Interviews With Cast And Crew - Non-Bond Films

CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,153MI6 Agent
edited April 3 in Off Topic Chat

Following on from the similar thread featuring interviews with cast and crew of Bond films, I have created this companion thread which will feature interviews with cast and crew of non-Bond films, but also interviews with Bond personnel who are not talking specifically about the Bond movies.

The first interview will be with Vladek Sheybal and will appear here soon…

Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.


  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,153MI6 Agent
    edited April 3

    Vladek Sheybal is interviewed by David Del Valle in Psychtronic #31

    Vladek Sheybal was born in Poland in 1933. The history of Poland is long, complex and tragic. When the future actor (originally named Wladylaw) was around six years old, his country was invaded by the brief unholy alliance of Stalin's Soviet Union and Hitler's Germany.

    The Nazis occupiers finally left in 45, followed by decades of Communist rule."l decided to be an actor when I was about four or five. My first part was as a mushroom in a school play, dancing and singing songs, it was very funny. I was nicknamed, at school, Aaor. My father was a professor at the Academy Of Fine Arts in Warsaw, and was a painter. He wanted me to become an architect. My Mother wanted me to become a doctor. And I was very much tempted to become a doctor because I'm born under the sign of a Pisces, to heal people and to be good to them. Suddenly, one day after the war, I walked into this drama school and I became an actor. The first jobs were theater, traveling in the south of Poland. Very old fashioned, very good theater. (One day) somebody twisted an ankle, so the director said, 'Vladek will play the part.' It was French comedy. I played the leading part, a young lover in a white powdered wig. A very good beginning. Then I was playing a considerable amount of big parts in the Warsaw theater. (Roman) Polanski was playing tiny parts. I remembered him because we were in the same dressing room for about one week. He was not talking about being a director. He wanted to be an actor then. He would look up to me then as a sort of already big star. He is now in Paris. I am still in touch with him (I shouldn't say that in this country!). I don't estimate him very highly as an actor. I saw him on the stage as Mozart in Amadeus, in French. He wasn't bad, but I couldn't believe in him as Mozart. He was technically very good. His main talent and genius is his fanatic ideas and observations of the lives of people, his scripts and as a director." Polanski, born the same year as Sheybal, acted in Polish fiims and directed his first shorts in 1959.

    His first major England language feature was FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (63), the classic second James Bond film. His friend Sean Connery convinced him to accept the role. Terence Young directed in England and Istanbul. "It was my first international film. I was playing Kronsteen the chess player. I was an accomplice of Lotte Lenya, a fantastic lady that I adored." In 65 he had a similar role as the as manager of a chess club in RETURN FROM THE ASHES, a serious WWll drama starring Maxmillian Schell, Samantha Eggar.

    British TV work included roles on series that were also broadcast in America: SECRET AGENT (starring Patrick McGoohan),THE SAINT (starring Roger Moore) and THE BARON (starring Steve Forrest).

    Sheybal was in the all-star Bond spoof CASINO ROYALE as a representative of Le Chiffre (Orson Welles) in the casino scenes. He then played Dr. Eiwort in BILLION DOLLAR BRAIN (67), the third of the Harry Palmer spy movies starring Michael Caine. It was directed by Ken Russell (in Helsinki and in Latvia) and featured Francois Dorleac, Karl Malden, Ed Begley, and Oscar Homolka. In 68 he played Dr. Delgado in DEADFALL, directed by Bryan Forbes (partially in Madrid and Majora). Michael Caine stars as jewel thief "in love with a woman who is married to her homosexual father." He also appeared on the spy series THE CHAMPIONS that year. JOURNEY TO THE FAR SIDE OF THE SUN was a 69 sci fi feature starring Ian Hendry, Roy Thinnes, and Herbert Lorn. Producers Gerry and Silvia Anderson' were known for their "Supermarionation" TV shows (THUNDERBIRDS, SUPERCAR...).

    PUPPET ON A CHAIN, based on the Alistair MacLean drug traffic novel, starred Sven-Bertil Taube and Barbara Parkins. The memorable speed boat chase sequence in Amsterdam was directed by Don Sharp. THE LAST VALLEY, directed by novelist )ames Clavell starred Michael Caine as a 17th century warrior, Omar Shariff, and Florinda Bolkan."! spent two days in the studio with Omar Shariff and Michael Caine." MOSQUITO SQADRON was a WWII drama starring David McCallum as a Canadian RAF piiot. Sheybal played Lt. Schack.

    “I usually play in American films. The bulk of my films are cast from London. I'm always working for MGM, Warner Brothers, Paramount... I love it because I fly first class jumbo jet and I stay in the first class hotels."

    During 70/71 he was a regular (Dr. Jackson) on Gerry and Silvia Anderson's UFO TV series which was syndicated in America. SCORPIO ( 73 ) was a spy movie directed by Michael Winner with Burt Lancaster and Alain Delon. "Alain Delon, I worked with him only one day, very professional very polite. I got to meet Burt Lancaster. We acted together for a split second. A charming man." The same year, THE KISS OF DEATH was an Italian feature with Martine Beswicke (also in FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE) as a devil worshipping drug taking gypsy witch. Sheybal plays her reptilian assistant. S*P*Y'*S* (74) was an unpopular comedy with Elliot Gould and Donald Sutherland as CIA agents. THE WIND AND THE LION (75) was John Milius' romantic historical adventure starring Sean Connery. Sheybal piayed an Arab called The Bashaw, the brother of Connery's character. THE NIGHT OF THE MARIONETTES was a 1977 episode of the BBC show SUPERNATURAL"! was playing the proprietor of an Austrian inn in the mountains with Gordon Jackson.Very spooky, very strange things going on. There is a very snobbish Dracula Society, The Gothique, I received a letter saying I was being awarded for the best Gothique performance of the year. They invited me to a fantastic sumptuous dinner. They handed me a scroll which I have framed on my wall. One of the first awards was Christopher Lee. They are very rich people, country squires."

    SMILEY'S PEOPLE (82) was a BBC mini series starring Alec Guinness as a spy in the 3rd of part of a John Le Carre trilogy. Sheybal was Otto Leipzig."! am very hard working for each part. I do my homework. I don't believe in talent or intuition. I believe in very hard work, then intuition takes over. When I'm in front of the camera I try to forget about my learned lines and start fresh. All this material that I worked on is already inside of me. I iiked very much, old fashioned theatrical actors like John Barrymore. I loved him. And nobody can equal Greta Garbo. She was very intelligent. She was working very hard. My very favorite actor on stage is Raiph Richardson. I didn't work with him but I worked with Sir Alec Guinness, on SMILEYS PEOPLE. I never understand these spy scripts. In Hamburg we were filming and I asked him 'What is our relationship?” he said 'I don't know. I only know that you are one of my men.'"

    RED DAWN (84) was John Milius' American teens vs. invading Commies feature. "It's science fiction about America being invaded by the Cubans and the Russians. I play the Russian general. I play the part in Spanish and Russian. I portray these Russian generals in a way that the world should tremble. I'm giving a big warning by piaying this part!" In JIGSAW MAN (84), Michael Caine is a British spy who has plastic surgery and defects. Lawrence Olivier, Susan George and Robert Powell costarred and Bond veteran Terence Young directed.

    Some of Sheybal's last roles were in features that few people saw.

    "After so many big stars, I could become completely cynical. For instance, I happened to know Bette Davis very well, we were close friends. I'm not a cynical man though. After so many films I've done, technically, one is so prepared. I shut off the noise, people walking around, the camera. I've learned it iong time ago. I'm always getting in close with the cameraman. He's my friend. I know all angles of my face. I have to have technical knowledge. I know quite a lot. I would rather direct. I'd rather not to watch myself on the screen because I get angry and ask why did I do that?.”


    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,153MI6 Agent

    Interview with RICHARD KIEL in Starburst #12 - In conversation with Tony Crawley.

