Quantcast Bob Clark interview - BLACK CHRISTMAS, A CHRISTMAS STORY, CHILDREN SHOULDN'T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS, DEATHDREAM

Director
Bob Clark!!!
Legendary filmmaker Bob Clark has the unique distinction of being responsible for one the scariest, one of the funniest, and one the most beloved films in movie history. This versatile writer/director/producer set the standard for stalker movies with 'Black Christmas', cast the mold for coming of age comedies with 'Porky's', and will forever be part of the holiday season with 'A Christmas Story'. Throughout his incredibly impressive (almost 40 year!) career, he has shifted between genres seamlessly, the spiritual predecessor to cinematic "jack-of-all-trades" like Robert Rodriquez. Mr. Clark has worked with a dizzying array of top actors in almost every possible medium. His body of work contains many ideas that have been sometimes unfairly imitated and duplicated in other movies, often leaving his originals as underrated gems. Some of you may not be familiar with his name, but you almost certainly know his work. And we're happy to report that in addition to being a consummate professional, he's also just a really nice guy!

We got the chance to catch up with him and talk a little about his past, present and future projects.

Read on for juicy tidbits about the upcoming Black Christmas remake (being handled by Glen Morgan and James Wong of 'Final Destination' fame) and the remake of 'Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things' that Bob is writing and directing himself!
- by Jsyn. 5/05


Can you tell us a little bit about you earliest recollections of movies? What made you want to become a filmmaker?

Oh, you started with a tough one there {laughs}

I grew up in Fort Lauderdale, moved there when I was seven years old, and I used to go to the theaters down on Las Olas Boulevard. I did like horror movies, but I liked all movies. I always wanted to be writer from the earliest time I could remember. It wasn't until I got into college that I started to think about films seriously. I was a film buff, but not an addict if you know what I mean...I wasn't crazy about films but I liked 'em. So I'd say it was probably at college, at the University of Miami where I started thinking about making films. It's a long, long story but I got into films when I was an actor in the local Miami film industry of the mid sixties.

Kay Gordon Murray and other famous people started with that... So I was in a film and this crazy man said to me, "We're gonna make a film over in Lehigh Acres" and Lehigh Acres was a jungle community in effect, a community built on the edge of the Everglades. Charlie Brune, the man who owned a funeral parlor there also had a movie studio. It was an amazing place, you had to drive across the Everglades to get there. Anyway, I did my first film for him and nobody knew what they were doing, me included {laughs}. The film never got out and the next one I did was 'The Emporers New Clothes' which wasn't too bad, it was just with local people. Charlie was a cross-dresser, his wife was a very butch lady and they had three kids, it was a strange situation and I said, "I gotta make a movie out of this whole thing" {laughs}

Wasn't John Carradine in that movie?

Yes, John Carradine was in the movie. Of course, the movie was about a son of a senator who got out of the Korean war by cross-dressing as a woman. John was in it and Lila Lee, the silent film star, and it was an education. My editors name was Hack... get it? {laughs} He was a local editor out of Fort Meyers. Nobody knew anything about filmmaking. My cinematographer was an ex-newsreel cameraman, nice guy. Nobody knew anything... I had The Five C's of Cinematography in my hands the whole time I was doing it.


So you pretty much just learned it by doing it?

Totally. Completely. So I figured at that point what I would do was become an AD. That's a nice position to be in to learn how everything works... it was interesting. But it was another four years when I started thinking with my friend Alan Ormsby that the next thing we were gonna do was a horror film first. That was just short of pornography to get a break in.

It seems like a lot of people say that... it's either pornography or horror movies to break into the film business.

Independently in Florida, that's for sure! {laughs} That was part of devising 'Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things'. We got the script together and my brothers and Gary Gotch and Ken Gotch, along with their uncles put up a total of $40,000 and we shot it over eleven nights in a park in Miami. That's how my career started. There were two other horror films before I moved on and finally got my big break. Well, 'Black Christmas' was picked up by Warner Brothers but it was 'Murder By Decree' that...

