5. jun. 2014

Horror-Unrated Retrospekt #6: Høj cigarføring & syg sadisme! Et interview med David Hess.

Efter 4 år har vi valgt at lukke og slukke for Horror Unrated. Med tiden fik vi hevet en hel del spændende og dybdegående interviews i hus, fra de store kendte horror stjerner til ukendte independent filmskabere. Personligt er jeg meget stolt over den række af interviews vi endte med at få på Horror Unrated, og enkelte står stadig som nogle helt unikke. Bl.a. interviewene med instruktøren af 'Don't Go in the Woods', James Bryan og David Winters - manden bag 'The Last Horror Film', som begge velvilligt satte sig til at scanne gamle billeder filmpris-certifikater ind til os som vi kunne bruge i artiklen. Og danske Heini Grünbaum som i 1999 lavede 'Flænset', gav sig rigtig god tid til virkelig at gå i dybden med sine svar. Den dag i dag er det så vidt vi ved, stadig det eneste interview der findes med ham på internettet.
Af forskellige årsager valgte vi at lukke for Horror Unrated d. 12. november 2013, og da undertegnede tidligere har været skribent for denne fantastiske blog, Sørensen Exploitation Cinema Proudly presents, valgte jeg og bloggens ejer at flytte de mange interviews over på bloggen så de kunne få nyt liv, og forhåbentlig blive læst og nydt af nye læsere. Skrevet af Claus Reinhold.

HORROR UNRATED: You’re an accomplished and recognized songwriter. So what made you start acting?

David Hess: I was always an actor, just didn’t think to do it professionally. But when I got to New York, I studied with Stella Adler and joined the actors playhouse. The rest just happened.

HORROR UNRATED: Your latest album, Caught Up in the Moment is the first solo album from you in many years. Do you see yourself returning more to songwriting? And are you currently working on any new material?

David Hess: Not really because I never left. I’ve always composed and played. Music is my essence and one doesn’t forget. I’m working on a new album presently.

HORROR UNRATED: Your first real role in a feature film was in Wes Craven’s legendary Last House on the Left (1972) where you play the notorious Krug Stillo. How did you end up in the film?

David Hess: Well, Martin Kove, who is also in the film, was living with my sister at the time and he sent me up on the role. I had wanted to do a film in any case, so it was a natural.

HORROR UNRATED: The film had many working titles - for instance Krug & Co., Night of Vengeance, Grim Company and Sex Crime of the Century. When you received the screenplay, what title did it have? And did you prefer any of the other titles as opposed to the final and more obscure title The Last House on the Left?

David Hess: Sex Crime of the Century maybe... I don't know and didn’t much care back then either. I did my job as an actor and went back to my songwriting career. But I thought the film was special.

HORROR UNRATED: The Last House on the Left is a very brutal film. Did you also see it that way back then? And if so, did you have any concerns about the sadistic nature of the film?

David Hess: Yes I did see it as brutal, but I didn’t have any concerns about it really. I thought the role was pretty extraordinary and being a Rugby player, it wasn’t hard for me to tap into my violent side.

HORROR UNRATED: How was it working with Wes Craven, given that this was his first feature film?

David Hess: I was great. We were all first timers so we invented as we went along. The benefit was that "ignorance is bliss".

HORROR UNRATED: Working on the film, did you work strictly from the script or did you use improvisation?

David Hess: No, actually we mostly improvised. The screenplay was meant to be this graphically violent porno and none of us would have that. So we improvised and as I said before; invented along the way.

HORROR UNRATED: Did you have any influence on the character of Krug and were you allowed to put stuff in of your own?

David Hess: I held on to the role for a bit, but I was never Krug. I mostly did my own thing and was pretty much given freedom to do what I felt.

HORROR UNRATED: Do you remember how long it took to shoot The Last House on the Left?

David Hess: Yes, I think it was about five weeks - more or less.

HORROR UNRATED: How did you and the rest of the actors work with Craven – how did he direct? And was it all planned from Craven’s side or did you all just go with the flow?

David Hess: Wes was feeling his own way, so we were pretty much allowed to direct ourselves. He had some input, but not all that much actually.

HORROR UNRATED: Tell me all about the production.

David Hess: The shoot took about five weeks more or less and the days were long and hard.  As I said before, everyone on the set pretty much go along. But I’m not going to get into set stories or anything like that, as I don’t think that’s anyone’s affair, haha.

HORROR UNRATED: Damn it haha. So did working with the scenes of torture and rape cause any tension on the set, and how was it for you to act out such extremities?

David Hess: Yes, there was quite some tension during the violence. I mean, what would you expect? It’s not natural to behave that way, but everyone got through it and it played out really well.

HORROR UNRATED: I guess for some people it's natural, but that's a whole other talk. You also wrote and preformed the music for the film. How did that come about, and was this the plan from the start?

