Horror and exploitation fans around the world know the name Norman J. Warren - a mainstay of the British film industry, Warren has had a prolific and fascinating career and was kind enough to alllow R!S!P!'s Ian Jane to pick his brain about his life in cinema. The results are as follows...
IJ - When did you first realize you wanted to make movies for a living, was there a certain film you saw that lit that spark?
NW - Iâ€™ve always found it difficult to remember when my interest in films first started, because I canâ€™t remember a time when I wasnâ€™t interested in films. My mother was a great film fan and she took me to the cinema from a very young age. I loved watching all the films and never wanted them to end, but I also became fascinated by the dancing beam of light coming from the small window of the projection booth. I was always wondering what was going on in there, because I could see that was where the magic was coming from. When my aunt started work as an usherette at a local cinema and she asked the manager if I could visit the projection booth. I got to see a 35mm projector and reels of 35mm film for the very first time. I was hooked and for my ninth birthday, my parents managed to buy me a hand-cranked projector and three short films. I started to make my own short films when I was given a cine camera for my twelfth birthday and at the age of thirteen; I joined a local cine club and started making films with like-minded people. I now knew I wanted to work in the film industry.
IJ â€“ You got your start in the early sixties working as a runner and then as an assistant director â€“ what was it like in the early days, obviously this experience would come in handy once you sat in the directorâ€™s chair?
NW - In the late fifties and through the sixties, the UK film industry was very productive. However, when I left school I discovered the film industry was also a closed shop. When I applied to all the major film companies, I would always receive the same reply. Not only could they not offer me any work, they also pointed out that in order to work in films you had to be in the union, and when I applied to join the union, I was told you canâ€™t join the union until you have a job. It was Catch 22. This made me even more determined to find a way into the industry, and eventually a Producer by the name of Dimitri de Grunwald took me on as a runner. I was seventeen and at last I had my foot in the door and was able to progress to assistant director and assistant editor.
IJ â€“ As the story goes, you were hired by a cinema owner named Bachoo Sen to make some sex films, which results in Her Private Hell and Loving Feeling. What can you tell us about Sen and what was it like working for him?
NW - Although I had continue to make short films on 16mm, I needed something show to producers that I could direct. Remembering there was no video or DVDs at this time, so I decided to make a short film â€œFragmentâ€, on 35mm film. I took the film to all the independent distributors and independent theatre owners, until a man named Richard Schulman, said he would show it at the London cinema he owned. It just so happened that he was also discussing with an independent distributor by the name of Bachoo Sen, the idea of going into production themselves. My short film was on the screen while they were talking and as they needed a director, Bachoo Sen said why donâ€™t we give him a call? So out of the blue I got a call from Bachoo asking if I would consider directing a feature film for them. I had no idea what the film would be, but to be honest, I would have said yes to anything. I was twenty five and desperate to direct a feature film. The film was â€œHer Private Hellâ€ and it was to be the first British sex film to tell a story. Of course, due to the many restrictions on filming any sex scenes in the UK in 1967, the film contained very little sex and by todayâ€™s standards, it looks more like a television soap. Bachoo Sen was a reasonable man to work with. The only problems I had with him were over money. â€œHer Private Hellâ€ was made on a very low budget and there were always problems on how to achieve certain things. We shot the film in two weeks and in order to save money I also edited the film. Iâ€™d be the first to say that â€œHer Private Hellâ€ was not a great film, but it did make a lot of money at the box-office and that was very good for my reputation. I had agreed to direct two films for Bachoo Sen, so in 1968 we made â€œLoving Feelingâ€. Another sex film but this time it did at least contain more sex. â€œLoving Feelingâ€ was also very successful at the box-office, and coming directly after the success of â€œHer Private Hellâ€ it was a wonderful start to my directing career. Although Bachoo Sen never paid me much, I will always be grateful to him for having given me the opportunity to direct my first feature film.
IJ â€“ Her Private Hell has just been released by the BFI, restored and reissued for a modern audience to rediscover. How do you feel about the enduring popularity of your work and what was it like working with the BFI on this release?
