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: Unknown: the episode has been lost.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): According to Brian Blessed, who played Athos, Mordaunt was killed by the Musketeers: details unknown. The series still exists in the BBC Archive, but is not yet available.1
Link to entry 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
Read more... )
The BFI brought out three films in which Michael Gothard had major roles, “Herostratus”, “The Devils” and “La Valleé.” The booklets that accompany and “Herostratus” (released 24/08/2009) and “La Valleé” (released 08/06/2009) both include sections about him, but while the notes in the “La Valleé” booklet include some material specifically related to his role in that film, the notes for "Herostratus” 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, 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”) ever 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)
Houston Chronicle: “Nobody’s ever done a Frankenstein like this one and nobody’s ever done a better one.”

Wall Street Journal: “None of the previous Frankenstein films was as frightening as this.”

Rick Kogan in the Chicago Tribune, 11 June 1993

Monstrous Dignity
Tnt's Adaptation Of `Frankenstein' Is One Of The Best

… the latest version of "Frankenstein" is … certainly one of the best screen translations of Mary Shelley's 1818 novel …

The story is told in flashback from the point at which Frankenstein has tracked his creation across 1,000 miles of frozen wilderness and is taken aboard an ice-locked boat.

The incredulous sea captain listens as the doctor spins his tale of the monster's escape from the laboratory and how, after the two became separated, each has an idyllic summer, Frankenstein in the sumptuous country house of his betrothed, the monster at the cottage of a kindly old blind man (John Mills) who teaches him the joys of nature and wood-chopping, as well as a few words.

Danger intrudes, forcing the creature deeper into the forest and eventually back into Frankenstein's world …

Directed, written and produced by David Wickes, who sharpened his sense for horror by directing ABC's "Jekyll & Hyde" and CBS' "Jack the Ripper," this "Frankenstein" holds fairly firmly to Shelley's original, thus giving us much who-gets-to-play-God? meat upon which to chew ...

Full review

Cavett Binion, All Movie Guide

Filmed in Eastern Europe, this direct-to-cable adaptation of Mary Shelley's iconographic monster tale features Patrick Bergin as Victor Frankenstein, a medical genius obsessed with the secret of creating life, who uses a bizarre cloning apparatus to grow a complete human being (Randy Quaid) from his own cellular material …

… production values are admirably high and performances are superb throughout …

Full review

dtucker86

There have been so many versions of this story made that it would almost seem superflous to make another, yet this is the best version that I have seen because it is the most faithful to Mary Shelly's book. I saw the classic 1931 version where Karloff was the monster and he would have been proud of Quaid's performance …

He does a remarkable job of making the monster both scary and pitiful as society treats him so badly.

This is a great film and with the exception of Karloff's version, it is the best Frankenstein that I have ever seen.

elsbed-1

I really enjoyed this movie, far, far more than the over the top Kenneth Branagh version. Randy Quaid is fabulous as the monster. I particularly loved the monster in this film, as he was very sweet and childlike until he had negative experiences with humans. His expressions were very poignant and heartfelt. Also, the concept of Frankenstein feeling his monster's pain was original and interesting. Definitely impressive for a made-for-tv movie!

Jonathon Dabell

Forgotten version of the Mary Shelley novel - it doesn't deserve to have fallen into obscurity (but it has).

Director David Wickes was responsible for the horrible David Essex vanity project Silver Dream Racer. With this in mind, you could be forgiven for expecting this 1992 made-for-TV update of the oft-filmed Frankenstein story to be a somewhat trite affair. Surprisingly, this is a pretty good version of the tale. Indeed, it is actually better than the high profile Kenneth Branagh version that was released around 18 months later …

Wickes is extremely faithful to his source novel, more so than virtually all film-makers who have gone before him. He cuts out occasional bits of Mary Shelley's narrative, and makes the odd change here and there, but on the whole this is as close to Shelley's story as a film version has ever been.

Bergin is a revelation as Dr. Frankenstein. Usually a solid but unspectacular character actor, here he gives one of his best-ever performances as the ambitious scientist. On paper, Quaid sounds a terrible choice for the part of the monster … but in actual fact he is superb as the monster, registering anguish and pity from beneath layers of heavy make-up. At two hours, the film is paced well and moves briskly without sacrificing character or plot development …

It seems surprising that this film has faded into obscurity, for it is very well-made and admirably faithful to its source book. If you are fortunate enough to find, it is well worth viewing.

More IMDB reviews
Ice (3) Ice (18)

A party of seamen from a ship trapped in the Arctic ice witnesses a furious chase – two men on sleds drawn by
teams of huskies, the one in pursuit of the other. They wonder how the men got here, because the nearest
town, Arkangel, is 1000 miles away.