    Richard Kiel is a pain in the neck. Looking up at him for an hour or so plays sheer havoc with the neck muscles. He’s rather tall, you see. Even when he’s sitting down, he’s tall. Ultra tall.

    He’s seated now, finishing lunch in Kensington. The wine bottles are open. He doesn’t have to use his steel teeth. But seated, he’s the same height as the waiters buzzing by with open mouths. Like me, they’re trying not to stare. But he does take some getting used to. Richard Kiel is used to people trying to get used to Richard Kiel.

    Richard Kiel weighs around 315 pounds. He wears size 17 shoes and a 19-inch collar. “It gives you a forced motivation,’’ he remarks about his enormous height. “I’m aiming for success in movies to support my life style.”

    If acting falls through for Kiel he has a sideline career to fall back on. Real estate. He I daren’t risk becoming unemployed. His frame , couldn’t take it. “I tried it once,” he remarks.

    Starburst: Having lately completed two sf movies — two-and-a-half, counting the high space quotient of Moonraker — I wonder what interest you might have in science fiction, per se.

    Kiel: I love it. I have nothing against it. I’d like to do other things as well, though. Like Force Ten From Navarone, and more comedy. I did a family-type comedy in the States. But it’s true, I’ve done plenty of science fiction, right back to The Human Duplicators in 1964. And I’ve written science fiction, in fact.”

    Such as .. .

    “I write short sf stories. One was called Strange Worlds Within, about the potential infinity within the atom. It dealt with Einstein’s mathematical theories; the idea that if you go far enough in one direction, you’ll end up back where you started from. Plus the fact that when I went to school, the atom was composed of three particles of matter: the electron, the proton and the neutron. Now, there’s hundreds and hundreds and hundreds'. And they all have elipitical orbits of the North and South Poles, even though they travel at the speed of light. That’s not unlike the universe and the galaxies and our earth going 400,000,000 miles in a year. Einstein said that if you were going close to the speed of light you’d appear to someone not going that fast, to be infinitesimal in size; yet inside the space craft, of whatever, you’d appear normal size to the people with you. So who knows? And I just took it from there. . . .

    I have a feeling you've turned down some sf or fantasy work, though. The Incredible Hulk, for example. Surely you were offered that series ?

    Well, yes, I was under contract to do The Hulk But I had some other things I wanted to do. First of all, I’m a family man. Then, I’m an actor. And the movie business is a business. I’ve been an actor for almost 19 years. I think The Hulk is wonderful. My two kids love it. But it’s not my thing. American television is a grind! But I was going to do it, because of the money, you know. For the family. I left by mutual agreement. Marvel Comics wanted a guy with more muscles, and I think it worked out to everyone’s benefit.”

    You mean you didn't want to turn green every week on tv, hmm ?

    “I don’t have any interest in playing somebody behind a mask. I like to make people cry, make people laugh, make people afraid, make people sad. Every actor has a big ego, of course, and part of the enjoyment of acting is not being Jaws, but being Richard Kiel playing Jaws. When you get into a part where you lose your identity completely, that isn’t any fun. Not for me. For some people, it’s fine. For the guy doing The Hulk, Lou Ferrigno, it’s great. I’m sure. He’s new. So this can only be a very gratifying experience for him.”

    But it's not your thing, as you say?

    No, it’s not for me. I’ve worked on Rifleman, Gilligan 's Island, I Spy and Barbary Coast. “Having played giants, psychopathic killers, retarded customers many times, I’ve run into the situation where the directors think I’m really like that. And the general public, through miscasting or whatever, seems to think the big guy has got to be a dullard. A big dummy. Of course it upsets me. I’m blessed with a pretty good aptitude. I could read Readers Digest when I was five. So I used to react when directors said they wouldn’t ask me to do anything too difficult. Now I see the funny side of it. I tell them; Look, I can walk and talk. If you want me to do something, just ask . . . though I realise it’ll be a big surprise to you!”

    Kiel prefers Intelligent directors. Top of his list — the current 007 boss, Lewis Gilbert. “He can see that I’m a human being.” It wasn’t always that way. His first film, Eegah!, in 1961, had Kiel playing ... a cave man. Since then he’s completed about twenty features including Otto Preminger’s Skiddoo, Robert Aldrich’s The Mean Machine (he was a fellow convict of Burt Reynolds), and he has just completed the thriller Silver Streak with Gene Wilder when he got the call to glory — the world’s favourite villain. Jaws.

    Were you offered the films of Conan or Thongor ?

    I have a very close rapport with my agent.He's been with me since the beginning. He knows  what I want to do. He doesn't even tell me about any offers for things I wouldn’t want to do. He knows that, for me, the play's the thing. Naturally, if I wasn’t doing anything, he might start looking at such offers differently. As of now we're looking for more sensitive roles, with all the facets of the emotions. A Cuckoo’s Nest, say. We're in a great time for actors like me. You don't have to look like Robert Redford anymore, or Dustin Hoffman. Alan Arkin and the guy that did Taxi Driver. De Niro. Films now can have different types of people in them. Sometimes it makes them more interesting.”

    Is that why you're in The Phoenix— made inTaiwan, of all places.

    “I guess they wanted to capitalise on the Bond . . . They certainly wanted me to make it very, very badly.”

    I can see the Bond connection: you play Steel Hands, right?

    “But when I got down there they wanted me to wear steel teeth . . .! I just told them: "Wait a minute, guys, I can't do that, you know." We shot it in Taiwan. With wooden cameras. I'm not kidding . . . ! A big part and a lot of work. They got 14 months work out of me in two weeks. Really incredible. I had to work hardest on staying alive — stopping them doing all the stunts with real swords.”

    What's the film about?

    “Ah! I play the protagonist. Can you imagine a 7ft 2ins houseboy with a sword and a top-knot thing on my head? And I think he's taken over by women’s libbers ... or something. I really don’t know. They didn't have a script in English. All I can say is that it helped me buy my house.”

    How do you cope without an English script? I managed. My feeling was that most Oriental films don't make the American market, unless they're quite good. My agent and I rationalised that if this turned out bad, well, it would never show up.”

    It couldn't harm you. then?

    “I'm not knocking it. I'm sure it will be a very interesting film. It's not that I'm not proud of it or anything. It was interesting to work on, and I feel it's a special Sinbad type film fantasyy for all the family. Probably it will run in the summertime in America as a children's programme — with a Disney or a Spiderman movie.”

    Italy's The Humanoid, therefore, must rateas a much better production ?

    “Oh yeah . . . ! The Humanoid is a $5-million film. It's very charming, a good story that nobody can mess up. It's such a strong story; a robodog and a little boy. . . . The Wizard of Oz in outer space. Kind of what Star Wars might have been.”

    Might have been? i thought that was Oz, exactly.

    “I'm not really comparing the two films. I'm Just saying The Humanoid has maybe a stronger storyline than Star Wars.”

    Every new sf film claims that.

    “The Humanoid's strength is not based on special effects alone. The effects are there.They're done by some of the people who did Superman and Star Wars. They spent a lot of money on them, but they're not relying on the effects. Here's where you have a good story, surrounded by special effects, rather than the effects being the entire film.”

    Your title role of Golob. sounds at first, more deadly than Jaws. But you're not a  robovillain, all steel from head to toe, I understand. You start off as a reasonably average chap and you're zapped into being this humanoid creature.

    “Yeah, he's victimised. I'm a protagonistagain. . . .”

    With your build, what else?

    “Golob is a space sailor, just doing his job-up there in outer space, with a robodog to keep him company. He has this big brother image: not the 1984 image, more like any kid's big brother. When he’s changed, his world isn't totally taken from him. The leaders of his world remove the sensors implanted in his wrist by the villain— the control— and then Golob is on their side and ends up being a major factor in overthrowing the evil forces.”

    He even sacrifices himself in the end, to save them, doesn't he?

