Thanks to Art Ettinger and Scott Gabbey for permission to post the following interview with Don Edmonds which original appeared in issue #6 of Ultra Violent Magazine.
I first met Don Edmonds in October of 2003 at a Chiller Theatre convention. We hit it off and began corresponding. This interview was conducted over the phone on August 13th, 2004, originally appearing in Ultra Violent Issue 6. Don Edmonds and I kept in touch over the years, meeting up at additional conventions along the way and talking frequently. On May 30th, 2009, I had the serendipitous privilege of speaking to Edmonds a mere three hours before he died. Genre journalist extraordinaire Paul Gaita called me from Don’s bedside, affording me the rare opportunity to explain to an idol of mine, in his final moments of life, how much he meant to me. I hope the below interview is as entertaining to read as it was to conduct. Much like the films he created, Don Edmonds will never be forgotten. –Art Ettinger, June 2009
Don Edmonds and Art Ettinger April 2008
Don Edmonds Returns: Three Decades of Exploitation from ILSA to ILANA
Interview by Art Ettinger
The man behind the exploitation classic ILSA: She Wolf of the SS defies all stereotypes of a sleaze filmmaker. Intelligent, witty, and introspective, Don Edmonds provided UV with an uncommonly detailed look at his career. Edmonds made his pictures on outrageously low budgets and insanely short shooting schedules, yet the films burst with energy and creativity. This interview allows a rare peek into the mind of one of exploitation film’s true pioneers.
Don Edmonds (second from the left) in Beach Ball
ULTRA VIOLENT: You got your start in the entertainment industry as a child actor. How did that all begin?
DON EDMONDS: I was a kid actor, mostly on the stage. I used to lip sync to old Al Jolson records for the USO. The troops loved it, you know, just a little kid in a tuxedo, and it started from there. I’ve always been kind of a hambone. It was good during the war years, and they were desperate for talent, and I was desperate to do it. Then I went into high school, and after that I went into the Paratroopers. I was in the 82nd Airborne. When I was stationed in North Carolina I got involved with a thing called the Spielhaus Players. It was a summer stock joint, and it kind of piqued my interest. As an actor, I did mainly television. The first feature I ever did was a thing called Gidget Goes Hawaiian. Then I was cast in a picture for Columbia called The Intern. I’ve done a lot of television: Father Knows Best, Gidget, mostly comedies. Then I got onto Playhouse 90, which was the last of live television. It had all the big stars in it. I was fortunate enough to do a few of those. It was a good time. I like being an actor, and I was good at it. I kept getting hired as the buddy, not the leading man, but the buddy. And nothing to do with violence--- it was all comedy.
UV: How did you move from acting to behind the scenes work?
DE: Nothing in Hollywood is like evolution. That’s all a myth. Out here, it’s a hit and miss situation. Almost anyone that’s alive will tell you that. If you’re not Mel Gibson, you work where you can work. I formed a friendship with a guy, and we wanted to produce a picture. We tried for a long a time, and couldn’t raise the money. We were reading a lot, having long lunches, and talking to people. Other than that, we never got a movie off. He was a rich kid out of Beverly Hills, and I was a poor kid out of the bad side of Hollywood. But I’m aggressive and he wasn’t, so he said “What do you want to do, we’re not doing anything?” I said, “I’m going to write a nudie.” This was back in the day when it wasn’t hardcore films, it was tits and ass. I said I’ll write a movie, and we’ll go out and make this little low-budget twenty, twenty-five thousand dollar picture, and that’s what we did. I wrote a picture called Wild Honey, and that was the first film I ever directed. Something Weird has a tape of it. It’s too bad, because I’ve seen their tape, and it’s chopped up something terrible. The quality is fourth or fifth generation. I wish I could find the negative. Harry Novak has it, but he won’t give it to me. He distributed the picture, and he won’t even get on the phone with me.
UV: How much longer was the final film, would you estimate?
