write scripts - as when he wrote the script for BAD MAN'S RIVER, and as, in the same suite as me, he tried to turn out scenes for BATTLE OF THE BULGE. The same was true when we were struggling to come up with scenes and ideas for KRAKATOA. In more recent years I have known him to turn out many scripts that he has tried to promote. None of these writing efforts appealed to me as good professional work, but that is just my opinion. In any case, this does not make him a fraud, who, unable to write himself, exploited others to do the work for him. I certainly knew him as a man who could and did contribute creatively with good ideas and concepts for improving scripts, making them work, as for example in 55 DAYS IN PEKING, DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS and other instances not recounted in these pages. Perhaps it would have been better if he had settled in as a producer who would work productively with writers, but, in any event, I have always known him as a man who took himself seriously as a writer, took pride in that, and did not deliberately wish to hide behind the work of others. I respect that."

Philip Yordan died on March 24, 2003. Bernard Gordon died on May 11, 2007.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


In his book HOLLYWOOD EXILE or How I Learned To Love the Black List, Bernard Gordon writes how he got involved in making movies in Spain after meeting Philip Yordan. At first Yordan was finding projects for Samuel Bronston while also making films for his own Security Pictures Inc. Gordon came aboard and got his first screen credit after being black listed with 55 DAYS IN PEKING. Later, Yordan formed a partnership with the Cinerama company. William Forman was running Cinerama and he wanted a movie about KRAKATOA. While Gordon was trying to come up with a script about an exploding volcano, Yordan informed him that Forman wanted their next movie to be about General George Armstrong Custer.

"We walked in silence as I tried to digest all this. 'Fine,' I finally countered. 'Let's do a film about Custer, a really modern film that tells the truth about him and the whole American policy at the time.'

"Yordan was annoyed. He turned on me. 'It's people like you with your antihero ideas who are ruining Hollywood! We'll just figure a way to turn Custer into a hero!'

"As far as Yordan was concerned, I still didn't get it. I still had the naive notion that I was in the business of trying to make good films. I didn't understand what Yordan understood so well - we were in the business of business, and the business of business was to make money. The first thing a businessman had to do was find the capital to stay in business. 'Good' films were films for which you could raise production money. 'Good' films were films that made money. Films that didn't make money were bad films. Despite what I had gone through, and what I'd continue to go through for quite a while, it took years for me to learn that bankers, lawyers, accountants, theater owners (meaning real estate owners), and Wall Street investors were the people who really decided what films and what kinds of films were made. Even when I finally understood this, I found it problematic that this was particularly true of Hollywood; France, Italy, England, Germany, even tiny Denmark and troubled Poland occasionally made what I considered a 'good' film. Why not Hollywood? Regardless of my thinking and feeling, I too was interested in the money aspects of all this. As much as Yordan, I wanted the money to keep rolling in. I settled down to struggle with another killer script about George Armstrong Custer."

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The future Lady Emma Hamilton

After seeing THAT HAMILTON WOMAN, I went to the internet to research the real Emy Lyon, aka Emma Hart - the future Lady Hamilton. This portrait done in 1782, when the woman was in her early twenties, by George Romney seemed worth sharing. Then my wife and I watched LE CALDE NOTTI DI LADY HAMILTON, aka THE MAKING OF A LADY, with Michelle Mercier.

Friday, May 15, 2009


The fellows at Wild East Productions have released Volume 26 in their Spaghetti Western Collection: DON'T TURN THE OTHER CHEEK, aka LONG LIVE YOUR DEATH. It's a nice 16X9 copy with a full 2.35:1 ratio that is complete with some scenes subtitled in English when an English dubbed soundtrack was unavailable. The movie is one of the best of Italian comedy westerns with plenty of well-staged action. What makes this disc also a great buy is the 19 minute chat with Eli Wallach in 2008, as well as extras that include the Lynn Redgrave song used for the U.S. release.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sergio Leone on influences.

