Saturday, October 31, 2009

Not an auspcious start for Sid Pink and Westinghouse.

My Life As An Independent Film Producer
by Sidney Pink

Pack and Israel released a series of publicity blurbs filling the trades with the triumphant entry of Westinghouse into the world of film production. Suddenly, it seemed I was an employee of Westinghouse and Richard Pack had miraculously become an executive producer. I have a mention to maintain my self-esteem, so I paid little attention to the hoopla generated by Pack.
He convinced McGannon this instant success was easily duplicated, and so he was able to take the first step in empire building: He hired two assistants and now had his own staff. He also received the go-ahead to find other producers for similar deals, the intent being to make WBC a distributor of theatrical movies for television and, of course, to feed their "owned and operated" local stations.
Dick Pack's ambition had always been to become a producer, and his frustrations at having been relegated to minor production tasks now had a chance to correct themselves. He hired Jack Feldman, a mild-mannered, inoffensive young college graduate whose main talents lay in the field of accounting and budget control. Why Westinghouse needed a budget consultant was not immediately apparent to me, since by contract our company had the sole responsiblity for creating and maintaining production budgets. WBC had a fixed cost, and that was all the company could ever be called upon to pay. As it turned out, Jack and I never had any problems since his needs were easily fulfilled and there was never any abrasive action on his part.
For his own assistant, Dick hired Howard Barnes, a graduate of the slimy world of advertising. Howard had worked in several large agencies as a production coordinator, whatever that meant. He apparently had read a lot of books about film production since he was familiar with the jargon, but he had no concept or practical knowledge of the actual process. A smattering of theory mixed with absolute and abysmal ignorance along with driving ambition made him a real monster. He was, of course, pleasant-looking and well spoken, or he could never have survived the ad agencies. Like Dick, he was an experienced survivor of the "ass-kissing, find the soft spot" world of modern corporations. Dick Pack had hired himself a male "Eve".
I had very little respect for Dick Pack's talent, and I did not take kindly to his attempts to add his creative ideas to our program. He was too oily in his approach, and I instinctively mistrusted everything he did. In retrospect, this seems almost paranoid and Howard Barnes did nothing to reduce my uneasiness. Howard's attempts to butter us up made him come off as a hypocritical phoney. Anne Baxter despised him, and none of the actors had a kind word to say about him. I resented comments by Pack, but I positively bristled at any word from Howard Barnes.
This was not an auspicious start for our new joint venture, but Arnold and Peter made me hold my tongue and go along with the new changes. Howard was named production coordinator and was to spend time with us on the set as the liason between our two companies. He was responsible for evaluating any script changes that might be needed to satisfy production demands, but where there was disagreement, his word was not final. It was as stupid as putting a fox in the chicken coop to protect the chickens. If I had retained my sense of humor, I would have probably seen the ridiculousness of the situation and laughed at what had to happen. But in my active dislike for these kinds of parasites, I totally forgot I had a sense of humor and let it get to me.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Dollhouse will be back on the air December 4th.

Friday, Dec. 4 - Episode 205 & 206 (Summer Glau episodes 8PM-10PM et/pt)
Friday, Dec. 11 - Episodes 207 & 208 (8PM-10PM et/pt)
Friday, Dec. 18 - Episodes 209 & 210 (8PM-10PM et/pt)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ernie meets Lee Marvin

From: ERNIE the autobiography
by Ernest Borgnine

THE STRANGER WORE A GUN was the picture where I met a lifelong friend, Lee Marvin. Rhoda was still back in New York and I was living at this hotel for men. The studio sent a stretch limo to pick me up for a location shoot in Long Pine, California. When the car arrived, I had two great suitcases, which they put into the trunk. I got into the stretch and saw this long-legged guy with a little overnight satchel and a funny look on his face.
He looked at me and he said, "What the hell's with the suitcases?"
I told him, "Well, I can't leave them down here because nobody knows me and I don't know where to put them. I've got to go back to New York and pick up my family after the picture's over."
"Un, huh," he said. He looked me over with those steely eyes of his. "You serve?"
I knew what he meant. "Navy," I replied.
He grinned, "I thought so, way you're all packed up for a long sea voyage."
I learned that Lee had been in the marines and those boys like to travel light. I also found out that he was wounded in the Battle of Saipan - shot in the ass by a bullet that severed his sciatic nerve. He used to joke that of course they put him in pictures like THE WILD ONE or westerns where he had to ride.
"I can be kicked in the backside by a mule and I wouldn't feel it," he said.
We talked back and forth and we smoked back and forth. (I gave up the cigarette habit a few years later.) We were getting along pretty good by the time we reached Lone Pine.
The director was Andre De Toth, who wore an eye patch, having lost an eye as a kid. But here he was, directing a movie in 3D!...
When we arrived, Mr. De Toth looked at me with this kind of sideward glance and said, "You ride, don't you?"
I said, "Yes, sir."
I didn't, but I'd learned that you never said, "No." That could cost you a job.
After we'd gotten into our costumes - I was playing a tough gang member named Bull Slager - Mr. De Toth said, "You see that man standing up there on that little hill?"
I said, "Yes, sir."
He said, "I want you to ride up there, turn the horse around, and when I drop the handkerchief, you come down here lickety-split, grab your gun out of your holster, say 'Take cover, men' and go out of the scene."
After surreptitiously watching how the other actors mounted their horses, I did the same and rode up to where some stuntmen were slipping and sliding on what little snow that was left. I rode slowly, because the snow was treacherous and there were boulders all over the place.
The horse got me where I needed to be, but when I turned around, what had seemed like a little hill now looked like a mountain, straight down. I must have looked a little green around the gills, because a wrangler nearby asked, "Ernie, what's the matter?"
I said, "Ah... I didn't expect the hill to be so steep."
He said, "Tell you what. Just give the horse his head, he knows what he's got to do, which is get down from here. If he drops his head any, just yank 'er up, because then he won't trip."
Sure enough, the handkerchief dropped and off I went. I had that horse's head in my lap all the way down. I came in with a flourish, yelling, "Take cover, men!" Then I drew my pistol, jumped off the horse, went out of the scene, and nearly fainted.
Randolph Scott came up to me, took off his spurs and handed them to me. "Kid," he said, "that was a helluva stunt. You earned 'em."
But I looked over where some of the crew was standing and there was Lee Marvin, wagging his finger and tsk-tsking. He gave me a kind of amused look that said, I know you ain't no rider, but I'm not gonna rat you out.
We became great friends. I have a picture of him dressed as the hobo in another film we did, EMPEROR OF THE NORTH, and I asked him to sign it. He put down "To Ernie, love, Randolph Scott."
That rascal.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Anne Baxter agrees on THE TALL WOMEN

