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 GIANFRANCO PAROLINI INTVW, Peplum, Joe Walker, Sergio Leone
High Plains Drifter
Posted: Mar 7 2008, 02:05 PM

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I found this interview with with Gianfranco Parolini. That's my only contribution:

I'm a different person on set.The set is my whole life.
Let's go back to the start.
I lived in a house with a leaky roof in the centre of Rome,
near the Trevi Fountain. I used to write thrillers back then. I wrote a hundred of those books that are a hundred pages long.
I didn't have any heating and in winter it was freezing, so I used to put newspapers in these big boxes to keep my feet warm while I wrote.
They were published by someone called Cantarella.

I started working with Giuseppe D'Amato, an important producer with
an office on Via Sistina. I was a director's assistant. I worked on YVONNE OF THE
NIGHT,TOMORROW IS TOO LATE and THE FLOWERS OF ST.FRANCIS with Rossellini. And lots of others.
I was an assistant on CLEOPATRA and I was disgusted by the way money was wasted. I remember Elizabeth Taylor with pleasure: those violet eyes that changed colour, even though she wasn't anything that special physically.
But above all, I was crazy about Richard Burton as an actor
He had a lot of character, he bowled me over. He was splendid !

I had a peplum foisted on me, by my employer, a man called Giuseppe Maggi.
I wasn't that convinced about it.
The producer,who was risking his money, before starting, before the script was written, said to me (It was the time of 'Herculations'): "Let's have plenty of them !"
I tried to limit that stuff as much as possible, it was ridiculous.
Even in GOLIATH AGAINST THE GIANTS, when he moves the mountain...
It's ridiculous, but it works.The public, especially the kids,love to see 'Herculations'.
GOLIATH AGAINST THE GIANTS was handed to me when poor old Malatesta, the director, lost the plot.
How can I talk about the dead like that ?
The editor, who was called Mario Sansoni, made up a rhyme that went:
"Edit Malatesta and your brain will start to fester.
Edit Parolini and the time and effort's teeny."
He could just cut off the slate and edit because I'm basically an editor, I come from the cutting room.
I worked my way up in editing and that's very important. You don't waste time and moneyand it gives you an idea of the rhythm of the film.

I do a lot of set ups. I've done up to 50 set ups a day !
That's what saves me, because otherwise... to finish you have to do a pan shot with people spouting dialogue... What a drag !
You can't create a rhythm,that's the point.

Why was poor old Malatesta fired (from GOLIATH AGAINST THE GIANTS) ?
I respected and liked him.
He'd asked the producer to build a ship for the scene in which the dragon eats the little boy. Then I stepped in,but I didn't take credit for it. I didn't want to, I wasn't the director of the film.
I shot everything with just a mast, a quarterdeck and stern, three pieces !
I joined them up by cutting.
I shot the storm in the pool at Cinecitta, with the ship capsizing and everything.
I shot it for almost nothing.
He would've needed 50 million just to build the ship.

I had the dragon made where they built the YETI, one of the last films I shot,
in Viareggio, where they make stuff for the carnival. When they made the Yeti, I went up every week to stick hairs on... So, the dragon got made in Viareggio. Then I brought it down to the pool at Cinecitta.
They didn't know how to do the storm and the ship capsizing.
I asked if they had any ramps, I just needed four. Four ramps with tip-wagons full of water and this ship,that was actually three pieces... three little pieces,it wasn't anything like a real ship !
First of all, I worked out the actors' entrances and exits, because that's what links the action. If the actor's by the mast, quarterdeck and poop to the sides, if he then goes from left to right and back, he exits in the same place. So I linked everything together and kept costs down. The storm worked very well on fllm !
We had a model ship that was about this big (space between two hands). I shot some stuff in a tank,but I can't remember exactly where. There was glass so you could shoot from underneath. This ship had lots of stuff piled on top of it. So we filmed it, we threw water over it, and at 80 frames a second you saw all this stuff go underwater. It turned out very well.
What I mean is that we had nothing... Nowadays, it's much easier with computers.
But you had to improvise back then, because expensive effects weren't possible.
You made things up in your head, you used your instincts. It was guesswork.

I finished and the producer was very pleased, because it made money too, with Brad Harris in an early role. Brad Harris hated Malatesta because he'd caused him to break a leg.When I met him, his leg was all plastered up. Malatesta made him do stuff he shouldn't have been doing. He had his leg in plaster and I said "Brad Harris ? Nice to meet you,I'm Gianfranco Parolini." (I wasn't Frank Kramer yet). From that day on we became great frlends, as close as brothers.
I helped hlm finish the film with his leg in plaster and no one noticed on screen.
So, practically... We're still friends today. Long live friendship !
He had a face that easily... took on the hieratic characteristics of the period.
He was very well suited to those kind of historical roles. With a beard he was perfect.If he had horns, he'd look like a buffalo !