Sergio Leone: It's not that one wishes to avoid the question for diplomacy's sake, but I haven't seen many of the Westerns made by my friends, just two by Corbucci, and one by Tessari. It seems to me, though, that Tessari's western had a very sophomoric tone, it was all a joke announced and delivered in the very first frame. It seemed to me a bit indebted to Lucky Luke. On the contrary, Corbucci's film was on the heavy side, a bit over-crude. Hmm, well, it really is his kind of film that sometimes gets me a bit steamed. Sergio's sort of film has contributed to
the decline of all the commercial product out there. He may not have understood behind the illustration of violence must reside something more than shock for its own sake; some depth.
As to the Americans, sure, my films have influenced them, and how! John Milius wrote THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JUDGE ROY BEAN for me, which I turned down, and Huston made it instead. I think my films have influenced a director like the Kubrick of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE. And Peckinpah said -when there was the debate about which of us had influenced the other - that he would never have existed without me. The novelty was the realism (it may amaze some, but I believe my past work for neo-realist directors really did add up to something!)
But the violence in my films always has a fairy-tale like quality, even when the films have some political content, while Peckinpah deals with historical fact. I'm convinced Peckinpah would never have been able to do THE WILD BUNCH without me. But there are many things about Sam's films I don't like: the tortured realism, a bit delirious (I really think alcohol enters into this) and certainly I know that I'd have done THE WILD BUNCH very differently than he did.
To clarify my thinking on the subject, I must say I agree with Chaplin's proposal to present simple stories, almost fables, in order to touch on the most important social and human themes. And he did it in the guise of the little tramp, who was nothing less than the symbol of all the marginalized people in the world. Immodestly may I say that I follow his example? For me the Western is really a vehicle to smuggle in certain hobbyhorses of mine, political ones included. And Westerns have functioned well for this, because they are a wonderful medium: a genre that has always won over the public, in particular the young public who themselves don't have these vast spaces, who lack the model of the virile hero who sticks to his will to do justice till his dying breath. For sure, there's the appeal of adventure, but above all the appeal is that of life committed to justice, according to the criterion:" I'm going to get myself justice, because the sheriff -who in certain cases represents the police or other branches of the law- can't do it for me and so I'll do it myself. I go, confront the question directly, and I resolve my problem."

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Duccio Tessari on CARTHAGE IN FLAMES

Duccio Tessari: Carmine Gallone was a delicious man who told you every two minutes: "my good person, my darling, my love, my treasure" and he lived in a villa above Grottaferrata. Already, by the time of CARTHAGE IN FLAMES, he must have been 196 years old but he was unchanged by time, classic like the Pyramids of Egypt.
One morning I went to a reunion with him and at the moment of shaking the martini he grimaced because of a pain in his arm. So I asked him: "What is it Carmine, an attack of arteriosis? "
And he calmly replied: "No, no, it's just that last night I put a waltz on the gramophone, I took my wife in my arms, and we danced for the whole disk, then I lifted her off her feet and carried her upstairs to the bedroom..."
He truly worked like a superman; his tirelessness, his physical strength, his indefatigability has become proverbial. As also, in a certain sense, his easy nature.
There is a moment in the screenplay (of CARTHAGE IN FLAMES) where Scipio has to command the attack, and Carmine quietly accepted a gag that I had suggested to him - that in the next take, when Scipio gives the spirited cry "Rome or death," the Legionaries should respond in chorus with "Rome! Rome!" And after he had shot it, he kept it in the film.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

