Monday, November 30, 2009


My Life As An Independent Film Producer
by Sidney Pink

In the other ring we had Tab Hunter and Dick Rush shooting FICKLE FINGER OF FATE. Dick and Tab arrived in Madrid after preliminary conversations in the States and were working before I had time to meet with them. Tab Hunter was one of the gayest of the gays I have ever met. I have worked with homosexuals all of my showbiz life since they are so much a part of that scene. Most of them are hard-working, talented people whose contribution to the arts has been phenomenal. Tab Hunter was different. He was most difficult to work with and threw fits when he did not get his way. He refused to accept Dick as the director and insisted on doing everything as he wanted it done. Things had become almost irreconcilable when I was called in.
The picture was scheduled to start on Monday, and it was the Thursday before when I got the SOS. I called Dick Rush, and he gave me the particulars of his problems with Tab. I immediately called a meeting for the three of us in my office to hear the facts presented from both points of view. Tab Hunter complained about his inability to communicate with his director, and I soon found his idea of communcation was to have everything his way. Dick on the other hand, was not secure enough in his own experience to handle a once well-known star with so many big films behind him.
I listended carefully to both sides before I exploded. I tore into Tab with a vengeance by advising him he was now working on a budget film with no time for temper tantrums. We had shooting schedules to be adhered to and there was no room for foolishness; we hired him as an actor and not as a director, so he would have to take direction as given. Any more recalcitrance on his part would result in my firing him, and he would never work again in Europe or America. The way I spoke brooked no argument and he left with the pouting look of a woman scorned, but we had no more problems with him thereafter. In fact, Tab is a damned good actor with a much better sense of comedy and timing than his namesake Jeff.
My troubles with FICKLE FINGER OF FATE continued, however, and I was called to the set on three different occasions to extricate Dick from problems he was unable to resolve. He is an extremely talented director, and I cannot comprehend why he never fully realized the promise he showed. I know he was highly praised for a picture he made with Peter O'Toole, THE STUNT MAN, but I always felt he would be one of the great directors. In any event, he finished THE FICKLE FINGER OF FATE on schedule and within budget, and we emerged with a very fine program picture that received good reviews and pleased its audiences.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


My Life As An Independent Film Producer
by Sidney Pink

Now I had three production teams, two complete editing teams, and enough time to get FICKLE FINGER OF FATE and WITCH WITHOUT A BROOM underway, and finish the editing of THE TALL WOMEN. I authorized two more scripts from Howard Berk and pleaded with Henaghan to get my CHRISTMAS KID script to me to I could get Jeff Hunter's back-to-back pictures set, plus an additional two scripts from him.
I imparted all of this information legally, through my counsel in New York, and now I intended to dot the i's and cross the t's in every dealing with Westinghouse. I never did figure out why Pack and Barnes, who needed us so badly for their own purposes, were intent on making us look bad and, in the long run, destroy themselves. Dick sent Barnes to England, where he made production deals for two very high-budget pictures, one starring Van Heflin that cost as much as our entire contract, and a second film about Napoleon, called EAGLE IN A CAGE, with an even higher budget. At least it kept them out of our way while we moved into high-gear production.
Elorietta was delighted with WITCH WITHOUT A BROOM, one of the cutest scripts I have ever read. Howard Berk made it into a fast-moving American comedy that could have been a major hit with an actor like Cary Grant in the lead of someone like Thurston Hall as director. Jeff Hunter did a good job, but he was no comedian in the sense of the film timing that mark people like Cary Grant and Melvyn Douglas. If Elorietta had remained sober that last four weeks of the film, it would have emerged as his best, but Barnes returned for the finish of the film and was so intrigued by the script he was on the set constantly with his adoring wife at his side. He kept annoying Elorietta with inane suggestions, so Elorietta began drinking again, and during those final weeks he went back to his pattern of great stuff in the A.M. and confusion in the P.M.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Director - Gian Rocco 1967
Cast: Nicolette Machiavelli (Lulu), Claudio Camaso (Red), Marisa Solinas (Rosy), Yorgo Voyagis (Carlos), Walter Barnes (the General), James Martin (Sheriff), Gaspare Zola (Jean), Elvira Cortese (Elvira), Franco Bucceri (Doctor), Ivan Scratuglia (Roger), Silvana Bacci, Brunello Maffei, Franco Scala, Alberto Hammermann, Isabella Guidotti.
Screenplay by Giovanni Gigliozzi, Brunello Maffei, Vittorio Pescatori, Gian Rocco
Photography by Gino Santini
Music by Giovanni Fusco, Gianfranco Plenizio
Directed by Gianfranco Plenizio
Editor Mario Salvatore
Set Design Alessandro Manetti
Costumes Piero Gherardi
Assistant Director Guido Leoni
Production Manager Giovanni Vari
Produced by Columbus Cinematografica
Distr. Lady Film
Prod. Reg. 4189
Someone got the bright idea that Sardinia could stand-in for the Texas/Mexico border area just as well as Spain, so that was where this Western was made. Unfortunately, no one had a bright idea for the script, nor was a particularly bright director found to helm the film.
Carlos and Jean were two officers in the army of Austrian Archduke Maximilian, the Emperor of Mexico. It was 1867, and the two were sent undercover to find out about arms smuggling by Mexican revolutionaries along the border with Texas. They flagged down a stagecoach for a ride into town, and soon met a young woman seeming to travel alone. She was Lulu, and when a band led by a Mexican named Red attempted to rob the coach, it became apparent that she packed a .45, which had been holstered in a garter around her thigh.
Okay, the set up wasn't bad. Carlos and Juan left the coach and it continued into town. Now things got odd.
In a scene reminiscent of SE SIE VIVO SPARA, four Americanos jumped a Mexican man, beat him up, and then dragged him down the street to seat him on a horse inorder to hang him from an archway. Lulu stepped off the coach, saw the brutality, and fired one shot, cutting the rope. The Mexican galloped away on the horse.
Now, it would be expected that four men stopped from either fulfilling a justified execution, or four villains stopped from having a little fun, would want to have a discussion with whomever spoiled their plan of action. Not in this movie. The next thing shown was Lulu no longer on the street, and the four Americanos finding a second Mexican to attack. Getting a new rope from a plump woman who happened to have a one under her apron, the four men tossed it over the archway and pulled the second Mexican to his death. Suddenly, a band of Mexican revolutionaries led by the General arrived. Taking an instant dislike to the sight of four Gringos hanging a Mexican, the General saunters over to investigate. When one Americano pulled his gun, the General shot it out of his hand. But, after finding out that the hanged man was Miguel, whom the General thought of as a traitor, the Mexican apologized for his hasty action and walked away.
These were only two of the first scenes to generate an "Huh?" from viewers. Later on, the General was in the saloon having a drink when he heard a woman screaming outside. Rushing to the door, he fired his gun, only to discover and feel badly about having killed a woman.
There was the sequence which kept interrupting Red's assault upon Jean in an effort to rape Rosy, with a scene of Lulu bathing her horse on the beach and being approached by Carlos. The intercutting of these two scenes made no dramatic sense, though perhaps it was an effort to disguise how inane an effort Red was making in his lustful action. It was hard to tell if the filmmakers intended the back and forth change in the music track - from dramatic to romantic and then back to dramatic - to be as silly as the result was.
It would seem that these filmmakers were attempting to make a Sexy Comedy rather than an action-packed Western, which would explain all of the peek-a-boo looks at star Nicoletta Macchiavelli's clevage, the unfulfilled lustfulness of young Marisa Solinas, and those two sexy saloon girls who can't seem to get anyone's attention. That plus the drunken doctor who dropped his gun during the town's battle with Red's gang and the fact that Lulu and Carlos use the battle as a chance to finally go to bed together. It was perhaps the nonsensical nature of this movie which resulted in it having only a limited distribution, and being one of the more obscure Italian Westerns. Spain did not have to worry about Sardinia replacing it as the favored locale for European Westerns.
Casting Walter Barnes as a Mexican revolutionary was an unusual choice, and not a particularly good one. Barnes seemed willing to commit himself to whatever the filmmakers wanted. Unfortunately, what they wanted was probably as confusing to them as it appeared to be to him.
None of the cast came off particularly well. Nicholette Macchiavelli was not able to show any more acting ability than what she had shown in UN FIUME DI DOLLARI (U.S.: THE HILLS RUN RED) or NAVAJO JOE, and those performanaces got her pegged as beautiful but without talent. Claudio Camaso - the brother of Gian Maria Volonte - again portrayed so crazed a villain that, when seen with the knowledge of his subsequent real life murder and suicide, one couldn't help but wonder if any acting was involved.
Easily the highlight of this movie would be for fans of the midget, Arnaldo Fabrizio, who appeared with Mark Forest in MACISTE L'EROE PIU GRANDE DEL MONDO, (U.S.: GOLIATH AND THE SINS OF BABYLON). Here he appeared as what was supposed to be Lulu's baby. Actually, he was a little man who used the closed curtains on his crib to spy on the card hands of men with whom Lulu played poker. Carlos figured out the ruse at about the same time Lulu realised that Carlos' parrot was doing the same thing.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Sidney Makes Order Out of Chaos