    “Not now. We changed that. It ends now with a full sunset shot, walking off to the sequel bit. It's another family film, really. It has fantasy and everything, and there’s a kind of subtle romance between Corinne Clery and myself. At the end, I think you’ll feel that maybe Golob isn’t going to be so much of a loner. He’s found friends. It's a very good part for me.”

    And for another alumuniis from both The Spy Who Loved Me and Force Ten From Navarone. . . .

    “Yeah. Barbara Bach plays the evil one. Lady Agatha. She chose the more dramatic of the two female roles. It required more acting than just being another beautiful heroine again.”

    Who took over Donald Pleasance's role of the inevitable power-crazed villain ?

    “Arthur Kennedy. He's very good.”

    You sound high in the film. Yet Italian movies, and particularly those of an sf nature — Starcrash, jor instance — can he one hell of a mess during shooting.

    “Absolutely! The big difference here was not my control, nor Arthur Kennedy's, nor anyone's in the cast. It was the Titanus company's interest in getting into the English-speaking market. It's difficult to make a film just for Italy these days and still make any return (or break even) on the original investment. So this film was pre-sold to a major television network in America, it was pre-sold to Columbia for European release and to American-International in the States. And that meant a lot of conditions. It was not to be a typically spaghetti Star Wars. It had to have a quality that the American and English audiences expect.”

    And has it ?

    “I've seen some of the film and, again, it's not an effects movie. The effects are just there. This is a story. It's about people. And it happens to take place in the future. So it needs special effects to achieve that look, and it looks pretty good. We had some difficulties. For instance, we tried to shoot it with direct sound, which is a departure for the Italians, who post-synch all the dialogue in their films, as you probably know. Very difficult to shoot direct sound. You tell an Italian that he can't make a noise on the set and he doesn't understand.”

    You mention your control before . . . Can you ec-lain that ?

    “My conditions were having total script approval. But I'm not an unreasonable person, so I didn't have any problems in that area. The director. George B. Lewis (his real name, by the way, is Aldo Lado) is keen on becoming a world-wide director, not just another Italian film-maker. When I gave him a four-page synopsis of my feelings towards my character of Golob, he jumped up and down with joy. There were a lot of ideas he hadn't considered, some of these sparked him off to other ideas— and they fitted in with what I had in mind. We got on fine. He was just delighted that, you know. I cared.”

    Apart from the Bonds, do you have a particular favourite among your films?

    “The Human Duplicators was a good role. It could — it should!— have been much a better movie. But I don't think the people set out to make a Day The Earth Stood Still. They set out to make money.”

    Who are "they" ?

    “The Woolner brothers, Murray and David Woolner. They didn't take the care it needed. There was a lot of miscasting and things like that.”

    A British critic said it had all the panache of Roger Corman re-making Metropolis, minus cohesion and coherence. Your character, Kolos, dropping in from an alien galaxy, started cloning everyone in sight, I seem to remember: George Nader and company.

    “Hmm. I preferred the other side of the visitor. That gave me an opportunity to be sensitive. I had a relationship with the blind girl in it. Dolores Faith, restoring her sight before departing, defeated and obviously returning home to destruction as a failure. I liked the role. But like I say, the film should have been better. It was good practise for me, put it that way.”

    So was The Spy Who Loved Me, a full thirteen years later. All your new films are a direct result of your immense triumph as Jaws. How did you net that part ?

    “Because of a television series in America, which came about because of a film I did with Burt Reynolds; The Mean Machine (US title: The Longest Yard). They were the small steps that led to Jaws. Barbary Coast was just another unsuccessful tv series sold to Britain . . .! We made only thirteen weeks of it. Westerns just weren't in and we had a lot of competition on the other networks. You know, over there you can have 11,000,000 people watching and it's not enough — 18,000.000 is the bottom line! It's all numbers. Even the actors have ratings.”

    You're joking ?

    “No. They're called TVQ— television quotients. Alan Alda, of MASH, has been leading the list of 365 names for years! They put your name into a computer to decide if they'll cast you. It's all based on your commercial appeal. And I couldn't even get an interview for Barbary Coast. Who knows why? Some political or financial thing with the casting people, or my TVQ didn't measure up, I don't know. I eventually sent a registered letter to the producer asking to be seen, feeling I was right for the show. His secretary had seen The Mean Machine and i think she persuaded him to see me. So I did the series, all thirteen weeks. BBC, I think, bought it here and Lewis Gilbert's continuity script supervisor saw it, mentioned me to him, suggesting that he and Cubby Broccoli should see me for Jaws. That's how I got it.”

    Did you see right off what the role might do for you ?

    “I was a little frightened of it to start with. It has all the ingredients for a cartoon character. It could have been just a little too much ... I met with Cubby, we had lunch, and I told him I'd like to bring more of Richard Kiel into the part. Rather than play a stone-faced killer, I wanted some humour, humanism, perseverance, to give Jaws a child-like quality, that made him forgiveable no matter what he did. The kind of things that Boris Karloff brought to the original Frankenstein monster.”

    It sure worked. Though my little daughter will never forgive you for terrifying her.

    ” I've seen that Bond film in about thirty countries. I've yet to see the audience not applaud and cheer Jaws. They shot two endings, you know. They didn't know what to do with him. It was Lewis Gilbert who had his hand on it more than I did. I tried to do something different, but I never realised how important it was to do a Bond film.”

    Well, until you came along it was more usually the girls who made good out of an 007 caper. Now you're back again in Moonraker — and on Bond's side this time?

    “That's right. I have a girlfriend as well. But I'd rather not talk too much about Moonraker. There's too many surprises in it. Let's just say the implication is that next time we see Jaws, he'll be pushing a baby carriage.”

    With his teeth, you mean !


    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,213Chief of Staff

    That was a very good read, thanks CHB.

  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,153MI6 Agent

    This is the first of a whole bunch of Hammer interviews in the coming weeks. Francis Matthews in Hammer Horror #2 1995 Interviewed by Adam Jezard.

    You never know who you’ll meet when interviewing Francis Matthews. One moment the actor, who starred in Hammer's The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958), Dracula Prince of Darkness and Rasputin the Mad Monk (both released 1966), is a charming, amusing man - the next, his eyes are bulging, his face is contorted into a strange expression and his voice is faultlessly mimicking a personality or two. It’s all part of the actor’s craft, but the scope of his imitations is so vast - one moment an American producer, the next Peter Cushing - that he might have been a successful impressionist.

    Now in his mid-60s, Francis presents a dapper figure, even in jeans and T-shirt. He recently completed an episode of The Detective’s, with Jasper Carrott, Robert Powell and George Sewell. “I played the Earl of Connemara, and Idid it like Rex Harrison," he says, changing voices in mid-sentence to give his Impression of the My Fair Lady star.

    Following an initial Hammer outing in 1958’s The Revenge of Frankenstein, Francis returned to the company in 1965 to co-star in Dracula Prince of Darkness and Rasputin the Mad Monk (directed by Terence Fisher and Don Sharp respectively). Hammer, in a bid to reduce costs, made the two films back-to-back on the same sets with the same stars. What did Francis remember most about the films? “Barbara Shelley was a wonderful lady. So was Suzan Farmer. We did our job, we had giggles at lunchtime, a drink after the day’s shooting and we were great pals, wonderful pals, on the shoot. Christopher Lee was fun - a bit stiff, but my goodness, he was good as Rasputin."

    The filming of two movies back to back might seem a complicated business, but Francis says, for the actors at least, it all worked very simply. “Four of the cast of both films were the same; Christopher, Barbara, Suzan and myself.

    "When we had finished the interiors, the cast went off to Black Park [near Slough, around 30 minutes away from Bray by car to film the scenes with the horses and in the woodman’s hut. While we were doing that, the crew at Bray had started to revamp all the castle sets [which occupied the whole of one sound stage], turning them into the interiors for Rasputin.