DE: It’s badly chopped. I don’t know quite how to explain that to you, but it was a normal length, ninety-minute movie. It did really well, actually, when we put it out. I don’t know if you know the history of the nudie business, not hardcore, just the beginnings of naked stuff. In those days, just putting tits on the screen was a big deal. I wanted to be a little more flamboyant than that, but if you’ve ever seen Wild Honey, it’s not a hardcore picture. It’s a tits and ass film. But they were putting out The Stewardesses and stuff like that. And there was a chain called The Pussycats, and they loved it. Videotape wasn’t around, so there wasn’t any other avenue to show it, just in the theaters, and it did really well.
UV: It’s a hilarious and extraordinarily well-made film. The hippy cult orgy ending is outrageous and one of the cultists is seen reading Mien Kampf. Was that a little ILSA foreshadowing, perhaps?
DE: That was the Vietnam era. That was the late ’60s and you know, sex, love, and rock ‘n’ roll. That’s what it was. That was just the times. That was just another thing. I always try and put stuff in my movies that’s a little off-the-wall. If you catch them, great. If you don’t, okay, no big deal.
UV: Southern Double Cross is the only film of yours I haven’t seen. Is it a lost film?
DE: Southern Double Cross is pretty much a lost film. I don’t know where that is. I made that film back in the ’70s in New Mexico. I took a really great crew with me. I had some guys that have gone on to do some incredible stuff. Dean Cundey was the director of photography, and Debra Hill was one of the main production assistants on it, and Michael Riva. If you look those people up on IMDb they’ll scare you. They’re all Academy Award nominees.
UV: Well, Debra Hill is extremely well known to our readership for moving on with Halloween.
DE: Well, if you want to know a funny story, when we were over in New Mexico making a movie, I haven’t got time to read scripts, and I’m up to my ass in making this picture. We’d always drive to locations together, and Debra said, “Well, I want to be a producer.” I’d go, “Yeah yeah yeah, but did you get the setup for today?” I kept trying to bring her back to the picture that we were making. She had a whole bunch of scripts that she was asking me to read, and I never did. I didn’t have time. “Look, I’m making a movie, what do you want me to do, read another script? Let’s make this one.” One of them was Halloween. Actually, I couldn’t swear to it, but I think in those days, John Carpenter came to work for me once as a grip.
UV: Southern Double Cross received a G rating from the MPAA in 1976. How in the fuck did the director of Wild Honey end up making a G-rated feature for his next film?
DE: Why not? It was a silly comedy that stared Clark Gable’s daughter, actually. Avery Schreiber was in it, who used to have a comedy act with his partner Jack Burns. It was just a silly little movie. I’m always amazed when people don’t grasp that “Hey, I’m out of work, you got a movie? Let’s go make that one.” You know, I work for money. You want me to do that, I’ll be glad to do that. Let’s go make comedy, I can make comedy. I think it was released. It was a low-budget film. Teddy Neeley, who played Jesus Christ Superstar was in it. It was not a bad old movie, it wasn’t great or anything, it was just a movie we did. When you’re sitting around and there’s nothing to do and somebody comes up and says, “Wanna make this movie?” And you go, “Can I direct it?” And they say, “Yeah direct it.” I go, “Yeah, let’s go. What do we do? New Mexico works for me.” I’m in the movie business. I’ve never really had the choice to say I’ll only make this or I’ll only make that. I make what’s available. If you have money, I’ll direct your pictures, that’s how it goes.
UV: Tender Loving Care is remembered as a nurse film, but it’s much more than that. It’s oddly a blaxploitation film of sorts, but with a lot of white people in it. Did you intentionally pay tribute to John Daniels’ famous role in Candy Tangerine Man in the scene in which his mate discusses his “pimp by day” lifestyle?