My Life As An Independent Film Producer
by Sidney Pink

We returned to Madrid where we promptly sent our worn-out actresses for hospital checkups. That gave me time to check the preparations of the other productions on our schedule. Elorietta had finished BOUNTY HUNTER and was ready for my approval of the final cut version. Jim Henaghan had completed his rewrite of FICKLE FINGER OF FATE. Dick Rush was waiting in Los Angeles for the order to come to Spain for casting and final preparation. Elorietta was also awaiting a final rewritten translation of WITCH WITHOUT A BROOM from Howard Berk, and I needed the CHRISTMAS KID script from Jim.
THE TALL WOMEN was in the cutting room awaiting some of my time to begin putting it into shape, but outside of that, I had nothing more to do than worry about some problems that Purgatori was cooking up for me in Rome. I began to realize that an octopus has an extreme handicap in having so many arms; it is not easy to know just what you have in any one of them.
I bit off more than I was able to chomp, and I began to feel as though I were in a revolving door. Every time I got to the entrance, someone called me from the other side and I was getting nothing done. Every effort at organization resulted in more confusion. I made the unforgivable error of having the entire organization revolve around me, and there was no one able or willing to make a decision. No one, that is, except Purgatori, who without authorization took it upon himself to make sales of the pictures that were under the Domino Films coproduction banner.
I never planned on individual sales to single countries, but that was the Italian way of doing things. Purgatori never consulted me about involving himself in our sales efforts, and the first I knew about it was a call from Lucio Bompani advising they had made a sale to the Middle East on our entire lineup, and Purgatori had accepted money and signed contracts on his own. He was never anything omre than a bookkeeper before, and the sudden elevation to general manager had been too much for him. The rarefied atmosphere at that high level had gone to his head, and he forgot he was merely an employee.
I was forced to make a two-day trip to Rome to pierce his balloon and being him back to earth. I should have fired him then and there, but with so many pots boiling I had no time to look for a replacement. He swore he would never do it again, and so I left and he remained as director gerente (man in charge).
Meanwhile, back at the asylum, things were going from bad to worse. Barnes returned from New York, chastened but sneakier than ever. This time he was determined to nail me to the wall. His first demand was for starting dates for the next four films and a fixed date for delivery of THE TALL WOMEN and BOUNTY HUNTER. Under the contract, I was obligated to give Westinghouse a schedule of start dates and delivery dates, but at that moment I was totally unprepared. I needed help, and fast.
I listened to the advice of Ricardo Merino, my assistant production manager, who had experience in multiple productions with an Italian associate of DeLaurentiis. He suggested we set up three independent production units, each with its own production managers who would be given completion deadlines; the production managers would be given authority to make their own decisions on all but the most major production problems. In this way I could be freed from the everyday problems these professionals were trained to solve. They would come to me only when it was truly necessary, but if I wanted more control, we could have a weekly meeting of all three units to report and discuss projects, problems, and needs. This would allow me to keep abreast of things while at the same time allowing me to work on the personal projects that required most of my time.
Ricardo's reward for this suggestion was his elevation to the post of production manager of the number two unit. I owed him a great deal because the plan worked almost perfectly. We were able to hire my old protege from Denmark, John Horvath (Yanchi's son), who was now working and living in New York. His training with us enabled him to get a job as an assistant film editor with an independent film editing company. I called him and offered him a job heading up our second cutting team, and he accepted.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


A Journal 1996-98
by Alec Guinness

In HITLER, THE LAST TEN DAYS, a poor film from a brilliant script, I had an hysterical, screaming speech which I plunged into almost out of control and although I believe I did it well it left me physically drained and wanting to vomit.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Pyrrhic Victory For THE TALL WOMEN

My Life As An Independent Film Producer
by Sidney Pink

I tried to get them out of my mind as we discussed and rehearsed the scene. Anne and Perla understood the drama that was to be unfolded. I am certain Anne's ordeal in Australia gave her (the) necessary insights into the mind of this hapless schoolteacher. Perla had an inherent sense of tragedy and persecution that seems to be born into most Jewish women, and her exposure to the Argentine Nazi threat made her even more sensitive to the loss of a husband and a future. Having never had a child, Maria Perschy could not fully comprehend the kind of hysterical reaction that would follow the sudden, violent death of a husband and the murder of a baby while it was cradled in a mother's arms. Unable to understand these emotions, she overacted badly.
My biggest challenge was to get Maria to understand that hysteria following such a loss would be a trauma of disbelief, followed by total assurance it was not true. She would not go into hysterical shrieking; she would sing and talk to her dead baby while cuddling it as if it were alive. Her violence would come only when they tried to take the child away from her, and the she would become a tiger. Anne was forced to slap her several times to take the baby; then, once she realized the truth, she could break down, but never into an over-emotional scene.~We worked and worked on that scene until everyone got it right, and then we shot it. It turned out as I hoped it would. It was one of the highlights of the movie and accomplished its purpose. I observed audiences in every movie theatre I visited playing THE TALL WOMEN, and there were few dry eyes during this scene. I finished all the master scenes and was ready for close-ups when the Westinghouse typhoon blew in. Enrique Bergere, my assistant director, kept them from bursting in on me until I had finished the takes and called for a break before shooting the next scene.
Pack didn't even bother with the courtesy of a hello before he started shouting. We were off to the side and sitting in the director and star's chairs, but everyone heard him yelling. The reason for his visit was soon made clear, at which point all I could do was laugh. Anne and others were also laughing but much more discretely. He was furious, but he had to stop his tirade until I finished laughing.
With tears in my eyes from that fit of laughter, I explained he was the victim of Howard's profound ignorance. Howard told him we were making a picture in which a board with numbers on it preceded every scene and that there were telephone and telegraph wires showing in a film set in an era in which those things didn't exist. Pack also demanded an explanation for the "shit I was pulling" by making a film that was part color and part black and white. He warned us that Westinghouse was not going to stand for this type of treachery. I don't know how Dick felt after I finished my lecture, but if I were he a peanut shell would have been too big a container to carry me off the set.
I have explained the reason for the clappers being in every shot. I didn't know what Dick was talking about with regard to telephone wires, etc., but I found out the cause later, and it was as ridiculous as the rest of his complaints. When we were shooting the opening scenes of the caravan of wagons as it crossed the prairie, we needed an overhead shot. We had not cranes to use in Almeria, so we improvised. At one point the main road crossed over the ravine through which the caravan was to travel, so I set my master camera on that bridge to get a vista of the entire train of wagons making its dusty way westward. It was an imposing shot and well worth the extra effort entailed. When we shot the clapper, it was impossible to get it from such a height, so we shot it up on the road and then panned down to get the action when I called for it. In that brief clapper shot, we managed to get a small view of the only telephone line into Almeria. Nuff said!
A film company working on a tight budget uses every short cut it can where economy doesn't result in loss of quality or production values. The cost of positive color film is about triple that of black and white film. Since we would shoot and print over 100,000 feet of film on THE TALL WOMEN, the savings involved in printing rushes in black and white instead of color were obvious; therefore we printed only key scenes in color so the cameraman could check his photographic result and color quality in those particular shots. Normally he would ask for only three or four color prints a day. The film takes a beating in the editing, so black-and-white film serves equally well for cutting. Action is the editor's main concern, so he is content to use black and white. Laboratory control over color hue and tone is so great it is not necessary for a cameraman to concern himself with any problem of balance.
Howard Barnes was so ignorant of these elementary facts of production that he had alarmed Dick Pack almost to the point of hysteria. Pack's education was not accomplished quickly, so I had to tolerate his presence on the set for two days.
Of course, Pack had to make his contribution to our creativity in order to justify the stupidity of his sudden trip to Spain, so he meddled. In the scene where the women went about the camp picking up all the things they might need for their foray into the wilderness, he noted that Adrianna and Rosella wore their torn circus costumes that exposed their beautiful cleavages. No breas was visiable, but Dick began shouting that McGannon would find that repulsive and demanded we get other costumes for the Italians. When I refused, he foraged all over the set to find something that would cover up what he wanted covered up. He came upon two Mexican serapes, part of the decor of Perla's wagon, and he put them over the heads of the Italian circus queens to cover their chests. The Grimaldi sisters had to wear those damned things throughout the rest of the film. I was tired of arguing, so I let Dick Pack make this fine artistic contribution to motion-picture history. Ours is certainly the only Western in which two Italian circus women will ever wear serapes. Bravo Dick, your life has not been in vain.
He took off somewhat mollified, but not happy. No one likes to be made a fool, and he most certainly appeared so in the eyes of all of us, including Anne, whom he tried to impress. He was constantly talking with her at every free moment attempting to get her to commit to an additionaly number of pictures for Westinghouse (not me). She gave him her stock answer: "Talk to my agent." Later she told me she found Dick Pack obnoxious and Howard Barnes unworthy of comment; she also warned me never to turn my back on either of them. We had achieved a Pyrrhic victory over those two; but, to this day I do not understand why Dick didn't fire Howard for the embarrassment he caused. I did, however, have peace and quiet until we finished photography.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tony Russel Finishes His Italian Career