    "They were the same sets. The crew probably just moved the staircase over a bit and then re-papered the walls and changed all the pictures. It was all very well organised. We filmed Dracula’s death scene [in the castle moat] last, then started shooting on Rasputin. We did it in ten weeks, five for each film. On Friday you finished shooting one and on Monday you came in and started filming the next, with a different director and different costumes. Then, while filming on the Rosputin interiors, the outside of Dracula's castle was transformed into the Winter Palace."

    In addition to the sound stages, the house was still used for interior shots. The inn from the Dracula film, in reality a corridor in the house, is the same as the St Petersburg bar in Rasputin, but with different decorations and seating arrangements.

    Francis has particularly fond memories of filming the end of the Dracula film, as his younger brother (actor Paul Shelley, currently starring in Granada's Revelations) came onto the back lot and shot an 8mm home movie for the family archives. Much of the footage was seen in the BBC’s Fleash and Blood documentary last year.

    A day at Bray could last a long time. If you were on first call, you would be in make-up before 6.30am and on the set within an hour. In between scenes, actors played games, rehearsed and “had wonderful lunches."

    “We had wonderful potato cakes and bacon butties made by a lovely lady who ran the . . . well, you couldn’t it the canteen, you couldn't even call it a restaurant. It was a room in the house. There was a kitchen and a little hatch to put food through. It was just like being at home, and the food was wonderful out of this world. The mashed potatoes left over from lunch she would make into fried potato cakes for breakfast. You ate all day long and got very fat. And you would sit together with the crew. There was none of that class thing that you got in the commissaries of the big studios, where the directors, the executives and the money men would sit in a separate area, the stars in another and the supporting players in another. The crew wouldn't even be able to afford to eat in the commissary, it was too expensive, so they’d go to the canteen. But at Bray, everybody ate and worked together. It was like a family - there were no temperaments, no hold-ups, no dramas, no disasters, no union problems. It was film-making at its best, even though you weren’t making Lawrence of Arabia, because the actors were all friends and the stars didn’t come the big ‘I am’. You knew everybody. 1 knew the technicians and even the man who designed the sets would come and chat to me. It was a lovely time.

    Script revisions were apparently rare - “an occasional word or two" - and the filming schedule was planned down to the last detail, as you would expect from a studio renowned for turning out low-budget movies on time.

    In the 1987 BBC documentary, The Studio that Dripped Blood, Tony Hinds said Hammer made the films back-to-back to keep the costs down at the request of the money men. This struck Francis as incredible. “They were terribly cheap already, God knows how much Columbia [the distributing and backing company] made out of them. I've got a picture hanging in the loo of when the money men came to visit. One of the men from ABC [Associated British Cinemas, part of the distribution chain] came to be photographed with Tony Hinds, Tony Nelson Keys and the cast.

    “Tony Nelson Keys was the associate producer, which meant he was on set all the time. He was a gorgeous, funny little gingerhaired man. Tony Hinds was more distant, but he had more problems on his back. He was in association with Carreras, the studio head, he was very friendly but pre-occupied. A very nice man as far as actors were concerned - he’d give you the time of day and he'd have a chat and a coffee. Most of the time he had people talking to him about money, the next script or the next set. He was also writing the scripts (under the pen-name of John Elder] so he was involved in many other films. Tony Nelson Keys was usually keeping the actors happy, keeping everyone Jolly, and coming onto the set and saying;

    ‘Are we going to shoot now, Terry? We’ve got to turn the film out . . . ’ "

    There were differences between the direction of Fisher and Sharp. "Don was a much more hands-on director, a real director - God forgive me, this is nothing against Terry. But Terry smoked his cheroots and drank his coffee and just said; 'It’s lovely, lovely. Are you ready Jack? Francis. Peter, come on let's have a look.' Then he’d say; 'Lovely, let’s shoot’.

    “Some of my acting in that is quite awful. If you pick up the film from the scene when I find my brother with his throat ripped out, then I see my wife being attacked by a man with strange teeth and my sister-in-law tries to bite me, and something else dreadful happens . . . Then Andrew Keir takes me back to his monastery and I have this chat with him, and my performance in that is quite awful. A man in those circumstances would have either fainted or died of a heart attack.

    He would say nothing. Instead, I’m doing all this tense acting; ‘What am 1 going to do? What are we going to do?' When I see it now. I keep thinking 'don't do this’.

    "But why didn’t Terry say, 'Francis, just don’t do anything’? You know, get more out of doing less.

    Like Hitchcock, Terry should have just put me in front of the camera and said ‘don’t do anything’.

    “Now Don’s much better at that - a very lively, very interested director, very busy. He was a marvellous action and second unit director. My part in Rasputin was my smallest, but my favourite for Hammer because I made the role of Ivan into a character."

    In the film, Ivan eventually agrees to help Rasputin’s enemies destroy him and, in a scene which gave Francis much enjoyment, he decoys the monk into an ambush. I made Ivan camp in that scene. I said to Don; 'Can I make him look a bit as though he fancies Rasputin?' and Don agreed.

    “When we were running up to filming Rasputin, Chris wasn’t in Dracula so he kept popping into the studios, preparing for the role. He had all these books on the histories of the Tsars, so we spent a lot of time during breaks in filming reading the books. Chris would give me a book and say ‘you’d better read that if we’re going to do it properly', so I knew the whole history."

    Francis says that, due to legal problems, Hammer couldn’t tell the real Rasputin story. In 1932, the man who killed Rasputin, Prince Yousoupoff, successfully took out a libel writ against MGM for their film, Rasputin and the Empress (ironically, this was released in Britain as Rasputin the Mad Monk).

    Francis’s grievances regarding the film lie elsewhere. "The saddest part of that particular movie for me, my great regret, was that I spent three days doing a fight scene. It was wonderful, that final scene with Rasputin. He should have been poisoned with cake but for some daft reason we gave him chocolates. Anyway, we filmed it pretty much more or less as Yousoupoff describes. Of course, we changed the name to Kesnikov because of the legal situation, but then they left it all out. It’s a terrible cut. I come into the room beautifully dressed, all smart and neat, and see Rasputin, poisoned but not dying. Then Richard Pasco [as another would-be assassin. Dr Zargo] comes in. The next thing you see is us chucking him out of the window, and I’ve got cuts and bruises everywhere. I’m covered in muck and my hair is all over the place . . . and you think; ‘Oops, what happened?’

    “It took us 3 days to film that fight. Not with Christopher, he wouldn’t do it. I did mine because that was what I enjoyed about movies - action scenes. So I did the fight with [Lee’s] double. I was slamming him and he was slamming me. It was wonderful. I’ll never know why they cut it. The end of the film now is so truncated and disappointing.

    You’ve worked up to this moment of us poisoning him, but he doesn’t die, then I come in thinking we’ve got him, but he’s survived the poison and we go into the fight. The whole film’s built up to that moment, but they cut it."

    Looking back on his work for Hammer, how does Francis view it now? “I have to be honest," he sighs, "none of us took those films seriously at all. I don’t understand the cult success of them. It’s like Captain Scarlet [Francis provided the voice for the indestructable hero] which I knocked off in a week 27 years ago, and all I get now is people requesting my autograph on a picture of the puppet! It's ridiculous. All my other work, my important work, which I care about and have respect for, is ignored.

    'T’m not knocking these films, they're very good of their kind, and very successful. But there was a great snob thing about them then. You didn’t tell people you were doing them."

    Francis also played in a number of cult television shows, including two episodes a-piece for The Avengers and The Saint. Of his Avengers work, he says: “In the first [The 13th Hole, broadcast in 1966] I played a golf professional. I had to learn to play the game, because I had never hit a golf ball in my life and I was supposed to be playing a club pro. The first ball I hit did a 180 yard drive. It was incredible, and the trainer we had thought I was a natural, but I’ve never hit a golf ball since.”

    In his second episode (Mission . . . Highly Improbable. 1967), he is an enemy agent named Chivers who shrinks Emma Peel and John Steed down to size with a stolen weapon.