That's a personal favorite of mine actually.

Thank you. It was like another world. I was a 29-year-old guy, I go to England, I meet John Geilguld, Tony Quayle, Frank Finlay, I already had Chris Plummer... I had to get (James) Mason, he didn't want to do it, so I drove to where he was shooting another film to talk him into it, and he did it. I had some of the greatest British actors in a 4 million dollar movie and something like fifty shooting days.

Were you a Sherlock Holmes fan? Is that what interested you in the project?

I had just read in the newspaper this theory about the possible source of Jack the Ripper and thought what a good idea to put Holmes into it. Actually I did watch all the Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce movies ...I was a fan. I thought they were very well done.

Murder By Decree is considered by many fans to be one of the best Sherlock Holmes movies ever made.

I felt quite honored. It was a phenomenal cast.  For a 4 million dollar movie that's extremely fancy. Shooting all over London made it look unique... It had a nice opening in New York and good reviews.

Let's talk about Black Christmas. The movie was pretty much created the "slasher" genre. This was long before 'Friday the 13th', 'Halloween', and even 'When A Stranger Calls'....

Oh yeah way before THAT movie. They really did rip us off directly! {laughs}

What influences did you draw from if there was really nothing else like it before it?

A script came to me. ..I often rewrite and work on scripts, and I did a tremendous amount of work on 'Black Christmas'...I just drew on the imagery that I had. I had this idea from the beginning that I would obscure the killer and make him all the more frightening and ominous. My obvious influence for say, 'Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things' was of course 'Night of the Living Dead' but with a more comic sort of turn... Other than that, all the other classic horror films from 'Psycho' & on were in my consciousness I suppose but I can't say I took any ideas from any particular film. I just took the story and my ideas of what I thought would be frightening.

Black Christmas came out in 1974 and the Steadicam wasn't introduced until 1976...so how did you film those scenes from the killer's point of view, especially the beginning scene where he is climbing up the trellis and entering the attic window, with both his arms and legs in frame?

If you get William Alexander's DVD, the Canadian DVD, of 'Black Christmas' they go into it in some detail. Basically Bert Dunk, the camera operator, designed a camera rig that attached to his head! No one had ever done that before... those are his hands climbing with the small camera. The moving shots when we were on the ground we just standard handheld shots. But the climbing ones were the unique style camera, when he looked up the camera looked up. Critical Mass is the company that released the 25th anniversary edition of Black Christmas on DVD, and it's got some wonderful extras. It takes you through the old house! Art Hindle walked through the house and showed where what scenes were filmed where.

It was something he created specifically for the movie?

Yes, exactly.

Were there ever plans for a sequel to Black Christmas?

No, I never intended ever to do a sequel. I did a film about three years later, started a film with John Carpenter, it was his first film for Warner Bros. (which picked up 'Black Christmas'), he asked me if I was ever gonna do a sequel and I said no. I was through with horror, I didn't come into the business to do just horror. He said, "Well what would you do if you did do a sequel?" I said it would be the next year and the guy would have actually been caught, escape from a mental institution, go back to the house and they would start all over again. And I would call it 'Halloween'. {laughs}

Sooo, was 'Black Christmas' directly responsible for 'Halloween'?

No, that's not really true. The truth is John didn't copy 'Black Christmas', he wrote a script, directed the script, did the casting. 'Halloween' is his movie and besides the script came to him already titled anyway. He liked 'Black Christmas' and may have been influenced by it, but in no way did John Carpenter copy the idea.  Fifteen other people at that time had thought to do a movie called 'Halloween' but the script came to John with that title on it.

When you were working on the script for Black Christmas, it was your intention all along to never reveal the killers identity or backstory?

That's correct. It was bold and some people didn't appreciate it. When Warner Bros. bought the movie they tried to talk me out of it & into making more of a concluding finish.

As you probably know 2929 has bought the rights to Black Christmas...

