Interview with Durch die Nacht mit director Hasko Baumann

Regular readers of Hero Culte will have noticed that I have written a few little articles about a German/French co-production called Durch die Nacht mit / Au cœur de la nuit, (aka Into the Night) which is basically two artists or cultural figures spending an evening together on the town.  It’s not a “set-up” or scripted, it’s two people hanging out followed by a camera crew – sometimes it works well, sometimes it doesn’t.  I’ve written articles about 3 different shows now (Franco Nero and Fred Williamson; Michel Houellebecq and Calixto Bieito; Alejandro Jodorowsky and Daniel Pinchbeck) and they all happened to be directed by this chap: Hasko Baumann.

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The good thing about doing this site is that sometimes people get in touch with me – not often enough for my liking, I’m always pleased to hear from people!  When people do get in touch thought it’s usually a very nice experience.  Hasko Baumann first got in touch when I wrote the Michel Houellebecq review; it was lovely to hear from him and we’ve been in touch again when I wrote the other articles.  In the end, instead of getting all the inside info for myself I thought I should just ask Hasko for an interview for the site.  He was kind enough to agree and here it is:

Hero Culte (HC):  Tell me a little bit about your background and how you got into film making in the first place

Hasko Baumann (HB):  I have been a film fan for as long as I can remember.  But at first, I didn’t really dare to go into that field because I had no idea how to and the requirements of the film school applications really scared me off.  After dabbling in – and totally screwing up – studying law I finally ended up studying film and television.  I never graduated though; I did several internships in television production companies and when one of those offered me a job, I just took it.
I started by doing very basic television features mainly on movies, just your regular press junket interviews intercut with movie clips.  Very basic.  But I was only 28 years old and already talking to people like Van Damme or Tim Burton, so I was happy.  I felt ready to somehow integrate my passion for genre films into the work so I started researching for what I thought would be the best and biggest doc on horror films.  This was in 2000 so horror still had a bad rep and wasn’t filling cinemas. I found a producer and shot it on a low budget, managing to get a stellar cast.   You can see the trailer for Screen Terror here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Se4Veibe-uo

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In the end the producer and I fell out.  I had no access to the footage anymore.   Years later, he hired another director and she turned it into a gender discussion thing.   It even got a limited theatrical release!  I was quite hurt.  But something good came out of it…

HC:  What was your first Durch die Nacht mit show?

HB:  For the doc, I also filmed with John Carpenter.  So when I worked on Durch die Nacht as a producer for the first few shows, I told the production company I usually direct so I’d like to do one myself.  And they said, if you can come up with two great guests you get the job.  I knew that John was totally smitten with German actress Franka Potente (Run Lola Run) so I asked him if he wanted to do the show with her.  He did, and she also said yes, and off I went to LA.  The rest is history, so to say.

John und Franka

It was a difficult shoot because you have to get used to the parameters of the show.   You have to prepare it meticulously, but you have to allow it to lose control when it starts.  We tended to overthink it in the beginning and it took some years to get some routine into it.   People in the business still can’t believe that it’s actually real because no one dares to work like that anymore.

HC:  I have seen the John Carpenter and Franka Potente episode now and it’s great – they seemed quite sweet together.   How John was trying to help Franka find a toilet seat and I can’t believe how much food they were putting away!  I also really enjoyed an episode (this one not directed by you) where Crispin Glover met Juliette Lewis.  But what have been your favourite Durch die Nacht mit shows?  And if you can pick your absolute favourite one?

HB:  People always ask me that.   It’s really hard to say.  There are some that I didn’t direct that are absolutely fantastic.  There was one with a German artist, Christoph Schlingensief, and a politician, Michel Friedman.   It’s still considered the best of them all – and it was only the second episode!   The one with Henry Rollins and Iranian artist Shirin Neshat is brilliant.

HC:  I want to see the Henry Rollins one, I’ve not tracked it down yet…

HB:  The one with Udo Kier and Grayson Perry is great.

HC:  I have seen that one – it was excellent.  I love them both, so it was a pleasure to see them together, although I felt a little uncomfortable for Grayson; I think Udo had fallen in love with him, or at least his female alter ego anyway!

HB:  And there was a fascinating episode with economists Joseph Stiglitz and Bruce Greenwald, right when the economic crisis hit.   That episode showed how far the programme can be taken.