From: Tony Russel Our Man On Gamma 1
The Wild Wild Interview
by Michael Barnum
Video Watchdog No. 128 Dec/Feb 2007

You've worked in most every genre of film during your career, and this included comedy with the film HONEYMOONS WILL KILL YOU [VIAGGIO DI NOZZE ALL'ITALIANA, 1966].
The film was also called HONEYMOON, ITALIAN STYLE and it starred the Spanish actress Concha Velasco as my wife. It was written by the same guy who had directed me in SWORD OF DAMASCUS, Mario Amendola. He turned out to be a great friend and he even became my son's godfather when Del had his confirmation at St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome. Mario was a writer and a director and he wrote this story, which became a very cute movie. In it, I am having an affair with this girl I meet on the beach while at the same time I am on my honeymoon. I had married my wife for her money but I refused to consummate the marriage because I really didn't love her.

Did you enjoy doing comedy?
I loved doing comedy! When I got back from Italy, I directed several plays that were comedies. In fact, I directed BAREFOOT IN THE PARK, which is one of my favorites.

You were among dozens of American actors who immigrated to Italy to work in the 1960s. Did you get to know many of the others?
I got to know some of them only casually, but Gordon Scott I knew well, as we used to play poker together a lot. Gordon did very well over in Europe. I believe he owned two Ferraris and a Saab and a couple of motorcycles. He was making picture after picture, some of them with Steve Reeves. I met Ken Clark over there, and I remember Richard Harrison, who was the son-in-law of producer James H. Nicholson. And there was that big muscle guy, Mark Forest. Mark was of Italian heritage, also. George Nader had quite a career in Europe, but I didn't see him when I was over there. I had met him earlier, however, when he was going around with Rock Hudson. Rock used to show up at the Pasadena Playhouse a lot while George was doing a show there, which of course had a lot of people gossiping. I got to know Rock Hudson much later on when we worked on the movie THE VEGAS STRIP WAR in 1984. I can remember walking into the dressing room and seeing Rock and chatting with him. That evening I came home and I said to my wife, "Rock has cancer or something" and sure enough, before long he was gone.

When did you leave Italy and return to the United States?
In 1967. My wife was eager to return to the US as her family was here, and also I wanted my son to finish high school in America. Sometimes, though, you don't know when you've got a good thing, and I did have a good thing over in Europe, even though I was making one bad picture after another [laughs]! But, I was enjoying the work and I was living very comfortably. I was not only working as an actor but also in the dubbing business. I was dubbing films, my wife was dubbing, my son was dubbing.

In fact, you were the founder and president of the English Language Dubbers Association (ELDA) in Italy, were you not?
Yes. I united all of the voice work in Rome under one banner because, at the time, there were three dubbing organizations dubbing films into English, and they were cutting each other's throats. Everyone was dubbing for less and less and competing against each other and I finally succeeded in getting everyone together. It turned out great and the organization is still in existence, although under a different name.

Mel Welles was very active in the dubbing business in Europe at that time. Did you know him?Yes, I knew Mel very, very well. We were good friends. He was very talented, likeable, and quite entertaining. He was married at the time to a beautiful woman, an actress named Meri Welles. Mel directed some small movies in Europe, along with a guy named Robert Spafford. they got a young Englishman who had inherited quite a bit of money to invest in their pictures. His name was Nick Alexander.
A short anecdote about Mel Welles. He called me one day in Rome and asked for $500, because his wife as in the hospital and he needed the money to pay the bill before they'd release her. I met him on the Via Veneto a few hours later and gave him the money. Dissolve to a few days later and I discover that she'd had breast augmentation - that is why she was in the hospital! Well, Mell didn't pay me back for a few years, so one say, as president of ELDA, I knew he had money coming to him. So I told the secretary-treasurer to give me the $500 out of what we owed him for the last film he dubbed for us. My secretary-treasurer did it reluctantly, but I left a receipt in Mel's envelope saying, "Debt paid in full!" signed Tony Russo, the name I used as President of ELDA.
At one time, Mel Welles and I flew from Rome to Munich together. He was meeting with some prospective investors, and I was meeting with a German agent. I also took advantage of this opportunity to spend some time with Maria Perschy, the Austrian starlet with whom I starred in THE SECRET OF THE SPHINX. At the time, we were having an affair. This is something I was not proud of, but I do think we loved each other sincerely. It was the first time I'd had an extramartial affair, despite having worked with beautiful ladies in all my films. The temptation was always there, but I had always resisted. In the final analysis, I decided my wife and son were more important, so we split. In retrospect, who knows what might have been since my wife divorced me a few years later? Perhaps I should have thought of myself instead of others, but that's me, or rather more correctly, that is I.

Were you involved in hiring the directors who dubbed films for ELDA?
As head of the dubbing association, I had no influence, nor did I exercise any influence, on who directed. Most of the directors were established by the time I arrived on the scene. The producers and distributors selected the directors, based on their resumes, including directors such as Gino Bardi and Lewis Cianelli, the son of the great actor Eduardo Cianelli. I did some direction and others were Michael Thor, Ted Rusoff, and Gene Luotto. Sometimes the directors would come in from France or Spain or Germany, the co-producer nations of the particular movie.

Was it typical to have the stars of films dub themselves?
As far as stars dubbing themselves, in my case, I had it written in my contract that I would have the right to dub myself unless it was not possible because of my non-availability. As a result, I dubbed all of my fourteen or fifteen films except THE SECRET OF THE SPHINX. Dubbing oneself was important to actors who were real actors, because they were vocally equipped. But actors like Steve Reeves and Gordon Scott and some of the other muscle actors, and the European actors who hardly spoke English well enough, certainly they were not equipped to dub themselves, so they were dubbed by others.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Dick Pack and his brainless emissary harass THE TALL WOMEN

My Life As An Independent Film Producer
by Sidney Pink

Producing and directing THE TALL WOMEN was the most joyous and most difficult job I tackled. Things were made even worse by the meddling of the so-called liaison and production coordinator Howard Barnes. Never forthcoming with his criticisms, he just kept smiling, giving the appearance of being very happy with all that was going on about him. In actuallity, he was abysmally ignorant about production, and rather than learning by asking questions and seeking information, he formed opinions based upon his own likes and dislikes.
Howard and I were never other than coldly polite to each other. Most aggravating was his lack of interest in attending production meetings where he would have learned firsthand the whys and wherefores of many of the "contract violations" he reported to Dick Pack.
I was too swamped with production and directing problems to pay much attention to Howard, but by the second week of shooting in the heat of Almeria, I began getting strange messages from the Madrid office reporting calls from Westinghouse demanding information not included in the contract. Particularly disturbing was Howard's insistence on viewing rushes in Madrid before they were sent to us in Almeria. I actually received a call in Almeria from Dick Pack demanding he be given that right, and he hung up in a huff when I rather sharply told him where he could go. I tried to explain that directing a picture was a twenty-two-house-per-day job that left no time for long-distance calls about anything so foolish. I advised him to read the contract and try to find any language that gave him the right to see rushes before us or outside our presence.
I hoped that would end it, but it was merely the beginning. Howard was feeding Dick reports that we were taking all kinds of production short cuts and reducing our budgets to make the pictures more cheaply. He claimed we were altering scripts by cutting needed sequences, thus making films inferior in quality to that promised. Howard demanded the right to see all checks and paid bills to be certain we had sufficient funds to finish the pictures. He had no right of access to our books, but he raised so much hell that, in my absence, our comptroller was afraid to refuse him, so he allowed him that privilege. Howard didn't understand what he saw and reported we were mixing funds and costs among the six pictures we were working on, implying this could have an affect on our contract. He was into everything, but I am certain he stayed away from Almeria because he knew it wasn't safe for him there.
He kept feeding Pack so many distortions and lies about the poor progress we were making that Dick sent Jack Feldman to Spain to see if things were really as dreadful as Howard's reports indicated. Jack flew to Madrid but came immediately to Almeria where he witnessed the actual production in process. He was unbiased and had no pretentions of being an expert, so he asked questions and got answers. Jack talked to the crew members (those that spoke English) and the actors and found we were working together as a real team. There were no rivalries on the set, and we were united in our effort to produce the best picture we knew how to make.
Jack pleaded with me to allow Howard to see rushes or perhaps some cut film so they could report they had seen something. He agreed they had no legal right to demand this, but he felt this would calm Barnes and Pack. I liked Jack and knew he was sincere, so I allowed my cutter to show them about twenty-five minutes of scenes put together from raw edited rushes...
Out of respect to Jack but against my better judgement, I authorized the showings. All the clapper boards were included, since I wanted to make the first cut of THE TALL WOMEN personally. I assumed that Howard, ignorant as he was, knew about clappers and slates. With permission to see rushes granted, Jack returned to Madrid, and I hoped the harassment would stop. It did for about ten days, and then I received a call from Marianne Donoghue, my secretary, with the news that Dick Pack and Howard Barnes were enroute to Almeria.
Dick arrived in Spain like a whirlwind, and after a quick stop at the Madrid office for directions, he hired a car and chauffeur to drive them to Almeria. My secretary reported that he was carrying a full head of steam being fueled by Howard. She really didn't know what had brought it on, but she was sure there was "trouble headin' down the pass."
This message came to me while I was working on one of the most difficult sequences in the film. It was the dramatic climax following the Indian attack when the women emerge from the safety of the cave to find a completely wanton scene of death and destruction. It was a complete massacre leaving nothing but dead men and smoking wagons. The women had to walk into the midst of this horror to determine whether anyone was left alive. The gruesomeness of these civilized women confronting the reality of death and scalping had to be an intense and moving scene that set the tenor for the rest of the picture. This scene portrayed the hatred of the Indians who could indulge in such wholesale slaughter and accented the threat hanging over the women throughout their entire trek.
This was also the scene where Anne forcefully takes the dead baby away from a hysterical Maria Perschy to make her realize her child is dead. It marks Anne's emergence as the leader of the group, and the decision is made to attempt the seemingly impossible trek over a hundred miles of desert to the next fort. The women are called upon to bury the bodies and gather up all the food, water, guns, ammunition, and tools left. This scene presented the most emotional and trying moment in the lives of these characters, and the actresses had to get psyched up to a point where they could make it believable. This was the day that Dick Pack and his brainless emissary chose to harass me.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Alec Guinness on THE LOVED ONE

