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Bill Mills

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Bill Mills

Along with our interviews with Tommy Bull and Jimmy Williams, this interview is one of the three we made to learn more about the making of Shadow of the Dragon. William "Bill" Mills worked on this crazy little movie as an actor, associate producer, prop master, assistant stunt coordinator, special makeup effects artist, sound effects designer, foley artist, assistant mixing director… He kindly shared with us his sharp memories of the production and post-production, enriched with some personnal photos of the props and special effects used during the shooting. This sympathetic and enthusiastic character, champion of the DIY method, tells us the story of a real disaster movie. Bill passed away on January 9th, 2022.

Interview conducted on February the 13th of 2014 by John Nada.

William Mills a.k.a. Bill Mills, playing the part of Detective Pat Carlyle in "Shadow of the Dragon".

How would you describe Shadow of the Dragon to someone who has never watched it?

Shadow of the Dragon is an under budgeted, under written and, sadly, poorly directed piece of... celluloid. "Sadly", because in other hands this could've been a good 'little film', considering that the cast included veteran character actor and consummate screen villain William (Bill) Smith (whose credits could take up this whole page), as well as Robert Z'Dar (Maniac Cop, Tango & Cash). But, the potential for some powerful performances from either was lost in a haze of confusing, painfully slow paced plots, subplots, and stilted dialog primarily delivered by the credited 'stars' of the film: Jimmy Williams, Donna Cherry and Sandy Palm. The film has a few intentionally humorous moments (and many more UNintentional ones) and a few action scenes that work... but, not enough to carry it, or even DRAG it, past it's relentless mediocrity. The "star" of the film, Jimmy Williams, also (co-)wrote, produced AND directed. Too bad. That is undoubtedly this film's biggest flaw. Shadow of the Dragon ends up a little like a term project for a college film class... one that got a "D minus". Or, classroom materials for the course: "How NOT to make a movie!".

Bill Mills, next to Daniel Kong, who played the part of Minh (he was seen before in David A. Prior's "Killzone", "Surf Nazis Must Die" and that's about it).

How did you happen to work on this movie?

I believe I started working on Shadow of the Dragon in late 1991. The film had been 'in production' for several months at the time I joined the crew. Originally I was hired as sound man, but within the first week I had been instrumental in a number of other production areas, including wardrobe, set dressing and props. For instance, the black dress Ghi with white cuffs worn by Tommy Bull came from my personal closet. The short red Japanese robe worn by one of the Dragon's henchmen is also from my personal collection and I still have it today. The Samurai sword William Smith brandishes near the end of the film was mine. Among other things.

The short red Japanese robe in question...

…as used in the film.

In that first week I got a copy of the rather slim script and learned that a major plot point revolved around a large gem or pendant stolen from a temple in Vietnam. However by lunch break of the day that scene was to be shot there was no prop gem. So, I drove from Hollywood to my apartment in the San Fernando Valley during lunch and dug around in my own collection for something that might serve the purpose in that scene. I found an old faux Celtic pendant and a large red plastic jewel-like appliqué in my stuff and glued the jewel to the pendant. Lunch break was an hour and I return to the set on time. To my amusement, as the director Jimmy Williams began to set up the scene that required this prop it still hadn't occurred to him that there was no prop. So, just like in the movies, I stepped up at the appropriate moment and offered my hastily made Gem prop to the line producer Sandy Palm. He was quite impressed that I had taken the initiative and had the right thing at the right time, so that it wasn't necessary to halt production while scrounging around to acquire or produce one. As with many other items used in the film... I still have that prop!

The jewel that villain "Eric Brunner" (William Smith) steals from the head of the Buddha statue. The broken edge happened during filming.

The same prop, as seen in the film.

By the end of my first week I had made myself valuable enough to the production that Sandy Palm asked me if I would be willing to take on Associate Producer duties. He told me that he and Jimmy were in agreement on this. He suggested that it would result in a sizable 'back end' payoff and sweetened the deal with a variety of perks including having a part as an actor and being included in the stunt sequences. Little did I know the ordeal that I had managed, by my own misguided maneuvering, to get myself into. The suggestion of a big paycheck at the end was made a 'promise' before too long. But, like it was for most of the other talent associated with this project, that promise was never kept. It was another two-plus years of production followed by a nightmare of a post production phase that included my having to ADR some 75% of the film. Shadow of the Dragon didn't get an official 'Premiere' until 1994. Every time you see MILLS in the film's end credits, no matter what variation of names or initials precede it, it's me. And I guarantee you I only took credit for the actual work I did on Shadow of the Dragon.

