Tales From The Cult Film Trenches by Louis Paul (book review).

Tom Weaver in the introduction points out that his interviews only cover the actors and production people from the 1930s-1950s and sees Louis Paul’s interviews from the 1960s onwards as dealing with more up-to-date people. At the back of the book is a list of sources that printed the original interviews which will presumably longer than what is here so if anything, this could be considered the edited highlights so at least you know where to look for the originals. I think I would have preferred more interviews than credits and large intro histories but for people who aren’t familiar with all of them, you’re getting a unique archive for the years to come.


Looking through the thirty-six actors interviewed, there is a lot of cross-connections of them being in the same films which builds up different perspectives of what went on. I have a feeling that on occasions that Louis Paul was looking for some sort of verification of events to remove hearsay.

The one advantage over Weaver’s books is that there’s a good chance that you would have seen most of the films mentioned in Paul’s interviews, either at the cinema or on TV, so we can all be on the same channel from the start. Although there is a resurgence of showing earlier black and white films on TV in the UK, there’s a better chance of seeing many of these or at least getting them on DVD. The only thing that is a little disconcerting is some repetition between the introductions and the interviews which feels like a little padding so each interview has sufficient page space although surely, it wouldn’t have hurt to have a couple more photographs.

There is so much useful knowledge here. I mean, I never knew that Adrienne Barbeau started off as a singer and still does so today. The David Carradine interview is especially extensive, covering not only ‘Kung Fu’ but the ups and downs of his career. It was also nice to see an interview with Keir Dullea and is especially appreciated and if you don’t know who he, throw away your SF membership card. I should point out that the interviews don’t just cover genre films but gives a nice rounding to their careers upto 2008.

Tippi Hedren’s insight into Hitchcock and her own lion preservation with the Roar Foundation will undoubtedly get some funding from some of you reading out there which I’m sure she’d appreciate. For those who remember ‘Live And Let Die’, Gloria Hendry was the pretty black lady who posed as Mrs. Bond before her demise in the film. Neither she nor I was aware of how much that annoyed those with their prejudices and had some of the film cut in different countries. It was also interesting to see she had a career after Bond.

Actor David Hess as David Hill wrote several of Elvis Presley’s hits. Actor Ed Lauter started his career as a comedian. Christopher Lee is looking for stills from his early TV work, mostly because no one seems to have made any. I suspect also that it would have been useful for his autobiography.

A lot of the times in this book, I’m finding mentions of films that I’ve never heard of and noting to find out more about them, such as Marrie Lee’s ‘Cleopatra Wong’ films. Considering that they were mostly shown in the USA and since the release of this book, you can get them on DVD now.

Charles Napier points out that Hitchcock enjoying the film ‘Supervixens’ and got him a contract at Universal Films.

I haven’t come across Tura Satana in other than ‘The Man From UNCLE’ TV series before. The same could also be said for Fred Williamson and I’ve noted several of his films to have a look at and puzzle over why they didn’t get distribution in the UK. Thinking about it, I suspect the blockbuster phase has done that with a lot of films over the years.

One interview I was looking forward to and didn’t disappoint was with William Smith and I loved his story about him winning an arm wrestling match with Arnold Schwarzenegger which probably explains why he only ever made one film with him. His tales of the machoism that went on are, shall we say, eye-watering. The fight between him and Rod Taylor in ‘Darker Than Amber’ wasn’t play acted with both of them sustaining injuries.

Don Stroud is another actor whose had a long career, fitting in his niche as a villain. The same with Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa who points out that the actors who play the good guys in Hollywood tend to be wimps compared to those who play villains who have had more life experience. I pondered on that and when you consider they have to look villainous, this might have helped them getting the parts. Saying that, since the release of these interviews, there has been the rise of stars like Jason Stratham so things are changing.

A couple errors that should have been picked up on. With Keir Dullea’s introduction, the Monolith from ‘2001’ is white not black. With Valerie Leon’s interview, Rula Lenska became Ruta Lenska. A skip on a letter perhaps, but I’m sure British readers will wince spotting that one.

Although there isn’t as much genre material covered as we’re used to from Weaver’s books, these interviews do hit on various highlights from the actors’ careers and some insights. I’ve also marked some films, not genre, that I’ve never seen, mostly because they were never shown in the UK, to see some time down the line which is always a good sign because I’ve found an interest in these people. I do think Louis Paul could have done more with some of the questions for something more in-depth occasionally but with the bibliography, if you want to see the longer versions, at least you’ll know what to look for. With some interviews, it’s obvious he is either better prepared or more familiar with the subject but to be fair, considering the range of actors, I think even I would be pushed to have seen something from everyone.

As always, you can tell by the length of my critique that I found a lot of the information of this book useful to read and that should always speak for itself. There’s also a stack of photos from the films and what these people look like in later life. I often wonder when people go to celebrity conventions and find them not quite looking the same as in the promotional ads. The selection isn’t the usual suspects and so you’re likely to get better insights as to the films they were in than from the stars and that’s often what really matters.

GF Willmetts

April 2014

(pub: McFarland. 328 page illustrated indexed enlarged paperback. Price: £28.50 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-7864-2994-3)

check out websites: www.mcfarlandpub.com and www.eurospanbookstore.com

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