Ice (5) Ice (8)

Apparently both man are intent on killing each other. The one being pursued loses control of his sled, and the
Captain (Roger Bizley) orders his crew to fire on the pursuer.

Ice (10) Ice (11)

The Bosun (Michael Gothard) and the others scare him off, then go to see whether his intended victim is still alive.
Read more... )
Ice breaks (43) Ice breaks (45)

The Bosun’s last words to his crew - and Michael Gothard's last words on film - are, “Come on, Lads! Look
lively! We’re going home!”
Described in the Chicago Tribune as "A classic the whole family can watch: big entertainment, big production values, a lot of interesting moral story lines to deal with,” this version of ‘Frankenstein’ was based more closely on the original version of Mary Shelley’s classic horror story than previous efforts, and was said to have had a budget of about $4.5 million – high for a typical network movie at time.

Michael Gothard was cast as the Bosun of a ship trapped in Arctic ice. He and the rest of the crew are out walking on the ice, presumably hunting for food, when they see two combatants on sleds, chasing each other across the frozen waste.

Dr Victor Frankenstein is thrown from his sled and taken on board, where he tells the tale of how he created the monster which now pursues him, to the ship’s Captain.

Michael’s character, the Bosun, is the Captain’s right hand man, on whom the Captain relies for information, and to keep his motley crew in line.

Astonishingly, the scenes of ice and snow in which Michael features were filmed at Pinewood Studios.

Near the end of the Pinewood shoot, Patrick Bergin, who played Dr Frankenstein, sustained a broken arm when falling from a sled, and filming of his last scenes was delayed.

Director, David Wickes, had made use of Michael Gothard’s talents before, on 'Jack the Ripper.’

In correspondence, David Wickes says:

"Frankenstein was largely shot in Poland. It was the first mainstream movie to be shot there after the Iron Curtain came down . . . a wild place in those days. Ted Turner must have thought I was bonkers.

Anyway, before I cast each actor, I warned them about the problems — bad roads, worse food, you name it. (Ask Stephen Spielberg who followed us in with Schindler’s List !)

Most of the actors and crew just gulped and blinked — but Michael was different. He listened to all my warnings, then he smiled his famous smile and said 'Great ! Can’t wait !'

... Michael had a screen presence unlike that of any other actor with whom I have worked. He could frighten an audience with a glance. His soft, husky voice was electrifying and he knew how to use it to maximum effect.

Each time I welcomed Michael to the set, I knew that we were about to get something special in the can. There are very few actors in that category."

The stunt arranger on ‘Frankenstein’, Peter Brayham, would also have been well known to Michael, from ‘Arthur of the Britons’, ‘Stopover’, and 'Jack the Ripper.’

‘Frankenstein’ received good reviews, but was not released in the UK until 29 December 1992 – nearly a month after Michael’s death.
When released in the US in June 1993, it gained the highest ever audience ratings for TNT in the USA (72% cable audience share) and received 3 ACE nominations and 1 ACE Award.

More details on ‘Frankenstein’ from David Wickes Productions

Frankenstein is now available on DVD from WB Shop

IMDB entry
Christopher Columbus Christopher Columbus (3)

King Ferdinand (Tom Selleck) and Queen Isabella (Rachel Ward) receive Cristobal Colon and hear his request for
their support for his plan to reach the Indies by a westerly route.

Christopher Columbus (6) Christopher Columbus (7)

Meanwhile, the Inquisitor’s Spy (Michael Gothard) lurks in the background, taking mental note of what is said.
Read more... )
First sight (2) First sight (3)

Hired killer Xaros (Michael Gothard) is already keeping watch on Jake Bonner's flat when his employer, Omar (Gamil Ratib)
comes to visit the archaeology student to try to get a look at one of Jake's finds.

First sight (5) Meetings (9)

Jake (Jeff Fahey) pretends that the small model serpent he has found is of no significance.
Omar and Xaros then discuss how to proceed.

Read more... )
“The Serpent of Death”, also known as “Out of Time”, is an archaeological thriller, filmed in Greece and Egypt in 1989.

The US video premiere was 6 December 1990, and it was released under various titles in West Germany, Portugal, Egypt, Greece, and Finland.

The role of Xaros gave Michael Gothard another opportunity to travel to exotic places, but he must have been less than delighted to be playing yet another hit-man, especially one with so few redeeming qualities.

Plot

Jake Bonner (Jeff Fahey), the supposed hero of the film, is an unscrupulous archaeology student, who thinks nothing of damaging historical sites and relics. He finds a sculpted head of Alexander at the bottom of the sea, breaks it open, just to see what’s inside, and finds a small carved snake, which he believes is a clue that will lead him to a hidden and forgotten hoard of Alexander’s treasure.

Omar (Gamil Ratib), a dealer in antiquities, for whom Jake does occasional identification work, hears about this, and decides to get the treasure for himself, with the help of cold-blooded hired killer, Xaros (Michael Gothard).

