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Philip Cook

Si nous aimons rire d'un certain cinéma déviant, nous sommes très loin de mépriser les hommes et les femmes qui s'y sont impliqués ou compromis. Il nous a ainsi paru enrichissant de faire raconter le nanar et son univers par les gens qui l'ont vécu de l'intérieur. La diversité des intervenants et de leurs réponses nous a rendu encore plus proches du cinéma que nous aimons : vous découvrirez, au fil des entretiens que ces différentes vedettes ont bien voulu nous accorder, des informations précieuses pour le cinéphile et le cinéphage, des anecdotes cocasses et, en esquisse, le portrait attachant de personnages souvent hauts en couleur.
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Philip Cook (page 2)

Your also worked as director of photography with Godfrey Ho (using the pseudo “Godfrey Hall” for the movie), a very controversial Hong Kong director, on martial art movie “Undefeatable” with Cynthia Rothrock and Don Niam. How did you get contacted by producer Tai Yim and / or director Godfrey Ho/Hall?

You said on your website that The story's a little weak, but [you] had a blast working on it! How did the shooting go?

Godfrey Ho had been in the States the year before shooting HONOR & GLORY with Cynthia Rothrock and he wanted to upgrade the look of the cinematography. He had seen INVADER and knew that I could achieve a good look for a very small budget. It was a great experience – a mix of Hong Kong and American crew. The “stunt monkeys” -- Asian martial-artists were amazing -- great guys. The risks that they would take to get the shot sometimes really scared me. I was afraid at times someone might really get hurt. No one ever did. I learned a lot watching Godfrey choreograph. And Tai Yim, the producer, was a real source of inspiration on the set – grounded, solid, a real positive force. And of course it was great to have the opportunity to shoot 35mm. I finally had a chance to view the finished film in L.A. at the American Film Market. The images looked beautiful on the big screen. The script and story however were never its strength. Godfrey's emphasis was the action at the expense of character and story.

Godfrey Ho has the reputation not to be a very honest man. Some actors we interviewed, notably Richard Harrison and Bruce Baron, who both acted in some of his films in H.K., told us they got problems with their contracts. Did you have such difficulties with him? Do you know that Godfrey Ho released the movie a few years later in Asia as « Bloody Mary Killer », mixing the original cut with extra, more violent and sexy footages shot in Hong Kong?

That's all news to me. I found both Godfrey Ho and Tai Yim very forthright with me so my experience was very positive. I've lost touch with them over the years.

“Outerworld” aka “Star Quest: beyond the rising moon” (1987) is your first movie as a director, and a very ambitious one. How did you manage to write, direct and gather money for this project?

Phil Cook, John Ellis et Norman Gagnon l'équipe qui a fait le film d A à Z

I teamed up with John Ellis. Both he and I had a passion for Sci-Fi films. We loved the work of Gerry Anderson who had produced UFO and SPACE: 1999. We understood how those effects worked. I wrote OUTERWORLD with that visual effects style in mind. I was trying to make an arty sci-fi film – BETTY BLUE or RISKY BUSINESS in space. I was pretty immature I don't think I managed to pull it off very well. It was a little long and little pretentious. I've since revisited OUTERWORLD and fixed a lot of things with the new cut. Back in the early 80s, we raised money through private investment, selling $3500 shares for a 1 percent of the picture. It's a painful way to raise money. It took over a year to raise the money and then we had the trivial task of actually producing the picture. It featured dozens of futuristic sets, costumes and miniatures. Almost everything was built from scratch -- something that's unheard for a picture of this budget.

Despite the little budget at your disposal (about 175 000 $), you always manage to show a maximum of visual effects in your movies. There are models, matte paintings, and photographic special effects. How have you been working on them?

We built some beautiful sets in a small warehouse over one very hot summer. After the live action, we spent a year building a lot of elaborate miniatures. Unfortunately there were many limitations as to what we could achieve photographically. We had no motion control. There was no compositing. No blue screen. No optical printing work. No computer graphics. It was all done in camera old-style. In the new cut, I preserved the best of our miniature effects shots and replaced some of the more awkward shots with digital recreations. I think it's the best of both worlds and smoothes over some of the film's rougher moments.

For the special DVD edition, it seems you have added some new computer effects. We read that you made the same to boost and enhance “Invader”. Is it an artistic choice, an opportunity to do bigger effects with CGI you couldn't afford at that time, or do you think that the original version is too old fashion for the actual audience?

Honestly I felt OUTERWORLD in its original form was unwatchable and unsellable. It's a completely different experience now. Yes, it's still a product of the eighties, but it's got a hipper, brisker pace. It's a pretty radical redo.

INVADER didn't require as much adjustment. The biggest upgrade to INVADER was an air battle above the skies of Washington D.C. The scene is kind of chilling now in the post 911 world of Washington. But Big Harvey--our rampaging stop motion robot--exists untouched. Watching his finale is a little like watching the original KING KONG. You know it's stop motion. You know it's fake, but you love it anyway. I couldn't touch that footage. It still has its cheesy charm – the whole underground cavern scene.

“Invader” is your second movie as a director (a movie we haven't seen in France yet). You describe it as a satirical movie which is much like an X-Files episode, but it was written in 1987, many years before anyone had heard of Scully and Mulder. Could you tell us a bit more about “Invader”?

INVADER is the antithesis of OUTERWORLD. Where OUTERWORLD was ponderous, INVADER is brisk. It's a DOCTOR STRANGE LOVE meets DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL. It's irreverent, flip and pokes fun at the media, the military and UFO mania. I swear Chris Carter, the creator of the X-Files, must have seen it because aspects of it has cropped up in several X-FILES episodes. At its core, INVADER is a buddy picture. An unlikely duo – a tabloid reporter and a conservative government agent -- work together to uncover the conspiracy behind mysterious deaths at an Air Force base in Virginia. Aliens are afoot!

We read that you worked with Menahem Golan as co-producer for this movie. Is it true, and if yes how was your collaboration with this mythic producer?

After OUTERWORLD, we wanted to make a simple movie – one not set in the future -- one where we didn't have to build everything from the ground up. So I wrote INVADER. It's set in contemporary Washington. We raised $50,000, half of the budget we felt we needed, and we went out shot half the movie with pretext that we'd be able to raise the rest. Well we shot half the movie and couldn't raise any more money! We stalled for almost a year. Finally I took a rough cut of what did shoot to the American Film Market in L.A. I got rejected by several distribution companies until I met Menahem Golan at 21st Century. He recognized the film's potential and gave me another $125,000 to finish it! It was amazing. He became the Executive Producer and left us completely alone! The original title was THE KILLING EDGE. It was Menahem's idea to rename it INVADER. He loved the final picture. For him it was a win win. He spent a fraction of what he'd normally spend on one of his genre films and got twice the production value. Menahem successfully sold it all around the world – Germany, Japan, the U.K. And even though his company bankrupted and I lost my equity share of INVADER, he saved the movie. INVADER never would have been finished with out him. I bear him no ill will.

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