AN INTERVIEW WITH BRIAN JAMIESON (PART 3 OF 3)

Brian Jamieson is alongside Nick Redman the co-founder of the boutique Blu-ray label Twilight Time, which produces limited-edition runs of new to the format studio pictures, both popular and not well-known. Prior to Twilight Time, Jamieson was a highly successful studio executive with Warner Bros. in his native country of New Zealand, and in England and Los Angeles, forging successful creative relationships with the likes of William Friedkin, Fred Zinnemann and especially Stanley Kubrick. Following his first year with Warners in 1977 and the sucess of his campaigns for THE DEEP and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, he was named International Publicist of the Year. As a preservationist, Jamieson was involved in the restored releases of films such as GIANT (1956),  THE WILD BUNCH (1969) and THE BIG RED ONE (1980), and he produced many in-depth documentaries and featurettes for Warners' home video releases of their classic films. He produced the documentary CANNES ALL ACCESS in 2007, and directed a documentary on Nancy Kwan, the star of THE WORLD OF SUZIE WONG, entitled TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN: KA SHEN'S JOURNEY (2009). In the final part of a three-part interview, I spoke to Jamieson about Twilight Time, his Nancy Kwan documentary TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN, and his passion for film. 

Parts one and two

Brian with Village Roadshow Management (wearing head scarves), Steve
Guttenberg/ cast members from POLICE ACADEMY
What are some of the challenges of running the Twilight Time label? 
We don't have a huge budget for advertising. Our marketing is mainly on social media, which Nick works very hard on. We have seen our numbers on Facebook rapidly increase. We get a lot of 'ink' from websites and bloggers too, and on certain genre-specific titles, mainly horror, we advertise in magazines. We try to aim towards the cineaste audience and get films that they are interested in but that market is shrinking. We have to keep finding ways of reinventing ourselves and expand our base.

How do you feel about the importance of having extras on your Blu-ray releases? 
The trouble is that we are governed by our budgets. We put out five or six titles a month, which is a big outlay. Extras tend to eat into our margins, and if we start to compromise there then we won't have a business. We have to draw a line somewhere. We are very proud of the products we release. Even though Sony and Fox give us beautiful transfers, which are often 4K restorations, we do sometimes have to go the extra mile and spend the money bringing the quality up to our own rigid standards. In fact, there were some titles, like ON THE BEACH (1959), that we passed on because we weren't happy with the elements, and there was no way we were going to put out a print with lines across the image when we are charging our customers $29.95. We want our customers to always expect pristine masters for our titles. There were a few titles that we put out that were marginal in that area, but we felt that spending any extra money cleaning up the prints, especially on our limited budget, would not have made a significant difference.

Commentaries like those on STATE OF GRACE (1990) and THE FABULOUS BAKER BOYS (1989) were astounding. 
We've been able to do some of these commentaries, with Nick sitting with the filmmakers, because they haven't charged us to do them. Nick's research is always impeccable and because of his great knowledge he is able to prompt filmmakers throughout the process of doing the commentaries. It's then when all the memories start to come back and all the information floods out. Our commentaries have been very good and have been well-received so we are going to try and continue doing them, although we can't do them for all of our titles.

When Warners released the Director's Cut of THE EXORCIST (1973) on DVD, they asked me to sit in with Billy Friedkin to do a commentary with him, and once we got him talking, it was fascinating. I remember he was talking about the challenges of shooting the opening scenes in Iraq. If you love a film it's always interesting to hear how they did certain things.

How did your interest in Nancy Kwan's story come about? 
When I was 18 I saw her in the film LOVE IS A MANY-SPLENDORED THING (1959), and like most men of the day, I fell in love with her. I thought at the time she was the most stunningly beautiful creature I had ever seen. When FLOWER DRUM SONG (1961) came out I thought she was really going to go places, but she did a number of pictures and then seemed to fade away. I never stopped wondering why this had happened. While I was at Warner Brothers I wanted to put three of her pictures out on DVD – THE MAIN ATTRACTION (1962), HONEYMOON HOTEL (1964) and THE WILD AFFAIR (1965). I also thought about doing a thirty minute documentary about her life and career as one of the extras. Warners were not so interested in putting the titles out, but as I researched her life and career further, I became more and more fascinated, and I found out that there was more to her life than I already knew. For exampe, in THE WORLD OF SUZIE WONG (1960) she has a child and loses it. The same thing happened to Nancy in real life. Iy was a case of art imitating life, and life imitating art.

A colleague named Veronica Kwan Rubinek became the Head of International Distribution at Warner Brothers. When she was a financial analyst at the studio she used to sit along from me, but I never made the connection with Nancy Kwan. One day, about 14 or 15 years ago, she called me up and said ''I'm trying to get a poster of THE WORLD OF SUZIE WONG and the archive said to call you. '' I still didn't make the connection! I took some posters over to her and had a coffee with her and she said ''Oh, Brian. These are great. My Aunt will love this one here. '' I asked her ''Who is your Aunt?'' She said ''Nancy Kwan. '' I said ''Wow. If I'd known that, you would have been my best friend!'' Veronica said ''I'll call Nancy and we can all get together and have lunch at the studio. '' We had a three hour lunch and I told Nancy about this idea I had for a documentary. Veronica had told me something of what had happened with Nancy's son but I knew this was something Nancy wouldn't want to talk about. I also soon realised that the film would have to be a feature length documentary and that in order to get it done, I would have to raise the funds myself. I had a series of meetings with Nancy for three years, and chatted with her about her life and career. Eventually she started opening up to me about her son, and I told her that this was the story I wanted to tell, and that if she trusted me I wouldn't let her down. I promised her that it would be handled in an intelligent and compelling way. One day she called me up and said ''OK, Brian. I'll do it. ''

I left Warner Brothers on March 30th 2006. I had decided that a documentary on Nancy was going to be my first project. That night I was on a plane to Kowloon/ Hong Kong to start filming the Hong Kong Suzie Wong Ballet, which I used as an integral way to tell Nancy's story. I did a deal where I agreed to bring Nancy to help promote the show, and in exchange they'd let me film the show. They wanted a standard press conference in a hotel, but I suggested doing it on a ferryboat that was synonymous with THE WORLD OF SUZIE WONG. It took a while to convince the Hong Kong Ferryboat Company to loan us a 60s Ferry Boat for the press occasion, but the press conference proved a big success. It helped make the show hugely popular, to the extent that they brought it back the following year.