David Hess: Yes, from the beginning I was contracted to do both. Wes was very much a music person and he knew about my track record. I wrote the themes while being on the set and according to the way I perceived the actors and the characters.

HORROR UNRATED: I have always loved the contrast of the wild visuals, with the mellow feel of your songs. Was that the intention from the start or a work in progress?

David Hess: No, it was exactly my intention from the start. You know, I really felt that counter pointing the music to the visual side was something that I had always wanted to experiment with so this was a great opportunity for me.

HORROR UNRATED: Looking back, what was the worst and the best experience for you on The Last House on the Left?

David Hess: Actually I'll just say that the worst was the ensemble not getting the credit from the production. We made the film and they took all the credit. I can forgive them at this point, but I don’t have to accept it.

HORROR UNRATED: How do you feel about the film today? And is there anything you would have done different as an actor?

David Hess: I think the film holds up just fine to this day and no, I don’t think I’d change anything.

HORROR UNRATED: Do you have any contact with Wes Craven today or any of the other actors from The Last House on the Left?

David Hess: Yes, I see most of the cast on a regular basis and when Wes and I bump into one another it’s cordial.

HORROR UNRATED: So have you seen the 2009 remake of The Last House on the Left? And if so, what did you think of it?

David Hess: I have seen it and I didn’t like it at all. Seriously, I thought they should have changed the title to something else. It certainly wasn’t The Last House on the Left.

HORROR UNRATED: Couldn't agree with you more David. Moving on to the year 1978 where you played Alex in Ruggero Deodato’s The House on the Edge of the Park. Were you familiar with Deodato’s previous work and how did you end up playing the part of Alex?

David Hess: No I hadn’t seen any of Ruggero’s previous movies. But you know, I simply got a call from Italy and they offered me the role in this new Ruggero Deodato movie and that was pretty much that.

HORROR UNRATED: You character Alex shares many similarities with Krug from The Last House on the Left. Was that at all a concern for you as an actor?

David Hess: No actually it was not a concern at all. Sure I was struck by the similarity, but also of the idea that I could explore sociopath behavior from a slightly different perspective.

HORROR UNRATED: I’ve read that Ruggero Deodato can be quite a handful as a director. How did you experience working with him and how was he as a director?

David Hess: Well, I liked working with him. Actually I thought he was crazy brilliant, but then he probably felt the same about me. I mean, we’ve worked together six times.

HORROR UNRATED: Is it true that you re-wrote many of your lines?

David Hess: Yes, you see, the screenplay was translated from the original Italian script and Ruggero was not used to shooting in English, so he would let me go with what I thought was best.

HORROR UNRATED: Where did you shoot the film and how long did it take?

David Hess: We shot it in Olgata outside of Rome and it took about four weeks.

HORROR UNRATED: Can you tell about the production and how you experienced it?

David Hess: I thought them very professional. The days are always long for the lead actor as one has to be on the set continuously. Again, I won’t go into details about the shoot as I’m not into gossiping. I will say however, that we never stopped laughing and Giovanni Lombardo Radici kept us in stitches – he’s a very funny man.
HORROR UNRATED: I have read that the people behind The House on the Edge of the Park wanted you in the film so much, that they gave you half the rights to the film. Is this true?

David Hess: I have a piece of the U.S. distribution, but no, they did not give me the store.

HORROR UNRATED: Your wife is also in the film playing Alex’ first victim – how did that come about?

David Hess: Well, they needed one to play the first victim so the production asked her and since she was with me, it just worked out that way.

HORROR UNRATED: Looking back, was there any negative sides of the production of The House on the Edge of the Park?

David Hess: No not that I remember. I mean none other than the Italians always hold back a little bit of your salary to make sure you come back for the sequel, haha.

HORROR UNRATED: What do you think of the film today?

David Hess: I think it holds up very well. It’s part of the trilogy, that includes Hitchhike from 1977, and when one views them together, I think that one gets a very good idea of what sociopath behavior is about.

HORROR UNRATED: In the early 70’s a new wave of independent filmmaking emerged. The films became far more gritty, cynical and realistic and their portrayal of violence and human relationships. By the end of Summer of Love, that seemed to fade away in 1969, the new generation of filmmakers seemed very discontent with America and everything that was going on, like the assassination of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, the Kent State shooting, the Vietnam War etc. What are your views on this? Do you see these films from the early 70’s as a reaction to the state of USA at the time?

David Hess: Good question. I’m not sure one is aware of the social and political atmosphere while shooting a film, but certainly on some sub-conscious level it plays out. We wanted to make an anti-violence and anti-war film and The Last House on the Left fell into that category. Were we all angry at our freedoms being eroded? Yes. Did we feel frustrated at our voices not being heard? Yes. The result was a new depiction of violence in cinema and hence the emergence of a neo-horror movement. But then ‘art follows life follows art’, is always the case.

HORROR UNRATED: Indeed it is. Well, that’s it David – thank you very much for your time.
David Hess 1936 – 2011.

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