Xaros mistakenly kills Jake’s friend and colleague, Donald, strangling him with a string of beads – his trademark method of killing. When Omar expresses surprise at seeing Jake alive, when he thought he was dead, Xaros, unphased, simply says ‘Someone is.’

Omar and Xaros pursue Jake, and a girl he has recently met, Rene (Camilla More), from Greece, to, and across, Egypt.

Xaros kills a number of people who get in their way, including the henchmen of millionaire Stavros, who is also interested in Alexander’s legacy. Xaros even threatens a little girl who happens to live with one of Rene’s friends, to get information.

Xaros kills an old expert to whom Jake has taken his carved snakes for examination, and his assistant, but the clues Xaros brings back to Omar are fakes. Omar is annoyed, but Xaros just shrugs, and says he isn’t in the resurrection business.

Eventually Omar and Xaros catch Rene on her own, steal the genuine relics from her, and set off after the treasure; this time with Jake and Rene in pursuit.

Thinking to find the treasure himself now he has the clues, Xaros leaves his employer, Omar, dying on the road.

Jake and Rene find Xaros’ car crashed into some abandoned World War II tanks. He seems to be dead. They wait until dawn before going to check, but Xaros has more patience, and Jake falls into his trap, and loses a fight with him.

Xaros thanks Jake for supplying him with both a vehicle, and a woman. But while Xaros is trying to rape Rene, she throws a snake – left in a bag the back of the truck by her zoologist friend – into his face, and he is fatally bitten.

With three minutes to live, Xaros shoots out their tyres, but – while still trying to kill them – steps on a landmine, and is blown up.

This may be the most ridiculous death any of Michael’s characters has suffered.

All the killing is pointless in the end, because Nikos, the disaffected son of the millionaire Stavros, kills himself and consigns both his own body, and the treasure, to the sea.

Review in TV Guide
Read more... )

Watch extracts, including Michael Gothard’s scenes as Xaros on Youtube.

IMDB entry
1 Arrival and deal 1 Arrival and deal (2)

Hit-man Ennio Volpe arrives on the scene.

1 Arrival and deal (4) 1 Arrival and deal (9)

Volpe and Reynold Turot discuss wines …
Read more... )
According to IMDB, ‘Destroying Angel’, also known as ‘Sleep Well, My Love’, was filmed in 1987, in Yugoslavia, and had a video premiere in Finland in 1990.

This charmless endeavour must have been one of the low points in Michael’s career. Despite being described – by some – as a romantic comedy, there is little to laugh at. The story revolves around 16 year-old Siska Turot, child of a rich but broken home, who – apparently without intending to – inflames her father Reynold’s passions during one of her three-weekly visits to his villa.

When her mother, Maria, comes to collect her, she catches them in bed. She takes the opportunity to blackmail her ex-husband for increasingly bigger hikes in her allowance, while encouraging Siska to continue this illicit liaison with Reynold: effectively prostituting her own child.

While the three of them are on holiday at the same hotel, Maria demands yet another pay-rise, and Reynold decides that he’s had enough. He hires an assassin, Ennio Volpe (played by Michael Gothard) to take her out.

Despite having an Italian name, Volpe seems to be Russian. The meeting between Volpe and Reynold Turot to discuss terms over a glass of wine is a rare bright spot in an otherwise dismal film. Volpe, who fancies himself as a wine connoisseur, advises Reynold to stick to Communist wines, because capitalists lace their vintages with anti-freeze.

Meanwhile, Maria is trying to persuade her new lover, struggling novelist Tom Berto, to kill Reynold for her. Siska joins her voice to her mother’s, though she fails in her attempt to seduce the man she claims to want as her ‘new step-father.’

As it turns out, Siska is the ‘destroying angel’ after whom the film is titled. When she finds out about her father’s plan to kill her mother, she sees an opportunity to rid herself of both troublesome parents, tricking her father into becoming his own hitman’s second target, in place of the man he was also paying Volpe to shoot – Maria’s lover, Tom.

Tom then mistakes Volpe for Reynold, and makes a feeble attempt to kill him. Despite Siska’s pleas, Volpe then shoots Tom as well, for good measure, and departs, promising not to charge Siska for that bullet.

Not a happy story at first glance, but if the Director had handled it differently, it could have made a passable black comedy, perhaps along the lines of ‘Ruthless People.’

But for that, it would have needed a faster pace, and characters with whom one might empathise. As it is, the main players are one-dimensional: a weak and pathetic abuser, a libidinous, money-grabbing harpy, and her failed novelist boyfriend, who is a bit of a sap. Even Siska isn’t very sympathetically played.