Regarding my own episodes, which there are 55 of I believe, of course there are those dear to my heart with the artists I love.  Williamson and Nero has to be up there.

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Brian Yuzna and porn mogul Pierre Woodman, that is a favorite of mine.   Intellectual and totally sleazy at the same time!  Dolph Lundgren and German actor Ralph Herforth.  It was the first time that people actually understood what a smart and charming guy Dolph is.  James Ellroy and Bruce Wagner, because it was all just show and it gave me the opportunity to direct it like a nightmare in LA.  Glenn Gregory and Midge Ure because I just love those guys and they were amazing.   James Gunn and Michael Rooker because they were so funny.  But if you look at it just from a neutral point of view, I have to say that the one with Moby and Will Cotton was probably the strongest show I’ve done because it is the perfect mix of interesting and insightful conversation, great locations and lots of visual style.

HC:  You know how much I loved that Franco / Fred episode already, but I have to track some of those others down now!  For an English person like me it’s such a shame that we don’t get these shows screened in the UK with subtitles for the ones that are not conducted in English.  There’s loads I’d like to see but my German is not quite good enough for it.  Anyway, who would be your ideal guests for the show if you could have anyone at all?

HB:  I would have loved to do one with Stephen King in Maine.  But he just doesn’t do this kind of thing.   And Falco – remember Rock Me Amadeus? – he would have been absolutely perfect.  But he died years ago.

HC:  What was your involvement in the Eurocrime! documentary?  I see you got a thank you on it.  I love those Italian crime films and it was a great documentary, although it just made me want to see more films and re-see films I’d already seen!

HB:  Oh, that was just a nice gesture of Mike Malloy, the director.   A great guy.   I wanted to do the same doc but it was a hard sell.   He got wind of it somehow and he’d heard about me because of Moebius Redux.  So we got in touch and told each other about our plans.   But I just didn’t have the energy he had in pursuing this basically without money.   I was afraid I’d end up with another Screen Terror.   I would have loved to work with him on it; Mike is just a great, great guy.   And he made his film with love and passion.   It’s not a Mark Hartley documentary.

HC:  My boyfriend just bought your documentary about Moebius but I’ve not seen it yet – how did that come about?  Was it after working with Jodorowsky on Durch die Nacht mit?

HB:  I was actually asked.  Someone important at Arte wanted a documentary on Moebius and I was asked because everybody assumed that I’m a comic book guy.  Well, I am but I’m a Marvel and DC guy and I really did not know much about Moebius!   So I did some research, wrote a treatment and got the job.   It turned into an international co-production and was shown on TV (in different versions) in lots of countries; not least the UK, on BBC4.   It also did a great festival tour on four continents.   To this day, it’s the biggest thing I’ve done.   I actually toyed with the idea of doing a doc on Jodorowsky’s version of Dune after that.   I had already talked to Alejandro about it!  But after Moebius Redux, which wasn’t easy, I needed a break from those people.   And I forgot all about it.   Damn!

Moebius Redux

However, the Into the Night with Jodo came years later.   It was unbelievably difficult to get Alejandro to do Moebius Redux.  But it was very easy on Into the Night.   He mellowed so much after finding the love of his life.   We worked together another time, two years ago.   He always forgets about me afterwards.   What an exceptional human being though.

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HC:  Because I love Houellebecq so much and enjoyed your show with him and Calixto Bieito, could you say something about that show?

HB:  Oh well, the Bieito/Houellebecq show was a gruelling experience for everyone involved except Houellebecq.  I have no idea why he agreed to do the show.   Calixto came to me after a few hours and asked “What can I do?”  And because I knew I needed more footage, I said “I have no idea, but keep on doing it a little longer!”  I think Houellebecq actually enjoyed himself.   He worked with Bieito, who admired him so much, afterwards.   In a way, it was a turning point for Into the Night.  Before that show, we often tried to make the shows as entertaining as possible; leave out the lulls, the arguments, the moods.  But what makes Into the Night special is the authenticity.   There’s nothing fake about it.   You have to be honest with it.   So after coming back, I looked at the footage and decided to show the evening for what it was.   I tried to accentuate the uncomfortable moments, but also find the comedy in it.   Some parts I think are very funny; some are unbearable.   It paid off, the episode got rave reviews and I think it helped Into the Night to win the German equivalent of the Emmy.   The show was never the same afterwards.  It’s still puzzling to me how much the Houellebecq fans – and they are hardcore – are siding with him regarding the show.

