Saturday, April 6, 2013

F is for Carl Franklin, Director Anonymous

The letter F could certainly stand for Peter Fonda, who starred in two of Roger Corman’s most radically countercultural films, The Wild Angels and The Trip. But I’d rather pay tribute to the unsung, and immensely talented, Carl Franklin. Though his name isn’t famous, he’s directed several of the biggest stars in the business, like Denzel Washington (Devil in a Blue Dress, Out of Time) and Meryl Streep (nominated for an Oscar for her role in One True Thing). Early this year Carl made a splash among critics for writing and directing a screen adaptation of a classic Chicano work of magic realism, Bless Me, Ultima.

When I first met him at Concorde-New Horizons, Carl was a sometime actor who’d just earned a graduate degree in directing from the American Film Institute. On the strength of his thesis film, he’d been hired by Roger’s wife, Julie Corman, to helm an intricate little drama set in a small Texas town. The script, by an amiable Texan named Jackson Barr, was titled Caddo Lake, but the film was eventually released as Nowhere to Run. I conferred with Carl a lot on the shooting script, and even headed off potential disaster by discovering – and persuading a lot of skeptics --  that two pages were out of order in a key scene. Maybe that’s why Carl gave me the bit part of a birdwatcher . . .  or maybe I really do look like I should be out spotting loons on a Texas lake at the crack of dawn. (We filmed in Southern California, and that Texas lake was actually part of a secluded housing development called Lake Malibu.)

After Nowhere to Run, Carl packed his suitcase for some overseas Corman thrillers. He shot a Vietnam drama, Eye of the Eagle II, in the Philippines, where he almost became the victim of a real-life crime. He has told an L.A. radio host how, while relaxing in a Manila nightspot, he was drugged with an animal tranquilizer, probably by someone planning to rob him. Possibly, it was an attempt at something more sinister, like a kidnapping by a revolutionary group. Said Carl to host Elvis Mitchell, “Which would have been hilarious, man. Can you imagine the rebels contacting Roger Corman and asking for ransom? Can you imagine that? [imitating Corman’s deep baritone] ‘A million dollars! I can do six films for that!’”

I have much more to say about Carl and his break-through indie, One False Move, but I’ll save that until I've survived the A to Z Challenge


  1. I enjoyed Carol Franklin's performances when he acted - especially in a mostly-forgotten NBC series from the Star Wars driven sci fi craze of 1977 - The Fantastic Journey - and I've enjoyed his directorial work as well. I will save my One False Move comments for that later post - but I did want to mention his other movie - the last he did before One False Move and its effects on his career - Full Fathom Five - the New Horizons answer to The Hunt for Red October - a decent low budget movie. Excellent use of your spotlight here, Ms. G!

  2. Thanks, Mr. E. Not many people remember Carl as an actor, but he has a nice natural quality. Full Fathom Five (shot in Peru -- see my upcoming post on Luis Llosa) was not Concorde's finest hour, mostly because we didn't have a very convincing submarine set to work with.

  3. I'm glad to find you via A to Z, and I'm looking forward to more interesting anecdotes! I'm not familiar with Carl Franklin per se, but I did see Devil in a Blue Dress long ago.

    Jenny at Choice City Native

  4. Welcome, Jenny. I checked out your site with its wonderful photos. I especially liked all those guitars. I live down the street from a classic L.A. folk music place, McCabe's, and I have always enjoyed seeing walls full of those gorgeous instruments. Why is Fort Collins called The Choice City? (As in "Freedom of"?) Glad you've enjoyed my posts. I worked in the Roger Corman world of low-budget movies for nearly a decade, and I have loads of terrific insider stories. Do visit me in Movieland again!