Which brings us to the remake.

They are remaking it with Glen Morgan and James Wong. Glen has finished his script and did a sensational job of creating the backstory, I don't want to give too much away but, pursuing what was being implied in those phone calls... quite horrible things that happened back then. They should be shooting in the fall.

What would you like to personally see them do with the movie as far as a direction or...

I don't want to get into that because I KNOW what they are going to do! {Laughs}

Taking it back to the backstory is a brilliant stroke though, at the same time still keeping it in the sorority house but learning more about what happened then...but that's as much as I can say.

And aren't you remaking 'Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things' yourself?

I am indeed! I've written a new script for it. I did it for $40,000 with my college buddies twenty-something years ago and it's the only movie that I wanted to do more with. 'Deathdream' had a modest budget but I'm very proud of it. Oliver Hudson and company, they bought it last year. A lot of my movies are being remade! {Laughs} They want to do 'Murder By Decree' but I won't let them...{laughs}

Anyway I've added a new dimension to it, a new character. There's a ghoul that murdered fifteen people, forty years before and that's what changed the island from a resort, a mansion island, to a horror island and he's brought into the story now. I thought, there's more fun to be had with this. It's going to be very funny but quite horrifying too. We'll probably start shooting in September, maybe earlier, and are putting money together for it now.

Do you have a favorite genre to work in or a favorite project?

Like Altman said, asking what's my favorite film is like asking who's my favorite child {laughs}

That being said, I certainly have an enormous affection for 'Porky's'. It had a tremendous history. It was odd because it actually has strong varied supporters... it was despised on one hand but it had supporters like David Mamet, Arthur Miller, Normal Mailer... all admired the movie. So it had it's strong core of supporters but it also was so despised...

People also have many kind words for 'A Christmas Story', which I also have a lot of affection for many reasons, mainly because I tried for ten years to get it done. Someone actually bought the actual house where we shot and turned it into a museum. It had that many people come by just to see it.

But those two certainly, and I have enormous affection for getting to work with Arthur Miller on 'American Clock'. THE Arthur Miller. I grew up in theater and he's the playwright of America. So those three certainly, but there was no film I didn't have fun doing and enjoy working on.

Is there something you haven't done but would like to do? A pet project you haven't gotten to yet but hope to?


I have two, yeah. I have a science fiction film from an original screenplay I've written called "Lost in the Stars". It's not Star Wars-type fantasy, it's more reality/fantasy. It's about a ship that was marooned on another planet where the denizens are quite horrible creatures. They captured this ship and get into all their tapes and computers and learn our history and turn themselves into the Roman Circus. When our rescue ship crash lands, the creatures have a Roman coliseum and they become the gladiators.

The other one is a western. Akira Kurosawa was a big fan of mine, of 'Black Christmas' and 'Murder By Decree'. In the early Eighties he tried to do a film together with me, produced for him over there and it was called "RAN". Kurosawa wrote the short version of it and I'm writing the longer version and I'm putting that together right now.

It's an adventure story starting with Thomas Jefferson and his illegitimate children with his black mistress. She has children again herself, and they have the grandchildren... A blonde god who goes to Montana to the Montana war. It's really the whole early American history, not done as a Japanese film but somewhat in that style.

I think science fiction and westerns are the only two genres you haven't dabbled in.

That's correct. I almost did science fiction but not quite. I started a western but I left the film.

Well, thank you sir for taking the time to talk with us. I'm personally a big fan and this was a quite a thrill for me.

Thank you, it was a pleasure talking to you!


Bob Clark 101:
Did You Like?...
...Then Check Out
From Hell
Murder By Decree
Halloween
Black Christmas
American Pie
Porky's
Jacob's Ladder
Deathdream
Return Of The Living Dead
Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things

Special thanks to Bob Clark, Lyne DuFort-Leavy & Dan Duffin!!!
Visit this excellent 'Black Christmas' site: It's Me, Billy.com




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