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Sunday, December 4, 2022

Lost Worlds and Chainsaw Pigs: An Interview With Director Kevin Connor

"You gotta go for it. If you fail, you fail; but at least you had a go at it... [I've] been extremely lucky learning from so much talent... In this business, luck is a big part of your success... For me, [directing is] the best job in the world."
If you grew up in the70s or 80s, chances are high you also grew up watching the movies of British film director Kevin Connor. He guided the last of the Amicus anthologies as well as the last Amicus movie before the company shut its doors. Connor was behind one of the best-loved cult films of all time, that being the blackly comical horror picture, MOTEL HELL (1980). Where director Kevin Connor has maintained decades of lasting appeal is in his fabulous quintet of kid-friendly Adventure-Fantasies about dinosaurs, lost worlds, and magic carpets. 
Before coming to America, Mr. Connor dabbled in television--directing episodes of SPACE 1999 (1975-1977) starring Martin Landau and RETURN OF THE SAINT (1978-1979) headlined by Ian Ogilvy; whom he'd directed previously in his first movie, the Amicus anthology, FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE (1974). 
From the mid-80s onward, Kevin Connor has worked predominantly in the television medium--working on such memorable mini-series's like NORTH AND SOUTH BOOK II (1986)--the sequel to the landmark original from 1985; THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (1987), an inventive tele-movie interpretation of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle detective for CBS; all the while directing many top-name actors like Pierce Brosnan, Brian Dennehy, and Dyan Cannon. Mr. Connor even guided a series of Christmas movies for the Hallmark Channel. With a number of impressive and varied credits to his name, Kevin Connor is one of the last filmmakers alive to have worked with the much beloved British crews and actors of the glorious (and gory) days of Hammer Films and Amicus Productions. With nearly 50 years in the industry, the ever versatile Mr. Connor will forever be associated with his fanciful, and fantastical, family-friendly adventures in Lands That the Young At Heart Have Never Forgot.

Venoms5: I want to start this interview by saying, Mr. Connor, you directed some of my favorite films; some of which left a lasting impact on my childhood.
Kevin Connor: They were good fun to make and made for next to nothing, something like $300,000 maybe a bit more for some of them. They were made with low budgets and inexpensive casts and dear old Doug McClure and Patrick Wayne. The special effects are all pretty basic with things you could do in-camera the old fashioned way; all models and hand-puppets long before CGI came in and blew everything up.

V5: You've directed in so many different genres. You originally wanted to be a cameraman, correct?
KC: When I was in school they had a poster in the Art Department from Ealing Studios with this guy on a crane high over a crowd. It caught my eye and I said to myself, "That looks pretty good to me, I think I'd like to be a cameraman". That was back in '51 or '52. And when I left school,  I wrote to every school in the London telephone directory that taught film. I got about 15 letters back that were all negative but then finally, the job I could get was in the cutting rooms. It was quite unionized back in those days. You couldn't transfer from editing to a director of photography because there were very few studios working at that time. You had Pinewood, Ealing and that was about it. So I stuck with the cutting rooms because I was still learning the trade although I never got out and into becoming a DP. My son's a camera operator so he went out on the route I wanted to go (laughs)! (Insert: Ealing Studios in the 1930s)

V5: I'd read you were a fan of John Ford. Did any of his films influence your own career?
KC: Yes. When I started up in Soho in London you could see films at specialist cinemas and the British Film Institute and so on. You could see films by John Huston, John Ford, French and Italian directors as well. To me he was one of the greats; John Huston as well.

V5: You did many movies with producer John Dark. How did that relationship come about?
KC: I'd edited quite a few big films in London for Richard Attenborough and I'd gotten a bit twitchy and wanted to do a bit more beyond being an editor; not to be a director but to be a producer, so I looked to buying short horror stories by R. Chetwynd-Hayes. Getting into the movies by way of the horror genre is one of the easiest ways to do it. So I bought an option on twelve short stories to make a TV series out of them. I shopped them around, couldn't get anywhere, and then my agent managed to get them in front of Milton Subotsky at Amicus. They'd just gotten a three-picture deal at Warner Brothers and AIP and John Dark was the producer overseeing those three films. 
Continued: Johnny Dark and myself got on like a house on fire; so when LAND came along, I got offered it by Milton and John so I took it and off we go. We made something like five or six films in the late 1970s, and in 1980 I thought I'd have a go at Hollywood. We were still making low budget movies and I wanted to move up to bigger films. So there was Hollywood, like Mount Everest. You gotta go for it. If you fail, you fail; but at least you had a go at it. I got lucky with projects and I've been at it for 40-odd years. (Insert: Producer John Dark with Oliver Tobias while filming ARABIAN ADVENTURE)

