Tuesday, January 28, 2014

INTERVIEW: Watch All This And World War II (1976) as Executive Producer Russ Regan tells you how it was made

If you've never seen ALL THIS AND WORLD WAR II (1976) you shouldn't blame yourself.   After all, the film has never been officially released and it has only been shown in theaters a handful of times since its release in November of 1976.    A long form music video or grand experimental opus, ALL THIS AND WORLD WAR II  tells the story of WW2 using a combination of 20th Century Fox 1940's newsreel footage and a melange of scenes from the Hollywood studio's best war films.

You should probably know too, that all of this is set to the music of The Beatles!  Well, Beatles cover songs to be exact, and some of them are literally better than the Beatles originals.      

ALL THIS AND WORLD WAR II uses a juxtaposition of the atrocities committed by Hitler, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and The United States' very own controversial history in the conflict itself to tell the story of WW2. What one doesn't plan on encountering with ALL THIS AND WORLD WAR II is how much of a impact the music of The Beatles actually has in correlation to the footage seen from the war.

There is something powerful, meditative, visceral and universal about this particular joining of music and image. What could be shrugged off as a music video, WORLD WAR II comes through as something much more. ALL THIS AND WORLD WAR II is such a potent experiment that words almost escape a description of the filmic experience itself. The film has never been released on any home video format to date, and today exists as a cult film earning its infamy via the film bootleg community and via YouTube.

You can watch ALL THIS AND WORLD WAR II via the YouTube link below.   Executive Producer Russ Regan talks about the making of the film with TV Store Online.  Here's what he had to say:     

TV STORE ONLINE:  Hi Russ! Thanks for taking the time to talk with me today about ALL THIS AND WORLD WAR II (1976).  I'm a huge admirer of the film....

REGAN:  Well, firstly, thank you for saying that.    I think that film is actually a classic to be honest with you.

TV STORE ONLINE:  It's an incredible film.   It's such an interesting piece of cinema.   Considering what it is and that a Hollywood studio made it, how in the heck did it even get made?   It's sort of experimental in a way....

REGAN:  I was always a great fan of the Beatles music, and I still am all of these years later.  What happened was,  I had a dream.   I had a dream of the Japanese planes taking off and heading toward Pearl Harbor and in my dream there was music playing. It was The Beatles "Here Comes The Sun".   I woke up at 3 a.m. that morning, and sat down and started to write all of it down...  Then "Fool On The Hill" by The Beatles popped into my head and I remembered seeing footage of Hitler in his bunker in a newsreel when I was a kid.

I went to my boss at 20th Century Fox at the time and said,  "I wanna do this film about WWII with the music of The Beatles..."  I had some pull there so I was able to get what I wanted, and from there I went with a small budget over to England and started to go through some of the footage that was used in the film and began to assemble together some of the artists to make that great music that you hear in the film today.

When the film came out, it didn't do well.  The critics didn't like it.   They claimed that I was trying to glorify the war, but I really wasn't.    I just tried to give the kids a way to relate to the war a little bit. War is hell, and I think that ALL THIS AND WORLD WAR II presents that idea pretty clearly, and I wanted to show kids that.  I just thought that by using the music of The Beatles... That would assist me in getting the kids into theaters to see just how awful war really is.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Did you ever put any thought into the psychology of this dream that you had that included The Beatles music?

REGAN:  You know, I have no idea how it happened.   Because I was just a young kid with WW2 ended.  But back then, I had seen so much of that war in the theater through newsreels and it all stuck with me.

TV STORE ONLINE:  How did you pitch the idea to 20th Century Fox?   Was it you or another producer who pitched to [Fox President] Alan Ladd Jr.?

REGAN:  No, it was me.  At the time I was President of the record division at 20th Century Fox.  So I went in to see Alan Ladd Jr., and he gave me the green light.

TV STORE ONLINE:   How did you pitch it to Alan Ladd Jr.?

REGAN:   Ladd thought I was crazy!   But he said, "Well, maybe you've got something here.  Let's take a shot at this."

TV STORE ONLINE:    The year before, Columbia Pictures had released Ken Russell's film for The Who's TOMMY (1975).     With the success of that film for Columbia and then the equal success that the film's soundtrack had, do you think ALL THIS AND WORLD WAR II (1976) was green lit as a direct response by 20th Century Fox to compete against that or cash in on that success of that time?

