DAVID WARBECK Interview
Jason J. Slater introduction & interview in Harvey Fenton (ed.), David Warbeck: The Man And His Movies,
I have always been fascinated by the main stars of these Italian movies. Mostly of British bloodstock, such as Ian McCulloch and Catriona MacColl, they fulfilled a short film contract of three-or-so movies before working in television. However, one exception who has worked consistently in Italian exploitation is David Warbeck. Born in Christchurch, New Zealand on the 17/11/41 he has proved a versatile actor who top-billed as a machine-gun-totin' commando in Antonio Margheriti's VULTIMO CACCIATORE, and as a family doctor against the living dead in Lucio Fulci's L’ALDILA - Warbeck has remained a consistent feature actor in Euro horror movies. He has remained a high profile actor, proving that it's not necessarily a career nose-dive to work within the European horror film and even the soft pom/sex film industry (for over a decade he was a reserve James Bond). Warbeck has broken many acting taboos in the process, including the old adage that you can't be both a model and actor. Even though David is best remembered for his action roles in Italian cinema, he has achieved higher financial rewards and profile through his modelling career, after being expelled from drama school (the main reason for changing his sumame from Mitchell to Warbeck).
Compared to his Italian acting career, where he eams approximately E4000 for each movie, David has made much more money through his modelling career, including E300,000 for two commercials, which he promptly invested. Model actors used to be a bit of a joke in the film industry, personalities like Michael Sopkiw - who made a handful of trash movies for Lamberto Bava and Sergio Martino - used to come and go after a short picture deal. However Warbeck has had his cake and eaten it, and proved himself a success and entrepreneur in a number of fields. While modelling, Warbeck (along with actors like Alain Delon and Franco Nero) also signed contracts for a number of photoromances. Thickly illustrated with a simple narrative thread, these photoromances have become extremely popular in
Following a successful career and shrewd financial investment, everything had changed for the young Warbeck who had left
The first film to be released was L'ULTIMO CACCIATORE, an unrelated rip-off of THE DEER HUNTER which ironically owes more to the previous APOCALYPSE NOW. An absolutely wonderful inventive little action film shot in the
Q: You made films in
Well no, these were all Philippine jobs. We did all those... THE LAST HUNTER and TIGER JOE, all that lot.
Q: I think that TIGER JOE is a weak picture compared to THE LAST HUNTER. It was promoted in some territories as a sequel of sorts but materialised as a poor unrelated action film.
Sort of, yeah... yeah.
Q: And Tony King came back for TIGER JOE. What was Tony like to work with on both films?
A pain in the butt! Sorry Tony (laughs). Tony was alright, he was abight, he photographed well and he was very keen and wanted to be terrific but sorry
Q: I think you do! (laughs)
Well there you go. (laughs) I thought, I'll take the piss then. He was really into Black Power and all that crap. He was going around trying to be the mega-star; he had T-shirts printed up saying "I am Tony King"...
Q: Was this one of the first movies he'd made?
Oh, he's made a few, I think I've got the T-shirt around here somewhere... I had T-shirts made saying "I am the Tiger in TIGER JOE" (laughs) That was the front, but on the back of the T-shirt I had "The Tiger is a big pussy!" (laughs) which was terribly confusing! So we've had a few people like that... Oh boy!
Q: Was THE LAST HUNTER the first time you met John Steiner?
Q: Tell us about hat amazing scene that opens THE LAST HUNTER, where you're all in the bar
Wow yeah, I'd forgotten about that!
Q: The pre-credits sequence where you walk out and the whole lot goes up behind you! Where was that shot, the
No, you won't believe this story either! Francis Ford Coppola...
Q: Oh, the APOCALYPSE NOW sets!
We used all their sets! I had Marlon Brando's luxury suite! And the reason it was a luxury suite; this hotel had bare floors everywhere, it was crap! The reason it was a luxury suite was that it had a mat beside the bed that you could put your feet on!
Q: That’s what I call luxury!... A mat, rather than something that moved! (laughs)
Well yeah, but I'm sort of sending it up. It's a place in one of the tourist centres out of
Q: Were most of the Filipino films done on these sets?
Yes, it's not so much the sets really, there were no sets as such, it was just jungle, the only bits of sets were the Godheads, but we faked some of those up anyway.
Q: I was saying before that one the things that drives me mad about Italian films is that they never have proper character lists at the end so you must learn to recognise people because you rarely get to know who they are unless you compare movies... quite often I wonder who various people are?
Yeah, I have the same problem sometimes... But that opening sequence in THE LAST HUNTER was fab! The business of the gun in the mouth, you know how they did that? Hang on, this is it guys, this is the essence of the Italian film industry, just the straight out sheer fucking fun of it all... that sequence is one of the most horrific sequences I've seen on screen and it still works a treat; we had people fainting in almost all the audiences I saw when he blows his head off. You don't actually see much, you see the mouth light up and the goo flying around but that's it.
Q: It’s actually the light that gets people because you can't believe it.
It was done like this... This really nice American guy, he's a student who didn't smoke, and before the shot (laughs), he took a drag on a cigarette, kept his mouth shut and on “Action!” he pointed the gun, and inside the gun was a torch, so he opened up his mouth, turned on the torch and the torch lit up the smoke! That was it!
Q: There was a whacking great big sound effect.
A big bang, that's it, and off you go, shot done! (laughs)
Q: I saw it again recently and I could not believe my eyes. I don't think that's ever been done in another film.
And then the snake in the water, that gets the audiences going as well, but the funniest one was the rats in the cage... You know what the rats were? They were dish mops! (laughs) You know, those furry dish mops!
Q: How could you keep a straight face?