My Life As An Independent Film Producer
by Sidney Pink

Westinghouse agreed to buy TV rights to the six pictures I made prior to FINGER ON THE TRIGGER. We arrived at the price of $60,000 apiece for a fifteen-year term. These pictures were HAWK OF CASTILE, SWEET SOUND OF DEATH, BALBOA, BALLAD OF A BOUNTY HUNTER, and FATA MORGANA. Total acceptance of these films was contingent only on the negative material being in good condition. Larry Meyers at Trade Bank agreed to discount the contract for these six films, giving us more than $300,000 in working capital. Larry further agreed to finance the Westinghouse deal for the total amount of its face value, if necessary. For the first time in my career, I was well financed and on solid ground. It was a totally new feeling for me and I relished it. When I signed that Westinghouse contract and saw the first $300,000 in the bank, I realized that this would be a Christmas to remember.
We had a big celebration that night with the Meyers, Kopelsons, and Gettingers, and then I flew back to the West Coast to meet with Anne Baxter. Jim Henaghan met me in Los Angeles. We decided he would carry the ball and do all the talking, with my role that of the producer-director to be consulted only if there were real problems. Our lunch with Anne was set for the next day at the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
It will always be a high point for me that first time I saw Anne Baxter in person. When I arrived at the hotel ten minutes early, I expected her to be fashionably late like other leading-lady types, but as I looked around the room, I saw her seated in a booth. She was wearing a cute little hat with a leopard skin band and was dressed in a chocolate beige suit that made her look breathtakingly beautiful. I realized then that stunning was the description for Anne Baxter-completely and utterly stunning...
I have always looked at myself as someone from the wrong side of the tracks who by a stroke of good fortune was able to bluff his way into a world filled with gullibles who would some day discover he was there and throw the "bum" out. But here I was about to discuss a movie with an Oscar-winning actress...
I felt almost hypnotized until I saw Jim Henaghan approach Anne's tale and give her the usual Hollywood greeting, the kiss that I find so phoney...
Anyway, somehow I was able to propel myself to Anne's table to be introduced, and in that moment I fell in love all over again...
It was crazy, but thank goodness the feeling departed when Anne turned to me and asked, "How do you see this part, Sid?"...
My response to her query was to ask her to define the character of a woman with that kind of guts. I think her experiences in the wilds of Australia gave her the answers she need to understand THE TALL WOMEN. She wanted the part, and she really needed to make the movie to get herself back into the milieu she truly loved. Maybe the offhand remark from Jim Henaghan was all she needed to totally convince her. "Anne, how can you refuse?" he asked. "How many women get the chance to play John Wayne without balls?"
She started to laugh and told me to call Harold Citron again, this time to tell him how much I could pay so he could write up a contract. She wanted to do the movie and she would brook no interference on his part. That's how Anne Baxter became the star of our first Westinghouse production.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Dario Argento: I began as a film critic, and worked at Paese Sera for some years. However, I wasn't cut out for this sort of work: I wasn't very informative, I was mainly guided by my passions - something a true critic ought to avoid. It was the period when Westerns were coming out and everyone wrote, " It stinks!" whereas I'd write: "It's marvelous!" This played badly at a serious daily paper, at a time when the Corriere or Messaggero or Stampa would classify these films as B movies, at best. So I moved onto to dance and music reviews instead. But it still wasn't for me, so I went to work writing screenplays, a year and a half in all. In this capacity, I realized ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST. Dealing with a film with a choral structure, Bernardo and I worked out a system of dividing up the labor; we'd write the scenes best suited to our respective sensibilities, and then later we'd knead them together (amalgamate them) trying to give it a unity. Sergio would listen to us, opening his mouth every so often to correct us, and given that he was a master of the genre we hung on his every word. He often referred to the great American films. On his suggestion, we saw JOHNNY GUITAR, THE SERCHERS, VERA CRUZ an infinity of times. I have the greatest affection for Sergio, I consider him my master, even if I could care less about the human side of the people I work with. Leone charmed me when, for example, he described precisely the dolly shots for a certain scene. It was like listening to Dante declaim his verses. Bertolucci and I really hit it off, we shared our cinema indigestions, both of us were truly committed film fanatics, always in the dark watching movies, or else talking over what we'd seen. The screenwriting phase lasted six months. It doesn't sound like much now, but at the time it seemed an eternity. I didn't follow the actual work on the film at all. In his writing, Leone had a sadistic streak, but it was a playful, prankish sadism. You know, maybe the role Bertolucci and I played was to give his ideas a harsh, truly ruthless edge. The times were changing, and perhaps "avvertivamo questa nuova necessita." ("We warn these new needs.")

Monday, October 26, 2009

Getting Anne Baxter for THE TALL WOMEN

My Life As An Independent Film Producer
by Sidney Pink

Anne was represented by Herman Citron, a former William Morris agent with whom I had dealt previously. Herman was now an independent agent representing just a few well-known names. I called Herman and asked to meet with Miss Baxter, and he laughed at me. I told him about the script and asked that it at least be shown to her. He did what no agent should ever do: he refused even to let her see that script. He said it would be a "cold day in hell" before I would ever get Anne Baxter in one of my "TV pieces of shit!"
I guess Herman thought that would end it, but he was dead wrong. I called Cesar Romero and asked for Anne Baxter's phone number. If you knew Romero, you didn't need any phone books to get the number of beautiful stars in Tinsel Town or New York. He has dated almost every beautiful woman who ever lived in Hollywood, from Joan Crawford to today's starlets, and he is perhaps the best loved and most wonderful escort in that city. Without any qualms, he gave me Anne's unlisted number with the admonition to tell her where I got it.
Next I called Barry Sullivan and asked him to call Anne and tell her who I was and that I would be calling her. I had no desire to come on as a complete stranger. Barry did so and called me back to let me know she was willing to talk to me. When I called her myself, her warmth over the phone was proof she was a woman of real quality. She had not received one film offer since her return from the Australian outback, where she spent three years trying to make her marriage work. She was anxious to get back to work and said she would be happy to read my script. She was shocked at the actions of her agent and was really upset that he felt she was unable to make her own decisions about a script. She gave me her address, and I sent the script by personal messenger. I told her the screenplay was by Jim Henaghan, whom she knew quite well from his Hollywood Reporter days and with whom she had discussed several roles in films made by Batjac. I knew she would like the script because it was a most challenging one.
It took three days for her to get back to me, but it was worth the wait. Anne was definitely interested and willing to discuss making the picture, but she needed some clarifications in the script and wanted to discuss it with the writers. I told her I had written the original story and screenplay with a Spanish writer and that Henaghan had done the rewrite, but if she wanted to make any suggestions for changes, I would be happy to bring Henaghan to Hollywood. She implied that if we could change or explain what she found unacceptable, she would most likely agree to do the picture. I promised to get back to her after I spoke to Henaghan.
Next I called Dick Pack with the news. He couldn't believe our luck and he offered to come out to help us. I don't think I have ever been so profuse in both my thanks and in my creative explanations why it would not be a good idea for him to come. Then I called Henaghan, who was delighted to come back home, but he needed a week to clear up his affairs sufficiently to get away. I called Anne back and made an appointment eight days later for lunch at the Polo Lounge. Then I flew back to New York to complete the financial arrangements.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sergio Corbucci on Pietro Francisci

Sergio Corbucci: The historical or costume film had always been in vogue in Italy from CABIRIA onwards. The innovations of the '50s were given to the genre by Francisci when he created LE FATICHE DI ERCOLE (aka HERCULES), in other words when he created the force that sent shockwaves in all directions, and changed the costume film into something more - a mixture of costume, mythology and adventure. For the first few years it had been romance, history, drama, adventure... It had been Freda, Blasetti, Gallone and De Laurentiis.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

More projects for Westinghouse

My Life As An Independent Film Producer
by Sidney Pink

I wanted Westinghouse approval of at least the first six to eight scripts, as I had no desire to waste any more valuable production time in these kinds of squabbles, so I insisted Dick read every script and story outline I had with me. I presented the two Elorietta scripts, Jim Henaghan's FICKLE FINGER OF FATE, and Seto's DRUMS OF TABU; then I found the secret to getting a quick okay. I had been too blind to see what was obvious to everyone else: Dick Pack was star-struck. He was impressed by any name, big or small, and loved to bask in the reflection of any "star". Their acting abilities made no difference to him; they just had to be recognizable names.
I got in touch with Jack Gilardi and asked him for a list of his clients who would be available for a maximum price of $25,000 per picture. As usual, Jack hustled his butt and came back to me in less than a week. He could get Jeff Hunter for a two-picture package if I could shoot them back to back or with no more than a two-week hiatus between films. Jeff Hunter was quite well-known at the time-having played the role of Jesus in Bronston's THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD. Hunter was totally acceptable to Pack-so much so that he approved the second film with no script. I was offered Tab Hunter for my price, and I found Pack just as eager to grab this once-upon-a-time big name. We signed him for WITCH WITHOUT A BROOM.
Dick was so delighted with these stars that he immediately released stories to the trade papes to prove Westinghouse was involved in big-time film productions. Variety and Hollywood Reporter were of such importance to the super-inflated egos of Hollywood that breakfast could not be touched until the trades had been thoroughly read to find out what other actors, directors, or companies were doing. They paid huge sums to press agents to plant items in these papers that most of the time were improvised. Although everyone knew they were fictional, they were read and believed as the gospel. I know of actors who read they had been cast in something or other and, despite the knowledge their press agent had stretched the truth, called to see if it were true! Hollywood make-believe is not relegated only to the silver screen; it is an ever-present reality in the daily existence of the players in this make-believe world.
Now we had four scripts and cast approval, but I needed more. I approached Pack again and extracted a further compromise from him. If I were able to get Anne Baxter and if she agreed to permit me to direct the film, I wanted his approval for two pictures to be made by Elorietta with casts and scripts pre-approved. I guaranteed an American actor of some name value in the lead, but I didn't want to be hamstrung while I was in Spain and he was in New York. Pack was so anxious to get Anne Baxter he agreed. I had approval for six pictures plus the untitled Jeff Hunter film, contingent on getting Anne Baxter.
(Of course, Jeffrey Hunter was in Samuel Bronston's KING OF KINGS, not THE GREATEST STORY EVERY TOLD.)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Anne Baxter for THE TALL WOMEN?