NW - I have to confess that â€œHer Private Hellâ€ was the one film of mine that I thought would never be seen again. So when the BFI said they wanted to release it on DVD and Blu-ray, I was both amazed and pleasantly surprised. Working with the BFI was a very good experience, as everyone connected with the project were very enthusiastic and considering the poor quality of some of the material they had available to them, theyâ€™ve done an excellent job in producing the dual format release. With the release of â€œHer Private Hellâ€, it does mean that just about every film Iâ€™ve made is now available on DVD.
IJ â€“ The new Blu-ray release features some test footage of Udo Kier trying out for a part. Evidently he didnâ€™t get it. Any memories of Kierâ€™s audition or interesting stories to share about that?
NW - At the start, Bachoo Sen was to make â€œHer Private Hellâ€ as a co-production with Margaret Jones who ran a small production company. Margaret took on the job of casting agent and she arranged for Udo Kier to do the screen test. I donâ€™t have much to tell about him; apart from he was a nice guy. Of course he was totally unknown in the UK at that time. He would have been very good for the part of Matt, the photographerâ€™s assistant, but unfortunately, Bachoo fell out with Margaret Jones and decided to produce â€œHer Private Hellâ€ himself. That was also the last time Udo Kier was ever mentioned, and Bachoo cast the French actor Daniel Ollier for the roll of Matt.
IJ â€“ Weren't both of these films were the subject of some controversy when initially released â€“ do you feel that this affected your career in anyway, positive or negative?
NW - I canâ€™t really remember much about any controversy regarding the two films. I guess it would have mainly been about â€œHer Private Hellâ€ and sex. Whatever it was, it certainly didnâ€™t do me any harm. In fact any controversy about a film always results in bigger box-office results, and â€œHer Private Hellâ€ was extremely successful at the box-office. I couldnâ€™t have wished for a better start to my career.
IJ â€“ How did you go about casting for these early sexploitation pictures? How did Italian actress Lucia Modugno come on board to work with you on this film? Did an actress ever give you any difficulty about being nude on camera?
NW - Apart from some of the younger cast members, such as Mary Land who plays Sally and is seen in the early scenes; meeting Marisa at the airport, I had little say in the casting of â€œHer Private Hellâ€. Bachoo already had most of the cast in mind. He showed me a photograph of Lucia Modunio which was taken when she was around 21 years old. The first time I met her was at the airport when she first arrived in the UK. I have to admit to getting a bit of a shock as she was considerably older than the photograph and not how I had seen Marisa. However, she was a good actress and a very nice person to work with. She was not too keen on doing nude shots at first, but eventually changed her mind and was absolutely no trouble at all. The casting for â€œLoving Feelingâ€ was done in the conventional way and I was very much involved with the selection of every actor. There was far more nudity in â€œLoving Feelingâ€ but I had no trouble with any of the cast when it came to these scenes.
IJ â€“ With the sex pictures behind you, a few editing jobs were next but you didnâ€™t direct again for a few years when it came time to make the great horror picture Satanâ€™s Slave. This was quite a different direction from your earlier pictures â€“ why the change from sex films to rather visceral horror pictures?
NW - After â€œLoving Feelingâ€ I was asked to direct other sex films by various companies. However, I turned them down, not because I had anything against sex films, I just didnâ€™t want to make anymore. I was running out of ideas as to how to shoot people without clothes and getting in and out of bed. There are only so many positions to put the camera when filming a couple making love and I think Iâ€™d done just about everyone. I will always be grateful to Bachoo Sen and sex films for giving me the opportunity to direct feature films, but for me the films werenâ€™t very rewarding from the directing point of view. I decided not to make anymore and went back to editing and directing commercials.
IJ â€“ Did the popularity of occult themed pictures coming out of Hollywood at the time have any influence on your decision to make a movie about a womanâ€™s troubles with an evil cult?
NW - Iâ€™m sure they did have some influence on my thinking, although I canâ€™t remember any films in particular. Of course, Hammer films were also a big influence in the UK.
