Saturday, April 3, 2010


This is a 2005 interview I conducted with Oscar-winning Film Editor and long-time 20th Century Fox producer/exec Elmo WIlliams. Mr. Williams turns 97 at the end of this month!

Horace Greely said "Go West Young Man!" In 1915, the Williams family of Lone Wolf, Oklahoma did just that. Traveling by covered wagon, the Williams family made their way to New Mexico. By the time he was 14, Elmo Williams was an orphan taking care of his sisters. The young man persevered, placed his younger siblings with family members back in Oklahoma and headed to Los Angeles to attend UCLA. While working as a car-hop at the Hi-Ho drive-in in Westwood, the young Mr. Williams met a person who would change his life.

I recently had the pleasure of talking to Oscar-winning film editor, film producer and former studio executive Elmo Williams. At 92 years old, Mr. Williams is still as sharp as a man half his age. Mr. Williams is enjoying life at a slower pace in a small Oregon town, but he still is active in city affairs and in promoting film education in his part of the Great Northwest. Elmo Williams won the Best Editing scar for his work on the classic Western "High Noon." Mr. Williams spoke to me about the controversy surrounding the Oscar he shared with Harry Gerstad. Mr. Williams was also nominated for a Best Editing Oscar for the Disney adventure classic "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea." His peers at the American Cinema Editor’s Guild honored him with a Career Achievement Award in 1999 and the Filmmaker of the Year Award in 1971. Mr. Williams was also a longtime studio exec for 20th Century Fox. He worked as a producer, second unit director and in one famous case, an uncredited editor on "Cleopatra." Mr. Williams was the man who fired Akira Kurosaw from the production "Tora! Tora! Tora!" The epic Pearl Harbor film took up several years of his life. Enough of my words, let’s hear from Mr. Williams himself.

RUSTY WHITE: You spent a number of years getting "Tora! Tora! Tora!"

ELMO WILLIAMS: Yes. Four and one half years.

RW: I was curious about your interaction with Akira Kurosawa and why he left the film.

EW: He didn’t leave. We had to fire him. He worked for six weeks and only shot six minutes of film. We found out later that he was acting very erratic. His doctor said later that he had a tumor on the brain, which caused his erratic behavior. I don’t know that that is true, but it makes some sense because
Kurosawa certainly didn’t make sense at the time. He spent a million dollars for nothing. He was famous for that. He had no regard for money. Not just with us but with Japanese producers as well.

RW: The man you replaced him with, Kinji Fukasaku, (Battle Royale) went on to have a distinguished career himself.

EM: Toshio Masudo was actually the one who did most of the Japanese part. Fukasaku was doing second unit with Masudo. Masudo did most of the Japanese part. Fukasku was doing process projection work with a new process called Front Projection, which had lots of problems. It was frustrating for Fukasaku to do that because things kept going wrong. It wasn’t his fault. He tried hard and made contributions. He did quite a few setups of the Japanese in flight.

RW: I think your film has gained a new appreciation following Michael Bey’s horrible "Pearl Harbor."

EM: Yes. That’s been the story all along. Everyone credits us with the most authentic film made about the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

RW: I went to a website run by a friend of yours who was auctioning off some of your movie memorabilia. There was an interesting autograph by George Peppard with a drawing of a pig. I also found a picture of you in your office with a wall covered by drawings of pigs. What’s the story behind that?

EM: I used to do that. I would have the artist blindfolded and have them draw a pig. It was just a hobby of mine. That was my London office. I was in charge of all foreign production for FOX at the time and my office walls were pretty much lined with pictures of pigs. The Daily Press sent someone out to do a story about it for the papers.

RW: The Hollywood legend goes that Lana Turner was discovered at Schwabs. It seems you got your big break at the Hi-Ho when you met film editor Merrill White.

EW: I was only 19 years old. I left Oklahoma City and moved to Los Angeles. I went to work at the Hi-Ho drive-in at corner of Whilshire Blvd. and Westwood. I enrolled at UCLA, but I didn’t have very much money, so I was working as a car-hop. Being the new guy there, whenever anyone who was difficult to wait on came in, they would say, "You wait on them." And Merrill White was one of those difficult people to please. He always had a hot temper and was very brusque. So everybody thought he was a tough guy and they didn’t like him. So I used to wait on him. He took a liking to me and I got along fine with him. So, when he got a job to work on a film that was supposed to star Jeanette MacDonald and Herbert Marshall called "A Queen’s Affair." Ernst Lubitsch was supposed to direct it. And Merrill, who was the top editor at Paramount, had worked on all of Lubitsch’s films. Merrill was the first person to cut a color picture and he was the first one to track sound in the early days. So, he was very much in demand when the British film industry started up. Anyway, he was signed to do the one film. So he came by one night and said "Hey kid, would you like to go to London?" I said, "Oh yeah. Sure." (laughs) I wasn’t paying any attention because I thought it was a pipe dream. He said, "I’ll be back at 10 O’clock to talk about it." At 10 O’clock he came in and he said, "Do you have a passport?" I said "No." "Do you have a birth certificate?" "No." He said, "Well, surely you have to have a birth certificate." I said "No. I was born in a little town in Oklahoma and they don’t keep records there." He said, "If you are going overseas, you have to have a passport and you need a birth certificate to get one." It was all Greek to me. He said, "Who was present at your birth?" "My Aunt." The ship he was sailing on was leaving in eight days. So he sent my aunt a telegram asking her to send an affidavit of his birth back by collect telegram. In those days you had to go to Washington to get a passport. There were no local offices. Merrill said "Meet me downtown to take a photograph and I’ll make the application for you. We found a Mexican photographer in East LA who was open all night. We went down there at 4 AM. Took the photograph. Merrill pasted it on the application. He sent it off special delivery to Washington D.C. Well, it takes two weeks to get a passport as a rule, but he said, "No problem. The ship sails down through the Panama Canal, up the east coast to New York and then on to England. There will be plenty of time to get a passport. So, knowing nothing about it I say, "OK." He put the application through and sent it to Washington.

I went down and got on the ship at San Pedro. When they blew the whistle and started taking the gang-plank up I wanted to jump off. I thought I was stupid. I didn’t know what to do, so I went down and locked myself in my room. I had a cabin on C Deck. The ship had to sail with the tide. I heard the whistle blow, and saw Long Beach receding in the distance. If I could have fit through the porthole, I would have jumped out. Anyway, after we got out of port, Merrill came down and asked me if I was OK. I said yes. I stayed in my room until we were well out to sea going down the coast. I managed to get acquainted with Merrill. We used to play deck tennis with him at night. It was a big adventure for me. A little Okie from Oklahoma. I landed in England with him. He had caught a throat infection and was quarantined in the Savoy Hotel in London. I got some injections so I would get sick.

RW: Was your intent on making the trip for you to learn the trade?

