Tuesday, June 30, 2009

How Eugenio Martin for BAD MAN'S RIVER?

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

The story was about four notorious band robbers in the Old West who are hired to slip into Mexico and blow up a Mexican ammunition dump. Normally, it might have been difficult to get a director to go with this script, though recalling Yordan's ploy with Siodmak and CUSTER, I had no doubt that the would find a way to cross that ditch, and it was even easier this time, because, to get Spanish nationality for the film, we had to have a Spanish director. Sacristan came through with a recommendation, a local director who had even made a couple of films in England, a man with excellent English. We ran the films he had made in England and found them quite professional by our own standards. A man of about forty, Eugenio Martin was slender, sensitive, and pleasant-looking. He had grown up in Granada, the site of some of Franco's worst brutalities, including the murder of the poet Federico Garcia Lorca, but Eugenio had been a boy at that time and grew up to become a teacher and professor of English. I always assumed that Eugenio was civilized to deplore Franco, but this was still Franco's time in Spain and people did not express any negative opinions about their generalissimo. Eugenio was thrilled to be hired for an American feature, to be paid well by Spanish standards, and to be working with the distinguished Academy Award-winning Philip Yordan.

Monday, June 29, 2009


From DINO The Life and Films of Dino De Laurentiis
by Tullio Kezich and Alessandra Levantese
Set in Yugoslavia, it followed the story of five women who'd had love affairs with the occupying Germans and had their heads shaved by the partisans as a badge of shame. When he first heard the plot, Dino had one of his inspirations: "In a flash I saw an enormous poster with the shaved heads of the five girls, and underneath the names of five famous actresses." Reading through the screenplay, he decided that Gina Lollobrigida should play the protagonist. Meanwhile, he signed up the director Martin Ritt, whom he admired more than ever after having seen NO DOWN PAYMENT.
The troubles began at once. First, there was the inconvenient fact that the Yugoslav partisans in Ugo Pirro's original novel were fighting Italy's army of occupation. The villains were transformed into Nazis. Today, Dino denies that the decision was made under pressure from the government: "The fact is that the Italians conducted war in which the human factor really counted, while the Germans everywhere exceeded them in sheer cruelty." More serious difficulties arose when the Yugoslav government refused to collaborate on the film of even to authorize the shoot. Dio realized that in this region, the partisan war was considered a quasi-mystical event, a story that couldn't possibly be told by a foreigner. No problem, thought Dino: he'd shoot the film near Klagenfurt, Austria, where the terrain was quite similar. But there too, historical sensibilities got in the way; the Austrian extras were reluctant to don Nazi uniforms.
Meanwhile, on the eve of shooting, Lollobrigida withdrew from the project. The official reason was that she was unwilling to have her head shaved, and in fact, she had worn a kind of skullcap for the screen test. According to some, however, the star didn't want to risk being just another face in the crowd, especially when the crowd included four top-drawer actresses: Vera Miles, Barbara Bel Geddes, Jeanne Moreau and the young Carla Gravina. Of these, only Gravina agreed to have her hair cut in front of the press. Miles also went along with the tonsorial program, although she had her scalp shaved in private. But both Bel Geddes and Moreau opted for the skullcap, creating real headaches for the makeup artist.
When Gina defected, the producer didn't blink an eye. Instead he pulled the customary ace from his sleeve: Silvana (Mangano, his wife). She was more than willing to step in and utterly indifferent to the idea of sacrificing her locks. Asked about the issue, she responded at unusual length: "I must say that my first impression of my shaved head was pretty terrible... I was worried about the reaction of a person who's very important to me: my son Federico. He's not even five, and he adores women with long hair, at least to judge from the way he stares at them. What saved me, though, was another of his great passions: war. I explained to him that I needed to be a partisan, to shoot with a submachine gun, to fight like a man. Wouldn't a man with long hair be ridiculous? I managed to convince him. And then Raffaella and Veronica got into the game: all three of them wanted to get their heads shaved as well.
"The production challenged Martin Ritt. His background was in the theater, so he was unaccustomed to shooting exteriors, and the Italian-style chaos on the set was distracting. What's more, the project entailed transporting 114 cast and crew members up the Grossgluckner, to an altitude of nine thousand feet. With his Hollywood maestro in crisis, Dino turned to his old companion from the Centro, Pietro Germi, who had been hired to play a minor role as an actor. Germi agreed to help the struggling director. In a typical act of generosity, he demanded neither money nor title credit in exchange for having saved the movie.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


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

1971 began on an unpromising note. Yordan had purchased a very large apartment on the northern outskirts of the city, and he had locked himself up there for ten days with instructions that he not be called or disturbed. He was writing a new version, suitable for filming in Spain on our Western street, of an old turkey, BAD MAN'S RIVER, that he had been unable to unload in Hollywood. At the end of the self-imposed exile, he emerged cheerfully and handed me the new script."I wrote this in ten days," he boasted, "and Faith read it and says it's the best script she's ever read."
I was surprised to hear that Faith had ever read a script before. What could I say? I just swallowed hard and replied, "I'll read it right away. Get back to you."
"Oh," he said, "I've also given a copy to Irving to read."
When I finished reading it and found it as bad as I'd feared, I wondered whether I should tell the proud chief how I really felt, whether I should hedge or just go hide. For advice and comfort, I called Irving. "Have you read Phil's script?" I began neutrally.
"What did you think?"
"Not bad," he replied.
I was astonished. "You mean you liked it?" I was still trying to restrain my anger at what appeared to me a cowardly sell-out.
"Well," he said, starting to hedge, "I thought there were some pretty good things."
"Have you talked to him about it?"
"What did you tell him?"
"I told him I liked it."
"Look, Irving, how could you? It's a total mish-mash with characters dropping in and out, no continuity, no credibility, nobody to root for. It isn't a comedy. It isn't melodrama. It isn't anything..." I couldn't go on.
"Well," Irving tried, backing off, "it isn't as bad as you think. I..."
Valuable as he was, I understood that Irving had no status or security around there and had to be careful not to offend Yordan. Unlike Irving, I was supposed to function as a producer on this next film - my first real production experience. I had responsibility. I would have to deal with a director, with actors, and, ultimately, with the people who were investing over $1 million in this venture. I knew I didn't have the Teflon veneer to slide away and pass the buck. I was no Yordan. He was never responsible for any disaster. There were always a dozen other people and circumstances to explain failure. He knew how never to admit any association with failure. This was a valuable talent I didn't have. I saw myself drowning on job number one. Since I was absolutely unable to echo Faith's enthusiasm about the script, I dictated three pages of notes about the problems I saw. I figured that at least, being specific might shield me from voicing an over-all judgment.
"I can see a few problems," I said when we finally got together, and I handed him my lengthy notes.
"Sure," said Yordan. "I'll read them. Thanks. There's always some little fixing you can do." If he was impressed with my acuity or industry, he concealed it well. He went on, "You know, we've got to move ahead right away. Lee Van Cleef gets here in ten days. We have to do more casting so we can start shooting. We have to get moving with a production and a budget so we can pay the bills at the studio. The budget's gonna be done from this script the way it is." This was a lecture. I was being given a lesson in the realities of filmmaking.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Steve Reeves and Arnold Schwarzenegger

An Interview with Steve Reeves from The Perfect Vision Magazine
Volume 6 Issue #22 July 1994

TPV: Have you ever crossed paths with Schwarzenegger?
SR: I met him about 15 years ago for the first time. We were at Jack La Lanne's 65th birthday party, and Schwarzenegger came up to me and said, 'Steve, you've always been an idol of mine.' I looked him straight in the eye, half-smiling, and said, 'Don't give me that crap, Arnold. I read your book, and Reg Park was your idol.'He said, 'Well... only because I knew I couldn't look like you.'