A Journal 1996-98
by Alec Guinness

It amazes me that there are people who think (Christopher) Marlowe wrote Shakespeare's plays, although there is every likelihood that Shakespeare either deliberately plagiarized an image now and then or that a line of Marlowe's, when first heard or seen, had struck so deepling into his soul that he imagined it his own. Marlowe's stagecraft is crude or non-existent when compared to Shakespeare's know-how. And is there a character in Marlowe which makes one smile, let along laugh outright? - I must cease to ride this hobby-horse and give my attention to The Simpsons, to which I'm getting addicted. Also I should bear in mind a line the hero, Dennis, says in E. Waugh's THE LOVED ONE: 'In the dying world I come from quotation is a national vice.'
Before leaving for the 1958 film festival in Mexico City, to which I had been induced to go by the Foreign Office, I received a script of THE LOVED ONE with the suggestion that I should play the lead. It was a marvellous script, in which the great director Luis Bunuel had had a hand. Shortly after arriving in Mexico Bunuel sent me a note inviting himself to coffee at my hotel the following morning. He arrived at noon, full of amiability and chuckles. He kept removing his glace-mint-type spectacles to wipe tears of laughter from his eyes.
'I am a very happy man today,' he said. 'I have just been to the screening of my last movie, for the critics. It is good I think. They all congratulated me. How did you like the music, I asked. 'Mm-mm-wonderful, they said. The music was truly wonderful, they said.'
He took off his glasses again and mopped his eyes. 'I promise you there is not one note of music in the movie.'
Then we got down to discussing THE LOVED ONE. All his ideas were simple, true to the novel and yet sometimes daringly odd. He told me he didn't wish to use wax models for the cadavers in the mortuary scenes or funeral parlour but blocks of wood roughly hewn into human shape. We got on well and I was thrilled at the prospect of working with him. He explained he would be unable to start for at least another four months, which didn't worry me, although it should have done. What happened I don't know; presumably something to do with the film rights. Whatever it was, we were beaten to the post by Tony Richardson, who directed a quite different, heavy-handed script, an unwitty version as far removed from the factual, debunking spirit of Waugh as a flying saucer.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Ernie on SUPER FUZZ (1980)

From: ERNIE the autobiography
by Ernest Borgnine

I made a terrible picture with Joanne (Dru) in 1980, something called SUPER FUZZ, about a cop who gets superpowers after being exposed to radiation. I played his police mentor and Joanne was the wicked Rosey Labouche. It was yesterday's soup warmed over, and not very good soup to start.

Friday, November 20, 2009


My Life As An Independent Film Producer
by Sidney Pink
Anyone who thinks that moviemaking is a glamorous career will quickly learn, after only a few days' experience, that it is hard and unglamorous work. After a movie if finally completed, it looks so easily done, but it is really the complex product of extraordinary effort on the part of many talented people. THE TALL WOMEN was a back-breaker, and as it progressed we got more weary and grumpy. Our actresses worked like dogs with very little rest. The script called for them to lie on the ground while the Indians rode around and between them, causing dust clouds that made breathing almost impossible. They became dirtier and scragglier as the movie went on, and soon it took no effort for them to portray a bedraggled-looking lot. The heat was so intense I had to wear gloves in order to protect my hands from the blisters the sun raised. When we arrived back at the hotel every evening, we were a tired bunch, and any thought of romance with so many beautiful women around was quickly dissipated by weary and aching bones. I came to know those women and their limits of endurance very well. That difficult script combined with the heat and unfriendly countryside made this the toughest job I had ever tackled.
My relations with Anne Baxter were deep and full of mutural respect. She was a brilliant actress with a depth I had never seen, even in Alida Valli. My awe and admiration for her talent grew along with my affection that was becoming more and more difficult to conceal. She was my idea of everything a woman should and could be, and it was beginning to show. My wife became as friendly with Anne as I did, and their friendship made it impossible to remain aloof from the continuing problem of the close and intimate relationship of director and star. We were called upon to work very closely together; the entire story revolved around her, and I had to explain exactly what I needed in every scene as we worked up to the final climax of the film. I had only to tell Anne what emotion and feeling I needed for the scene at hand and she delivered it. She was truly remarkable in the way she could set the entire tenor of a difficulat scene for everyone else to follow.
In spite of all the production problems and the hardships involved, Anne made this the most enjoyable picture I ever worked on. I still love this script and the picture more than the other fifty-five I was involved with. I will never forget that Anne Baxter told Dick Pack and the rest of the distribution team that I was the best and most sensitive director with whom she had ever worked. It wasn't true, of course, and the picture was not what it should have been, but that was not the fault of this marvelous actress. I was the one who allowed the budget to get in the way of making what could have been a memorable movie. Anne and I shared moments together that made us know that there was a depth of feeling that could have altered both our lives, but she and I realized that her husband and my wife did not deserve to be hurt and that no future could be built on the wreck of the past. I knew, and she knew, and that was enough for both of us.
When the shooting ended, all seven of our actresses went to the hospital in Madrid. They were worn out, almost dehydrated, and needed rest. Anne left the hospital first and we dubbed her first so she was able to leave two weeks ahead of schedule. I never met with her again, although we talked on the phone. She did something for me she had never done before; she made personal appearances for the opening of the picture in the South. As a token of her friendship, she sent my wife a set of monogrammed towels that we still have, along with the cherished memory of a most gallant, lovely, and wonderful woman. God bless you, Anne, I know you are the brightest star in the firmament wherever you are.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Tony Russel In Space

From: Tony Russel Our Man On Gamma 1
The Wild Wild Interview
by Michael Barnum
Video Watchdog No. 128 Dec/Feb 2007

As you began working more and more in Europe did you begin to get recognized on the street?
I can remember walking into a bar one time and this tall black man came up to me and said, "Excuse me, but is your name Tony Russel?" I said that it was. He was from Uganda and he told me that I was very popular with the kids there. So really, these films I was making were a big hit with the kids, which was very flattering. Evidently, there must have been some feedback that my name had become somewhat known in other countries. When I did the two science fiction films for Antonio Margheriti, they were produced, mainly, based on what they would pocket for distribution in foreign countries.

And those two science fiction films, WILD WILD PLANET and WAR OF THE PLANETS proved to be very popular in the United States.
Joe Fryd was the producer of both films and Lisa Gastoni co-starred. She was an attractive Italian girl, although she lived in England and spoke English very well. We shot these two films in about five weeks. I'd walk on the set and ask them what we were doing that day, and they'd tell me which of the two pictures we were shooting.

The two films were shot back-to-back?
Actually, they were shot concurrently. Back-to-back would have been a lot less confusing, but because the sets were the same in both films, they would shoot all of the scenes that took place on a particular set, at the same time. One or two scenes for one picture, then one or two fo the other picture. They would give me the script for those scenes and I would go into the dressing room and learn the lines as fast as I could, then we would shoot it.