    “I was miniaturised or something. I had to handle a big black frog in that one, and I hated it, and there was this frog chasing me. Urrgh!

    “In one of the Saint episodes I played a Frenchman who got very angry and had a fight with Roger Moore [ 1967’s To Kill a Saint, directed by Robert Asher, brother of Jack, the director of photography on The Revenge of Frankenstein]."

    Francis also appeared in a 1969 film Crossplot, produced by the same team which made The Saint television series and starring Roger Moore. He played a hired killer attempting to kill Moore, an innocent advertising man caught up in a Hitchcock-style plot. "Roger was, and is. the nicest man in our profession, a lovely man."

    In 1969, Francis took the leading role in the BBC’s Paul Temple. Temple was the total opposite of girl-hunting characters such as the Saint and James Bond. To start with, he was married and wrote books on criminology. While Temple was sometimes called upon to engage in fisticuffs, he mostly solved his mysteries with his wits rather than with car chases and gun fights.

    The series, currently being repeated on satellite staion UK Gold, was a huge hit and ran for 52 episodes. Despite this, Francis looks back on the show as a wasted opportunity. Although supposed to last 5 years, the BBC ended the show’s run early, much to Francis’s dismay.

    “It’s the thing, more than the horror films, which made me well known. It’s also the worst thing I’ve done, except for some scenes in Dracula, but it was the most popular. It made me high-profile. I don’t know why the BBC dropped it. It was good for me in a way, it forced me not to get stuck in the character, but it was sad because it was so well-liked by people."

    However, at the moment Francis is best remembered for providing the voice of Captain Scarlet, a fate in which, ironically, his one-time idol Cary Grant played a hand.

    “Gerry Anderson heard me on some Interview doing an impression of Cary Grant and he rang me up and asked if 1 would do the voice for a new series, so I said yes.”

    He and the other cast members (including Charles Tlngwell, who co-starred in Dracula Prince of Darkness) went into the studios at Denham in Buckinghamshire and recorded 4 or 5 episodes a day. “They just played your voice through the electronic voice activator, which moved the puppet’s mouth. We'd spend 5 or 6 hours in the studio and did them just like radio plays." Only on the last week of shooting did Francis go to Anderson’s Slough-based studio to see the puppets in action. But he did take his two eldest sons to see a preview of the series which gave him an early sign of the success it was to have with children everywhere.

    “The thing came on with the two eyes and you heard; ‘This is the voice of the Mysterons’, and my first son, Paul, went ‘aargh' and ran out of the previewing room and started crying, The producer said; ’Oh my God, we’ll be sued!’ But Dominic, the pop star, a much more sanguine boy, loved it. I said: 'For every child who runs out, you'll have one who'll adore it.’ " 


    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,213Chief of Staff

    Francis Matthews! Fantastic! But he doesn't mention what was surely the highlight of his career ....

  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,153MI6 Agent

    And coming up soon…

    I wonder if he was ever paid in the end?…

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,153MI6 Agent

    This is a transcript of an interview with Peter Cushing broadcast on BBC1’s PEBBLE MILL.

    Date: 31st October, 1991.

    Interviewer: Alan Titchmarsh.

    A.T: You did a lot of work with Vincent Price and Christopher Lee. Do you have a lot in common as a trio?

    P.C: Oh no! I mean we don't see each other for years but when we meet it's like yesterday. Dear Vincent lives in America, dear old Christopher lives in London and is all over the world doing things. But we keep in contact and we ring and, strangely enough, Vincent's the eldest, I'm the middle and dear old Christopher's the baby. Our birthdays fall... mine falls on the 26th May, please make a note of that, the other two on the 27th. So it's extraordinary. . .Gemini isn't it? Not that I know much about these things.

    A.T: You did some work quite early on in Hollywood. Who did you work with?

    P.C: I had been in repertory since 1936 and after about four years I realised my great ambition to go out and work in Hollywood and see where Tom Mix lived. Tom Mix, in my day, was a sort of John Wayne. So, having saved up a tiny bit of money, I asked my dear dad if he would help me to get across the pond. He said yes and gave me a one-way ticket, which worried me a bit. But upon enquiry he said "If you don't succeed you will have to swim home, so that should give you some sort of inspiration, my boy."

    A.T: Now I've heard you actually worked with Laurel and Hardy.

    P.C: Yes! Yes, well I was only a glorified extra. But it was wonderful; to think I've worked with the two greatest American comics, although Laurel's English, and the two greatest English ones, Morecambe and Wise. That was one of the jobs I got, the one with Laurel and Hardy, during the period of my deciding to try and get home before I succeeded. But I made quite a number of very small pictures in Hollywood during my first time.

    A.T: Were you a great fan of Eric and Ernie, in spite the fact they never paid you?

    P.C:- Oh, I adored them, I think they were so clever, absolutely wonderful. I don't know if you saw any of them, but there was a most wonderful running gag. I appeared with them seven or eight times, and each time I was demanding to be paid for my first one, and they kept getting away with it. And right at the very last one I did with them, I succeeded, I got my money. Then dear Morecambe had his first heart attack and was asked by the press, after he'd got better, if he'd ever paid me. He said "Yes, and look what happened to me!

    (There now followed a clip of Peter on The Morecambe and Wise Show) .

    A.T: Having played a lot of goodies in bad situations, you did get to play a real baddie in STAR WARS. But I heard a little rumour that you actually played him in a pair of carpet slippers. Now, is this true?

    P.C: Where do you get all this information from, my dear boy? Yes, true. Usually, Bermans do my clothes. I've got enormous feet, size 12, and they make my boots for me. But this time they had to give me a pair from stock and they were agony, they really were. I was staggering around, and I said "Look, George, dear boy, I'm not asking for close-ups, but do you think from now on you could shoot me from the waist up. I cannot bear these, I'm not giving the performance I should." So he agreed and there I was stomping around in a pair of carpet slippers!

    A.T: I hear you've now gone into the pop world?

    P.C: Well yes, it's a lovely antiwar poem. We will turn it into a rap record. I said, in all my innocence, "Is that what you do for Christmas, wrap it up?" And they said "No, No!" So I said well I'm fasinated who likes this sort of thing and they said watch Top Of The Pops. This I did, and I'm still deaf! But I think, as I said earlier, it is an anxious mission to entertain. If I can entertain today's children, kids, with that sort of thing I am absolutely delighted

    (The interview concluded with a clip from the video of the single. Peter appears in the video, complete with baseball cap and an American college jacket!)


    I’ve never seen that - would love to see it 😁

    There will be another, more detailed interview with Peter Cushing at a later date where he talks extensively about Hammer Films and in particular the latest one he did at that time…Dracula A.D. 1972.

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,213Chief of Staff

    I'd love to read that. Thanks for this, CHB.

  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,153MI6 Agent

    Director Val Guest talks Quatermass, dinosaurs and more with Adam Jezard from Hammer Horror #7 1995.

    How was Val chosen to direct the studio's first horror, The Quatermass Xperiment?

    “Tony Hinds gave me a stack of scripts to read while I was on holiday in Tangier. These were beside my bed for a good week or so before my wife, Yo [actress Yolande Donlan| asked me what one of them was. I said, 'Oh, its some sci-fi, horror thing Tony wants me to read, but it really isn't my scene.' And Yo said, 'Have you read it?' I said 'No,' and she said, 'Why not? Since when have you been ethereal?' So 1 read it, and I was immediately hooked, and that’s how I came to do Quatermass . . .