HC:  Well, I’m a big admirer of Houellebecq but it’s impossible to take his side unless you’re just being bloody-minded and biased.  What about Franco Nero and Fred Williamson?  That was a really fun show.

HB:  That was pure joy.   Pure wish-fulfillment.   I am such a big fan of the Italian genre films of the 70s.   So I put everything in there that I could.   I was in heaven when the two of them sat down with Enzo.  Your article on it was great and spot-on.   But you have to understand something about Fred.   He is The Hammer.   It’s his image.   When the cameras roll, he puts on the Hammer show.   So he’s always competing with Franco who’s a totally different kind of guy.   I’m not even sure if Fred knew who Franco was!   But they are still in touch.   Fred is in Rome right now and maybe he sits there having a Sambuca with Franco.

There was so much good stuff there, but I had to take some of it out because the show got too long. They were playing billard right at the beginning so that was the first pissing contest rightaway.   Oh, and we had this old 70s car for them.   When the people who rented it out brought it to us, there were two men following it around in a van.   They looked like heavies and they didn’t talk.   At all.   So I asked the guy with the car who they were.   And he said, “Oh, they are there in case the car breaks down.”   And the car did break down!  Right in the middle of shooting!   When Franco and Fred were inside the book store, it stood on a piazza and looked like it was on fire!   The two heavies managed to repair it just in time.   The first and only time I saw them breaking a sweat.   They happily took the bottle of whiskey from the car that Fred and Franco didn’t drink.

I really tried to make the show look like something from the 70s or 80s; lots of lensflare, lots of crash zooms and all that great music from those films.   And I think it worked out pretty well.

HC:  It certainly did.  I’m so jealous you manage to meet all these people from the world of film, music and literature.  Next time you’re hanging out with Franco and Fred, put in a word for a Hero Culte interview, please!  And let us know what you’re up to in the future as well.  Thanks for the interview, Hasko!

– – O – –

After this I just want to see some more of Hasko’s shows.  Take a look at these photos Hasko kindly provided (I’ve included his commentary with them):

About Men 1
HB:  About Men, a pilot I did which I’m quite proud of because it looked really cool

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HB:  This is from Bambule, a TV show/magazine I was head of for two seasons (the lady in red)

BelaGeorgeHasko
HB:  This is me and George A. Romero and German punk rock superstar Bela B for a show I did: Hotel Bela
HC: I really want to see this one – MUST FIND IT SOON!!!

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HB:  This is from Ma Vie – Markus Lüpertz, a doc I did on a famous German painter

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HB:  This is Stanley Tucci taking pictures in the United Nations building, an unforgettable Into the Night shoot

Rothrock und NortonHB:  This is me and Cynthia Rothrock and Richard Norton discussing the show

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HB:  This is me and Brian Yuzna and Pierre Woodman in Prague for Into the Night

All photos, aside from the Screen Terror screengrab, have been provided by Hasko Baumann and are used on this site with his kind permission.  
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One Upmanship with Franco Nero and Fred Williamson

This is one of my favourite Durch Die Nacht Mit shows so far – again directed by Hasko Baumann – this is the one where Franco Nero meets Fred Williamson.  Absolute classic, you need to track it down if you’ve not already seen it.  Here we go:

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So what’s on the itinerary?  A visit to an old man’s club, a meeting with a young stuntman, then the Libreria Cinema where they meet Barbara Bouchet, dinner at a restaurant where they meet the writer Lorenzo de Luca and Franco joins in with the house band, then finally a meeting with Enzo G Castellari at the cinema before calling it a night.