V5: When you were hired on to direct FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE, what was the atmosphere like at Amicus? Particularly the relationship between Rosenberg and Subotsky.
KC: You know, I didn't have a clue about any issues between the two of them, to be honest. Milton was very creative. He was the filmmaker while Max was the moneyman in New York and that was what he did. I was not aware, certainly not in the beginning, that there were problems between them. It was really sad that they split because it was Milton who gave me my break  He loved making films. Their split and ending Amicus was probably one reason I decided to head to America. (Insert: Max J. Rosenberg and Milton Subotsky in 1967)

V5: Can you talk about Peter Cushing? I understand be built a train set for your son. Just a remarkable man and actor.
KC: Peter was such a gentleman. He was the English Gentleman, personified. He was in my first film, FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE (1974), a really wonderful guy to work with. It's my first movie and here's Cushing, who's worked with Orson Welles. He treated me very well with great respect and added a great deal to the film with his quips and lines he came up with; his props and other stuff... anyway, we got on very well and towards the end of filming he came up to me and said, "I've a present for you, dear boy". He handed me this box and inside was this model railway station he'd made for my son. That was one of the charming things that Peter did, but he was truly an English Gentleman in every sense of the word.

V5: You've said your favorite story in the picture was the one with Donald Pleasence and his sister. How did he compare with Cushing and Lee?
KC: It was an omnibus film with Milton writing the Peter Cushing linking story. When we were filming, the British film industry was in the doldrums and all these wonderful actors were available like David Warner and Donald Pleasence. The casting person suggested Donald and his daughter and I was gobsmacked; the level of actors I had were really superb. It helped with being a first-time director that none of them were difficult. They gave their all and I learned so much from this experience. Angela Pleasence has those same piercing blue eyes as her father and the two of them together looked really creepy in the movie. Donald was a real pro, always on time... I did two more films with him afterward. 
Continued: I had Lesley Anne Down, Ian Ogilvy... they were all an absolute delight. I was so lucky to have that caliber of actor my first time out. Also the technicians like the great Alan Hume, who did a lot of the Bond films; and Maurice Carter, a great production designer. It was the times, you know... that you could get those people. They were short stories, too. You only needed them for like five days for each segment, so it was affordable. (Insert: Ian Ogilvy and Lesley Anne Down in FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE)
V5: You worked with him and Peter Cushing again on TRIAL BY COMBAT (1976), a film that is hard to find at the moment. What do you recall about this one?
KC: Yes, another one with a terrific cast also with Johnny Mills and David Birney. That came from Warner Brothers as well. In America it was called DIRTY KNIGHT'S WORK. That was made in and around London for two American producers, Paul Heller and Fred Weintraub. Alan Hume was my DP again. When you have a photographer of that caliber you stick with him because you learn so much. Having been an editor for a long time and working alongside directors like Attenborough, you learn a great deal; so I'd been extremely lucky learning from so much talent.
V5: Was it a pleasant working relationship with these two American producers? 

KC: Paul was the one on the set most of the time; Fred came and went. They were great, they left me alone to do the film. I may have gotten a few nudges to shoot faster, but by and large they didn't interfere with anything once we got the script. They didn't insist on more closeups or similar stuff you get with some producers. Again, I was very lucky to have good producers to give me the people I wanted and let me realize my vision.

V5: Did you ever see Pleasence again after he did HALLOWEEN (1978)?
KC: He did the MASTER OF THE GAME mini-series for me in 1984. I was in Rome doing something and I did meet him in a hotel bar coincidentally and we had a nice long chat. His daughter's been in touch. Unfortunately, her career didn't take off as much as it should have. She was a really fine actress. I think he had five daughters and she was the only actress out of them all. He was doing very well after HALLOWEEN, and quite rightly. (Insert: Pleasence on a break while making MASTER OF THE GAME in Africa)

V5: THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT (1975) was a significantly bigger movie. Were you nervous at all about taking on such a huge production?
KC: Not really. You always have butterflies in the stomach on your first day till you get the first shot in the can. Also, it was the same crew with Alan Hume, Maurice Carter, and the sound people, the AD and production manager, and the rest of it. We were all part of a group so it wasn't like it was an all new crew. We planned it all well in advance. And coming from the cutting rooms was a great asset when you're planning and making a movie; also being aware of things happening on the set that you didn't plan on once you get the actors there and so on. You can change things, you've got to be pliable to jump this way or that way; when you spot things happening you can throw in another line while taking one out to fine tune it. I was fairly confident. You're always a bit nervous because you're responsible for a certain amount of money but I felt very comfortable with all the people around me like John Dark who gave me full support. There was a lot of pre-filming of the dinosaurs on front-projection plates, storyboards and things. 