The feature documentary took four years to shoot. We even shot in Cambodia, and I ended up financing most of the movie myself, albeit with the help of a retired dentist in Hawaii. There are some subtle changes to the film that I would make now, but the important thing to me was that Nancy was very happy with it. My first cut was about 6 hours long. There was so much great footage, but you can't include everything. Another great thing about the film was that we were able to use the film to raise quite a bit of money for various charities, including an orphanage in Cambodia and research for AIDS vaccines. The whole project was a fascinating journey. It took Nancy and I all over the world, showing it at various festivals, and we became great pals. She's a lovely lady and we often chat on the phone and have dinner when I am in L.A. Who'd have thought I'd become good pals with the film star that we all fell in love with watching on the screen as an 18 year old?

Has your passion for film ever waned over the years? 
Not at all to be honest. Frankly I think my passion for film has kept me young. I've been lucky to work in film for pretty much all of my life. I got some terrific breaks. I got to see a lot of the world through Warner Brothers. I think only about 10% of people in the world get to do what they love. Working with Nick on Twilight Time has only reignited the passion because we are working on films from the periods that we love. I've been blessed. As I once told a Japanese journalist, ''If film was a woman, then for me, I have lived the great romance of all time. '' Film is intangible but that's what's great about it – you get to live your dreams through it. I've had a pretty interesting life, and I have met a lot of amazing people. I still get excited about films as much as I ever have. 

Interview by Paul Rowlands. Copyright © Paul Rowlands, 2017. All rights reserved.

AN INTERVIEW WITH DON 'THE DRAGON' WILSON (PART 1 OF 2)

Don 'The Dragon' Wilson has been a martial arts action star for over 25 years, headlining such fan favorites as BLOODFIST (1989), BLACKBELT (1992), OUT FOR BLOOD (1992), RED SUN RISING (1994) and NIGHT HUNTER (1996). On top of such accomplishments, he was also the world kickboxing champion a record eleven times, winning 47 matches by a knockout. Don is regarded as the greatest kickboxer that ever lived. Thirty years into his acting career, Don has played against type in his latest films. In the first part of a two-part interview about his career, we talked about his role as a hitman in PAYING MR McGETTY and as Uncle Glen, the dojo-owning mentor figure in THE MARTIAL ARTS KID.      

How are THE MARTIAL ARTS KID and PAYING MR. McGETTY new challenges for you? 
Both films are totally different from what I've done in the past. I'm more known for R-rated action movies, where there is violence and nudity and cussing, and these are family movies. I always wondered why actors like Clint Eastwood, Arnold Schwarzenegger and The Rock want to do family movies and romantic movies. For thirty years, I did the same kind of movies, always being the good guy, with fights always around the corner. I never went to extremes with any of my characters. I was the the every day guy, the guy everybody is meant to identify with. Directors would try to get me to play it extreme but it wasn't what I wanted to do. In PAYING MR McGETTY I play a bad guy and a man of few words. Even though this is a martial arts action comedy, in the opening scene I kill a guy. It's really a black comedy, and I compare it to Scorsese's AFTER HOURS (1985). In THE MARTIAL ARTS KID, I am Uncle Glen, a family man who runs a dojo and wears Hawaaian shirts. Now I know why those other guys like to change things up. It was a blast.

Was it a conscious decision to make a change? 
My agent recommended I do different kinds of films, so I could show I was an actor and that I didn't have to take my shirt off in every film and fight the bad guys. I did a movie called THE LAST SENTINEL (2007), which was a sci-fi movie with no martial arts in it, and sure enough, I started getting offers to do other kinds of movies where I could just act. I found that I could do different kinds of movies and my fans would support them. I'm been acting for over thirty years now, and I am not just being hired now for my martial arts background, although I love making action movies and I will continue to make them.

Is it important for you to maintain creative control on your movies? 
Roger Corman started me in the business and he told me ''Don, you need to take control of your movies. '' I asked him how I would do that and he said ''You have two contracts. You have one as an actor, which your agent negotiates, and you have one as a producer, which your entertainment attorney negotiates. '' So from the early 80s onwards, I got certain mutual approvals over creative aspects of the films – the director, the cast, the script and even the poster. Roger wanted to have a long history with me so he didn't want me to burn myself out by making too many movies and letting the quality slip. I've starred in over sixty films and there's only one that I can say I'm embarassed and ashamed to have been a part of. I'm not going to say the title because if I do people will go out and rent it, and I don't want that!

Are THE MARTIAL ARTS KID and PAYING MR McGETTY the beginning of you wanting to have a positive message for audiences with your films? 
The writer/ director Michael Baumgarten and the producer, my brother James Wilson, are the real creative forces behind these films. Most of my movies, and movies in general, are rollercoaster rides and nothing more, but why not aspire to have some kind of positive message? We snook in some things within the context of a fun 90 minute movie. Both films are about characters wanting to better themselves. In THE MARTIAL ARTS KID, Robbie (Jansen Panettiere) is a teenager who wants to improve himself by learning martial arts, and he manages to learn confidence and skills that he can use in his everyday life. In PAYING MR McGETTY, Tyrell (played by R. Marcos Taylor) is working this dead-end job in order for his career as a music producer to take off. He also wants a stable relationship. He's really as good a guy as you can get. Tyrell finds himself in a situation with a beautiful woman and behaves honorably. All married men should aspire to be as good a man as Tyrell.