Friday, June 26, 2009


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

Alex Singer struggled with CAPTAIN APACHE. I thought that some of the scenes he directed were good - and some weren't. But Alex never bit the bullet and complained about the script pages he was handed to shoot. Van Cleef liked him, which may or may not have yielded him Brownie points in my book, but Alex did have a way of getting along with actors. He didn't get along with (co-writer & co-producer Milton) Sperling, who complained about him and to him endlessly. Once, after Sperling and his wife Margit had dinner at our home, Sperling got Alex on the phone and proceeded to chew him out mercilessly. I was very angry about this. I landed on Sperling and told him I never wanted to hear him talking to the director like that again. I told Yordan I thought Sperling was demoralizing Alex and I wouldn't take any more responsiblity unless Sperling was barred from the set. Yordan did warn Sperling to stay away, but the carping never ended.
In the early days, my producer chores included quite a bit about meals and eating. At first I tried to socialize with Lee Van Cleef and his wife. I invited them to dinner at one of Madrid's premier seafoot restaurants. At the Bajamar, I urged them to order the angulas, which were the choicest item on the menu and one of my favorites. These were tiny eels that came out of the kitchen looking like a dish of three- or four- inch strands of white spaghetti. They were prepared in a steaming sauce of olive oil, garlic, and red pepper, served in a hot earthenware bowl. You couldn't tell that they were anything but spaghetti unless you looked closely and found the two tiny black spots at one end that were due to grow into eyes. This sounds disgustingly carnivorous, but I'm sure the baby eels, not more than a day or two old when plucked from the sea, didn't suffer as much as a carp or a trout. The Van Cleefs looked at this dish and shoved it way in disgust. I had blown it with them again.
The year was ending and so was the shooting of CAPTAIN APACHE. As usual, Yordan kept trying to patch up the holes with new and irrelevant scenes that only further confused the story. It kept Alex Singer working, if not happy. Alex was devastated when, despite all his hard work and strenuous effort to please, the next film was slated to be made without him. The decision to use another director had nothing to do with Alex. It was a necessity born of circumstance: (lawyer Paco) Lizarza had managed to torture the rules of Spanish nationality, and the next film would be "Spanish". This was a great coup and a significant advantage, but it meant even more emphasis on hiring Spanish film workers. Specifically, we would need a Spanish director.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Steve Reeves on Joseph E. Levine

From An Interview with Steve Reeves from The Perfect Vision Magazine July 1994

TPV: I don't know if he's your nemesis or evil twin, but I'd like to discuss Joseph E. Levine.

SR: Joe Levine owned a theater in Boston. Through a friend of his, he used to buy films from Europe. I think the biggest one he bought before Hercules was Attila the Hun with Anthony Quinn. They were making pretty good money over here compared to what he paid for them. So his friend told him that Hercules was outselling every other picture, and that the people who made it had sold it to every country in the world except America, and that in Bombay it had played four times a day for two years.Knowing it was a winner in other countries, he bought it for the States, then put money behind it and did a great job promoting it.

TPV: Outside of his business skills, which were sizable, I haven't heard many humanitarian words about him.

SR: I haven't either. Two different times I was did pictures under contract to him, and both times he reneged on the contracts. Those were Thief of Baghdad and Morgan the Pirate. On Morgan, if the picture did over a certain amount at the box office, I would get an extra $50,000. The picture made well over what it was supposed to, and he wouldn't come up with the money. So I sued him, and in the pre-trial his lawyer advised him to pay me, so I got what I was owed from him that way. Then he came to Rome and threw a big party in his suite at the Excelsior Hotel. And he served something like spaghetti and meatballs. Now in show business you have to protect yourself, and what I always did, for prestige, would be to have my name above all other names, 70 percent the size of the film's title. Otherwise they could put it at the bottom under 20 other names, at 10 percent the size of the title. So I did that: 'No other name including director, producer, etc…' Joe Levine wanted his name as big as mine or bigger, and I said, 'No way. You made the contract, I'm the star of this picture.' So he got ticked off and threw his spaghetti up in the air, and it was hanging off the crystal chandelier. If he didn't get everything his way, he got angry.Those were the only two run-ins I had with him. In 1976, he was putting Hercules in theaters for the second time and he wanted me to do personal appearances with it. I asked for $500 a day, plus my expenses, and he said, 'Oh, we'll just get some look-alike for $25' It was ridiculous. Today, if I go to openings of fitness centers, or to a contest where they want the winner to receive a crown or a trophy from me, I'm there for two hours and I get $2000. And he wouldn't give me $500 for the whole day to publicize a picture which I starred in and which made him a fortune.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Co-production problems

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

(Gordon was hired by Philip Yordan to help produce a slate of films for a new studio built in Spain that was financed by a London real estate agent. While he tried to help A TOWN CALLED HELL in post production, Gordon's first project on this deal was CAPTAIN APACHE.)

These were the good times that kept Yordan awake nights. Money was coming in. Films being made. The sky was the limit. He concentrated on the trickery of co-production deals with France and Italy, but this wasn't enough. He made a serious foray into purchasing foreign-made films, mostly Italian Westerns that could be dubbed into English and then marketed to the burgeoning American television market. To move into the vast Italian marketplace, which was producing Westerns by the dozen that could be picked up for almost nothing in American dollars, Yordan asked Julian to help. Back home in Rome, Julian was to look at the films offered for sale, then report back to Yordan on those he thought useful for the American market. Julian would be paid for his time, and, sometime in the by-and-by, take a cut of profits.
I too was working for pie-in-the-sky - no salary, just a peseta expense account, but this amounted to $500 a week in local currency - a princely sum, considering the cost of living in Spain at the time. Yordan freely, as always, wrote up fine documents guaranteeing me percentages of the profits of all the films I worked on. I knew enough by now to demand such contracts but to pay little heed to them. This was, after all, a great learning experience, and I was having a ball.
The co-production problems were trying. We received funds in the currency of each participating country, then used that currency for payment for goods and services in that country. For instance, we had to be certain to hire enough Italian actors or production personnel - or French or Spanish - or use the post-production facilities of a given country to prove the money contributed by each country was actually spent for film industry functions in that country. This led to many problems and compromises, corner-cutting or bending the rules, sometimes breaking the laws. The end result was significant because, in addition to finding funds to help finance the films, a co-production meant a favorable and highly desirable "nationality" for the film. If a film had nationality, that film had great tax advantages as well as favored distribution and exhibition in each country. The film would then be considered a local product, not subject to import quotas. It was not possible to get investors from a given country unless the film had nationality for that country. I was learning.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Steve Reeves On-Screen Strength

From An Interview with Steve Reeves from The Perfect Vision Magazine July 1994

TPV: Did you have to work out a few hours a day on the set?