My Life As An Independent Film Producer
by Sidney Pink

While the lawyers were busy earning their gigantic fees (writing up the contracts), Dick Pack and I were embroiled in the first of the many script problems that marked our abbreviated association. He had read THE TALL WOMEN and was full of suggestions for rewriting and improving the screenplay. All of his ideas were ased on his own personal likes and dislikes, with no regard to the story continuity or the flow of action so necessary in outdoor action-adventure films. He had no idea of the problems of making a budget film, nor did he have any real dramatic flair. He was a most dangerous type of human being, a self-professed writer with no credits or experience.~During my creative career I have found that people are "mavens" on two subjects: Everyone is a writer and everyone is a critic. We will admit ignorance on other subjects but never in these two areas. Were it not for these attributes, we would not have people attending plays and movies and so I must rejoice in it, but it's a real crock when you must deal with it in a person of authority. Dick Pack was one of those who could never be wrong, and even when he was, he had that miserable knack of twisting the truth so that in his own mind, at least, he would always be proved correct.
We were at complete odds over THE TALL WOMEN, but fortunately for me, he was still not too secure in his new role as production supervisor for Westinghouse, and he ultimately gave in and approved the final script. I decided not to push my victory too far and I gave him more authority in casting the roles, which boomeranged in my face. I learned the more I tried to assuage him, the more demanding he became, and like other attempts at appeasement, it just didn't work. He insisted on a star male and female in the picture, and he refused to listen or understand the impossibility of securing a male star to accept what was essentially a minor supporting role in a film in which the real leads were women. Grudgingly, he finally condescended to approve the entire cast if I could get an actress of the stature of Anne Baxter to accept the lead.
I was not at all certain I could even talk to Anne Baxter, let alone get her to sign a contract, but I knew I had to give it my best shot. Anne Baxter had always been my ideal of a great actress, and I had been a fan of hers for years. I knew she was the granddaughter of Frank Lloyd Wright, and my conversations with Barry Sullivan and Cesar Romero indicated that they also felt she was one of the finest actresses in the world. I think I was secretly in love with this beautiful woman since I first saw her in YELLOW SKY with Gregory Peck. She would have been my first choice for anything I ever made, but above all I wanted to cast her in this unique Western.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Sergio Leone: With C’ERA UNA VOLTE DEL WEST (ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST), I wanted to create a fresco of the birth of a nation, inserting into it some of the classic stereotypes as well (albeit in a revisionist, reinterpreted spirit) like the five who dominate the film - the social climbing whore fresh from New Orleans, the romantic bandit, the dishonest banker, the avenger, the bandit with business ambitions. But the style, too, had to be important as never before: it had to unfold like a dance of death, a tribute to a past that's disappeared forever. At the beginning there's an abandoned station, at the end a station under construction. The dialogue helps clarify many of these points: the end of the period of men with balls and the arrival of those who have only cash. The film has a mosaic-like structure, made out of little squares, with extremely precise symbols, even if there are those who haven't fathomed their full significance. I was a little fearful about all of this, I didn't foresee the success it would go on to have. The theme of revenge was very important because it is the only motivation for certain characters, who'd just cease to exist and disappear without it, it is -then- an end in itself like a game.I researched it at length - as always - chiefly relying on books. One of the things I remember with great satisfaction is a trip I made to Washington with Vincenzoni. I'd read in a book something about a small battle that had taken place in Texas during the War of Secession: a fight to take over a goldmine. This had set my imagination traveling in a certain direction, and so, finding myself at the Library of Congress in Washington, where they'd photocopy any book they had for ten dollars, I asked the librarian if he/she had any publication about this event which had taken place on "x" date in "x" place. He looked doubtful, and told me to come back tomorrow. When I arrived afresh the following day, the librarian stared at me as if I were a monster/ghost, and while he passed along eight photocopied volumes dedicated to the event, he said to me:" Now I understand why you Italians make films so well! In all the years I've worked here, not one American director has ever asked me anything about this episode!"
For ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST I also made a trip with my Set Designer through Texas, Colorado and Arizona to do documentary research, and everything you see in the film was reconstructed from historically based material we found together, which I then fleshed out with fantasy. For example, the famous "posada" (tavern) where the men and horses ate derived from an authentic example. It was my first film as Producer-Director; I was fed up with producers who always screw you, who are anxious about what you're doing, and who, and instead of helping you organize a production end up throwing a wrench into the works. One works much better without a producer of this type, one has the freedom to take risks, even to make mistakes, but that's risk-taking, no? Producers who help the director rather than exploiting and annoying him are an extinct breed. I was supposed to do the film with the financial backing of United Artists. But they insisted on actors I didn't want, much more expensive and famous than the ones I preferred (for example, they were dead set against Bronson), so I made the film with Paramount instead. The screenplay wasn't very precise, it was a story I'd thrown together with Bertolucci and Dario Argento, and the script was very open, very sketchy, The details were filled in on the set.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sidney deals with Westinghouse

My Life As An Independent Film Producer
by Sidney Pink
(Having established his operation in Spain, Sidney Pink returned to New York to finalize the contract.)
The next morning, we met in the conference room at the Gettinger office to review what had happened in my absence and to determine our final demands for contract terms. Peter Gettinger felt Westinghouse was ready to offer $75,000, payable upon delivery. I brought detailed costs showing that our minimum selling price had to be $90,000. Moreover, if we were to meet the pressures of that intense shooting schedule, we had to be paid in three equal installments. If we tried to bank-finance the entire cost of production, the finance charges would materially increase costs. We needed to receive one-third of the money on approval of script and certainly no later than the first day of principal photography. We would need another third upon completion of shooting; and the final payment would be due upon delivery of the negative materials and a certification by the lab that the materials were in usuable condition.
I gave considerable thought to the Westinghouse demand for final script and cast approval, and I decided we would be unable to live with those conditions. We could be tied up for a long time on script approval if the folks at Westinghouse became adamant, and I certainly did not want to give up complete artistic control to people who had no real experience in moviemaking. I could visualize their paralyzing us by demanding a star personality totally beyond our reach, and we could be left with an entire production company awaiting decisions that might never be made. We had to be the creative masters, but we could allow Westinghouse sufficient controls to assure the commercial worth of the product...
(The next day) we proceeded to the Fifth Avenue offices of WBC to meet with McGannon, Israel, and Pack.
Don McGannon was a soft-spoken, well-dressed, handsome man. With his dark hair speckled with just enough gray to make him distinguished looking, he was the complete and perfect WASP. He was the quintessential giant-corporation president, and he knew how to handle the job. There was never any doubt who was in charge of the Westinghouse negotiations, and try as he did, Dick Pack could never take over. Don (he permitted me to call him that, although it felt sacrilegious for me to address him by his first name) didn't do too much talking, but his presence was sufficient. Israel wisely refrained from making more than a few pertinent comments, while Pack talked too much. He was trying to impress his two bosses with his knowledge of movies and production, but to me it was quite obvious he hadn't the vaguest idea what he was talking about. I permitted him to make himself look good without bursting his balloon. I knew in my heart that the deal would be made; Dick Pack had to succeed in bringing Westinghouse into movie production. As it turned out, I was right about this, but I was too scared to take full advantage of the moment, so I blew it.
We made our demands, and after strenuous debate on every issue, McGannon conceded almost every point. Our one real difficulty turned out to be exactly what I had predicted, the issue of artistic control over the finished product. Pack was adamant in his demand for final approval of casting and script as well as the right to view rushes. I was just as adamant in my position that I could not concede the point. We reached an impasse, but no one made any move to break up the meeting, and we sat silently as if at a loss for words. In retrospect, I think if I had taken the gamble of walking out on the meeting, or at least given the impression I was ready to do so, I most probably would have won my point, but I was too chicken to take the chance.
Peter finally suggested the compromise solution that we agreed to accept. Westinghouse required two "acceptable name stars" in each picture, but could not unreasonably withhold its approval of names offered. For our part, we would show the rushes, but we would not be required to accept revision suggestions from the Westinghouse side. Script approval, once given, meant no changes by either side without written authorization, and final artistic acceptance was mutual. It was a lousy compromise, and the moment it was agreed upon was the very moment that guaranteed the demise of the project. I knew it, I felt it, but I was paralyzed by the need to get the deal. The meeting ended on a high note, with all of us feeling we had accomplished something new and exciting, but I had a sinking feeling in my stomach as I left, and my instincts told me that living with this hodgepodge complicated compromise couldn't last long.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Tessari on Ennio de Concini