In Praise of Katharine Isabelle

In partnership with Emily Perkins, Katharine Isabelle knocked me for a loop in the 2000 Canadian flick GINGER SNAPS, one of the best Horror films of this new century. Researching her work to see what sort of range she has, I found over 50 credits; some under the name Katie Murray (a 1989 episode of MacGyver) and some under the name Katherine Isobel (a 1995 episode of Lonesome Dove: The Series and a 1998 episode of The X Files). Both Katharine and Emily had credits on a Canadian TV series which I had been ignoring in U.S. syndication, so to see more of them I caught an episode of Da Vinci's Inquest. That was one of the happiest decisions of my life, as Da Vinci's Inquest gets my vote as the second best TV series ever - behind The Wire. Since then, Katharine has brighten up episodes of The Outer Limits, Smallville, Stargate SG-1, Sanctuary, Supernatural and just about every U.S. TV series that shoots in Vancouver. She's also done an impressive number of Canadian feature films, but, as she's said, "You do these Canadian independent movies, you build up a name, and then you've gotta do shitty TV episodes just to pay your bills. It's hard to build your career when you keep on having to backtrack to do crappy things to pay for what you're doing."
There's been two GINGER SNAPS follow-up features, but neither were written and directed by the filmmakers who made the original, so even with Emily and Katharine, I don't recommend them.
Last year, Katharine won the Gemini for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Supporting Role in a Dramatic Program or Mini-Series for The Englishman's Boy. I hope to get a chance to see this.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The executions of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg

In HOLLYWOOD EXILE, or How I Learned to Love the Blacklist, Bernard Gordon writes about the effort by many, including the Pope, to stop the execution of convicted Soviet spies Ethel and Julius Rosenberg.

"The Supreme Court was in recess for the summer. A last-minute appeal to Justice William O. Douglas resulted in a stay of execution. It was standard procedure for a single designated justice to rule on a case until the full court could consider it. In this instance, good, old, warm friendly Ike took an unprecedented action. For the first time ever, he called all the scattered justices of the Supreme Court back into session. They considered the matter summarily, overruled Douglas, and adjourned to go back to their vacations...

"To appreciate the true magnitude of this atrocity, it is useful to know a few facts that have only recently been revealed and published. In 1997, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, senior senator from New York, wrote a report on government secrecy (Government Printing Office, 1997; published as Secrecy: The American Experience, Yale University Press, 1998). Through the Freedom of Information Act, Moynihan obtained previously classified documents that showed that

"[T]wo scientists at Los Alamos, Klaus Fuchs and Theodore Hall, did convey valuable atomic information to the Soviets; but neither had any connection to the Communist Party...
"Moynihan makes it clear that when the FBI put Julius and Ethel Rosenberg on trial for atomic espionage in March 1951, it had already learned, in May 1950, that real atomic secrets had been given to the Soviets by Theodore Hall....Hall was never charged with espionage and eventually moved to Britain, where he lived a long and happy life, while the United States executed the Rosenbergs for stealing 'the secret of the a-bomb'.
"The decoded Soviet cables show that Ethel was not a Soviet spy and that, while Julius had passed nonatomic information to the Soviets, the trial case against them was largely fabricated...
"Moynihan calls the execution of the Rosenbergs 'a harsh injustice...'
"Why didn't the FBI go after Hall?...Did the government execute the Rosenbergs and let Hall go because it didn't want to admit it had prosecuted the wrong people as atom spies? (John Wiener, The Nation, December 21, 1198)

"After the Rosenbergs' execution, the political atmosphere in Hollywood became ever more poisonous. The studios that were run by Jews had to make it endlessly clear that there were Jews in America who were not atomic spies, that, in this instance quite literally, they were holier than the Pope. Any thought of an easing of the Hollywood blacklist now seemed hopelessly remote. What had once seemed a temporary political aberration, a moment in a changing world (and we believed that things did change), now seemed like a trap from which we would never escape.
"The party? During the early days of the blacklist, we had hung together. A cold wind was blowing and we needed each other for warmth, companionship, and mutual support. When Stalin died in 1953, rumors of the appalling nature of the dictatorship in the Soviet Union began to leak out. In early 1956, Khrushchev spoke publicly about Stalin's atrocities. This was quite different from Henry Luce of Time magazine of the Chandlers of the Los Angeles Times unfurling their anticommunist propaganda. This news could not be ignored. But by 1957, as the scope of Stalin's abominations became clear, many of our people had scattered to Mexico, New York, Europe; few of our members remained in the section, and functioning was desultory.
"In the party, we felt betrayed. A lifetime of dedication and sacrifice to help make a better world had put us on the side of an inconceivable butcher. We still felt that humane socialism was necessary to correct the brutality and inequity of our own system, but the party had lashed itself too tightly to the fate of the U.S.S.R. Unannounced, informally, most of us simply stopped attending meetings. We just faded away from the party."