SR: No. That's an amazing thing. My body responds so well to exercise, and it keeps it so long, that I didn't have to. I didn't take any steroids, they didn't exist at that time. It was just easy for me to get in shape and to stay in shape. During the 15 years I was in Europe, I would work out possibly one month a year, usually the month of May. I lived in Switzerland most of the time and I would go skiing and take walks with my dog. But the food there was so great that I would gain maybe 10 pounds during the winter. So during May I'd work like son-of-a-gun. Run through the mountains there, use the weights, and get in top form that month, and that would last me through the season. During filming you're too exhausted to get a decent workout, and I really didn't need because the stress that there is in acting kept the fat off me and the muscle didn't want to go away.

TPV: Did you really hoist Primo Carne over your head in Hercules Unchained?

SR: Yes. He was a big old guy, a real great guy. He didn't always know his own strength but that's okay. There was no competition or friction between us. He was very helpful. He said, 'When you have to lift me up, the best way to do it is this way and this way to get leverage. And that'll make you look better.’ Very nice guy.

Monday, June 22, 2009


From HOLLYWOOD EXILE Or How I Learned To Love the Blacklist

by Bernard Gordon

(While trying to get A TOWN CALLED BASTARD into shape for release, Bernard Gordon was in pre-production for the second movie to be made at Philip Yordan's new Spanish studio.)
Meanwhile CAPTAIN APACHE had to start shooting. Lee Van Cleef had been signed as the lead. He was an ex-stuntman who had become a leading man in spaghetti Westerns. In appearance he was well cast to play the Indian-who-became-a-lawman-for-the-whites called for by our script. He was tall, well-built, with a strong, aquiline face. He had been signed for two back-to-back features at $150,000 each, but he seemed to resent everything about work. I found him a clod and wondered why he appeared sullen. I decided it wasn't the script - I doubted he'd bothered to read through it. Still we had to be concerned about getting another script ready for him after APACHE.Carroll Baker had been signed for the female lead. She was a delight. True, she got in a flap over getting exactcly the right brand of bleach for her very blonde hair. I picked up the phone and reached Jean just before she left Los Angeles and asked her to get a stock of the special brand; I had to make arrangements for a hairdresser at the Hilton beauty salon to report each morning at five a.m. to get Baker ready for the day's work. Carroll was serious about her work, though, was always on time, always knew her lines, and laughed readily at all the right moments. My sessions with her in her suite at the Hilton were entertaining. She traveled with a very small dog, a Yorkie that couldn't have weighed more than five pounds. She carried it with her on airplaines in a little overnight bag that had been fitted with plastic windows and air holes. The Yorkie was so small that whatever mess it made was easily picked up, and Baker was relaxed about this, as she seemed to be about everything. Always considerate about sex, she also carried with her a small stuffed dog about the same size as her terrier. The real dog had a fine time humping the stuffed dog, much to Baker's satisfaction. "The little fellow simply has to have an outlet," she explained to me. And why not?

We were well along in the production when she had to play a fairly explicit sex scene with Van Cleef, both of the lightly clad under the covers and presumably naked. Baker went along without demur and disrobed above the waist. Van Cleef, also undressed, had to appear to be making love to her.

He was alarmed. "What will I do if I get an erection?" he demanded. I was not on the set at the time and the problem did not have to be resolved by me. After a hurried consultation with (director) Alex (Singer), the matter was turned over to (producer/writer) Milton Sperling, who came up with a quick answer.

"Fuck her," Sperling replied gleefully.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


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

Bernard Gordon had been hired by Philip Yordan to help write & produce films for his new studio in Spain. While in pre-production on CAPTAIN APACHE, he had to deal with a prior film on which he had no previous dealings.

A TOWN CALLED BASTARD still had to be attended to. When we viewed the first cut of BASTARD, we all agreed it didn't make sense and that production would have to be reopened. Again, I realized this was a commonplace with Yordan. Finish a film inadequately, then worry about making changes when it was, in effect, too late. Strangle a production with too little money, then spend a great deal more than was saved on fixing it up. Like (THE DAY OF THE) TRIFFIDS.
I was asked to write an "envelope" for BASTARD, something to help to make sense of the plot's mishmash. Yordan got Robert Shaw, one of the principals of the original film, to come back for the new scenes. I wrote a half-dozen envelopes. Some were rejected by Yordan, some by Bob Fisz. I don't know how we ever agreed about anything.
(Later, Irving Lerner, who had directed THE ROYAL HUNT OF THE SUN for Yordan, was "pressed into service" to do the reshoots for BASTARD.)
Back on BASTARD, one scene involved Robert Shaw on a horse leading a captive prisoner on another horse across a small stream. It seemed simple enough to me, but this time Yordan complained about the scene no matter how many times we shot it. I was lunching with Yordan and Robert Shaw when Yordan vented his vexation at Irving for not knowing how to direct the scene. "You'd think by now he'd know how to shoot two men on a horse so that it looks like something is happening."
This kind of buck passing annoyed me. "Did it ever occur to you that the director needs something to work with?" I asked. "If he had a scene with anything written, anything but two men on horses crossing a stream, he might be able to put a little drama into it."
Shaw, who knew Yordan was responsible for the script and had a fine sense of it all, was delighted to hear Yordan taken to task. He chortled happily...
Irving did make some real contributions. As we were shooting a lively scene of dancing in the cantina, he wanted the cameraman to move around loosely, catching shots of the dancers from different angles. He knew, as a film editor, how he could use such snippets of action, but the cameraman insisted he had to light the scene for one angle, then stop and relight it for another. It would have taken a week to do the scene that way, and it still wouldn't have been right. Irving told the cameraman to put the camera on his shoulder, sit in a wheelchair, and have it pushed around among the dancers. Hand-held? No tripod? No light changes? The cameraman froze. With my authority, Irving handed the camera to the assistant, sat him in a wheelchair, turned on the music, started the dancers, then pushed the wheelchair with the assistant and the camera all through the moving crowd. It worked beautifully.
During the shooting of the cantina scene, Jean and I were sitting in the trailer with Shaw and another fine English actor, Michael Craig. We were cozy in there with the butane heater to fight off the freezing winter night. We reminisced, killed a couple of bottles of good Spanish brandy, got pretty high, and had a fine time. When this was all over about two a.m., we returned to town in Shaw's Mercedes 600. Still not ready for bed, Shaw came up to our apartment and sat around another couple of hours while we killed another bottle. Jean fell into bed long before this was over. I couldn't keep up with drinkers like Shaw, but in the interest of a career, I tried. To my admiration, as I watched helplessly from a chair, Shaw was able to get up finally and walk steadily out of the apartment.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Samson Burke chat

