Writer Justin Humphreys points out in his introduction that ‘Interviews Too Shocking To Print’ doesn’t represent the material content being crude or exploitive, even if the sub-title is ‘Conversations With Horror Filmmakers And Their Accomplices’ does make it sound covert. What you have here are twelve interviews and four essays covering a selection of older horror/SF films. Humphreys interviews many himself but also draws from other sources with a bevy of rare photos to accompany them. The old horror film enthusiast is going to recognise the names of many of them and the connections to others will be apparent as you read them.
Gene Fowler Jr. started off as a film editor working with the likes of Fritz Lang before being offered the opportunity to direct ‘I Was A Teenage Werewolf’ (1957) and absolutely hated the script and was getting it rewritten by his partner Lou Vittes as they filmed. It’s one of the odd films that slipped by me, although I did see Fowler’s second, ‘I Married A Monster From Outer Space’ (1958) some years back.
Nathan Juran’s name might not mean much until I say Ray Harryhausen and he directed three of his films. He also directed many of Irwin Allen’s TV series as well, saying he liked the variety of ‘The Time Tunnel’. A side-step along the way was his involvement in defence work in World War Two working out the size of buildings from surveillance photographs.
The interview with Herbert Strock is revealing and correcting as to what films he directed and bailed out by sorting out their problems. It also made me do a lot of double-checking as to which of his films are available or haven’t seen in a long time. Throughout the various interviews, you read about script problems and looking at how much more effort, maybe too many writers polishing, you have to wonder if this is the lesson learnt to ensure this area is right. Even so, we still have some bad film scripts being released but I expect some of you out there will find some correlation. I didn’t know ‘Gog’ (1954) was the first SF film to feature robots. I’d have placed ‘Metropolis’ (1927) first but maybe Strock was thinking non-humanoid looking. This has to be one of the most revealing and depthy interviews, mostly because Strock is putting the record straight, even on films he was credited with but didn’t direct or was involved in.
The Robert Wise interview is of a similar calibre. When you think of all the films across the genres he directed, many of them classics and still shown today you have to take note. That includes ‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture’ (1979) which, if you don’t remember, was besieged by script rewrites while being filmed and special effects houses being changed and all to meet a release deadline. Wise’s comments on ‘The Day The Earth Stood Still’ (1951) was it was never intentionally done with the Christ analogy in mind but only realised afterwards. ‘The Haunting’ (1963) which is now on my list to have a look at. There’s also some thoughts on ‘The Andromeda Strain’ (1971). Robert Wise was fundamentally part of the most significant Science Fiction films and this section alone is required reading.
Humphreys admits to having a particular interest in writer/sometimes director of Charles B. Griffith or Chuck Griffith (1930-2007). If the name isn’t familiar, a film he wrote in two days, ‘The Little Shop Of Horrors’ (1960) will. Indeed, he wrote a lot of the Roger Corman films and preferred to stay non-union. Reading this piece, Griffiths lived a bizarre and humorous life-style even if it led to a sad ending by having no film residues.
Of special interest to the original ‘Star Trek’ series fans is a look at Wah Chang, who designed the tricorder and communicator as well as a certain Gorn. Long before that, he also made wooden models for the animators at Disney for ‘Bambi’ to work from, made models for George Pal and designed the ‘bears’ or creatures for ‘The Outer Limits’ TV series. As pointed out in the article, he worked on a lot of series that had small budgets and even smaller special effects budgets. Considering his contributions to SF, it seems weird that he isn’t better remembered.
Another early special effects guru is William Tuttle and the first to get a make-up Oscar for ‘7 Days Of Dr. Lao’ (1964). Amongst his credits is doing make-up work for George Pal and Mel Brooks films. I found it particularly interesting reading how the make-up had to be made much darker, practically like a sunburn he recounts, to compensate for the studio lights. With George Pal, he says the studio never gave him sufficient funding simply because they thought he could make do.
Production designer Jack Fisk will mean something if I just say ‘Carrie’ (1976). There is also two photos of the third-size White House that was used for its final destruction. His interview shows the problem of union films where people can’t help in different departments and the lack of enthusiasm for the work. Hence, he tends to encourage happy sets. He’s also pals with directors Brian DePalma, David Lean and Terrance Malick, whom he frequently works. There’s a certain joie de vivre – a joyfulness – that he does his work in that should definitely be encouraged.
There’s a lot more in this book that the glimpses I’ve given but why spoil your fun. There’s a lot to learn here and I even found that on films I hadn’t seen. The choices used are not standard which is probably the only shocking thing. A decent read.
(pub: BearManor Media, 2014/2016. 332 page illustrated enlarged paperback. Price: $24.95 (US), £17.15 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-59393-446-0)
check out website: www.bearmanormedia.com