THRILLVILLE: Will "the Thrill" Viharo's weird, wild world of Pulp Fiction, B Movies, & the Lounge Lizard Lifestyle.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Five Easy Questions: GREYDON CLARK

UPDATE: due to a sudden medical emergency, Greydon Clark has canceled his appearance. The show will still go on. Everything else below is still true...

I first met the legendary Greydon Clark at the B Movie Celebration in Franklin, Indiana last Fall. On top of being a nice guy - not a common species in Hollywood these days - he is a veteran director/producer/actor, and his contributions to B Movie Cinema and Culture are as influential as they are indispensable. Thanks to "Your Fiend Nancy" and a group of Greydonheads graciously offering sponsorship, you'll have a chance to hobnob with Greydon when Thrillville pays tribute to him at the Cerrito Speakeasy on March 12. Meantime, here's a brief but fascinating Q&A session that will serve as an introduction to this icon of truly independent cinema:


Any standout memory or lasting impression of working with Al Adamson?
GC: I was a struggling young actor when I first met Al Adamson. He was the first director I ever came into contact with. We met through a mutual friend. I became his assistant (a glorified gofer) on a film that eventually became “Hell’s Bloody Devils”. After that film, Al mentioned he had a treatment on a western he wanted to make. I volunteered to write the screenplay. When I told him I’d do it for no fee he said to go ahead and give it a try. I’d only read one script and had no idea where to begin. Somehow, a few months later we were sitting in Robert Taylor’s Malibu mansion offering him the lead role. He agreed and ABC television gave us the go ahead for one of the first made for TV movies. I’d written a good role for myself and felt I was on my way. Robert Taylor suddenly died and the project was shelved. Al raised $50,000 for a low budget movie, but had no idea what to make. I again volunteered to write something that could be done on that budget and came up with the idea and screenplay for “Satan’s Sadists. We made the picture near Palm Springs, CA in the fall of 1968. It was a wonderful experience for me. Al was not the most prepared director to ever stand next to a camera, but he was open to ideas and I constantly pestered him and the rest of the cast with “suggestions” - some taken… most not. That was really the first film I worked on from conception to completion. I sat with Gary Graver who was editing and learned a great deal from him. Within a year I was directing my own. I’ve been very lucky throughout my career and I owe a great deal to Al Adamson and all those who allowed me to peer over their shoulder and learn from them.

Favorite of your films as director?
GC: Impossible to choose. If you pushed me… I’d say, “The next one.”

Favorite of your films as actor?
GC: See above.
Any particular standout memory of making "Satan's Cheerleaders"?
GC: I’d had some success with “Black Shampoo”. I’ve always defined a picture as successful if it made enough money to allow me to keep making pictures. I didn’t want to make another Blaxsploitation film. At the time cheerleader films were doing well and “The Exorcist” was a huge hit. I thought about combining the two. I’ve always like comedies and no matter what the film I’d add as much humor as possible. I came up with the title, “Satan’s Cheerleaders” – now that’s a comedy I could get excited about. Al Fast and I wrote the screenplay and plowed forward with the production. I realized that I’d end up with less than experienced actors for the cheerleaders and wanted the others to be as experienced as possible. I’d directed Aldo Ray and Jock Mahoney in “The Bad Bunch” and they were great to work with. I was able to put together a group of name actor’s to support the younger cheerleaders. Jacqueline Cole – we met on “Satan’s Sadists” and stayed together for 35 years – was available for the cheerleader’s teacher and production began. The budget on all my films was always a problem and the shooting schedule became a major obstacle. We had two weeks to make the film. Lots of on the set stories come to mind, but people will just have to come visit me when I’m with Will the Thrill to hear about them.

What got you interested in this business, and why "grindhouse/drive-in" cinema? Are you a fan of this genre, or was it just the most expedient career path?
GC: I came from a small town in the Michigan and didn’t know anyone west of the Mississippi. I wanted to be a film actor and, after dropping out of college, headed to Los Angeles. It was two full years of selling crap door to door to pay the rent before I met Al Adamson. He was trying to make main stream films, but having little luck. When we made “Satan’s Sadists” and it became a huge “grindhouse” hit I think the dye was cast for both of us. In those days if a producer could somehow come up with a few bucks and make his movie, he could get it played in theatres. These theatres were not the main stream type, but drive-in and grindhouse theatres that would play exploitation films. The major studios were not making these types of films (they are today). This left a market for the independent film maker. If you had a good title, good ads, and the picture delivered you could play the drive-in – grindhouse circuit and get your money back and show a decent profit. If the picture really hit – like “Satan’s Sadists” you could make a career. That’s what happened to Al Adamson. I was lucky enough to have a long career directing many genres - some better than others, but I’m proud of them all.

What are you working on now?
GC: I’m putting together a remake of “Without Warning”.

OK Thrill Seekers 'n' Suckers, that's all you get for free. For more insightful industry insider info & insanity, Greydon and I will see you at the show. Cheers! (3 cheers, to be exact...)

Thrillville Presents 3 CHEERS FOR GREYDON CLARK!
Hosted by Will the Thrill & Monica Tiki Goddess
Featuring SATAN'S CHEERLEADERS (1977) with director GREYDON CLARK in person!
Plus! Live burlesque by THE COCK-T's
Thursday, March 12, 9:15, $10, 18+ (advance tix on sale at theater starting March 8)
Cerrito Speakeasy Theater, 10070 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito CA

Poster by Strephon Taylor