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“Scream and Scream Again” commentary by Tim Sullivan and David Del Valle

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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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