Shades of Greydon Clark By Mike White. Cashiers du Cinemart: Thank you for taking the time to talk to me. I can’t tell you how excited I am to have both you and John Daniels in this issue...
Cashiers du Cinemart:Thank you for taking the time to talk to me. I can’t tell you how excited I am to have both you and John Daniels in this issue. Have you kept in touch with him? I’d love if a DVD of Black Shampoo came out with you two doing an audio commentary track.
Greydon Clark: I’ve not been in contact with John Daniels for many years. I’d love to see or speak to him. It was a very good experience working with him and I have nothing but fond memories of him as a person and performer. I also would hope to do a commentary with him.
CdC:Can you tell me about some of the cast of Black Shampoo? I’ve always wondered about some of the actors with some of the more outrageous screen names such as Jack Mehoff and Salvator Benissimo.
GC: The actor playing Jack Mehoff was a good friend who also was in those early pictures I’ve mentioned above. His name was Bill Bonner. Unfortunately, tragedy struck Bill very early in his life. In early 1976, not long after Black Shampoo while filming in the mid-west, Bill was involved in an automobile accident and paralyzed. Jackie and I visited him for several months in the hospital. One day, he checked himself out without notice and literally disappeared. Bill was an exceptional actor and good friend. We tried to find him, but were unable to. Nobody ever saw him again.
Salvator Benissimo was Sheldon Lee. Sheldon worked in several of my earlier movies.
CdC:Was that Jackie Cole from Satan’s Cheerleaders and Angel’s Brigade (also known as Angel’s Revenge)?
GC: Jackie and I were together for more than 34 years. She was my wife and the mother of our two boys. She starred in Satan’s Sadists under the name Jackie Taylor. I wrote and acted in Satan’s Sadists for Al Adamson in 1968 and that’s when Jackie and I first got together. She starred in the first movie I directed in 1970, Mothers, Fathers and Lovers and my second in 1973, The Bad Bunch.
Black Shampoo was my third movie and was made in 1975. It was not a SAG picture therefore many of the actors used alternate names. She used the name "Edith Wheeler". I’ve made twenty movies in my career and she was in many of them.
Jackie passed away in February of this year. She is loved and missed by all who knew her.
CdC:How did you get your start in film?
GC: I came to Los Angeles in 1965, no experience, didn’t know a soul. I wanted to be a "movie actor" and found the name of an acting coach in a book, The Young Actors’ Guide to Hollywood. I attended classes for a couple of years. I sold various items door to door to put food on the table and pay for acting lessons. I met Al Adamson in 1967 through an actress I’d met in class. We became friends and he gave me my first role, a very small part in The Fakers.
Al owned the rights to a western short story he wanted written into a full length script. I volunteered to write it. I’d never written anything before, but after a few months, I presented the final script and it was very well received. Robert Taylor, a super star from MGM’s heyday, agreed to star. ABC agreed to finance as one of their first movie-of-the-week. We were set to begin production in Spain in the spring of 1968 when Mr. Taylor suddenly entered the hospital with cancer. He died in a very short time and the project was never produced. A financier approached Al with $50,000 to produce a movie. We couldn’t begin to do the western for that amount, but I convinced Al that I could write a script that could be done on that budget.
Motorcycle pictures were very popular at the time. This was just prior to Easy Rider. The picture was made in Indio, California, a desert community near Palm Springs. This was my first real picture making experience and I loved it. I had met Jackie in the same acting class and was instrumental in her being cast as the female star in Satan’s Sadists.
The picture was an enormous success and played all over the world. I wrote a script about a Vietnam vet who returns to the states and rebels against the establishment. I decided I wanted to direct as well as act. Jackie and I starred in that picture, Mothers, Fathers and Lovers. We made that picture on a record low budget—$12,500! It had modest success. I’d like to think it was ahead of its time.
I was active in the civil rights movement of the late ’60s and decided to write a story about a well meaning white guy who gets involved in the inner-city. The Bad Bunch also had a degree of success and we played in most major markets. The year was 1975 and I wanted to make another picture looking at the black experience, but did not want to make one where the hero was a pimp, pusher, cop, etc. I got the idea to make the hero a successful black businessman. Shampoo was about to come out with a ton of publicity.
