Scott Bradley is the co-author (with Peter Giglio) of the horror novel 'The Dark' (2012). He also co-edited, with Amy Wallace and Del Howison, the bestselling 'The Book of Lists - Horror' (2008). Based in Los Angeles, Scott's  non-fiction and journalism have appeared in 'Film Quarterly' and other publications, and his fiction has appeared in various anthologies. Scott is also a screenwriter. I spoke with him about his favourite overlooked pictures.  

TWILIGHT’S LAST GLEAMING (Robert Aldrich, 1977)
Burt Lancaster busts out of prison and hijacks a nuclear missile silo (with the help of cohorts Paul Winfield and Burt Young). He’s demanding a release of a fictionalized version of the Pentagon Papers and the President of the United States as a hostage. President Charles Durning is ready to do it, but Richard Widmark (playing a version of the Hawkish General Burt Lancaster played in SEVEN DAYS IN MAY, 1964) isn’t about to let the truth told. This movie is outrageously long-winded and technically silly (the split screens don't work at all), but it’s probably the most direct of the post-Watergate thrillers, and still relevant after all these years.

CRUISING (William Friedkin, 1980)
A dear and gay friend believes CRUISING is "cringe-inducing". Maybe those cringes were the point. While many still think it’s homophobic, I maintain it’s ABOUT homophobia. Al Pacino plays a cop sent undercover into New York City’s S&M gay nightscape to track down a serial killer; the film is technically a mystery/thriller, but what it’s about what happens when things stuffed 'in the closet' explode outward. The biggest flaw is that Pacino is ten years too old for the character he’s playing. Otherwise I think it’s a grittily oppressive masterpiece of discomfort, dread, and sexual putrefaction.

This little-seen masterpiece, released direct-to-video, continues with the 'discomfort and dread' theme. Technically it’s three thematically connected short films about familial dynamics and dysfunctions, including the infamous CUTTING MOMENTS; the whole interwoven experience is like nothing you’ve ever seen. The first time I saw it, I literally didn’t want the DVD in my home; now, I can’t imagine living without its depiction of the intersecting points of horror and humanity. 

WALKER (Alex Cox, 1987)
This oddball historical epic, telling the true story of American scholar and soldier-of-fortune William Walker (brilliantly played by Ed Harris) who briefly ruled Nicaragua in the 1800’s, seems to rank as one of the most disliked films in cinematic history, but I think it's a masterpiece. Joe Strummer's score is like a musical orgasm. I actually contacted Alex Cox about two matters, and they are interesting stories. I moved to L.A. in 1998 and wrote him a letter asking him for a job; I got a very nice response saying that he wasn’t in any position to hire me for anything, but recommending that I read Raymond Chandler novels (which I did). In 2006, my girlfriend Amy Wallace was compiling the bestselling 'Punk Rock Book of Lists', and attempting to help the endeavor, I sent Cox an email via his website asking if he’d like to contribute a list to the book. He responded – curtly but cordially – that he thought he had no relation to punk at that point (this was around 2006). He did say that we were welcome to print that as his contribution to the book. Needless to say, his comments were not included in the book.

AGAINST ALL ODDS (Taylor Hackford, 1984)
This is a movie not many people like. It seems a lot of cineastes believe that any endorsement of this film constitutes a negation of the movie it’s remaking – the 1947 noir classic OUT OF THE PAST. I know and respect a lot of people who hate this movie, but I think it’s amazing – to the eighties what CHINATOWN (1974) was to the seventies. It also features what might be the greatest James Woods performance ever. And Rachel Ward is so beautiful in the movie.

COP (James B. Harris, 1988)
Speaking of James Woods, this minor epic of depravity is adapted from an early James Ellroy novel, and I’ll take it over L.A. CONFIDENTIAL (1997) any day. This was back when Ellroy was disreputable, and this movie is about as disreputable as you can get. Woods plays an L.A. homicide detective who makes Harry Callahan look like a liberal; Lesley Ann Warren plays a horny, high-strung feminist; there’s a complicated serial killer plot going on as well (watered down, due respect to Ellroy, from the novel’s even more complicated plot). Writer/director Harris used to be Stanley Kubrick's producing partner, and they made THE KILLING (1956), PATHS OF GLORY (1957)  and LOLITA (1962) together; while certainly not a filmmaker on the level of his former partner, this movie definitely shows Harris to be a director to be reckoned with in his own right.

THE OSTERMAN WEEKEND (Sam Peckinpah, 1983)
Whilst admittedly this is no WILD BUNCH (1969) or STRAW DOGS (1971), I personally prefer it to Peckinpah’s previous spy thriller, THE KILLER ELITE (1975). He took one of Robert Ludlum’s worst novels and made (thanks in no small part to screenwriter Alan Sharp) a subversive masterpiece that was scarily truthful in its portrayal of the way normal people can be manipulated by rogue elements in their government. Burt Lancaster is now the bad guy (big nod to TWILIGHT’S LAST GLEAMING) and BLADE RUNNER (1982)’s lead replicant himself, Rutger Hauer, is the hero. The fact that the plot makes absolutely no sense just adds to the 'through the looking glass quality' of the film’s CIA conspiracy plot.

MIRACLE MILE (Steve De Jarnatt, 1988)
A Reagan-era apocalyptic thriller that’s also a multi-layered love story. What would you do if you found the love of your life on the day the world ends? That’s exactly what happens when Anthony Edwards and Mare Winningham ‘meet cute’ just hours before the missiles start flying and try to figure out a way to beat the clock and survive. Told mostly in real-time, this is a filmmaking tour-de-force, right down to one of the most heartbreaking endings you’re ever likely to see.

LIFEFORCE (Tobe Hooper, 1985)
Space vampires, led by the gorgeous Mathilda May (who spends the entire movie naked), hiding in Halley’s Comet attack the Earth, shooting beams out of their eyes and exploding people and/or turning them into zombies (the movie isn’t entirely clear on this plot point). Steve Railsback (who played Charles Manson in the original TV version of HELTER SKELTER, 1976 and was the lead in THE STUNT MAN, 1980) is a dazed astronaut trying to stop the crisis with the help of SAS agent Peter Firth. The film makes very little sense, but it’s terrific fun and features a truly great Henry Mancini score. A great movie for the 14-year-old boy in all of us.

YEAR OF THE DRAGON (Michael Cimino, 1985)
Mickey Rourke is a Vietnam vet cop with issues, obsessively on the trail of Chinese mob drug kingpin John Lone in Chinatown. This movie is pretty nuts and ridiculously violent, but it also features some of the finest filmmaking by the controversial Cimino, returning to screens after the infamous epic Western HEAVEN’S GATE (1980). Perhaps this movie’s biggest problem is that it can’t quite figure out whether it wants to be an Asian-American version of THE GODFATHER (1972) or a FRENCH CONNECTION (1971)-style police procedural (it certainly has elements of both), but it’s never boring, richly-detailed, and makes one wish Cimino would start directing again.

Scott was interviewed by email during August 2012. I would like to thank him for the generous use of his time.

Paul Rowlands is a Japan-based writer. After completing a BA Humanities course (majoring in English and Science) at the University of Chester, he moved to Japan in 1999. He writes for the James Bond magazine, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, has had articles published on Press Play and has had an almost lifelong obsession with cinema, something the advent of DVD only increased. Paul is also a writer of so far unpublished short stories and novels, and is planning his first short film.


Liverpool-born filmmaker Alex Cox scored a cult hit with the wonderful REPO MAN in 1984, and followed it up with the equally loved SID AND NANCY (filmed as 'Love Kills') two years later, which charted the tragic relationship between Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen. Featuring a brilliant early performance by Gary Oldman as Sid, stunning cinematography and music and a beautifully realised balance of sadness, humour and pathos, realism and larger-than-life elements, it's one of the key films of the '80s and one of Cox's finest achievements.  After the controversial WALKER (1987), which criticised American involvement in Nicaragua and is a prime example of Cox pursuing interesting projects close to his heart rather than following the box-office, Cox believes he was put on a blacklist in Hollywood, and he has worked in the independent sector ever since, creating an ouevre of highly distinctive, challenging, fun and eclectic pictures such as HIGHWAY PATROLMAN (1992), filmed in Mexico in Spanish, and two 'microfeatures' (shot for less than $200, 000) - the comic road movie SEARCHERS 2.0 (2007) and REPO CHICK (2009), a loose sequel to REPO MAN. I spoke with Alex about his experiences making SID AND NANCY.     

What attracted you to the story of Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen?
I thought, for the times, the story was a good one to tell. Sid and Nancy were terrible fuck-ups and they betrayed the punk ideal, but in the midst of all this chaos was a romantic story. It was all so tragic the way it played out.

How did you get involved with the project?

Abbe Wool and myself heard there was going to be a studio movie with Rupert Everett and Madonna. We thought 'It must be stopped at all costs!' and wrote our own screenplay in order to prevent it from ever happening.

Were you yourself a punk during the Sex Pistols era?

I was too old then, but I certainly appreciated punk.

How affected were you by the deaths of Sid and Nancy?
I wasn't really affected by their deaths, because it wasn't like they were great musicians. They were a pair of fools really. But their story was sad.

Did you have any particular actors in mind for the lead roles when you were writing the screenplay?
Not really, no. The two main guys who were up for Sid Vicious were Gary Oldman and Daniel Day Lewis. A number of women read for Nancy including Courtney Love, whom we had heard about second hand. I didn't actually see Courtney's audition because I was out of town. She did it with Vicky Thomas. The ones who seemed the best, particularly in the case of casting Sid, were Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb. The whole cast we had was great.

What was it about Oldman that made you think he would be a great Sid?
Gary came from the same neighborhood as Sid, Bermondsey, and he had the same understanding and desire to escape, to create a new persona and life for himself. He was good to work with. It was one of his first films and he worked very hard.

How many drafts of the script did you write?
We did about four to six drafts. Not that many.

What was the writing process with Abbe Wool like?
Mostly we worked together, sometimes we would work alone.

How did you come to decide on the unique tone of the film?
All I did was capture the times. It's pretty accurate to how it all happened I think. It's enhanced to make things more grandiose and dramatic at times, but it's faithful to the characters.

How much research of the era did you do?
I interviewed a lot of people who had been involved in the scene.

Did you spend much time with the surviving members of the Sex Pistols?
I met with them, but I didn't spend a lot of time with them. I met Glen Matlock, John Lydon and Paul Cook, but I never met Steve Jones.

How did you feel about the criticisms made by the Sex Pistols about the film?
It didn't bother me. The Sex Pistols thrive on controversy.

How was the film financed?
It was a co-production with Zenith Productions, an independent film company in London, and Embassy Home Entertainment, a TV sales company in the US.

Were you influenced by any other films when you made the movie?
Julien Temple's THE GREAT ROCK 'N' ROLL SWINDLE (1978), I guess, because it had the original 'My Way' promo.

The 'My Way' scene in your film is hilarious. Was it fun to shoot?

Oh yeah, it was real fun. We spent two or three days doing it.

Did you have a good collaboration with cinematographer Roger Deakins? It was one of his first films.
He was great. A great talent and a great guy to work with. We actually wanted to make the film in black-and-white. When it was clear we wouldn't be able to do it, we discussed how we could photograph the film in a monochromatic way at times, and how we could treat the print. Roger contributed some great ideas. There were two lenses he used on the movie - an 85mm and a 35mm. This was much more reduced than I would normally go for but it worked very well.

Were you trying to send any messages with the movie?
To the extent that these guys were total screw-ups and betrayed the punk ideal, yeah. But I don't think the message got through or had any impact. In retrospect, it was very foolish to think the message would have any impact.

What was the biggest artistic challenge for you when making the movie?
I suppose making a film about music was a big challenge for me because I don't really know anything about it. I had to rely on my musical collaborators a lot. It didn't make me want to make music themed movies again!

Were the likes of Joe Strummer, Paray for Rain, John Cale and The Pogues eager to get involved in the project early on?
They got involved once the film was finished and was a going concern.

Did the film come together easily in the editing room?

There was tons of material but I had a great editor in David Martin. The first cut of the movie was about three hours long. Everything that got cut out deserved to get cut out.

How was you experience taking the film to Cannes?
It was nothing memorable or out of the ordinary. Just another film festival.

Were you happy with the critical response to the film?

Yeah, people seemed to like it a lot.

Were you happy with the commercial success of the film?

Well, I don't know how much of a success it was. I have never seen a full account. It would be nice to know how much money it has made and to share in the receipts. That would be great.

How much impact did it have on your career?
Looking back, not much really.

What was your favourite memory of the shoot?

To be honest, it was a long shoot, and the only thing I can really remember is the relief of realising the shoot was nearing the end!

Alex was interviewed by telephone on 27th July 2012. I would like to thank him for sparing his time.

Cox's useful, entertaining book "10, 000 Ways to Die - A Director's Take on the Spaghetti Western" (2009) can be ordered here.  

For more background information on SID AND NANCY and Cox's other films, his superb book "X Films - True Confessions of a Radical Filmmaker" (2008) can be ordered here. Cox's website can be accessed here.

Paul Rowlands is a Japan-based writer. After completing a BA Humanities course (majoring in English and Science) at the University of Chester, he moved to Japan in 1999. He writes for the James Bond magazine, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, has had articles published on Press Play and has had an almost lifelong obsession with cinema, something the advent of DVD only increased. Paul is also a writer of so far unpublished short stories and novels, and is planning his first short film.