V5: I read that Rosenberg wanted Stuart Whitman  while Subotsky wanted McClure. Do you think that was where the division between the two men began or do you think it was much earlier?
KC: I'm not sure. I wasn't even aware Stuart Whitman was involved till I read about it. I didn't even think I was going to get Doug McClure. I thought it was another guy from an American western series. He was always dressed in black. Richard Boone, I believe it was. I didn't realize it was going to be Trampas till I met him up in London. Doug was fantastic. We became great friends over the years and he married our secretary at Pinewood. Doug taught me a lot about American-style action--how to throw punches and so on. He always knew where the camera was and it was always very interesting just watching him work.
V5: Derek Meddings did fantastic miniatures on this. Was it a smooth process working with the effects artists to get the right look you wanted? 

KC: There again, Derek Meddings was one of the greatest visual effects men. He was so clever. Early in the film he made such a simple shot look expensive. John McEnery is looking through the periscope and you see a boat off in the distance. All that is is a photograph blown up to like six feet long and pasted on a board at the edge of a tank. He's got a bit of smoke coming out behind the smokestack and it cost about $10 to do. It's that kind of ingenuity that's real filmmaking to me. Derek came up with such simple solutions. There was this model boat in this glass case located in the forecourt of Shepperton Studios. Derek took it out, snapped a shot of it, and $10 to get the shot in the film. An amazing talent. He left us far too early.

V5: Can you describe seeing LAND on that Saturday morning premiere with a theater full of kids?
KC: Actually, I wasn't at the premiere. John Dark, Milton and Max held it at Leicester Square where a lot of films had their debuts. I was away working on another picture and couldn't make it. I heard afterward that they didn't invite any critics; it's not a critics-type movie, anyway, but they invited loads of school kids. They thoroughly enjoyed it and that enabled us to continue with those stories like 'At the Earth's Core' and 'The People That Time Forgot'. The Burroughs estate was so pleased with the production, the look and value that we got for what it cost they granted us permission for the next two. We were then gonna do the 'John Carter' series. By then, they wanted too much money for the rights so we decided to write our own, those being WARLORDS OF ATLANTIS and ARABIAN ADVENTURE.
V5: For AT THE EARTH'S CORE (1976), you were working inside a studio with lots of fire. Did you find working on so many interiors to be problematic versus exterior shooting?
KC: Well, it's slower because of the lighting, among other things. It's more convenient because you're on a studio set and the actors have places to change and stay in when they're not needed. Going on location is always more fun but when you're at a big studio like Pinewood there's these huge sets to work on. We had Maurice Carter again who experimented with the monsters on that one. We created them so we could put stuntmen inside the suits to make them move more smoothly. There are things about being inside a studio that you have access to that you don't have when on location. I can't recall the budget on CORE, probably $300,000. We had a lot of fire in that; we did have some small explosions on the set. We had those bubbling eggs blowing up in the bottom of the cauldron that covered the sound-stage floors in this goo. Working in the studio there's a magic to that when you're making a movie. For me, it's the best job in the world.

V5: Both Doug McClure and Cushing worked wonderfully together. I take it they had great fun on set.
KC: They got along very well, indeed (laughs). They loved working together. Doug knew who Peter was, although I don't think Peter knew who Doug was at the time because I don't believe Peter watched much television. Peter was a great comic actor as well. He created that whole character; very witty and there was never any friction. I've been very lucky on my movies in trying to create an atmosphere where friction never arises.
V5: How did Caroline Munro become involved? 
KC: A delightful actress. She'd done some of the same genre and a lovely person to boot. When she wasn't filming she'd sit on the side while sets were being lit or angles being changed. She's dressed in her revealing costume and suddenly electricians and carpenters get very busy where she was and would always pass by her to take a look (laughs), so I always had a chuckle at that. She was always ready to get in front of the camera and a lot of fun to be around.
V5: Do you recall how far along you were into filming THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT when AIP took control of the picture?
KC: I hadn't been made aware of a change, to be honest. I tried not to involve myself in anything to do with politics or money with the behind the scenes stuff because it's disruptive. It was sad when Amicus ended because they were a good force in that genre with some good movies and they did well with them; FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE and especially LAND got good notices... so a great shame that all collapsed.
V5: There was a helicopter crash in Lake Avon a day into filming involving aerial cameraman Peter Allwork. Do you recall that incident?