IJ â€“ This picture afforded you the chance to work with one of my favorite British actors, Michael Gough who has starred in everything from Batman to Dr. Who to horror classics like The Legend of Hell House and Hammerâ€™s Horror Of Dracula. What was Gough like to work with and what can you tell us about your experience directing him?
NW - Michael Gough was a joy to work with. A lovely man and a true professional. He had a great sense of humour and would work amazingly long hours without any complaints. He was living in the country when we were filming â€œSatanâ€™s Slaveâ€ and because we didnâ€™t have the budget for a hotel, Michael arranged to move in with a friend and sleep on their couch throughout the three weeks of shooting. We would pick him up at around 4.45am and drive him to the location which was about an hour from London. He would work with us all day long, often until midnight and once again we would drive him back to his friendâ€™s house. Also, as our budget was so small, we couldnâ€™t afford any wardrobe, and Michael very kindly brought all his clothes to my home and said, â€œWhat would you like me to wear?â€ A great and lovely man.
IJ â€“ Was the Hammer legacy of much influence on your work and did you intentionally set out to up the ante with them in terms of on screen sex and violence?
NW - Yes, there is no doubt Hammer was an influence and I think it shows in much of â€œSatanâ€™s Slaveâ€. However, at the time of making the film, Hammer was on the way down. Audiences were getting tired of their formula and looking for something new. Our aim right from the start was to have characters who were more of the time and to increase the horror and gore and make it more in your face. Although we had a few censorship problems in the UK, the horror elements in â€œSatanâ€™s Slaveâ€ certainly help its success and increased sales throughout the world.
IJ â€“ Terror was next, which is often times compared to Dario Argentoâ€™s Suspiria made a year before. Are the similarities intentional and how much influence did Argentoâ€™s most famous film have on this admittedly very effective and fun film of yours?
NW - â€œSuspiriaâ€ was indeed a big influence. In the mid-seventies, there were new horror films opening every week. The number of new films on offer was amazing. However, many of the horror movies were starting to look very similar to each other and the genre was getting a little tired. Anyhow, I went to see â€œSuspiriaâ€. I didnâ€™t know anything about the film and at that time I didnâ€™t really know much about Dario Argento. The film blew my mind, Iâ€™d never see anything like it. There was no real storytelling and the photography was crazy and it had the most amazing soundtrack. I knew right then that my next film was going to be in the same style. â€œTerrorâ€ is very much a tribute to â€œSuspiriaâ€, not a copy but in a similar style. â€œTerrorâ€ was a fun film to make, It was hard work as all film making is, but somehow everyone enjoyed the production. It was like going to a party each day rather than going to work. And that fun feeling seemed to reach out to the young audiences of the day, because â€œTerrorâ€ was a great success at the box-office. It became the number one film in the UK and in various parts of America it broke box-office records.
IJ - In Terror, the stripper character looked both sexy and scary at the same time. Was there some sort allegorical meaning to this, or was it simply a matter of wanting to add some marketable nudity to the movie?
NW - There was certainly no reason for the stripper in â€œTerrorâ€ other than to make the film more commercial. We wanted a stripper for the night club scene and we saw a great many before shooting the scene. The only problem was they all seemed to do the same old routine and they looked really tired bored. In desperation we called a stripper agency and they sent along Tanya. We knew as soon she came into the office, she was what we were looking for. She was an interesting person and when she did her act, she was indeed sexy and scary. Her act was so outrageous, we had to cut part of it as there was no way the censor would have let it through and not only in the UK.
IJ â€“ You also made Alien Prey around this time â€“ this was an awesome mix of aliens and zombies and lesbians, which in my mind at least, is a winning combination no matter how you slice it. Itâ€™s a pretty bizarre film but you can take away from it some interesting social commentary on prejudice and sexist behavior. Was this intentional or am I reading too much into it?