Larry Anderson and Gordon Harmer interviewed Samson Burke in Toronto on September 8, 2002.
Gord: How many years did you wrestle?
Samson: 9 years. I used the names Sammy Berg and Samson Burke in the ring. In fact I fought Lou Thiez 3 times for the Championship Belt. I was in Los Angeles when Norman Mauer spotted me for a film called THE THREE STOOGES MEET HERCULES, which was being shot at Columbia. It was shot at the Columbia Ranch. Of all the films that I made, that one was probably my favorite. I was wrestling in LA and a friend suggested that I try out for the role of Hercules. Norman Mauer asked me to read for the part and without even a screen test, I got the part while others that were waiting, were told to leave. Even thought I had no prior acting experience. Norman Mauer was very helpful and understanding in guiding me through the role. The Stooges helped me immensely.
Gord: Tell us about Gordon Mitchell and Joe Gold and your times together in California.
Samson: Gordon and I used to run together, 2 or 3 times a week. We used to live in the same area. Joe Gold lived in Santa Monica and wasn't part of the clique. Gordon Mitchell brought me over to Italy to film THE VENGEANCE OF URSUS. In fact, I stayed at his place for a while. We had a gym at Mitchell's apartment on the roof. We had a makeshift gym with an umbrella to shade us from the sun as we worked out. We got a friend at a small machine shop nearby to make us weights and bars.
Larry: What was it like to work with Luigi Capuanno?
Samson: He was a Commander in the Italian Navy and did "everything by the book". Very straightforward. The Italians were more laid back in their approach to filmmaking. A very relaxed set.
Gord: Did you have an agent?
Samson: Yes, I had to have an Italian agent. It was the same agent that Gordon Mitchell used.
Gord: What about Wandisa Guida?
Samson: She was a very pretty girl. She got married soon after that (THE VENGEANCE OF URSUS), and never worked again. I saw her once after that, I stopped her in the street; she didn't want to work anymore. She said goodbye and that's all that matters

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Starting Enzo Fiermonte's film career

Enzo Fiermonte circa 1934.

From DINO The Life and Films of Dino De Laurentiis
by Tullio Kezich and Alessandra Levantesi
A fledging producer working out of the FERT Studios in Turin, Dino De Laurentiis started his career with two short films.
"The first, a comedy titled TROPPO TARDI T'HO CONOSCIUTA (I MET YOU TOO LATE), was shot in July 1939. The project was a fiasco, and all prints of the film have vanished....
"He had better luck with the second project. L'ULTIMO COMBATTIMENTO (THE LAST FIGHT) was a semiautobiographical film written by the ex-middleweight champion Enzo Fiermonte, who also starred. Fiermonte had just returned from the United States, where both the boxing underworld and his American wife had caused him major problems. Dino went to meet Fiermonte in Naples after his transatlantic crossing and immediately signed him to an exclusive contract. His success with the pugilist's film neatly balanced out his failure with the comedy. Indeed, these two projects represented a great leap forward in his career. Certainly they made it much easier for Dino to position himself as the savior of FERT."

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tessari on De Concini

Duccio Tessari: (Ennio) De Concini was indeed the man with the ready solutions. A kind of savior of our Italian cinema. One morning he presented himself to a producer who called for him to change the finale of the film CONSTANTINE THE GREAT (aka CONSTANTINE AND THE CROSS) because it didn't work. The film was already being shot, so naturally there was this kind of rapid marshalling of thoughts, and then Ennio said: "I have found a very beautiful finale. Exterior day, morning sun. On the one side, the army of Constantine, from the other the army of the Barbarians. Constantine advances with his men up to the banks of the river, likewise the Barbarians on the opposite side do. Constantine unsheathes his sword, he lifts it toward the sun, the sun beats down on the hilt, transforming it into a cross, and then Constantine raises it even higher, turns to his men and cries "By this sign we will be victorious". And after this, they charge." On the word "charge" the producer interrupted to say: "De Concini, we don't have any more money, we have arrived at the finale without a lira, and very beautiful as this thing is that
you see, we just can't do it".
To that De Concini without batting an eyelash, says: "Ah, very well. Then: Exterior. Foggy Day. From out of the fog comes Constantine to call to the Chief of the Barbarians. Also the Chief of the Barbarians comes out of the fog and Constantine says: 'Why sacrifice all our men in a battle, when we can fight one against the other and the winner will decide the fate of the war.'"
After another half-hour of discussion, they found a halfway solution in which there appears Constantine, the Chief of the Barbarians, and about ten extras.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

delli Colli's proudest Leone moments

Interviewed by Nighteagle

Tonino delli Colli: Well , in THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY I am proud of the scene where Tuco runs through the cemetery between the crosses. There we had to choose the right zoom, have Eli run in a circular pattern to stay precisely at the selected focus radius, and have the crosses out of focus, so to convey a feeling of total excitement and speed.
But personally I love ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA. This was technically the most difficult project, not just for me, but for everybody, including (Carlo) Simi, who made real miracles to create props. In OUTA the locations were the biggest problem and I had to pay great attention to the light. Imagine the following: the New York old central train station did not exist any more, so we shot the sequence where Noodles and Deborah part, at the Gare du Nord in
Paris, very similar to the N.Y. old one. The scene where Noodles picks up Deborah with the limousine is shot in part in Montreal : the exterior of the theatre is under the front roof of a hotel , but campo was in Montreal and controcampo in New York! Campo and controcampo mean in Italian film language the direction of the camera "vision". With campo you look at the actor, with controcampo you see the opposite side, that is what the actor would see from his point of view, at 180 degrees from campo. Now, imagine..campo in Montreal and controcampo in New York... and the light must be the same! One more example: policeman Aiello walks down the stairs, campo in Montreal and controcampo in New York! This was the case whenever the architecture around us did not allow to have campo and controcampo shot in one location. We had situations where, shooting campo, we were surrounded by period buildings, but turning around (controcampo) there was a hypermodern bank of glass and steel. This forced me to keep most precise records of all shooting conditions and the lighting involved, to make the blending of the separate takes possible at all. The scene where the balloons pop out of the water was not realized in N.Y. but in Venice, another lighing problem I had to take care of. Leone seemed to get a special craze and enjoyment in this locations fragmentation, it was as if he would exploit his fantasy world to an extremum. So with the garbage truck, at the end of OUTA . He was convinced, I mean convinced, that he had seen such a truck with a grinder, beforehand. He shouted constantly...there must be two thousand of them! And when Leone is convinced of something then everybody has to be convinced too. So dozens of photos drop in showing all kinds of garbage trucks, all models running in the US. Nope, none had the rotating blades, as he had "seen" them. Finally , it had to be built like he had "seen“ it!!
But back to the photography job of mine, another take that I like very much is the one of DeNiro in the opium den. Leone shot three different ways of DeNiro smiling, and edited the one he regarded as most effective.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Bava on Vikings

Mario Bava: THE VIKINGS with Kirk Douglas had come out. So they said: "You need to do a Vichingo (Viking Movie)." And we made GLI INVASORI (aka THE INVADERS, aka ERIK THE CONQUEROR) with Giorgio Ardisson and Cameron Mitchell, shot in Lavinio, with Caldara used as the land of the Vikings. Since I am very fast, use few horses, few props, it made a bagful of money. I remember that the marquis Patrizi, the producer, came and he was pale. In the studio there was a construction of a ship that had cost 150 million. My Viking ship had a carcass of Buitoni pasta twisted together, with that kind of Dragon's head in front of it. There was dry ice to do the fog and technicians who every so often threw bucketfuls of water. There was a dolly that went up and down and the studio was filled with smoke; white smoke, black smoke. The stuff was intoxicating and it put me in bed for six months. For a while I thought I was going to end up in a sanatorium for the poisoned. Nello Santi sent a cashier to me with a gift of five million lire, one of those insurance premiums that they pay out to cabbages. The film went very well, even in America. Then with the success of the Horror Films, I was obliged to continue smashing the box-office.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


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

Gordon was engaged by Philip Yordan to work at a new studio he created in Spain as a writer-producer.