KC: Yes, Peter was one of the great aerial cameramen. He did gorgeous flying scenes in OUT OF AFRICA (1985). PEOPLE may have been where I first met him. They went up to Scotland to shoot footage of swooping over lochs and mountains. They'd went up again and the helicopter crashed into one of the lochs, which was frozen over. Fortunately, the ice didn't break for the helicopter to go through. Peter comes out and has blood running down his face and he reaches around to shut the camera off to try and save the film. Nobody was badly hurt but the ice could've easily given way and nobody would've found them for days because it was snowing and freezing cold. (Insert: Peter Allwork with Clint Eastwood)
V5: You were at Pinewood for PEOPLE. How did it compare to working at Shepperton?
KC: They were both pretty big studios. I got my first job in the cutting rooms up in Soho. Then after 18 months I got my first job on a movie at Shepperton which was probably going bankrupt at the time. That was 1953. It was quite a small industry in those days. Then I got a job at Pinewood. Shepperton was more independent movies, a four wall studio. Pinewood was in business with the Rank Organization that turned out probably 10-15 movies a year, the Bond films and so on. Pinewood had a wonderful restaurant and bar and you could meet other actors and directors, so it was a great community feeling. (Insert: Pinewood Studios in 1961)
Continued: Shepperton was a smaller studio and didn't have that sort of set-up that Pinewood did. I'm very fond of Shepperton and Pinewood because that's where I grew up in; that atmosphere was absolute magic. Pinewood was a big country house with wonderful gardens. The restaurant was in the ballroom of the house and was such a wonderful place to be working in. (Shepperton Studios in the 1960s)

V5: According to Sarah Douglas, she, Doug and Dana cut up a lot on the set. Apparently everywhere Doug McClure went he was asked for autographs.

KC: (laughs) Any cutting up on-set I encouraged it. Once the clapperboard goes in, boom, and they're on. Both ladies were a couple of fun girls, that's for sure, and first-class actors. We filmed on an island in the Canaries. We had a great time there. The locals were welcoming to us and we met the mayor. We were a happy bunch. Everybody knew Doug; not so much Patrick. Doug had been on TV for years. THE VIRGINIAN had been shown everywhere in the world. He was always being mobbed for autographs and things. 

V5: How was it working with Patrick Wayne in comparison to McClure whom you'd already worked with multiple times?

KC: Patrick was very good. I'm sure his father had taught him a few things. He was a very serious actor and took what he was doing seriously; very charming, as you can imagine. There were no sides to him, like "I'm John Wayne's son" or any demands about things. He photographed extremely well; a very handsome man and a perfect Edgar Rice Burroughs hero.

V5: What can you say about Milton Reid and Dave Prowse, who had just played Darth Vader the first time for the then unreleased STAR WARS?
KC: I didn't get to know them very well as they only worked on the film for a couple of days. Milton had a magnificent presence and look for the role of Sabbala. Milton was in ARABIAN ADVENTURE for me playing the genie a few years later. Dave got especially busy after PEOPLE once STAR WARS came out. Sometimes you don't get to know your actors beyond the set when they're only with you for a day or two; there just isn't time.

V5: The last 15 minutes is virtually non-stop explosions. Was it difficult to coordinate so many explosions going off so close to the actors?
KC: Derek Meddings son Mark was just getting started and he worked uncredited on PEOPLE and he was brilliant right from the beginning. We used long lenses that made the actors look closer to the pyrotechnics than they actually were. We had three or four cameras too so we could get different angles. We had some of the best people in the industry working with us and it paid off in the end.
V5: Did Dana Gillespie ever have a wardrobe malfunction during the filming? She's running so hard at the end while everything is blowing up.
KC: (laughs) If she did, she didn't care. We never caught it on film, nor could we let that slip through; so if she did, she fixed it while on the movie, shall we say (laughs). She couldn't have been very comfortable in that outfit but Dana was a trooper and threw herself into her role, and a wonderful person on top of that. I've had that question asked quite a few times by interviewers (laughs).

V5: Do you recall how WARLORDS OF ATLANTIS (1978) came about over at EMI and Columbia Pictures?
KC: That was when we decided not to make any more Burroughs adaptations and turned to creating our own. We got the money from EMI as we knew a few of the executives there for several years. This was the time of the great exodus from the UK. Even EMI moved to Beverly Hills and opened offices there to make films. Milton Subotsky had nothing to do with WARLORDS or our films from thereon. I would like to know what the beef was between them, but as I said earlier it was a shame.