NW - I did â€œPreyâ€ directly after â€œSatanâ€™s Slaveâ€. It was certainly an interesting film to do. It was also fun and a great challenge to get it made in an amazingly short time. We had three weeks pre-production, ten days shooting and five weeks post-production. To this day, I donâ€™t really know how we achieved it. Having only the three characters was a pleasure for me. It meant I was able to work with the actors on their characters and how we should approach a scene. The pace of the film is very slow, which also allowed more time to develop the relationship between the characters. I was also lucky to have a really good cast. Both Sally Faulkner and Barry Stokes were experienced actors and were very easy to work with, and it allowed me more time to spend with Glory Annan. â€œPreyâ€ was Gloryâ€™s first film and so she wasnâ€™t that familiar with film techniques. However, she is a very talented actress and whenever she got a move or eye line slightly wrong, she had a wonderfully natural way of covering it up. Its true there is sexist behavior in â€œPreyâ€, especially by Sally Faulknerâ€™s character. She has some wonderful â€˜male put downâ€™ lines. This was intentional and all the credit has to go to the writer Max Cuff, who wrote the script in an incredibly short time.
IJ â€“ Is it true that the lake scene for this movie was actually a dumping ground and that the actors had to get inoculations before you and your crew could film there?
NW - The lake was in fact a small river. It was part of the studio back lot and at the time of shooting â€œPreyâ€, it was a river going nowhere. It was stagnant water and very unpleasant. It wasnâ€™t a dumping ground as such, but as you can imagine, over the years many a half-eaten sandwich would have been dropped in the river by various crew members on various films throughout the years. Combine this with dead animals such as birds and the occasional cat and you can understand just how dirty the water was. In fact in the film you can see how dirty. It looked more like oil. Another thing was the smell. The moment the three actors got into the water, the foulest smell was released. It was a very unpleasant sequence for the cast and I really appreciated their willingness to stay in the water and make the scene work. I like the scene a lot, but Iâ€™d also agree itâ€™s too long. I would have liked to cut it shorter, but when the producer saw the first rough cut, he fell in love with it and would never allow it to be cut. As the water was so dirty, the actors were taken to the local hospital for tetanus injections.
IJ â€“ You followed this up with another mix of sci-fi and horror with Inseminoid (Horror Planet). This was Robert Pughâ€™s debut feature film, what was he like to work with at this stage in the game?
NW - Robert Pugh is a very good actor and was very easy to work with. He was only on the film for about two days so I really donâ€™t have stories to tell about him. I do remember he was a little worried about his Welsh accent, but being a real professional he covered it perfectly.
IJ - Again, this movie involves aliens and horrible attacks andâ€¦ sex though the budget appears to be considerably lower here than on some of the earlier pictures. What was it like working on this one, resource wise, was it tougher and what sort of compromises did you have to make?
NW - The budget for â€œInseminoidâ€ was in fact considerably higher than the previous films. This was mainly due to it being science fiction and the many requirements of the story. The script called for an underground complex with numerous tunnels and passages going off in many directions. Strange as it may seem, caves are one of the most expensive sets to build in a studio. Much more than a standard wall set. The reason being that you need to build a very strong structure, which is then covered with chicken-wire and plaster to create a cave surface and as you can imagine, the weight is enormous. So it was decided to film in Chislehurst Caves which are situated about twenty miles from London. The caves are something like twenty two miles of man-made tunnels. The caves certainly gave extra production value to the film, but working there for a minimum of twelve hours a day, six days a week, was another matter. It was very cold and very damp and because of walking on the uneven ground all day, everyone suffered with leg cramps. Also, most of the cast hurt themselves in one way or another during the shoot. Nothing serious Iâ€™m pleased to say; mainly twisted ankles and wrenched backs, due once again to the uneven surface. The caves are chalk, not rock, but itâ€™s still hard when you fall. A big part of a directorâ€™s job is being able to make compromises each and every day. There are always problems when filming, and â€œInseminoidâ€ had its fair share. Filming in the caves gave us a lot of problems and as we could only film there for three weeks, it became very difficult to stay on schedule and I was constantly required to make compromises on the way I would shoot a scene.
There was one scene in which Ricky, played by David Baxt, goes on a rampage through the caves. Well at the time of shooting this, we were running a little behind on the schedule, so I had to put the â€˜blue pencilâ€™ through part of the scene which involved a chase through various tunnels. Three pages of script which I had to condense into one shot. Having to make such an enormous compromise was not a happy choice for me, but it was the only way of getting us back on schedule.
