Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"I don't need to see movies about real life. I'm living real life..." Director William Malone on Forbidden Planet, Klaus Kinski and his expressionist dream-film Parasomnia

William Malone director, feart dot com, house on haunted hill remake

Director William Malone on his '70s Night Stalker spoof, working with Klaus Kinski, being a Beatle and his crazy expressionist dream film PARASOMNIA (2008).

william malone tales from the crypt
TV STORE ONLINE: Do you sit down and talk with people that say they are fans of your first film NIGHT TURKEY (1972) very often?

MALONE: Never! You're a fan of NIGHT TURKEY?

TV STORE ONLINE: I am.

MALONE: Are you on drugs?

TV STORE ONLINE: No, but I wish I had been when I saw it for the first time! (Laughing)...Listen, there's much to point out regarding NIGHT TURKEY. Did you know that you and your friends spear-headed the "Turkey-ploitation" genre? You may have beat out BLOOD FREAK (1972) by a few months...

MALONE: I've never seen BLOOD FREAK.

TV STORE ONLINE: The killer turkey in BLOOD FREAK is just a guy wearing a turkey head, whereas, your killer turkey is an actual killer turkey.

MALONE: Well, I'm glad we fell the way of pop culture.


TV STORE ONLINE: At the very least, people should watch NIGHT TURKEY on YouTube because of the fact that it features Rick Baker and one of the "Cantina" creatures from STAR WARS (1977) a few years before it appeared in Lucas's film.

MALONE: That's right!

Screen Cap from NIGHT TURKEY.  Watch the film here.
TV STORE ONLINE: When you were making the film did you ever worry that Kentucky Fried Chicken might sue?

MALONE: It wasn't a litigious time. No-one ever worried about getting the rights to anything. We didn't have permission to shoot at KFC, so we went there and slipped the night clerk twenty dollars so we could shoot in there. We wrote the whole movie on the back of napkins. It's our tribute to Kolchak: The Night Stalker.

TV STORE ONLINE: One thing that people may not know about you is that you played Beatle George Harrison in Robert Zemeckis's I WANNA HOLD YOUR HAND (1978)...

MALONE: I did.

TV STORE ONLINE:: I love that film! I interviewed [actress] Nancy Allen a few years ago and I asked her about that big final sequence on the Ed Sullivan Show. Zemeckis keeps showing her face in orgasmic ecstasy and tears and cutting to her legs quivering. I said, "Did Zemeckis ever explain what your character was doing in the scene when The Beatles were on stage?"

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Malone plays George Harrison in the film's final sequence.
MALONE: (Laughing) It was a dream job for me. I grew up in Michigan, and I had a band called The Plagues. When I saw The Beatles on Ed Sullivan--it was a huge influence on my life. My friend was the music editor on the film and they searched for someone in the Musician's Union to play George Harrison, but couldn't find anyone. He thought of me. He asked me to go over to Zemeckis's office at Universal and meet with him. I put on my old Beatles jacket that I had bought when I was in high school, combed my hair down, and went over to see him. He said, "You got the part..." He asked me if I could play any Beatles tunes, so I played him "I Feel Fine." For me, it was a great thing to do. I woke up one morning and it was 1964 again and I was on the Ed Sullivan Show doing "She Loves You." We shot it over at the Palace Theater in Hollywood, which was right across the street from Capitol Records. It was great fun. Obviously, you don't see my face, but I'm there in the background as George when the camera shows the actual Beatles on Sullivan on the studio monitors in the sequence.

TV STORE ONLINE: Can we talk about Walter Hill's SUPERNOVA (2000)? I know you wrote the original script for that. Is the Walter Hill film, as we know it, in any way close to your original vision?

walter hill supernova, francis ford coppola editor supernova
MALONE: SUPERNOVA is quite a bit different. My original script...I took the notion of the movie DEAD CALM (1989) with Nicole Kidman. I set that in space. I wrote it and it got sold to a company called Imperial Entertainment. I was developing it with them. I was going to direct it. They kept asking me to make the script "bigger." I thought that was odd because they were such a small company. So I walked away from it because I didn't think it would ever get made. When we were developing it--I went to Zurich and starting working with H.R. Giger for the film. The script was sent all over Hollywood and everyone loved it. I don't want to accuse anyone of knocking it off, but it does have similarities to EVENT HORIZON (1997) and a slew of other science fiction films that came out around that time.

My original script was called "DEAD STAR." It was a sad experience for me. I did get a letter from Francis Coppola [SUPERNOVA editor] just before it was released which said that he had wished that the Producers would have stuck with my original script. So that was the saving grace of it all.

TV STORE ONLINE: I'm a fan of FORBIDDEN PLANET (1958) just as you are, but you're the ultimate fan since you own several props and the original "Robby, The Robot" from the film...

forbidden planet (1958), william malone forbidden planet robby, the robot
MALONE: At one point I had all of the props that were known to exist from the production except the giant flying saucer. I think FORBIDDEN PLANET is the finest science fiction film ever made. It's pure science fiction. The whole premise of the film is a genius conceit. I look at the film, also, as the perfect representation of the 1950's. From the art to the acting styles--it's very 1950's. It's very charming, and the film also represents the opposite of the auteur theory. There is no one person responsible for the vision of that film.

TV STORE ONLINE: Do you think that the screenwriters truly set out at the beginning to make this sort of science fiction version of Shakespeare's The Tempest?

MALONE: It's hard to say. The screenwriter, Irving Block, was a very well-read guy. He was fascinated by old myths and legends and such, so it certainly seems plausible.

TV STORE ONLINE: It's such a different type of film for the era. There are monsters and space creatures certainly in that era of the science fiction film, but FORBIDDEN PLANET goes way beyond explanation--it borders on the metaphysical facets of human nature and science....

MALONE: I think FORBIDDEN PLANET stands over, not just several films from the '50s, but above many from the era's that followed as well. STAR WARS was just a romp in space. The only other film that I can think of that is more cerebral than FORBIDDEN PLANET is 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968).
Malone, a superfan of FORBIDDEN PLANET, owns the original Robby, The Robot from the film.
TV STORE ONLINE: With your film CREATURE (1985) you worked with Klaus Kinski...What was that like? Was he as crazy and intense as others have suggested over the years?

MALONE: He was a character. I wrote that part for him in CREATURE because the producers wanted him part of the film. The day I met him, he started bragging about how he had raped his daughter. I was always surprised that he didn't get arrested. At one point, when we were shooting the film, the producers and I had gone to lunch at La Maison in Hollywood. Klaus walked in and he was with a girl that couldn't have been over fifteen-years-old.

creature (1985), titan (1985), creature klaus kinski
TV STORE ONLINE: Had you been familiar with his work prior to working with him?

MALONE: Of course. I had seen him in Herzog's re-imagining of NOSFERATU THE VAMPYRE (1979). I had heard all the stories about how crazy he was. When he was hired for CREATURE I wrote him into the film as a crazy person because I knew that's what I was going to be dealing with.

TV STORE ONLINE: How does one direct Klaus Kinski?

MALONE: You just turn him loose. He was very difficult. He wanted to have an argument between every take. It slowed us down horribly.

TV STORE ONLINE: I'm ashamed to admit that I just saw your film PARASOMNIA (2008) for the first time last week. I'm not sure how I missed before now...

MALONE: Great.

TV STORE ONLINE: I loved the film. It was right up my alley. My favorite films are works that are driven by their aesthetics. I love films that aren't just dreams on the inside, but on the outside as well. I see all film as dream...

MALONE: I think the best films are those that have dream-like qualities...I don't need to see movies about real life. I'm living real life. I think, that if you're going to make a film it needs to have dream-like qualities because it needs to carry you off....

parasomnia (2008), allison brie, william malone parasomnia, dream film
TV STORE ONLINE: I'd confer with you. Yet, I don't understand why contemporary audiences have this obsession with reality having to exist in cinema... Kubrick, Bergman, Fellini, Tarkowsky, David Lynch--all believe/believed that all of film was a dream. And you, a filmmaker yourself, agrees with them.... Why do filmmakers perceive cinema in this manner, but audiences don't?

MALONE: I don't have a good answer for that. Maybe it's conditioning. Audiences have been conditioned. To make a film centered in reality is, in some ways, easier to do. There are fewer filmmakers now that have the sensibilities that you are talking about. I think it also speaks to horror films as well. The horror genre, in the '80s for example, was limitless. You could do anything in horror. When I released PARASOMNIA--I got bashed by critics because my bad guy was a mesmerist. I mean, this wasn't something that I came up with! It's an idea that comes out of classic horror cinema. You can go back to the films of the '30s for that. Look at SVENGALI from 1931 with John Barrymore. It wasn't a new idea. Dracula was a mesmerist! I've never understood the criticism.