EW: I was just supposed to be a gofer. Somebody to send his clothes to the cleaners, pay his rent, pay his hotel bills, do his banking…just a general flunky. That’s what I was supposed to do. But then, the film that he was supposed to work on collapsed. The movie never turned out, so the British people who had invested money in it were stuck. Merrill was going to go back home. That was my deal, I was supposed to go back to California where I had enrolled in UCLA. Merrill was ready to pull out too, but they begged him over there to stay because the industry in England was just starting to grow and they didn’t have any experts there. Merrill was an expert, so they doubled his salary and begged him to stay. Merrill came to me and said, "If I decide to stay would you consider staying on." I said, "OK as long as I can go back to school." As it turned out, he never got back to America and I stayed on. I used to go out at night to where he worked. I picked up odds and ends of experience on my own. I ended up staying five and one half years in London with him.

RW: You worked on quite a few films at that time.

EW: That’s where I learned to edit films. I was pretty much self-taught. Merrill was always willing to help me, but only when I really, desperately needed it. Because his way of teaching was to let you get into hot water and let you work your way out of it.

RW: That’s not a bad way to learn!

EW: It certainly helped me a great deal. Because I made an awful lot of mistakes, but I never made a mistake I didn’t learn from.

RW: One of the popular features on DVDs these days are the "director’s cuts." Last year FOX put out what they called the Director’s Cut of "My Darling Clementine." One thing that I learned from the commentary track was that in the days of the studio system, the director would finish a film and go on to the next one. The film’s construction was left up to the editor and producer.

EW: That’s the way it was when I started.

RW: So you had autonomy and could set the tone of the film yourself?

EW: Yes. We used to…the director would finish shooting. You’d run the last dailies with him. He’d make his notes with the editor and then leave. The editor had an enormous responsibility. I never did agree with the idea of the "Director’s Cut." Because when I started directing I found that I had lost my objectivity, which I had as an editor. And I found that I could not be objective about editing a film. Because I would like one actor better than another, so, subconciously I was trying to give him more footage. When I turned to directing, I would hire an editor, even though I was capable of editing because I wanted that objectivity. I believe today, still, I believe that a lot films would be a lot better, they would be a lot cheaper, and they would get them out of the cutting room a lot quicker if they would ship the director out.

RW: I noticed that you worked on a lot of Richard Fleischer’s films. Would a director ask for you or was it because you both worked at the same studio?

EW: Dick Fleischer was in New York and he was a stage director. When sound first came in, that’s when I started, directors in Hollywood had no experience with directing dialogue. They were ‘picture’ directors. The studios started saying "We’re making talkies now, so we’d better get some guys out here from New York who know how to direct actors to read their lines. So Fleischer was one of those directors who came out from New York, who was a stage director. He was related to Sid Rogel, who was the studio manager…the head of production at RKO. Since Dick knew nothing about the mechanics of making films, I was assigned to him to help teach him. I made all of his set ups for him on his first three films.

RW: Almost a co-director on those.

EW: Yeah, well, sort of. Dick and I became good friends. After he started making his mainstream films, whenever possible, he would ask me to edit his films. He got me onto "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" and "The Vikings." I always carried a big load. I edited some of Dick’s most successful films. Without bragging, I made lots of contributions to his films.

RW: The first film I ever saw in a theater was "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea." It was pure magic and put the hook in me.

EW: I have a lecture with "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" here in my town in August. We have screenings now and then and I lecture with them. I’m going to lecture on "The Longest Day" and "The Vikings" soon. It helps raise money for the local theater by doing this. I lectured on "High Noon" not long ago. It filled the theater two consecutive nights and raised $28,000.00 for the local theater, which was a big help to them. So, they’ve asked me to do some others and I will.

RW: Speaking of "High Noon," that was the one you won the Oscar for, along with Harry Gerstad.

EW: All Harry did on the film was carry the film from my cutting room up to Stanley Kramer’s house. That’s his entire contribution. That is all he did.

RW: Really!

EW: What happened is…he knew I had been the editor on the film. With no help at all. Kramer had moved to Columbia and was left with "High Noon" at Motion Picture Center. Harry had a contract with Kramer as the head of his editorial department. Part of his contract was that every film Kramer made, he would get screen credit. I went to the Academy to protest in this case, because he had nothing to do with it. But he walked up and shared the Academy Award. But the Academy said that anyone who gets screen credit, as far as they were concerned was eligible. They admitted that there are a lot of people in the industry who get Academy Awards who have nothing to do with the films. Probably the biggest demonstration of that is Cedric Gibbons. He was the head of the art department at MGM. This was in the days when MGM was making all of the best pictures. Gibbons used to get screen credit. When I left Hollywood he had about sixteen Oscars, just because he was the head of the art department. But, that’s the way things are.

RW: "High Noon" was shot in ‘real time.’ How difficult was it keeping up with the clock?

EW: It was a problem. Once the film was finished Kramer wanted to take his name off of it. He fired Zinnemann, sent him packing. He said the film was a mess, didn’t know what to do with it. He wanted to take his name off of it. He said "I’m going to Palm Springs this weekend and figure out what I’m going to do with it. I’ll probably put it on the shelf." I said "Stanley, I never worked for you before, but if you give me a chance, I think I can whip this thing into a good film." He kind of looked at me like I was talking out of my head. He said, "What the hell can you do with it?" I said, "You have nothing to lose, you’re not happy with it." So he said, "OK. I’m going to Palm Springs. See what you can do with it." So I took it and completely reworked it. I re-edited the whole story, and threw out a lot of scenes that Carl Foreman had written. In three days, I had completely reworked the film. One of the problems was the Clock. Fred Zinnemann, when he directed the film, because the story was supposed to take place in actual time, he had a clock in the back of so many of the shots. My problem in re-editing the story was to either deceive the audience into looking somewhere else, or to put something in the clock to distract people from looking at it. Because there are a couple of places where the time has jumped forward or backward. But no one has ever caught it, so I figure I was successful in what I had to do.

RW: It remains to this day, one of the best-paced films in American history.

EW: It’s a classic film. After all this time, it still looks good. When I lectured on it recently, I had a chance to see it again and was surprised to learn how well it still holds up. I think it was fifty years ago that it was made.

RW: I was interested to learn that you tried to set up a film industry in Iran when the Shah was still there. How did that come about?

EW: The Shah of Iran and his two sisters were all great film fans. When Iran found oil and became affluent, they thought it would be nice to get into the film business. But they knew nothing about it. They started asking questions. Someone recommended me to them and they looked me up. We had a meeting, and they were all gung-ho to start a film industry. So, I mapped out a five-year plan with them to start up an industry. I found out the Iranians were impossible to deal with. When the Shah married a second time, he married a woman who was raised in France. She had lots of French friends. They moved in, ambitious people moved in and got some of the oil money to start up the television industry there. So, the French sold equipment and personnel for the television stations. They would not cooperate with me for a film division. It was just a big mess.

RW: Not a happy experience.