Since the producer and distributor had discovered... someone who saved time,respected the budget and didn't overspend, they said: "Why not make two (movies) together ? The renters want it."
So then I made SAMSON and THE FURY OF HERCULES at the same time !
Right after these two films,I made THE OLD TESTAMENT. Jewish architecture on one side, Roman on the other ! And 79 A.D.,or THE DESTRUCTION OF HERCULANEUM. A thousand people in armour went past the camera. They took off their helmets and put on turbans... Reverse shot Jerusalem ! I used the same extras. I drink to the health of the victorand the glory of the vanquished !

Serge Gainsbourg was someone I liked very much. I was given him by the French co-producer, a certain De Nesle who owned "Le Comptoir Francais du Film Production". And he came to do the films (SAMSON and FURY OF HERCULES). He thought he was God Almighty and one day he indulged himself by lighting a cigarette with a Yugoslavian dinar. They arrested him !
I went through hell to get him out of jail !
And tomorrow... it will be Samson's turn.
He didn't realize what he'd done. This is... a kind of indication of the man's character. The rest went okay, nothing out of the ordinary.

What punch ups ! You can imagine what went on. And they never hurt themselves, because... The reaction's the important thing. The reaction shot,the position of the camera, otherwise you can see it's false, because usually... If you palm an actor like this and stop just short of him, with certain camera set ups you won't even touch him. The guy being hit is the important one. You need a good reaction then you can dub the sound on. They never hurt themselves.

The critics said I was an impressive craftsman but I wasn't a creative genius.
Then suddenly I had a huge success with THE TEN GLADIATORS. It was a film I shot in three weeks. (Giorgio) Simonelli and I decided to revitalise the genre because it was outmoded,dreadful ! Always the same old stuff ! So, during the shoot we made various changes. The lead actor spoke in rhyme like Cyrano de Bergerac and when he was fighting, he'd say very strange things.
The renters all came to see it and a certain D'auria from Turin, before he walked out after a screening of the film, said these very words to me while I was sitting in the second row: "Parolini, you've carved Filmar's tombstone with this movie".
When the film came out, they didn't know where to put the money !
It was a hit all over the world,even in America. This film gave me a kick in the pants and propelled me up the ladder, because I'd just been making B or C movies up till then. So I started participating in the production because I thought I'd earn more. Actually, everyone ripped me off and never gave me a penny.

I did a well known series of "Agent Joe Walker" films, that were based on very successful German pulp novels,like the ones that still exist today. Since I didn't feel I could do a good job of adapting the novels, I wrote original screenplays myself. I created a very likeable duo. One guy was very serious,he was played by Brad Harris. The other was more comical Tony Kendall, a.k.a. Luciano Stella.
These movies were such big hits in Germany, that they've just invited me to a festivalto preside over a retrospective of "Agent Joe Walker" films. One was called GANGSTERS FOR A MASSACRE. I shot it in Canada at the "Stampede", an event where cowboys ride bulls, compete in wagon races and stuff like that. The film was successful, but not as much as it deserved to be because someone I won't name lumbered it with the wrong title. It was a comic film, very funny and packed with gags and he called it GANGSTERS FOR A MASSACRE !
The leads were Tony Kendall and Brad Harris.

IF YOU MEET SARTANA PRAY FOR YOUR DEATH, SABATA, and RETURN OF SABATA were the antithesis of Sergio Leone's films. I can say this now because he's dead, poor soul, and I'm still here. Because he once said that my films were only saved by their gags and likeableness. He didn't think I was capable of directing actors.
When Leone left with Grimaldi's P.E.A. company, Grimaldi called me right away.
Piero Lazzaro, my general organizer,was in the desert in Nevada or in Nebraska...
and there was this big shed. He was with Sergio Leone,they were preparing a film.
On the shed someone had written "lf you meet Sartana pray for your death".
Piero told me that Sergio Leone said "That son of a bitch has even turned up here !" Get it ? "He's even exported his gags here !"
That film was a blg hit too. They made sequel after sequel and they were all hits for Alberto Grlmaldi.