Shooting on A TOWN CALLED BASTARD was completed and the editing was under way. The "studio" was not much - offices, dressing rooms, a warehouse, and a standing Western street with a substantial wall, a tower, and a well-built church, finished inside and out. The street was minimal, not much more than a cantina, which was all that the Mexican pueblo of BASTARD had called for. But the wall, tower, and church were impressive enough, and we could see how, with the erection of a few storefronts and a hotel, the requirements for CAPTAIN APACHE would be met. There was no soundstage and the interiors would have to be shot inside the church, in the warehouse, or in the interior of the hotel, still to be built. Since shooting on APACHE was due to start shortly, the construction had to start immediately.

The next few months, until the end of 1970, were a time of madness. Nothing went right, but everything finally worked out - if the quality of the picture-making is ignored. I was involved in every aspect of production: construction, casting, wardrobe, locations, sets, publicity, even makeup, yet I had no real authority. Most of all, there were endless hassles over the script. The APACHE script was a dreary mess. (Cowriter & Coproducer Milton) Sperling knew it and wanted rewrites. I found that working with Sperling was impossible. For weeks I held conferences, listened to his comments, reached agreement on changes, went back to my hotel (now a nice suite at the Commodore) and wrote late into the night. The next day Sperling liked nothing, had changed his mind, demanded a rewrite of the rewrite. Yordan was too involved with more important matters about financing and coproduction to concern himself with script. I suspect, also, that he may have resented the notion that we were rewriting his work. Eventually, I tossed the pages back to Sperling, told him I was not being paid as a writer, and if he knew better than anyone what was needed, he could make the script changes himself.

Impatiently, Yordan cut through all this. "Forget about making changes. You're wasting time. You're not making it any better. We're going to shoot the script the way it is."

Saturday, June 13, 2009


Sergio Leone: The tricks and effects used in filming the final cataclysm (for THE COLOSSUS OF RHODES) were fairly realistic. (Eros) Baciucchi, a craftsman who was even sought after by the Americans, and made many other films, was excellent and knew that I expected the scenes to be totally realistic. He studied everything to the millimeter and to the milligram weight and checked the consistency with which the sets would collapse, so there was no risk of hurting anybody: a lot of preparation that others didn't take, even though significantly there was a notable loss of time, and accordingly a considerable increase in costs. After having seen IL COLOSSO DI RODI, Aldrich invited me to direct the second unit of SODOM & GOMORRAH. I shot all the battle scenes in the environs of Marrakech, in two weeks with a thousand riders and a crew of seventy people.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The director of TODAY TO ME...

Tonino Cervi: When I'd go to the distributors, the financiers, agents, actors and tell them the stories of the films I planned as a producer, I so often heard them say: "But why don't you direct it, seeing that you've told it and visualized it so well!"

Once I went to a producer and proposed to him yet another Western, OGGI A ME...DOMANI A TE (TODAY TO ME… TOMORROW TO YOU): "Listen. There's this very entertaining story I've written with a young journalist named Dario Argento..."

"Who's directing it?"

"Listen, given that the last ones I've done, I practically ended up directing myself, why don't we just pick the first person walking down the street, and it will go fine."

"But, hey, why waste time. Why don't you just direct it yourself?"

But yes, but no, yes, no, then again yes, but maybe not.

After fifteen days I adapted it for Bud Spencer, my friend from the days when he still called himself Carletto Pedersoli, and we acted together in the theater. And I had four faces with blue eyes, because it was the moment of the faces with three days growth of beard, and as antagonist a Japanese actor I really loved. Not Mifune but Tatsuya Nakadai, who went on to be the hero in KAGEMUSHA. In the film the set design was very Japanese, and there were beautiful, strange costumes. Nakadai was a marvelous actor, but he only spoke Japanese and needed an interpreter. But after two days we sent the interpreter away, and we understood one another perfectly. I explained myself with gestures and he understood everything I wanted with an exceptional sensitivity.The sword duel between the Samurai and Pedersoli had an incredible success!

I began work the fifteenth of January and the film was released all over Italy on March 24th, two months later. In two months, everything. Even the reviews were great; some of them were truly enthusiastic.

We shot it at Manziana, where all the Italian Westerns were shot, but many film people asked me where I filmed it, because there was a certain atmosphere, a certain color, a texture, which weren't the same old thing. And there was also a screenplay with some original ideas. At that time Dario Argento was a nervous wreck: totally neurotic, he bit his nails, he tugged at his hair, he couldn't keep still, he writhed. He's like a sponge. If he likes a movie, he sees it seven times, and entire scenes stay lodged in his head, the camera moves, just as they're shot. And then he refers to them later. Our collaboration went very well, he brought me ideas for the story, bits of character development, certain situations, to be fit into the basic story which was more my own, more "Japanese" in nature. He's a person who memorizes fifty thousand things and brings you fifty thousand ideas, of which ten work well, the others, no.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Tessari on Leone

Duccio Tessari: The idea of giving IL COLOSSO DI RODI (THE COLOSSUS OF RHODES) a pronounced epic sense was Leone's. I did two screenplays with him: this one and FISTFUL OF DOLLARS. All that was epic in these screenplays was his; all that was ironic was mine. Sergio is epic even when he eats! In Sergio there is the desire to tell these stories, he is an extremely receptive person, as soon as you give him an idea, he begins to play tennis with you, he pushes you to develop the idea. Now they say that he is afraid of failure, and as a consequence, he is very attentive to everyone.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Burt Kennedy on Ernest Borgnine

From HOLLYWOOD TRAIL BOSS by Burt Kennedy (in 1997)

Ernest Borgnine! Jack Elam calls him Ernie Bombastic. He said Ernie would never let him sleep in when they were rooming next to each other during the filming of HANNIE CAULDER. Early every morning, Ernie would proclaim, "Oh, what a beautiful morning," or "It's a beautiful day."Ernie's beautiful wife Tova sells products that make people look young. Ernie, on the other hand, keeps everyone young.
His is an absolute tonic to be around. He has more energy than a truckload of Jack LaLannes, and a sweeter man never walked the earth.
Ernie is eighty, a fact Jack Elam is constantly reminding him of. But he goes through life like a runaway train! You just can't be downhearted around Ernie. He is the best and I love him.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Leone on POMPEII