Duccio Tessari: De Concini had the ideas, and on these ideas was built the scenario which grew out of our discussions of the scenes. After which we collaborators went home and wrote the screenplay; he saw again it and thus we arrived at the finished product. This laborious method, was the system with which we worked.
With De Concini I had collaborated on the screen-play of a film more German than Italian: PEZZO, CAPOPEZZO E CAPITANO. He liked the way that we worked together and suggested that I should become his dogsbody - a sort of uncredited slave - but this was not at all how he treated me, because he always made me sign the screenplays in which I participated. Ennio at that time was like a magician. In each room of his house there was a producer waiting for his scripts, and he would move from one room to the other with the greatest of ease in order to sort out each of these projects in turn.
He was indeed extraordinary, a man of continual inventiveness, a volcano.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


My Life As An Independent Film Producer
by Sidney Pink

Our New York contingent was working very hard trying to close the Westinghouse deal, but without my presence, they were unable to conclude anything. Dick Pack was nervous and balked at any final commitment or signatures until he knew that we had the six scripts. Meanwhile, Luis de los Arcos came up with a story idea about women in the Old West, but he was having trouble getting it on paper. His story concerned a group of women going West as mail-order brides for the pioneer men who had staked out claims and were developing the land. He didn't know enough about that era to bring it into focus, so he was completely stuck. We worked together, and when we finished, we had a John Wayne type story, but this time John Wayne had to be a woman.
We told the story by concentrating on seven women who became the sole survivors of a caravan after an Indian attack that massacred the rest of the group. The women were hidden in a cave while the Indians ferociously wipes out the men and soldiers. Their only escape route is across a hundred miles of desert country inhabited by the same hostile Indians. Alone, inexperienced, and possessing only raw courage, they make it across that dangerous terrain.
The Spanish title Luis gave the script was LAS SIETE MAGNIFICAS, a takeoff on the highly successful MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, but the genders of Spanish made the definite statement that these magnificent seven were women. Since English has no gender equivalent, I came up with the title THE TALL WOMEN, for in the Old West, when you were brave, you were tall.
I turned this rough script over to Jim Henaghan for polish and went to work on an Elorietta script called WITCH WITHOUT A BROOM, a comedy about an inexperienced witch who falls in love with a twentieth-century professor. Jim had written a new script for us sometime earlier, titled THE CUPS OF SAN SEBASTIAN, which we retitled THE FICKLE FINGER OF FATE, because Laugh-In was making that phrase quite famous on TV. We had a story outline for DRUMS OF TABU, and another Elorietta gem called GIRL OF THE NILE. Armed with these partial and finished scripts, I went back to New York to finalize the Westinghouse deal.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


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.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Sidney makes deals with American writers

My Life As An Independent Film Producer
by Sidney Pink

Now I had some real projects to discuss. Next I needed to find new and interesting scripts that would be personally produced, and for this I had to go to my American writers.
There were a few journeymen writers that made Madrid their home during the years. The most professional of the lot was Jim Henaghan, once the gossip column writer and chief reviewer for the Hollywood Reporter...
Jim was weird, lovable, a curmudgeon, and a fake, yet we all adored him, and his eccentricities only made him that much more charming. He bilked me, but he helped me as well. He and I were very close during my nine years in Spain, and when he followed me to Puerto Rico, we continued our close friendship. In Spain, Jim ruled over the intellectual world (or rather, those who fancied themselves such), and they call came to see him and sit at his feet as if he were some guru. He knew I saw right through him, but he saw himself as he was and we laughed at it together.
Jim had been involved with John Wayne in his Batjac Productions and was responsible for some of the Duke's best work. Together with Bob Fellowes, Jim had ruled the roost of that company for years. He was Wayne's drinking partner through the making of THE ALAMO and left the company only when the doctors told him it was either quit drinking or quit living. That's why he was in Madrid. Jim wrote nine scripts for me and became my story editor for our Westinghouse project.
There were two other competent writers with whom I worked. John Melson and Howard Berk. John wrote one original script for me and a lot of rewrites of Luis de Los Arcos originals. I never heard from him after I left Spain. Howard Berk had perhaps the most creative story mind of the three, but he had difficulty putting his ideas into script form. He never gave me a completed script that would create a full-length movie, but he did give me some very original stories. I see his name occassionally on some television shows and Hollywood films so I know he is still around. He, John, and Jim were the mainstays of our Spanish writing stable, rounded out by Luis de los Arcos and me - a formidable foursome. Together we turned out forty-six films. And now, to launch the Westinghouse project, we had to submit a minimum of six scripts for approval.
(Jim Henaghan was the son of Gwen Verdon and her first husband, James Henaghan. Prior to writing for Sidney Pink, he worked on STOP TRAIN 349 with Sean Flynn and EL NINO Y EL MURO with Linda Christian. John Melson worked on LAST PLANE TO BAALBEK, SAVAGE PAMPAS and with Philip Yordan on BATTLE OF THE BULGE. Howard Berk went on to write episodes of Mission Impossible, The Rockford Files, Get Christy Love! and McMillan & Wife.)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Ennio De Concini on inventing the "sandaloni".

Ennio De Concini: Yes, in a moment of crisis in the cinema I invented the so-called "sandaloni", the Hercules Film. It was a period in which Italian cinema seemed dead. And so I said: "But why not make a fiction using a character from fable?" To think them up and write them down was hugely enjoyable for me, so much so that I then became a kind of honorary signatory to these films, because everyone who made these "sandaloni" came to me to sign their scripts. Even if I had not written them they still paid me to sign them, since in a certain sense I was regarded as the father of this type of film. It had occurred to me to do them in a simple way because the idea of distorting Hercules in an ironic key amused me very much. And in fact these films were very ironic, as for example in such typical dialogue: "Esculapio, move yourself, get across the river and come here!" To which Esculapio answered: "I cannot do that, I still haven't invented a remedy for rheumatism!" Or: "Hey, you handsome youth with the cunning look, how are you called?" "Ulisse!" "Ah, when you are older, they will call you the astute Ulisse."
In short these films were made with humor, but with a director who believed in them very much and who loved them. And it was certainly this that made their fortune. The director was called Pietro Francisci, and he was a very simple man.
Our first film of the series, LE FATICHE DI ERCOLE (HERCULES), starred Steve Reeves, and it didn't even cost us 100 million lire. But in America the movie has grossed I don't know how many millions of dollars, ten I think! However, when the idea came to me for this character who was good and strong, for HERCULES, one whom all men in their hearts dream of resembling, none of the producers were inclined to make it, everybody turned up their noses. The one person who had the balls to take the leap and make it was Nello Santi, perhaps because Francisci had kept him going, because they were both veterans of other successful films like ORLANDO E I PALADINI DI FRANCIA (ROLAND THE MIGHTY). Those films, however, were more straightforward adventure films, while here there was a fable for children proposed in a manner more elementary and simple to serve as escapism for adults.
Then, from Hercules to Maciste the step was very short.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sidney makes deals with Elorietta and Seto

My Life As An Independent Film Producer
by Sidney Pink

Now I turned to another problem we had not considered in New York. It was very easy to discuss making thirty-six pictures in five years, but what stories would we make? I had no scripts ready after we finished FINGER ON THE TRIGGER; I had made no provision for the future since I didn't really know if there would be a future. I contacted Jose Maria Elorietta, a prolific-producer-director-writer, with whom I had coproduced several films. Together we made THE HAWK OF CASTILE, a swashbuckler that turned out to be a damned fine film, and BALBOA, CONQUISTADOR OF THE PACIFIC, which starred Frank Lattimore and for which I had been instrumental in getting government permission for shooting in Panama. Jose Maria had plans for making about six other films for which he had scripts. I urged him to get the finished scripts to me so I could rewrite in English.
While Elorietta was the most prolific producer-director I ever met (he normally made four pictures a year), he was not interested in making a lot of money. He was content to make a small profit that allowed him to live like a Spanish millionaire, but he never saved a dime. He loved to drink, and although he adored his wife, he enjoyed having a good time too. So he worked and spent and spent and worked, and he was very happy doing just what he pleased.
He was extremely talented, but his best work was done in the mornings. He would arrive on the set early in a perfect state of sobriety, but by early afternoon, the constant drinking of cognac began to take its toll and he would be unable to continue. His films had magnificent shots as well as some of the worst imaginable, but he really didn't care. His sole concern was to finish the picture on or under budget, and he never failed in this. Jose Maria and I agreed he would make at least three films a year for me; we agreed on the budget and a guaranteed profit for him. Now I had almost half of the thirty-six pictures assured, if we could mutually agree on scripts.
I also contacted Javier Seto who made a film in conjunction with us called LA LLAMADA. It was an excellent horror film that was built around a warm and sensitive love story. It was very well made and starred to reliable young actors; its only drawback was Seto's insistence on making it in black and white. The picture, which we retitled SWEET SOUND OF DEATH, never reached its full audience potential because of the black and white, but I am proud to have my name on the quality film. I arranged with Seto to make at least one more picture for us from a script that he would submit for approval. He had a project in mind called DRUMS OF TABU which could be of genuine interest to us.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The director of THE UNHOLY FOUR

