Talks to Clint Morris about his career
Most classic horror movies have one thing in common – besides the gratuitous nudity, superfluous decapitations and thumping score – the kids/victims in them are just stupid. Bob Clark, director of the classic 1974 scarefest “Black Christmas”, believes the reason his film holds up so well – some thirty years later – is because he implanted an IQ in each of his key characters’ noggins. They, unlike the screaming vixens and horrified hunks of most other horror films at the time, “were college students”.
“I saw the film at an honorary screening, about six months ago in L.A and I’ve got to be totally frank and tell you – I’m amazed at how current, and how well, this film holds up”, explains Clark, who made his directorial debut with 1966’s “The Emperors New Clothes”. “The hair and wardrobe was not only like it is today, but more than that, it was the kids’ behaviour [in the film]. One of the things I was determined to do was to have my college students not be beach-blanket bikini ditzes, but have them act like actual college students act. I felt we achieved it. When I saw the film again, I thought it could’ve been made…almost…but not quite… today”.
Though it didn’t strike much heat when it was released initially at theatres, Clark’s “Christmas” – a genuinely scary flick about a sorority house that’s terrorized by a stranger who makes frightening phone calls and then murders the sorority sisters during Christmas break – is now considered many blood-buff’s favourite film, and renowned as a bona-fide cult classic.
The film, which was a smash on video, has a “lot of truth and conviction in it”, says Clark, “I think we were the first movie to get away from beach-blanket bikini treatment of college people – our college people acted like college adults. I think it’s just a good chiller and a very well acted film. It just caught on. At the tribute, we had like 400 people that they had to turn away and do a second screening for! – Turns out, it’s a lot of people’s favourite film”.
Instead of doing a sequel to “Black Christmas” (“I was at the end of my horror run, it was just a way to get into the movie business. Back then, you either started in porno or horror”), Clark shifted gears. He made classy thrillers (“Murder By Decree”), memorable family films (“A Christmas Story”), fluffy comedies (“Rhinestone”, “Porky’s”, “Porky’s II”, “From the Hip”) and more recently, has worked the telemovie field (“I’ve been able, the last fifteen years, to do cable movies – all wonderful movies”).
So does he have any favourites?
“I got to work with Arthur Miller on a [tele]film called Arthur Miller’s The American Clock. It was wonderful. We had the best actors anyone could ever imagine. I love the film we created. It’s got great heart”, he says. I did a film called Rosegarden with Mary Tyler Moore, which was an anti-racist film, and I did a telefilm with Pat Morita about Japanese World War II [called “I’ll Remember April”] which co-starred Pam Dawber, Mark Harmon and Haley Joel Osment. I also did The Ransom of Red Chief [with Christopher Lloyd] and last year, I did a little one called Now and Forever [with Adam Beach and Mia Kirschner] which I just love. It won five film festivals – but couldn’t get out there to the market”.
Even when his films are picked up for distribution – it doesn’t automatically guarantee an audience is going to see them though. Case in point: His most recent films, the comedies “Superbabies : Baby Geniuses 2” and Chevy Chase starrer “The Karate Dog”.
“Baby Geniuses 2 was released last year – on Labour Day. That’s like throwing the movie away. Nobody saw it”, he says. “And the Karate Dog hasn’t been released – and I don’t understand it – it’s got a great cast, Chevy Chase does the voice of the Dog, My Name is Earl’s Jaime Pressly, Simon Rex from Scary Movie 3, Jon Voight…and the movie plays wonderfully to audiences. There’s a bunch of dog movies coming out, and I think they’re [Lions Gate, the distributor] afraid of them. It tested extraordinary – it’s a wacky, crazy, silly film. It’s got heart, and some very strong people in it”.
Several of his films are about to get the remake treatment next year, says Clark, including a saucier update of “Porky’s”.
“Howard Stern is doing a remake. I’m told they’re about to start production on that”, the director states.
“Four of my films are being remade in fact. Black Christmas is being done by Glenn Morgan, they start shooting in January. I think he’s a great young filmmaker. Also, Eli Roth and Oliver Hudson – Goldie Hawn’s son – are doing Deathdream, and I’m going to do [a remake of his earlier film] Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things in the spring – That’s a Monty Python version of a forty thousand dollar film that my college buddies and I did in 1971”.
One film that studios have asked Clark permission to remake is his thriller “Murder by Decree”, but “I won’t let ‘em. How can we ever get James Mason, Donald Sutherland, Christopher Plummer, Sir John Gielguld….that unbelievable collection of people, again? I just don’t want to see it tried again”.
Most of the remakes, besides the “Children” redo, Clark says he’s staying away from, but he’s confident the new versions of the films will be super – especially “Black Christmas”.
“They’re clever writers and I think they’re delving into, the obvious thing, Billy, and getting into his backstory and getting into being how he was what he was. It’s going to be rather spectacular. They’re doing a remake, but with a partial sequel feel to it. 2929 are producing it, the Weinstein’s brothers are producing it…but I’m staying away from it. I mean, I like them and we get along great, but it’s their film”, he says, just hoping that they at least ask original star Margot Kidder back to cameo. “I think it would be a great idea. I think it would be clever – I’ll mention it to them again”.
Before he gets going on his remake of “Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things” – “Which, this time, we’ve got like a $12 -$15 million budget” – Clark will helm a film called “There Goes the Neighbourhood”.
“It’s like a cross between The Burbs and There’s Something About Mary”, he says, “It’s Adam Beach, who has just starred in Clint Eastwood’s latest film, and Emmanuelle Vaugier, who starred in Saw 2. It’s going to be hilarious”.
BLACK CHRISTMAS is now available on DVD
– CLINT MORRIS