*For me, it is interesting that of the autobiographies that I've read, those who became Communists during World War 2 - Edward Dymtryk and Bernard Gordon - became disillusioned after the War. Shelley Winters is the only one of whom I've read that joined the party in the early 1930s. She cut all ties after Stalin signed his pact with Hitler and then joined-in on the invasion of Poland. Knowing what Hitler was doing to the Jews in Germany, she could not stomach American Communists excusing Stalin's colaboration with Hitler.
*And howcome Roman Polanski, who was there, did not mention the Soviets invading Poland from the East at the same time that the Nazis were invading from the West in his movie THE PIANIST?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Some thoughts on Dollhouse...

Why Dollhouse Really Is Joss Whedon's Greatest Work
by Charles Jane Anders

Check out the original blog, or read my transcription below:

(*note: I don't agree with everything Mr. Anders writes, but I think he's pretty close to what makes Dollhouse special.-wtc)

Back before Dollhouse first aired, we argued it would be the best thing Joss Whedon had ever done. Now its first season is ending, and we were proved right. Here's why.

First, let's get this out of the way right off the bat: Yes, Dollhouse had some weak individual episodes. The back-up singer episode, for starters. I also thought the college campus "Naked Time" episode was as weak as a Tiberian milk-bat. This goes with the territory - every Joss TV series has had weak individual episodes, especially in its first season. Buffy had "The Pack" and "Teacher's Pet." Angel had... well, its entire first season. Firefly had "Safe" and "Heart Of Gold." So it's not really a valid complaint to say that Dollhouse had a couple lame episodes.

So with that aside, let's talk about how much Dollhouse rules (and, we hope, will continue to rule for years to come.)

Looking at Joss' career to date (especially his television work) you can see a trend towards moral ambiguity, which has made his work richer and richer. In Buffy, there are fairly clear-cut good guys/gals and baddies, who tend to be demonic or infected with some kind of supernatural evil. And over time, Buffy itself became more and more ambiguous, as we met demons who weren't all bad, and Buffy herself got darker and more willing to cross moral lines to do what was necessary. And then Angel was constantly challenged by his dark side as well. But it wasn't really until Firefly that Joss gave us the consummate anti-hero: Mal Reynolds, a criminal who's out for his own gain and quite willing to get his hands dirty in the process. There are lines Mal won't cross, but we never entirely know what they are until he comes right up against them.

But Joss' trend towards storytelling with no clear-cut right or wrong has taken a giant leap forward with Dollhouse. With the possible exception of former FBI agent Paul Ballard, everybody in Dollhouse is morally compromised - but we can't quite hate them. In a nutshell, the Dollhouse is a modern-day slavery operation, except that even the most abject slave gets to preserve some kernel of individuality and free will. In the Dollhouse, people are erased utterly, their minds replaced with empty vessels that the Dollhouse can fill with whatever its rich clients need. You can hire a good-looking person to be whoever, and whatever, you need him/her to be.
We see the evil of the Dollhouse most clearly in the story of Sierra — she didn't volunteer to become a mindless Doll. Instead, she turned down a rich guy's sexual advances, and he was so pissed he spent a fortune to have her erased, so that he and his slimy rich friends could hire her to be their willing, eager sexual plaything whenever they wanted. And then, once she was mind-wiped and vulnerable, her "Handler," the guy who was supposed to protect her, abused her trust and raped her, repeatedly. This is not an isolated instance of the Dollhouse's technology being abused — this is the Dollhouse at work.