    "What I did say to Tony Hinds was that, if I was going to do it, I was going to do it almost factually, as a newsreel or reportage. No science-fiction film had been done like that before." Hinds agreed, and Val duly set about rewriting Richard Landau's draft screenplay, itself taken from Nigel Kneale's television scripts. “The problem of condensing the serial can be best described as picking out the best bits and leaving the second best bits," says Val

    "It was nothing less than a miracle really," he says. “I wasn't into horror and I was probably one of the few people who hadn't watched the television serial that was gripping the nation. Now, in doing this, you make an enemy of the writer, in this case Tom |Nigel Kneaie|, but that’s life in this picture business. The writer always feels you've taken out the best parts and the film-maker has to say, 'This is what I think people will sit through without shuffling their feet,' and has to take the decision of what to cut.”

    "In all my years in this film industry 1 cannot remember anybody who had more upsets, worries and grumbles I have heard - from other people - that Nigel Kneale has. He seems to go through life grumbling about everything. He didn’t like the casting of Donlevy. he didn't like the way the script was written, he was upset about the first Quatermass film because he thought we'd ruined the whole thing. I quite honestly think he should shut up and thank his lucky stars that Hammer took a television writer, of immense talent and brilliance, and turned him into a world-wide name in his genre. Even the most brilliant writer needs an editor, someone to sub his stuff down and peddle it to the public so they won't go away yawning. I have great respect and admiration for him. but I cannot stand hearing about all these things he's supposed to have complained about over the years."

    And Val is full of praise for the star of his Quatermass films, Brian Donlevy.

    "Donlevy was a very good actor," he says, “and for my money it was far better to play someone as down-to-earth and factual, as he was, than it was to play him as an ethereal professor. He fitted in beautifully with my method of trying to film it as a newsreel and make it more believable. The whole thing with all these pictures was to never do a scene that you didn't honestly believe couldn't happen. For me. Donlevy gave a down-to-earth feel to a very off-the-Earth subject.

    The casts of the first two Quatermass films were full of household names - Sid James, Thora Hird, and lack Warner among them. "I used to have a sort of film rep company," says Val, “and a lot of these people, like Sid lames. I used to write in. I hadn't worked with Jack Warner before, but I knew him. Thora Hird I'd used before. They were all part of our family. We had fun and everybody knew their business. If they weren’t pros, we wouldn't use them again."

    Val also gave new talent a try and, in The Quatermass Xperimenl. featured a relative newcomer to film, Lionel Jeffries. as Blake, the man from the Ministry.

    "Thereafter, I wrote Lionel into every other film I did,” says Val.

    Even in its early days. Hammer was mostly concerned with bringing the production in on budget and on schedule. "I can't remember how much money we had," says Val, "it was normal sort of budget, it was very small. Schedule? I don’t know, I think had about six weeks. Eight weeks was tops." As was so often the case. Hammer made use of the resources on its doorstep: in early scene, a police car cruises past crowds of people while Bray Garage can be seen clearly in the background. Hammer also persuaded local fire and ambulance crews to take part. "The crews were very helpful," remembers Val. "We had no problems, we Just asked for their co-operation and we got it." While the occasional villager may have been seen in the background, most of the extras were jobbing actors. "There was a crowd artistes' union associated with Equity |the actors' union) and you had to use a certain amount of them unless you were more than 52 miles away from London. However, the odd local did turn up and make the place look a little bigger.”

    Given the film's urban setting, Val and his crew didn’t have to go very far to find the locations they needed. “We used a lot of the cobbled ways of old Windsor, the little streets below the castle. That’s where we shot the break-in at the chemist s shop ... We shot the finale using the outside of Westminster Abbey, but we never shot inside. The interiors were shot at Bray."

    Special effects were still fairly primitive in the 1950s. Val had the difficult task of realising the crash-landing of the spaceship, Richard Wordsworth's transformation from man into mess, and the scenes of the giant creature in Westminster Abbey, without the aid of computer enhancement, trick photography or expensive special effects teams.

    "You may have thought you saw the crash-landing, but you never did. The only thing we shot was the spaceship, embedded in the ground resting against a tree on the backlot. It was built there, and our art director (Elder Wills) did a great job. But that huge spaceship was there on the backlot for quite a long time.

    “Wordsworth's transformation was the brilliant work of Hammer's make-up man, Phil Leakey. He was with them for years and did some wonderful jobs. That, again, was done without trick photography or stop-motion, but painstakingly, from shot to shot. I suppose many times it did look like you were seeing him change. The creature in the zoo you never saw either. You may have thought you saw it, but you never did. I shot it so that you saw a shadow, you heard it moving, you saw the slime trail that it left, but you never, ever, saw the creature.

    "Now, in Westminster Abbey, you did. You got a glimpse of it up in the rafters. That was down to Les Bowie, our special effects man, who was a great guy. The thing up in the rafters was a piece of tripe which he had manipulated into some form of life. Such is the wizardry of special effects, but that's all you saw."

    The BBC had shot the original television serial (broadcast in 1955) at the huge Shellhaven oil refinery on the Essex coast, and at the nearby Mucking Marshes, which had stood in for Winnerden Flats, the village which had mysteriously 'disappeared'. Shellhaven proved so effective in the television version that Val also shot his Quatermass sequel there.

    "Shell were very good," he recalls. “A production manager went down and saw them and made a deal. I don't remember seeing very many people down at the Shellhaven refinery. I think most of the operational tasks were done from inside the control house, so it was a very eerie place because of that."

    Val's documentary-style method put Quatermass 2 ahead of its time. Despite these forewarnings of the terrors of mysterious 'new towns' and strange scientific processes, Val doesn't believe the films were Intended to reflect contemporary fears. "I think saying that is reading something Into it that wasn’t really there, unless Nigel Kneale says it was. You'll have to take that up with the author."

    While the film is a stark and grim entertainment, there were laughs to be had on location. One of these involved Brian Donlevy's toupee, which unfortunately developed a life of its own while on location on the South Downs near Brighton. "We’d gone to the Downs because they were supposed to be windswept," says Val, "and they weren't." Consequently, the studio had to hire in aeroplane engines to create the hurricane sequence at the end of the Film. "As Brian wore a toupee, we knew we had to be careful filming the hurricane. We had God knows how many engines lined up to blow this gale because there was no wind at all, and those engines were turned on and had to blow at the actors - that was our hurricane. But to do that I had to arrange it so that in all the scenes, Donlevy faced the wind machines, or his toupee would have blown off. We did it all very successfully until one take, a very difficult shot, which we had tried a couple of times. Finally I said. ‘That's a beauty, cut.' Donlevy said, ‘Oh, great, now I can have a coffee.' but he turned around and his toupee took off and floated around like a bat. even after we’d turned the wind machines off. The props were throwing rakes at it trying to get it down and save it. They eventually did bring it down and it had to be resurrected by the hairdressing department."

    Given the small budgets and the technical limitations on the Quatermass films, did the stories rely more on the characters to tell the plot than a modern film would?

    “I don’t really think so." says Val. "All you had to do was make a very good story. To tell a good story, you need good characters. I don’t think we had to do that more than modern films do. If you’re saying that, you're implying modem films are bloody awful because they don’t rely on characterisation - and you may have a point, I don’t know."

    Immediately after Quatermass 2. Hammer turned to Kneale's 1955 BBC television play The Creature, changing the title to The Abominable Snowman. Once again. Guest and Kneale were retained as director and writer respectively. Although Kneale was the only writer credited on the project and the film retained a principal star from the television version, the team still experienced familiar difficulties. "We had to cut the script to make it more cinematic," Val recalls. "It had sounded a bit like standing on a soapbox and pronouncing theories - all very well, but only to a certain extent.”

    The script dealt with the potential extermination of an entire species.

    "It was a good message then and it's a good message now," says Val. "That was all down to Nigel Kneale, it was his story and his script. All I had to do was edit it again and bring it a little down-to-earth and down to size, which again I believe poor Tom was very upset about. Poor Tom. He's wasted an awful lot of his life being upset. It's a shame he can’t enjoy the success that he's had."