V5: How did you get Roger Dicken back and why did he not participate on the previous two films?
KC: Roger was a fantastic modeler. I don't know why we didn't use him on the middle two pictures. He was very dedicated to his job and extremely proud of his work. His dinosaurs in LAND were just puppets. You had three or four people operating each one. The sea creatures were just hand puppets; all very creative and good fun. We shot those plates on a very small Vistavision camera. It only took 200ft rolls and it was on its side. Vistavision is double image. When you project it you get phenomenal focusing, and that's why we used that for the front-projection plates. The foreground and the background focus was pretty good; whereas sometimes when the plate was blown up it would get grainy. This was another innovation that came from the camera department. 

V5: How was Lea Brodie to work with? She didn’t do much afterward.
KC: It was a shame she didn't go further in he career. She was a good little actress, very pretty and filmed very well. She did a few films afterward but I don't know what became of her. I lost touch with her once I came to America.

V5: You used John Ratzenberger a few times. How did you meet him and Shane Rimmer, whom you also used multiple times?
KC: I like having a repertory company, like the studios do, you know. You can use them over and over again. With John, he came in for an audition. He was in England and was about to go back to America. Soon as he walked through the door I knew he was the guy I wanted for the role in WARLORDS. A lot of the time when you're casting that happens; there's something about them, and you get lucky because you've spotted them straight away. John auditioned and proved he was right for the part. I used him a few times in England and then again in America on MOTEL HELL (1980), a couple of other things I did after that; and then of course he took off on the TV series CHEERS (1982-1993).

Continued: As for Shane Rimmer, again, a wonderful actor who became a great personal friend in England. We drifted apart, sadly. Shane was a first-class character actor. He was a guy who came to work ready and prepared, was open to ideas and offered ideas. Both were great in their field and John is still a good friend of mine.
V5: ARABIAN ADVENTURE (1979) was very different from your previous fantasy films with John Dark. Was there a reason there was no Doug McClure nor any monsters this time around?
KC: We wanted to try different genres. In fact, somebody was making a similar picture at Shepperton at the same time with flying carpets. Doing something in the vein of the Arabian Nights was just a different way to go. We'd perfected the way to operate the flying carpets to have people safely sitting on them. Doug was a few years older and wasn't a young dashing hero that we needed for the role. That one was a lot of fun too, with Christopher Lee and Mickey Rooney.
V5: Christopher Lee always seemed so passionate and very serious about his craft. And you had Cushing again as well.

KC: Unfortunately, we never got to use them in a scene together, which was a shame. I'd have loved to have had the opportunity to direct the two of them together; it was a big mistake that we didn't. It wasn't a very big scene for Peter, but he came in and did it for us. Christopher and I socialized quite a bit and had some nice dinners, and again when he came here in the 80s as well. He did the mini-series GOLIATH AWAITS (1981) for me. 
Continued: But yes, Christopher's a very serious actor, spoke several different languages. During the war he was one of the guys who interrogated the Nazis captured while trying to escape from Europe. Christopher had just an extraordinary background, knowledgeable about Cricket and other sports and stuff. He was always very entertaining... but again, word perfect, always on time on the set, you never had to wait for him. I have nothing but the fondest memories of all the actors and technicians I've worked with over the years.
V5: You had an incredible knack for making highly entertaining adventure films with limited means that would later become wildly popular with RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981). As an editor and then a director, what was your approach to making this kind of movie?
KC: I think it's a generational thing. Back then you found ways to create what you needed without it costing a fortune. I refer back to Maurice Carter and Alan Hume, the construction crew and the special effects people, the modelers and so on, that's what they did and how they approached their work. Say for example you only have $4,000 to do this particular effects shot. That's what you had to work with within that budget; the same for the number of extras you can use in a scene. And so when you get into these big films costing $150 million dollars they just throw money at you. You can put in the CGI and green-screen that's all made after the film is finished. But when you have limited money you can actually make things look good while doing it cheap. You can use certain angles to make things look bigger than it really is. It's how we made films in the old days and I guess we came at the end of that period, if you like; before Spielberg and JURASSIC PARK (1993) and those wonderful CGI effects his crew created for the dinosaurs. (Insert: Alan Hume)
Continued: If only I had that kind of money when I made THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT. Some of the effects look a bit creaky like the visible wires holding up the Pterodactyls because we didn't have the technology to take them out. But at that time, that's how those people made those films, as cheaply and as effectively as possible. Like when I explained the Derek Meddings scene with the boat. It's really satisfying in the ingenuity of how it was accomplished. It was so cheap yet so effective. The people I was working with, a lot of them were working in the industry before the second world war; so they'd been brought up on how to do things in this fashion. Back then, that's how you made films work. I got the leftovers of it, if you like; it being towards the end of that period. 
V5: By 1980 you're in America to direct MOTEL HELL (1980). Having done so many films in Europe, was there any challenges for you in approaching a distinctly American-style picture?
KC: Not really. Making films in the US or Japan, just the language is different. Indeed the language was different when making the film; Americanisms versus English things was all. For example, the trunk of a car instead of the boot of a car. When I talked about the macadam on the road the American word for the surface of the road was asphalt; or when I mentioned using a lorry people said, "What's a lorry?" which is a truck. So it was things like that. Everything else was the same. I was very welcomed by everyone; there was never anything like, "Well here comes this bloody brit takin' all our jobs" (laughs). Some of the technicians on the film had seen LAND THAT TIME FORGOT so that was refreshing. But I was very well embraced, I must say. Once I got to America it took me about three months to get a job directing a movie and MOTEL HELL fell in my lap. I wasn't particularly a horror film director, just the first film I did was a horror picture because it was an easier way to move up the ladder.
V5: Did Rory Calhoun feel comfortable doing a horror movie? He'd been primarily an actor of westerns for so many years.
KC: By the time Rory did MOTEL HELL he was 70 something, I think; he was married and had a 12 year old daughter who visited the set a lot, he was very calm. I had seen these pictures of him from the past having been arrested and he was a bit of a brawler in those days; as well as a very handsome guy, as you know. He was a bit of a handful, shall we say, in his youth (laughs). By the time I got to him he was a very happy guy. He absolutely nailed the part. He and Nancy Parsons together, they were the perfect pair. They knew how to play it without making it hokey, just acting out how these people lived their lives. 