Sergio Leone: L'ULTIMO GIORNI DI POMPEII (THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII) was practically directed by me, because (Mario) Bonnard was ill, and besides he had a commitment to make GASTONE with Alberto Sordi. I became a substitute at his precise request, but I didn't want to be credited, out of respect to his original design. My assistant director was Duccio Tessari, the 2nd unit director was Sergio Corbucci, and we divided it up amongst ourselves. This film almost became a joke, because in the screenplay (I was one of the scriptwriters) we had written it for a type like Sean Connery, intelligent, astute, etc. But ten days before we began they told us instead that they'd had the great fortune to have secured Steve Reeves. Therefore, suddenly this film became naturally centered on the pseudo brute-strength of Steve Reeves. We had to completely change the nature of the story, and therefore in the space of a week, we were forced to totally re-write the screenplay in order that it would work with this species of robot. However the fact that this film did well; got me an offer to debut as director with IL COLOSSO DI RODI (THE COLOSSUS OF RHODES). The screenplay was written with (Duccio) Tessari, (Ennio) De Concini and Savioli who then became the critic of "Paese Sera". However with IL COLOSSO DI RODI, I was practically writing it while I was shooting because I needed to resolve the problems of the screen-play that jumped out at you there and then, because it was impossible to film certain things that had been scripted. I wanted to explode the genre a little bit, and if one watches it with an attentive eye one sees a film cast in an ironic mode. The main character is a playboy, and I tried a sort of epic comedy, with the irony not too obviously signposted, but there to be noticed by the connoisseur of cinema. Frankly, the film was my meal ticket; when it was made known that L'ULTIMO GIORNI DI POMPEII had been made by me they asked for another hit similar to that. We spent many years turning down such films, me and Cottafavi. We turned down each other's films.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Why Alexander Singer?

From HOLLYWOOD EXILE Or How I Learned To Love the Black List by Bernard Gordon
(Philip) Yordan was looking for a director for CAPTAIN APACHE. This involved me with a close connection. Alex Singer was married to Judy, Julian's young sister. (An old friend of Gordon's, Julian Zimet co-wrote CIRCUS WORLD and CUSTER OF THE WEST.) Alex had started out in the Bronx as a hopeful filmmaker and a close friend of Stanley Kubrick. Kubrick was already on his way with a number of major accomplishments, but, after a promising start with a single low-budget feature, Alex had stalled. As it turned out, he spent much of the rest of his life trying to compete with and catch up to the Kurbrick who had been his young buddy in the Bronx. In 1970 this still lay in the future. Alex wanted any crack at directing a feature film. He asked me to get him together with Yordan.Though Alex's feature-film credits were not impressive, he had a number of television shows under his belt. Yordan decided he was a competent professional. What's more, Alex was willing to do the job for a minimal fee of $25,000, something that inevitably appealed to Yordan, who also calculated that Alex would be amenable and manageable. He was right on all scores.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A French actor in a Sword and Sandal flick

Michel Piccoli: France discovered what the critics defined "Cinema Bis": Maciste against Nero, the galleys of Cleopatra, the bad Romans, the innocent young girl or her vicious counterpart, the courageous slaves etc. Not forgetting a curious mythicism that contributed hugely to the charm of this kind of film. The Pepla made the glory and the fortune of the actors who under the light of the sun displayed their muscles for all to see.
There came a time for me to be inserted into this World and all things considered it was an excellent experience. The movie was LE VERGINE DI ROMA (VIRGINS OF ROME/AMAZONS OF ROME), directed by Vittorio Cottafavi. LE VERGINE DI ROMA didn't evade the rule of economy that was in force for these films. Little money but lots of papier-mâché, and an imposing appearance. To tell the truth the extras were not expensive, they were a part of the Yugoslavian infantry.
The producers courted the Yugoslavians; there was the great Serbian plain and a real possibility to economize that came through borrowing the army, and I must say that we made everything look very beautiful. Rome was reconstructed in the Serbian plain and as we stood in our costumes under a close and biting wind, everything took on a fantastic air. The Virgins of Rome, the Amazons with a single breast, were interpreted by Yugoslavian cavalry, who galloped around with wigs of yellow, black, brown; with trousers showing under tunics, and socks poking out of sandals. Cottafavi reigned his little world with elegance and detachment, and everything went well up to the day that a conflict, that had been very obviously brewing, was transformed into a crisis: Cottafavi abandoned us. One of the principal actors had wanted to take over the direction from him, but we inherited, following a necessary coup d'etat, a cineaste who a few days later made it the actor's turn to be fired.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

An actor complains...

Renato Terra: I also worked with Tanio Boccia, a director whose name had become proverbial, considered in Rome as the last of the directors who worked carelessly and at a whirlwind pace, in short a complete hack, even if he wasn't really any worse than some of the others. For example, it had become the fashion when one screwed up a film to say, "Tanio Boccia could have done better than that!" A trademark in fact...a director who ran, who danced: camera here, camera there, with incredible speed. Well, this Tanio Boccia whose name had become proverbial, then went off and changed his name. He became Amerigo Anton. I did a Western with him, produced by Rovere, entitled UCCIDI O MUORI (aka KILL OR BE KILLED, aka RINGO AGAINST JOHNNY COLT). I had to play an alcoholic doctor in a saloon, and I had to walk around the tables and the customers, begging for something to drink. And Boccia was going: "More Thomas Mitchell! I want you to be more Thomas Mitchell!" I responded: "But look here! Why don't you be more John Ford!" Even so it went well; at least, he told me he liked it, Naturally, I didn't feel at home in these sorts of films. Apart from the usual nonsense of the screenplays, one who has worked with Visconti, with Germi, with De Santis, naturally felt at a loss.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Vittorio Cottafavi on AMAZONS OF ROME

Vittorio Cottafavi: For LE VERGINE DI ROMA I worked on the screenplay with Leo Joannon and directed the film for two weeks, but I disagreed with the producer from the beginning and was not sure that I would be successful in making the film the way I wanted. Then I found a possibility of abandoning the film, so that it would be taken over by Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia. I directed the sequence of the bridge defended by Orazio Coclite, certain scenes in the camp of Porsenna, others of the crowds in the forum, the girls crossing the river, and parts of the scene in the sewers. When I saw the edited film I was quite angry. They had not used all the material that I had given them. The sewer sequence was rather long and complicated. The more the girls advance, the deeper the water gets, becoming more and more dirty, until it rises to the height of their breasts and of the heads of the horses. And I had also made certain fairly disgusting shots of mice running nearby in the sewer and frightening the horses. This conveyed the will power required by the girls in order to go on.
The idea of Louis Jourdan eating the fruit (before the battle) was in the script, it was useful for giving a sense of "nonchalance gauloise" (French insouciance) to the Chief of The Gauls... A man who takes food and women with such seriousness, but doesn't consider the war to carry the same sort of thrill.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

More on the making of THE DESERTER


Speaking of being electrocuted, I was doing THE DESERTER in Rome, and we were shooting a scene which was supposed to take place during a thunderstorm. They way you make lightning is you take two electrical cables and put them on what we call "scissors", which are just long poles that are bolted together at the bottom. Then, when you want to have lightning, you pull these poles together, like a pair of scissors, and then the two arcs get close enough, the spark will jump from one to the other and give off blue flame.
So we were doing this thing onstage in Rome, and I said to the effects man, "Are you gonna use scissors?"
He said, "Oh, yes, yes." They always told you what you wanted to hear in Italy.
We got going, and all of a sudden I heard thunder, and it's time for the lightning, and I looked up to see an electrician. He had on a pair of dark goggles, and instead of having the scissors on the boards, he had these two cables in his hands, which he held out in front of him until they sparked. He was standing in the rain doing this!
I stopped everything and said, "You can't do that! Get scissors!"
The effects man argued, "No those are too dangerous."
I insisted. "But the guy could be killed!"
He tried to assure me, "No, no, we do this all the time."
They may still be doing it. I don't know.

