Saturday, June 1, 2013

Q&A with Greydon Clark

There are not many auteurs in the history of exploitation, let alone those whose careers span decades, let alone those whose style is so essentially good natured and fun as Greydon Clark - whether he's producing and directing Joysticks or It Came Without Warning or Black Shampoo. His filmography is equal parts versatile, prolific and kind of wacky in the best way possible - parsing the names you have one attention-grabber after another. Mr. Clark was kind enough to give me a few words on his history in low budget genre films by email below, as well as his upcoming project! Read on!

Clark on the set of Joysticks

Which films do you like the most?

I can find something to like in almost every film I've ever seen, beginning with the classic American films of the thirties and forties up to and including today's blockbusters.

What are your recollections of exploitation director-producer Al Adamson, for whom you acted in his films Satan's Sadists (1968), Hell's Bloody Devils (1970) and Dracula vs. Frankenstein (1971)?

Al Adamson was an interesting character who was very instrumental in my career. I met Al through an actress I knew from an acting class. I was very lucky that we became friends and I worked for him on three pictures. Al's productions were very low-budget and I was able to learn a great deal about filmmaking. I owe a lot to Al Adamson.

How did you come to marry your co-star in Satan's Sadists - and actress in your later films Satan's Cheerleaders (1977), Angel's Revenge (1979) and Joysticks (1983) - Jacqulin Cole?

Jackie and I met in an acting class. I got her the role in Satan's Sadists, we got to know one another and stayed together thirty-four years before her untimely passing.

Your directorial debut was the Blaxploitation film The Bad Bunch (1973), which you wrote and starred in, what did that film mean to you then?

I was very liberal politically and wanted to make a film that said something about race relations in the United States. Blaxploitation films were hot at the box office and I was able to find a guy with a few bucks to invest.

What inspired your subsequent spin on the Warren Beatty film Shampoo (1976)?

The Bad Bunch was successful at the box office and the distributors wanted me to do another Blaxploitation film. Black Shampoo was strictly a move to exploit Mister Beatty's Shampoo.

You hired Dean Cundey as director of photography on Black Shampoo and then on four more films within five years. Did you ever think he'd be working with Steven Spielberg and John Carpenter?

Dean was an exceptionally talent director of photography. Once he got his break with Halloween, I was not at all surprised at his tremendous success.

Satan's Cheerleaders (1977) is an almost aggressively offbeat entry in the cheerleader exploitation craze. What was its genesis?

The Excorcist and The Omen were very successful at the time. The cheerleader movies were also doing an excellent business. I thought I could combine the two elements, stick my tongue firmly in my cheek, and make a fun picture.

You've worked with veteran Hollywood actors including Jack Palance, Martin Landau, Neville Brand, Ralph Meeker, Clu Gulagher and Chuck Conners. Did it feel like your career had taken a turn when you started casting a better caliber of acting talent?

I was very lucky to work with name talent over the years. These men and women were not only wonderful actors but easy to work with. I never really thought about my "career," I was just making one picture after another and hoping each would be successful enough to allow me to make another film.

Your slasher film parody Wacko (1982) was the first of three films you made starring Joe Don Baker and the next one, Joysticks (1983) was also a comedy. How'd you cast him in his first comic role?

I admired Joe Don Baker's talent in his action-adventure films and thought that he could do comedy as well. He was great to work with and I think his performance in Wacko is one of the great comedic performances ever put on film.

In your second horror film The Uninvited (1988) where did the bizarre idea of a demonic cat hiding inside another cat come from?

I had some success on Without Warning (1980) and wanted to come up with an unusual "monster." I placed most of the story on board a luxury yacht, first thought of a rat and then a rabid dog - neither seemed unique enough. I finally decided on the demonic monster hidden inside an escaped laboratory cat.

The Forbidden Dance (1990) is kind of an aberration from your other films, a dance picture. How did you become involved?

Meahem Golan wanted to do a movie based on Lambada (1990). We were introduced by a mutual friend and he thought I could make the film quickly and on a low budget. This was one of the few films that I made where the original idea was brought to me by someone else.

Have you seen the episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 featuring your films Final Justice (1985) and Angel's Revenge?

I have seen their take on both pictures and find some of it very amusing, some of it less than so. They edited sequences out of the pictures that I felt were important story points. If their TV series allowed more people to see the pictures, fine by me.

What are you up to today?

My autobiography, "On the Cheap...Five Decades of Low Budget Filmmaking" will be out in a few months.

There you have it - visit www.GreydonClark.com to order ANY of Greydon's flicks AND get signed posters and stills! No Joysticks fan's life is complete without a still of Leif Green and Jim Greenleaf! Speaking of Joysticks (my favorite Clark joint and favorite 80s teen comedy) my initial reactions on Cinemachine can be read here and interviews with Clark and Jon Gries on the film can be found in the essential punks-in-film book Destroy All Movies!

1 comment:

Mike White said...

Just FYI, Greydon's autobiography, On the Cheap: My Life in Low Budget Filmmaking, is now available: http://greydonclark.com/autobiography.php