What did you like the most about the messages in THE MARTIAL ARTS KID? 
If you teach people how to fight, without the morals and ethics, you are going to create bullies. It is also best to learn as many different disciplines as you can. Bruce Lee really believed this, and he was the first ever mixed-martial artist. He was a philosopher above everything else. He also believed that martial arts are only for self defence or to defend others. These are the things both Cynthia Rothrock and I teach to our students.

The first thing you learn when you're a martial artist is how to bow, how to get your 'jion' right. You learn respect for the dojo. Take your shoes off. Have clean feet. You learn certain life lessons that translate to life outside of the dojo. You learn respect and honor, and openness and kindness. Before you learn martial arts skills, you have to have this core of integrity first. If you allow it, learning a martial art will transform you and become a way of life, like it has with me.

How did you start working with Michael Baumgarten? 
I first met him in Florida in the 90s, and he told me he wanted to get into the film business. I told him that I couldn't give him a career, but I would promise to give him his first job. He came out to L.A., and I gave him a job as a production assistant, which is the lowliest position on a set. Now, I'm lucky to work with the guy! He's a director, a producer and a writer, and very talented. There are so many B-movie comedies that are not funny, just stupid. It's difficult to make a funny movie. Michael's comedy sense is not slapstick, it's situational. He creates good characters and they hold your interest throughout the movie. I love the moment when Robbie is trying to impress the girl he likes in THE MARTIAL ARTS KID and Michael has me squeeze the bicycle horn. It's a heartwarming, funny moment, and it comes from strong characters, behaving in the moment.

How much of a fan are you of THE KARATE KID (1984), with which THE MARTIAL ARTS KID shares similarities? 
I love the film. That said though, it is unrealistic that Ralph Macchio would have become a champion by 'waxing on and off'! We poke a little fun at the film in THE MARTIAL ARTS KID when I tell Robbie ''You can wax on and off all you want but you're still not going to drive any of our cars. '' ROCKY (1976) is also unrealistic. I fought for twenty years as a professional kickboxer and chasing all the chickens in the world is not going to stop you from getting knocked out in the ring! I was adamant we had to be more realistic in THE MARTIAL ARTS KID, and all the stuff I teach in the movie is stuff I would teach in real life.

How much improvisation was there in THE MARTIAL ARTS KID? 
We weren't doing Shakespeare so if I forgot a line here or there, we wouldn't do another take. It was slightly improv, but we went from the script as much as possible. Hopefully the film has a feel of being in the moment.

How involved did you get in planning your one action scene in the film, when you fight the protagonist Kaine (T.J. Storm) in your traditional 'dragon' clothes? 
It was my idea to have the fight in a batting cage. Originally, it was meant to happen in the car park, but I thought a batting cage would be more interesting. I liked the fact that T.J.'s character gave me a bat. It showed he still had honor. He wasn't a real bad guy.

Will there be a sequel to THE MARTIAL ARTS KID? 
The script is being written now. It will be a buddy picture, and my character, Uncle Glen, will join forces with Kaine, and we will fight against Frank (Chuck Zito) and a character played by Sasha Mitchell, who was the star of KICKBOXER 2 (1991) and 3 (1992).

Did you look at any other films when preparing for your hitman role in PAYING MR McGETTY? 
I looked at two films I really like – Jean Reno in THE PROFESSIONAL (1994) and Javier Bardem in NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (2007). I have a very simple wardrobe in the film, like those guys. I'm not Tom Cruise in COLLATERAL (2004).

Part two of the interview. 

You can read more about THE MARTIAL ARTS KID here. PAYING MR McGETTY will be released later this year. 

Interview by Paul Rowlands. Copyright © Paul Rowlands, 2017. All rights reserved.

AN INTERVIEW WITH BRIAN JAMIESON (PART 2 OF 3)


Brian Jamieson is alongside Nick Redman the co-founder of the boutique Blu-ray label Twilight Time, which produces limited-edition runs of new to the format studio pictures, both popular and not well-known. Prior to Twilight Time, Jamieson was a highly successful studio executive with Warner Bros. in his native country of New Zealand, and in England and Los Angeles, forging successful creative relationships with the likes of William Friedkin, Fred Zinnemann and especially Stanley Kubrick. Following his first year with Warners in 1977 and the sucess of his campaigns for THE DEEP and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, he was named International Publicist of the Year. As a preservationist, Jamieson was involved in the restored releases of films such as GIANT (1956),  THE WILD BUNCH (1969) and THE BIG RED ONE (1980), and he produced many in-depth documentaries and featurettes for Warners' home video releases of their classic films. He produced the documentary CANNES ALL ACCESS in 2007, and directed a documentary on Nancy Kwan, the star of THE WORLD OF SUZIE WONG, entitled TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN: KA SHEN'S JOURNEY (2009). In the second part of a three-part interview, I spoke to Jamieson about the nature of film advertising, his memories of the campaigns for THE DEEP and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, his experiences making documentaries on THE WILD BUNCH and the career of Charlie Chaplin, and how he got involved with restoring Sam Fuller's THE BIG RED ONE (1980).

Part one of the interview. 

