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BRITISH HORROR DIRECTOR NORMAN
J. WARREN RETURNS ON DVD
by Thomas M. Sipos, managing editor.
[November 13, 2004]
[HollywoodInvestigator.com]The 1970s were a Golden Age of British indie horror films, according to
horror filmmaker Norman J. Warren in his Forward to Ten
Years of Terror: British Horror Films of the 1970s -- and in an exclusive interview with the Hollywood Investigator!
Warren talked to the Investigator
on the occasion of Anchor Bay's release of The
Norman J. Warren Collection on DVD (only available in PAL format --
Speaking exclusively to the Investigator, Warren explained that Hammer declined "because they
failed to consider new directions in horror. Curse
of Frankenstein and Dracula were great films, and in their heyday the Hammer formula worked very well. But most of their films had a period setting,
with characters who were mainly middle class. They lived in grand
houses with an endless supply of money, and yet they never seemed to do
any real work. It was a world few people knew and by the early 1970s
the formula was tired. Young audiences were looking for something
different. New independent films offered them horror in the real
world, with stories set in familiar locations, and characters who dressed
and spoke in the style of the day. Characters with whom they could
before directing horror, Warren directed Her Private
Hell and Loving Feeling, where met
camera operator Les Young. "We shared a great interest in horror
films, and we remained friends," said Warren. "Les was camera operator
on a number of horror films, including The
Oblong Box and Scream
and Scream Again. We teamed to make Satan's
Slave and Terror. Les was both producer and director of photography on those films."
for Satan's Slave was raised from independent
investors. According to Warren, the film was a "reasonable success,"
so he and Young "decided to put all of the money into another production. So once again, Terror,
like Satan's Slave, was a 100% independent
Terror is about a filmmaker's family cursed centuries ago by a witch. But
although the witch supposedly targets this family, her curse instead kills
anyone around the family -- including their enemies! Adding to the
confusion, Terror sometimes features supernatural scares, sometimes a slasher. Colorful,
exciting, and stylish, Terror has nevertheless built a reputation in horror circles for its confusing
and contradictory plot.
search for a story is in vain," concurs Warren. "There is no real
storyline and very little, if any, logic. We had the money for a
low-budget film, but no script and no idea of what film we wanted to make. We just knew we didn't want to make a film with a complicated story and
wall-to-wall dialogue. After seeing Suspiria,
which was a breath of fresh air and a great inspiration to me, we made
a list of all the scenes we'd like to see in a horror film. We handed
the list to writer David McGillivray, who incorporated the ideas into a
'sort of story.'
"It was intended that Terror should be fun," added Warren, "and also deliver shocks and gore. At the time of its release, we seemed to have hit on the right formula,
because the film had success throughout the world. We were over the
moon, and a little surprised, when for one week Terror became the number one film here in the UK."
his indie film sensibility, Warren did embrace one aspect of the Hammer tradition -- casting his films with a bevy of beautiful women! Like
all his films, Terror is full of lovely female eye candy.
Alas, the fate of horror's
eye candy is not always pretty...
* Financing Indie Horror
1970s indie filmmakers expended much effort trying to raise financing;
and as today, they often turned to tax breaks. "The Eady money system
still in operation during the 1970s," said Warren. "This was a tax
system which presented the opportunity to increase the boxoffice
your film, and give a quicker return to producers of low-budget British
films. The system offered considerable financial advantages and was
a great attraction to possible investors."
from this, you just had to keep knocking on doors until someone said 'yes.' Or as we did with Satan's Slave, you dig into
your own pockets and go for broke."
indie filmmakers in the 1970s were also assisted in their financing efforts
by there being more competition in theatrical distribution, making distribution
-- and thus financing -- more likely. "A good many small cinema circuits
and independently owned cinemas operated throughout the UK," said Warren,
"and as the double-bill was still standard programming, a theatrical release
for your film was very possible."