The director Arne Mattsson did include a joke of his own; known internationally for his film "One Summer of Happiness" (1951), which aroused controversy because of its permissiveness, he gave this same title to the novel Tom Berto has just had rejected by his publisher, on account of its lack of sexual content.

Sadly, Mattsson also took the ‘permissive’ route with this film, which contains a lot of footage that was presumably intended to be erotic, but is actually just unpleasant; we are treated to a number of scenes documenting Reynold’s ongoing sexual abuse of his daughter Siska, as well as the unedifying sight of Siska’s appalling mother Maria seducing the bumbling Tom Berto, in the hope of persuading him to commit murder.

Even Volpe’s interaction with Siska is sexualised; Volpe puts the barrel of his gun in Siska’s mouth before agreeing to let her assist him by plunging the hotel into darkness, so he can kill her mother.

This may well be the worst film Michael ever appeared in, though – as ever – he does a professional job. Former girlfriend N.B. has said that he never watched the productions in which he appeared; in this case, that was probably a wise choice.

Michael was once again wearing octagonal-framed glasses, as first seen in "For Your Eyes Only."

Watch extracts from ‘Destroying Angel’ on Youtube, including Michael’s scenes.

IMDB entry
Zabo arrives (2) Zabo arrives (14)

Actor Michael Zabo (Michael Gothard) arrives at the home of film director Theo Steiner (Elliott Gould).

Zabo arrives (8) Zabo arrives (5)

He graciously greets Rosita (Eva Robin’s – birth name Roberto Coatti), a transsexual, who hopes to be the
subject of Steiner’s next film.

Zabo arrives (17) Zabo arrives (18)

Then Zabo sees Theo’s partner, Bella, and greets her too. When asked what Zabo is doing here, Bella replies
that he’s just afraid of being left out of Theo’s next film. In fact, all the guests are just bit part players in the
drama being played out between Theo and old friend Clem Da Silva (Tomas Milian.)
Read more... )
Massacre Play is a drama, filmed in Italy, and directed by Damiano Damiani.

The exact release dates are unknown.

The film examines the relationship between successful film director Theo Steiner, and his boyhood friend Clem Da Silva. Clem feels that Theo’s success has come at the price of his own; that Theo has stolen some of his ideas.

Michael Gothard plays actor Michael Zabo, one of the pawns in the game being played out between these two giants of the cinema. He is one of many guests at Theo’s villa, and Theo uses him to play the role of Clem in a couple of scenes he sets up, in pursuit of his aim to make a film about his old friend, and to find out how Clem feels about his impending death.

Zabo is one of very few of Theo’s guests who is prepared to say what he really thinks of Theo’s ideas; perhaps that is why Theo chose him to play Clem.

Very little seems to have been written about this thought-provoking drama. Please leave links or references in comments.

Publicity still

Massacre Play publicity still

Michael’s character, Zabo, is wearing sunglasses in this publicity still, but in the film, he is not wearing them when he arrives at the villa - see screencap below.

Zabo arrives (18)

Review by Cranston Mcmillan.

“Damiano Damiani remains one of the most difficult Italian directors to categorise. He is comfortable at the helm of commercial exploitation such as Amityville 2, but would be better remembered as the key political movie-maker of his generation, with a string of socially aware dramas that puts the better known cinema of Rosi and Gavras to shame.

Massacre Play (The Killing Game) is a rather unknown entry in the Damiani canon, but is well worth the investment of a couple of hours purely for the amazing performances of the two leads. Milian is quite magnificent and Elliott Gould shows just how good an actor he is: they play two friends, both film directors who have taken very different paths. Wordy, intelligent but never boring and with a few little surprises along the way …

Not in Damiani's top league but all in all, very worthwhile.”

Watch Massacre Play on Youtube.

IMDB entry
Coroner (9) Coroner

George Lusk (Michael Gothard) first comes to the attention of Chief Insp. Frederick Abberline and Sgt. George
Godley at the Coroner’s Court. Lusk is in the company of journalist Benjamin Bates (Jonathan Moore) of The
Star, hearing testimony from Dr. Llewellyn (Michael Hughes) about the first of the Whitechapel murders.

Suspects arrive Suspects arrive (2)

Lusk helps stir up the crowd when two of the other suspects, Richard Mansfield and Robert James Lees, appear
in public.
Read more... )
Reviews

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: “A perfect whodunit.”

HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: “Jack the Ripper lashes the viewer with the insistent thrust of a Dickensian epic.”

SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER: “This carefully wrought, brightly scripted movie manages the near impossible.”