For me, Franco Nero comes across as a lovely, friendly laid-back chap who will shake hands or give an autograph to any fan who accosts him on the street (it’s a very regular occurrence), but Fred Williamson seems to be trying to impress the whole time and goes in for one-upmanship.  In his defence I should say that Fred is not on his own territory in Rome – everyone knows Franco and loves him and maybe they’re not expecting to see Fred Williamson on the streets of Rome, so they might not want to go up to some big guy and say, “Excuse me, are you Fred Williamson?” in case they’re wrong.   And maybe it is something to do with his background in professional sports, but he always seems to want to compete.  I bet if they had bought ice cream Fred would have wanted to see who had the biggest scoop.  Anyway, I am sure he is a nice chap, it’s just that Franco was far more laid-back and I like that.  There’s nothing of the star about him – very down to earth and silly.

Here’s my summary of their evening out:

  • Women – Fred Williamson has brought his wife along for the trip and left her back at the hotel.  He says of her, “All my money goes there”.  Later he tells Franco that he had spent the day walking around Rome with his wife and she was “spending money like crazy”.  When they look in on a women’s clothing store next door to the old man’s club, Fred says the women don’t come into the social club because they are in the shop spending money.  That is clearly what Fred thinks of women: they spend money.  Here’s what I think of Fred: he is obsessed with women, or at least he wants to give that impression.  He says he wouldn’t go to Franco’s club because there are no women there.  Franco says, “Forget the women”.  He just goes to the club to unwind with his friends – they play cards and watch sports on the TV.  It’s like their equivalent of having a garden shed or an allotment – somewhere to go to get away from the women.  In this respect Franco and Fred are total opposites.  Or so it seems.  In the film bookstore, Fred complains to a customer that he wanted to meet the “beautiful women of Rome”, but Franco points out that Fred’s wife is waiting for him back at the hotel.  Fred tells Franco: “I get the women in all my movies; I want you to know this.”  Franco responds, “I’m not bad too, I tell you.”  Fred has the last word:  “Yeah, but you marry them all.  I never had a wife, only girlfriends.”

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  • Competitive sports – when Franco says he still plays football and only needs to get 3 more goals to achieve 2,000, Fred tells him that he played competitive American football for 10 years and that it is “more violent” than the “soccer” Franco plays.  Franco says he went fishing in Palm Springs (where Fred lives) and Fred tells him that fishing is for old men.  Later, when they meet Enzo Castellari, Franco says he is still fit and young and plays tennis – Fred says he doesn’t run around though, so Franco calls on Enzo (clearly the father figure in this scenario) “I run, tell him!” and Enzo confirms that he has seen him and he does.  Franco, cheekily, getting back at Fred for the earlier fishing comment, says: “He plays golf; old people play golf”.  Franco may have been the White Ninja, but Fred was the Hammer and he is an expert in Gun-Fu!

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  • The Stuntman – I don’t know what this guy Alex Mariotti has done to Fred Williamson, but he really has it in for him.  First off when Alex says he understands they will kick his ass, Fred says “No, I don’t beat up people smaller than me.”  He is 6′ 3″, so maybe it’s his get-out clause cos that’s pretty tall and even Franco Nero looks small next to him.  That way he gets out of fighting.  That’s my theory.  Then Alex asks him for tips with the ladies and Fred immediately writes him off as a lost cause:  “Well, you have to be tall, dark and handsome first of all, so that eliminates you right away.  You’ve lost already.”   Ouch!  Then Fred slags off modern day stunts, saying that they’re just not realistic looking these days – Alex is a modern day stuntman, so it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to realise that Fred is saying his stunts aren’t worth watching.  O dear… Fred loves to do his own stunts though, “I love it! I love to hit!”

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Fred Williamson hits Alex Mariotti where it hurts

  • The film industry – Franco says there used to be 13,000 cinemas in Italy but at the beginning of the 1980s the number had gone down to just 1,600.  Fred and Franco discuss people they know from the film business: Menahem Golan, who Fred says has now opened an amusement park, he also alleges that there is not one person that Menahen doesn’t owe money to; producer Ibrahim Moussa, who looks quite geeky, but who somehow was quite handy with the ladies, including Nastassja Kinski, Candice Bergen and, apparently, Isabelle Adjani bought him a Rolls Royce for some unspecified reason.  Franco thinks he knows the reason why – he whispers, “The women say he has the biggest cock in the world.  That’s what they were saying.  Can you imagine it?”  Apparently Fred can imagine it, but he also wants Franco to know that black men are blessed in that respect too.  Franco has heard that as well.  Fred also helps to clear up the conspiracy theories about Bruce Lee’s death.  Lorenzo de Luca says Jean-Claude Van Damme told him Bruce Lee died because of drugs, but Fred is not having that.  Fred knows what happened to Bruce Lee – here’s the story:  Bruce Lee hurt a lot of people for real in Enter the Dragon and so they told him he should never come back to Hong Kong or there would be trouble.  Bruce Lee came back to Hong Kong and there was trouble – he got into a fight with 6 or 7 guys and he won the fight but when he got home he felt ill.  Eventually he was taken to hospital and he died of a blood clot to the brain.  And that is what happened to Bruce Lee.  Fact!  (According to Fred Williamson, anyway…)