BLACH Shampoo—a businessman who innocently gets involved with mobsters—it seemed like a good idea at the time. The picture played all over the world and was quite successful. From there, I was fortunate enough to make seventeen more pictures, and still counting!
CdC:So Mothers, Fathers and Lovers is not the same as The Bad Bunch? I had read that they were the same movie.
GC: I consider Mothers, Fathers and Lovers to be a separate film from The Bad Bunch. They do share some of the same cast and a few scenes.
CdC:You definitely were ahead of the times with your horror parody Wacko. A lot of the elements in it seemed to echo through Student Bodies, Scary Movie, et cetera.
GC:Wacko was my first picture with Joe Don Baker. When I was making the deal with him I could only afford him for two weeks. He asked how I could film him in two weeks. I explained that I would use a double for two weeks when he was in the "pumpkin head". He agreed to do the movie, but only if he was the only actor playing the Halloween Killer.... And he’d do it for the two week price.
Joe Don is a terrific actor and wonderful person. We did three films together and I have nothing but fond memories of our days together. Our last picture was Final Justice. Filmed entirely in Malta, it was a unique experience. Unfortunately, we’ve sort of lost contact over the years.
CdC:You’ve worked with a lot of "name" actors. George Kennedy, Jack Palance, Martin Landau, Tony Curtis, et cetera. How is it managing "bigger" and "smaller" actors all on the same set?
GC: I’ve been very lucky regarding my relationships with actors. I’ve never really had difficulty, especially with "name" actors. I remember when I hired Jack Palance for the first time in Angel’s Brigade. There were stories that he was difficult to work with. Nothing could be further from the truth. He was extremely well prepared, very cooperative and helpful with some of the young actors he was working with. Same is true with George Kennedy and Martin Landau. I remember on Without Warning, Marty worked almost 20 hours straight and never complained. George Kennedy agreed to come in for a quick shot on a day that he was not even paid for!
Wings Hauser came in after he was wrapped to do off camera lines for Susan Blakely’s close up on Sight Unseen These guys and many like them always put the picture before anything else. Their success is deserved, all real pros. I loved making all my pictures. Some were more successful than others, but all were a joy to make. I’ve been very fortunate in my career and have worked with many people who have gone on to wonderful careers.
CdC:What are you working on currently?
GC: I’ve got a couple of projects, but nothing definite at this time. I don’t like to talk about a project until it’s an absolute "go."
In the last decade or so I’ve made four movies in Russia and one in Bulgaria. After doing The Forbidden Dance for Menahem Golan, this in itself was quite an experience. Ninety days from our first meeting (without even a story) to a Columbia Pictures national release. Menachem then asked me to go to Russia where I made Dance Macabre and Mad Dog Coll (AKA Killer Instinct) for him. I made Russian Holiday and Dark Future for my own company in St. Petersburg. Star Games was made in Bulgaria for my own company. It is very interesting shooting overseas, especially in former communist nations. I also made two episodes of The New Mike Hammer.
CdC:Do you have anything you can share with other die hard Black Shampoo fans?
GC: A day before shooting began my cameraman was in an automobile accident. Nothing too serious, but he received a blow to his face. He insisted he was okay, but within the first few hours of shooting he came to me and said he couldn’t continue. He suggested that the gaffer could shoot the film. The gaffer was Dean Cundey. He’d never shot a movie before. Necessity, being that mother, I gave him a chance. Dean ended up shooting Satan’s Cheerleaders, The Hi-Riders, Angel’s Brigade and Without Warning for me. As you know Dean is one of the most successful directors of photography in the last two decades with credits on major films too numerous to mention.
CdC:Of all your work, what film are you the most proud of?
GC: I’m proud of all my work and it would be impossible to pick a favorite. If pushed, I’d say, "The next one."
Article revised and available in the Impossibly Funky Collection
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