V5: Do you have any memories of Wolfman Jack?
KC: I'd literally only just met him the day he was going to shoot. Normally I like to meet the actors beforehand. You don't audition someone like Rory or Nancy Parsons because they're great actors. So I met Wolfman Jack on the day he arrived on the set. It was a one-day shoot out here in Moorpark. But again, he was very delightful and focused. The producer explained to me who he was; being from England, I had no idea till I got here. He took direction very well and even added to it. Despite his wild look he was very calm and nothing crazy about him whatsoever. We shot a scene in a church that got cut out. It was one of those things that I didn't think had much to do with the film. I think it was a last-minute addition and wasn't thought out. He really wanted to do a lot more with the part but it was just a cameo appearance, basically.
V5: Had the studio went with a straight horror, slasher-style movie would you have stayed on as director? 

KC: Probably. MOTEL HELL was a break for me into the American market. In the script I think there was more slashing and things but I didn't think that was correct for the tone of the film because it would take you out of the banality of the way they lived their lives. And also, it's more effective if you don't see a lot of gore. You see a knife going to a throat and you cut away to birds flying or something; to me that's far more interesting than seeing blood and gore, and there's enough of that already. I've got a potential horror film I may or may not be doing. It's got some brutal stuff in it like a rape scene. I'm hoping I can talk them out of depicting the rape without having to show it. So we'll see about that.
V5: THE HOUSE WHERE EVIL DWELLS (1982) had been in development since 1978. How did you and Doug McClure end up working together again on this one?
KC: Doug was friends with the producer, Martin B. Cohen. He set up the meeting with me. I think Doug may have already been cast and they just needed a director and he suggested me. When I came to America I got linked up with Doug again and his wife Diane. She had been our secretary for five years so we were all good friends; so I think that's how that came about.
V5: There seems to have been some issues behind the scenes filming at Toei in Japan. What was that like working with the Japanese?
KC: That was different working in Japan; the culture, but not so much the technical side of things. The camera, lenses, laying track down for dollies, the lighting, gaffers, electricians, it was all very much the same; but the culture of the Japanese was they were extremely polite, they would bow, and things like that. We had an interpreter who was a woman... but the Japanese technicians didn't like that they had to speak to her first to ask me a question. So they would look at me and ask the question. Those sort of things to a westerner you find to be off-putting and you have to get used to it. Then the stage had to be blessed by a priest. He went round every corner of the stage blessing it to keep the evil spirits away while we were filming. So that was an interesting aspect of filming in Japan. The Japanese actors spoke English and you could communicate with them easily. Kyoto is a beautiful city, just a stunning city, I must say. We had the lovely Susan George in it as well. It got cut up a bit by the studio at the end. It's not one of my favorite films. It was re-cut, shall we say. 
V5: It plays like an old Japanese ghost story film in the spirit of GHOST OF YOTSUYA (1959) but with a lot of nudity and brutal violence at the beginning and ending. What is your opinion of this unusual film?
KC: It's certainly violent... and me talking about not wanting to show violence with that opening with heads flying through the air and the nudity (laughs). It was difficult because the Japanese actress didn't want to do the nudity. It took a little persuasion. Then the love scene with Edward Albert and Susan was added by the producer. One morning he says, "We want a love scene. Tell the actress we're gonna do a naked love scene".  I said, "Oh yeah, you better tell her yourself" . For one thing, it wasn't in the script, and it needed to be cleared with her first. She agreed to do it, but she was going to wear white knickers. The producers were pulling a fast one since it wasn't planned in advance otherwise the actors may not have taken the job. It was very bad form. It ended up working out very well with a series of dissolves. As for the film itself, I enjoyed making it, I just didn't like the way they went back and re-cut it after I'd submitted my preferred cut. I was happy with it, then they went to town and chopped it up. It didn't do very well theatrically. 
Continued: Shooting the ghosts was interesting, though; that was all done in-camera, using reflective glass placed in front of the camera--super-imposing images as you shoot. We didn't have to wait for dallies, or set up a plate, or greenscreen, it was done as we were filming on a black stage on another level of the house; and we would put them behind the actors in the foreground. So that was interesting. We got quite speedy at doing that so it was a learning curve.  
V5: When you came to America, did you ever see Milton Subotsky again? 