IJ â€“ There are rumors that a sequel was started for Inseminoid, but there doesnâ€™t seem to be any information floating around on this. Is this true?
NW - This is totally untrue. There was never any intention of making a sequel and there never will be. The copyright situation on â€œInseminoidâ€ is a nightmare and it would cost an arm and a leg to get it all sorted.
IJ â€“ From there, you returned to your sexploitation roots with Outer Touch (or Spaced Out), though itâ€™s more of a comedy than anything. Is it true that you used leftover sets to shoot this on and how did you go about getting bits from Space: 1999 edited into this film?
NW - â€œSpaced Outâ€ was in fact made before â€œInseminoidâ€. I turned the film down originally, because the script wasnâ€™t terribly good. It was also going back to the old sex film days and Iâ€™d been there before and didnâ€™t want to return. However, the producer was very determined and he said to me, â€œYou can change the script if you wantâ€ So I sat down with the writer and said, rather than try and make a sex film, why donâ€™t we make it more of a comedy? So thatâ€™s what we did. No, we certainly didnâ€™t use leftover sets. We did have a problem with studio space. When we came to start the production, all the studios were very full and the only sound stage available, was the smallest stage at Twickenham Studios. We needed fourteen sets in total and the stage was only big enough for one. Production Designer Hayden Pearce, who was a master at solving problems, designed a set that could be changed into another set by moving walls and redressing props etc. This would be done during the night so there was a new set ready for shooting in the morning. Of course it did mean I had to make sure Iâ€™d completed a scene the day before, as there was no chance of any retakes because the set was no longer there. The â€œSpace 1999â€ shots were what are known as Stock-shots or Library shots. I thought it would be fun to use these shots as the series was so swell known. It also adds to the craziness, as itâ€™s not always the same spaceship.
IJ â€“ Did you have any input into who did the voice work for Wurlitzer, more specifically, did you decide Bob Saget should voice him in the US version?
NW - It was certainly my choice to use Bill Mitchell as the voice of the Wurlitzer in the UK version. He was well known in England as being the voice on just about every horror movie trailer in the 1970â€™s. The decision to use Bob Saget was entirely down to Miramax boss Harvey Weinstein.
IJ â€“ You worked with the lovely Glory Annen on this film and on Alien Prey â€“ sheâ€™s probably best known for Felicity, but her work with you definitely stands out. Did you specifically choose to work with her again this second time out and if so, why?
NW - Yes, I very much wanted Glory to play Cosia in â€œSpaced Outâ€. Iâ€™d enjoyed working with her on â€œPreyâ€ and I knew she was capable of comedy and could bring a sort of naÃ¯ve approach to the character. Two of my favorite scenes with Glory are, the one in which she is checking out the measurements of the young guys penis and her amazement at its changing size, and the scene in which she delivers a meal on roller-skates. Glory really couldnâ€™t roller-skate and she was almost falling over most of the time, but she made it work and gave the scene a certain charm. A really talented actress and a lovely person to work with.
IJ â€“ The secret agent spoof Gunpowder was next â€“ though itâ€™s tough to see in the US. What can you tell us about this picture?
NW - There is so much to tell, I think it best I give you a full report! It was early summer when I accepted the opportunity to direct â€˜Gunpowderâ€™. The thought of filming an action adventure movie over the long summer days was certainly attractive, but unfortunately this was not the case. Due to a series of delays, the production finally started in November 1984.
The producer Maxine Julius, had arranged to shoot the film in and around Macclesfield in the north of England, which is best known for its excessive rain fall. A fact I was able to confirm when I arrived at the start of the pre-production period. Day and night for three weeks non-stop, the rain just poured down. Production designer Hayden Pearce and I were soaked to the skin each day as we checked out suitable locations. Thankfully by the first day of shooting the rain had eased off to a fine drizzle. But it was cold!