Some other props made by Bill Mills:

« On the left, the voice changing device 'The Mekong Dragon' uses to alter his voice. It's just a small speaker element with 2 resistors glued to it, and Velcro on the back for easy removal in the one shot near the end when he does that.
On the right, the book of matches that leads Baker and O'Malley to the "Kit Kat Klub", made on my home computer circa' early 1990's. »

« The very same props, as seen in the film. On the left shot, it's actually Jack Birch doubling for William Smith's neck. The same applies on the right shot, where the matchbook from the "Kit Kat Klub" is held by my fingers, doubling for Jimmy Williams / Det. Tony Baker. »

« One of the actual 8 1/2 X 11 dot matrix computer printer pages used as "Wanted" posters on the wall in the Police station, seen behind the Captain (during the scene with the radio operator getting the drunk's call as the big fight at the end begins). This was also made on my home PC, something few people I knew had or could use even in the early 90's. Note all the jibberish text, and that the photos used on this one... is a young ME!  'William Wilde' is the name I used when I was hosting and producing Telephone Entertainment shows back in the early/mid 1980's ».

The very same Wanted posters, pinned on the wall of the police station behind Robert Z'Dar.

« The Special Effects rig made by Bobby Swain for the hand chopping scene. The arm and hand were actually made from a mold of Ed Sanchez, the actor who played the part (and would later write, produce and make the special effects on "Manosaurus", directed by… Jimmy Williams). »

« The hand on the right was actually attached to an arm (similar to the pre-chopped one with the syringes for the blood spurting) and was first stabbed by Big Mac McWhorter (you see the knife hole starting at the knuckle of the middle finger) and then struck at the wrist with another knife to start sawing through the arm. Then a second angle was shot in which that prop arm was replaced with the spurting one to complete the sequence. Originally both of these looked alike, but time has not been kind to the one that actually took the stab. »

« The scene in question, where Tommy Bull and Big Mac McWhorter stab and severe the henchman's hand. Of course the bloodied bank notes were 'Stage Dollars' ...»

« …I still have a stack of those, with "Motion Picture Use Only" written on it. »

How would you explain this movie took so long to make?

A number of reasons... some perfectly reasonable hold ups that happen, especially on a very low budget production. For example, the production company owned it's own Ariflex camera. A giant boat anchor of a machine. Nonetheless, somehow it was stolen from our production van at one point in the making of Shadow of the Dragon which was a costly setback, of course. But a lot of it was simply that whatever amount of money 'the good Doctor' (as he was often referred to) Victor Chartrand invested, and continued to invest, Jimmy always managed to run out of money for shooting expenses, have to shut down for a few months until he could manipulate Dr. Chartrand into investing another two, or five grand to pay for film stock and processing, location rentals, paying and/or feeding cast and crew, etcetera. And then he would run out of funds again and we would go through the process again. Repeatedly throughout the making of Shadow of the Dragon. It was pretty obvious at the time that Jimmy would use the money to pay his rent, utilities and phone bills... as well as other personal expenses and then try to get as much free 'talent' and manpower as he could get to stretch the now much smaller amount to be able to shoot a few more weeks. It was a very 'Ed Woods' style of financing a film production.

"The good Doctor" Victor Chartrand (in black, sitting on the couch), benefactor of so-bad-it's-good movies.

Dans cette scène, Chartrand is enjoying the show of a stripper. Comment from Bill: « That whole 'get to see a naked lady dance' thing was one of his 'perks' for investing in the film. Go figure... »

Victor Chartrand with starlet Phoebe Price in 2005, during a fashion show in Beverly Hills. Comment from Bill : « Despite the added years and the obvious hair dye job, it's our guy indeed. The fact that he looks rich and old and is with a young and beautiful model should tell you a lot about the waaay too affluent Dr. Chartrand... and how he chose to spend his mature years and excess of cash. »

Now tell us a bit about Jimmy Williams...

Jimmy Williams was/is a complicated guy. During my several years working very closely with him I found him to be a confused and confusing mixture of artistic, creative, selfless motives and a self serving con man only concerned about maintaining his own revenue stream as his overriding motivation. You can tell when you see his upper torso in the film that he was, in his youth, a ‘Muscle Beach’ type bodybuilder. Apparently he became part of that community in Southern California’s Venice Beach area when younger and in shape, and began to get a reputation as a body builder’s photographer, shooting stills for publication in the genre magazines of the time. After that what I know is very sketchy, like he studied to become a magician at some point, worked as an extra, but I believe his knowledge of filmmaking came from taking college classes at some point.