    According to the director, The Abominable Snowman wasn't rushed into production in a bid to capitalise on the success of the Quatermass team's previous efforts. "I made it because I was interested in the subject. It was nothing to do with Quatermass at all. It was a very good story and the Snowmen had been in the news. Some very well-known and respected people had found a footprint and it had been very well covered by the press. It was a very up-to-date subject to tackle, way away from Quatermass. You see, I happen to believe there is something in the mountains, an animal or a man-animal, that we haven’t really seen. People say they have had glimpses - I'm quite prepared to believe that."

    Val continued to work for Hammer on and off, making films which were equally hard-hitting but based more in reality, including war movies The Camp on Blood Island (1958) and Yesterday's Enemy (1959), and crime thrillers Hell is a City ( 1960) and The Full Treatment (1961). These films were at the forefront of what became known as the wave' of realistic, gritty films, and were soon overtaken in terms of screen sex and violence. But why did Val choose to introduce such realistic elements into his films? "I always felt that if you were taking a new look at a familiar subject you should present it in a new fashion." he says. "You can’t do this with all subjects, but (those] seemed to lend themselves to my cinema verili style of film-making. It was a style I liked when approaching that sort of a subject, which I think gave it a little more impact."

    After The Full Treatment, Val was not to work for Hammer for another nine years, but during that time he re-entered the fantasy field with another British documentary-style science-fiction thriller, 1961’s The Day the Earth Caught Fire. The movie, which deals with the end of the world after the planet is forced off its axis by repeated nuclear tests and into the gravitational pull of the sun. is Val's pet film. "I got the idea eight years before I made it. It wasn't that I didn't want to do it, but in every one of those years I made a film that was successful and someone would say to me, 'What do you want to do next?' When I told them about The Day The Earth Caught Fire, they'd say, 'You must be mad. who wants to know about bombs and things? No, no, get on with the things you know how to do.' And I did that for eight years!

    But in the eighth year. I thought, 'I'm going to make this, sink or swim.'"

    He was forced to partly finance it himself, putting up his profits from a successful Cliff Richard drama, 1959's Expresso Bongo, and then persuaded Michael Balcon and British Lion to give him the rest of the money. "It was my baby from the year dot," he said. "Of course, it is my favourite film and it won a British Academy award and it was very pleasing to me, having battled so long, that it was a great success." Val admits that The Day the Earth Caught Fire was one of a number of films where nudity could be added. In countries where the censor objected to such material, a sanitised 'cover shot' would be inserted. Such a scene was in The Day The Earth Caught Fire, wherein Janet Munro is seen washing her hair, once topless, once covered. Other films on which Val used 'cover shots' were 1963's 80,000 Suspects (with classical actress Claire Bloom), and The Full Treatment (with Diane Cilento).

    He was finally called back to Hammer to direct their 1970 prehistoric adventure, When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth. "I was on holiday in Malta with Yo, and Aida Young, the producer, flew out to see me and asked if I'd be interested in doing a film about dinosaurs. The whole thing was going to be shot in the Canary Islands. Now, I’d never been to the Canaries, and I thought it was a fabulous idea, and I did it because I thought it would be a fun thing to do. In fact, it's one of the few films I didn’t enjoy making. Hard work can be fun, but this was hard work that wasn’t. The set up was not all that good, the story wasn't good either, but at least I got six weeks in the Canary Islands. But the moment I left the picture with my editor [Peter Curran] in the state that was, for me, correct, the producer got into the cutring-room and re-edited the whole film. What went out on screen had nothing to do with the film I had made and left behind."

    The script, written by Val from a treatment by author J G Ballard, featured no real words, but a phoney language which had been given predetermined meanings by the cast. The real stars of the film, however, were the Oscar-nominated special effects. “It was not difficult to mix the actors and animations," says Val. “We had Jim Danforth, a brilliant animations man. and everything we filmed we shot with a storyboard. Anything that had dinosaurs in it had been drawn out and you knew exactly what was happening with each movement. Jim animated the dinosaurs in after we'd shot the live-action sequences. Somebody would stand up on the mountain with a 14 foot pole, and you'd tell the actors, ‘The top of that pole is the dinosaurs eyes, that’s where you look'. It wasn't tough for me. it may have been tough for the actors, but they always had the storyboard to see where they were.'

    Although that was the last feature film Val directed for Hammer, his connection with the studio did not end there. He returned to direct three episodes of the 1980s television series. Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense: Mark of the Devil, In Possession, and Child's Play. Of the series. Val says, "Roy Skeggs [the Hammer producer) called me and asked if I'd like to do some for old time’s sake. We had fun making them but they were tough going. We were given a tiny schedule [10-13 days per 73-minute episode), but 1 thoroughly enjoyed it and I probably would have stayed on and done more if I hadn’t had other commitments."

    Now in his eighties, Val lives in America’s Palm Springs with Yo, and the couple celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary there last September. (They have a son and three granddaughters.) However, Val's version of retirement seems like more work. He teaches screenwriting at the nearby College of the Desert and has been working on the screenplay for a new version of The Day the Earth Caught Fire. “It's all about global warming," he says. "Nothing could be more topical than that.” And although he has nothing to do with the mooted remake of The Quatermass Xperiment, a new version of his Expresso Bongo was in pre-production in London when he spoke to Hammer Horror. "I'm tickled they're all being redone," he says. “It's great when you get to my time of life and three of your films are being remade in the same year. Life's pretty good." 


    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,153MI6 Agent

    Interview with Peter Cushing from Cinefantastique Summer 1972 by Chris Knight and Peter Nicholson.

    (DRACULA TODAY was released as DRACULA A.D. 1972)

    Peter Cushing Is always the perfect gentlemen, and one of the few actors today who, to my way of thinking, can inject an aura of gentleness and kindness Into every role he plays, even in the macabre thrillers he has found lasting fame in. Peter spoke to me in his dressingroom during the shooting of DRACULA TODAY at Hammer Films about the film and film-making in general.

    In DRACULA TODAY, Christopher Lee as Dracula is revived and brought to life in modern day England. I asked Peter how he felt people would react to bringing, what is basically a period character into the present?

    "Well, I can’t answer how people will take it.” he replied, "but I think as it starts a hundred years ago. in 1872, and Dracula is really alive somewhere all the time, he is still a period character, so to speak, but he’s dateless. He's timeless, and no matter what happens to him, he is always revived. I think, having made so many (I haven't made all that number, but there have been so many Dracula films) that basically, to use the word you used --and once you’ve made the first Dracula picture or the first Frankenstein picture you are stuck with, a) a vampire who lives on blood, and b) a man who creates a human being who turns into a monster--so you can only write stories vyying that theme and I think It’s nothing short of genius to present Dracula In such a new way. I should think people will love it, because, don’t forget, when we made the first Frankenstein in 1957 the people who came to see those films (and don't forget, they were very strict as to who should go to the cinema, you had to be over a certain age), well, the young people who were allowed to see those pictures, the original ones that Chris and I made, their children are now seeing what we're making today. and as those old ones are still played all the time. I think that if they like this kind of picture I don’t think it will make one iota of difference. When I was originally told it was a modern one. I thought it’s a pity because I always feel that a period in which there are no such things as telephones. and you’ve only got horses and gigs to travel around in, makes everything more difficult to get at. whereas today, say Dracula is in Transylvania, you just get a Jet from London Airport and then you can be in Transylvania say in half an hour. The Gothic feeling of the period always seems to be more atmospheric. With this particular script I think the art director and the director have done a wonderful job in combining the aspects of the modern and the period.”

    What was it like being teamed with Christopher Lee again?