course, it helps to have a low budget. "The budget for Terror,
script to answer print, was around £50,000. I can't be more
precise because when you're making your own film there are many things
you do which don't get included in the budget."
an astronaut on a hostile planet becomes infected by an alien germ or presence
(yes, infected by a "presence," we're never sure), causing him to go on
Then another astronaut (Judy
Geeson) is raped and "inseminated" by an alien (hence the title). Immediately pregnant with an alien child, she goes on yet another killing
the plot is not too important. Rather, Warren's emphasis is on graphic
-- but stylishly filmed! -- sex and violence. Such as in Inseminoid's
alien rape scene:
in Terror, Inseminoid features many gory scenes that were seemingly included solely because they
looked real cool. For instance, there's the astronaut whose leg is
trapped in a crevice. She grows desperate as a crazed killer-astronaut
approaches, so the trapped astronaut chainsaws off her own leg!
Yes, another female astronaut. There are many lovely space birds on this hostile planet.
As in Terror, Inseminoid features a high quotient of beautiful starlets, such as Hammer alumna Stephanie Beacham and future Steve Martin galpal Victoria Tennant
"Inseminoid was very successful throughout the world." said Warren. "It didn't
reach the #1 spot in the UK as did Terror,
but Inseminoid was in the Top Five. The American distributor changed its title to Horror
Planet, which I never liked as a title. So I was pleased when
some years later, it was changed back to Inseminoid in America."
* Video Nasties
had tighter censorship restrictions on its cinema than the US. This
tradition reasserted itself in the 1980s, when British anti-horror activists
campaigned against "video
nasties." Yet perhaps because Warren directed much of his
work just prior to the anti-"video
nasty" assaults, he told the Investigator, "I've never had any real
problems with the British censor. All my films passed with only a
few small cuts.
we were making Satan's Slave, it was standard
practice to shoot a second version of certain scenes for the 'export' or
'foreign version'. We shot alternative versions of certain scenes
for Satan's Slave which were much stronger
in content but not intended for UK release. Most of these were shown
outside the UK. Prey had a closeup of Barry Stokes eating flesh, cut in the UK. Terror had some shots of a knife going through Tricia Walsh's foot. Inseminoid had a few frames cut from the birth scene -- of the baby monster between
Judy Geeson's legs. But none of my films have ever been banned in
England, and were never classed as a video
* Whatever Became Of...?
fans who are wondering whatever became of their favorite Warren starlets,
Warren reveals, "Terror was Carolyn Courage's only film. She'd played a number of leading
roles in television and on stage, and was with the Royal National Theatre
for several years. In recent years, she abandoned acting for writing. Mary
Maude has given up acting and now writes for a financial magazine. Both Carolyn and Mary are featured in the 'extras' in the Anchor Bay Terror DVD. Sarah Keller gave up acting and now lives in America with her
husband and children. Tricia Walsh married and left the business.
Glynis Barber still acts, but after a promising start with a number of
leading roles in popular television shows, she now does mainly theatre
lives in the North of England."
Warren advises fans to get
Bay DVDs of his films, if they have a PAL or multi-region player. "The DVDs of Satan's Slave and Terror have been released in America (on NTSC) by Rhino. I've not seen them,
but I'm told the quality is poor. And as far as I know, the only
'extras' are the theatrical trailers. The Anchor
Bay DVD box-set includes Satan's Slave, Prey, Terror and Inseminoid,
plus a bonus disc. The quality is excellent and it's loaded with
Warren would like to return to horror filmmaking. "Although I've
not made a new feature film for a number of years, I've remained active
as a director, editor, and writer, working on a variety of productions,
such as documentaries, pop promos, and commercials for various companies,
including the BBC. I'd prefer to be making feature films, but sadly,
the industry no longer operates the same way. It's become far more
difficult to get an independent film onto cinema screens.
so, I've continued to develop new projects. I'm quietly optimistic
that I'll be making a new film in the near future."
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