We didn't! And you know the close-ups of the rats actually biting the stomach flesh. You know whose stomach that was? Margheriti's! (laughs) No one else would do it! He's got a bit of a gut! But I didn't finish telling you about this remote tourist centre where we were filming... it's got famous waterfalls, that's why everyone goes there, but it's got a darker side too. It's a very small jungle village and it's where all the old transvestites go to die. All the Filipino transvestites, and there's a lot of them in
Q: Oh brilliant! You know we're going to go off and review all these films?! (laughs)
Every shot gets stories going behind it, because it's all made up, that's the fun of it, it's all just amateur stuff, which is where I'm from, New Zealand Amateur, you know there's nothing better to do than get together and do amateur dramatics... But you invent and this was the thing about the Italian stuff, you were always grabbing what you could to invent and so we had all these transvestites running around... So, on "Action!" off went the bomb for Group One and they all died, then number two, number three... and then the shot was over, "Cut, cut, cut!" The noise level after the cut was huge, with everyone very excited and tons of loud mad Filipino chattering, it was deafening. Margheriti was saying, OK, great, fantastic, have a break of about ten minutes and then we're going to do it one more time. And this is the cruelest part of Margheriti; he turned to me and said, now don't tell anyone, but we've put the charges up ten times! (laughter) It was going to be like the Atom Bomb going off and I said "Oh you can't, you can't, not with these poor old trannies, you'll blow their fucking ear drums out!" So when we came to "Everyone standing by!" they were all very excited again, more mad chattering because they've done it once and they're going to do it even better this time (laughs), when the first bomb went off, Group number One, not one of them died! They were all off like rockets! (laughs) Sheer pandemonium! So that was slightly malicious...
Q: I'm going to watch that scene again later on and have a bloody good laugh!
Look at TIGER JOE next time. The swollen river, that muddy swollen river was lethal, bloody dangerous, and those canoes we were in; we could have died any second and the thing about filming is you get carried away. One of the canoes did go over with the cameras and we managed to save things, and obviously we didn't die. So I eventually got to the shore with my boat crew of little Filipino guys and I saw this guy sitting on a chair. I noticed his entire skull was tattooed and I said "Oh, that's interesting", and there were lots of sheepish looks. Now, me being a dumb tourist, I was saying "Oh, how nice" you know. My instinct should have told me to shut up and look at the trees, and I found out later that this is the way in the
Q: What, the entire crew?
Well, most of the crew had gone, but me being stupid again saying "Oh, I think I'll just stay in the jungle" (laughs) "...so I can be held up!" For fuck's sake... With
Q: Did you know that the shooting title for THE LAST HUNTER was THE DEER HUNTER 2?
Yeah, it was sold as that in
Q: What about Bobby Rhodes?
Ah! Now Bobby Rhodes, he's an absolute sweet heart. He's an Italian black.
Q: Really? Does he speak English?
Oh, he speaks very good English. I bumped into him outside the railway station not so long ago. Great big guy.
Q: He’s massive isn't he? Looks like a killer!
He's a pussycat, he's so sweet.
Q: He’s always in Margheriti’s films... And he recently made that Western with Castellari, JONATHAN OF THE BEARS. He's dressed just in white and he’s big and powerful, on a horse, shiny black head. He looks so imposing.
Oh he's a sweet guy. He knows what to do and he's so modest, almost embarrassed all the time and quiet and gentle. He is a lovely guy, a real sweetheart. But one of the reasons I don't work in the States is because of the Tony mentality. I find them just so fucked up out there, just so staggeringly fucked up and I offend people so many times so quickly it's exhausting. I do come from the Colonies, you know that I was brought up in
Q: With films like THE LAST HUNTER, how long does a movie like that take to make? I mean you're in virtually every shot. How many weeks were you out there?
I think it was about five, six weeks or something.
Q: Is that all?
Yeah, well most films take about six weeks now, unless of course you're doing big special effects films like JUDGE DREDD or something.
Q: You worked with Massimo Vanni on that movie as well, the guy that gets the coconut out of the tree... the one who has to run the gauntlet sort of thing, you know, you're all in the cave and John Steiner says, "Bennett get me that coconut!”
Yes, yes that's right, oh yes, good looking guy, oh yes. We shot that sequence on the beach in
Q: But there are palm trees everywhere!
Yeah, there a little bamboo grove. Well that's the magic of film really, and all that cutting around, it's wonderful, and these caves and big gods and things, well the Pope has a Summer residence up in a volcano behind Rome; the Pope's palace on a big lake, and opposite the Pope's palace are these caves and I don't know how many films I've shot in these caves, I forget what they're called...
Q: You also worked with Alan Collins.
Now, Alan Collins, he's magical.
Q: He’s Antonio's good luck charm it seems, he's in everything.
We've done a lot of things together and he is the sweetest guy. I'll tell you why Margheriti brings him along on all of his films; I've often made the joke about Italian movies that really the reason for them is to go and have an Italian picnic and take a camera along with a bit of film. (laughs) You see Alan's job is, he's got his own spaghetti maker and he knows how to make pasta and whatever kitchen of whatever grotty hotel we go to, Alan's job is to make these pasta feasts. The Italians - and I really do miss this - in the middle of the jungle, will still insist on having a really good pasta blow-out, and Alan is always managing to cook up something really good... Anyway, I just remembered I was going to tell you about Margheriti and the railway line! That's what I was going to tell you before I started jumping all over the place!... It sums up the Italian film industry, what it's all about... When we were making THE LAST HUNTER yeah, well we found this old railway siding. This railway hadn't been used for a hundred years, it was a bit rusty and stuff, so Margheriti himself got all the paint and actually painted it all silver on the strips so at night time you could see the track! Isn't that magic?!...