EW: Not happy at all. I had lots of trouble making the films. When I agreed to do this, when I made "Caravans," the first thing I looked for was a story that could be made there. A good story. I got Michener’s book "Caravans" that MGM owned. I made a deal to buy it from them. Then I was a close friend of David Lean. I went to him to try and get him to direct it. I had no screenplay, but he said, "If you get Robert Bolt to write a screenplay, I’ll consider doing it." I went to Robert Bolt. At the time he was breaking up with Sarah Miles and he didn’t want to talk film at all. Without him, I lost David. I ended up the property and I had to start putting it together. Something never occurred to me. Iran is a very primitive country. There are a hell of a lot of people who don’t want to go there because they like their creature comforts. The big thing was on casting. When I went to cast the film I found out that I was running up against a brick wall. As you know, a lot of the artist and a lot of the people in the film industry are Jewish, and they wanted no part of a Muslim country. Because of that I automatically lost 75% of the possibilities for casting and for help. It was only after I got Tony Quinn to sign that I was able to put together a cast. It wasn’t a great cast at that, but I put it together and we endured. We made the film. It wasn’t a very good film. It looked good, because we captured the feel of the nomads who lived in the desert and so forth.

We kept working until Khomeini came in and then everybody left. Universal picked up the picture for distribution. But then Khomeini sued everybody that had to do with Iranian funds. Universal, rather than go through a lawsuit, put the film in the vault and forgot it. I was sued for $2,000,000.00. Although I never touched a dime of their money. I was the first one exonerated. The court cases went on and on for years. I certainly wouldn’t advise anyone to get into a situation like that!

RW: After that, you came back and hooked up with some people in Oklahoma to start producing films.

EW: Yeah.

RW: A few weeks ago I interviewed P.J. Soles. She mentioned working on one of your films: "Soggy Bottom U.S.A."

EW: Yes. PJ Soles and Don Johnson. I told Gaylord, who put up the money that place where all producers got robbed was in distribution. I explained how that all happens. The result was, he decided we should distribute "Soggy Bottom" ourselves. That proved to be a big mistake. That’s a whole different ball of wax: distribution. So, not a whole lot of people saw the film. I then went ahead and made a second film for them called "Man, Woman and Child" with Martin Sheen and Blythe Danner.

RW: That got a little more exposure.

EW: Yes. Paramount picked it up. It got out there and was shown in quite a few theaters.

RW: What was your contribution to Cleopatra?"

EW: "Cleopatra" was finished when we were making "The Longest Day." It had been in production for over three years. The overage and costs was staggering. FOX was unable to pay their bank loans because "Cleopatra" had drained the coffers. Mankiewicz, who wrote and directed it had total autonomy and he wouldn’t allow anybody to see anything. When it was finally finished, he decided he wanted to make two films out of it. One "Antony and Cleopatra" and one "Caesar and Cleopatra." The FOX board would not allow that and his contract called for just one film. So it was kind of out in limbo. Because he wouldn’t allow anybody to touch it and something had to be done with it. This was at the time we finished "The Longest Day" and Zanuck took over FOX again. The first job he faced was solving the "Cleopatra" problem. So they shipped the film to Paris without Mankiewicz knowing about it. I ran it for Zanuck. It went on for about five hours. We drank a whole case of beer while we watched it. It was obvious that it needed a whole hell of a lot of work. But because Mankiewicz believed he had made a masterpiece, he was reluctant to let anybody do anything or see it. So, Zanuck, told the press that the movie needed work, that it was too long. Mankiewicz got hold of that, he was a big friend of Taylor and Burton, so they held a quick press conference and they claimed that Zanuck was a film butcher and they would sue him and so on. So Zanuck was stymied. The film opened in New York. The theater manager claimed that he had over 200 people demand their money back. They were unhappy with it and he was unhappy with it. Because he had paid $1 million for the exclusive rights for New York City. He thought he was going to lose money so he begged Zanuck to do something. Zanuck had tangled with Mankiewicz once and was reluctant to do anything. I was kind of in the middle of all of this. One day I went down to the lab and I took it upon myself to take reject reels of the color print and cut it down to size. When I did, I called Zanuck and told him I had taken 28 minutes out of the film. He said, "Who told you to?" I said "No body. But you know and I know that something has to be done or FOX is going to go under. They can’t pay their bank loans if Cleopatra" goes bust. Things are going to be tough." He said, "I know it, but I don’t want to tangle with Mankiewicz. Do you want to get me killed!" I said "At least come down to the theater and look at it." When the screening was over he said "No question about it. You’ve made a decent film out of it." So I said, "The ball’s in your court." He called Mankiewicz up and asked him on a Sunday to come down to the FOX office on 57th Street. Mankiewicz knew about my reputation as a good editor, but he knew nothing about this screening and what it was for. When he walked into the theater, Zanuck was waiting for me. When he saw me back there, he smelled a rat right away. He walked around me as if I was a snake. Zanuck told him what I had done and Mankiewicz threw a fit. Offered to sue FOX, sue Zanuck. Threw a tantrum. Zanuck said "You and I disagree about this. Let’s let the public decide. They’re the ones that are eventually going to pay the bills." So, Zanuck had to talk like a Dutch Uncle to get Joe to agree to put it in the theater, the cut version. Mankiewicz said only if they put something on the marque saying this is not the original version of "Cleopatra", that this is a truncated version. Zanuck said "That’s not fair. You’re preconditioning the audience to hate it. Let’s just put it in there. You sit and watch and see what the reaction is." Eventually that is what we did. Manliewicz was in the back of the theater. Zanuck and I were sitting together in the middle of the theater. When the lights went up we turned around and Mankiewicz was gone. So we went to the theater manager and asked "Did he leave." "No, he’s up in my office." So we go up there and the theater manager said, "it was the first time they didn’t have any walk outs and nobody asked for their money back. I think it’s a miracle what you guys have done." He said that as far as he was concerned, he now had a film that might make some money. So when Zanuck came in the office, Mankiewicz walked over to Zanuck. He didn’t say anything to me, but he shook Zanuck’s hand and said, "OK. I guess you’re right. Go ahead with it." So, that’s what happened. That’s the way the film went out. The film did make money. And Burton and Taylor made money off of their percentage.

RW: That’s amazing that you just did it on your own.

EW: It was so obvious to me what needed doing. Especially, Taylor had had this long speech after she picked up the snake. I told Zanuck, "For God’s sake. Everybody in the world knows what happens when she picks up the snake. Why is she walking around giving this big oration. She’s walking around for about nine minutes spouting off her philosophy, and the picture just dies! So, that was the first thing I took out.

RW: You’ve directed films, you’ve produced films and you’ve edited films. Was there one area of film production that gave you more personal satisfaction that others.

EW: As far as I’m concerned, its all one. The joy of the whole profession is when you come out with a good film and the audience likes it. I mean, that’s the pleasure of it. It takes you a lot of sweat and a lot of hours to produce a film. When you think about it, an audience looks at it for hour and a half and
they make a decision about it whether it’s going to make money or lose money.
And when you’ve got one that’s going to make money and is successful, then that is a very big reward.


This is an interview I conducted with director Curtis Harrington in 2001. Mr. Harrington passed away on May 6, 2007.