Enzo Barboni: CIAKMULL L'UOMO DELLA VENDETTA (CHUCK MULL, aka THE UNHOLY FOUR) was the first film I did as director, with a cast of unknowns to be sure, but it didn't turn out badly. It was a good story, a tragic story that I lightened up a bit. I wasn't originally supposed to do it, I don't know who was supposed to. Manolo Bolognini turned it over to me at the last moment when everything was ready to go, putting his trust in my past experience as a cameraman. It was the story of four madmen who escaped from an institution for the criminally insane. I suggested to Manolo that we lighten it up, stick in some comic situations, but Manolo preferred to follow the Western formula, and he permitted me to lighten the tone but not to change it too much. We shot it in three and a half weeks, at Manziana and Torcaldara as always, where all the Westerns were shot, but doing it in such a way that they seemed different places, thanks again to my camera skills. I gave it a certain rhythm, with slow long shots of autumnal views. The actors were Leonard Mann, an American kid with Italian roots, Evelyn Stewart, one of the few Italian actresses with properly Anglo Saxon features, dear, and very well bred. It was a German co-production, and there was also some German actor. Generally, the deal with actors was that if the public goes to see someone who's named Django in the movie, but he's really named Pasquale "Something or Other", it doesn't work, because the public was still stuck on the idea of the American Western, it wanted that strain of exoticism. If we didn't have the real thing, we were obliged to fake it.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Westinghouse wants 36 pictures in 4 years!

My Life As An Independent Film Producer
by Sidney Pink

FINGER ON THE TRIGGER was made in the Technicolor-Techniscope process, a new method of presenting the Cinemascope two-to-one screen ratio while cutting the cost of film negative and printing. Techniscope required half as much film since it used only two of the four sprocket holes of the 35mm film for its exposure. The squeezed Cinemascope picture was shot with special Techniscope negative, and when actual theatre prints were made, Technicolor reconverted it to normal film size. Through the use of special anamorphic (Cinemascope aspect) lenses, the film was projected on the screen just like an ordinary Cinemascope picture. It saved a lot of money for the producer, but only Technicolor was able to make prints. It became the standard in Europe where the producers were cost-oriented, but it was never completely accepted in the U.S. due to the Technicolor monopoly on prints.
I couldn't make a lab affiliation because of the process limitations, so I had no lab to help my financing. I knew the president of Movielab, New York's largest independent laboratory, where the negative materials of GREEN-EYED ELEPHANT were stored, and I had also worked with Paul Connelly, executive in charge of Hollywood's Pathe laboratory, during my dealings with AIP. As comptroller of Pathe, Paul helped finance our lab costs until delivery to AIP. He was now employed in the same capacity at Movielab in New York.
I called Paul and through him met Sol Jeffe again. Sol is the founder, major stockholder, and chief executive for Movielab, and as fine a gentleman as ever worked in the film industry. He is straight as an arrow and a near-genius in laboratory technique and print development. Sol and I, together with our wives, are solid friends even to this day, and I owe him much for any success that I may have achieved. I met with Sol and Paul on the day after the Westinghouse screening and explained to them just what I was facing.
While Sol Jeffe disliked lawyers and accountants, he knew we couldn't do without them, so he advised getting a lawyer who would represent me and only me. He also was certain that a Westinghouse contract would make financing relatively easy. He recommended the Trade Bank and Trust Company. It was a bank specializing in the garment trade but which had recently experimented with motion-picture financing with the Ely Landau company for the highly successful THE PAWNBROKER. I called and made an appointment with Larry Meyers, senior vice president of the bank, an appointment that changed my entire business life.
When I met with Larry Meyers, my whole view of financing altered. Larry and I hit it off extremely well, and I still number him and his wife Muriel among the best friends I have in the world. Neither he nor Sol Jeffe have ever knowingly steered me wrong; as a matter of fact, both did things for me that risked their own necks. In my humble opinion, it is impossible to find success without friends like these.
(Larry put Sidney in touch with the law firm of Gettinger and Gettinger, where Sidney chose Arnold Kopelson as his confidant and protege. Kopelson went on to become a producer and to eventually win an Academy Award for PLATOON.)
Ed (Gettinger), Peter (Gettinger), Arnold and I spent the next three days in conferences nailing down what I really wanted in a contract. We had to discuss the psychology of the approach and determine what was important to Westinghouse, what points we could give up, and what we must retain. It was almost like planning a military campaign, and I appreciated the abilities of these three men more and more as time went on.
As it began to take shape, the deal involved more money than I had ever dreamed of. The basic structure Westinghouse suggested was for a minimum contract of thirty-six pictures to be made over a period of four years, requiring an average of nine films per year. I wasn't certain I would be able to fulfill such an arduous schedule, and I certainly had no desire to be in default before I began. We therefore decided on a contract for thirty-six pictures over five years, with an added protection clause to cover an inability to comply. We agonized over the price of the presale to TV, since Westinghouse demanded the rights in perpetuity for North and South America. We had to get the rest of our financing from sales of theatrical rights in those territories and from the foreign rights. I knew I could make coproduction contracts with Italy and Germany to cover my costs, but I needed some assurance of a profit if I was going to undertake such an ambitious program.~We made no final decisions before I had to leave, so we agreed on a course of action permitting me to take several weeks to clarify the issues at home in Madrid while the negotiations with Westinghouse continued apace. We would conduct a daily conference at 10 P.M. Madrid time (5 P.M. N.Y. time) so that we could discuss issues and make decisions. I returned to Madrid where I found a very happy Pepe Lopez Moreno and Tony Recoder. Gregorio was disconsolate that he was unable to continue on with FISA, but he kept his word and turned over all the stock to us. We now had our company legally situated and I had no partners.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Duccio Tessari on the creation of HERCULES

Duccio Tessari : "The seam of the Hercules and Maciste movies was invented by Ennio De Concini. He had the idea for the first HERCULES, and the genre was born. It was given life by (Pietro) Francisci. Francisci had made many of the films of this type in the '50's, like LA REGINA DI SABA (THE QUEEN OF SHEBA), that already had many of these fantastic elements. They came on the shoulders of LA CORONA DI FERRO (THE IRON CROWN), ULISSE (ULYSSES). I believe that the boom of these films is due also to how it was in Italy during those years, with all these changes, and these urban peasants, disorientated people...
"They were films that went very well also in the Third World. Francisci had been thinking about using Mister Muscle (Steve Reeves), but as a Hercules with realistic limitations of strength. De Concini instead had the stroke of genius to make a Hercules beyond all the limits, a Hercules that, if he launched a disc, this disc truly became a flying disc that never stopped."