DE: No, I cast John in that picture and I never knew about Candy Tangerine Man. That was back in the day when there weren’t a lot of Blacks in pictures, and you didn’t refer to them as Blacks. And if you saw Tender Loving Care, there’s no reference to him being Black. $25,000 in eight days we made that picture for. We didn’t have nothing. We didn’t have any permits on that film. We would just steal anything. When you’re making a picture in eight days, you don’t have time to breathe. You don’t have time to sit down at dinner. You don’t have to sleep. You just make a picture. You drive down sleeping in cars, you’re driving to the next set. I don’t care who you talk to, if they can tell you they had this leisurely time making an eight day picture, I’m telling you they’re liars. They don’t. I couldn’t take time to take a piss. Corman picked up Tender Loving Care, and he was making other movies in the nurse genre. Again, I was out of work standing around writing scripts, and it was one I had in my trunk. I’d written the picture, and nobody was making it. So I ran into this woman named Chako van Leeuwen, who went on to do Piranha, and I got a call one day from her and she says she’ll meet me at this drive-in restaurant, not even an office, and I said, “Yeah, right.” I had been eating Top Ramen, so I thought, at least I’ll get a chicken sandwich out of this thing. So I went down to this restaurant, and I met this lady, and she said that she wanted to make a movie. I pulled out a bunch of scripts that I had written that nobody had ever made, and I said “Here, read these.” She picked out Tender Loving Care, and she said, “I’ve got thirty-five thousand dollars.” I said that’s not quite enough, but took it. I’m just a kid around Hollywood, and I haven’t got gas for the car and I thought hey, it’s another movie, let’s go make that. That’s the way my whole career’s been. I’ve never had that luxury of going oh, I’ll only make this or I’ll only make that. I look back on it and maybe wish I had, but it’s a waste of time. I made what I made, and there it is.
UV: It’s just incredible that these films were shot on such short schedules. Was ILSA truly shot in nine days?
DE: Exactly nine days. At six o’clock on the second Tuesday, we stopped.
UV: Isn’t it amazing how many people take seriously, and question how such a “tasteless” film as ILSA could have been made? Do questions regarding the “sensitive subject matter” of a Nazi antihero annoy you?
DE: Nah, it just amuses me. I don’t get annoyed with stuff, man. I’m flattered that anybody ever remembered it, you want to know the truth? When you’re in the movies, you’re just making what’s next, at least that’s my career. You want to talk to Denzel Washington, want to talk to Mel Gibson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Steven Spielberg, go ahead. They all have that capacity to be selective about what they’re doing. I never did. I’m always looking for the rent, I’m always looking for the car payment, and somebody comes up and offers me work, what am I going to say? “No I’d rather sit over here because I’m too highbrow?” I’ve already proven that I’m not highbrow. Let’s go do it! You know, I didn’t go to UCLA. How do you learn how to make a movie? Read a book? No, you go out and make a movie. And that was the era, by the way, the late ’60s, early ’70s, which was the first breakout of an ability to sell your work. There were independent distributors breaking into the business. That was a glorious time. That was the last time that I can recall in Hollywood that guys were hanging around together, and we kind of knew each other. If you look back at Little Shop of Horrors, would you think you’d see Jack Nicholson in what you do now? And that’s a three-day movie! What we were doing, we were learning our trade. We didn’t go to UCLA and take a degree. We just were out in the street, we had some raw stock, we had a lot of balls, and we had good ideas. We were just grinding film through the camera. You had to learn by doing, and that’s the only way I ever learned how to make pictures: just by doing it.
UV: Do you think it was the picture itself, how it was marketed, or a combination of the two that made ILSA such a success?