After viewing five Curtis Harrington movies in one weekend, I found myself drawn into his world of elegant madness. Today's horror and suspense directors would be well advised to watch Mr. Harrington's work before stepping behind the camera. Harrington knows the Danse Macabre. Veteran horror and suspense genre director Curtis Harrington is unique in the film world in that he began making experimental and avant-garde films with other cutting edge filmmakers as Kenneth Anger and Maya Deren during the post WW II era. Mr. Harrington went from experimental films to working for a major studio as an associate producer to Jerry Wald. Mr. Harrington then began his career as a feature film director in the world of independent films. Like Francis Ford Coppola and countless others, Mr. Harrington was a protege of Roger Corman. With numerous theatrical and TV films, in addition to some episodic TV work to his credit, Mr. Harrington has recently returned to his roots with a contemporary short film "Usher" based on Poe's short story. Harrington's films include "Ruby" (1977), "What's the Matter With Helen? " and "Who Slew Auntie Roo? " (both 1971), the cult classic "Games" (1967) and Dennis Hopper's first lead role "Night Tide" (1961). A friend of director James Whale (Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein), Mr. Harrington was called upon to coach Ian McKellen for the movie "Gods and Monsters." Phil Hardy states in "The Overlook Encyclopedia of Horror Films" that Harrington is one of the most interesting American horror film practitioners and that he brings an elegance not often seen to his films. I have to agree with Mr. Hardy's assessment. In preparing for this interview, I rented as many of Mr. Harrington's films that I could find. I think it is a pity that he has not found financing for more recent projects. Mr. Harrington spent a couple of hours on the phone with me recently from his home in Los Angeles. I found him to be witty, gracious, a bit sardonic and cynical about the system run by moneymen with no artistic insight. What follows is most of our conversation:

RUSTY WHITE: You started out making experimental short films. IMDB lists "A Fragment of Seeking" as your first film. I wasn't able to find it anywhere.

CURTIS HARRINGTON: No, the short films are not on video. They are only available from "The Filmmaker's Cooperative" in New York on 16 mm.

RW: What was "Fragment of Seeking" about?

CH: All of the short films's so hard for me to describe them. The whole point of the films is they were entirely visual. They had no dialogue of any kind.

RW: I did get to see Kenneth Anger's "Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome" in which you acted.

CH: Yes, that's a film I acted in but that is not my film. I had nothing to do with the making of that film.

RW: Did you play the character that looked like Cesare from "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari? "

CH: Precisely. You got it. The resemblance was intention.

RW: As I watched it, I was thinking it was a cross between "Tales of Hoffman" and "The Trip" or it was visual MUZAK from Marilyn Manson's house.

CH: (Laughs) That was made many, many, many years before Marilyn Manson.

RW: What was Mr. Anger like to work with.

CH: He was very pleasant. He was very intense in what he was trying to do. Actually, we, well everyone who worked on it had a good time when we were making it. It was a lot of fun.

RW: You were also the cinematographer on his short film "Puce Moment."

CH: You can call it cinematography. I did very little. The cinematographer should do the lighting. I'm not sure that I even did the lighting. I think I mainly did the camera work. I was more like a camera operator than a cinematographer.

RW: Anias Nin also appeared in "Pleasure Dome." Do you have any recollections of working with her.

CH: I became a very, very good friend of hers. Not because of the film, but quite apart from the film. Like everyone else working on that film all the people were friends, friends of Kenneth and friends of each other. It was an amusing thing to do. Anias was very cooperative. She had appeared earlier in a Maya Deren film in New York called "Ritual and Transfigured Time." You know Maya Deren was sort of the pioneer of the post W.W.II avant-garde film making in America. So Anias had already appeared in her film in New York. Appearing in an avant-garde film like that was just fun. It looked fun with the costumes. Technically it is an exciting movie. The colors are rich, there are a lot of process shots. Yes, he did a lot of optical work in laboratory after the final shooting.

RW: This weekend I watched 5 of your films to get ready for the interview. I'd like to get your comments on some of them. "Night Tide."

CH: Yes, that was my first feature film. That had a relationship to "Pleasure Dome" only in the sense that the artist Cameron appeared in both.

RW: Was she the mysterious Greek woman in "Night Tide"?

CH: Yes. She was an artist, not an actress.

RW: It was a beautiful movie, especially considering the low budget you had to work with.

CH: Extremely small.

RW: A couple of things stood out to me. The story is poetic, something you normally don't find with AIP and the dialogue is a level above what you hear in most movies. The dialogue is intelligent and elegant, but it doesn't sound pretentious, if that makes sense. My thought was, that I would like to know people who talk like that in their daily lives.

CH: (Laughs) Well thank you. I think in terms of the general public, there was a slightly higher rate of literacy in the 60s than there is now. When you look at our President who went to a major Eastern university and still hasn't mastered the English language that that is symptomatic of our times.

RW: I can identify with that. I'm more literate on paper than speaking. I apologize for stumbling along here. I just recently began conducting interviews. I just finished interviewing William Windom and Kim Hunter at the Memphis Film Festival.

CH: Did you talk to Kim Hunter about one of my favorite films "The Seventh Victim"?

RW: She was asked about that during a panel discussion. She spoke very highly of Val Lewton, said he was a pure gentleman, and the king of the horrors. I followed that up with a question about working with Dario Argento in "The Black Cat." You have two different takes on horror. One suggests rather than shows the horror while Argento just lays it out there, stylishly though.

CH: Yes. I like his films. He is a wild filmmaker. Although I just saw his latest and there wasn't much to it unfortunately. I like the Mother's trilogy, "Inferno" and "Tenebre" and I can't think of the third. I like Argento. I met him once. I had lunch with him when he was in Los Angeles.

RW: Do you speak Italian?

CH: No, no. But he speaks a little English. It's interesting what you said about Val Lewton, because I think "The Seventh Victim" is a particularly interesting film. He produced one movie that scared me to death as a child. I can't remember the name. There is a small boy locked out of his house screaming for his mother to let him in because a panther is coming....

RW: That was "The Leopard Man."

CH: That was a wonderful one. He was an extremely talented filmmaker. It is so interesting to me that Val Lewton is one of the few producers whose mark is so strong on his films that it doesn't matter much who directs them. He must have conceived them very fully at the script level so it was more a matter of executing what was on the page rather than the director's talent, although I do think of the directors who worked for him that Jacques Tourner was the best.

RW: Oh yes. I thoroughly enjoyed "Night of the Demon." I understand that you were a bit disappointed that they showed the demon at the end.

CH: It was so phony. It was a big comedown. It should have been done in the Val Lewton manner, even if they suggested it with sound or something. The use of the talisman is wonderful in that film. Several years ago a producer came to me and said he wanted to remake it and wanted me to direct it. Unfortunately it never happened. I would liked to have done it.

RW: You mentioned last week that you got up in the mornings and did some writing. Are you working on a script?

CH: No, actually I'm working on my autobiography. My career in the film world. I think I have an interesting story to tell. Almost every does you know, it’s just a matter of being able to tell it. That's what I'm working on now.

RW: Well, you certainly have worked with or brushed elbows with some of the greatest artists of the last 60 years.

CH: I have. I've been fortunate that way.

RW: When you direct do you storyboard?

CH: No. I work from a shooting script. I've never storyboarded. My films do not involve special effects as you know. If I had something like that I would storyboard it or if I had an extremely complex action sequence. My films are very human oriented. Even though they are suspense films they are more about human relationships and human beings.

RW: "The Killing Kind" really struck a chord with me. I'm a criminal defense lawyer by profession and a long time true crime buff. I was overwhelmed by the similarities between the relationship between John Savage and Ann Southern and several real life serial killers.

CH: In preparing to do that film, I didn't write the script, but in order to be psychologically grounded to direct I read a book on serial murderers who had made a great study of them at the time. The common denominator in the kind who murdered women over and over again was a relationship with the mother in which the mother punishes the child by withdrawing her love, or ostensibly with drawing it. In other words, "If you're not a good boy then mother won't love you any more." The psychologist pointed out that in the male child that creates a terrible rage and frustration. So in point in fact, what serial killers, the kind that murder women that is, are murdering their mother over and over again. Of course, they can't kill their mother because that is taboo, so they seize on other women to take their mother's place. That's a simplification, but you get the idea.

RW: The opening sequence, the gang rape under the pier is a great scene in that it takes you in one direction when the other guys grab John Savage, pull his pants down and pull him on top of the girl. You have that point of view shot looking up at John and he screams in rage. I took the scene to mean that here was a kid who knew what he was doing was wrong and doesn't want to be doing this, and that his friends have gotten him into this trouble. As the story unfolded, my thought became that the scream of rage was because he was thinking of mama, that he wasn't being faithful to her.

CH: Actually the scream had a lot to do with the fact that he was impotent. That had a lot to do with it.

RW: There were some subtleties later. When he was having a nightmare and he revisited the scene under the pier. You had a close up shot of the victims face, and she had a smile on her face that wasn't there before.

CH: Yes. A subtle smile. A lot of people admire the film, and think it is one of my best films. It is really sad that it never had a proper release, and that's a long story. Everything was bungled by the people who were in control of it. It is really sad to me that it never had a proper release. It was too raw for television at the time, and it never had much of a theatrical release. There was one scene, which was cut by the producer of "The Killing Kind." There was one key sequence, which was arbitrarily cut out by the producer. I gave an interview about it and the wife of the producer got angry with me. I didn't care because I was so deeply angered by this cut by a man who should have known better. Other than that one cut, the movie is how I wanted it. There was an absolute idiot involved in the distribution who wanted the scene cut and the producer gave into him. He should have had the strength to stand up to him.

RW: What was the sequence.

CH: It was a very important sequence psychologically. Do you remember the scene when the boy is returning to the house and the old lady is coming down stairs on the elevator? That scene was preceded by the cut scene. The boy was at the zoo looking at the apes behind the bars so there would have been a visual analogy to where he would have been before the movie starts. The footage was wonderful. While he was there, he suddenly hears laughter that is somehow familiar to him. He glances over and in another cage nearby is the girl you saw in the rape sequence with her present boyfriend. The point is, that he doesn't come home and just arbitrarily just call her. She has been put back into his mind. It gives a different context during the phone call when he is masturbating.

RW: The phone call was also a very intriguing scene in that your treatment of the rape victim. You didn't show her as some psychologically scarred, put upon person, but rather as a someone who has gone on with her life and has healed, and can enjoy her sexuality.

CH: Yes.

RW: When he asks her "Do you still do it under the pier?" and she didn't freeze up and become terrified, it casts some doubts about his guilt. There were a lot of ambiguous scenes in the movie, which make it so rich.

CH: Well thank you. I happen to be a filmmaker who loves ambiguity and uses it very consciously. Of course, that is the opposite of what producers want. I remember what Orson Wells said: "The trouble with my career is that I don't want to make the films that producers want to make." The same is true of me; I don't want to make the films the producers want to make.

RW: I get upset with the moneymen too. With DVDs you see so many that are slapped together without a single thought about the fan, and then you have a DVD like "Fight Club" by Fox Home Entertainment in which the moneymen get it right. That's one of the things I liked about the "Fight Club" DVD. With “Ruby” it seemed that VCI was taking another step up in the quality of their product.

CH: I was glad that Piper (Laurie) was available to do the "Ruby" commentary with me, and the interview with David Del Valle, who is a long time admirer of my work, but it is unfortunate about the ending of the film. It is so truncated, and even though I told them about the additional material, they were unable to find it.

RW: You have an idea of where it can be found?

CH: No, oh no. I don't know where they found anything. And I'm not on speaking terms with the film's producer.

RW: I don't blame you after what he did.

CH: My feeling was that I wish VCI had cut off that horrible ending that was tacked on and end with Piper Laurie and her lover standing by the lake and cut to Stuart Whitman being restrained by Roger Davis as Mr. Davis explained that this was the way she wanted things. It would have been a little shorter but, I thought that would have been closer to the spirit of the original theatrical release. I don't know what happened to the footage. I imagine the producer destroyed it. I don't know, I wouldn't put anything past that terrible man.

RW: So, you were among the ranks of the many Alan Smithees out there! (Alan Smithee is a pseudonym used by studio's to replace the real director's name when he has the credit removed.)

CH: Yes, yes. The version that was available on video for so long with the name Alan Smithee on it was not even remotely close to the version they just released. It was filled with extraneous scenes which were shot by another director and written by the producer as far as I know, that were just ludicrous, ludicrous. Why that version was put out on video I'll never know, because that version was specifically made to pass "Standards and Practices" at CBS at the time. So they cut out every bit of violence, and then the film only ran about 70 minutes and he had to add footage. That's why he did it. Which for TV and the late show was one thing, but to subsequently put that version out on video was insane...and not go back to the original feature.

RW: I enjoyed sharing the movie with my kids. My 12-year-old son hightailed out of the living room during the scene when Piper Laurie and Roger Davis entered Janet Baldwin's bedroom as she is levitating up side down.

CH: (Laughs) Oh yes. I had her do what Salvador Dali talked about in his book, and what Salvador Dali drew, and it was also used by Bunuel in one of his Mexican films, it is called "the hysterical arch." I imagine that it is written about in Freud. That back bend effect, that's what it is called, "the hysterical arch." Fortunately Janet Baldwin was very limber and she was able to do that.

RW: The scene struck me for another reason. I saw the recent re-release of "The Exorcist" with the famous 'crab-walk' scene.

CH: Oh yes? I haven't seen that yet.

RW: Linda Blair's double walks down the scene in that same position. When I saw "Ruby" afterwards it hit me that this scene was never shown before, until this year and 3 years after the original run of "The Exorcist" you include a scene which almost the same, and just as terrifying. The similarities were amazing. I guess great minds think alike.

CH: I guess so, because I had no idea that they used that in "The Exorcist." Did you watch my film "Games"?

RW: Yes I did. When the film ended I wondered if you had seen the movie "Wild Things" with Kevin Bacon, Matt Dillon and Denise Richards. It came out about 2 years ago.

CH: I don't think so.

RW: The ending of "Wild Things" popped into my mind as I watched "Games." I wondered if Kevin Bacon had seen your film before they made "Wild Things" because of the many similarities including the ending up to and including the poisoned liquor celebration.

CH: It sounds like someone saw "Games."

RW: What was Don Stroud like to work with? He was one of the lesser players, but he's been a favorite of mine since "The Buddy Holly Story."

CH: He's adorable. He's such a sweet guy. He was a young contract player at the time. I thought he was perfect for the part.

RW: All of the memorabilia that James Caan and Katherine Ross had in their apartment, was this just stuff that Universal had on hand in their prop department?

CH: Some of it was stuff that I owned and some of it came from friends. No, it didn't come from prop houses.

RW: The apartment was amazing. It helped so much in defining the characters.

CH: It was a combination of things. A very interesting aspect of things was that the studio...the studio they run things like clockwork, without any intelligence or design to what they are doing. They automatically assigned to this production a set decorator from their set decoration department, who was an old timer who had mainly done Westerns. He no more idea how to decorate these sets than fly to the moon. Finally we went to the head of the art department and said "We can't work with this man because he hasn't a clue." So how they worked it out was they gave him a paid vacation during the making of "Games" which was strictly against union rules and allowed our costume designer, who was our choice and who was a very creative person design the set. So the man who was on vacation gets the credit on the screen, but the costume design did the actual work.

RW: Can you imagine the controversy if there had been an Art Direction Oscar?

CH: (Laughs) Yes, that would have been terrible. Our set designer was fine. He understood what we were doing.

RW: Speaking of costumes in "Games" I was amazed how well the film holds up today. I see a lot of contemporary films from the 60s and 70s and shake my head to think that I used to dress that way. But the costumes as well as the sets in "Games" seem timeless. It helps the film maintain its impact today.

CH: That's because we had a marvelous designer working with us. The costume designer had been nominated for an Academy Award. He did the original "Planet of the Apes." His name is Morton Hack, and he had done some Broadway theater earlier in his career. So he was a marvelous designer. He also did, uncredited Sylvia Kristel's costumes for my film "Mata Hari." By then he was semiretired and living in Rome. I called him and he agreed to do them. He did them all at one of the big costume houses in Rome.

RW: "Mata Hari" has taken fairly bad raps from a lot of the critics. Is there anything you feel you could have done differently?

CH: Well, yes. I was under terrible pressure from the producers on that one. Not that they cut it so much. I was working with a line producer who made it into a very difficult shooting situation. I had a cameraman who was foisted on me. I didn't get along with him. I didn't like him. He did some beautiful work, but he took all of my time for lighting, my shooting time. The line producer had a deal with the Hungarians that they couldn't go into to one minute of overtime. You can't shoot a film that way. In other words, at 5 o'clock, the Hungarian people would show up on the set and start looking at their watches to make sure we quit on time. So there I was in Hungary with no recourse. No one to appeal to, nothing. I was just stuck there, and I had to make the best of it. Of course the emphasis was on Eroticism. The film did receive some very good reviews in France and England. The film does have its admires. Another problem with "Mata Hari" was Sylvia Kristel. While she is lovely to look at, she can't act at all. She hasn't a clue. She appeared in so many films, and heretofore, before "Mata Hari" all of her films, the voice, you know which gets the inflection of acting into it, is all dubbed by another actress. I wanted her to use her own voice in this, whether rightly or wrongly. Since so much of the film had to be looped (adding the dialogue track later rather than using the soundtrack from the actual filming) they first looped the entire role with a credible actress. But then, they had forgotten that they signed a contract saying that Sylvia could speak on the film. There is nothing with wrong her voice, but....

RW: Like any other tool, you have to know how to use it.

CH: Exactly, so, the reason it was a good as it was, was because we put the earphones on her with the other actress, and in all the looping she imitated the actress, the inflections and everything. So that helped a lot. And physically, I worked with her on the physical level in terms of acting. I would tell her 'Look up, look down, now look off to your right, then look back at him." And it’s kind of a simulated type of acting. But she wouldn't do any of that on her own.

RW: And you wouldn't need to do it with Debbie Reynolds or Shelly Winters.

CH: No, no, no. You don't direct them that way at all!

RW: You had some great character actors in "Who Slew Auntie Roo? " I love Ralph Richardson's work.

CH: He is wonderful. He was an absolute sweetheart on the film.

RW: As I watched "Roo" I couldn't figure out where I had seen Michael Gothard, who played Almy the butler. It hit me that he was a Bond Villain in "The Spy Who Loved Me."

CH: Oh he was. Well, he was not a good actor. I had a lot of trouble with him.

RW: It was also nice to see Hugh Griffith (Oscar winner for Ben Hur) as the Pig Man.

CH: He was also wonderful. Unfortunately he was a heavy alcoholic. His wife came with him to the set everyday to keep the liquor away from him. Other than that he was great to work with. And so unique and funny. That was great fun making that film. I enjoyed working with the children. Mark Lester and Chloe... Chloe Franks. They were excellent. It can make or break a movie going with the wrong child actor.

RW: Yes. I noticed Jimmy Sangster (long time Hammer film director) was listed as one of the screen writers. Did you get to know him?

CH: He wrote the original script, but we did a lot of changes. We had no contact with him at all. The final script, a lot of it uncredited, was written by Gavin Lambent.

RW: My favorite of all of the films of yours that I've seen has to be "What's the matter With Helen? "

CH: Well, that's my personal favorite, so I'm happy to hear that. I love when someone takes historical familiarities and fictionalizes them. Obviously Agnes Moorehead's part was based on Aimee Simple McPherson, and the little girl who did the Mae West routine was amazing.

RW: The little girl was an amazing actress. How did it do at the box office?

CH: I don't think it did very well. I haven't had very good luck in my career with releases. "What's the Matter With Helen? " was released by United Artists. The year that it was released, it was released in the summer. United Artists had just made "Fiddler on the Roof" and they had invested a great deal of money in "Fiddler." They were saving all their guns, and all their publicity and all their money to launch "Fiddler on the Roof" in the fall. Because "What's the Matter With Helen? " was basically financed through a deal with NBC, which had to do with Debbie Reynolds and a deal she had with them to do a series. In effect, the film was handed to United Artists free. They didn't have production money in it to speak of, so any little amount of money they made was profit. So, they had no advertising, no publicity. I don't even think they had screenings for the critics in New York. It just came and went so quickly during the summer. It was during one of the waves for nostalgia for stuff from the 30s, and they didn't even offer a clue in the advertising that this took place in the 30s. They tried to make the advertising look contemporary. All of the qualities that would have appealed to the one in the audience had a clue going in what the film was. It picked up admirers, but it never had a chance to let word of mouth build or anything. It was dumped, it was just dumped.

RW: That had to be heartbreaking.

CH: It was heartbreaking. It was absolutely heartbreaking.

RW: It is also asinine when you consider that fact the story was by Henry Farrell who wrote "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" and "Hush...Hush...Sweet Charlotte." If you look at the Oscar track record for both of those, not necessarily wins, but nominations. "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" got, I believe, 10 nominations, which is amazing for this kind of film.

CH: Oddly enough, "What's the Matter With Helen?" got a nomination for best costume design. Again, it was Morton Hack from "Games."

RW: I though "What's the Matter With Helen? " would be a great double feature with "Day of the Locust" (1975).

CH: Well, yes, it would be a very interesting double feature to say the least. He (director John Schlesinger) borrowed the Aimee Simple McPherson character from my film, played by Gerry Page.

RW: I also liked all the stage mothers. They were individuals while all being highly neurotic.

CH: Yes. We had a great time. As I said, it is the personal favorite of all my films. It is the closest to my heart for the things it has to say.

RW: Speaking of other directors, you stated earlier that you enjoyed Dario Argento, what do you think of Wes Craven?

CH: Wes Craven's films don't mean very much to me. They don't speak to me.

RW: Who do you like in the genre?

CH: Well, of course, the number one director in the genre is, or the two of the greatest in America are long dead. James Whale, I love James Whale, and I love some of the films of Tod Browning. "Freaks" is just an amazing film. Tod Browning doesn't have much style. What is interesting about his films is the content, because, stylistically, they are very plebeian Sort of by the numbers, but so interesting on the level of concept. A film like "The Unknown" for instance, and so, I like Tod Browning and his collaborations with Lon Chaney Sr..

RW: Going back to James Whale, there you had both style and substance.

CH: Exactly, exactly. James Whale, I'm sure has had an influence on my work. He had a combination of humor and horror, which I have in my films.

RW: You were given a THANKS credit in the movie "Gods and Monsters."

CH: Yes. Well, that's because when I was very young I got to know James Whale in his last years. And so, the director of "Gods and Monsters," Bill Condon, who is a good friend of mine arraigned for me to spend some time with Ian McClellan, and I spent a whole afternoon with him talking about James Whale. And Bill arranged for us to go to the actual James Whale house, which I had, when I was younger, been to many times. Hoping that just being there would evoke certain memories and I could convey them all to Ian, which I did to the best of my ability. I think his portrayal of James Whale was very accurate. The story is completely made up, but the character is well portrayed.

RW: That's similar to "The Buddy Holly Story." While the story took liberty with the facts, Gary Busey nailed the character of Buddy Holly.

CH: The character, yes. The same thing here. All through the history of film, directors who are commercially viable, do a lot of stuff for commercial reasons. So for instance, one of my favorite films of the last 20 years or so is "Blade Runner." "Blade Runner" is just magnificent in its own way. But the director has directed a lot of guff too. So I can't say Ridley Scott is one of my favorite directors because he goes from directing a masterpiece like that to "G. I. Jane." So there's no consistency. I think there is consistency in my work, except for "Mata Hari" which goes into totally different area.

RW: Speaking of Ridley Scott, did you ever see "The Duelists"?

CH: Yes. I thought that was a very interesting film. I was alerted that I must watch the work of this director....And I love Val Lewton's films, but of course he didn't direct them. I later got to know Mark Robson, and of course we all know Robert Wise. Robert Wise went from directing "The Haunting" to "The Sound of Music" so you can't say that these people are genre directors. Even James Whale did a lot of films that are quite forgotten. The only films of James Whale that are remembered are his horror films like "The Old Dark House."

RW: Which we have you to thank for saving.

CH: I rescued it from sure destruction.

RW: Well thank God you did. Did you know Karloff?

CH: I only met him once. I didn't know him though. I can say that after I rescued "The Old Dark House" one day I was on the Universal lot. I found out that Karloff was playing a guest role on a TV series. So I just went on the set and introduced myself to him and told him that the film had been saved. I think he was pleased.

RW: I think Karloff was the epitome of someone being the opposite of their screen persona.

CH: Oh yes. He was an English gentleman, very very nice. Of course James Whale told me a lot of funny stories. One in particular that I love. Karloff, when they made "Frankenstein"...James Whale had a very jolly set. His sense of humor was paramount. They had fun making those movies. Lots of laughs on the set. He said Karloff was very amusing and amused. He didn't take him self to seriously. Then when he suddenly became a big star because of "Frankenstein" and became the king of horror films, he began to take himself very seriously. James said that one day he was sitting in his office and an emissary from the makeup department at Universal came to his office and said "Mr. Karloff would like to see you in the makeup department. He said he was ushered with great ceremony into the makeup department, into one of the rooms there, where Karloff was sitting in a chair covered by a sheet. They did a kind of unveiling for Jimmy. He said it was the makeup for "The Mummy." The way James Whale put it, he said it looked like he had every piece of makeup on his face. He said Karloff looked at him and said (seriously and somberly imitating Karloff) " I think this will be the most marvelous thing ever seen on the silver sheet!"

RW: Silver sheet?

CH: That was an old term, sometimes used in the 30s for the silver screen. James found that so funny.

RW: Well, James knew him when.

CH: Yes. James in essence discovered him. Karloff had been around for a while acting in a lot of films. He made a star out of him, because nobody paid much attention to him before that.

RW: In the 50s you worked as an assistant producer.

CH: Yes, I worked for Jerry Wald.

RW: I thought it was interesting that you have backgrounds in studio, independent and experimental avant garde films.

CH: It's true.

RW: When you worked on "The Harder They Fall" did you get to know Bogart?

CH: No, in point of fact I don't think I was ever on the set of that. That was the very first film when I got hired. It was already in production. I don't even remember seeing any dailies on that. It was virtually in the can when I began to work for Jerry Wald. The first film that I remember doing as his assistant was Tyrone Power and Kim Novak in "The Eddie Duchin Story."

RW: I've heard lots of stories about Kim Novak as far as...

CH: I was on the set and I watched her work, but I have no specific memories of her.

RW: Was the first time you met Orson Welles on the set of "The Long Hot Summer"?

CH: No. I don't think I met him on that. I was in such awe of him. There was no one to introduce me, and I wouldn't just walk up to him. Who directed "The Long Hot Summer" I've forgotten?

RW: Martin Ritt.

CH: I should have gotten Martin to introduce me, but I didn't. No, I got to know Orson later. Gary Graver, who worked with Orson in his later years as his camera man was a very close personal friend of mine for some years before that. Gary finally arranged for me to meet Orson and to have dinner with him, and from then on I knew Orson Welles.

RW: I had an auto accident because of Mr. Welles. I lived in Las Vegas, and was having lunch in a small Mexican restaurant when Mr. Welles and David Copperfield came in. I only lived a block away, so I got in my car to go home and get a book for Mr. Welles to sign. I had a wreck speeding out of the parking lot. Never did get that autograph.

CH: (Laughs) What a shame.

RW: I think one of the most famous films never released is Mr. Welles' "The Other Side of the Wind."

CH: Yes well, I'm privy to what is going on. Gary Graver is trying to set a deal with Showtime to pay for the completion of the film. It's all shot, it just needs final editing, sound effects, the final music and the whole production will be finished. There is a big problem and I think this is still an ongoing problem. They haven't resolved it yet. One of Orson Welles' daughters is an incredible, its very unfortunate, an incredible obstructionist. She is in the grip of a shyster lawyer. Whenever anything is done, she brings a law suite trying to get money. She's just vicious about it. She's a terrible person. When they did the restoration of "Touch of Evil" she caused trouble at Universal. She's extremely litigious because of this guy, this shyster lawyer that she is involved with. It's very unfortunate. She's preventing...they're afraid you see...she makes them afraid to make a deal to finish the film, because she's threatening and threatening and threatening. Even if she doesn't have a leg to stand on, they don't like the idea that there is going to be a lawsuit to fight through. Can't blame them. She is just awful.

RW: What was it like working on "The Other Side of the Wind"? There were an amazing number of directors acting in the film?

CH: Well I'm one of them! Oh yes. It was fun. Orson did it (the sequence with Mr. Harrington) the night before I began shooting "What's the Matter With Helen? ", the very night before. I had to get up early to begin shooting, but I was so thrilled that I would do this little scene for Orson that I said "Come hell or high water, I'm going to finish my prep (on "Helen") and I'm going to be there and do this!"