REGAN:   I don't think so.  I think people like to put those films together for the reason you've just mentioned, but I can say with certainty that TOMMY was not an influence on us while we were making ALL THIS AND WORLD WAR II.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Going back to what I mentioned earlier....ALL THIS AND WORLD WAR II has a fun vibe of something akin to an experimental film in the truest sense.  Had you see any sort of experimental cinema pieces prior to starting work on the film?

REGAN:  No, I sure didn't.  I've never looked at the film in that way before you've mentioned just now.  We honestly just thought we were making the first long form music video.

TV STORE ONLINE:   In doing a bit of research in preparation in talking with you today...I found an interview with the film's editor Tony Palmer online. He mentioned a first cut of the film being completed, but yet, a cut that something different than what you intended originally. He also stated that 20th Century Fox, hadn't liked that cut and insisted that it be re-cut to be more in line with your vision for the film....

REGAN: Right, I have a memory of that.    That's true, and that first cut was Tony's and he was pretty upset about having to re-cut the film on Fox's insistance. 

TV STORE ONLINE:   Can you recall the differences between the film we have today and Tony Palmer's first cut?

REGAN:  I'm sorry I can't.   I have this thing where I try to forget bad experiences, and the editing of ALL THIS AND WORLD WAR II really wasn't a very good experience.  I think I've blocked out all of the negative things in regards to the film all of these years later.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Rumors have been flying around for years about those that wanted to be involved in the making of the film but weren't for one reason or another.....A couple names I wanted to ask you about are Philippe Mora and Bill Murray....

REGAN:  I don't recall those guys wanting to be part of the film, but I do remember that the animator Ralph Bakshi wanted to work on the film.  He wanted to do the entire thing animated but I didn't want to go in that direction with it.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Getting the green light from Fox on the project...Was the deal conditional on that you'd have to use only 20th Century Fox war film footage in the film and nothing from any films made at any other studio?

REGAN:   Well, Fox had the most footage.  They had made the most war films out of any of the Hollywood studios to date, and during WW2, Fox had also produced their "20th Century Newsreels", so we had a ton of footage to work with from them.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Any truth to the rumor that John Lennon had some sort of involvement in the making of the film?


TV STORE ONLINE:   Who picked the artists and the specific Beatles songs that would be used in the film and eventually appear on the film's double album soundtrack?

REGAN:  Myself and Lou Reizner.

TV STORE ONLINE:  The band Ambrosia kicks off the film with a cover of The Beatles "Magical Mystery Tour"....   Didn't you originally discover them or sign them?

REGAN:  That's right.  Ambrosia was my band.  I signed them originally.

TV STORE ONLINE:  ALL THIS AND WORLD WAR II ran in theaters for two weeks before it was pulled out by the studio...

REGAN:  Right, 20th Century Fox was very disappointed with the box office.     Another film that I got the green light on from Fox around the same time as ALL THIS AND WORLD WAR II was THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975).    Just like WORLD WAR II, ROCKY HORROR was a bomb at the box office, but then it started playing at midnight screenings around the United States and it became a big cult movie that's made a lot of money for Fox.    I got the green light on ROCKY HORROR because I insisted that there might be something to it. Lou Adler was a friend of mine, and when he told me about the project, I took it in and got it green lit for one million dollars. 

TV STORE ONLINE:   The film WORLD WAR II was pulled, but how did the soundtrack do sales wise when it was released?

REGAN:  The soundtrack came out on 20th Century Fox Records.    It was not a big success either, so many of the double albums ended up in the cut out section at record stores.    But, about a year after the soundtrack was released, I was in Cannes and a record industry friend from 20th Century Fox came up to me and said, "Russ, I just want you to know that you have the number one cut out in America.  It's the soundtrack for ALL THIS AND WORLD WAR II."  (Laughing)

TV STORE ONLINE:  It's been almost 40 years since the film was released and shelved...Do you think we'll ever see the film released officially at any point?

REGAN:  I tried to buy the film back from 20th Century Fox but they wouldn't sell it to me.   It's just sitting there.  Fox is really missing the boat with this one.   I think it should be re-released out into theaters with all of that great music.  I think that if they put it back into theaters it would be a real mind-blower.

Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung