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[sticky post] Additions to this life history

Jul. 25th, 2012 | 10:45 pm

Please add anything you know, links to reviews, photos or personal memories, in a comment, and let me know whether and how you wish to be credited.

Alternatively, you can e-mail michaelgothard.archive@gmail.com if you have any further information, or can suggest further contacts.

Nothing will be made public without your permission.

Many thanks.

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Michael Gothard's career: overview

Jan. 1st, 2032 | 11:07 pm

Title: Herostratus
Medium: Film
Genre: Experimental drama
Filmed: 1964
Location: London
First shown: June 1967
Character: Max, a young poet
Role: Starring role. Max sells the chance to film his suicide to an advertising executive.
Character’s fate (highlight to read): Max survives, traumatised by having accidentally caused someone else’s death.
Link to entries on this archive

Title: The Machine Stops
Medium: TV: part of the BBC series – Out of the Unknown
Genre: Science fiction
Filmed: 1966
Location: UK
First shown: 6 October 1966
Character: Kuno, a young man living in a future society, underground.
Role: Starring role. Kuno, tries to escape the tyranny of the Machine by going out unprotected onto the surface of the Earth.
Character’s fate (highlight to read): Kuno dies, along with his mother Vashti, and their whole underground civilisation, when the Machine breaks down, because no one knows how to repair it.
Link to entries on this archive

Title: The Excavation
Medium: Television: part of the BBC series – Thirty Minute Theatre
Genres: Crime, psychological drama
Filmed: 1966
Location: UK, but set in the USA
First shown: 31 October 1966
Character: Grady, an ex-convict
Role: Starring role. Grady and his partner have perjured themselves at a murder trial; they are questioned by a wealthy civil rights lawyer, trying to get the truth.
Character’s fate (highlight to read): Grady is thought to have died: how he died is not known. 1
Link to entry on this archive

Title: The Further Adventures of the Musketeers
Medium: TV serial, in 16 parts
Genres: Historical drama, swashbuckler
Filmed: 1966/7
Location: UK, but set in France
First shown: May – September 1967
Character: Mordaunt, formerly John Francis de Winter
Role: Mordaunt is the son of Milady de Winter: an enemy of the Musketeers, who was executed many years before. He appears in 10 episodes.
Character’s fate (highlight to read): Mordaunt was stabbed and drowned by the Musketeers.
Link to entries on this archive

Title: Up the Junction
Medium: Film
Genres: Drama, slice of life
Filmed: 1967
Location: London
First shown: 13 March 1968
Character: Terry: a young Londoner
Role: Terry is a friend of the hero. He is upset when his girlfriend Rube has an abortion, but nevertheless gets engaged to her.
Character’s fate (highlight to read): Terry is killed, when his motorbike hits a lorry.
Link to entries on this archive
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“Scream and Scream Again” commentary by Tim Sullivan and David Del Valle

Oct. 31st, 2015 | 12:00 am

In October 2015, a new Blu-ray edition of “Scream and Scream Again”, including a commentary by film director Tim Sullivan, and film historian David Del Valle, was released.

Unfortunately, this commentary has little new to offer about Michael Gothard, who played the vampire composite, Keith, but the relevant parts are transcribed below.



Tim Sullivan: The film defies expectations – a pool of interesting things.

David Del Valle: Fritz Lang1 admired it – it’s very avant garde, and maybe we can re-assess it as an avant garde movie …

TS: … part of a new British cinema –

DDV: … more nudity, more violence, a culture that was more youth-oriented …

TS: Some of the look of it is a little clockwork-orangey.

DDV: … this is considered Gordon Hessler’s masterpiece … It was very common at AIP2 not to have any control over the actors … they really weren’t chosen by Gordon … of course, Michael Gothard … is also a focal point, and very charismatic, interesting figure … He’s got a Mick Jagger – Klaus Kinski thing going on, he’s very charismatic. He actually did an ad lib in this, where he says, “Not tonight, Lady”, and the girl who looks at him says, “Lovely mover!” I mean, he obviously … could be a ladies’ man, if he weren’t a monster!

TS: It’s interesting, because Louis Heyward was quite enamoured of Michael Gothard; he says he felt that Michael Gothard was going to be the biggest thing that ever happened at the time of this. He had an intense look, and drive, and he really threw himself into this. They offered him to use a stuntman – stunt double – for that scene where he’s climbing up the rocks … and he refused …

It sounds as if most of this information was gleaned from an interview with the film’s Executive Producer, Louis M. Heyward, published in 1991, in which Heyward says:
"I felt that Michael Gothard was going to be the biggest thing that ever happened. He had that insane look and that drive, and he was wonderful. Here is a kid who really threw himself into the picture wholeheartedly. Do you remember the scene where he appears to be walking up the cliff? That's a stunt that, as an actor, I would not have agreed to; I'd say, 'Hey, get a double or get a dummy. I ain't either one.' But the kid agreed to do it, without a double--he was that driven. He had a lot of class and a lot of style. Gordon came up with the idea of using an overhead cable to give that illusion of his walking up the cliff."



DDV: “The Devils” was his masterpiece …

TS: You know, Michael Gothard was at the beginning of a very illustrious career, and James Bond fans out there will remember this guy as the villain in “For Your Eyes Only”, where he played Emile Locque, and it’s amazing how many Bond actors got starts in Hammer.

DDV: This composite that’s killing these women looks like a popstar – that is put there strictly to make it more commercial …

TS: He’s very much like the Robert Patrick character, the T25 … I know that … this film had an impression on the guy who grew up to be James Cameron6 … And again, as stated earlier, Michael Gothard – he did all this himself, he didn’t want any stuntmen, I mean this was a real rock quarry, and Gordon shot this by putting a camera on a cable to make it look like – I mean, look at that, he’s just going right up like, superhuman, I mean, that’s insane, and the way that was done is by having the camera on a cable across the quarry on an angle that made it look like he was walking straight up, and it’s really effective.

DDV: “Scream and Scream Again” has achieved a cult status … I mean, it was well-received …

TS: This is one of the infamous iconic images from this movie … the severed hand, attached to the handcuff, attached to the bumper … a still in “Famous Monsters”7 that you never forget … also, tragically, Michael Gothard hung himself, which is interesting.

DDV: Well, he was very despondent about a number of things, plus, I think he had some issues with drugs.

TS: Yes, he did –

That a man who killed himself had, at some point, been “very despondent” is hardly a searing insight; the coy qualifier, “about a number of things” is pure filler, which seems to imply that Mr Del Valle was well acquainted with the man, and knows more than he is prepared to say, while supplying no evidence of any such thing.

The reference to “issues with drugs” is vague, but seems to imply addiction. This claim is unsubstantiated; during extensive research and interviews, the creators of this archive have heard no evidence that Michael Gothard had any such problem.



TS: … but it’s interesting, because his very first film in 1967 was called “Herostratus”, and the character he played was a young man obsessed with suicide and …

TS and DDV, in unison: Well, there you are.

This final complacent pronouncement in relation to Michael’s role in “Herostratus” may tell us more about Mssrs. Sullivan and Del Valle than about Michael himself. They sound more like housewives gossiping over the garden gate than serious film critics, who should know better than to conflate an actor with a role he played, nearly three decades earlier.

1 Expressionist filmmaker.
2 American International Pictures.
3 The executive producer of “Scream and Scream Again.”
4 The interview was published in “Science Fiction Stars and Horror Heroes: Interviews with Actors, Directors, Producers, and Writers of the 1940s through 1960s” (Weaver, Tom, Brunas Michael and Brunas, John).
5 “Terminator 2: Judgement Day”, in which Robert Patrick played an almost unstoppable robot, the T-1000.
6 The writer of “Terminator 2: Judgement Day.”
7 This probably refers to the genre magazine, “Famous Monsters of Filmland.”

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The Machine Stops: review

Nov. 24th, 2014 | 12:01 am

"The Machine Stops" appeared on a BFI DVD release featuring all extant episodes of "Out of the Unknown."

This was reviewed by Gary Couzens on "The Digital Fix."

"The season began with what is possibly the most celebrated of all Out of the Unknown episodes, and the one from the most prestigious – and oldest - source. Uniquely (among the surviving episodes at least) its lead actor, Yvonne Mitchell, gets a "starring" credit at the start. Edward Morgan Forster (1879-1970) was a distinguished writer of the first quarter of the twentieth century … best known as a novelist … However, he also wrote short fiction, some of them verging on fantasy, and the novella "The Machine Stops" (first published in 1909) being definitely science fiction. It was written as a reaction to what Forster saw as H.G. Wells's undue optimism about technological progress. We're in a world where humanity lives underground, the Earth's surface being apparently no longer habitable. The Machine, what would now be called a supercomputer, rules everyone's lives. However, rebellion is afoot … Forster thought the production "magnificent" and wrote to the writers to tell them so. Philip Saville's direction and Norman James's design are also excellent."

Full review

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Links to Michael's work available on Youtube

Jan. 1st, 2012 | 02:00 am

Up the Junction: Michael Gothard’s scenes as Terry
Pub scene 1
Argument, party and Terry’s last ride

More
Michael Gothard's brief scene

Department S: Les Fleurs du Mal
Extracts, including Michael Gothard's scenes as Weber

When the Spirit Moves You
Extracts, including Michael Gothard's scenes as Perrin
Part 1
Part 2

Games People Play
Extracts, including Michael Gothard's scenes as Ivan

The Last Valley
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10

Arthur of the Britons
Season 1

Episode 1: Arthur is Dead
Episode 2: The Gift of Life
Episode 3: The Challenge
Episode 4: The Penitent Invader
Episode 5: People of the Plough
Episode 6: The Duel
Episode 7: The Pupil
Episode 8: Rolf the Preacher

The Professionals: Stopover
Extracts, including Michael Gothard’s scenes as Kodai

Warlords of Atlantis
Extracts, including Michael Gothard’s scenes as Atmir

Shoestring: The Mayfly Dance
Extract, including Michael Gothard’s scenes as Harry

Lytton's Diary: Daddy's Girls
Extracts, including Michael Gothard's scenes as Jake Cutler

Minder: From Fulham, With Love
Extracts, including Michael Gothard's scenes as Sergei

Going Undercover/Yellow Pages
Uncut film

Capital City: Twelve Degrees Capricorn
Extracts, including Michael Gothard's scenes as Stefan

Destroying Angel/Sleep Well My Love
Extracts, including Michael Gothard’s scenes as Ennio Volpe

Massacre Play
Uncut film

Christopher Columbus
Extracts, including Michael Gothard’s scenes as the Inquisitor’s Spy
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Links to various sites pertaining to Michael Gothard

Jan. 1st, 2012 | 12:00 am

Filmography on IMDB

IMDB discussions

Britmovie discussion board

Find-A-Grave memorial

Amnesty International Remembrance Wall

Susie Morgana’s Tribute site on Weebly

Tribute group on Facebook

Photos on Rex Features
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18 November 2011: Planting Michael's tree

Nov. 18th, 2011 | 01:00 pm

We had been looking forward to planting the tree for Michael ever since last year, when we had joined Oliver Tobias in dedicating the Wellingtonia to him.

The account of that event is here.

It was cloudy when we set out, but turned into a lovely sunny day by the time we arrived, and the park was beautiful, still in its autumn colours.

Woodchester 18 November 2011
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Woodchester 18 November 2011

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29 August 2010: Dedicating a tree to Michael Gothard

Aug. 29th, 2010 | 10:34 pm

This is an account of the visit to Woodchester National Trust Park, where the early episodes of “Arthur of the Britons” were filmed in Summer 1972.

The event was organised by a fan of Oliver Tobias, Wendy Van Der Veen and this visit took place on Sunday 29 August. It was attended by Oliver Tobias, his brother Benedict Freitag, and a small group of fans of “Arthur of the Britons.”

We wanted to see where Arthur’s village had been sited, and to dedicate a tree to the late Michael Gothard, who starred as Kai in the series, alongside Oliver.
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'The Experimental Psychologist': review of 'Herostratus'

Sep. 1st, 2009 | 09:00 am

The extracts below are from a review of 'Herostratus' by Stuart Heaney, published in 'Sight and Sound' magazine, volume 19, issue 9, in September 2009.

"… This is the 1960s as you’ve never seen them before – the myths demystified before they were even crystallised. Its themes mirror in disturbing fashion the subsequent troubled lives of its principle cast and crew, not least Levy himself.

… The Nuffield films served as Levy’s film-making apprenticeship, enabling him to appropriate the documentary form for poetic ends. The same formal tension between the objective world of historical and institutional forces, and eruptions of the personal subconscious, lies at the heart of Herostratus, which recycles fragments of newsreel footage and juxtaposes them with dramatic scenes and fractured hallucinatory images. The effect of interfacing these different strands is to map the subconscious forces that formed Max’s psyche … Max’s only solution to the problem of finding meaning in his life is to sacrifice his physical form for a transcendent, infinitely reproducible electronic image.

… Levy’s intent was to induce a transformation in the film’s audience via a heightened emotional reality. In his notes accompanying the film, Levy cryptically referred to “a special form of improvisation … exploiting the subconscious”, but although he did not reveal the specific technique he used to direct the actors, it was clearly psychotherapeutic in intent. The performances were all improvised on scenarios and suggestions provided by the director-therapist, sometimes with disturbing results. Levy referred to “peculiar events” that occurred “both during and outside filming”; occasionally crew members refused to work owing to the intensity of the experiences being filmed.

… Levy wanted to deprogramme his actors, the better to reveal to the audience the programming within themselves through witnessing the actors’ experiences … The crucial moment that foregrounds this strategy occurs in the closing scene of the film, evidence that Levy may have been using some form of primal scream therapy, inducing trauma in the actors … Convinced they have provoled Max into committing suicide, Clio becomes hysterical. As she leans against a blank wall she wails, “I can’t get out!” Levy’s strident voice can be heard offscreen, replying, “YOU CAN GET OUT!” The whimpering of Clio-Gabriella is the last thing we hear as the image cuts to black."

For all the critical accolades heaped on Don Levy for 'Herostratus', it is perhaps fortunate that he did not make more films, and trap yet more vulnerable young actors in his amateur psychology laboratory.

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An interesting exercise in misinformation: the BFI notes on Michael Gothard

Jul. 8th, 2009 | 08:21 pm

The BFI brought out three films in which Michael Gothard had major roles, “Herostratus”, “The Devils” and “La Valleé.” The booklets that accompany “Herostratus” (released 24/08/2009) and “La Valleé” (released 08/06/2009) include sections about him, which - apart from some material in the “La Valleé” booklet which specifically relates to his role in that film - are basically the same.

These notes show a disappointing reliance on online sources, one of whom – Curtis Harrington – actively disliked Michael Gothard. A quotation from Harrington is even used to provide the title: “An interesting type.”

At best, this phrase, culled from a highly personal attack that Harrington launched on Gothard some years after his death, damns a very talented and unique actor – not a ‘type’ – with faint praise, and tends to discourage the reader from looking more closely at his work.

It is tempting to think that the reason this quotation was used, was that it was easy to find. It’s true that there was not much information about Michael Gothard available at the time the booklet on “Herostratus” was written, but a little research in a library reveals that John Glen, the Director of “For Your Eyes Only”, described him as “a captivating actor”1, and that Louis M. Heyward, the Executive Producer of “Scream and Scream Again” said: "I felt that Michael Gothard was going to be the biggest thing that ever happened. He had that insane look and that drive, and he was wonderful … He had a lot of class and a lot of style.”2

Either of these quotations could have more aptly supplied a title for Michael Gothard's mini-biography. Instead, Harrington’s quotation sets the tone for an article which is not only negative, but misleading.

Firstly, the statement that, “Michael Gothard’s choice of television and film roles illustrated the dark side of the 1960s and 70s” warrants scrutiny. The word “choice” assumes that at the start of his career, Michael had the pick of television and film roles - which seems unlikely – rather than having to take what was offered.

Secondly, even if he did, indeed, choose the roles he took on between 1967 and 1979, from among many, it cannot be said that all or even most of them illustrated the "darker side" of those times. An argument could be made for his roles in “Herostratus”, “Up the Junction”, “More”, “The Storyteller”, “The Excavation”, “La Vallée”, “Nine Bean Rows”, “Games People Play”, “Run for Your Money”, and “Stopover”, but even some of those are debatable, and not all of them are extant.

As for the rest: “The Machine Stops” is set in the future; “The Further Adventures of the Musketeers”, “Michael Kohlhaas”, “The Last Valley”, “The Devils”, “Arthur of the Britons”, “The Three and Four Musketeers”, and “Warrior Queen” are all set in the past. “Les Fleurs du Mal” is an escapist spy/crime drama, “Scream and Scream Again”, a horror/science fiction, “When the Spirit Moves You”, a supernatural comedy, “Whoever Slew Auntie Roo?” a thriller, and “Warlords of Atlantis” a fantasy adventure. It is hard to see how his role in any of these could illustrate the darker side of the 1960s and 70s.

The notes go on to describe Michael as having a “deep, hard voice.” In his work that post-dates “Up the Junction”, his voice was deep, but “hard” is not how most people would describe it. David Wickes, who directed him in “Jack the Ripper” and “Frankenstein”, spoke of “his soft, husky voice” which “was electrifying … he knew how to use it to maximum effect.”

The notes go further into the realms of fantasy when they state that Gothard was “usually cast in historical actioners, European arthouse or mind-bending genre movies, more often than not torn apart or committing the ‘elemental crime’ of suicide.”