DE: David F. Friedman was a help, of course, but also, I think it was because it was the first of a kind. Nobody had seen anything like that on the screen. You look back at the history of films before that and maybe a couple of European guys were making a shot at it, but in American nobody had ever done anything like that. It shocked the shit out of people, just shocked them. And I was making it, and I knew that it was going to shock them. I’d make a scene, and I’d walk away and I’d go, “Fuck man, did you just do that? Damn, Don, have a drink, you sick fuck--- okay, next setup…,” and you’d just move on. I knew that maybe somebody had done that before, but I’m a film historian and I will tell you I’d never seen one like it. So I knew I was breaking new ground. Besides the Canadian investors, who were hard to deal with, it was all great people involved. A guy named Rusty Roland shot it, and that was the first time I worked with Jefferson Richard, who has done an enormous body of work, too. Buck Flower is in it, too. He just passed away from cancer a couple of weeks ago. I just went out to his memorial. That was one for the ages--- we just laughed our ass off at it. In fact his daughter, who is a prop-master, she had gotten a bunch of clay, and said, “We cremated Dad.” And she had made a clay set of tits--- 38 inch tits with big nipples--- and hollowed it out, and put Buck in it! And he was sitting there through the whole fuckin’ party. It was so funny, I couldn’t stand it. It was so Buck, it was great. A lot of tears, too, because he was a wonderful guy. It really was a trip.
UV: To what extent do you think ILSA damned Dyanne Thorne’s career?
DE: I don’t think so. Why? She didn’t have a large career when I cast her in that movie. She hadn’t done a lot. People do associate her with that character. She could have stopped it any time she wanted to, but she went on over to Europe and made the same kind of character with Wanda the Wicked Fuckin’ Warden, or whatever that was. If she worked for Europeans, she’d just slap a red wig on. If you don’t want to do it, why keep perpetuating the character?
UV: Did you do any WWII/Nazi research in preparation for ILSA?
DE: Very little. I had the history. I knew Ilsa Koch, and I knew of Josef Mengele. I knew of the prison camps and the death camps. I was not a moron about it. I knew of those events in history, but I didn’t do any particular research on it, no.
UV: Did you see any of those other movies marketed as ILSA movies that you didn’t make?
DE: Never. I made the second one, ILSA: Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks. When they came to me about a year and a half after the original and said they wanted to make a sequel, I said, “Gee, let me ask you, I may be mistaken, but don’t you remember we killed the shit out of her in this first movie?” They said nobody will remember, and nobody did! It’s got a lot more humor in it, kind of a parody of the first one.
UV: In some ways, it’s even more outrageous than the original. Were you trying to top yourself in any way with it?
DE: Well yeah, you’re always trying to top yourself, especially when I’m making a sequel to something. I’ve got the same character. I’ve got to have Buck in the movie, so instead of playing the Mad Doctor Binz, now I make him a syphilitic beggar, who eats her pussy while she’s spread-eagled and hanging on golden chains. There’s a certain irony to the character. You still have exploding dildos as they ram it up your pussy, but it isn’t quite the same film. It’s got a lighter touch to it, I think.
UV: The ILSA films were, of course, some of Joe Blasco’s first films as a makeup FX artist.
DE: Yeah, it was the first work for Joe. In fact, I’m doing a new one called ILANA. The interesting thing is that Joe Blasco has gone on and has a mega career now. He has a line of product, with the makeup schools. He’s a monster, Joe. About six months ago, I’d written ILANA: the Return of the She Wolf, and I’m wondering what I’m going to do for makeup. Because in this one I’ve got mutants, and I’ve got all kinds of horrific shit in it. I’m thinking of getting a hold of Blasco, and maybe using one of his star pupils to do the prosthetics. So I called Joe Blasco Products, and I had to chase him down through about five different calls. Finally I got the executive offices, so I call over there, and I said, “May I speak with Mr. Blasco?” I get this English chick, and she says, “Mr. Blasco is in Europe attending to his empire over there.” I left her my phone number and two months go by, and I’d forgotten about it. The phone rings. Pick up the phone. “Is Don Fuckin’ Edmonds there?” And I said, “Yeah, who the fuck is this?” And he said, “This is Joe Fuckin’ Blasco.” And I said, “Get the fuck out of here.” So we did ‘fuck’ for five minutes, and it was like we picked up from the jump. I did give him his first stuff. He was putting Pan-Stick makeup on pretty girls for ABC television when I met him. He didn’t have the schools, he was just a makeup guy. This was back in the early ’70s, and prosthetics was the resins and the rubbers. It wasn’t developed yet. When I asked him to do the movie, he jumped at it. He wanted to do it. It gave him an opportunity to put his stuff on the screen. He came right back for Harem Keeper. So we had a friendship, then I lost him for twenty years, and now he’s like fuckin’ Vidal Sassoon. Instead of offering just his star pupils for the new one, he said, “I will personally come down and oversee your new movie. I’ve never had a better time with movies than I had with you.”
UV: Does the increasing number of young females and feminists into ILSA iconography surprise you?
DE: It’s a thrill. I have a friend named Danny Boy O’Connor, who was one of the big white rappers. His group was called House of Pain, and he was partnered with a guy named Everlast. They were huge a few years ago. Danny is now more into producing records, and he works for Virgin Records, and writes for magazines. He has been showing me the magazines that he’s been writing for, and I open them up, and it’s all there. The wardrobe is there, the attitude is there, the women are there dressed in black leather with the whips. They’re in the clubs. That’s what it is. Every time, lately, that I go out and say that I’m Don Edmonds, it amazes me. They freak the fuck out.
Don Edmonds and Art Ettinger October 2004
UV: Is the October 2004 Cinema Wasteland going to be your first appearance as a guest at a horror convention?
DE: Yeah, and I’m excited about it. Chiller was the first one I’ve ever even gone to, and I wasn’t an official guest. I don’t want to go to too many of these. Some of these guys are total convention whores, which never meant anything to me.
UV: Besides the famous foot being run over as discussed on the commentary track on the Harem Keeper DVD, were there any other stunts gone awry on your ILSA pictures, or any of your pictures for that matter?
DE: No, not really. And that one wasn’t on screen. The one thing I do is when it comes to stunt work, I never mess around. I don’t hire hot dogs, and I don’t mess around. I’ve seen a lot of bad shit happen on other people’s movies, and I don’t want them ever happening on mine. I’m very cautious with stunts. Even if the shot went bad, I want everybody to walk away. Because you could get dead real quick on shit like that, and I don’t ever want it to be a tag on me that I’m a director that doesn’t care, because I really do. I totally respect stunt guys beyond what I could tell you. I think they’re the backbone of action pictures, very underrated, very un-credited most of the time. They make action pictures. You can have all the big stars you want, but what you see in the trailers, all the explosions, those are all stunts guys. I love stunt men and women. They’re bitchin’, and I don’t mess with them. They tell me when they’re ready to go. I have ultimate respect for stunt people.
UV: Have you ever read or seen the musical play ILSA: Queen of Nazi Love Camp, and if so, what do you think of it?
DE: No. There’s an ILSA musical? Now that’s funny.
UV: Bare Knuckles is an incredible genre bender, mixing the slasher film and vigilante genres. Are you proud of the film?
DE: They’ve asked to screen it at Cinema Wasteland, and I just sent them off a 16mm print of it. I’m very proud of that picture. That’s another one where I had Debra Hill, and I had Dean Cundey shoot it, and I had Mike Riva do the sets. I kept those guys together. We were all just learning our trade. We weren’t the stars of Warner Brothers. We were just people on the street trying to make a living, and I made that film in ten or eleven days. It did well, too. I even got good reviews with that film. That was in the days of the double bill, with the “A film” and the “B film,” and it played with a Clint Eastwood film at the Paramount Theater as the “B film,” but I got better reviews than he did. I like that film a lot. I had a lot of really great experiences with that picture, and I felt good about it. It was another one that had no money, and a real short shooting schedule. I think we shot that in around twelve days. We had a little postage stamp-sized office that we did all the work out of. Mark Walthour was the gaffer, who has gone on to do great lamping work for pictures, and I hired a guy that had been working for the aerospace industry named Don Behrns, as a nuts and bolts bean counter for me, but he was good at it. He was a real quiet guy, and I’m like a madman, but he learned a lot. I’m very proud of that picture actually.
UV: Kind of like Tender Loving Care, it seemed to intentionally be a genre bender: you had a slasher film, a vigilante film, and a blaxploitation element all crammed into one film.
DE: The idea for Bare Knuckles came to me because in the day there had been a killing on the streets of New York. A woman named Kitty Genovese had been knifed, and people were looking out the window. Nobody helped her, and the killer got away. There was an article in the paper. It offended me that nobody even called 911. It was awful. It just stuck it in my mind. Then I wanted to write something different than the regular cop movie, so I made up this character Zachary Kane, a modern day bounty hunter. So that was the genesis of that picture.
UV: How did audiences react to the restaging of that current event?
DE: It was a bit of a shock, but the picture played pretty well. It played all over. I was in New York at the time, and it was playing in New York when I went there. It drew a crowd, and they seemed to like it. And I got very good reviews in the newspapers. Normally they kill pictures that I make, but they didn’t. They liked it.
UV: How was Gloria Hendry to work with?
DE: She was terrific. Nice lady. Nothing too personal. She just was a pro. She showed up, did the work, and went home.
UV: And the film had a soundtrack LP.
DE: Yeah, a guy named Vic Caesar, who since passed away. He and I were drinking buddies, and I let him do the soundtrack on it.
UV: The scene in the gay bar, that’s one of the un-PC peaks of your filmmaking career. Where’d that idea come about?
DE: Just a different way to do a scene. You go into a bar, I said, well, we’ll go to a gay bar. Why don’t we have a Black guy in it? Everything in those days had to be so cookie-cutter. I wanted to break molds. I wanted to go into different areas. I go into Black clubs in that picture. I got pimps in the thing, and I got gay people in it, and I got Black guys. That was John Daniels again. The world is a very diverse place, but in early ’70s movies, everything looked like it was shot on a soundstage. I never liked that kind of stuff. I don’t like it now. When I make ILANA, I’m not going to do it. I may take a subject like white supremacists, but I’ll try and break the mold here too, because it’s possible. Hey, it’s my movie. I do what I want.
UV: Did you know anything about the surprising year 2000 MGM/Amazon.com rerelease of Bare Knuckles? Were you told about that in advance?
DE: No. I’m chasing that down. Somebody owes me money. It’s a pirate.
UV: Do you have any other stories about the shooting of Bare Knuckles?
DE: You know, not shocking stories, but that movie showed me what making independent films was really all about. I had no money on that film. I was running out of everything, and I couldn’t buy lunch. We were getting a loaf of Wonder Bread and some bologna, and if we had a little extra money we bought mayonnaise. That was it. We were down to the end of the movie, and we have this car chase down to the L.A. River. I’m out of money. Totally out of money. I’ll remember this until the day I die, and it’s what keeps me doing this business. We’re all sitting down there just exhausted, and we’d been doing a monumental amount of work for under fifty thousand dollars. I borrowed money back from the leading lady. Sherry Jackson gave me part of her salary back so we could make it another day. That’s how good she was. Now I’m out of money, and it’s the end of the day, and I’ve got no bread to pay these people to come back. I don’t have the end of the movie, and I need three more days. I got them all together, and I said, “I’m really sorry, I have no money left, not even gas money to get home. You guys have been just beyond great. Here’s the deal. I need you all to come back for three days. I can’t pay you. But I have no end to this movie that we’ve been killing ourselves on if I don’t get those three days. I don’t blame you. I love you to death, and I thank you for everything you’ve done. I’ll be here at six o’clock tomorrow morning, and I hope a couple of you show up.” I got in my car and drove off. I went back down there at six o’clock in the morning, and every one of them was there. They’d even brought food. We shot for three days. I was never so grateful and so humbled by a crew and a cast. They all worked for nothing. They gave me the end of the movie. That was big time show business. Class, pure class. They worked their asses off. That’s my fondest memory of that movie. True story. Stunt guys hanging under a ninety foot bridge, and I couldn’t pay them. Amazing! All for the love of the movies.
UV: Terror on Tour is a way above-average slasher, with tremendous campy dialog, an interesting cast, and plenty of surprises, including an odd postmodern ending. Do you have any stories from the shooting of that picture?
DE: Sandy Cobe called me and he had two five-day movies. I produced one, and then directed Terror on Tour. The first one starred Jake Steinfeld, and was called Thanksgiving Day Massacre (aka Home Sweet Home). I’m in it. We made those movies for two cents. I made Terror on Tour in just five days. We were at the Wilshire Theatre, on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. You can see it’s all in one theater. We never came out of there. We went in there, and we had that place for five days. It was finish it, or whatever you walk out of there with is what you have. I didn’t sleep! I was a terror. I was a horror. I pushed people farther than I ever wanted to push anybody. Buck quit. It’s the only time he ever quit me. He came in one day and said, “You’re fucking nuts!” I said I’d kick his ass, and he left and said, “Fuck you!” He was my production manager, and he walked off. And he was right. I’ve never been so tired. I came home one night off that picture, and I lived in a two-story house. My bedroom was upstairs. I was on the nod driving home, and by the time I got through the door of my house, I literally looked at the stairs, and couldn’t climb them. I slept in that little foyer at the bottom of the stairs. I literally couldn’t move my body. I had nobody, there was no help there. We made the picture in five days, we were making almost twenty pages of script a day. I didn’t have time to think about if there was a funny story here. It was like, “Yeah, can you see it? Yeah, can you hear it? Yeah, let’s go!”
UV: The Clowns weren’t a real band, but the film did have original music written for it, right?
DE: No, they did that. That was their music. That’s how they got the job.
UV: But the real band was called The Names, or was that really the band? In the opening credits of the movie it says original music by The Names, but the band in the movie is called The Clowns.
DE: Well, The Clowns was just a movie name. They were like a nickel and dime trio out of Arizona or something. One of them tried to contact me about a year ago, but I never connected with him.
UV: So are the actors really the band members in reality?
DE: I think they had some local thing for a minute. They’re not in the music business anymore.
UV: How did that movie do commercially?
DE: I don’t think it did real well. It never played theatrical. That was just a videotape.
UV: How was your work on the USA series Silk Stalkings? Were you fond of the show?
DE: That was a whole other thing. I was only involved in the pilot for that show. I did that with my friend Stu Segall, but he did eight years of that show. That’s a pro deal. That’s a whole other story. That was a full union picture. I helped Stu put together his company down in San Diego. Stu and I have been friends for years. He’s in my first movie, Wild Honey. He was an extra for me, and we’ve been friends ever since.
UV: Your most recent film, Tomcat Angels, has a lot of Don Edmonds flair, but reeks of being messed with in postproduction by someone other than you. Is that the case?
DE: I think so. They took that away. I just did the direction. Troma’s got that picture. I didn’t have any direct interactions with them. I know who Lloyd Kaufman is. I just made it for some people.
UV: What’s unique about that movie is that it’s one of the few that has its place in the small genre of Gulf War exploitation films. There’s just a couple of them, again, and you’re kind of a pioneer. People are going to look back historically on this tiny little body of Gulf War-era exploitation pictures and there you are with Tomcat Angels.
DE: [Laughs] Well, that’s how we made it. We had air footage and they said to write a movie around it, only make the fliers girls. So I did. I wrote a picture around it.
UV: You were one of the producers on True Romance. Why didn’t you direct it? Do you like the film?