People compare this to prostitution, but that's selling it short - it's way worse than prostitution, way worse even than murder. It's the ultimate evil, and the show has gone out of its way on numerous occasions to point this out. Not only does Ballard explain in almost every episode why the Dollhouse is morally repugnant, but the Dollhouse's security guy Boyd discusses his moral qualms about the organization constantly as well. And yet...

And yet, we see over and over again that the Dollhouse is a force for good in the world. It saves people, it makes the world a better place. The "Dolls" even do pro bono work, like last week's episode, where Echo helped a nascent juvenile delinquent, by being a social worker programmed with the mind of that same delinquent as an adult. The Dollhouse's head, Adelle DeWitt, constantly sells the idea that they're doing good works - and it doesn't feel entirely like a put-on. Meanwhile, you have the aforementioned Boyd, who is obviously a deeply moral person who keeps working at the Dollhouse despite his misgivings. He's only able to stick around because he believes the official line, that every one of the Dolls volunteered to be erased, in exchange for a huge reward five years later.

Also, all of the Dollhouse staff are classic Whedon characters: witty, clever, complicated... and a bit lovable. I've noticed something about Dollhouse: there's an inverse relationship between someone's moral fibre and the quality of his/her dialog. In other words, Adelle and Topher consistently get the best lines in every episode, and they're the people who are obviously the most amoral and most willing to treat human beings like pieces of meat. (They're also the only two Dollhouse staffers to become clients, that we know of.) It's hard to hate Topher and Adelle when they're both so much fun to watch.

The evil in Dollhouse is harder to deal with than the evil in Buffy because it's our evil. It's our willingness to strip other people of their humanity in order to get what we need from them. It's our eagerness to give up our humanity and conform to other people's expectations, in exchange for some vaguely promised reward. And it's our tendency to put any new piece of technology to whatever uses we can think of, whether they're positive or utterly destructive.

And that last bit, about technology, is the other main reason why Dollhouse is Whedon's most accomplished work, especially if you love science fiction like we do. Unlike Joss' other works, Dollhouse really is about the impact of new technology on society. It asks the most profound question any SF can ask: how would we (as people) change if a new technology came along that allowed us to...? In this case, it's a technology that allows us to turn brains into storage media: We can erase, we can record, we can copy. It's been sneaking up on us, but Dollhouse has slowly been showing how this radically changes the whole conception of what it means to be human. You can put my brain into someone else's body, you can keep my personality alive after I die, and you can keep my body around but dispose of everything that I would consider "me."
We've seen this most poignantly in recent episodes, like the one where Adelle DeWitt brings her dead friend back to life by plugging her friend's stored brain patterns into Echo. And judging from the promo, tonight's finale will show us a Doll, with a new personality, confronted with her "original" personality in another body. We've also seen the same personality (Taffy the bank robber) in more than one body.

Dollhouse pulled a fantastic trick on us, the viewers — the first half of the season, we thought it was all about Echo's individual struggle to regain her personhood and escape the Dollhouse. Every episode, we saw Echo gaining more awareness, learning more, and becoming more individual. So we naturally thought that was the arc — Echo's struggle to free herself — and we thought it would play out over the course of five years. Except that that arc, in many ways, culminated halfway through the season, in the episode where Echo and several other Dolls regain their independence, and we realize that gaining freedom, for Echo, is a lot more complicated than we'd believed. The Dolls march out of the Dollhouse, at gunpoint — but where are they going to go now? Also, it's hinted that Echo can't regain her freedom so easily because there are horrible things in her past, things she can't confront and which make it impossible for her to simply go back to being Caroline.

Also, it's clear that Echo is evolving into something other than a Doll, and that her self-awareness is more than just being aware that she used to be Caroline. She's taking the initiative on her missions — something Adelle encourages — and acting outside her pre-programmed parameters. And then she asks Topher to program her with a new personality, in the "Spy In The House Of Love" episode — something no Doll has ever done before. Could Echo be on her way to becoming something more than just a regular human? Something with both agency and a Doll's versatility?