KC: No, he remained in England. He did make a couple more films on his own--one of them, THE MONSTER CLUB (1981), funnily enough, using short stories by the writer I'd optioned stories from, R. Chetwynd-Hayes. It didn't do very well, unfortunately for Milton. He was a very cultured man, but I never got to see him again. (Insert: R. Chetwynd-Hayes with books featuring his horror and Fantasy stories)
V5: One of your early jobs in television was on the short-lived series WIZARDS AND WARRIORS (1983). Do you recall anything about that show?
KC: I was very friendly with Duncan Regehr, the main villain of it. He suggested me to the producers that I direct one and I ended up doing two of them. I'd directed Duncan prior to that in the mini-series GOLIATH AWAITS (1981). He kind of rose to fame after that and did very well. Around that time I was entering into the world of HART TO HART, HOTEL and REMINGTON STEELE. You only had about seven days to shoot those but it was fun. (Top: Television premiere ad for WIZARDS AND WARRIORS for which Mr. Connor did the last two episodes; Insert: Duncan Regehr chokes Mark Harmon in GOLIATH AWAITS)
V5: NORTH AND SOUTH BOOK II (1986) was a big mini-series in the 80s. How did this major project come your way?
KC: I was very lucky again. In this business, luck is a big part of your success. I had a manager who was recommended to me once I came to America. Usually you have agents instead of managers, but I looked him up and made an appointment with him and we became very good friends; and his wife was head of Warner Brothers Television. She got me an interview with the producer of NORTH AND SOUTH. She was quite instrumental in getting my name out there in the television medium. I had done an episode of REMINGTON STEELE that had done very well and the producer had seen it; so I had a double introduction and that's how that job came about. A stroke of luck again (laughs). They liked me, I got the job, and off we go. 
V5: What was your experience with Patrick Swayze?
KC: He had an incredible energy on the set. He'd already done the first series which was a big success; and BOOK II was being shot while it was still airing. Patrick was superb at doing action, horse riding, and an accomplished dancer, as you know. He was also a party boy. He liked his parties till the early hours of the morning. But he always turned up on time ready to work and was an absolute pleasure to direct. Sadly, I didn't get to know him after we worked on this project. Filming finishes and you go off to do something else and lose contact. He shot to fame very quickly after that.
V5: THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (1987) was another good production and an unusual concept. Was it a good experience for you?
KC: Ah yes, we had the young Mark Meddings, Derek Meddings son, working on that. But I'd gotten a new production designer and we made that in England. It was a good script and a wonderful British actor in Michael Pennington. He was a stage actor and director. I don't think he did many films after that but stuck with working on the stage. When you get a good script, life becomes a lot easier because the blueprint is so good. That was an innovative approach to the story having Holmes de-frozen in modern times.
V5: What would you say are the strengths and weaknesses between the two mediums of feature films and television?
KC: Time and speed. With a feature-film you have more time to work with. You do three of four pages a day on a film while on TV it can be six to seven. Depending on how much the production costs, you have time to do multiple takes on a movie, but on television, you gotta move fast and you gotta have people who know their lines and where the camera is. You have to apply yourself. On something like an episode of HART TO HART you have seven days prep, seven days to shoot, and seven days to get your cut; and that's it. (Insert: TV Guide ad for a March 23rd, 1983 episode of REMINGTON STEELE, of which Mr. Connor helmed two shows--one airing in September of 1983 and the other in February of 1984)
V5: Out of everything you've done, is there a project you are dissatisfied with; and which of your works are you most proud of and why? 