~~

Glenn Erickson on DVD Savant

… The story of Jack the Ripper continues to fascinate audiences. The famous 1888 London serial murder case was documented in detail, killing by bloody killing. Forensic evidence, including photographs of the murder sites and the victims, are a matter of public record. As the killer's identity was never discovered the case is still controversial, with scores of hypothetical solutions. Social reformers used the killings to bring attention to the horrible living conditions in crowded lower-class areas of the city. Author Jack London wrote scathing essays based on his observances of poverty and squalor in Whitechapel, the district where the Ripper killings took place …

The most satisfactory historical effort so far is this lavish two-part TV miniseries from Euston Films, Thames Television and Lorimar. It was produced for the centennial of the killings … and made news for its rare TV appearance by Michael Caine. Caine praised writer-producer-director David Wickes, for whom this was actually a second go at the story. Wickes had directed a previous English TV show on the same subject in 1973, that was applauded for sticking to the facts of the case.

The Jack the Ripper miniseries has its factual flaws and anachronisms but by and large is an exciting and complex large-scale recounting of the murders. The three-hour running time gives plenty of elbow room to sketch out political elements of the story usually omitted, such as the activities of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee …

Chief Scotland Yard Inspector Fred Abberline (Michael Caine) must climb back on the wagon when he's assigned the Whitechapel murder case, a horrific mutilation murder. Under the watchful eye of his superiors, Abberline and his partner Sgt. George Godley (Lewis Collins) engage the help of Robert Lees, a psychic (Ken Bones), prostitutes Kate Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly (Susan George & Lysette Anthony) and sketch artist Emma Prentiss (Jane Seymour), a previous sweetheart of Abberline's. As the murders mount so does the pressure to put an end to the case -- public uproar is turning ugly. Fred and George investigate the famous American actor Richard Mansfield (Armand Assante), who nightly transforms from Jekyll to Hyde before terrified audiences. But the only consistent clues that Abberline can put together point in a very sensitive direction --- to someone involved with the Royal Family ...

The dapper Fred Abberline must answer to closed-mouthed bureaucrats concerned that he'll get drunk and fumble the case. Out in the streets he's confronted by coarse working men, arrogant criminals and Marxist agitators. A nervy reporter (Jonathan Moore) openly fans the flames of scandal. Abberline is inundated with opportunists, gadflies and obstructionists. Adding to his troubles, the local police are anxious to discredit him as well.

Numerous actors serve as transparent red herrings, while Inspector Abberline pursues the case as best he can. Local police cynically "round up the usual suspects" to give the impression that they're doing something constructive. Fred's superiors remove bodies and clean up a murder site in an attempt to keep a lid on a case that can cost them their jobs. When a shoemaker's apron is found at a murder site, the police are forced to lock up leather workers to protect them from lynching by the Vigilante Committees ...

The presence of Michael Caine helped producer Wickes attract a superior cast. Armand Assante is properly suave as the high-toned actor. He's greatly aided by some anachronistic but startling makeup effects. Jane Seymour is on hand to offer a romantic possibility for Abberline, and Susan George and Lysette Anthony are women of the night terrified at the thought of becoming the Ripper's next prey. Cult actor Michael Gothard (Herostratus, The Devils, For Your Eyes Only) plays George Lusk, the rabble-rousing leader of the Whitechapel Vigilantes. I think Gothard has more dialogue here than in the rest of his filmography put together.1

Full review

1 A blatant exaggeration, but it makes a valid point about the under-use of Michael’s talent.

~~

At-A-Glance Film Reviews

In 1888, when the real life Jack the Ripper was caught, the court records were ordered to be vaulted for one hundred years and the details of the case kept confidential. This film claims to be based on these top secret Home Office files; the filmmakers believe their ending the correct solution to the mystery.

Accurate or not, this is an outstanding film, especially so given that it was made for television. The character portrayals are solid, as is the screenplay, but the acting -- top notch work from nearly everyone -- takes the spotlight. Michael Caine, who plays the lead detective on the case, won a well-deserved Golden Globe for his performance.

At-A-Glance Film Reviews

~~

Television Heaven

… Wickes wrote, directed and produced 'Jack The Ripper' for the Euston Films/Thames Television partnership, responsible for 'The Sweeney' over a decade earlier. It was made for television and was screened in two parts, the first on Tuesday 11th October 1988 and the second concluding instalment following a week later on October 18th. Each instalment began at 9pm but took a break at 10pm allowing transmission of ITN's 'News At Ten', often the custom for the ITV network …

The mini-series boasted extremely high production values for a British television programme and had an all-star cast. Playing the lead role of Inspector Frederick Abberline was Michael Caine, in his first acting role for British television for twenty years. Caine had spent most of the 1980s resident in America, so his casting represented a considerable coup for the production team. Playing his sidekick Sgt George Godley was former 'Professionals' star Lewis Collins.