But that's not the real trick the show pulled. We thought it was about Echo's personal journey to regain her individuality, but it was actually about something larger: the wider implications of the Dollhouse's technology. Like I said, Dollhouse is a classic science-fiction story in a way that no other Whedon creation is. (Firefly has terraforming, FTL, Reavers, super-soldier experiments, etc... but it's not "about" the implications of those things.) In the episode "Man In The Street," Whedon includes an interview with an expert, who's clearly a mouthpiece for the writer, and he says that if the Dollhouse's technology exists, human beings are over. We cease to matter.
And ever since that scene appeared, that's been the not-so-secret theme of Dollhouse: that as soon as you can separate people's minds and bodies, the human race becomes just so much hardware, and we're going to wipe ourselves out or turn ourselves, basically, into the Borg. That's why the NSA (including Mr. Dominic) are so eager to get their hands on the tech. That's why Alpha sees it as leading to the extinction of humanity within 200 years, and why he seems so eager to dominate what's left of humanity. Unless Paul Ballard and the super-evolved Echo can find a way of erasing this technology from existence utterly, it will destroy the human race.

And that's the final thing that makes Dollhouse such a breath of fresh air, especially in a television season cluttered with abuses of science and looming apocalypses — it's about a very different apocalypse, one without demons or nuclear explosions or warfare. It's about the kind of apocalypse that we're busily trying to create every day, with our information technology that tries ever harder to put as much of our personalities onto the internet. It's about the slow-motion destruction of our individuality by brain science, instead of something that's easier to put your finger on. And I can't wait to see how it plays out — hopefully over the next several years. Here's hoping!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Dollhouse #12 "Omega"

Hopefully, it won't be the last.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


Devin Kelly: Also in 1961, you starred in one of the most popular among Italian peplum films, THE GIANT OF METROPOLIS, directed by Umberto Scarpelli. How was the hype surrounding it's release and what type of box office and business did the film do? Also, how did the role help your career?

Gordon Mitchell: It was Emimmo Salvi's film actually. He wound up doing the film anyway later. Now to be very truthful to you, I had no idea what was happening because as soon as I finished the first film I thought, well in two days before I even finished, they told me, they said you had another film to do and start in two days. But I had no idea all this stuff was happening. This woman (the medium), I guess she told the truth. So immediately I had two days off and I slept I was so wiped out. And then I start to work with Emimmo Salvi and this is where I start a lot of good friendship with Emimmo Salvi. And also Leonviola was very good with Emimmo. I did many, many films with him, and ah, THE GIANT OF METROPOLIS was wonderful. It was a great, great film and I enjoyed it very much.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Corbucci on actors.