â€˜Gunpowderâ€™ is best described as a sort of James Bond-type spoof. The story is of a mad scientist who has devised a way of keeping gold liquid without heat, so he can ship it around the world and make it solid again at will. His plan is to flood the market with gold and thereby destroy the Western economy. MI5 need to find him and stop his activities, so they call in their ace agents, Gunn and Powder.
I have always worked with low budgets, but in the case of â€˜Gunpowderâ€™, the budget proved to be so low it was really impossible to achieve everything the script called for. Casting was a good example of the â€˜limited fundsâ€™, because apart from the two principle characters and one guest star, the selection of actors was very much based on where they lived. Rather than ask the actor or actress about their previous work, the first question asked by the producer would be â€œWhere do you live?â€ If they didnâ€™t live in Macclesfield or within an easy driving distance, they didnâ€™t get the part.
Unfortunately the whole production suffered in a similar way. There were scenes which required a reasonable number of extras, but we could only manage ten or twelve, plus members of the crew. As a result we had scenes in which soldiers of opposing armies were played by the same people and in the finished there are times when a soldier can be seen shooting himself, or dying twice.
We did managed to film a few reasonable action scenes, including a helicopter and speedboat chase, but as we were shooting in November and December with very limited daylight hours, we had to work fast and with little chance of a second take, and it was very cold. We also managed to create an interesting relationship between to two central characters. David Gilliam, an American actor played Gunn, a tough and rugged sort of guy. Martin Potter with whom Iâ€™d worked with on â€œSatanâ€™s Slaveâ€, played Powder, a slightly camp agent who is always immaculately dressed no matter what. His hair is never out of place and when he wears a white jacket it never gets dirty. There was a nice interplay between the two characters which works well in the film. Gordon Jackson was a real bonus. He was a real professional and a joy to work with.
I would really have liked to have made the film more fun, more comic-strip and played on the fact that we didnâ€™t have everything the film shouldâ€™ve had. But unfortunately the producer didnâ€™t agree, even though it was becoming more and more chaotic towards the end of shooting, with main props being sent back because we could no longer afford the rental. There are scenes in which Power (Martin Potter) doesnâ€™t have his gun because he had been returned to the prop company. In fact we did one shot in which we played on the missing gun. Gunn (David Gilliam) turns to Powder and asks â€œWhereâ€™s your gun?â€, because he had in in the previous shot, to which Powder just shrugs and says â€œI have no ideaâ€. Of course in the very next shot, he has the gun again.
Gunpowder was never intended for theatrical release but it has been seen on television in many countries and released on video throughout the world. However, itâ€™s very hard to find and I canâ€™t imagine it will ever be released on DVD.
IJ â€“ Your last film was 1987â€™s Bloody New Year, and though itâ€™s not as sexy or as gory as some of your other films, itâ€™s a decent horror picture with a great location and some nice, tense moments. Why the decision to hang up your hat as a director after this film?
NW - In fact I didnâ€™t hang up my directorâ€™s hat. â€˜Bloody New Yearâ€™ was not a great experience, and combined with the fact that Iâ€™d been working non-stop for twelve years, going from one film to the next and directing commercials, music promos and documentaries in between, I just wanted a rest. Also the film industry was changing. Budgets were starting to get much larger and many independent producers decided to close down. It was becoming very difficult to raise the finance for an independent film. I was involved with various projects but they never managed to get into production. However, I did continue to work as a director and editor on commercials, and documentaries. I was also directing dramas and documentaries for the BBC. Coming back to â€˜Bloody New Yearâ€™ and its troubled production, I think once again a full report is best.
Straight off I have to say â€˜Bloody New Yearâ€™ was a great disappointment to me, although at the start the project seemed to have a lot going for it and I had every reason to believe the end result would be good. The script was well written and contained a number of really interesting and original ideas. It tells of a group of teenagers enjoying the summer, and how after a boating accident they become marooned on a small island miles off the coast. The island appears to be deserted and the only hotel is decorated for Christmas and New Yearâ€™s celebrations, as if trapped in time. It is in fact the result of a nuclear experiment that went disastrously wrong, locking the whole island into 1959â€¦on the eve of 1960.
The whole film was shot on location in Barry Island, a small holiday resort in South Wales. All the story requirements could be found there, including a small funfair that was perfect for an important sequence early in the film. We were give full use of all the rides and we were allowed to operate them ourselves. The only downside was a lack of extras. We were shooting in the week before the funfair opened for the summer season. So most of the people seen on rides in the background, were members of the crew and any kids we could find who liked the idea of free rides.
The most important location was discovered no more than 200 meters from the beach a funfair. Set in its own grounds was a large old house that looked out over the sea. From just about every angle it appears to be on an island, and in no time at all, production designer Hayden Pearce was able to turn it into the Grand Island Hotel.
There are a few scenes in the film that I believe work well and create the right atmosphere. One is when two of the characters, Catherine Roman and Mark Powley, discover a crashed aircraft and the remains of a small campfire. All around there are broken bits of mirror swinging in the air and reflecting the sunlight through a mist that hangs over the area. There is also a radio that continually repeats a mayday message, and as everything is trapped in time, nothing will ever change. The campfire will never burn out and the radioâ€™s battery will never go flat. This scene also features one of the best visual effects in the film. Itâ€™s when the pilot of the crashed plane appears, who is also trapped in time and therefore is neither dead nor alive. When it seems as if he is about to attack Catherine Roman, Mark Powley strikes the pilot across the head with a wooden stick, causing him to explode and fall to the ground in a pile of dust. The false head for this shot was created by a remarkable model maker, Phil Rawsthorne. The likeness to the actor playing the pilot was incredible, but the most remarkable factor was that the head was almost entirely made out of dust.
Unfortunately, most of the film just doesnâ€™t work, certainly not as a horror movie. It was not due to budget restrictions, but to the attitude of the production office. This didnâ€™t include production designer Hayden Pearce, who was also credited as produce but was never allowed to perform the duties of a producer. The problem was with the actual producer and the production office. They had no real interest or understanding of making a horror film. It just doesnâ€™t work if you donâ€™t like horror films or want to be involved with the genre. There was an enormous amount of tension between the shooting crew and the production office. Their thinking was very much â€œletâ€™s get on and get it doneâ€ and â€œweâ€™ve done enough of that sceneâ€ or â€œwe donâ€™t need that.â€ As a result the film has a lot of shortcomings.
By the time it came to post-production and in particular the soundtrack, I must confess I was beginning to give up on the film because they wouldnâ€™t consider the kind of thing I had in mind. One of the most important elements of any film, and in particular a horror film, is the music score and sound effects. â€˜Bloody New Yearâ€™ has a poor music score and little or no sound effects, a very weak soundtrack in fact.
â€˜Bloody New Yearâ€™ was a missed opportunity. It could have been a good horror film, but in the end, as I have already said, it was a great disappointment.
IJ â€“ How do you feel about the cult following that has grown surrounding your pictures over the years?
NW - I still find it amazing and hard to believe that there is still so much interest in the films I made in the 70â€™s and 80â€™s. At the time of making them, I never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that people would still want to see the films over thirty years later. I am of course very pleased and very flattered that the films have gained some form of cult status.
IJ â€“ Out of all of your films, which one is your favorite and why?
NW - This is a tough question to answer, because from the directorâ€™s point of view, you tend to have both good and not so good memories of making every film. I feel very lucky that most of my memories are good. If Iâ€™m pushed to select just one film, it would have to be â€œTerrorâ€. Simply because it was such an enjoyable production. It was a tough film to shoot as we had an enormous amount to do in just four weeks, but it all went very smoothly and everyone involved seemed to enjoy every day. It was a bit like going to a party every day.
IJ â€“ Anything else youâ€™d like to add?
NW - I would really like to make another film and right now Iâ€™m involved with two new horror projects. One is in the early stage of scripting and the other project is currently in the nightmare world of finance. Getting funding for an independent production is very difficult right now, but who knows. If Lady Luck smiles, the film will become a reality.
And with that, we'd like to sincerely thank Mr. Warren for taking the time out of his schedule to answer our questions. Thanks are also due to Jill Reading at the BFI for arranging the interview and Todd Jordan for assistance with the interview.