One of the problems with being a director is that you probably make four hundred decisions in a day, little things. People come up and ask, do you want this, do you want that.
Sometimes an actor would come up and say, "Am I finished?"
Not thinking, I'd say, "Yeah."
And they'd ask, "Can I go home."
And I'd say, "Fine."
On this one occasion I was in Spain shooting THE DESERTER, on a location called El Torcal, north of Malaga. We were up in these mountains. Richard Crenna and Ricardo Montalban were doing a scene. It was late in the day, and Richard came up to me when I was busy and said, "Are you through with me? Can I go home?"
I said, "Yes."
Later, when we were getting ready to do this scene, we got the camera set up and all of a sudden I realized I'd sent Richard Crenna home. Luckily, by the time they got it lit, it started to rain, and when it was raining hard enough, I just said, "All right, that's a wrap. Let's go home." Nobody ever knew that I had goofed.
I take that back. I'm sure Crenna did, because he's a good director himself and I suspect he was trying to pull one. I never did ask him, but I will one day.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Making of THE DESERTER


Chapter 5 My Diary

June 26, 1969
Arrived Rome to direct THE DESERTER. Called Karl Malden, Ernie Borgnine, Hank Fonda, Richard Boone, Marty Balsam, and Marty Landau. Western Costume: two hundred and twenty cavalry outfits. Boots, hats, belts, and twenty-five scouts. Lunch with Dino De Laurentiis at his studio.

June 28, 1969
Karl Malden wants $250,000; $1,500 a week expenses; two tickets to Rome. Call Richard Boone; Herb Solo at Metro.

July 2, 1969
Back at Los Angeles. Lunch at MGM with Herb Solo (worldwide head of MGM) and Paul Kohner (a top agent, handling mostly European actors and actresses). The cavalry outfits are $35.75 apiece; $60 per officer and $35.75 per scout. Sooner or later, we're gonna have trouble with boots, and are probably going to have to make them over in Rome.

July 7, 1969
Talked to Frank Sinatra in New York, reference DIRTY DINGUS MAGEE. Meeting him in New York on my way to Rome.

July 8, 1969
TWA to New York. Checked into the Waldorf Tower. Talked to Frank Sinatra - will see him tomorrow.

July 9, 1969
TWA flight to Rome/. Wire Frank Sinatra - remind him of MURPHY'S WAR, the book he wants to do.

July 11, 1969
Flew to Split, Yugoslavia. Private jet. Locations no good. Back to Rome. Flight 406. Wire Dick Lyons, reference Sinatra.

July 15, 1969
Leaving for Spain. Talked to Herb Solo at MGM. Looks good for January start. Sinatra. Talked to Herb Tobias, my agent. Trying to get Ricardo Montalban and Patrick Wayne for roles in THE DESERTER.

July 16, 1969
Arrived Madrid. Waited four hours for plane to Almeria. Arrived Almeria at six o'clock. Found locations and the fort. Leaving for Malaga tomorrow. Have to find river crossing.

July 21, 1969
Trying to get Jack Elam and Bobby Walker Jr. Found locations. Have a script from Frank Sinatra. Bobby Walker said no. Elam said no - they're both working.

August 1, 1969
In Madrid, trying to set Brandon de Wilde and Pat Wayne. Got 'em.

August 6, 1969
Meeting with Dino De Laurentiis. Got back script for Frank Wolff - an actor I wanted in the picture - but he killed himself while he was working on another picture. Problem at MGM. They're selling off the back lot and all the props. Heading for Dublin.

August 14, 1969
Looks like MGM deal is in trouble because of takeover by Krikorian. Arrived in Dublin. Called Bob Mitchum; John Huston to deliver script of BACKBONE.

August 17, 1969
Arrived John Huston's place. The big, bad, and the beautiful. Huston is a pompous pain in the ass - just right for the picture. He's playing a general in THE DESERTER. Leaving today for Dublin and the riots. Then to Rome Monday. Chuck Connors called - a younger pain in the ass. Staying at John Huston's estate is like dying and going to heaven by mistake. Returned to Dublin.

August 19, 1969
Huston conflict of start dates - trying to get Henry Fonda. Pepe Lopez arrived from Spain - my first assistant.

August 20, 1969
Just received a wire from Robert Evans saying he insists on Techniscope. First sign of a bad picture is when the company insists you do things their way. Bottom of the bill, here we come.Things I've learned in Europe: If there are clouds over St. Peter's, it'll rain in Rome. If there's a mist over the Irish Sea, it'll be clear in Dublin. If Dino De Laurentiis doesn't shake hands when you come into his office, there's gonna be a big storm.Talked to Bob Evans. He said stand firm on Huston and no one eight-five ratio (which is a form of wide screen, such as CinemaScope and Panavision).

August 22, 1969
Made a handshake deal with Dino De Laurentiis for a Rolls-Royce if I rewrite the script for nothing.

August 30, 1969
Rome. Two guys are here to sign me for a ten-million-dollar picture, and they ran out and left a bad check for the hotel. Clerk thinks I'm in business with them. Every time the manager sees me in the lobby, he yells, "What about that bad check?"I signed the MGM deal. To rewrite, produce, and direct DIRTY DINGUS MAGEE.Leaving for Madrid in the morning. Went to see Harry Jackson, who had the Time magazine cover of John wayne in TRUE GRIT. He's clever. Made me pay for his book - damn clever.

September 1, 1969
Arrived in Madrid. Went out to see the horses. Saddles are a problem. Seems we have one hundred horses and they bought twenty-five saddles.Staying the in room at Castellana Hilton, where I staying when I came here to make RETURN OF THE SEVEN. I hope that isn't a bad sign.

September 7, 1969
Left Madrid for Malaga location at Antequera. Drove from Malaga to Almeria - six hours, twenty-three hundred curves. Turned down the set and found another.Just discovered I'm only forty-seven. I thought I was forty-seven last year.My agent called to tell me we got a bad review on YOUNG BILLY YOUNG. Didn't surprise me inasmuch as it's a bad picture.We start Thursday - I'm ready.

September 10, 1969
THE DESERTER starts tomorrow - I'm ready.