What do you recall about director Antonio Margheriti? He made quite a number of sci-fi films during this period.
Yes, quite a few, and he changed his name to Anthony Dawson for many of them. He was a pretty good director, although more of a technician than an actor's director, really. He was a very technical man. "Make sure this is right and that is right and make sure this is over there." It was all done technically, if not highly skilled. It was a little disappointing at times because, if you looked close, you could see the strings against the background on the spaceships and such.

I was wondering what you thought of the special effects in these two films.
Well, they weren't that good [laughs]! MGM bought the two films and that is the only reason why they were so well distributed in the United States.

How as Lisa Gastoni to work with?
I thought she was wonderful and quite lovely. She had a great sense of humor. Of course she was the girlfriend of Joe Fryd, so that is how she got the part. Not that she didn't deserve the role, but that is how she got involved with it. She and I spent a lot of time together, joking around and having dinner. What a beautiful girl! She really should have gone further in her career then she did. I believe she worked quite a bit in London, also.

Franco Nero co-starred in both pictures with you.
When I worked with Franco Nero, he could barely speak English! but he was learning the language and you would always see him carrying books on English under his arm. Well, the next thing I know, he was doing THE BIBLE for John Huston, and then playing Lancelot in CAMELOT! I was thinking, "Well, he can't sing and he can't even speak English, but here he is playing Lancelot [laughs]!" But what do I know? His career quickly skyrocketed and he did many films - good, bad, or indifferent, he was working all of the time. When we worked together, he was quite a bit younger than I was. He was 21 or 22 years old when I met him and he was a very nice kid, very conscientious about his acting.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Tall Troupers In Almeria

My Life As An Independent Film Producer
by Sidney Pink

As a director, I am a great believer in rehearsal, especially of dialogue. I like to run a dialogue reading before finalizing the script. For THE TALL WOMEN, we had a round-table sitting where we did nothing but read the script for phrasing and ease in expressing the dialogue. Many times a line read very well, but when spoken by the actor who is required to speak it, it sounds awful and needs to be changed. Many times the actors themselves may say that it is not the way they would express that thought or feeling. Intelligent actors see their roles in their own way, and if they feel uncomfortable with a line of dialogue, it is much better to change it to what they feel right in saying.
For this picture, we had some very experienced and seasoned actors who knew their own abilities and limitations, and we made many changes in those first readings together. I have never felt that the director should tell an actor how to play a part or how to act; I prefer an exchange of views on who the character really is and how he or she should be portrayed. After such a discussion, the result is usually agreement between us about how the part should be played, and my only contribution is in the overall interaction among the players for the continuity of the script.
I had no problems with the actresses of THE TALL WOMEN except for Crista Linder, who was not really bright enough to fully comprehend the subtleties of a little Irish girl so shy and introverted that she hid it by an extroverted display of Irish gaiety. She had to portray a fear that was not overt but an underlying, ever-present part of her personality. Fortunately, Crista was so innocent-looking that we were able to get her character right on film without her knowledge or understanding. It was just there, and her death by rape brought tears to every eye and gave a note of true fear and suspense to the latter part of the film.
We worked long and hard, and every one of those women proved to be a real trouper. None of them had ever been to Almeria, nor had any of them but Anne Baxter ever seen the type of desert barrenness we faced. We began working with a picniclike ambience which soon changed as the hard work and tough terrain began to take its toll.
Our accommodations in Almeria were the best available, but by any standards they were crude. We stayed in a hotel located right on the Mediterranean with a very small, rocky beach. There were only two rooms with private bath, which went to Anne Baxter and me. I took one because my hours were much longer than anyone else. I would be at the set thirty minutes before any of the actors, and I would remain after they left, planning the next day's action. Then I would return to the hotel for a shower and dinner, which wasn't served until 10 P.M.
We had to rent the one and only local theatre to see our rushes (the prints of our previous day's work), and since the theatre didn't close until midnight, we couldn't finish before one in the morning. Then we had a production meeting with the camera crew and my assistants to discuss the rushes, decide if there were any retakes necessary, and get the crew's assessment of how the picture was progressing and their suggestions for improvement. With luck we would finish by two, so that at most we would get three hours sleep a night until our day off on Sunday.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Secret Agent Tony Russel

From: Tony Russel Our Man On Gamma 1
The Wild Wild Interview
by Michael Barnum
Video Watchdog No. 128 Dec/Feb 2007

SECRET OF THE SPHINX was one of the first James Bond 007 knock-offs to come out of Italy, hot on the heels of GOLDFINGER. Was it a nice change of pace from your sword and sandal films?
It was great, particularly going down to film in Egypt. It was a wonderful experience and an education. My co-star Maria Perschy was beautiful and wonderful to work with. She was an Austrian (by way of Germany) actress. And Duccio Tessari was, indeed, a good director. The picture, however, just missed. Not by a lot, but it just missed being a really good film.

This wasn't your only foray into the spy genre though, was it?
No, I later did TARGET GOLDSEVEN [TECNICA DI UN SPIA, 1967], which was filmed in Portugal. Erika Blanc was my co-star in that film and she was a very funny gal. I don't recall where she was from originally, but a lot of these beautiful blond, buxom girls would come down from other countries and the producers, or directors, would put them in pictures and they'd be sleeping with them or whatever. I tried to stay out of all of that [laughs]! One day, Erika and I were lying in bed on the set while the lighting was being set up, and she said to me, "You know, Tony... I have starred in eleven films and I have slept with eleven producers!" [laughs] I said, "Well, thanks for sharing that, Erika!" [laughs]

I once read an interview with actor Gordon Mitchell in which he mentioned that it was wise to never get involved with the actresses in the films in Italy, because you never knew when one of them might be dating the producer!
That's right! Really, a lot of the time they weren't even very good actresses and you would wonder how in the world they got the lead, but then you'd realize [laughs]! Let's face it, there were producers and directors who became producers and directors primarily for this reason.

KNIGHTS OF TERROR [IL TERRORE DEL MANTELLI ROSSI, 1964] is a rather obscure historical adventure that you did with Scilla Gabel.
One good thing about that film was that we shot inside a wonderful castle, right across the bridge at the Tiber river, the Castello di Sant' Angelo. We shot right inside that beautiful castle, which is quite a tourist attraction. The exteriors were shot outside a different castle on the outskirts of Rome. I didn't really enjoy shooting that picture, however. The cameraman was Spanish [Julio Ortas], and the other lead actor was French [Jacques Dacqmin], and then there was Scilla Gabel, who was either French or Italian. My name had been established a little by this time, but I felt like I was on the outside looking in during the filming. The director [Mario Costa] didn't give me the time of day, for some reason. There was a clique between him and the girls and the French actor, and I always felt like an outsider. So I just minded my own business and did my dialogue and fencing and swashbuckling and whatever was needed.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Ernie on Jesus Of Nazareth (1977)