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  • The film bookstore – Poor old Fred, you have to feel for him really.  When they head off to the Libreria Cinema to meet Barbara Bouchet, Fred can’t get the door open and pretends to kick it down.  Franco puts his hand on the door knob and turns and, Open Sesame!, the door opens no problems.  Fred asks Franco if he’s ever made a film with Lucio Fulci cos he’s done 2 with him; turns out Franco has done 3 or 4 films with him.  Franco shows Fred a book about R.W. Fassbinder – Fred doesn’t know Fassbinder, so Franco describes him as “a genius, one of the greatest directors of our time” and tells him that he acted in his film Querelle, which was, he says, “a masterpiece about homosexuality.”  Fred’s response?  “Was it a sexy film?  Franco , you did erotica!”  Things don’t get much better when Barbara Bouchet turns up – one hour late, after getting a manicure done – and she doesn’t seem to remember Fred at all much to his chagrin.  During their conversations about films, Tarantino and Fred’s background in American football, it suddenly dawns on Barbara that she has a photograph of herself with Fred.  She doesn’t remember at all even when he tells her that they had previously met several times at the Taverna Flavia and through their mutual agent Rosanna Policia.  To make matters worse, Barbara has been invited to a Tarantino retrospective in LA and Fred hasn’t and, furthermore, she knows Franco really well and even played his wife in a film.  You can feel Fred’s embarrassment: “Maybe next time you’ll remember that we know each other?” (Sad Charlie Brown walk…)

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  • Franco’s theory on small dogs – Fred wonders out loud why Italians have such big dogs; Franco thinks it because they make them feel safe.  He also has a theory on why women have small dogs:  “You know the small dogs, what they do with women?  They lick the pussies.  That’s what a woman told me.  A woman told me.  Believe me!”

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  • Fred Williamson the First:  Fred was the first black cowboy, the first black sportsman in martial arts films, the first black James Bond.  Fred Williamson likes to come first
  • Franco’s (ahem!) singing: It doesn’t take a lot to get Franco up and “singing”.  He takes Fred to a restaurant where he made his film Forever Blues and when the house band start to play his favourite song When You’re Smiling there’s nothing you can do to stop him joining in.  If someone knows better and there is something you can do, please, someone just do it!  Just look at Fred’s face to see what I mean

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To take his mind off it, Fred tries to think of nicer things, like getting his photograph taken with fans – one of them is a lady, there, that’s better:FN FW DDNM 28

  • Enzo Castellari – Now, surely this should be safe since both the boys know Uncle Enzo (a very smiley chap)?  Erm, not so much.  Fred did 3 films with Enzo.  Fred asks Franco: “You only did one film with Enzo?”  No, Fred, No!  Franco tells him he did 10 films with Enzo.  Fred is just not going to win this competition, is he?  But, nonetheless, they all seem to have fun and there’s a great sequence where Fred suggests they all make a film together because now they are more “mature” they can “go deeper into the characters” (he says, making a digging gesture with his hand).  Franco joins in and then Enzo suggests that they can do it with two hands instead.  Haha!  Maybe you have to see it or be there – it was a great way to end the evening

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Then they make their way out into the night.  The incorrigible Fred suggests, “There are 5 girls at a table.  Let me introduce you to them…”

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A fun watch – thoroughly recommended for a viewing or two!

