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Interview de Karl Adhihetty

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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Karl Adhihetty

If not famous, Karl Adhihetty has nonetheless offered to the 7th art an unforgettable performance of henchman in the two best Canadian action movies known by Nanarland: « Twin Dragon Encounter » and « Dragon Kickboxers ». 20 years later, he was kind enough to come back with us on his meteoric film career alongside McNamara brothers. Put on your rangers and your mullets, back to the 80's!

Interview menée par Nanarland

First, could you tell us a bit more about yourself? How did you meet the McNamara brothers?

I was born in Sri Lanka in 1959. My mother is German and my father (now deceased) was a Sri Lankan. I came to Canada in 1967 and started training in Karate / Kung Fu in the summer of 1972 under the late Alistair McNeilage. Subsequently, I moved on to train at Twin Dragon Kung Fu and Kickboxing Club in the late fall of 1973 where I trained with Mick and Martin McNamara in Kung Fu Kickboxing until 1997. I had spotted them in a local martial arts magazine and my instructor in Karate / Kung Fu (at the time) held them in high regard. When my club went bankrupt I no longer felt bound by loyalty so I sought out the Twin Dragon Kung Fu Club and joined immediately.

What's your impression about the McNamara brothers, their martial arts skills and their personality in general? How did you come to act in their films?

The Twins martial arts skills were extraordinary for that time. When everybody else was still training in classical martial arts, the Twins were way ahead of everybody. They combined boxing techniques with kung fu techniques to come up with a new style they called KUNG FU KICKBOXING. All this occurred around 1972/1973 around the same time that Bruce Lee created Jeet Kune Do. The Twins style was in every way as revolutionary as Bruce Lee's was back then!

From 1978 - 1985 I also trained in Hung Gar Kung Fu and Chinese Wrestling under David Lee in Toronto and Boxing at Sully's Gym in Toronto from 1973 till 1975. In 1997 I took over the Twin Dragon, Ajax, Ontario franchise. We left the franchise in 2000 due to financial reasons and now operate as Iron Dragon Kung Fu Kickboxing Club in Ajax, Ontario.

I became involved in both films because I was a senior student of the Twins and they asked me if I would like to be in the movie.

Regarding the Twin Dragon films, what can you tell us about their genesis? They appear to be very personal projects of the McNamara brothers: what drove these martial arts instructors to make movies? Do you know who financed those films?

I can recall that Mick McNamara was the driving force behind the Twins venture into films. Mick aggressively pursued acting parts for the Twins throughout the time that I have known them. They got a small part in the film "Title Shot" starring Tony Curtis in around 1978/79. In 1980/81, the Twins got quite a big break with a part in the film "Dirty Tricks" starring Elliot Gould and Kate Jackson (filmed in Montreal). Mick grew increasingly frustrated that he could not get anybody interested in producing a film that would put the Twins in the Lead role. After years of ridiculing Chuck Norris' acting and fighting ability, Mick decided that he would produce a film and finance it himself.

Karl, next to one of the Twin Dragons.

If I remember correctly, Twin Dragon Encounter was filmed on a budget of around $35,000 in around 1984! This is the number I remember but I have never confirmed it. I think Mick financed this film on his own by taking a mortgage on some real estate that he owned. In fact, it was the island property where we filmed the movie!

The film was shot in super 16mm to save money and was going to be blown up to 35mm for release in theatres. Ultimately the film was not picked up by any major film companies so Mick sold it to one of the existing Pay Per View Channels - I forget which one - and it played on Pay Per View in Canada. Later, the film was sold to several Middle East and Asian countries where it played in theatres to surprising acclaim!

The McNamara brothers portraying some aggressive henchmen in "Diry Tricks".

Emboldened by the surprising success of the first film, Mick proceeded to lay plans for the sequel "Dragon Hunt". That movie was filmed around 1989 and had a larger budget (though still minuscule compared to mainstream films). I believe (although I'm not certain) that Mick financed the film again with a mortgage on his real estate holdings and / or received some financing from Shapiro / Glickenhaus Productions for this film [Nanarland: James Glickenhaus has notably been Frank Henenlotter's faithful producer, but also the director of exploitation movies such as « The Exterminator »]. Either that or he sold the film to them immediately after its production. This film actually made it to the big screen. I recall going to the opening screening in Toronto around 1991. The film has since been seen on local television stations and has recently been spotted on "The Drive-In Network".

What was it like working with the McNamara duo and the other actors? From the credits, it seems Michael McNamara was more involved than Martin in the making of the films. How did they split the various tasks between themselves?

When filming "Twin Dragon Encounter", I sensed that Mick McNamara was under a tremendous amount of pressure. Being the man that he is, he kept this all to himself. When I saw him by himself sometimes he seemed in his own world as he plotted the next days filming. The McNamara's are tremendous jokers and the time we spent on the set with them was lighthearted and loads of fun.

When filming Dragon Hunt, I got the sense that Mick was much more confident this time round. He had successfully funded and produced his first film and had made his money back despite all the naysayers that thought him foolhardy for even making the attempt. There was clearly a bigger budget this time round, although I believe the film was once again shot in Super 16mm so that it could be blown up for theatre showings. It is my opinion that Mick McNamara has always been the "leader" of this duo and that Martin is the loyal brother that supports his Twin in all his endeavours. Mick McNamara typically functions as the management of the duo while Martin usually handles the operative tasks.

What was different between the making of the two films?

It is clear too that there was much more budget for special effects as is evidenced by the large amount of weapons (including a grenade launcher) that was available to us for this film. Also there is a scene that shows one of the Twins getting shot in the leg which is also enhanced through the use of special effects. Several major explosions were also used to enhance the film.

You play the role of one of Jake's henchmen, the main bad guy. What can you tell us about your character, how was he defined and how did you try to portray him?

The role was not clearly defined. I just tried to portray the character as a sort of "Clubber Lang" since I had recently seen Rocky III. Clubber Lang was Mr. T's role as the villain in Rocky III.

Do you still have that same awesome haircut today?

That question is hilarious. Back in the 1970's I sported a huge Afro hairstyle. I had become quite vain about it and the chicks really liked it. Cutting that hair for my part in "Twin Dragon Encounter" was quite a blow! Surprisingly, when we were off film and drove into the redneck town of Parry Sound to pick up supplies, one of the other actors and I (both being visible minorities) were able to meet and pick up some girls despite the fact that we were dressed and looked much the way we did in the film! We had new girlfriends for the duration of the filming!

B. Bob, who plays Jake, gives quite a memorable performance. What can you tell us about this actor?

B. Bob was actually one of the few actual actors that were hired for the film! I was told that he did lots of local plays as a part time actor on the downtown Toronto circuit. He was a fire hydrant inspector for the City of Toronto and would hide his hair under a baseball hat! The hair was a permanent part of his personna! I remember that he was at least 10 or 15 years older than most of us at the time. Surprisingly, the character that he portrayed in the film did not stray much from his actual personality. He was given to outlandish rants at strangely inappropriate times! One thing I do remember from talking to him was his love for his daughter. At the time I believe she was around 7 years old or so. He spoke very lovingly of his daughter very often over the course of the filming.

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