Saturday, October 10, 2009


Director - Maurizio Lucidi 1967
Cast: George Hilton (Billy "Rum" Cooney), Hunt Powers ("Padre"), Walter Barnes (Jarrett), and Erika Blanc (Jenny).Mario Brega (Andreas), Glen Fortel, Katia Cristine (Katie O'Brian), Marisa Quattrini (Moira), Giovanni Scarciofolo, Salvatore Borgese, Bruno Corazzari, Luigi Casselato (bartender), Umberto Raho, Luciano Rossi (telegraph operator), Luciano Catenacci, Rik Boyd, Mauro Bosco, Lorenzo Sharon, Cesare Martignoni, Lucia Righi, Valentino Macchi, Luigi Barbacane, Paolo Magalotti, Luciano Bonanni, Bill Vanders, Desiderio Raffaele, Roberto Alessandri, Tom Felleghy (Sheriff Ray Norman), Stefano Alessandrini.
Not credited: Enzo Fiermonte (Sheriff Martin), Sarah Ross, Jeff Cameron (Mark).
Story by Augusto Finocchi
Screenplay by Augusto Finocchi and Augusto Caminito
Director of Photography by Riccardo Pallottini
Music by Luis Enriquez Bacalov
conducted by the composer
music copyright General Music
Editor Renzo Lucidi
Sets and Costume Designer Giancarlo Bartolini Salimbeni
Props Cesare Monello
Production Manager Livio Maffei
Assistant Director Aldo Lado
Production Assistants Enzo Mazzucchi, Alberto Fiorentino
Production Secretary Angelo Sarago
Accountant Maria Spera
Continuity Filippo Perrone
Cameraman Sergio Martinelli, Umberto Grassia
Assistant Operator Carlo Tafani c.s.c.
Sound Engineer Fiorenzo Magli
Sound Recorder Antonio Forrest
Stunts Salvatore Borgese
Makeup Andrea Riva, Gaetano Capogrosso
Hair Stylist Adriana Cassini
Still Photographer Enrico Appetito
Set Dresser Giuseppe Monello
Interiors filmed at Cinecitta - Rome
Processing Laboratory Technicolor Italiana
Negative Kodak
Costumes from Tigano Lo Faro and Teruzzi
Weapons and Properties from Set - Rome
Title song sung by Hunt Powers
Produced by Franco Cittadini, Stenio Fiorentini
A Mega Film Production
Distr. Panta
Prod. Reg. 4024
With a promising premise, strong production values, a terrific cast filled with familiar faces, and a director who had proven himself worthwhile with the earlier MIO NOME E PECOS (U.S.: MY NAME IS PECOS), LA PIU RAPINA DEL WEST seemingly had everything going for it. Unfortunately, no one developed the premise into a script tight enough to prevent a viewer from noticing a lack of purpose and holes in plot logic.
After an overly clever bank robbery in Middleton, the film settles into Porlance and a plot which requires the robbers to stick around awaiting the arrival of an Indian guide to take them across the desert to Mexico. What no one knew was that one of the robbers, who usually dressed as a monk and was called "Padre", had killed the guide in an half-baked plot to horde all the booty for himself. "Padre" also had his eye, as well as other parts of his anatomy, on Jenny, the gang leader's woman.
Eventually, Jarret, the gang leader, had the town sheriff killed, and a revenge plot was set in motion by the sheriff's near' do well brother.
Star George Hilton got to reprise his drunken hero role from director Lucio Fulci's TEMPO DI MASSACRO, but without even the slight complexity that film offered. American actor Hunt Powers seemed to be positioned to become the new Western star with this role, playing the charming rogue "Padre" and even singing the theme song. However, the film didn't attract enough of an audience for it to help either man's career.
Walter Barnes brought his usual strong presence to the villain's role, but couldn't overcome the script's insistence that he behave stupidly inorder to deliver a satisfying performance. The seeming uncertainty regarding the film's purpose was reflected in the music by Luis Enriquez Bacalov. An opening theme song suggested that the film was intended as a comedic romp, and the film's conclusion - which is reminiscent of the ending to director Enzo G. Castellari's VADO, L'AMMAZZO E TORNO (U.S.: ANY GUN CAN PLAY and GO KILL AND COME BACK) - backed up that assumption. However, the film's recurring theme music - which was highly reminiscent of a piece Bacalov used in both DJANGO and QUIEN SABE? (U.S.: A BULLET FOR THE GENERAL) - suggested a more straight-forward action perspective. It was a highly enjoyable score and deserved to be on a better movie.
More positive points for the film include the appearances of Erika Blanc and Katia Cristine. Erika was saddled with the rather dull role of our hero's very sober, and long suffering, girlfriend. She got one of the film's better scenes in which she was stalked by an amorous Mario Brega. Our hero arrived and, from the shadows, pummeled Brega, who kept mistaking the punches as coming from the woman. Katia, who was so memorably murdered by Alain Delon in L'HISTORIES EXTRAORDINARIES D' EDGAR ALLAN POE (U.S.: SPIRITS OF THE DEAD), didn't even get that much in her role of a sweet girl in town. The most she got to do was to be manhandled by a couple of the outlaws. Luckily, the character was saved from rape, but the scene seemed to indicate the filmmakers were flirting with including some female nudity.
One of the most interesting elements in the movie involved being aware that the town of Porlance resided on the backlot at Cinecitta. Meanwhile, the sentry outpost at the edge of town was in Almeria, Spain. So when Stunt Coordinator Salvatore Borgese, in the role of a Mexican henchman, sneaked out of the saloon to kill the sentry, he had to fly to another country to complete his attack.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Sidney deals with Westinghouse

My Life As An Independent Film Producer
by Sidney Pink

(After making FINGER ON THE TRIGGER in Spain, Sidney Pink is approached to make feature films for TV syndicators Westinghouse Broadcasting. He had lunch with Richard Pack.)
Dick and I got on very well at that luncheon. We had a mutual need for each other that made an easy cooperation necessary. Dick needed me to get his company into motion-picture production, which he correctly foresaw as the future of the television business. He was in the right spot to head up a production company, and he had been given authority by Larry Israel to bring in a production program exposing Westinghouse to minimal risk but with a potential of quantity and it was hoped quality production. His need of the moment was to see our Western and then, if he found it acceptable, to convince McGannon to embark upon a program of movie production. Westinghouse could not lose if costs were held to the price paid for films purchased for the five owned and operated stations. That was the crux of the deal. The usual movie price paid for two runs at the Westinghouse states was about $75,000. We scheduled the screening at the Westinghouse projection room for the next day, and we parted.
The screening was held in the morning, and I invited the Turtletaub executives to attend since it was they who arranged this precedent-shattering meeting. I felt they were entitled to be on the scene if a deal actually came about. Westinghouse was represented by Larry Israel, Dick Pack, and Donald McGannon.
These men were totally dissimilar in every way. While Dick was chubby and looked well-fed, Larry Israel seemed almost emaciated and had a constant sour look on his face. He was always preoccupied and received more phone calls (that seemed to make him even more sour) than the rest of the executives combined. He was one of the most harassed human beings I have ever met, and it was no surprise to me that shortly after I met him, he resigned to take over an editorial job on the Washington Post. I never got to talk very much to Larry, but I learned he was the most able man in the news business and had single-handedly moved the Westinghouse stations to the top of the ratings in their respective cities. Dick Pack was, of course, promoted to Larry's job, and I often wonder if our contracts and dealings might have been different had Larry Israel remained.
The screening was an instantaneous success. McGannon, who turned out to be a Western buff, was enthralled with the thought of such a movie being made out of the country, and Larry Israel was amazed at the final cost with so much production apparent on the screen. Dick Pack sensed he had won, and turned to me to ask, "How long will you be in town?"
My plans were to leave the next day since my presence was needed in Madrid to close out the entire FINGER ON THE TRIGGER deal as well as to bring FISA into the position where I could control it legally. I knew that a deal as complete and all-encompassing as the one we were about to negotiate would take a lot of time, so I agreed to start the contract talks immediately. However, I advised them that my affairs in Madrid were so pressing I would have to leave in at most a week. They suggested I get someone to represent me in negotiations while I was gone, and I agreed. We parted with the sense that a production deal was in the making.
Actually I was too stunned to realize what was about to happen. I had always visualized a marriage between TV and movies that would permit the independent producer the luxury of selecting projects without the help (?) of a distribution company or without the expensive completion guarantee demanded by banks that financed production. That it was about to happen was too dazzling a future for me to visualize, and so I kept on trying to convince myself it just couldn't happen.
But for now, I needed a representative or lawyer to keep the negotiations alive while I returned to Madrid. I had no idea where to find someone I could trust to represent me in such delicate negotiations. I also realized we would eventually need the help of a bank to finance any Westinghouse deal, and it would have to be for large sums of money.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Dollhouse, season two episode three on Friday

After poor ratings last season, Fox ordered only 13 episodes for season two of Dollhouse. The hope was that if ratings improved, the network would then order 8 more for a full season of 22. Unfortunately, that hasn't happened, and now many fans worry that, like Firefly, Dollhouse may be cancelled before everything that has been made is shown. So, Friday is another opportunity to see the show during its original broadcast - rather than catching it later on DVD.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A new opportunity for Sidney Pink