 

Leonie Lousseau interview from July 1971

I recently bought a copy of Pop Music Superhebdo dated 8 July 1971 for a François Jouffa article about and interview with Léonie.
Leonie Super Hebdo001Here’s a few interesting snippets from it:

  • We’re back to knocking 3 years off  Léonie’s age in this one – her birthday is still quoted as 8 May but it says 1950 rather than 1947
  • Apparently she likes children, humour and artists of all kinds
  • At the time Léonie was going to buy a red or yellow moped
  • Léonie had no particular place she called home, just 3 suitcases that she kept with her wherever she went
  • The musicians from Jupiter Sunset played on the En Alabama single
  • Léonie was choosy about what she wanted to sing – she  didn’t want to do just anything under the pretext that producers found her cute
  • Léonie studied photography, design and drawing at high school as well as, I think, baking (it says la patisserie in the article)
  • Later she was a model for magazines and then (still at that stage in 1971) she worked as a graphic designer on a monthly magazine for “modern men” – I’m guessing this was Lui but in the Salut Les Copains article about Léonie it said she also worked on SLC
  • Aside from Christophe and Thierry Vincent, another man helped Léonie in her music career – he is named as Stanislas Witold, then a Press Officer at Disques Motors

No amazing bit of new info here but it’s still interesting.  Hope others like it, here it is in full:

Leonie Super Hebdo002

Elsewhere in the magazine it said Léonie would be on the TV show Le Grand Amphi on Sunday 11 July 1971.  Anyway got a copy for me?!!

Polite Notice:  I don’t mind people using my info or pictures but, if you do,  please be decent and credit Hero Culte and link back to this page.  Believe it or not, I put a lot of effort into my work on here!

Lost and Found: Wolf Cub Jubilee Scrapbook with Matchbooks

I like collecting other people’s collections – very lazy of me, I know.   I picked up Baloo’s scrapbook today at a car boot sale and loved the matchbooks, although I must admit I was a bit disappointed that he (guessing Baloo was a boy…) had cut them up to stick them in his book.  My favourite one is this French one below but I’ve scanned all the pages in (excuse any wonkiness or blurring as I didn’t want to damage the book):

Chamois Matchbook

Wolf Cub Scrapbook001 Wolf Cub Scrapbook002 Wolf Cub Scrapbook003 Wolf Cub Scrapbook004 Wolf Cub Scrapbook005 Wolf Cub Scrapbook006 Wolf Cub Scrapbook007 Wolf Cub Scrapbook008 Wolf Cub Scrapbook009 Wolf Cub Scrapbook010 Wolf Cub Scrapbook011

Leonie Lousseau in Cain From Nowhere

I’ve just discovered yet another name for Léonie Lousseau – this time it’s Léonie Vincent – for her appearance as a waitress (I believe – I’ve not seen it…) in a film called Caïn de nulle part (aka Cain from Nowhere or Voyage vers l’enfer or Voyage pour l’enfer des passions).

It’s directed by a chap called Daniel Daërt (but, note well, he works under about a million pseudonyms).  He seems to have made a bunch of saucy films; I believe this one does not fit into that category, being a modern day retelling of the Cain and Abel story.  It stars Gérard Blain and Bernadette Lafont, so it is bound to be good.

Unfortunately I can’t actually find a copy of the film but I have managed to find a trailer, which includes some clips of the lovely Léonie:

Leonie Cain from Nowhere 1 Leonie Cain from Nowhere 2

Doesn’t she look delicious?

You can watch the trailer on this site, where they are looking for distribution for four of Daniel Daërt’s films.  If anyone wants to release the film with English subs (or even without), I would be most delighted to buy a copy!

Something to note – Léonie Vincent.  Same surname as Thierry Vincent who produced several of her singles (En Alabama,  Le jardin anglais and So Long John) and also took the photograph used on Le jardin anglais cover.  Just sayin’…

Norman J Warren at the 42nd Street to Paradise Film Festival

On Friday last week I went along to the first 42nd Street to Paradise Film Festival in Birmingham to see just what Grindhouse madness they had in store.  The schedule looked good with a drive-in cinema on Friday evening screening Terrorvision (dir Ted Nicolaou, 1986) and Deadbeat at Dawn (dir Jim Van Bebber, 1988) and further screenings at the Custard Factory on Saturday.