Before I started directing, I was a general organizer. Maggi used to send me to keep an eye on the productions. I was working on CONQUEROR OF MARACAIBO and I was in Peniscola,at the Papa Luna castle. To reach the castle there's this strip of land. When it's high tide,you can't get in or out. We finished the film and Leone was shooting THE COLOSSUS OF RHODES in Madrid. His producers were Opus Dei. The head of Opus Dei at that time called me and said "You've finished ?" "Yes, we have," I replied.
"This COLOSSUS OF RHODES is never going to end ! Have a word with Sergio Leone !"
I went down to the studios in Madrid and there was a circle of tiers with at least, 1500 people. It was almost lunchtime and the lunches were brought in. I found him shooting a fight scene wlth Mimmo Palmara, a.k.a Dick Palmer and that French actor... Georges Marchal.
What a memory !
The fight was at ground level. They break for lunch.
I went to Sergio and said "What the fuck are you doing ?"
Exactly those words "What the fuck are you doing ?'"
"Hi, Gianfranco, what's it to you ?"
I said "I wrapped our film in five weeks, but what about you ? The priests are calling me and complaining. Why do you need 1500 extras ? You can shoot close ups at Rocca Callarella. You can shoot in the road,in the sand and then splice them in''.
He answered with these precise words "Mind your own fucking business, I want to ruin those lousy priests !"

After many years, and with a more mature outlook, I realized that I'd penalized the other sex. My films all centred around men, women were just incidental. The film I'm working on now is 100% feminist. The two female gladiators are world champions. An actress for the role of Iael, the Jewess,has still got to be chosen. I've seen seven or eight, but I'm still not happy. All the others, twelve models found by Petronio,the master of good taste, were found in Russia. But they're very expensive. I'll get them from Rumania or somewhere like that.
They're twelve beautiful girls who'll become... I won't say anything because there's a great twist.
Posted: Mar 7 2008, 08:55 PM

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Thanks HPD. I enjoyed reading that.
Posted: May 29 2008, 03:50 PM


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Ah, this is the interview that features on the Goliath Against the Giants DVD. A sprightly old chap, is Gianfranco!
High Plains Drifter
Posted: May 29 2008, 03:57 PM

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Oh gosh, is that where it came from ? I hope I haven't broken any copyright laws ;-)
Posted: May 30 2008, 08:33 AM


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Oh, I doubt it. Well...

It's an interesting interview, I was just transcribing the whole thing from the DVD and then realised you'd posted it all here already! I'm not sure if this is the same interview that's also on the Samson DVD that was released at the same time, I'll check that out in the next couple of days.

The stuff he says about editing and rhythym is fascinating, as one of the main things I find with Parolini films - of all genres - is the pace (as well as the gags), and he indicates that this was all deliberate and down to his former experience at the Steinbeck. It's interesting to think of other editors turned directors: Maurizio Lucidi, Giuseppe Vari... anyone else I've forgotten?
High Plains Drifter
Posted: May 30 2008, 09:25 AM

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Yes it's the same interview on the SAMSON DVD.

The flat-bed editor is called a Steenbeck by the way - editors just call it a Steinbeck, because they think it's funny: Our lot did anyway.
In his editing days, I couldn't imagine Parolini worked on a Steenbeck; he would have used an upright Moviola type of machine. Steenbecks were initially viewed as instruments of the Devil by old-style movie-editors who attempted to cling on to their Moviolas as long as they could. Operating them was a practised skill, whereas anybody could use a Steenbeck.
Then it was the turn of the Steenbeck editors to cling onto their machines when Avid came out, because Steenbecks needed a certain operating skill, and anybody could use Avid.
Posted: Jul 17 2008, 02:27 PM

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During my editing years I operated all three - Movieola, Steenbeck and Avid. Movieolas were insane beasts that could take your fingers off especially with 35mm that moves so fast. I loved Steenbecks but made the transistion ok. Avids never had missing frames stuck to the bottom. Avids changed the way films were cut - the undo button!
High Plains Drifter
Posted: Jul 18 2008, 12:26 AM

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That UNDO button is essential: You can edit so fast that it's easy to hit the wrong key. In fact I used to have trouble with some of the slower machines because I'd hit the keys so fast that it couldn't keep up with me and would skip a keystroke. Then I'd wonder why the cut I'd just made wasn't how I'd imagined it. So thank God for he UNDO button to help retrace your steps
The other danger is losing sync because you can't see the timeline beyond the edge of the screen. That used to catch me out a lot at first when I used the SEND key, and hadn't noticed I had a default front marker sitting there. somewhere off screen.
A lot of companies have now gone for FINAL CUT PRO, because it's allegedly cheaper. One big bonus is that it won't allow you to lose sync: You get a warning message if you're going to do something that puts a track out. The downside is that you have to learn a whole new set of key commands, and make your hands adopt new shapes to achieve what you used to do on autopilot in AVID.
I do miss finding the lost frame stuck to the underside of my shoe when I got home, though.
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