Cult Filmmaker Paul Morrissey on Lady Gaga, Andy Warhol, and "Comrade Osama Obama"
When you chat with 71-year-old cult director Paul Morrissey, do not expect him to hold back on telling you what he likes and, well, what he doesn't. To say the man has strong opinions would be an understatement.
"I love Fatty Arbuckle and Buster Keaton, but not Charlie Chaplin. Charlie Chaplin was a commie piece of sh*t," he volunteers, before chatting a bit about his two satirical horror films shot simultaneously in 1973: Flesh For Frankenstein and Blood For Dracula.
Both movies are unique takes on classic horror stories. Baron von Frankenstein (Udo Kier) is obsessed with creating a master Serbian race to take over the world, so he sews together male and female zombies from idealized body parts, like the "perfect nazum," so they might copulate and reproduce. Complications arise when his sexually unfulfilled wife/sister (Monique van Vooren) hires a horny manservant (Morrissey regular, Joe Dallesandro) for the castle and Frankenstein can't seem to keep his penis out of his female creation's gall bladder. Meanwhile the Frankensteins' neglected children are there to observe it all as bodies pile up like some Shakespearean tragedy.
Blood For Dracula, which Morrissey says he shot in the afternoons in and around in the famous film studios of Cinecittà in Rome, while shooting Flesh in the mornings, once again featured Kier in the titular role. In the Morrissey version of Dracula, the count is a famished vampire wasting away in Romania for lack of virgins. His assistant (Arno Juerging) recommends they move to Italy "because of the Italian Church." This meek version of Dracula meets his match when he tries to woo the daughters of a financially and morally bankrupt family with only one servant who happens to be a staunch socialist (Dallesandro, again).
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There is a vicious amount of subtext in these films, presented by Morrissey with unapologetic allegory. Even today, he sees society still headed down the route of moral corruption. According to him, movies today are mostly a bunch of "emotional shit" and the socialists have taken over in America led by "Comrade Obama."
We spoke with him for almost 45 minutes. To present his views in any other context but his own words would be a disservice to this outspoken director. Here are some highlights:
New Times: Flesh for Frankenstein was shot in 3-D, so you plan to release it on Blu-ray 3-D?
Paul Morrissey: Oh, I do. But I want to do it myself with streaming. Look, I've been the movie business for over 50 years, and I've done everything imaginable that could be done or ever was done by anybody. I did, in not only making the films entirely by myself, in every step of the way, the early films, including photographing them--everything! But I've distributed some of them myself, and I've sold them over the years to DVD people who put them out, and they give me a little money in advance, and then for the next five or six years I never see a penny. I'm no longer going to go to other companies. Instead I have at least 10 or 12 films that I intend to stream, so that anybody wants to see them, they pay me whatever the hell they pay, not companies that don't bother to give you any results (laughs). It's not a fun business to be in.
Can you even stream movies in 3-D?
Doesn't the Blu-Ray show up streaming on TV? If you play this Blu-Ray, you see it on a television screen, so why can't it be streamed to a television screen? Look, streaming is new to me. It's the 21st century. I won't be around for that, thank God, the scum, Comrade Osama Obama and Comrade Ms. Obama and her husband [presidential senior advisor] Valerie Jarrett. The 21st century deserves low-life filth like that: Soviet control. And they're gonna get it, and they'll suffer and deserve it, but the old thing about showing movies in theaters and showing movies only on DVD, that's over.
How do you pick your actors?
The way I always pick my actors. I look at them and I meet them, and I say yes or no immediately. It's not a secret, but if you know what the hell you're doing you pick good actors. And you know what makes a good actor? A good personality in the performer, in the person. The myth of acting being difficult with this acting class shit that's been around for the past 40 or 50 years: agonizing, agonizing shit! You know, every actor that goes, (puts on dumb voice), 'Oh, I'm always upset from the beginning to the end of the movie!' Those are the most unwatchable, phony pieces of shit. That's 95 percent of all the shit movies they make in the world now, especially the United States. God only knows what goes on in Europe because they're not being shown anywhere anymore. But the American acting class shit is devoid of personality or good actors. It's not hard to tell who would be good in a movie as long as you meet them and make a decision.
You mentioned you prefer Turner Classics movies.