Receiving International
Publicist of the Year Award with Columbia Pictures' Marty
Blau/ Patrick Stephenson, Las Vegas June,
1977.
Do you feel it's important that the advertising of a film should accurately convey the nature of the film? 
You get one shot, and every film is a gamble regardless of the pedigree involved. Story is an integral part of any film's success and if you get all the emotive ingredients in place, there's no reason why the film shouldn't work. I think a brilliant example of marketing is THE LAST EMPEROR (1987). The way Jeremy Thomas and his team positioned that film was wonderful. It was a very classy film and a very classy campaign. You owe it to the filmmaker to have the advertising reflect the film because of the hard work they have put into their movie and the risks they have taken. That said, you always need to be able to present a good argument to market a film a particular way. Other things come into play like the wife of a director liking a certain shor and wanting it to be part of the campaign, and you have to be able to explain why you think it won't work.

With Chuck Norris, circa 1977-8.
I remember sitting in a meeting at Warners, waiting for the big chiefs, Bob Daly and Terry Semel, to arrive. There was a guy who was the head of the creative department, who was the architect of the advertising campaigns. He presented his ideas for the campaign of a particular movie. I was in charge of advertising for Latin America. Everybody stroked his ego and placated him. I made the huge mistake of saying to him ''I don't think that is going to work in Latin America, and let me tell you why. '' I thought I presented a very convincing argument, but this guy basically said ''What the fuck would you know?'' I think it's always best to speak your mind, because at the end of the day, everybody is just trying to get it right. I was persona non grata with him for a couple of months. Ha! 

Do you think a degree of restraint and not showing too much of the film in trailers and advertising is the best idea? 
I hate the trailers today because they are giving you the whole movie, and not in the context of the storyline. It's all wham bam thank you mam. Fast cutting, loud sound, lots of explosions. They want to thrill your senses. You come away thinking ''Shit, what was all that about?'' When it comes to movies, you're not selling anything tangible. You're selling dreams and illusions and stories. And the appeal factor is so diverse with different demographics and groups. My idea is that you have to take whatever strengths the film has and you have to tease the audience. You don't give it away like they do now. Trailers should set up an expectation and get the audience excited to see the movie. I hate it when the experience of watching a movie is anti-climactic because everything has been ruined by the trailers. You want to leave at least some surprises for the audience.

With Clint Eastwood, promoting FIREFOX.
Trailers are an art form. An example of a great trailer would be Hitchcock's trailer for PSYCHO (1960). The whole thing was a prelude to the shower sequence. It was edited so subtly that it shocked you to the point where you didn't know what you had just seen, but you knew you wanted to see the film. I think a lot of the content of the trailers is dictated by the insecurity of the studio, which has spent $200 million on the movie and has a hell of a lot riding on it.

Another thing that frustrates me about a lot of modern films is the way dialogue is mixed. You sit in the movie theater and especially in blockbusters, and the trailers they make for them, you can't hear what the actors are saying with all the extraneous sound in the mix. You go back and look at films all the way up to the 80s and the dialogue is crisp and clear. 

Promoting THE DEEP with Robert Shaw.
What are your strongest memories of the iconic campaigns for THE DEEP and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND? 
I was working in the New Zealand office back then but they brought us up to a sales convention in Los Angeles. We really got the royal treatment in terms of getting face time with the filmmakers and stars. We went all out on those campaigns. On THE DEEP, I remember I got to meet Nick Nolte, and I went to Australia and did a lot of press with Robert Shaw. What really helped us on that movie was the wet T-shirt Jacqueline Bisset wore in the film. On CLOSE ENCOUNTERS we got to have lunch with Steven Spielberg and Richard Dreyfuss. I also remember in New Zealand there was a guy who wrote a best-seller about encountering UFOs. He had been an army pilot but had been retired for saying he had encountered a UFO while flying a DC-3. Quite a few pilots had seen strange lights in the sky and then were quickly retired for talking about it. We got him involved on the bandwagon as an expert and he came to the press conference we did. A lot of people in the country believed in what he was talking about and it really gave us momentum in positioning the film. 

Is CLOSE ENCOUNTERS one of your favorite posters? 
To be honest, I can't say it is. It didn't really excite me to see the movie. We did a B style poster where we used a smaller picture of the spacecraft and had a lot of quotes on it about alien encounters to try and make the movie credible and valid to an audience. We used it for the newspaper advertising, for example. I thought that was more effective. Actually, sci-fi is not my favorite genre. That said, I gave it my all when I worked on campaigns for those kinds of films. 

Where did your passion for making documentaries come from? 
I've always enjoyed watching them, but it all started really when I saw George Stevens Jr's documentary on his father, which was called GEORGE STEVENS: A FILMMAKER'S JOURNEY (1984). I loved it. You could clearly see the love that the two had for each other. It was a terrific pleasure working with George Jr on the restoration of GIANT (1956). We keep in touch to this day. He told me a lot about his relationship with his father.

The first documentary I got involved in was with Nick Redman, which was THE WILD BUNCH: AN ALBUM IN MONTAGE (1996). I was involved in the restoration of the film, and I was given $5, 000 to make a documentary for the laserdisc. I said to Bill Rush in the archives at Warner, ''There's got to be some behind the scenes stuff on THE WILD BUNCH in the archives that we haven't seen before. '' He put a search out and he called me one Friday very excited: ''Oh shit, I've found this 16mm film, and it looks like it's the setting up of principal sequences from the film. '' The footage was about an hour long. He transferred it to video tape for me, and I took a look at it over the weekend. It was in black and white, and there was no sound. Bill had no idea who shot it or anything, but it was so fascinating that I watched it over and over. It turned out it was the 'setting up' of the battle at Bloody Porch, and the blowing of the bridge, and you could see Peckinaph in action. I thought ''I've got to find a way to do something with this. Maybe a 5 or 6 minute short film. ''