September 11, 1969
First day on the picture - no problems. Our cast is gonna be good. Rained-out half day. Dino wants to know how I'm gonna cut the script to make up the time. Here we go again - no one in this damn business worries about the right thing. Called everybody a no-good sonofabitch and went back to work.

September 14, 1969
Free day - Sunday - I feel like a fighter between rounds. Hotel manager just informed me that Chuck Connors wants his water supply purified twice. Glad it's Sunday - that'll give me all day to get it done.Had lunch with Riccardo Montalban - a wonderful actor and a wonderful man.My agent, Herb Tobias, sent me a good-luck wire on the first day of the picture. Trouble is, it's in Spanish. He probably got a rate.

September 17, 1969
Did big action sequences today. I told the Italian cameraman to be careful around the horses - his first western. Cameraman stepped on by a horse - now he's careful.

September 19, 1969
Wardrobe Chuck Connors, Ian Bannen, Brandon de Wilde, Albert Salmi, and Woody Strode. Had to let them go early to see El Cordobes fight a bull. Tomorrow they all work.

September 20, 1969
Haven't seen any dailies. Seems there's an Italian law says you have to have four thousand feet to ship it out of the country. There's another law says you save money if you do it that way. I hope I never have to make another picture over here.

October 2, 1969
Two dogs in the picture had a fight. One had to go to the hospital.

October 3, 1969
Two actors had a fight. One went to the hospital.This is the worst crew I've ever worked with. The cameraman is trying to win an Academy Award. The picture is rotten so far, but I have a chance when we get to the scenes. Leaving for Malaga tomorrow.

October 4, 1969
Went to work in a driving rainstorm - road washed out. Cast spent six hours in car getting to location. Sun came out at three o'clock. My star Bekim Fehmin refused to work - he left for Malaga. Floodwaters cut us off from the hotel. Bekim went by boat; it capsized, and he swam ashore. We crossed the flood at eleven-thirty at night - damn near lost our car in the water.

October 16, 1969
The sun came out. A horse fell off a bridge. He lived - a miracle. The first one on this picture. I think we need another one - when it opens.

October 24, 1969
Finished mountain stuff. Rained fifteen days - leaving Almeria tomorrow.

Novemer 23, 1969
Finished picture. Was a struggle - I think I won, but you never know.Left for L.A., stopped in Paris and London - lost my goddamned bumper chute.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Tessari on making Sword and Sandal movies

Duccio Tessari: Totally dependant on our meager means, we shot at Cinecitta and in nearby Manziana. The base was Manziana because there were the woods. Then Montecelato, for there was a waterfall that was used by all our directors, from Campogalliani to Visconti, from Lizzani to Cottafavi, all the directors from Italian cinema, for any type of film, they went to Montecelato. Then Torre San Lorenzo, and again Fogliano. Fogliano was one of those classic locations which served well for everything.
These films, however, were prepared with great detail and without sparing expense. With Pasqualino De Santis, as cameraman, and I as assistant director, we had done MESSALINA, VENERE IMPERATRICE (MESSALINA) with Cottafavi. And remembering the times of Messalina together, Pasquale told me: The means that I have now to do a film for Francesco Rosi on THE MATTEI AFFAIR, with Gian Maria Volonte, they are a tenth of those that we had to do the epoch of a Messalina type film."
The truth is for that type of film, we did spend. All the uniforms of the pretoriani (The Emperor’s Guard), the armors, the sandals were made as new, the furnishings were studied and arranged with such great accuracy, that it would not be possible to do more. And then the chariots, the perfection with which they had to be reproduced, the requirements of the horses which had to be got ready, the villages and Roman taverns reconstructed with profound respect for Historical documentation. Or all the incidental items and the special effects typical of such films as ERCOLE ALLA CONQUISTA DI ATLANTIDE (HERCULES CONQUERS ATLANTIS, aka HERCULES AND THE CAPTIVE WOMEN), realized with the richness of all our efforts. For the scenes of massed crowds, we then had a boundless abundance of extras that, because there was lots of work, were professional extras. And therefore one was not obliged to give in to the blackmail of the types of extras of today who have made life impossible to the point that one prefers not to shoot in Rome in order to avoid them.

Monday, June 1, 2009



December 2, 1970
Left for London via TWA. Going to make picture starring Raquel Welce [HANNIE CAULDER]. Raquel is playing woman gunfighter in a serape. Sergio would probably call it A TITFUL OF DOLLARS.

December 3, 1970
I'm in London, and they've set me up in an office in Rogers and Cowan's. We're on the tenth floor and there's a sign on the door that says IN CASE OF FIRE, GO TO THE WINDOW AND JUMP TO THE ADJOINING ROOFTOP. Jesse Owens couldn't make it - it's forty goddamn feet!

December 7, 1970
Twenty-nine years ago the Japs bombed Pearl Harbor. This week I bombed London with DIRTY DINGUS MAGEE. Leaving for Madrid in the morning.

December 23, 1970
Ran into John Huston at the Hilton in Madrid. We got drunk and decided to make a steeplechase picture with my daughter's horse. Also made plans to partner in a picture in Africa. Great idea for a film. We both would probably end up in the elephant burial ground. Huston is still a pompous pain in the ass, but I like him.Leaving for London on the 22nd, back to Madrid on the 29th.

December 25, 1970
This is the second Christmas at the Hilton in Madrid that I've spent alone. Miss my kids, but they're fine.

December 26, 1970
What the hell happened to Christmas? Left Madrid for London.

January 2, 1971
New year - starting HANNIE CAULDER on the 18th. I'm ready.

January 9, 1971
David Haft in the producer of HANNIE CAULDER. He thinks he's a writer - what he says goes. I hope he doesn't say Raquel Welch, because without her, we have no film. Pat Curtis, Raquel's husband, says he's the boss, and what he says goes. Wish to hell he'd say David Haft.

January 1971
The company ran out of money and I'm now in Dublin, Ireland, where the girls are not pretty. If I ever saw a place needing a street-sweeper, this is it. I think they got the "wearin' o' the green" from the mold.

March 18, 1971
Sitting at a studio in London called Twickingham. Waiting for the film to come in. Time for decision - I either cut the picture of cut my throat. Like I've always said, success is getting up one more time than you get knocked down.

May 31, 1971
It's hard to believe, but I'm on a plane to New York, then out to see a cut of HANNIE CAULDER. The producers claimed I was in breach of contract, which I wasn't. The only way I could stay out of court and get the money they owe me. What can I tell you?Arrived in New York and went to the Americana Hotel. I was staying there when John Kennedy was shot. Also went there when I heard about Audie Murphy being killed.

June 2, 1971
Got to London to find they had cut HANNIE CAULDER into a mess. They were about to score it anyway, but I can help it. I've already been offered two scripts in London. Things are looking up. Recut the picture and they sold it to Paramount within a half an hour.

June 18. 1971
Went back to Hollywood.
July 21, 1971
This is hard to believe, but I'm back in London for the final cut of HANNIE CAULDER. This isn't a picture - it's a way of life.

November 2, 1971
Wrote a new script - THE TRAIN ROBBERS. Sent it to Duke Wayne.