Sergio Corbucci: DJANGO was the first Western that in a certain manner shows the impact of Sergio Leone's influence. I'd had some success with MINNESOTA CLAY, but it hadn't broken any records as FISTFUL had. Planning another Western, any film one might have come up with ran the risk of imitating FISTFUL, something I strenuously wanted to avoid. So then, in order to strike off in a new direction, I figured that if he had done a film full of violence but decidedly dominated by sunlight, I'd do one instead -influenced somewhat by Kurosawa, a picaresque Western, somewhat Noir-ish, an anti-Western par excellence, in which instead of riding on horseback, the hero would travel by foot; he would move through cold rather than heat; instead of struggling with sweat and dust, he'd combat mud and snow...
With this film, I launched a new actor, Franco Nero, who had done nothing at this point. I found him in an acting agency, where his photo had been gathering dust for who knows how long. DJANGO was a great international success.
Pier Paolo Pasolini once told me that when he'd visit an African village, or some other godforsaken place, as soon as he was recognized as an Italian, he'd hear murmurs of "Django", because it was one of a mere handful of films at the time that reached all the movie theaters worldwide.
DJANGO was my least expensive Western, a film shot adventurously, so much so that halfway through I wanted to abandon it. I was convinced that things weren't going well, that I was screwing up big time. The budget was exceedingly modest, with not a single name actor. We shot part in Spain, part in Rome, and Franco Rosselini produced, his debut in that capacity. At a certain point we were just about down to our last lira. And here in Rome it was very difficult to get the mud we needed. As a result, there were no crowd scenes; we shot only in abandoned and uninhabited places. Yes, there was that one scene with lots of horses. I was nervous about this, I didn't really know what I was doing...
Franco Nero, in reality Sparanero, was an extremely handsome young fellow from Parma. He had a pair of big blue eyes, and tremendous will power. I chose him for DJANGO over Mark Damon, an American actor with whom I made another Western for Metro, JOHNNY ORO. I liked the American type of face, its personable quality, and its seriousness.
Today, he (Nero) is somewhat remote, but back then he was very friendly and always eager to please. While we were filming DJANGO, a film in which he appeared in every scene, John Huston called him, wanting to give him a part in THE BIBLE, but he needed an actor who spoke English. Franco didn't know a word, but he studied diligently with a crazy tenacity, and in less than a week he could carry on a simple conversation. He was a very shy kid, very nervous. Afterwards, he was called to America, where he became acquainted with Vanessa Redgrave, and his true career began there.
Later on, I made two other films with him, IL MERCENARIO (THE MERCENARY) and VAMOS A MATAR COMPANEROS, the latter with Tomas Milian, with whom he fought constantly. Tomas, this Cuban émigré who then found his fortune playing Roman dialect parts, was a different personality-type (than Franco): extroverted, full of song, half mad, entertaining. I insisted he dub himself, because I found his accent lovely and very convincing for South American and Mexican roles.
And he was excellent. Besides Nero, I also launched Burt Reynolds, as well as Tony Musante in IL MERCENARIO.
Reynolds did his first film with me, NAVAJO JOE. De Laurentiis had proposed an American actor who I didn't want. I said: "Let's try someone totally new." and I went leafing through pictures at the Actors' Guild, where I found his photograph. Then I remembered I'd encountered him earlier in Spain. He'd arrived on the set to say hello to Eastwood, who was his friend. At the time he was a stunt double for Marlon Brando, and he exploited his acrobatic
abilities. I chose him without even testing him.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Sergio Leone on Lee Van Cleef

Sergio Leone: The theme of FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE is friendship. The rapport between two so called negative characters: one of them young and vigorous, the other just this side of old age. Creating this relationship, I wanted to go beyond FISTFUL OF DOLLARS: in some fashion, to outdo myself. Lee Van Cleef had that physique, that way of moving which was perfect for the role of Bounty Killer. The Bounty Killer is a very ambiguous character in the old west, perhaps the most ambiguous of them all, for he demonstrates a law of the West and of America itself: that in order to live one must be inclined to kill. In the film, the relationship between these two characters was crucial, also due to the choice of just the right pair of actors.Lee Marvin seemed prepared to accept. Once again, I'd thought of Fonda, but he was unobtainable. But then, just as
I was flying to America to have him sign the contract, Marvin dealt me a cruel blow, committing instead to another film, CAT BALLOU, which went on to win him an Oscar. Then I recalled an actor who had struck me in small roles in HIGH NOON, and THE BRAVADOS. It was very difficult tracking him down, no one knew what had happened to him. His photo no longer appeared in the actors' annuals. Finally, I contacted a smalltime agent, who told me Van Cleef wasn't working anymore because he'd been in a clinic for alcoholics for three years, and all the studios had slammed their doors in his face upon his release. And so he'd changed his career. Now he painted and did carpentry, but if I wanted to meet him, the agent would have him come by to my hotel the following day. And so it came to be. He arrived on a day of torrential rain. He had traveled a great distance. He wore an old dirty raincoat. He tapped lightly on its buttons. From his raised collar emerged that head with its short-cropped salt and pepper hair, that face resembling a falcon's. He was even better than the character I'd dreamed of! I immediately had a check written up for a sum that I don't think was more than a thousand dollars.Lee, who didn't yet understand he was to be the costar in the movie, said to me: "You know, I'm not sure I'm convinced it's worth returning to films occasionally just to do two or three scenes. I'm deeply involved in my career as an artist. Somebody just paid me seventy dollars for a piece of work, and I don't want to be forced to give the money back. I don't want to jeopardize my career." When I gave him an advance of 1000 dollars, he almost fainted! I also remember with great tenderness Christmas Eve two years later. Van Cleef, famous by now thanks to the success of the film, wanted to offer me dinner at a Chinese restaurant in New York. His wife, a former nurse who had taken care of him during his spell of alcohol poisoning, joined him. He had just bought her a splendid wrap. Almost with tears in his eyes, he told me: "This fur, the opportunity to take you out to this restaurant, the life that we live now, all this we owe to you. You gave me the chance to redeem myself in every sense. Thanks to you, I now earn 25,000 dollars a film, and I do one right after another. Before meeting you, just two years ago now, we were struggling heroically to pay the light bill."