TV STORE ONLINE: And PARASOMNIA was inspired by THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI (1920)?

cabinet of dr. caligari (1920) homage
MALONE: Right. I was watching CALIGARI late one night and I thought about how you could make so many great movies around the ideas in that film.

TV STORE ONLINE: You've made films in the horror genre you're entire career, yet, one gets the sense that you're a student of all cinema...

MALONE: I love all films. There are horror films that aren't labeled as horror films. I happen to think that SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950) is a horror film. I love film noir. Going back to the silent era--SUNRISE (1927) is so wonderful and so dreamy. A lot of films have creepy qualities to them and it isn't always the intention of the filmmaker. You can see something and get a creepy feeling from it. You begin to ask yourself, "Why is that creepy?" It becomes inspirational.

TV STORE ONLINE: Talking about FORBIDDEN PLANET and the limitlessness of the '80s---why has the horror genre become so focused on the serial killer or the slasher and moved away from the good old monster? Does it have to do with that element of audiences wanting reality?

sean young 2008, sean young 2015, william malone director
Malone directs actress Sean Young in PARASOMNIA.
MALONE: I think it also has to do with what is successful in the genre as well. HALLOWEEN (1979) was a gamer-changer because producers locked on to that because it was successful and cheap to make. And there are a lot of sick people out there too. I'm not sure if it's life imitating art now, as much as art imitating life...

TV STORE ONLINE: It was nice to see Sean Young in PARASOMNIA...

MALONE: That really came out from nowhere. I made the film without that opening sequence with her. Originally it had a very different opening. The distributors thought that the film was taking too long to get going, so I decided to redo the opening. I knew that we needed something right off the bat that tells you what type of movie you're watching. I never thought in a million years that I'd get Sean Young for one of my movies. I went over to her house and showed her some of the things we had shot for the film and she got excited about it.

TV STORE ONLINE: There's a fun cameo by John Landis in PARASOMNIA...

MALONE: (Laughing)...John is always a director. When we were shooting that scene with him...I guess I let the camera go on for too long. He said, "Cut it motherfucker!" (laughing)

allison brie community early role
A Pre-Community Alison Brie in PARASOMNIA
TV STORE ONLINE: You managed to snag a pre-Community Alison Brie for a part in PARASOMNIA...

MALONE: She came in and read for it. I thought she was great. She doesn't actually play the cello or any other stringed- instrument but she really pulled it off.

TV STORE ONLINE: It strikes me that not only is PARASOMNIA your best film to date, but that, it's also a very personal film for you....You've even used some  music made by your band from the '60s, The Plagues, have some music in the film...

MALONE: Thanks. Yeah, it is personal and it's the film that I'm most proud of. I was able to put in a lot of things that I never could in any of my previous films. I was very pleased with how it came out.

TV STORE ONLINE: The ending of PARASOMNIA is dark, albeit romantic...

MALONE: The ending is the thing that I'm most proud of. I really wanted the film to feel like a spiral that the audience can't get out of. The characters continually go downward. There is no way that they can recover from where they end up. It was the only way to end the film, and in a way, it's a happy ending. It's a fairy-tale in that way too.

TV STORE ONLINE: To re-visit, quickly, the idea of reality in cinema...There's this theory I have about low budget aesthetics..I call it the police-man theory. When you watch a lower budget film and see a policeman in his traditional blues--in low budget cinema, often times the officer won't have all the bells and whistles on his uniform that he should have. He isn't quite convincing enough to be a police officer from reality...While this may jettison many out of the possibility of a reality--for me, it does something different. It ties into that dream aesthetic... The filmmaker inserts this not-quite-realized police officer into his film, and yet he is a figment of imagination, a officer in a completely realized dream or netherworld....He can define a film's dream aesthetic.

MALONE: PARASOMNIA lives in that world I think. My cops--I wanted them to be like film noir cops. I didn't want them to be modern cops. When I thought of the movie as a whole, I knew that if I put modern cops into it--it would pull the audience out of that idea. I don't know if I was successful or not. I wanted it to feel of a certain ilk. I blended the classical music with '60s garage rock to give it this out-of-time feeling.
Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung