Friday, October 26, 2012

Sylvia Kristel Welcomes Russell Means into Heaven?

I never met either Russell Means or Sylvia Kristel. And that’s probably a good thing. Russell Means might have scared me. In the presence of the ravishingly sexy Sylvia Kristel I would doubtless have felt intimidated. But when the two of them died recently, just four days apart, I found myself musing about some of the more unlikely films that came under the Roger Corman umbrella.

As an actor, Russell Means was best known for his first role, the title character (opposite Daniel Day-Lewis) in 1992’s The Last of the Mohicans. He next played a mysterious Navajo who comes to a bad end in Oliver Stone’s brutal Natural Born Killers, then showed a softer side as the voice of Chief Powhatan in the Disney version of Pocahontas. It made perfect sense to cast Russell Means as a Native American power-figure. Because that’s exactly what he was.

Long before he went Hollywood, Means was a national leader of the American Indian Movement. In 1973, he gained international prominence for his role in AIM’s 71-day armed occupation of Wounded Knee in South Dakota, and his fiery commitment to his cause never wavered. After he was indicted, along with AIM’s Dennis Banks, for his part in the Wounded Knee uprising, the Los Angeles Times called the pair “the two most famous Indians since Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse wiped out Custer nearly a century earlier.”

This quote reminds me of the days when Roger Corman, on the strength of the 1990 box-office triumph of Dances With Wolves, decided he wanted to bring to the screen the story of Crazy Horse. None of us knew anything much about Indians, and historical epics with a cast of thousands were not exactly Roger’s specialty. His concept was to film the re-enactment of the Battle of Little Big Horn that takes place annually in Montana, and then shoot the rest in Peru, where he had connections. (This led me to refer to our film as Dances With Llamas.) Fortunately, after we struggled with a lackluster script, the whole idea got scrapped. Russell Means may have breathed a sigh of relief.

Sylvia Kristel was a gorgeous Dutch actress who, beginning in 1974, starred in a series of French films as Emmanuelle, a sexually adventurous young wife living in exotic lands. IMDB reader James Hitchcock points out that one reason the Emmanuelle films seem so dated today is that they try to give intellectual underpinnings to what is essentially soft-corn porn. The result is what he memorably calls “existentialism-lite,” or “Sartre meets Hugh Hefner.” I never saw an Emmanuelle film, but the fifth in the series somehow became a Roger Corman co-production, complete with many new scenes shot by Steve Barnett of the Corman staff and lots of Corman stock footage added to flesh out (so to speak) the skimpy story. Barnett’s version was released in 1987, but two years earlier Steve had been asked by Roger to enhance another soft-core French film, The Click.

I’m open-minded about movies, but The Click fits my definition of pornography. It’s about an inventor whose small handheld device can make beautiful women writhe in the throes of passion. Eventually one of his victims falls genuinely in love with him. Yuck! The other thing I remember about The Click (not to be confused with Adam Sandler‘s 2006 comedy) is that we had an original French poster hanging in the Concorde offices. The huge poster featured an arty sketch of an undraped young woman in dreamy tropical surroundings. I always thought its caption should read, “I was a sex slave in Disneyland.”


  1. I remember seeing MOHICANS in High School in history class. I was quite taken with it, and not just because it featured kung fu Indians and an unusual amount of blood and guts... okay, that was the main proponent that caught my attention, but what a great dramatic movie.

    I could only imagine what Roger's interpretation of the Battle would look like. No doubt the oft reused score from BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS would be worked in somewhere, (at least in the trailer) and possibly some stock battle footage.

    I'd be curious nonetheless to see what Corman would do with such a production considering how well earlier, (sorta) big battle movies turned out like THE SECRET INVASION and VON RICHTHOFEN AND BROWN, to name two.

    I've not seen any EMMANUELLE movies, either, Beverly, but my first experience with Kristal was in PRIVATE LESSONS on HBO around 1982. I was seven years old then so it was a bit of change stumbling upon something in that vein that didn't have monsters and creatures from outer space that I was most accustomed to as a kid. She was pretty good as the title creature in DRACULA'S WIDOW (1988), too.

  2. I'm with Brian - Private Lessons was also my introduction to Ms. Kristel - albeit over on Showtime. What a wonderful movie for a young teen boy to discover. I rented a couple of the Emmanuelle movies in the 80's - but didn't particularly enjoy them. Probably too much existenialism lite. I was saddened to hear of her passing.

    I enjoyed the 1992 Mohicans as well - and later worked with several crew members on various other productions throughout the 90's here in NC. Great stories would be told of its production - like the grips flinging equipment off a mountain in anger at director Michael Mann's treatment of them; the dawn morning when Michael Mann screamed at the sun that it was spoiling his night shoot; and the day Bill Murray dropped by to visit his friend in wardrobe, and came out to set and handed out wardrobe to extras in a big battle scene - denying his identity the whole while. I will let my friend Jeff Goodwin - Mohicans' brilliant makeup artist who supplied those bloody moments Brian enjoyed as well as the dtraight makeup - that Russell Means has passed, in case he hasn't heard. Sad news - as he was a strong screen presence.

    The Click: I Was a Sex Slave in Disneyland. It does kind of work! (I like your "Yuck!")

    I would have enjoyed seeing Mr. Corman's Crazy Horse epic - though I feel he'd have been more likely to make a very different kind of Crazy Horse movie...

  3. Oh - and in the frenzied rush of that typing - with my usual typo I miss in a quick re-read - I forgot to thank you for adding me to the blog list on your main page. I am honored to be in such esteemed company!

  4. My pleasure, Mr. Craig, and I love the fact that you and Brian (aka Venoms5) are actually getting acquainted via the Internet. My most loyal readers deserve each other!