I first met Nick Redman on this project. He had called me about helping to restore the soundtrack to THE WILD BUNCH. When the film originally came out in 1969, a soundtrack album was put out but it only had about half of the music from the film. I brokered a deal with Nick and Warner Bros. Records for a new soundtrack album. We underwrote the costs and Warners retained the master rights. I told Nick about the footage we had found and he said that he and Paul Seydor would love to put a film together with the footage. I told him to go for it. Paul was editing TIN CUP (1996) at the time and he and Nick would call myself and my coleague in the venture, Michael Finnegan, over to the editing suite to show me how they were progressing with the Peckinpah footage. What they were doing was so fantastic that I wanted to expand it to thirty minutes. Paul said he would need an additional $20, 000 to do that. Ron Shelton, the director of TIN CUP, kindly said he would let them use the his editing suite for the film at no charge. Without them knowing where I was going to get the $20K from, I told them to go ahead and what they made was fantastic. It won them an Academy Award nomination. Barry Reardon, the head of Domestic Distribution at Warners, underwrote the creation of about ten 35mm prints that we played alongside THE WILD BUNCH restoration at certain venues and festivals. The next project Nick and I collaborated on was the documentary A TURNING OF THE EARTH – JOHN FORD, JOHN WAYNE AND THE SEARCHERS (1998). In those days I could make a budget and bury it off without too many people knowing. 

Can you talk about the documentary CHARLIE: THE LIFE AND ART OF CHARLES CHAPLIN (2003)? 
I got involved with the thirty-year Time critic, Richard Schickel. I was able to negotiate between Warner Bros. and MK2, and get a budget of $1.3 million, to make a documentary on Chaplin, with Richard directing. I think it's the finest work he has ever done. The first thing we did was to fly to Paris and meet with the Chaplin family. We wanted to have a free hand in how Richard told the story. Chaplin's auto-biographical feature LIMELIGHT (1952) served as an integral part of the story structure, and became a key factor in the storyline, but we also wanted to go into the other important aspects of his life, like his penchant for young girls, that in some way impacted his artistry, but in an intelligent way. Luckily the family agreed to let us do things our way - as long as we treated the subject matter with respect.

We managed to get the film into Cannes. I remember Richard and I carrying wet prints to show at the Palais, with a huge audience and the whole Chaplin family there. I was a bit nervous, but at the end there was a standing ovation, and Geraldine Chaplin got out of the audience and hugged Richard on stage. That was the blessing we were looking for.

We took the film to a lot of festivals, and Geraldine came along. We were in Edinburgh and after a late screening we had dinner at about 1am in the hotel. There was Geraldine, her husband, Richard and I. At one point, Geraldine leaned over, touched Richard's arm and said ''Richard, I've seen the film three times now, and as a result I'm learning to love my father all over again. '' What a poignant moment. I told Richard later ''You'll never get a better review than that. '' The film took us to Vivey up in Switzerland, where we did a huge international press conference at Chaplin's home. I got to spend time with the whole Chaplin family, including Michael Chaplin, who I thought was a terrific guy, and of course Geraldine, who is a lovely lady I have gotten to know quite well. 

How did you get involved with restoring Sam Fuller's THE BIG RED ONE? 
Richard and I had quite a bit of resistance from the studio about doing it because it was never considered a Warner film, as it was originally made by Lorimar, which Warner had acquired. There was a Dutch journalist who kept writing to me, driving me nuts, saying ''Now that you guys have THE BIG RED ONE, you owe it to Sam Fuller to restore the film. It was his signature war movie. '' We met with Sam's widow, Christa, who gave us Sam's original script. We got 127 boxes of trims and cuts from where they were stored in Kansas City, and we had a guy sorting all the footage out and then timecoding it. After that we could go through everything and then reconstruct the film based off of Sam's script of his original 3 hour 5 minute original director's cut. We got to within 7 minutes of that cut. Fortunately the original composer, Dana Kaproff, was still around and we were able to get him to compose music for the bridges where footage was lost. We had a fantastic screening in Cannes, where it was nominated for the Palme d'Or, and we had some great screenings at other festivals. Martin Scorsese presented us with the 'Restoration of the Year' Award in New York, and then we also receieved the top restoration award at the L.A. Film Critics Awards. As a result of the project, we made lifelong friends with Pamela Marvin, Lee Marvin's widow, Christa Fuller, and people like Mark Hamill, Bobby Carradine and Bobby De Cicco. We have yearly reunions where we go to Pamela's ranch in Tucson. 

Why has the restored cut not appeared on Bluray? 
Christa Fuller called me many times about it but there was little I could do as I no longer worked at Warners. Both Richard and I tried as best we could to get Warners to remaster the Reconstruction in HD, but they weren't interested. It's a crazy situation. Nick Redman and I would love to release it through Twilight Time, but Warners practically never licence titles through third parties. We did release Oliver Stone's HEAVEN & EARTH (1993), but that was at the request of Oliver, and Oliver and I had to work hard to get Warners to say yes. When we licence titles from other studios it is usually a 5 page contract. The one we had for HEAVEN & EARTH from Warners was 78 pages! We were lucky because Warners mispositioned the film originally and lost money on it, so they were very reluctant to put it out on Bluray. It was great we were able to help Oliver out. It's a film I have always liked. I think it's one of his best. 

Photos are the property of Brian Jamieson and cannot be reproduced without his permission.

Interview by Paul Rowlands. Copyright © Paul Rowlands, 2017. All rights reserved.