Both Inspector Abberline and Sergeant Godley were real-life people, as indeed were most of the characters in this drama. And Abberline was without doubt at the centre of the Ripper investigation - but the drama takes liberties with his character. In fact, from the moment when we are introduced to Abberline as an alcoholic with crumbling respect from his fellow policemen the alarm bells start ringing and rightly so - for despite the wealth of research that went into this production it is at best a badly warped version of history and at worst 99% fiction …

Abberline then becomes suspicious of police surgeon Dr Rees Llewelyn (Michael Hughes) on account of him initially missing the victim's abdominal mutilations. Next he gets a visit from Queen Victoria's personal clairvoyant, Robert Lees (Ken Bones), who claims to have had visions of the killer, which leads to the detective paying attention to American actor Richard Mansfield (Armand Assante), then performing on the London stage in "Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde". Such is his convincing performance of playing a man who can be sane one moment and insane the next, Mansfield immediately becomes a top suspect! And just to confirm his theory, Abberline seeks advice from the Queen's surgeon Sir William Gull (Ray McAnally) who agrees that it is theoretically possible for a man to switch between sanity and insanity.

The next victim, Annie Chapman, is found in Hanbury Street and Abberline continues to quiz Dr Llewelyn who takes exception to being suspected. So Abberline suspects him even more. Then Lees is run over by a coach and informs Abberline about it. Not just any coach, but a black coach with a crest on its side. The Royal coach. Checking to see if the coach has been out lately, Godley by chance gets talking to coach driver John Nettley (George Sweeney) who tells him how clever he is and how he has been teaching himself medical and anatomical knowledge. Another suspect.

Meanwhile the public have been outraged by the murders and a vigilante committee has been set up by George Lusk (Michael Gothard), whilst in reality Lusk and his committee mainly acted as street patrollers and helped to set up reward money for the capture of the killer, in this production they are an unruly mob bent on revolution and overthrowing the police and the monarchy!

The Central News Agency receives a letter from a 'Jack The Ripper', claiming to be the killer. Abberline believes that it is genuine because it refers to cutting off the victim's ears, something that happened with the last murder but, on Abberline's instructions, was withheld from the press. Another piece of fiction because the extant photo of Chapman's body shows her ears intact! September 30th brings two more murders - Liz Stride and Kate Eddowes (Susan George). This time we see the killers in action. Yes, KILLERS because it is the work of two men - the driver of the royal coach and its mysterious passenger. Dr Llewelyn, Mr Lees and Mr Mansfield all start behaving more suspiciously and just to make matters worse George Lusk's mob make the Chief Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Charles Warren, decide to resign. And then Superintendent Arnold, Head of H Division, begins acting suspiciously too ...

… "Jack The Ripper" is nothing more than a dramatisation based on real-life events and should not be regarded as fact. Its plot failings are compensated for through good production values and its strong cast and is an enjoyable, if not classic, piece of British television that is perhaps more likely to satisfy those who know little about the Ripper crimes than those who are better informed, though until something better comes along Ripperologists will keep coming back to this one.

The original transmission of the opening episode broke into the top ten ratings for that week, being watched by 14.1 million viewers, an excellent achievement given its timeslot.

Full review

~~

Hal Erikson on Rotten Tomatoes

The TV movie Jack the Ripper endeavors to shed new light on one of the most notorious unsolved cases in history. The Ripper, of course, was the London serial killer who, in 1888, killed and disemboweled five prostitutes.

Michael Caine stars not as the Ripper but as a Scotland-Yard inspector who is assigned to the case. The trail of evidence leads Caine to some astonishing suspects--including at least one member of the Royal Family.

As the public clamors for an arrest in the case of the unsolved evisceration murders of five East End prostitutes, Abberline narrows down his list of suspects: the four most likely to have committed the murders, according to the inspector, are American-actor Richard Mansfield (Armand Assante), Queen Victoria's personal psychic (Ken Bones), a certain Dr. Acland (Richard Morant) and socialist-gadfly Lusk (Michael Gothard).

The British government is also pressuring Abberline to produce the killer. Unfortunately, if Abberline were to publicly release all the clues at his disposal, the revelation would probably rock the Empire to its foundations.

Rotten Tomatoes

~~

Digital Fix

… The production value reflects the fresh injection of cash with most of the money seemingly going into the sets and the period costumes - the global feel is not really that of a TV drama but rather a film though the plotting and script betrays its TV origin with unnecessary cliff-hangers cropping up regularly for US ad-breaks. The film was originally split into two parts to be shown on different nights and the DVD echoes that by not merging both parts together ...

The direction is generally quite good with most of the cast performing well... The general speed of the film does seem a little slow at times and would have been substantially edited were it a cinema release but the overall quality of the production makes it a good piece of well researched TV drama that stands up to repeated viewings and the test of time.

Full review
Jack the Ripper was a two-part TV dramatisation of the investigation of the infamous murders of London prostitutes. According to Television Heaven, the original transmission of the opening episode was among the top ten ratings for that week, being watched by 14.1 million viewers.