The greatest thing that ever happened in history of motion pictures over the last 120 years was Turner Classic Movies, and the greatest thing that ever happened in history of television, for the past 70 or 80 years is Turner Classic Movies. Nothing ever was on TV better than that. No one ever talks about what an extraordinary thing it is. Who could have ever hoped these things could have been restored or recovered because they are the evidence--the only good evidence-- of the 20th century. There's no evidence of that in the shit novels that people wrote and those hideous plays they wrote--unwatchable crap! But in the movies, boy did they do a good job.
But those films came out when almost anything went in filmmaking, but it's not about jumping on the exploitation film bandwagon. This is a critique of that, right?
You mean films got sex around the clock? That didn't make films good. It made films worse! They were bad to begin with because the studios were no longer running the whole show. Studios were run by one person and those people were geniuses. And they came from other companies. They come from being garbage men or whatever. They were great, and the independent producer was in and out and in and out. They just wanted attention, and they did that crap ... movies got worse and worse. They probably should have stayed where they were as far as that goes, but the sex around the clock, showing people how to live for sex, only made films a hundred times worse.
How does that viewpoint figure in the violence and sex of Flesh For Frankenstein and Blood For Dracula?
My films weren't very violent. My films were like the rest of the films. It was humorous.
And the incest?
That's humorous, too. Don't you understand humor? My God! I was ridiculing all that stuff that was supposed to be sacred, and using it for a bigger picture. But that wasn't the point of the movie, but that was in the movie.
Sometimes people categorize these films in the exploitation category popular in the 1970s, but they're much deeper than that, aren't they?
None of my films are comparable to anybody else's. So many years after I made them, nobody's been able to copy them. People tell me (in dumb voice), 'Oh, I just copied your film.' I said, 'Really?' I never saw any influence I had because whatever I did, it was my idea, my thing. That's all. Is that a crime against humanity? Am I supposed to read the stupid New York newspapers and think this is good because they typed up some shit about it and did something similar? I've lived in New York my whole life, OK? I know what a junk pile it is and how stupid the media is, and how opportunistic they are with their typing every day and all that crap, so I don't pay much attention. I notice it though. (Laughs)
But you have a deeper statement. For instance that famous line in Flesh For Frankenstein: "To know death, Otto, you must fuck life in the gall bladder."
Well, you don't find that comical? It was probably ridiculing these people who take these horror films, if you want to call them that-- although I don't call my films horror films--but people who use dialogue like that to make you sit through 90 minutes or more of some sort of agony of characters or something. The big studios never did that. They made really good films.
So Andy Warhol's name is attached to many of your films, but he had nothing to do with them creatively. Is that accurate?
Why would you think he did? Why would you imagine that he did?
Because it says "Any Warhol Presents" in the opening credits.
Because they read his name in the paper, like Lady Gaga. Why don't they say Lady Gaga really influenced those movies? All they want is a celebrity name. I made his name famous. You think that shit that he did: a dealer sends him a picture and he sends back a silk screen. You think that got good? They sent him more and more of those photographs to be silkscreened because his name was famous because of my movies, OK? He didn't know good or bad. He didn't know who'd be good in front of a camera. He didn't know anything about movies at all. How would he be connected with my movies? He was incapable of connecting with anybody's anything. He was so autistic. He was so handicapped. He had Asperger's disease. He couldn't read. He couldn't write. He couldn't speak. He was, "Uh, uh, uh, uh, uh." His special gift was he couldn't do anything, so he appeared more idiotic in real life than he was in reality. But he had no ability for anything at all! So he painted? He never painted anything. The dealer sent him the money and the photograph, and then he had it silkscreened. That's painting?
So I'm supposed to live with the idea that he contributed to my movies because I let him present them because I was his manager, and I had to think of things to do to get his name out there, and he couldn't do anything, so he presented my movies and what does the scum media, filth, commie, pieces of shit do? Type up this crap. I made his movies. Look, that's the kind of journalists I've been dealing with my whole life, so it's nothing I haven't noticed (Laughs).
In the meantime you are still making movies. Tell me about News From Nowhere ...
It's about a foreigner coming to America, finding that there's nothing here (laughs), which I don't really think is far off from the truth. But I want to only show it on streaming. I don't want to put it in the theater and have advertising. I'm not going to give it to a distributor. I've gone through that routine my whole life. I'm not going to do it at the end of my life (Laughs). It's a very likable movie. I like it. I think the people in it are wonderful. And the main person in it is very good. He's unique in many ways. He's from another country. When I get to go streaming, I'll say, "You can go watch it on the streaming."
Follow Hans Morgenstern on Twitter @indieethos.
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