AN INTERVIEW WITH MIKE HODGES (PART 2 OF 2)

Mike Hodges is best known for the seminal British gangster film GET CARTER (1971) and the heist drama/ thriller CROUPIER (1998), and for the cult classic FLASH GORDON (1980). Before GET CARTER, Hodges worked successfully in television, where he displayed an aptitude for penetrating documentaries (World in Action), comedy (the documentary The British Way of Death) and experimenting with the form of arts programmes (Tempo, and New Tempo). His children's serial, THE TYRANT KING (1967) showed the possibilities of shooting television programmes on film and was followed by two highly acclaimed TV films, SUSPECT (1968) and RUMOUR (1969), both of which were hard-hitting, authentic, disturbing thrillers set in the criminal world. The latter film led to producer Michael Klinger and star Michael Caine agreeing Hodges was the right man to direct GET CARTER, which proved to become one of the most iconic and loved of British films. His excellent work in television aside (including the acclaimed TV films SQUARING THE CIRCLE and MISSING PIECES), over nine films Hodges has created a body of work that traverses genres and  consistently reflects the man's preoccupations with the nature of humanity and the world we have created - the crime thrillers (GET CARTER, PRAYER FOR THE DYING, CROUPIER, I'LL SLEEP WHEN I'M DEAD), the comedies (PULP, MORONS FROM OUTER SPACE), the forays into sci-fi  (FLASH GORDON, THE TERMINAL MAN) and horror (BLACK RAINBOW). Hodges is a fascinating, underrated filmmaker, and in the second part of our email interview, he talks about his films A PRAYER FOR THE DYING (1987), BLACK RAINBOW (1989) and CROUPIER, how he approaches his work and the themes that attract him, and his current projects. 

Part one of the interview.           

Looking back over your career is there anything you wish you had compromised on? Do you regret publicly disowning A PRAYER FOR THE DYING? 
It was meant to be a press release solely to industry periodicals (Variety, Hollywood Reporter, etc) - a release simply stating that the film had been re-edited without my agreement and Goldwyn had refused to remove my name. The press person I employed screwed up and sent it to all the UK media outlets. Because the subject matter was such a delicate one - the IRA - the tabloids ran with it. Worse, rumours were deliberately circulated that I was an IRA supporter and the film had been changed to remove its pro-IRA support. Nasty! It was never meant to be like that.

The film was made whilst Rourke was disillusioned with acting. How was he to work with? 
Mickey wasn't disillusioned with acting. On the contrary. Long before I took on the project he'd been working with a voice coach on his Belfast accent. He was impeccable to work with and I think his performance is brilliant.

Is it still possible we might see your cut of the film? 
There was an attempt at MGM years ago to put it together again, but then MGM was sold to Sony and its whole film restoration division was shut down.

Would you say BLACK RAINBOW is the film that is the closest to your own outlook on life and what concerns you? 
First, let me explain the genesis of this film. Over the years my search for film locations took me to many places across America where curiosity always led me to the local newspapers - the Bee's and the Bugle's. It was then that I noticed a pattern of reports where workers, often union officials, were beaten up or even murdered. On investigation they were revealed to be whistleblowers, usually on health and safety issues at the work place. These crimes became my springboard into the murky waters of unprotected workers, the desperate need to protect our environment, and the curtailing of putting profit before people. Sadly, after the filming was finished, while I was editing it, I noticed a small item in a newspaper here. A fire in the US had literally melted a factory producing chicken rings. When the workers tried to escape they found the emergency doors locked. Thirty-three of them burned to death. This horror story had unfolded in Hamlet, North Carolina, exactly where I'd shot an early sequence in BLACK RAINBOW. So, Yes is the answer to your question. It is the film that's closest to my outlook on life. And hopefully for millions of others.

After the ups and downs of your career, what attitude did you take towards the success of CROUPIER and newfound interest in your work? 
Cock-a-hoop! Film Four, the commissioning company, thinking CROUPIER uncommercial, decided against its distribution. As the British Film Institute was about to re-release a newly minted GET CARTER, I got them to agree on a limited distribution of CROUPIER in the UK. At least that saved it from going straight to VHS and relative oblivion. Although it had excellent reviews the number of screens it reached remained very small. An American friend, Mike Kaplan, loved the film and spent almost a year doggedly working on getting a US distribution deal. It started (I think) on 17 screens and ended up on well over a hundred. It played for something like 8 months, taking over $10, 000,000 (I think); not that I saw any of it because the distribution company went belly up! It was so successful Film Four recanted and distributed it satisfactorily the next year. A minor victory & a rare one. The history of my films' distribution has not been a happy one. Sod that! I've always thought I was lucky to create them in the first place.

Would you say that you feel that humans like to create their own worlds where they can rule, but forget that they are subject to the same fates as everybody and are insignificant compared to nature and the world around them? Do you think the most we can hope is that we learn something about ourselves and achieve some kind of balance or happiness? 
I'm fascinated by those animals I've got to know reasonably well - no dangerous ones - just cats, dogs, chicken, ducks, pigs. In their company I'm constantly aware that I, too, am an animal. But one of a species that's the most dangerous and destructive of all. Religions are an attempt to apply the brakes on our worst instincts. But for those of us who don't believe in God or religion we have to find our own brakes. And how to apply them.

Do you feel that your approach to filmmaking, where you don't overdo any aspects, leads to more of an authentic, loose feel? How do you stand on the idea of 'realism' in film? 
Cinema is all artefact. I don't strive for realism; maybe a suspension of belief? I struggle to allow an audience time to absorb what they're witnessing. I'm scared of sentiment and arousing false emotions. Hence my limited use of music. I constantly strive for simplicity across the work. That said, these stipulations do not apply in way to FLASH GORDON and my favourites PULP (1972) & MORONS FROM OUTER SPACE (1985)!

How does it feel to be best known as the director of GET CARTER and FLASH GORDON, two very different films? 
Maybe I'm schizophrenic? 