From: ERNIE the autobiography
by Ernest Borgnine

I went back to the distant past for my next project. Not in a toga, but as a Roman centurion in Franco Zeffirelli's 1977 epic Jesus of Nazareth. Franco is the man who gave us the classic ROMEO AND JULIET, among other great films.
This was my first TV miniseries. It was shot in Tunisia and we had an amazing cast. Robert Powell was Jesus, and we had Tony Quinn, Anne Bancroft, Laurence Olivier, Claudia Cardinale, James Mason, James Earl Jones, and Christopher Plummer - in other words, "the works"! It turned out to be one of the best pictures of its kind. It was pious without being like a Sunday school class, and powerful without being over-the-top-bloody, if you catch my meaning.
Franco was a terrific director. He didn't do much direction. He just made a little adjustment here or there, mostly toning things down. He trusted his actors. He also loved Tova's soap. My wife had started a cosmetics line that was heavily advertised on TV and turned into a real industry. Franco liked the soap because where we were shooting the water was so hard that you couldn't get up lather. Tova's soap would foam up in the hardest water you could imagine.
Working in a foreign location with actors who often have thick accents is a chore. Local regulations require that local actors have to be used in smaller roles, but their English usually isn't up to snuff and they have to be dubbed later on. For that reason, to save money, producers don't bother recording sound on locations. They just have us come in and dub it later. Because there's no recording, the sets tend to be very noisy with people yelling and construction workers hammering and trucks coming and going. It is incredibly difficult to concentrate.
One thing that stands out vividly on this shoot were all the animals we had, and all the animal smells. It was pretty awful. I know the beasts gave Franco a hard time, all the donkeys, giraffes, elephants and things you wouldn't believe. It seemed like every time you turned around, one animal wanted to attack another. (The well-endowed donkeys were ready to go at it with the giraffes.) Franco was yelling in Italian "Vada, eliminli!" - "Take them away!" and he would push them. No wonder he needed soap at the end of the day!
My first scene in this picture was when I, a great Roman warrior, went to ask Jesus to cure one of my servants, who was dying. As I started to beg, an extra ran up and said, "You should see your man, he's well, he's alive, he's happy." I looked back at this man, with his piercing blue eyes, and for a moment I was literally transported. For that second, he was Jesus Christ. It passed quickly, but it was one of the most surreal experiences I've had on a shoot. Not the most incredible, however. That was still to come.
I had a scene where I was looking up at Jesus after he'd been nailed to the cross. My preparation for this was pretty soul-searching. My feeling as the centurion was, "I've been in the army for a long time, but I don't like what I see. This man actually saved my servant, and now look what they're doing to him. I'm going to get out of the army."
The shot required the cameras to be looking down on me. Jesus was not in the frame. But it was important and Franco wanted me to get it right. So he said, "I'm not going to put the actor up on the cross."
I said, "No, just put a dot up there. I'll be able to work from that. Don't worry about it." I didn't want Powell to have to go up there.
So they put a mark where I was supposed to look and they had a camera right alongside it. They had another camera over on the other side, another camera behind me, looking down on me, and a fourth one behind the cross. Some directors like to have a lot of choices when they get in the editing room. It's better to have too much footage than not enough.
When everything was set, I said to Franco, "Would somebody please read what Jesus said on the cross: 'Forgive them for they know not what they do.'"
Franco said, "I will say it."
So we started. I was looking up at this dot on the cross as Franco said the words and, so help me, I actually saw the face of the Lord. A moment later his face dropped down to his shoulder and he was dead.
Tears as big as teacups came from my eyes, I swear to God. I started bawling like a baby. I just stood there with the tears coming down. Finally I heard "Cut".
I came back to reality, to the realization that we were actually making a picture.
Franco said, "Ernesto?"
I choked out, "Yes."
He said, "That was wonderful. Now, Ernesto, do you think you can do it one more time with less tears?"
I wanted to kill him. He had something real on film, and now he wanted me to fake it. Well, he was the director. In the finished film viewers see pieces from both takes. Though they almost didn't see any of them.
General Motors was sponsoring the show for Easter and when they saw the picture, they didn't want to show me crying. I don't know why. Maybe they thought it was a knock at the military, having a soldier cry. Or maybe they thought it was a little too reverent. I don't know. But the Vatican came back and said, "If you don't have the part in, we won't sanction the picture."
It stayed in the film.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Finalizing pre-production on THE TALL WOMEN

My Life As An Independent Film Producer
by Sidney Pink

Our production team returned in sixteen days with a complete file of selected location sites and production plans. They were excited by what they had discovered and were positive we could make a picture than would do credit to all concerned. We were now ready to set up a final shooting schedule. Our contract with Anne Baxter called for one week for rehearsal, six weeks of shooting, and one week for added scenes and dubbing. All other contracts were for the duration of the picture, with no time limit. So, since almost all of our characters were in the picture from start to finish and there were no scheduling hardships, we were permitted the unusual luxury of starting to shoot at the beginning of the story. Of course, we were bound by the limitations of our budget since we had no extra cushion to cover additional shooting.
It was on this film that I finally learned the difficulty of being both producer and director of the same movie. As the director, I wanted and needed the time to make the truly fine picture that the cast and script of THE TALL WOMEN merited. On the other hand, my miserly producer side refused to grant that request based on lack of funds. As director, I had the chance I had never known before, of making a classic that could stand on its own for the future. No one had ever attempted an all-female Western with a major actress taking a role that had always been reserved for John Wayne or Gary Cooper. Now I was being stymied in this great opportunity by a recalcitrant, penny-pinching producer.
It was a soul-wrenching experience and one that I will regret to my dying day: I succumbed to the producer in me and accepted the short shooting schedule we could afford. We set a thirty-day shooting schedule with twenty-five of those days in Almeria. To capture everything that excellent script contained required at least another twenty days of shooting, but there was nowhere to get the additional dollars to finance it. Instead, we scheduled an almost superhuman number of scenes to be shot every day, which proved almost impossible to fulfill without killing our actresses - which we very nearly did.
Anne Baxter arrived in Madrid ten days before the start of shooting in order to compensate for the nine-hour time difference between L.A. and Madrid. We took advantage of her early arrival to throw a cocktail party in her honor at the Hotel Richemond, where she had an apartment. It was a very important event in Madrid society and everyone wanted invitations. Accustomed as the Madrilenos were to celebrity visitors, there was something about Anne Baxter that triggered more than average interest. I had never realized how well-known she was in Europe and just how popular she was in Spain. We invited the entire movie colony along with major government officials, and to my amazement, we had several hundred people waiting at the hotel to catch a glimpse of her. We were written up in all the important periodicals, and we got off to a great start with THE TALL WOMEN.
The actresses met for the first time at the cocktail party, and much to my surprise they got along well. I had expected some bitchiness on the part of some of them at all the hoopla thrown for Anne, but they accepted the fact that she was the star with an amazing amiability and were pleased at the opportunity of being photographed with her. Anne was such a warm and wonderful woman that it was impossible not to like her. Vanity was not a part of her personality, and her honesty in interviews amazed reporters. She won over the Spanish officials and, most importantly, Don Joe Lopez Bravo, the minister in charge of motion pictures. That gentleman made it a point to thank me for bringing such a great actress to Spain. The party was a great start, but the next day we went to work.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Tony Russel's FISTFUL story.

From: Tony Russel Our Man On Gamma 1
The Wild Wild Interview
by Michael Barnum
Video Watchdog No. 128 Dec/Feb 2007

Legend has it that you were one of the actors, along with Steve Reeves and Richard Harrison, approached by Sergio Leone to star in A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS.
Yes, I turned down A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS because the script was so terrible. I had already done some swashbuckling action pictures on horses and all of that stuff when Sergio Leone contacted my agent and told him that he wanted to see me for his movie. Leone told my agent that he wanted to do this Western, and I sort of giggled under my breath. I couldn't imagine Italians doing a Western! We asked to see the script and we each took a copy home. Later, my agent called me and said, "Did you read this?" I told him it was the worst thing I had ever read [laughs]. I was looking for dialogue and motivation, and moment-to-moment, and all that crap. Reading the script, I never saw the blood or heard the music, or got any of the stuff that ended up making that film so great. Well, I turned it down; my agent had said that they weren't paying the actors much money for it anyway. He then told me to come over to his office and meet a good director named Duccio Tessari, who was going to do a movie in Egypt. It was to be a tongue-in-cheek James Bond thing.

[So the running tally of people who could have worked on A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS includes: Richard Harrison, Steve Reeves, Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Sidney Pink (who had just made FINGER ON THE TRIGGER), Frank Wolff and, mentioned during a speech at a Golden Boot Awards ceremony - Stuart Whitman. -wtc]

Yes. I read the script and sort of liked it, and I had been wanting to go to Egypt, so I accepted that one. Meanwhile, Clint Eastwood was hired to do A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS. I knew Clint and I knew what they paid him for that movie, which was next to nothing. But, of course, the next time he worked for Leone, they paid him $150,000 and the rest is history!

Do you have any idea how Clint Eastwood felt about A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS?
I saw him right after he'd finished shooting the picture and he said to me, "Tony, I've just made the biggest piece of crap that I've ever done in my life. It's really terrible and they didn't pay me much money and the money was never there when I needed it, and it was 120 degrees..." He bitched and bitched and bitched [laughs]! But the film played to Standing Room Only for about six months at the biggest theater in Rome.

Do you think that film would have changed the direction of your career, the way it did for Clint Eastwood?
Clint was much more ambitious than I was, and he wanted to eventually do other things, such as direct. I would guess that, if I'd made the film, it would still have been a successful picture, but I'd have probably just taken the money and run. Clint got into the right circles. It really is a matter of ambition, sometimes. I enjoyed acting, but I had no urge to produce or direct. I don't think it was just Clint's performance that made the picture; it was Sergio Leone's direction, and the score, and everything connected.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A shooting schedule for THE TALL WOMEN.

My Life As An Independent Film Producer
by Sidney Pink

The breaking down of a script into a shooting schedule is probably the most arduous and painstaking chore in preproduction planning. It is in this stage that a successful conclusion and budget compliance are actually determined. Script breakdown requires scheduling each and every scene called for in the shooting script. It needs an expert hand, and if improperly done, it is impossible to maintain a schedule or calculate costs. To get the most out of your production dollars, you must make certain that actors who are on weekly contract or limited time availability complete all their scenes within the time allotted. Carrying over an actor with a very high daily per scale can be most costly, even budget-busting. Similarly, the moving of cast and crew must be held to a minimum since the cost of those moves in time and money is a big factor in the final production expense. Therefore, there must be a perfect intertwining of the location siting with the use of the actors.
I learned all this only too well in the making of FINGER ON THE TRIGGER, and our crew and production department were well aware of my feelings about the waste caused by lack of planning. Calling extras back for unfinished scenes can destroy the most carefully planned budgets, and with so many films on our production plan requiring so many varied locations, we could be ruined by just a couple of such errors.
THE TALL WOMEN was a big picture in every sense of the word, and it required a major effort to impart that size onto the screen. Its cast would do justice to many multimillion dollar projects, and its battle scenes with hundreds of extras amounted to almost a military operation and demanded complete and close supervision. Although our gypsy Indians were not the demanding Hollywood types, they had now become sufficiently experienced to demand the best available foot and lodging for them and their animals.
The script called for a huge wagon train with three dozen Conestoga wagons and six buckboards. We had to photograph these in peaceful procession, as well as in two complete circles under Indian attack. This meant rehearsal after rehearsal and the right location selection that would enable us to shoot the action from highup, wide angle, and, of course, close up. These kinds of shots were not easily repeated and had to be planned with complete precision to avoid second takes.
There is a reason that movies are not shot in the order of the script, starting at the beginning and moving in progression to the end. It is entirely possible that the size of a budget and the need for cost control require that production start at the very end of the script. This throws actors into their final dramatic scenes without having begun the development or understanding of the characters. This is very demanding on actors as well as the director, since they must jointly portray a set of circumstances and reactions to which they have not yet been exposed. I firmly believe that aside from the necessity of memorizing lines, a movie is much more difficult for the actor and director than a stage play. Like the birth of a child, there are so many inherent and potential dangers in creating a movie that it is truly a miracle so many are born with everything complete.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Eastwick; it's official.

ABC has decided to not order any new episodes the show that was possibly my favorite freshman series of the 2009 season.

Dollhouse; it's official.

Fox TV has confirmed that after the 13 episodes of Dollhouse season two have aired, there will be no more.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tony Russel makes Gladiator movies

From: Tony Russel Our Man On Gamma 1
The Wild Wild Interview
by Michael Barnum
Video Watchdog No. 128 Dec/Feb 2007

As a practiced fencer, SWORD OF DAMASCUS (1964) would seem to be a perfect fit for you.
You know, a lot of times I was cast in a film simply because I could fence or because I knew how to ride a horse or something like that [laughs]! SWORD OF DAMASCUS was the second or third film I did in Europe. The movie was going to be called THE THIEF OF DAMASCUS, but that title had already been copyrighted by 20th Century Fox. In SWORD OF DAMASCUS, I play a pickpocket and I fall in love with the girl and, at the end of the film, they are going to cut off my head. The cast in this film was rather weak. The budget didn't allow for them to get the really good actors, and that is including myself [laughs]! Although I starred in it, I was not getting a hell of a lot of money; but at this time I was still relatively unknown, so that was to be expected. After the first couple of pictures, and after I became better known in Europe, I could start asking for a little more money.

You also made the requisite gladiator films. In your case, it was THE SPARTAN GLADIATOR and THE SECRET 7 (aka THE INVINCIBLE 7).
THE SECRET 7 was shot in Spain by director Alberto De Martino. There was plenty of action in that film. The guy who played my brother in that picture, Massimo Serato, was a very good looking guy and a very good actor. However, he kind of resented me as an American starring in Italian pictures. We were amicable but I could sense his resentment, and I overheard him a few times expressing that resentment. Quite often, people I worked with in Italy didn't realize that I was of Italian heritage because I was using the name Tony Russel.

You and Massimo Serato appeared together again in THE SPARTAN GLADIATORS.
Yes, he was in that one as well. THE SPARTAN GLADIATOR is the film where they put all the mirrors in my face to punish and torture me. To me, these were all just action pictures; they really had no substance. Just fight scene after fight scene, horseback riding, and all that stuff.

The beautiful Helga Line had leading lady duties in both of your gladiator films.
She was very nice, and also very young. Of course, they were all younger than I was. Hell, when I got to Italy I was already 36 years old! So I was pushing 40 when I made these two gladiator pictures. Most of the actresses I was working with were, I am assuming, in their 20s. One day Helga and I were sitting in a car and I noticed this little scar by her ear. I mentioned it and she sort of ignored my comment. Well, I said, "Come on, Helga, did you have a face lift?" And, sure enough, she had had a face lift [laughs]! You know actresses, as soon as they see those wrinkles or crow's feet, they have their eyes pulled back and their forehead tucked up into their hairline. Helga was really a very nice gal. I have to say I was lucky, in that most of the people I worked with in my career I really have no complaints about.

I understand that you had a small mishap with your horse during the filming of THE SECRET 7.
During one scene, I was supposed to dismount a horse while on the side of a mountain. I leaned on the left rein and the horse turned its head and clobbered me in the side of my head. My cheek was so swollen after that, they had to photograph me from the right side for the next three days [laughs]!

As you frequently did your own stunt work, it's surprising that your injuries weren't more serious. As I understand it, Italian filmmakers weren't always as careful as they should have been.
No, they weren't careful at all [laughs], but I knew what I could do and what I couldn't do. In THE SECRET 7, there is a scene where I am on a horse chasing the heavy while my leading lady is in a chariot. They wanted my character to dismount from the horse to the chariot at a gallop using a double. I had worked with that horse for about three or four weeks and it was a wonderful horse. I asked them to let me try the stunt myself, riding along the side of the chariot. Then I could grab the bar that goes around the chariot and lift myself in, with the camera staying with me the entire way. I practiced it several times and it worked, so they only had to use a double in the shot where the chariot flips over. That is probably why I worked so much over there; they thought "We can get Tony Russel to star, that way we can save money on a stunt double [laughs]!" Of course, the stunt guys may have resented that a bit.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sidney solves problems for Seto, Gilardi & Hunter

My Life As An Independent Film Producer
by Sidney Pink

When Elorietta's problem was solved, I concentrated on the others. Seto discovered a Eurasian beauty beginning a movie career in Rome with some success. Her name was Seyna Sein, and she had that mystique about her that only the Eurasians possess. He had cast her in DRUMS OF TABU but was having problems finding an adequate voice for her. It never occurred to him to consider using her own voice; European directors were accustomed to using one actor for acting and another for dubbing. Seto drove me up a wall until I flew Seyna back from Rome and we tested her to play herself. The result was astounding to Seto: Seyna could actually do a good job of speaking her own lines! A happy Seto finished the film.
Then Jack Gilardi called me with the news he had a director for FICKLE FINGER OF FATE. He wanted me to fly to L.A. to interview him. Since I really had no time, I sent plane fare for Richard Rush to come to Madrid to talk with me. He could, at the same time, see for himself the Spanish production facilities. According to Jack, Dick Rush had made a quickie film that was eliciting a great deal of praise from the "movie mavens". Jack was so impressed with his potential he signed him as a client. I had a great deal of faith in Jack's opinions and I was ready to hire Dick sight unseen, but Jack insisted he didn't want that responsibility.
I was impressed with Dick Rush; he obviously knew his craft and was full of ideas about what he wanted to do in the future. I asked him if he were willing to try new and innovative shots that were now becoming a trademark of the new generation of directors. He indicated he would appreciate the right to run his own ship, and if permitted to do so, he would attempt to give the Henaghan script a modern look. Antonio Macasoli, our cameraman for FINGER ON THE TRIGGER and now signed for FICKLE FINGER OF FATE, was there with us. Antonio agreed that Dick Rush was worth taking a chance on. We agreed on terms for his directing the picture, and Dick stayed on in Madrid a couple of weeks to work with Henaghan in polishing the final script. Then he went back home to work with Tab Hunter in preparation for the start of production, which we scheduled to begin in seven weeks.
Before I could begin working full-time on THE TALL WOMEN, I needed to find a second script for Jeff Hunter so we could set a starting date for WITCH WITHOUT A BROOM. Elorietta would be finished with BOUNTY HUNTER in just a few weeks, and he was chafing at the bit to start his next film and work with his first-ever international star, Jeff Hunter. Jim Henaghan knew about our dilemma, and he came to me with a new project for which he had neither script nor story outline. He wanted to do the life of Jesus as a Western, and although I didn't know how he could do it, I felt that Jim's ingenious mind would most probably find the way, so I paid him for the script and he promised to have it ready at least three weeks before we finished WITCH WITHOUT A BROOM. Now I had all my ducks in a row and we were ready to prepare the shooting schedule for THE TALL WOMEN.

Monday, November 9, 2009


From: ERNIE the autobiography
by Ernest Borgnine

HANNIE CAULDER gave me a chance to work with one of the great western directors, Burt Kennedy, who had made hits like THE WAR WAGON and SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SHERIFF. This one starred Raquel Welch, Robert Culp, Jack Elam, Strother Martin, Christopher Lee, Diana Dors, and me. I'm the oldest of three brothers who come into a little town, mess up a robbery, and end up hiding at a little horse ranch where they discover Raquel Welch and her husband. We kill him, rape her, then get picked off one by one after a bounty hunter, played by Robert Culp, teaches her how to shoot.
Despite the rough subject matter, we all had fun on that picture. Raquel was - and still is - a breathtaking beauty, and she had great natural instincts. The actor who really shines, though, is Bob Culp. This guy is one of our great national treasures. Watching anything he ever does, whether it's BOB & CAROL & TED & ALICE or I Spy on TV or a western like this. He's convincing in everything because, like Gary Cooper, he's one of the great listening actors of all time. I wish I had half of whatever he's got.
The picture didn't make much of a splash. It was an era of anti-heroes, like we had in THE WILD BUNCH. Traditional westerns weren't the box-office successes that had once been.
I remember at one luncheon of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, who should I be sitting across from but dear Raquel. I remember sitting there thinking, Hey - I rolled her around in the hay, once.
I hope nobody noticed me smiling.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


From: ERNIE the autobiography
by Ernest Borgnine

I hadn't worn a toga in a while. I guess producer Dino De Laurentiis thought the world needed another dose of that when he phoned and asked me to appear in his biblical epic starring Tony Quinn as the criminal who was freed when Jesus was sent to the cross.
There wasn't much of a part for me. They already had Jack Palance as the bad-boy gladiator and Arthur Kennedy as Pontius Pilate. My then-wife Katy Jurado had been cast, and my old buddy Richard Fleischer was directing. Those were all good reasons to do the picture. I told Dino I'd consider it.
He said, "We'll give you $25,000."
That was damn good for what amounted to three-quarters of an hour's work. I could tell Dino really wanted me, and I decided to push it. I happened to be thumbing through a magazine that had pictures of Ferraris.
Man, I thought, that's a good-looking car.
I said, "I'll do it for $25,000 and a Ferrari."
I could hear Dino gulp over the phone two or three times. But, you know, it meant a lot to pictures in those days to have an all-star cast looking out from those big billboards like the one in Times Square. I was betting he'd bite. And he did.
He said, "Okay, and a Ferrari."
My American agent said to me later, "Jesus Christ. I think I'm going to have you as my agent!" Yeah, well - you know what I think of agents.
BARABBAS came out at the tail end of the biblical cycle, after BEN-HUR and KING OF KINGS had covered that territory in big, hugely popular style. There was no room for an epic but reverent, relatively subdued film about this tortured man who finally discovered Christianity. The movie was a box-office disappointment. I felt bad for Tony, who did some great work, and particularly for Katy, since a hit would have bumped her up a few notches in terms of popularity.
That's show business. Sometimes, even God can't help you.
After BARABBAS I stayed in Rome to do another Italian-language picture starring Vittorio Gassman, the Italian actor who was married to Shelley Winters. It was called I BRIGANTI ITALIANI (THE ITALIAN BRIGANDS was the American title).
Life imitates art - Katy played by wife in the picture. Our marriage was starting to disintegrate around this time. The pressures of trying to sustain a marriage when both of us were off working were taking their toll.
My most vivid memory, though, had nothing to do with us. One day I was doing this big scene, giving this impassioned speech to a bunch of people under a tree. Suddenly, I stopped.
The director, a pleasant man named Mario Camerini said, "Why did you stop?"
I said, "When he gets through picking his nose, I'll go ahead."
So help me Christ, Gassman was actually picking his nose on camera!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Tony Russel's first movie in Europe

From: Tony Russel Our Man On Gamma 1
The Wild Wild Interview
by Michael Barnum
Video Watchdog No. 128 Dec/Feb 2007
What was you first picture in Europe?
The first one was THE LAST CHANCE [LA LEGGENDA DI FRA DIAVOLO, 1962]. Giovanni Addessi was the producer and Leopoldo Savona directed. Savona had seen and loved WAR IS HELL so when I met him, I did not even have to read for the part! I worked on THE LAST CHANCE for about nine or ten weeks in Yugoslavia. In fact, they took the excess footage from this film and made another picture [L'ULTIMA CARICA, 1964] out of it. I understand that Haya Harareet, who was my co-star in THE LAST CHANCE, sued the filmmakers because they didn't call her in to film additional scenes, as they did with me, for this second film. I went back and shot for another couple of weeks and they were able to make this whole other movie out of the footage.
This would have been your first experience of acting with a big international cast, I imagine.
There were Yugoslavian actors, Spanish actors, Italian actors. There was also a Swiss actor in it named Mario Adorf, who I think is still working in films. When I worked with Mario, he was studying the script to A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE; he was going to be playing the Marlon Brando role on the stage in Germany. Mario spoke German, I was speaking my lines in English, the Italian actors were speaking in Italian, and there were Spanish speaking actor in it also. There were three or four languages going on all the time.
I would think that could get confusing!
Those who spoke Italian I could understand; at least I could get my cue from them easily enough. But if they could not understand English, then they would get their cue from the director, who would point to them as I finished my line. There was another actor in the film named Amedeo Nazzari, sort of an Errol Flynn type. I was doing a long scene with him and this happened to be my first scene in my first Italian film. As we were doing the scene, I saw a glaze come over his eyes. In the States, if you mess up or forget your line, the director yells "Cut!" and you start all over again. But over there, to economize, they don't stop. Amedeo was saying his lines in Italian and, when he forgot his next line, instead of stopping, he started reciting numbers! Uno, due, tre, quattro... I started laughing and the director, Leopoldo, asked me what was the matter. I told him that Amedeo had started counting. Well, Leopoldo explained to me that the actor knows how long the speech should be and it is all going to be dubbed over into Italian anyhow, so it doesn't matter. So, if trains go by or planes fly overhead, of if someone makes a noise during filming, nobody ever says "Cut!" They didn't care, because a new soundtrack would be dubbed in over it.It took me a while to get used to that, but then I realized that, when these people came to the set, they were really prepared. They looked at the script and they knew approximately what they needed to say and when. If it didn't come out right, they just started counting numbers, but keeping the emotions there. When they stopped counting, that was my cue to say my line. It was really strange at first.

Friday, November 6, 2009


My Life As An Independent Film Producer
by Sidney Pink

Now with the casting completed, we needed only to find locations for the cruel and vicious terrain the script called for. The seven women were going to go through hell as presented in the script, and I intended to impart the feeling of realism required.
There would be no makeup or sophistication about these women except in the opening sequence, where we would allow the two circus performers, played by our Italians, to appear as overblown as people envision circus women to be. The character played by Maria Perschy, a German woman looking for a new life with her husband and babe in arms, could not look glamorous. When her child is killed in the first Indian raid, she goes slightly mad, leaving no room for glamour. Maria Mahor played a Southern belle whose idea of makeup was to pinch her cheeks instead of using rouge. Perla Cristal portrayed a buxom Mexican woman and was not called upon to be anything but earthy, while Crista was a sixteen-year-old Irish refugee, totally naive and unworldly. Anne Baxter played a spinster schoolmarm, brainwashed by her sister and brother-in-law (also members of the caravan) into making the long trek west with the "brides for pioneers" party. This ill-assorted, nothing-in-common group would find themselves involved in a journey that no other women in history had ever faced. Glamour was out, removing the specter of jealousy and calls for the makeup artist that would ordinarily have dogged a picture with so many beautiful and talented actresses.
We sent our production manager and a team to Almeria, where most of FINGER ON THE TRIGGER was shot, with instructions to find the most desolate area in that most barren part of Spain. I armed them with pictures of the Arizona desert and demanded this be duplicated before they returned home. I needed no fewer than five hundred horses and Indians, thirty-six Conestoga wagons, and a dozen buckboards for our caravan. I gave them picture books of the Indians with sketches of the kind of valleys and hills needed for the ambush and fight scenes. Part of tyhe action took place in a cave, and since I refused to have a fake one built in the studio, we needed one large enough to permit the seven women and our camera crew to work in relative comfort. These challenges guaranteed that the production team would be gone a minimum of three weeks, allowing me to get going on the other films we needed to put in production to fulfill our contract commitments.
We soon learned that signing a contract does not automatically assure its fulfillment. Involvement with so many people and so many production headaches at one time guaranteed sleepless nights for our whole crew. Elorietta was busy with his Western, and as I had learned long before, the best way to ensure a completed, acceptable film from him was to leave him to his own devices unless he asked for help. He was on schedule and seemingly happy until he ran into a problem he was unable to resolve.
His script called for a sixteen-year-old actor, and he had been unable to find a Spanish youngster able to master English sufficiently to do the dialogue. He would be at a standstill if he didn't get someone immediately. I resolved that problem quickly by having my fifteen-year-old son Philip play the part. Although Phil had never acted before, his entire life had been spent in and around movie stages, and I figured some of it had to rub off. He played the part as though he had been an actor all his life, and he developed a long-lasting relationship with Elorietta that made my life more simple. Elorietta wanted him on every picture as dialogue director and assistant, and Philip kept me informed of everything that went on in Elorietta's productions without anyone feeling I was spying. Philip did a great job for us and soon made a reputation for himself based on his own talent.