KC: THE HOUSE WHERE EVIL DWELLS (1982) is not my favorite by any means. I'm extremely fond of THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT (1975). It was a feature-film and we had a bit more money to make it; and we made it within the time and money allotted. I enjoyed GREAT EXPECTATIONS (1989)... I would put MASTER OF THE GAME (1984) at the top of my mini-series work. Something I'm proud of is a film I did with Brian Dennehy called THE LION OF AFRICA (1987). It was a Made For Cable film for HBO. I'm very proud of that one. But, you know, you always approach those as if you're doing a feature-film. You never say, "Oh, it's a TV film, I'm going to put less energy into it". You still want to get the right vision, you just have to come up with it quicker. (Top: Brian Dennehy and Brooke Adams in THE LION OF AFRICA; Insert: Kevin Connor [middle] in Africa filming MASTER OF THE GAME)
V5: You've done so much in the television medium, would you have preferred to have stayed in the feature-film realm?

KC: Yes, I would. I got sidetracked when I came to America and started doing these big miniseries like NORTH AND SOUTH BOOK II. You get a reputation for doing them; and you go all over the world making them. I've had a fantastic career with things like FRANKENSTEIN (2004), a miniseries that turned out very well, and BLACKBEARD THE PIRATE (2006). The Edgar Rice Burroughs things were slightly looked down upon because they were low budget; while these great JURASSIC PARK type films took over, if you will. But again, you just do what comes your way. (Top: Kevin Connor filming the FRANKENSTEIN mini-series; insert: TV Guide advertisement for the March 3rd, 1985 debut of MOONLIGHTING, of which Mr. Connor directed one episode, 'Next Stop: Murder' that aired March 26th, 1985)
Continued: I did develop a lot of films and bought options and adapted others for the screen but I never managed to get the ones I wanted to do by getting anyone interested in them; but that's the way it is. So you've got to keep working; you've gotta stay in the game. In my case, I continued to get more TV work because being an editor you're very adept and quite quicker at getting the film completed. You know, "I've got this line here, that line there, okay, I'm covered... let's move on", and so forth. I tended to be offered TV productions more than feature-films, unfortunately, but that's the way it turned out. But I'm still cracking away, and trying to get stuff off the ground with the films I want to make; as opposed to taking what comes along. For the past few years I've done quite a few Hallmark Christmas movies; which are good fun but not very challenging, I'm afraid. They are what they are. (Insert: Kevin Connor directing Stacy Keach and Stephanie Dunnam in the 1984 TV mini-series, MISTRAL'S DAUGHTER also starring Stefanie Powers, Lee Remick, Timothy Dalton, Robert Urich, Joanna Lumley, and Shane Rimmer)

V5: Hallmark must've done well with them for you to do so many of their Christmas pictures.

KC: I've done eight of them, I think. They still come up with all these different titles and plots for more Christmas movies but it's always the same plot, basically, but with different actors. They're a pleasure to make and a lot of fun, though. Again, you're behind the camera surrounded by professionals. It's a good place to be whatever the subject matter. Sometimes a script is better than others, but you do your best with them.
V5: To close things out, and from myself, one of your biggest fans, what would you like to say to the many others that love your work?
KC: I appreciate that, thank you. It's nice to know. I'm just amazed at how many letters and requests I get... the attachment to some of the films I've made--especially the early ones--not so much the TV ones. It's always MOTEL HELL or the Edgar Rice Burroughs films because the fans saw them when they were little; or took their girlfriend to see MOTEL HELL or something like that. It's really touching and I really appreciate it because you don't get much in the way of feedback until years and years later till these things become cult films. It's easier now to reach actors and filmmakers so I'm deeply moved whenever I get messages and letters from fans, I must say. (Top: Kevin Connor with Lea Brodie and Doug McClure filming WARLORDS OF ATLANTIS; insert: the infamous Chainsaw Pig of MOTEL HELL)
If you'd like to read another interview with Mr. Connor, this one HERE is a fantastic discussion with him that goes into detail in other areas, and about other films he made.
I'd like to once more thank Mr. Connor for taking the time to discuss his career; and wish him continued success on all his future endeavors.

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