Four different endings were originally filmed, to keep the conclusion of the investigation a secret, until the show was broadcast.

The two one-and-a half-hour episodes were shown on 11 and 18 October 1988.

Michael Gothard played George Lusk, leader of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee. In the film, Lusk is portrayed as a political rabble-rouser and Marxist revolutionary, and is one of the suspects.

In real life, the activities of Lusk’s organisation mainly consisted of putting up posters and offering reward money.

Casting

In correspondence, the Director, David Wickes says:


"On Ripper, I wrote Michael’s character George Lusk as a 19th century Marxist. One of Lusk’s lines (to Michael Caine) was 'You can’t even protect ordinary working people'.

Most actors would have used a sneering tone and left it at that. Not Michael Gothard. He took me aside on the set and said he wanted to speak the line as if it were something his character had repeated hundreds of times — a mantra for meetings and speeches ... 'ord’ry workin’ peep-ul!'

Brilliant. In one second, we knew that Lusk was a professional activist, a man of slogans and sayings instead of original thoughts. 'Great,' I said, 'Do it'.

Now, that’s what I call an actor.

... Michael had a screen presence unlike that of any other actor with whom I have worked. He could frighten an audience with a glance. His soft, husky voice was electrifying and he knew how to use it to maximum effect.

Each time I welcomed Michael to the set, I knew that we were about to get something special in the can. There are very few actors in that category."

More details on Jack the Ripper from David Wickes Productions

Per Digital Fix: “Though they had originally started to film on video with a different cast (with Barry Foster in the lead), a vast sum of money was put up by CBS on the condition they made it into a much bigger production with US recognisable stars in it thus the inclusion of Michael Caine, Jane Seymour and Lewis Collins ...”

Per IMDB: “Michael Caine was persuaded to return to TV for the first time in nearly 20 years because of David Wickes's powerful script. Caine later described Wickes as "the nicest, fastest Director I've worked for, and the master of filming Victorian London."’

This was the second film in which Michael Gothard had worked opposite Michael Caine, the first being “The Last Valley” in 1971.

In 1979 he had worked with Lewis Collins on an episode of “The Professionals”: “Stopover.”

More recently, in 1982, he had worked with Lysette Anthony, who had played Rowena, his unwilling betrothed, in Ivanhoe.

The stunt arranger on ‘Jack the Ripper’, Peter Brayham would also have been well known to Michael, from “Stopover” and “Arthur of the Britons.”

Cast photo

Jack the Ripper cast

IMDB entry
YP YP (3)

When Marigold De La Hunt's friend Stephanie, and private detective Henry Brilliant, come looking for the missing
heiress, Strett (Michael Gothard) is expecting them. He thanks them for turning up.

YP (8) YP (7)

Henry (Chris Lemmon) and Stephanie (Nancy Cartwright) are kidnapped, but the villains, Strett and Mrs Van Der
Reuter (Elizabeth Spriggs) seem quite genial, chatting about the scenery.
Read more... )
Background

On ‘80’s Movies Rewind, Steve Alsberg reports: ‘The film was made because Colgate-Stone (the Producer) who was a capitol equipment leasor (fleets of planes, ships, etc.) had made a large amount of money on a deal in Denmark, and the Danish government required him to spend a portion of his gains in Denmark.

He knew James Clarke, the Writer/Director, socially, and Stone asked if he (Clark) had a script that could be adapted to use Denmark as a location, Clark said he did, and the rest is history.

Myself and my partner did the set construction for the picture including 6 weeks in Copenhagen.’

80’s Movies Rewind

Synopsis by Sandra Brennan

A bungling gumshoe tries hard to affect a hard-boiled demeanor, despite the fact that his latest assignment is to protect the bratty young heiress to a fortune in this lively spoof of detective movies.

Henry Brilliant, Private Eye, is no stranger to the ways of the wealthy as he too comes from a blue-blooded family, but he tries to ignore that to become the classic Chandleresque detective as he heads for Europe to follow the girl on her tour and keep her from being kidnapped by her stepmother, who is really after her husband's secret formula for controlling the weather.

NY Times

Michael Gothard plays Strett, one of the evil stepmother Maxine De La Hunt’s motley crew of henchmen, and evidently the best of the bunch as he survives longer than any of the others, as well as outliving his employer.

Former girlfriend N.B. recalls: ‘For the film "Yellow Pages" we went to Copenhagen in September 1984. That's where Michael was filming for several weeks. I was accompanying him, and met the people on the set, i.e. Chris Lemmon and Lea Thompson. Lemmon flew in only shortly. Copenhagen was the only place he went to for this film. The parts in the USA were made without him.’

The film is generally considered poor, but is reasonably diverting. However, Michael has little to do; he helps kidnap Marigold on behalf of her stepmother, looks menacing, and later chases Henry and Marigold on a roller-coaster in the Tivoli Gardens, where his character – as so often – dies a gruesome death.