What projects are you working on now, and what kind of issues are driving your work? 
My filming days are over. Now I write fiction. Three short novels so far – 'Bait', 'Grist' and 'Security'. 'Bait' was published in French by Rivages Noir. I'm hoping they'll all be published in English before I kick the bucket. The publisher Unbound is very enthusiastic and about to crowd-fund them as one volume. Fingers crossed!

Interview by Paul Rowlands. Copyright © Paul Rowlands, 2017. All rights reserved.

AN INTERVIEW WITH MIKE HODGES (PART 1 OF 2)

Mike Hodges is best known for the seminal British gangster film GET CARTER (1971) and the heist drama/ thriller CROUPIER (1998), and for the cult classic FLASH GORDON (1980). Before GET CARTER, Hodges worked successfully in television, where he displayed an aptitude for penetrating documentaries (World in Action), comedy (the documentary The British Way of Death) and experimenting with the form of arts programmes (Tempo, and New Tempo). His children's serial, THE TYRANT KING (1967) showed the possibilities of shooting television programmes on film and was followed by two highly acclaimed TV films, SUSPECT (1968) and RUMOUR (1969), both of which were hard-hitting, authentic, disturbing thrillers set in the criminal world. The latter film led to producer Michael Klinger and star Michael Caine agreeing Hodges was the right man to direct GET CARTER, which proved to become one of the most iconic and loved of British films. His excellent work in television aside (including the acclaimed TV films SQUARING THE CIRCLE and MISSING PIECES), over nine films Hodges has created a body of work that traverses genres and  consistently reflects the man's preoccupations with the nature of humanity and the world we have created - the crime thrillers (GET CARTER, PRAYER FOR THE DYING, CROUPIER, I'LL SLEEP WHEN I'M DEAD), the comedies (PULP, MORONS FROM OUTER SPACE), the forays into sci-fi  (FLASH GORDON, THE TERMINAL MAN) and horror (BLACK RAINBOW). Hodges is a fascinating, underrated filmmaker, and in the first part of our email interview, he talks about the films that influenced him; the experiences that shaped him as a person and a filmmaker, and how his outlook on life is reflected in his films; his stylistic habits; GET CARTER and its themes; revisiting similar turf for I'LL SLEEP WHEN I'M DEAD (2003); his experience making FLASH GORDON (1980), and Kubrick, Malick and Felllini, all of whom were fans of his work.         

What are some of the films have stayed with you over the years and impacted upon your life and work? 
I was lucky that my most impressionable years were the 1950's, a great period for US movies, which largely featured in my local cinemas. Of the ones I still remember I must include Billy Wilder's DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944), SUNSET BLVD. (1950) and ACE IN THE HOLE (1951); Elia Kazan's ON THE WATERFRONT (1954), and A FACE IN THE CROWD (1957); Robert Aldrich's KISS ME DEADLY (1955). Then from the UK studios, Carol Reed's THE THIRD MAN (1949) and ODD MAN OUT (1947), and John Boulting's BRIGHTON ROCK (1947). Dark stuff! 

Why did you choose to serve on the lower decks of ships for your National Service instead of have an automatic commission? Do you think this was the start of an urging to see the world and understand it better? 
If I'd taken the automatic commission in the Royal Navy it'd still have been as an accountant. And that I didn't want. I'd qualified simply to appease my parents desire for me to have a profession. Instead - by being on the lower deck - I was embedded in a community coming from the UK's working class. For me this was a revelation. One that was compounded by the poverty and degradation I witnessed in the numerous fishing ports my ship took me to.

You have an ability to look into the abyss with your films and don't shy away from showing the cruel, tragic, uncaring elements of life. Where does this come from? 
Maybe this answers your question. I was indoctrinated with Roman Catholicism from birth and only escaped its tendrils at around fifteen. A very traumatic experience it was too; but once free (sort of!) I was already skilled at looking into the abyss (as you put it!). A devout Catholic spends considerable time contemplating death, hell, purgatory, limbo, etc. With that baggage now dumped I had to pick my way through the wreckage and find some equivalent belief to fill that spiritual hole. It seemed to me that compassionate Socialism was the closest I could find to Christianity - but without the hocus-pocus.

Before making GET CARTER, your experiences in life had made you angry with the world's injustices, inequalities and hypocrisies. Do you think all this bled into GET CARTER? Is Carter's anger really your anger at what people do to other people and their environments? 
Undoubtedly. I found the British very complacent about the state of its community. They were unwilling to face how deep the cancer of the country's class system ran. The corruption that stemmed from such desperate inequality infected society from top-to-bottom; parliamentarians, lawyers, police, media. All had, or wanted to have, their noses, in the money trough. In fact shortly after I'd finished the shoot in Newcastle its mayor and other dignitaries were convicted for taking whopping bribes. Although I didn't come from the working class Michael Caine did. I can only assume this was the source for the anger he summoned up in his performance. His anger then was also mine - and is still!

Do you think your experiences meant GET CARTER was never going to feel like a Hollywood film? 
By the time I got to make GET CARTER I'd lived in London for some twenty years. I was, for the first time, able to access films from other cultures: France, Germany, Sweden, India, Japan, Mexico. But it was European cinema in particular that influenced me. Jean-Luc Godard, Jean-Pierre Melville, Michelangelo Antonioni, Fellini and others. Although my early love of American Westerns did, I think, inform GET CARTER. I don't think it could  ever feel like a product of Hollywood. Just look at the ending! 

How much of a fatalist are you? What to you is the joy of telling a story? 
The pattern of human behaviour and the eternal recycling of its mistakes makes it difficult to be anything other than a fatalist. As I type this I can look from my office window into a wonderful wood of oak and ash trees. In there are the noisy vivid jays. I hear them every day as they squark alerting other creatures that a predator is closing in. My joy in telling stories is sounding an alarm. Like them I squark warnings - if not as effectively! 