DE: Nobody had ever heard of Quentin in those days. He was just a guy selling videotapes down in one of those little beach towns. He’d written True Romance, and we were having a meeting in Hollywood, and they said the writer’s coming up. Now I’d read the script, and I was going to produce it. I thought this guy’s a monster. I don’t know who this kid is, but he’s going to be something else as a writer. I didn’t have any idea he could direct. He hadn’t made Reservoir Dogs yet, and he came in, and there were about five or six of us sitting at a table. He sat down next to me, and he’s a mile a minute talker. He did not remember my name, and he said, “What did you say your name was again?” And then he did a double-take, and he said, “The Don Edmonds?” I didn’t know what he knew of history, because I didn’t know him, and he proceeded, in the next fifteen minutes, to tell me every film I’d ever made. He told me films that I was so drunk I didn’t even remember I’d made. He blew me away. He said, “You’re one of my inspirations, and why I love violence.” I did some preproduction on a picture called Killing Zoe for Roger Avary, which was his writing partner. I wasn’t asked to direct either of those films. I’m not a big fan of Killing Zoe, but I love True Romance. It went through so many machinations. It was originally a picture that was brought to us by Bill Lustig, and it was going to be a picture for Miramax that James Foley was going to direct. The budget went up. It didn’t get made by Miramax. It got made by Morgan Creek and Warner Brothers, but by that time Tony Scott had come into it. There was a guy out of Paris named Sammy Hadida who was one of the financiers of it that I had done other things with. That’s how the film had gotten bumped up the scale of moneys. It was a two and a half million dollar movie that finally got made for twenty million bucks, but I thought that Tony did a masterful job. There are some scenes in it that are absolute crushers: the scene between Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper, where he kills him is a master scene, and the last shootout in the apartment, and Bronson Pinchot with the dope all over his face. That’s some funny shit. There’s Brad Pitt, and Gary Oldman, who is almost unrecognizable. That got to be done, because Tony called him up. I could have never gotten those people to work on that picture for two million bucks, but they did it as a favor to Tony. Scene after scene after scene. The scene where Patricia Arquette kills James Gandolfini. Nobody had ever seen anything like that before.
UV: Tell us about your plans to make a new ILSA-type movie, ILANA. What is the proposed plot? Do you have any other future projects planned as well?
DE: She’s basically a skinhead this time. You got to kick the shit out of something. You’ve got to take on the Russians, the Germans, the Arabs. You’ve got to take on somebody that’s not just another guy. That’s the whole premise, is that she’s bigger than life. She takes on countries, and that’s the whole premise of ILSA, always has been. She’s the warden head, or she’s something that really is in a dominating position. ILANA is going to be exactly the same way, except this is skinheads and white supremacists. It’s scary. This stuff’s real. They get very pissed off. We’ve been talking about doing a movie on the movie, too. We’re going to do that in DV, and I’m going to shoot the movie itself in DV also. I’m going to try to make a franchise out of her. I’ve got a couple of ideas that I don’t want to talk about right now for Part 2. I have other pictures planned, but they’re not horror pictures. I wrote a picture that I like a lot that nobody’s ever put the money up for, but I’d like to get it done. Before Miranda, cops were a lot different. I wrote this picture called Old Murder, before the Miranda laws. What happened was, is two cops get called by a road crew. They were taking up a sidewalk of a tree that had grown under the sidewalk, and busted the concrete. When they pull the concrete up to pull the roots up, they find a body. Who is this person that’s been lying under the concrete and would have never been found except for the roots breaking the concrete? This is before the forensics come in, and it’s a violent picture because I wanted to do it before Miranda, you know, where the cops just walk in and punch you in the mouth. I’m always writing on something. I’ve got a trunk full of stuff. I’m a writer, and writers write. Now I’ve got a computer, and I finally learned how to type on it because I used to write in longhand. I wrote on yellow legal pads. That’s been my history. When I finally figured out a computer about ten years ago, it opened up the whole world.
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Film Fanaddict Issue #2 www.filmfanaddict.com Eight page interview
By Nathan D. Paszint