RW: Have you been able to see portions of the film?

CH: A huge amount of it. Gary Graver, in trying to get the money to complete the film, arranged several screenings, not public screenings, but private screenings in a projection room in a laboratory or a studio.

RW: It sounds like the movie has an intriguing premise.

CH: Well, it's a's an Orson Welles movie! It has two simultaneous storylines. It's about a film director played by John Huston, and then interspersed with the present day story about this film director are scenes from his latest film. So it's a film within the film. The film that he's shooting, which it has sequences from, is done in a very different style than the rest of the film. So it is very fascinating exercise.

RW: Well hopefully one of these days the lawyer will go away...

CH: I wish he would!

RW:...and the world will get to see this.

CH: It's really a shame that she is so terrible. She should be promoting the completion of the film, not obstructing it.

RW: You would think so. You would think that she would tend to profit from its release. What did you think of "Touch of Evil"?

CH: It's one of my favorites. There again, that's one of the great master works of the cinema, and it was totally ignored, totally ignored, even more ignored than my film "What's the Matter With Helen? " when it was originally released. It was released as a B-picture by Universal. They didn't like it. The executives didn't like it, nobody there liked it. They didn't understand it, they didn't want it, so it was just thrown out. It took France to recognize this. Then people began to notice it.

RW: I guess it is too much to ask a producer to think beyond the bottom line, but from a historical viewpoint, where would Martin Scorsese be without "Touch of Evil"? That movie had such an impact on him and Brian De Palma or Francis Ford Coppola, you look at the opening shot...

CH: Of course. Orson has had a profound influence on all of us. Absolutely. He was one of the great theatrical geniuses of the 20th century.

RW: Yes, and he still owes me $99.00 for that fender on my Camero. (Laughs). But, hey, I'm not going to be like his daughter and sue.

CH: Good, good.

RW: I'll chalk it up to being star struck and lead footed. One of the things I find about seeing your movies today is that you can't see a lot of your TV movies. Any chance of...

CH: The only ones that I know are available are "How Awful About Allan" and "The Dead Don't Die."

RW: "How Awful About Allan" with Tony Perkins is available. What was Joan Hackett (costar of "How Awful About Allan") like?

CH: I knew her very well. We were very good friends. She was a very interesting girl, very nice. Very special. Very sad early demise from cancer. It was so sad. And Julie Harris was also a joy to work with. One of our greatest actresses.

RW: I remember seeing "The Cat Creature" when it first came out. It was an ABC movie of the week if I remember correctly. That was one I was really hoping to find.

CH: That apparently hasn't been made available. I don't know why. I have no idea. "The Cat Creature" and the other TV movie that I'm proud of is "Killer Bees."

RW: "Killer Bees" with Gloria Swanson.

CH: It's a pity that that is not available. That ought to be available. Both of those films have admirers so someone should put them out. The thing is, in the early 70s before cable, you had some top quality films being made by the networks. Some of them have turned out to be considered important, even landmark films, like "Duel" "That Certain Summer" "Born Innocent" or "Brian's Song." The networks were turning these out on a regular basis. I know ABC did two a week. I know, they did a lot of them. Also what was nice, for that brief period of time you could make a film like those I made which were entertainments. You know. Then TV, a bit later, became totally engulfed in the idea of doing sort of 'socially significant' TV movies. Where every movie had to be about a disease or a mother who was losing her children because she had cancer, and it crowded out pure entertainment like "The Cat Creature" in the tradition of Pulp Magazine stories. It's a great loss. I made one other TV movie that you may come across in lists that I would like to not to have my name on, as it was positively dreadful, I would like it never to be seen again, anywhere, any how for as long as I live. It is "Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell." It's a piece of shit!

RW: (Laughs) I appreciate your honesty on that.

CH: I would just as soon no one sees it. It is just ludicrous. It's just terrible.

RW: Was it one of those films done to pay the bills?

CH: Kind of. But one of the reasons it is so terrible is it is one of those stories that builds up to a climax where you have to show the creature, like we were talking about earlier in "Night of the Demon" but in this case, you had to see the creature. It was just nothing at all. The actor's reaction of stark terror, which I had to shoot without him seeing anything at all doesn't match what you see at all. And the reason it is so terrible is the producer was so determined not to go beyond the licensing fee, that he wouldn't spring any money to do any thing properly, post-production special effects. So it is totally ludicrous. Perfectly terrible. It was a terrible premise to begin with. As I said, I did it because I needed money at the time and they offered me the job, but I would very much like that it be totally forgotten.

RW: You also did some episodic television. "Baretta."

CH: That was just a couple of episodes. I got to know Robert Blake very well when I was working with him. He was a very difficult person to get along with, but I was able to get along with him quite well. I like Bobby. I certainly don't believe that he had any thing to do with this murder. I don't blame him for announcing that he is going to move away from here now, and create a life for himself elsewhere. God knows, he's salted away the money, so he is all right. ... I thought he was wonderfully chosen to play in "Lost Highway." Have you seen it?

RW: No I haven't.

CH: "Lost Highway" is David Lynch's film. The film he made before the one about the guy on the lawnmower. "Lost Highway" is every bit as good as "Blue Velvet" but it is more difficult than "Blue Velvet" so a lot of people don't like it. It is very, very interesting. I have seen it about 4 times. Bobby Blake is absolutely wonderful in it. If you haven't seen it, you should go rent it. It has a lot of horror film elements in it.

RW: Any other recommendations for our readers as to any films they should see?

CH: Well, I would certainly recommend "Lost Highway." A lot of people haven't seen it. It is an extraordinary film. I'm a great admirer of his films. In fact, he is my favorite contemporary filmmaker. Oh! I just saw a new Japanese film called "Cure" out here that has a wonderfully sinister quality to it. The filmmaker has the same name as a very famous Japanese filmmaker but they apparently are not related. His name is Kurosawa. It's called "Cure" and it is about a series of strange murders done by people who would seem not to be murderers. It is very nice.

RW: One of the unfortunate thing about living in middle America, in a place like Memphis is... You don't get films like that. We have one theater that brings in independent, foreign and art films, but all the others are the multiplexes with the awful remake of "Planet of the Apes" on 3 screens. We have to wait for the video or DVD. release.

CH: We are just lucky here that we have a theater like the "NuArt" that plays nothing but odd-ball films.

RW: What are you working on now, besides you autobiography?

CH: I've just finished a remake new version of Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher." My version is contemporary. I call it "Usher." It's a short film 36 minutes long. I star as Roderick Usher. It was filmed it in 35 mm. Gary graver is the cinematographer. I hope to enter it into film festivals around the country.

RW: It sounds perfect for "A&E" or "Bravo."

CH: Yes, yes. Whatever exposure I can get will be nice.

RW: Well, Mr. Harrington, I have taken about an hour and a half of your time and I'd like to thank you. I really appreciate the time you have given me. Bea Suarez from VCI said you were a very nice gentleman, very interesting to talk with. She was absolutely, dead on right. Thanks for everything, especially your films.

CH: Well, you are very welcome.