My Life As An Independent Film Producer
by Sidney Pink

Now that I was able to eat like a human being again, I got off my duff and began to visit those people who had been good to me through the years. Among these was Bill Piper, head of the Paramount Pictures foreign department. Bill and his wife Edith visited with us in Spain after we made our deal for distribution of PYRO in England, at which time a close friendship was formed. I never tried to use my personal relationship with Bill to make any deals, but in the case of FINGER ON THE TRIGGER, I honestly believed that Paramount could do very well with the picture in England and the Far East.
With this in mind, I called Bill and told me about the picture and its acceptance by Allied. Much to my surprise, he had already heard about it. It seemed that Giroux was so pleased with the deal he had broadcast the coup all over New York. Bill held a screening for his salespeople, and we made our deal with Paramount to distribute the rest of the world. I accomplished all of this in less than three weeks, but the best was yet to come, thanks to Stan Turtletaub and his crew.~As I was preparing to return to Madrid, I received a call from the production manager of the Turtletaub Agency, who had a brilliant idea after he saw FINGER ON THE TRIGGER. He knew Westinghouse Broadcasing was searching for films for the company's owned and operated stations as well as its distribution arm. Westinghouse was at that time producing the Mike Douglas Show and other popular shows distributed by its new syndication division. He spoke to Richard Pack, vice president in charge of production at Westinghouse, who expressed a desire to see the film and to meet with me. I didn't believe there was any future in this, but I couldn't afford to pass up the opportunity to meet any head of production, so I arranged the screening and a luncheon appointment with Richard Pack.
Westinghouse Broadcasting is the television and radio arm of the giant Westinghouse Electric Corporation, operating as a separate entity. At that time it was under the leadership of Donald McGannon, who built it into a highly successful and forward-looking communcations company. His only weakness (some considered it a strength) was that he was too damned prim and proper in his private life, and he brought that point of view into his business attitude. Westinghouse, known as the prissy network, would not touch any product that had the slightest hint of sexuality of any item that was anathema to the Catholic church or the Council of Churches. This made no difference to me, as I had never made any film that was at all controversial in any of those respects.
I called Madrid and spoke to Gregorio about this new Westinghouse development, but he was uninterested in any future productions. It seemed he had been given hell by the powers at Mole Richardson. They told him it was not company policy to get involved in production financing other than providing credit arrangements for the use of the company's equipment. Although Mole Richardson had doubled its investment in profits from the sale of FINGER ON THE TRIGGER, he was cautioned not to involve the company again.
This was no great blow to me, since I really didn't need that participation any longer. If anything were to come from the Westinghouse negotiations, I could handle it myself, and I really didn't want to report to anyone about production decisions. Gregorio agreed to return Mole Richardson's shares of FISA stock at no charge. I instructed Tony Recoder to make the legal transfer of Pepe Lopez Moreno as my representative, and now I was free to make my own decisions with no interference.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Selling FINGER ON THE TRIGGER to America

My Life As An Independent Film Producer
by Sidney Pink

FINGER ON THE TRIGGER and I went back to New York together: I had exclusive selling rights for our part of the world and authorization by FISA to sign any reasonable deal that would return the invested capital. What everyone forgot, or perhaps didn't care about, were my expenses in New York. Gregorio didn't offer to advance the cost of the trip, and FISA had no funds (I was too damned arrogant and bull-headed to ask for help), so I arrived in New York with exactly $55 in my pocket and a credit card that I could use only to pay my hotel bill at the Taft (cheapest accommodations I could find with a reputable address).
It wasn't a king's ransom, but it was enough to keep me in Nedick hot dogs and orange juice for a little while...
My first sales call was Bill Heinemann of United Artists who tried to help me with BWANA DEVIL...
During our after-hours drink, Bill told me that while FINGER ON THE TRIGGER was an amazingly good Western, especially considering where it had been made, it was not of the class a major distributor would put its label on. He suggested I call on Allied Artists, the new corporate name for Monogram Pictures. It had recently been taken over by a wealthy young French Canadian, Claude Giroux, who had ambitions of making the company another major distributor. Bill knew Allied needed films badly, and FINGER ON THE TRIGGER was a film he felt they would promote as one of their major releases. I took his advice and never regretted it.
My next move was to make an appointment with Claude Giroux for a screening of our film. Three days later I met with Claude, who was accompanied by Allied's vice president, Roy Brewer, and Nat Nathanson, Allied's sales manager. I contacted Stan Turtletaub as well, and he and his production manager were also at the screening. Stan and I had become very friendly during our joint commercial stints for Pepsi, and the praise he received for those two commercials cemented our relationship. After reassuring my growling stomach that the hot dog diet would soon be over, we started the screening.
There was a hush after the last titles had faded; then Stan Turtletaub broke the silence with, "How the hell did you do that?" Then all the questions came at once. No one could believe that this authentic American-style Western had been made abroad. This same theme ran through all the trade paper reviews that were later published. Variety noted that "This typically American Western was made in, of all places, Spain," and I was given high honors as producer-director.
My gamble paid off - the reaction was better than expected. I knew FINGER ON THE TRIGGER was not a great movie and that its faults were easily noticeable, but what worked in our favor was that the picture did not look in any way foreign-made. It was the shock of seeing the great American West and the American Indians on a giant screen in a film made entirely outside the U.S. that caused all the excitement.
I am certain that had this not been the first Western made in Spain, it could not have been sold. I am far too familiar with the faults of the film to kid myself about its quality. I have only one reason to be proud: No one has ever noticed that Rory Calhoun was not in the entire film or that eighty percent of it was shot without the presence of our leading man. This is the one accomplishment for which I heartily congratulate myself.
Concluding the Allied Artist's deal was routine and perfunctory. The Allied people wanted the picture and made not bones about it. They gave us a good deal, guaranteeing $200,000 for Western Hemisphere rights, but as part of the deal, Giroux insisted on first refusal on all future pictures (he wanted to make a six-picture deal, which I was unable to discuss without FISA participation). That evening, Stan Turtletaub took me out to dinner, and while he didn't know it, we (my stomach and I) owe him a debt for saving our lives. I don't think I could have taken another hot dog after that exciting event. When I called Gregorio with the good news, I asked for and received $1,500 for expenses. Now, I could use my credit card for more than the hotel room. Thus FINGER ON THE TRIGGER became the catalyst for the first official marriage of TV and movies brought about by Stan Turtletaub and me.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


