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Today, we continue our chat with three-decades-long Fango
contributor Tom Weaver, who this summer saw the publication of his two new,
overstuffed genre film books: SCRIPTS FROM THE CRYPT: THE HIDEOUS SUN DEMON and
THE HORROR HITS OF RICHARD GORDON, both available from BearManor Media. (That’s Gordon in the thumbnail.)
If you missed the first part of this interview, you can
click here to read it. Otherwise, here’s Mr. Weaver’s words on THE HORROR HITS OF RICHARD
GORDON. (That’s Mr. Weaver on the right!)
FANGORIA: Producer Richard Gordon has been interviewed many
times in the past. Did he offer up any new revelations for you with this book?
TOM WEAVER: He was more forthright in these interviews than
in some of his past ones—partly because he obviously knows how old he is [86
later this year] and that it’s getting to be Now-or-Never Time insofar as
getting the whole story out about the making of his movies. So, yes, he’s now
on the record with a number of anecdotes that he used to only tell off the
record, or not at all.
The most eye-opening one, in my opinion, was the fact that
MGM, the company that released his first four genre movies [THE HAUNTED
STRANGLER, FIEND WITHOUT A FACE, FIRST MAN INTO SPACE, CORRIDORS OF BLOOD],
kinda double-crossed him right in the middle of the fourth and last, CORRIDORS
OF BLOOD. There was a regime change at MGM, and the new guys decided they
didn’t want to be releasing indies and/or horror movies—and Richard, who’d had
a handshake deal with MGM to make CORRIDORS OF BLOOD at the MGM studios in
England and let MGM release it—was told in mid-production, in effect, “We’ve
decided we don’t want your movie. Figure out some way to raise the money to pay
us back for all the costs you’ve incurred so far, and to raise the money to
finish it.” Right in the middle of production!
So Richard scrambled to get the money to finish it, because
he knew that if he halted production it’d never get finished; and then MGM
locked up the negative and waited ’til he could raise the money to repay them,
before they’d do anything with it. He was just a beginning indie moviemaker
then, had only made movies for two years, and here’s the biggest movie company
on Earth throwing a gigantic monkey wrench into his career. So the full story
of that whole mess is in the book, for the first time.
FANG: What was Gordon’s greatest strength as a producer?
WEAVER: The fact that, like a lot of producers in the old
days, but probably very few now, he could do it all: come up with the scripts,
raise the money, hire directors, cast the pictures, rent the studios, be on-set
as a troubleshooter and peacemaker, help get it scored, get it released, on and
on and on. Practically everything that had to be done, he had a hand in. And
since he retained the rights to the movies he made, he remained Mr. Hands-On
for decades to come, finding home video companies to keep them in release at
all times all around the world and even coordinating all the DVD bonus
FANG: Will FIEND WITHOUT A FACE remain his lasting legacy,
or is there an unheralded gem in his filmography that buffs should latch onto?
WEAVER: I like FIEND WITHOUT A FACE a lot, but I’m more
partial to his two Karloff films, HAUNTED STRANGLER and CORRIDORS OF BLOOD.
CORRIDORS is sort of a “historical horror film” about a physician [Karloff]
experimenting with anesthesia in the mid-19th century, and I used to be mezzo e
mezzo about it, but in preparing to do an audio commentary for it several years
ago, I found out that, as far-out and lurid as its story was, a lot of the
scenes are reenactments of some of the crazy things that happened in the lives
of the 19th-century physicians who did develop anesthesia.
In the movie, Karloff becomes a drug addict and at the end
he’s throwing acid on Christopher Lee and he’s stabbed to death, and of course
growing up watching the movie, I thought, “This can’t be anything like the life
of the REAL developer of anesthesia. How disrespectful to the guy who did
develop it.” But...ummm...that’s exactly what happened to him! The woman who
wrote the movie obviously took a lot of the story points from real life without
telling anybody—including Gordon!
FANG: As the older generations of horror filmmakers expire,
will you venture into exploring other cinematic decades, like the late
WEAVER: I’m already being dragged into writing about 1970s
movies, because most of the old-timers from the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s, ’60s that I’d
prefer to interview have either been interviewed, or they’re already dead so
long their bones have turned to dust. But the spoonful of sugar I use to help
the medicine of writing about ’70s and ’80s movies go down is that I mostly
stick to interviewing ’70s and ’80s people who worked on horror flicks
alongside “my” old-timers—William Castle, Vincent Price, John Carradine,
FANG: What do films like HIDEOUS SUN DEMON and FIEND WITHOUT
A FACE have that today’s CGI fests lack?
WEAVER: I could try and come up with a fancy explanation...I
mean, beyond the fact that CGI blows! But probably the simple bottom line is
that I couldn’t see today’s CGI fests as a kid and fall in love with them, the
way I did with the black-and-white movies I do love to write about.
FANG: What other movie and interview books do you have in
WEAVER: The big project for me recently is UNIVERSAL TERRORS—THE
1950S, a sequel to the book UNIVERSAL HORRORS that Mike and John Brunas and I
wrote back around 1990. I’ve been working on UNIVERSAL TERRORS on and off for
years; my collaborators Steve Kronenberg and David Schecter long-ago finished their parts of the book, and now it’s just me who’s holding things up. And as I
work on it, I realize that it’s getting too big, which is worrisome; for
instance, just the coverage of the three Creature from the Black Lagoon movies
[CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, REVENGE OF THE CREATURE, THE CREATURE WALKS
AMONG US] is becoming practically a book within a book. Then it occurred to me,
“Well, it doesn’t have to be.” So I called McFarland and asked, “What if
UNIVERSAL TERRORS came out in two volumes-a book about the CREATURE movies and
the other book, UNIVERSAL TERRORS, covering all the rest of Universal’s 1950s
output?” With a few stipulations, they went along with that. So right now,
that’s my top priority, finishing the McFarland book on the three Creature
movies, along with doing more interviews and continuing the SCRIPTS FROM THE
A few years ago, I noticed that I’d done about 10 books in
10 years, or whatever the numbers were; I forget now when I noticed this. But I
thought to myself, “I wonder if I can keep that up.” Well, now I’m up to 22
books in 22 years. I may not have much of a life outside of that [laughs], and
maybe all these books will be looked back upon as tree-killers at some point in
the future when the interest in allll these pet movies of mine have dwindled.
But hobby-wise, occupation-wise, obsession-wise, call it what you want, that’s
where I’m at right now. It may be that my sole purpose in life is simply to
serve as a bad example!
Check out Tom Weaver’s interview with the screenwriter of the
original DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK in FANGORIA #306, now on sale.
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