The two films were great fun, my enjoyment of the drive-in cinema was marred only by two guys talking all the way through both screenings and not even having the decency to shut up when told (several times but very politely) that it was disrupting our viewing of the films.  To my dismay I soon realised that the two people talking were the directors of one of the films to be screened on the Saturday (VHS Forever? Psychotronic People) – all I can say is that I am surprised they have managed to watch even one entire film between them because they could not keep their traps shut for even five minutes.  If you’ve seen Cinemania (dir Angela Christlieb / Stephen Kijak, 2002), you’ll know what I mean when I say I’m like one (or a combination of all) of the cinemaniacs and I just wanted to tape their mouths shut, or worse!

The talking continued throughout Saturday, which was a terrible bore – just SHUT THE F*** UP!  Anyway, that’s enough on that subject although I do feel the guy organising it could have been a bit more “present” and a bit more commanding, but he was trying his best to organise the festival (which must have been a lot of work) and aside from the disruptive element it was a very good festival which shows promise for the future if it continues.  I hope it does.

The screenings on Saturday included the aforementioned VHS Forever? Psychotronic People (dir Darren J Perry / Mark Williams), which was good if only because the subjects of the film were interesting and amusing; technically it was lacking somewhat but to give them their dues, they wanted to make a film and just went out and made one.  That’s a positive to bestow on them but that’s as far as I will go.  And, no, they didn’t stop talking even for their own film – the mind boggles…

Herschell Gordon Lewis’ The Wizard of Gore (1970) was next up and it also was good fun – laugh out loud funny and terribly bloody but the kind of gore I can stomach.  By far my favourite film of the weekend was Umberto Lenzi’s Violent Naples (1976), which starred the fabulous Maurizio Merli and John Saxon.  It had the most exhilarating motor bike race through Naples that had the audience gasping in awe.  I just love those Italian cop thrillers and it was absolute perfection, complete with tearjerker scenes with a child which had me crying with laughter (maybe it was just me but it was so corny that it was hilarious).

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Photo of Norman J Warren by Dave Tinkham of Datapanik Design

The highlight of the weekend, for me at least, was getting to see Q&A sessions with the director Norman J Warren and the actor Ian McCulloch.  After much preamble and moaning about people talking in the cinema (one of my pet hates, but I think you got that already), here is a little write-up of the Norman J Warren session.  The Ian McCulloch session will follow shortly.  Just to explain, these are not interviews I carried out, I wrote notes from the sessions and am just writing them up in case they’re of interest to anyone who couldn’t be there.  I wrote extensive notes (what can I say?  I used to be a committee secretary and minute taker…) but instead of quoting verbatim I am just writing these notes up in categories.  Hope someone will find them of use or interest:

How Norman J Warren got into film making

As a child Norman J Warren spent a lot of time at the cinema as his mother was mad about films.  He described how he became fascinated by the beam of light, convinced that that was where the magic came from.  His aunt worked at a cinema and managed to get him an invitation into the projection room to see the magic for himself – he was hooked.  By the age of 12 he was making his first films – comedies – and he joined a local cine-club.  He made films at the weekend and he knew that was what he wanted to do with his life.

When he left education, he followed up on his wishes to join the film industry but found it was largely a closed shop.  He eventually managed to get a foot in the door, starting as a runner and working his way up.  It required dedication and he knew that he would have to be prepared to give up his life outside if he was to get anywhere.

Horror Films

Horror films were always of interest to Norman, although they were banned when he was a teenager.  He saw films like Creature from the Black Lagoon but the Hammer films started his interest in the genre.  Another film that has stuck in his mind is The Beast With Five Fingers, which featured Peter Lorre.  Later, when Suspiria was released, he became aware of the work of Dario Argento; he has been a great influence on him ever since.

Norman has mixed feelings about modern horror films and is not very keen at all on the Hollywood films, which he feels are losing their way a bit and lack imagination.  The output in the UK is pretty low at the moment – although he did enjoy The Descent and 28 Days Later… – so he mainly watches Korean films.

Censorship

Earlier in his career, Norman had worked as an editor doing censor cuts on other people’s films but his own films have largely avoided censorship.  Terror (1978) had a few cuts, Inseminoid (1981) had no cuts.  The thing to bear in mind, he says, is that your film will be changed by your distributors anyway as soon as it goes out.