Director - Richard Pottier 1961
Cast: Roger Moore (Romulus), Mylene Demongeot (Rea), Folco Lulli (King Tazio), Francis Blanche (Mezio), and with the special participation of Rossana Schiaffino (Venus) and Jean Marais (Mars),Giorgia Moll (Lavinia), Scilla Gabel (Dusia), Marino Mase (Lino), Luisa Mattioli (Silvia), Nietta Zocchi (Ersilia), Dina De Santis (Marzia), Claude Conty (Tarquinio), Walter Barnes (Stilicone), Dada Gallotti (Flaminia), Lino Basile, Peter Dobric, Mariangela Giordano, Aldo Cecconi, Franco Abbina, Toni Basile, Niksa Stefanini.
Screenplay by Stephen Garrett, Frank Gregory
Directed by Frank Gregory
Recorded on Westrex Electric System
Italian Writer Credit: Edoardo Anton, Carlo Infascelli
Dialog Marc Gilbert Sauvajon
Co-Director in Yugoslavia Enrico Bomba
Director of Photography Adalberto Albertini
Music by Carlo Rustichelli
Music Publisher Nazionalmusic
Film Editor Enzo Alabiso, Yvonne Martin
Production Designers Rene Renoux, Pierre Tyberghein, Lamberto Giovagnoli
Costumes Adriana Spadaro
Production Manager Gino Rossi
Master of Arms Enzo Musumeci Greco
Makeup Faliero Maggetti, Giuseppe Peruzzi
Hairdresser Salvatore Cotroneo
Sound by Dial Press
Executive Producer Enrico Bomba
C.F.P.I. (Paris) FI.C.I.T. (Rome)
Not credited on U.S. print: Alexander Salkind, Dubrava (Zagreb).
Prod. Reg. 2519
1954's film version of SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS was such a success that it probably not only inspired the making of this slightly more literal version of the tale, but also the 1965 Italian Western SETTE PISTOLE PER I MACGREGOR (U.S.: SEVEN GUNS FOR THE MACGREGORS). Now THE RAPE OF THE SABINES was not a musical, but it also turned the story of a group of men abducting a group of women into a romantic comedy.
While this version of the Ancient Roman story kept the central idea that an almost entirely male city acquired the mothers of their society from a neighboring kingdom, very little else of the tale was. For while the title could be used for its "classical" status, a movie in which a hero justified the forcible subjugation of unwilling women would be hardly considered acceptable entertainment, even in the Europe of 1961. As it was, the idea that King Romulus hid a mistress in a cave outside of the city, and then spurned her after deciding that he now preferred a Sabine Princess was sexually candid enough for the times. Naturally, French audiences also got fleeting topless female nudity in their version.
As Stilicone, one of the three ambassadors sent by Romulus to the Sabine King Tazio, Walter Barnes was again cast for the brutish strength which had helped him become a successful football player. The ambassadors were sent to negotiate for some Sabine brides, which Tazio refused to provide, as he deeply wished for the end of Rome. Not surprisingly, the three ambassadors ended up becoming romantically involved with a trio of Sabine women frolicking in a nearby river. This plot development signaled the solution to a modern telling of this tale of abduction; the abducted women turn the situation against their abductors - staging a LYSISTRATA-like protest until Romulus came to an agreement of terms by which they became the brides of Rome.
There were only three real action scenes in this film. The first two were at the beginning showing the outlaw ways of the early Romans. In the first, they stole nearby sheep and then beat off the retaliation of the owners. Next, a Phoencian ship refused to pay a landing tax, for which the Romans set the boat aflame.
The final action scene occured when the fathers and brothers of the kidnapped women attacked to free them. Even though these soldiers were told that their women had become contented with their new husbands, the armed men attacked, mostly in an attempt to avenge their honor. The battle was stopped when the women threw themselves between the combatants, and also when King Tazio discovered that the city was celebrating their first birth. Considering how poorly staged these fights were, it was a good thing that the movie was more concerned with comedy and sex. Director Richard Pottier, who was born in Austria in 1906 but may have been French, wasn't able to enfuse much excitement into his 1959 co-directing effort with Ferdinando Baldi, DAVID E GOLIA (U.S.: DAVID AND GOLIATH), either. And his 1958 comedy TABARIN appeared to be dull as well.
Roger Moore made a dashing Romulus, but wasn't particularly convincing as the leader of a near barbaric tribe. Here, Romulus inflated his stature by telling all that he was a son of Mars, which turned out to be a real possibility when statues of Mars and Venus came to life over the hero sleeping in the temple. The two gods argue over the conduct of this mortal, with Venus emphasizing the importance of love. As the movie ended, it seemed that Venus won out.
Aside from the fantastic touch of having the gods showing up to offer a sleeping Romulus advice - particularly with Jean Marais' presence bringing to mind the work of director Jean Cocteau, the most impressive element of this movie was Scilla Gabel. As Dusia, a Phoenician woman stranded by a Roman attack on her ship, Gabel brought a believable ferocity to the role of a woman who agreed to become the hero's hidden lover. Unable to bring her into a city filled with lonely men, Romulus put this woman in a nearby cave and planned to visit her every night. Aside from finding the man attractive, the character played by Gabel hoped to become the queen of Rome when the time came when they could marry.
It was obvious from the time that our hero made his suggestion that his interest in the woman did not include marriage. Later, he became smitten with the blond Vestal Virgin Rea. Unfortunately, no matter how beautiful Mylene Demongeot was, her portrayal of Rea was off-puttingly pouty; suggesting that this King's daughter was incredibly spoilt and petulant. On the other hand, Scilla Gabel's Dusia was passionate and romantic. Our hero did her wrong by casting her aside for Rea, so her effort to aid the attacking Sabines by showing them a secret entry into Rome made emotional sense. The sympathy she generated was at odds with the filmmakers seeming attempt to have the audience rooting for Romulus and Rea to get together.
The main obstacle to the marriage of Romulus and Rea was that she was consecrated to Jupiter. It would be blasphemy for her to marry a man, even a man supposed to be the son of Mars. The solution to this was for them to run off - which sort-of negated the main point of the story; which was Romulus' desire to found Rome. Even though he said that his work was finished and that now was the time for a new king, leaving a city which had been presented as a shining hope for people seeking a new future was confusing. If Rome was going to be a solution to many of the problems of that time, where could this couple run off to for their happy ending? And the joke Romulus made about telling everyone that as a son of a god he was taken up to heaven didn't cover up the reversal of the story's main thrust.
As Venus, Rossana Schiaffino brought more loveliness to a movie already boasting Mylene Demongeot, Scilla Gabel, and Giorgia Moll. Along with old favorites like Franco Lulli, Jean Marais and Walter Barnes, there are many welcomed faces to be found in this movie. Unfortunately, the material wasn't really worth their efforts, but they would all appear in worse movies.
Roger Moore's efforts, however, were amply rewarded for it was during the making of this movie that he met his future wife, and the mother of his children. Luisa Mattioli. She played the woman with whom Walter Barnes fell in love. Reportedly, friends of Moore's wife, the singer Dorothy Squires, told her not to let him go to Italy alone. as he was obviously not happy in his marriage. But she had some singing engagements to honor. The fact that Moore was married and that Mattioli was Roman Catholic made the beginnings of their relationship a bit difficult, but eventually the legal wranglings were smoothed out.
Unfortunately, this second marriage reportedly ended in 1997, when Moore took up with another woman.
(Released on Unicorn Home Video.)

Saturday, October 3, 2009


My Life As An Independent Film Producer
by Sidney Pink

I was still shooting in Almeria, but I really didn't know what the devil I was doing. I improvised scenes and I improvised action with our gypsy Indians, but I desperately needed a leading man. All of Tony's efforts to get another Morris client were in vain.
I had a flash idea. My good friend Rory Calhoun was a Western star at least as well known as Victor Mature and a much superior actor. After a personal duel with Spanish operators, I finally managed to get through to a sleepy Rory Calhoun at 5 A.M. California time. After telling me what he thought of anyone who would so rudely awaken another at such an ungodly house, he listened to my tale of woe. He was full of sympathy but no hope. He was beginning a film in two weeks, and there was no way in which he could star in our film and complete his work and dubbing in the ten free days he could give me.
I knew how well I worked with Rory and what a tireless professional he was. I promised if he would take the next plane to Madrid and get to our location by Saturday, I would finish all his shooting in eight days and accomplish the dubbing in two days. I could send him back on the Wednesday before his next picture started. Sensing the extreme urgency in my voice, he agreed to come as requested. I am everlastingly grateful to Rory for pulling me out of that mess, and I know he knows it. If it hadn't been for his friendship, I don't believe this story could have been written.
Rory arrived as scheduled and he made the picture hum with cooperation and creativity. Rory and Jim Philbrook were old friends, and they worked together as a team. Rory took over the chore of directing our fight scenes, and he choreographed them with Philbrook and Todd Martin (he played the heavy) - and not only did he teach me how it was done, but his fight scenes turned out great. I didn't appreciate it then, but the luckiest thing to happen to me was the failure of Victor Mature and the help given to me by Rory Calhoun.
FINGER ON THE TRIGGER was a major milestone of my career. It became a smash hit in Europe, and did extremely well in the States and got excellent reviews. A whole new standard was set for European production, and the days of the spaghetti Western came into full bloom.
I don't know how many Westerns were made in Spain, but there were a lot and they were almost all successful. But I wasn't very smart. After the first showings of FINGER ON THE TRIGGER, I received a call from an Italian director, Sergio Leone, who asked if I would coproduce another Western with him. Since I was then the most knowledgeable Western producer-director in Europe, my services were sought after. When I asked Leone what the project was, he answered UN PUNO DE DOLARES (A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS) starring Clint Eastwood. Believe it or not, I refused immediately. I had never heard of Clint Eastwood and so my list of stupid decisions mounted. Of course that picture made motion-picture history. It is truly amazing how close you can come to fame and fortune and never even know it.
We finished FINGER ON THE TRIGGER with the help of Yakima Canutt. After Rory left, there were many sequences of Indian attacks, battle scenes, and individual stunt shots I felt I was not equipped to direct. Yakima Canutt had just finished the action shots of CIRCUS STORY. He was getting ready to return to the States when I learned of his availability. I contacted him and he agreed to shoot our action scenes for us.
I learned to love and respect this wonderfully talented Indian, who was never truly recognized by the industry he served for so many years. Yakima was the greatest stunt man in movie history, and his legacy survives in the stunt men he trained, (not to mention the entire falling-horse population of Europe). We spent a great deal of time together in too short a span, but our entire family learned to love this very decent, caring American. His recent death is a great loss to the business and the public he served so well. So long, Yak; this world of showbiz didn't deserve you.
(And so Sidney Pink joined the group of people who-could-have-worked-on-A-FISTFUL-OF-DOLLARS. And the movie that Canutt worked on was released as CIRCUS WORLD.)