In your films, there are often pointers to the final outcome of the film. Do you feel in life there are pointers to our own destinies that we choose to ignore or fail to see? 
Shakespeare answered this question rather neatly in 'King Lear': "When we are born we cry that we are come to this great stage of fools." (Not that a baby has much choice in the matter of ignoring or failing to see this pointer.) And then there's Ernest Hemingway's dictum: "All stories, if continued far enough, end in death, and he is no true story teller who would hide that from you." So I insert these pointers because I think they add to the film's psychological makeup. It's DNA. For example, in GET CARTER there's the book Carter's reading on the train going up North – 'Farewell My Lovely'! It's farewell to him as he's destined to die before the film ends. And what's more, his killer is sitting in the opposite corner of this railway carriage. A premonition or a sly joke? Or both. A number of idiotic critics thought I was comparing myself to Raymond Chandler. As if I would dare. 

Do you think any person or institution is doomed to fail once they deny their humanity? 
Denying their humanity? This is a fine line we cross every day. Most of us step back when we realise it. But some don't. They relish it. Are their numbers increasing as screens replace eye contact between humans? I don't know. The Portuguese thinker Fernando Pessoa wrote this devastating but truthful line: "The world belongs to those that feel nothing." Has there ever been a better description of the psychopaths in politics and big business? 

Has your view of humanity softened as you have gotten older? 
Softened? Sadly not! Progress seems to bring with it little wisdom. For me the world is a carousel I've been on for 85 years. Now, via the porthole of my television, it appears to be whirling out of control; largely driven by deep-rooted revenge; revenge sometimes nurtured over centuries. Sunni/Shia? IRA/Loyalists? Left/Right? Republicans/ Democrats? Trump/Obama? Many of my films have revenge at their heart. Other animals, to my knowledge, don't succour revenge. It seems to be a speciality of homo sapiens. As a fellow member of that species it's not surprising I recognised that fact. 

What surprised you the most about the success of GET CARTER? 
This will sound crazy but I wasn't aware of it at the time. Only years later did I fully realise its impact. Maybe because I always go back into my personal bubble after each film? The ancient derivation of the surname, Hodges, is farm labourer. Maybe that's why I constantly retreat to my home in the middle of a Dorset farm? 

How did you feel about George Armitage's remake, HIT MAN (1972) and the Stallone remake from 2000? 
As far as I remember HIT MAN was good. But I was puzzled why anybody would want to remake somebody else's film. Shot for shot! Was it signalling a death of the imagination? With the number of remakes gathering momentum it seems it was. The Stallone version I've never seen. From all reports it's abysmal. I just wish the makers had drawn the line at using the same title. That was pathetic! 

Some directors may have tried to avoid revisiting the territory of GET CARTER with I'LL SLEEP WHEN I'M DEAD. Why did you want to enter that world again? Did you intend for it to be a companion piece? Was it in any way a reaction to the way GET CARTER was enjoyed for its violence and embraced by 'lad' culture? 
Again I have to plead naiveté. The film is so diametrically the opposite of GET CARTER. I never really saw the connection when I took it on. At every level of its realisation, its composition, pacing, lighting, dialogue, music score it is totally different. You could say it's an old man taking another look at the subject of revenge - but nothing else. The brother connection is tenuous in the extreme. Most UK critics - lazy as usual - damned it as an attempt to relive the past. Maybe in time they'll take another look? But hopefully not before they have enlightened themselves with Roger Ebert's review. 

Terrence Malick and Stanley Kubrick were fans of THE TERMINAL MAN. How much of a fan are you of their work? Do you feel sympatico? 
Both are great film makers. Kubrick very cleverly created an aura around himself so he could control the release pattern of his films. If he had made THE TERMINAL MAN, he would have prepared the audience for it. I didn't have that control even though I was also the producer. Warners had no idea what to do with it. The poster as far as I recollect had George Segal flying into space with sparks coming out of his arse. That did not capture the nature of this film! 

There was a period when FLASH GORDON was not seen as the classic it is now. Why do you think the tide turned? How did the experience confirm your thoughts about the negative aspects of big-budget Hollywood filmmaking? 
I never thought of it as a Hollywood film. Dino De Laurentiis was in a place of his own. After a bumpy start I loved working with him. You could always get immediate decisions. In the UK many looked down their noses at the film. Cultural snobbery came into play. But over the years it's played so many times on television, often over Christmas, it's image has changed. Even the Queen asked Brian Blessed (or so he insists) to yell "Flash Gordon is alive?" for her grandchildren. Of course the film was always operating at two levels. The Saturday morning flick for kids and the sexual undercurrents for adults. Fun for all ages. The Queen is 92! 

Stanley Kubrick recommended to Fellini that he choose you to supervise the dubbing on the English version of Fellini's AND THE SHIP SAILS ON (1983). What impressed you the most about Fellini when you met him? 
His love of life and food in particular. On our first meeting he took a party of us to a massive restaurant next to Cinecittà. We all happily took our seats - but Federico wasn't satisfied. I don't what it was that concerned him - the view? the light? - whatever it was we had to move the table. Only after three more moves was he happy and we were allowed to sit, order and eat. Then later, when we started working together, he started adding extra lines, lots of them, which I simply couldn't sync to the mouth movements. I was there to do just that! When I complained he looked at me as if I was mad. "In Italy, Mike, we look at the eyes - not the lips."By then I knew him well enough to say that was bullshit!

Part two of the interview. 

Interview by Paul Rowlands. Copyright © Paul Rowlands, 2017. All rights reserved.