Films Norman J Warren didn’t get to make

  • Gargoyles – a project that was to be co-financed by Richard Gordon, but which collapsed and led to him making Inseminoid instead
  • The Naked Eye – it was going to star Vincent Price, but sadly never got made
  • The Book of Seven Seals – he didn’t give any details about this one
  • Back to the Future – No, he was not in the running to direct this but when asked if there was any film he wished he had directed, Norman named this one and described it as “A beautifully made film, perfectly constructed”

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Spaced Out (1979)

Norman made this space sex comedy because, to quote him, “I needed the money, to be honest”.  He didn’t really want to do it but the producers really wanted him on board and said he would be allowed to change things a bit.  As a jobbing director, as Norman described himself, he said he had to do such things but that ultimately it was “not such a bad experience” and, apparently, it did well in America!

Inseminoid (1981)

This film came off the back of the unmade film Gargoyles, Norman was given a script called Doomseed to look at after the collapse of Gargoyles – he said it all happened very quickly, with the film being financed from the initial script within 6 weeks.  The film was also made very quickly.  Nick Maley, who wrote the screenplay, also created the creature, the SFX and gore effects for the film.  It took 9 people to operate the babies.  This film was on the “hit list” for censorship but it actually avoided being banned.

Gunpowder (1986)

Norman described this one as a James Bond spoof (I’ve not actually seen it myself, but I’m going to look it out) but he said it didn’t get much of a release.  It was being shot in Macclesfield at the end of November / December when it was cold and dark and they were supposed to have helicopters, boats and all the glamour you associate with James Bond type films but the reality was very different.  An atomic submarine was supposed to be used for one sequence but in the end they had to use something like a drain pipe in place of a submarine.  Furthermore, there were not many extras and so people often had to die twice!

Bloody New Year (1987)

This one was made with the same producer as Gunpowder (Maxine Julius) and Norman experienced problems on this one too – mainly because the cast had already been selected and he was tied in to using them; the problem being that they were models and not actors.  The film was also lit like an American TV show and Norman felt it needed to be darker.

Satan’s Slave (1976)

Norman enjoyed working with Michael Gough and said he had a wonderful sense of humour.  The film was shot in Techniscope and for one particular scene they had to have Michael Gough sitting on a bed which was raised about 8-9 inches off the floor, so they could get everything in the shot.  The only problem was Michael Gough forgot about this and when he had to get off the bed, he fell onto the floor and said: “If you want me, I’m downstairs”

Terror (1978)

This was, according to Norman, a hard film to do in a very short time.  However, he enjoyed it a lot and said it was like being at a party every day whilst they were working on it; at the end of the film, they all just wanted to carry on.  The budget was, again, restricted and at the end of filming they could only afford one electrician for the last day – but even though they knew they could not be paid, they all turned up to work.

Fragment (1965)

This lovely little short arty b+w film is one of the extras on BFI Flipside’s excellent release of Her Private Hell – it was also screened at the festival.  Norman said it was “very arty, very much the fashion then”.  He described it as “very important” to him as it helped him to get accepted as a director.  He was 23 or 24 then and he was getting frustrated at not being able to break into directing and so he made Fragment with his own money.  It cost him about £200 to make, which was obviously quite a lot back then, but even so he couldn’t afford any sound, hence no dialogue and the limited story.

Norman managed to get Johnny Scott to do the soundtrack for free – he had just been working on a documentary called Shellarama, which Johnny Scott worked on.  When Norman said he had no budget to get a soundtrack for Fragment, Johnny Scott offered to do it for free.  Apparently, a vinyl EP will be coming out shortly of the Fragment soundtrack.  It sounds like something Johnny Trunk would put out, so keep a look out for that soon.  The soundtrack is excellent, as is the film.

When Fragment was made, Norman had to go out talking to cinema managers to ask them to screen it.  Eventually a manager at a Kensington cinema agreed to put it on and it turned out that he was trying to get into film making himself; he and a friend had decided to make sex films because they thought that was they way to make money.  They gave Norman a call and that’s how he got into making his first feature film!

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That is all the notes I took, but I have to tell you that Norman J Warren is such a lovely guy and his love of cinema comes through when he is talking.  It is such a shame that guys like him don’t get more opportunities and better budgets to make films.  I, for one, would love to see him make some more films soon.

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Norman J Warren – an interesting film maker and a lovely guy