Reviews

Sian Thatcher on 80’s Movies Rewind

This film had potential and a talented cast. It’s a shame the script is so poor and they couldn’t just choose a genre and stick with it.

80’s Movies Rewind

~~

TV guide

An unsubtle spoof of detective films, GOING UNDERCOVER features Chris Lemmon as Henry Brilliant, a handsome blueblood who turns his back on high society and struggles mightily to make a living as a hard-boiled private eye.

Wealthy Maxine De La Hunt (Jean Simmons) offers him a tidy sum to guard her high-spirited stepdaughter, Marigold (Lea Thompson), from possible kidnapping on a European tour.

Marigold continually gives Brilliant the slip and makes his life a living hell. Eventually, she is indeed kidnapped, the plot gets twisty, and the formula becomes escape, pursuit, evasion.

Aimed at the Brat Packer audience, GOING UNDERCOVER clumsily grafts elements of a college sex comedy onto the private eye genre. The result is bound to bore audiences of all ages.

Establishing the proper combination of thrills and laughter for a light-hearted suspense film is tricky. GOING UNDERCOVER fails to achieve the difficult balance that distinguished FOUL PLAY or CHARADE, for example, and emerges as neither suspenseful nor amusing. Only veteran Jean Simmons, as the stepmother, lends any finesse to these second-rate spy shenanigans.

TV Guide

~~

Joanna Berry in the Radio Times

This uneven comedy was made in 1984, but for some odd reason (because it was a clunker, perhaps?) remained unseen for four years. Back to the Future star Lea Thompson is the spoilt brat on a trip to Europe who is kept under surveillance by Chris Lemmon, a private eye so unskilled that she gets kidnapped right under his nose. Incredibly silly stuff …

Full review

~~

rsoonsa on IMDB

Completed in 1984 but not released until four years after, this English production offers little of value. Apparently designed to be a pastiche of the hard boiled detective category of cinema, the work features Chris Lemmon as Henry Brilliant, ineffective private investigator who finds difficulty in obtaining employment other than locating lost pets.

His luck appears to improve when wealthy Maxine de la Hunt (Jean Simmons) allegedly selects him directly from his advertisement in telephone yellow pages and offers Henry $2000 per week plus expenses to serve as bodyguard for her stepdaughter Marigold (Lea Thompson) during a European travel junket for co-eds ...

Dangerous adventures lack meaning to a viewer when a production fails to provide a sense of purpose, as in this instance. A motif of scientific espionage involving Marigold's father appears but its connection to the remainder of the storyline is put to bed by heavy cutting.

Originally titled YELLOW PAGES, released with that name in the United Kingdom and upon the Continent, this weak effort is known as GOING UNDERCOVER in the United States, where it ostensibly has acquired a minor cult following, although one wonders why, as there is minimal wit or imagination to be found in it.

Simmons, billed first, is as polished as ever, but Lemmon and Thompson are given the greatest amount of screen time with Lemmon rather charismatic when he is able to avoid the mugging that tarnished his father Jack's performances.

Direction is largely pedestrian with no apparent point of view. The majority of the film's drawbacks follow from the director's own script that bounces about in a generally fatuous manner amid themes of comedy, suspense, satire, et alia.

Full review on IMDB

~~

The Mysterious Traveler

A bumbling Los Angeles Private Investigator is hired to be the bodyguard of the bratty yet attractive daughter of a famous scientist as she takes a cultural tour of Europe. Soon he finds himself entangled in a Soviet plot to control the weather.

A simply hideous "comedy" spy thriller that is wretched on every possible level save one. When 80s films went bad, they went bad in gruelling ways and this film is as good...bad example as any.

Over-lit, cheap-looking, badly edited, sub-literate script and just boring, the film also poorly acted by a resigned cast incapable of doing anything with the material and a lead whose talent is extremely suspect.

It is truly depressing to see Simmons, Gothard and [Adam] West trapped in this thing. West must have had his name taken off the credits since his appearance was a complete surprise.

The only ... and I do mean ONLY bright spot is Lea Thompson as the bratty scientist's daughter. Though why coming out of RED DAWN and in the middle of the BACK TO THE FUTURE trilogy, she agreed to appear in this horror, I cannot say but whenever she is on the screen, the dreary proceedings perk up considerably. Sexy, radiant and surprisingly well dressed … it is obvious that she is a star and going places. Meanwhile it is equally obvious that Chris Lemmon - Jack's son - is not.

Further reviews on Amazon

Watch Going Undercover/Yellow Pages on Youtube.

IMDB entry
‘Destroying Angel’, also known as ‘Sleep Well, My Love’, was filmed in 1987.

The film is set in Yugoslavia.

It received a video premiere in Finland in 1990.

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