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Lorella De Luca on working with Duccio Tessari

Lorella De Luca: For the last ten years, I've unofficially been the team pinch hitter in my husband Duccio's films. I'd abandoned my own career, true and proper, after the kids arrived, and because doing films had never really agreed with me. But, by common decision, I've always been at Duccio's side when he films, and thus when, as so often happens, a film is an actress short, and they don't want to send off to Italy to fill the gap, the producers come serenading: "Lorellina, come heeere, are you busy?" Duccio never plays a part in this; it's always the producers. And so, when someone asks me today just what it is I do, I respond without hesitation: "Profession: stopgap." In Ringo...I even changed my name. The called me Holly Hammond!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Dollhouse #11 "Briar Rose"

As the show heads towards its season finale it continues to go in unexpected directions with rich thematic development.

Friday, May 1, 2009

In praise of Polly Shannon

Happening upon a 1999 Canadian TV Movie directed by Eric Till called THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, I first saw Polly Shannon and she knocked me for a loop, even though the rest of the movie didn't. Shortly after, there she was on a Showtime series called Leap Years. Oddly, though the show featured quite a bit of female nudity, Polly remained covered up - even though her story line was about an actress who fought against and then finally gave into doing nudity for a film. (This show was also the first time I noticed Garret Dillahunt, who would go on to memorable parts in Deadwood, John From Cincinnatti, Life, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and - unfortunately - the recent remake of THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT.) As Polly was not covered up in THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, nor in the episodes of The Outer Limits and The Hunger I eventually found, the reason for her non-exposure in Leaps Years remains a nagging mystery. The lack of nudity in STONE COLD, the first of Tom Selleck's Jesse Stone TV movies was hardly surprising as the show was made for CBS-TV. Luckily, the next Jesse Stone installment was, more or less, a prequel, so Polly returned for NIGHT PASSAGE. A former model who left the profession after being advised that she should have a rib removed, Polly has accumulated an impressive list of credits in the 16 or 17 years she's been an actress, even participating in the documentary CAMP HOLLYWOOD about Canadian performers descending to the Los Angeles area ever year for U.S. Network TV's "Pilot Season". She was nominated for a Gemini Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Dramatic Program of Mini-Series for THE GIRL NEXT DOOR in 1999 and then again in 2000 for THE SHELDON KENNEDY STORY (which I've not been able to see). She was nominated in 2003 for a Canadian Comedy Award "Pretty Funny Female Performance" for MEN WITH BROOMS and received, along with three other cast members, a Special Jury Prize from the WorldFest Houston in 2008 for the film MIRANDA & GORDON. But her most startling appearance for me was showing up with a Southern accent on an episode of Cold Case in December 2006 just after I caught her on a repeat of a episode of CSI: Miami.