    “ It’s extraordinary when you think Chris and I have done a number together which stretch over, since 1956, but because nearly every one we've made has had such a tremendous impact as films--I don't mean just because Chris and I were in them—but as films, a) they’ve made a tremendous impact, and b) they've made such a lot of money. These two things are very important in the film business, and if you are connected with those two elements, you yourselves are promoted in that you become public Images. You see, I have letters saying 'Please will you send me a photograph of yourself with Christopher Lee.' They think he and I live together in a cave down at Whitstable, which is sweet. So you have to write back and say. I’ll send you mine, but you have to write to his agent for his. So you do get that connection, and also the very fact that I have been awfully lucky in the amount of work I have done. There have been long periods when I haven't worked, which is called resting, because it’s so unkind to say I'm out of work, or any actor for that matter. Every week something I’ve been in seems to be on television, on one channel or another. There has l»een CASH ON DEMAND, THE SKULL, CONE OF SILENCE, SHE and CAPTAIN CLEGG. That was a good picture and a good story. You see, that’s where everyone from the topmost to the bottommost dog in the film business relies. You all rely upon the script, and you can possibly make a bad script just a little bit better, but you all rely on the script. That is why this script for DRACULA TODAY is particularly good."

    I asked if in this picture there was any humor, and whether it was a necessity in a picture such as this?

    "No, not a great deal," was the reply. "This is the only thing that does lack in them. You are always going to get some people who are going to laugh anyway, in the wrong places. I think if you can bring in legitimate humor like that one famous line in CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN 'pass the marmalade please,' which is a legitimate line, then it will help. Basically, these stories are good after the bad. You want an exciting story leading up to the chase and Dracula in some way defeated. Unless you've got some moment where maybe one legitimate line, where you want them to laugh, is a good thing. I think there is a certain amount of rye humor in this, from the point of view of the young people not really understanding the part I play of my generation. There's no conflict, there’s great affection. but it's just what I think they call today the generation gap, which I think comes off extremely well in this picture, and there might be just a few smiles about that, no bellylaughs."

    Could Peter forsee a sequel to DRACULA TODAY?

    "This I mean quite sincerely," he told me. "So long as these pictures — and I’m afraid it comes down to this — but so long as these pictures make money, they will always make them, whether they're with Chris and I, I don’t know. I will always do them if I’m asked, even if I have to do them from a bath-chair."

    Could Peter forsee any of his films becoming regarded as classics?

    "That’s, again, very difficult to tell," was the cautious reply. "How was poor Van Gogh to know that his paintings were going to fetch thousands when he didn't sell one in his lifetime? Anything like that is unpredictable, anymore than when they first printed the Black Mauritius stamp, who would think that in the years to come it would be literally worth a fortune? People say that they are already treating the first colored Dracula as a sort of minor classic in a way. but anything that goes into archives becomes perhaps a little bit of a classic in a way, even because of its archaical quality. You see an old film now and you’ll enjoy it, but you’ll laugh at it and in say fifty years time they may be laughing at the way this picture is made because things change so quickly."

    Since Peter made a reference to some of his films. I asked if he had a favorite?

    "No. Personally, I always love working in pictures and have great affection for that. What pleases me most of course is the people we do them for, the audience. Without an audience, none of us would be working, and they’re the people who matter and strangely they don’t seem to have any favorites, they just like each and every one of them according to the letters I get.”

    One film of Peter’s that is unlikely to be seen for some considerable time is THE BLOODSUCKERS (originally titled DOCTORS WEAR SCARLET). Peter went on to explain some of the background to the troubles.

    "I’ve-no idea when it will be released, but I have a feeling it’s been shelved purely for political reasons. The company who made it split up arguing who owns the picture. It was filmed partly in Cyprus. I didn’t go there, but I should say it's only loosely based on the book."

    Knowing that Peter is a great nature lover, I asked if he had been on location with the picture DRACULA TODAY, and if he enjoyed location work?

    "Location has been just up the road and in Chelsea of course," he told me. "I like locations on the screen. I adore westerns, and practically all westerns are done on location. As an actor, I don’t care for location work because it is such a make believe medium that put me up a set where I know behind it is all plaster, packs of sandwiches, and where the 'Daily Mirror’ is tucked in and people are having cigarettes behind there, then I know it’s all make believe, put me up against a real, lovely wood, a real church or along a real road, I find it much more difficult to pretend because that's what acting Is¬ let's pretend — against the real thing I’m not so happy. I love the real thing. I love the countryside and adore nature but I’m never quite so happy working against the real thing because I think that the country is so much bigger than mere mortal man, especially mere mortal actors, that it is far too impressive to try and combat. Plus the fact, the only part of filming I don’t care for is post-synching, because anything you do outside you nearly always have to post-synch because you’ve got jets going over and motors going by and maybe several weeks or months can go by and you come back, and you may have done something else in between. and you come back and you are dressed in your ordinary clothes and you've got to redo it. When you are actually doing it with an instinct the way you say things must come out in the way you want or as near as possible to what you hope to obtain and I always feel you must lose something in postsynching. Of course. I do it, and I do it as best I can. but I always feel you lose something.”

    As Peter has appeared in so many films, would he ever like to go "behind the camera" as a director?

    "No. I don’t think I know enough about the technical side of it." he told me. "I might be able to help a few actors through what I’ve learnt and been taught. Beside that, the pressure on the director is enormous. It isn’t just directing a scene. You’ve got to think about tomorrow’s work, tomorrow’s call sheet, you may be thinking about another scene. There are so many things away from your work as an artist. As a director, you’ve got to think about the budget, and have people buzzing 'round and breathing down your neck."

    Hoping that Peter would not take the question the wrong way, I asked if he could ever forsee himself retiring from films?

    "No. I don't think actors ever retire," he said smilingly. "I don't think any of them could afford to. I don't think they want to. To me, most actors I saw when I was younger, say like Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne. Robert Mitchum and Kirk Douglas, now they’ve got marvellously grizzled. They’re so much more interesting as people and far better actors. I know they can't play young men anymore. I enjoy them after watching them all these years. Gary Cooper. I think, when he got ever more grizzled and aged he became a much more interesting person to see. They became actors because they learnt about the business. They didn’t go into the business as actors like most English actors, and bless his heart, whatever Gary Cooper played, he was still Gary Cooper, and that goes with most of them. English actors do tend to be able to play more of a variety of parts because they’re allowed to, Peter Sellars and Alec Guinness for instance, whereas Kirk Douglas, who’s a marvellous actor, if he played Henry VIII or a cowboy he would still be Kirk Douglas. That is what is sold. You sell Kirk Douglas to the people who want to go and see."

    Most of Peter's films have been made in England. Was this because he hadn't received many film offers from abroad. I asked?

    "I have turned down films abroad. I’ve never liked going abroad. I don't mind so much now, but I still don't relish it. My dear wife always said when you cut me I bleed woad. I’m so British. but I've always loved England so much and I feel very wretched when I've been away from it. I have not done films abroad only because I haven't liked the scripts, but if the scripts had been good I would naturally have done them. I think SHE was well worth going abroad for, although I was only away ten days."

    Over the last couple of years. Hammer has branched out slightly into other fields of film making. How did Peter react to this?

    "You can’t flood the market with this kind of picture, say with me in it, unless it is something pretty good, because if people see two or three bad ones with you in it. they’ll stop going to see them. Hammer has been clever in as much as the next one I’ll be doing for them, FEAR IN THE NIGHT, is not by any means a horror film. It's a mystery thriller. They’re not getting away from the image, but they don't want to flood the market. They are now trying to start another kind of picture, the comedy ON THE BUSES."

    It was at this point that our talk had to be concluded, seemingly with a myriad questions still to be asked. As Peter walked with me to the door of his dressingroom, he told me that the more he did as an actor the less he seemed to know and the more he wanted to perfect. That, he assured me, was meant quite sincerely.

    DRACULA TODAY is now in release in the United States through Warner Brothers. Peter also appears with Christopher Lee in THE CREEPING FLESH, a forthcoming film from World Films-Tigon directed by veteran Freddie Francis, and also in HORROR EXPRESS. a Scotia International release which also features Telly Savalas. Peter also recently did a brief walk-on bit as a sea captain in AIP’s DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN. He’s as far from retirement as he can get.


    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,213Chief of Staff

    Thanks, CHB, a pleasure to read that.

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