It’s true that he was often cast in historical pieces: a total of twelve productions. Under the heading “European Arthouse” there seem to be only three films, “Herostratus”, “La Valleé”, and a non-speaking appearance in “More.” Mind-bending genre movies? Again, perhaps “Herostratus” is one of those, along with “Scream and Scream Again”, and “Lifeforce.”

However, this only constitutes seventeen productions: less than half of Michael Gothard’s forty-two roles. This doesn’t fulfill the description, “usually cast.”

But it is the final assertion in the sentence – that his characters are “more often than not torn apart or committing the ‘elemental crime’ of suicide’” – which is the most damaging, and the most lacking in substance. It is complete fabrication.

Even if one assumes that by “torn apart”, the writer means “conflicted”, rather than literally “torn apart” (which never happens), this statement has no basis in fact. Most of Michael’s characters show no sign of being conflicted, and certainly not to the extent of being “torn apart.” Many of them – Kuno, Mordaunt, John, Weber, Hansen, Father Barré, Albie, Volthan, Gaspard, Locque, Terry Marvin, Karl Portillo, Strett, Stefan, Xaros – are unusually single-minded.

Of his 42 known film and TV roles, only six of them, Max (“Herostratus”), Ivan (“Games People Play”), Olivier (“La Valleé”), Kai (“Arthur of the Britons”), Felton (The “Musketeers” films) Athelstane (“Ivanhoe”) and Sergei (“From Fulham With Love”) suffer significant internal conflict. Only in Max and Olivier is it a basic character trait, rather than something arising from circumstances, and Olivier’s conflict is not a bad thing, but the result of intellectual curiosity, and a refreshing capacity to step back from his sociological context.

As for the ‘elemental crime’ of suicide’: in “Herostratus”, Michael’s character, Max, intends to commit suicide, but changes his mind, then accidentally kills someone else. In “Scream and Scream Again”, as the artificially-created vampire, Keith, he jumps into a bath of acid to avoid capture, presumably because he has been programmed to do so, rather than from an actual desire to kill himself.

There is no other instance in his entire known canon of film and TV work, of a character Michael Gothard played, committing suicide.

Even if, being charitable, we count all six of the conflicted characters, and add in Keith the vampire as a suicide, this makes a total of seven roles out of forty-two: one sixth does not constitute “more often than not.”

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the writer made these claims in a misguided attempt to make things seem neat and tidy - by telling the rather tired story of an actor and his roles becoming one and the same thing - rather than making the effort to find out the truth.

Another less important inaccuracy, is the claim that Michael Gothard appeared in “Vampyre.” He did not. It was intended that he should appear, but the project fell through, and was eventually resurrected without him.

Towards the end of the article, the writer describes Michael Gothard “momentarily acting opposite Marlon Brando” as if that were his finest hour, when it was more like Brando’s worst. In fact, Gothard was brought in as a possible replacement for Brando, whom John Glen thought unreliable, and in the end, Brando got terrible notices for the film.

Finally, the article says of Michael Gothard: “Overpowered by depression, he hanged himself at home in Hampstead, aged 53 and alone.”

We know that Michael Gothard had suffered from depression for most of his life, on and off, but his suicide was unexpected. Some friends suspect that prescription medication may have precipitated his suicide, but the truth of what was going on in his mind will probably never be known, so to claim, as fact, that he was “overpowered by depression” is pure speculation.

Naturally he was “alone” at the time when he killed himself – few people take their own lives in company. But the tacit implication of “aged 53 and alone” is that he was “alone” in his life, and this is completely wrong.

A lifelong musician, he often met up with fellow musicians for jamming sessions. He dated many beautiful women, and was an avid letter-writer, keeping in touch with old friends and girlfriends. While he seems – as far as the creators of this archive have been able to discover – to have had no contact with his father, and little with his mother, he did have close friends whom he regarded as family.

The writer of the notes in the BFI booklet could not have known all this at the time they wrote the article, so - presumably because Michael Gothard’s social life was not plastered all over the tabloids every day - they have made the mistake of interpreting his whole life in the light of his final act, and suggesting that he was living a solitary and miserable existence. This is both misleading, and insulting to him and to his friends. It would have been better to be honest, and simply say, “Little is known of his private life”, but that wouldn’t have fitted in with story the writer wanted to tell.

~~

1 "For My Eyes Only: My Life with James Bond”, by John Glen. (2001)
2 Interview with Louis M. Heyward by Gary A. Smith, in “Uneasy Dreams: The Golden Age of British Horror Films, 1956-1976.” (2006)

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