Of course, Jim was hoping for the film to be a ‘showcase’, primarily for himself. But there is nothing inherently wrong with that desire in a filmmaker. IF the filmmaker ‘has the goods’ that is. Succeeding IS what it’s all about in any business, especially show business. A good showcase film can give you the credentials to get more work faster than several years of working on other people’s films in whatever capacity. But, Jimmy seemed to have more knowledge of the mechanics of filmmaking and film editing, than actual movie making talent. For the record, I do not agree with opinions that Jimmy was/is a bad actor. In fact, if he’d only been an actor in this film he’d have come off pretty well. At the age he was when Shadow of the Dragon was shooting, he had reached a mainly character actor stage of his range. But he was good in such roles and shouldn’t be summarily discounted.

Jimmy Williams fighting in the hell of 'Nam.

Jimmy Williams' name is everywhere in the credits. There is also a "Josephine Williams" (co-producer and co-writer), a "Kenneth J. Williams" (co-writer), as well as a "Robert Shaun Williams". Do you know who they were?

Josephine was Jimmy’s wife and Kenneth J. Williams is Jimmy Williams’ legal name. The variations of that you see in the credits are all for the same guy. Much as it is with mine. Shaun Williams is Jimmy’s grandson.

Young Robert Shaun Williams playing the part of a lost little boy. No worries, grandpa Jimmy is there.

What about Sanford Palm, who played Jimmy's sidekick and was co-producer?

Sandy was a really good man. He was intelligent, knowledgeable in the mechanics of filmmaking, dedicated, hard working and loyal to a fault. He was ‘put upon’ and seriously overworked by the many and various demands of working for, and with, Jimmy Williams. I know he’d been a football player as a young man in high school/college and had been in the military in war time as well. Sandy also spent some time in community theater . He was deceptively strong physically and truly a ‘tough old bird‘. It is untrue that Jimmy Williams was a beer drinker. Jim preferred hard liquor like Scotch or Vodka. But Sandy was known for his love of beer. The scene in Shadow of the Dragon in the nightclub in which O’Malley says “You know I don’t like beer!” was intended entirely as an ‘in joke’… because it’s the LAST thing in the world Sandy Palm would have ever really said. He and I were good friends and I had a great affection for Sandy. He has passed on now and that fact still saddens me deeply.

As regards the unlikely (read "insanely myopic") idea that Jimmy, at this age – much less dear ol' Sandy – could or should be cast in the roles of leads in an action film, this was not Sandy's choice. In deference to his memory, for what it's worth, I for one want to make that fact abundantly clear. Did Jimmy have the ego to give himself the leading role? Yes, absolutely, but not Sandy. Sandy was a very down to earth realist, but he was also Jimmy's best friend and had been for years. So if Jimmy wanted him to play his sidekick, no matter how or in what, Sandy would soldier on for God, Country... and Jimmy! He was just the kind of loyal friend we all hope to have... except that he had misguidedly hooked his wagon to Jimmy Williams (as had I, to my embarrassment). Sandy really had no choice except to play out the part the best he could in the scenes and situations that Jimmy and his wife wrote. He would have preferred a different type of role, but he was a mans-man kind of guy and was honor bound to do his best. It seems Jimmy figured that out by Manosaurus which he started as soon as possible after Shadow of the Dragon was finished and being shopped to distributors. Apparently in that Sandy played a professor. The kind of thing he was perfect for.

What about William Smith? Despite his age, did you find him worthy of his reputation?

Absolutely! William (Bill) Smith was a highlight of the experience for me. I had been a fan of Bill Smith’s since his days as a young good looking cowboy on the 1967 U.S. television series Laredo and his many seceding roles (such as his 1960s ‘biker’ flicks, Falconetti in Rich Man, Poor Man and with Eastwood in Any Which Way But Loose, etc.). So I was really excited to get to work with him. He and I got along well. There was a lot of male camaraderie, profanity and rough housing. You could feel like a buddy easily with Billy (as he tended to be called by director, cast and crew).

« Bill & Bill! This photo was taken in the make-up room on the set of 'Shadow Of The Dragon"! It was the only shot left in the make-up girl's Polaroid camera, so I was unable to ask for a second shot. I surely would have otherwise because Bill and I were both caught off guard when the camera flashed... and we look kinda dazed and/or geeky. I wish there had been a second photo, but I am still grateful to have even this one bad photo of us together. »

In almost every respect Bill Smith turned out to be everything an admiring fan would imagine or want him to be. Strong, self reliant, honorable, physically formidable and yet friendly, accessible and cooperative. Most of the time. However, Jimmy and Bill were old drinking buddies and the longer Bill had to endure these pitiable working conditions, the more he was willing to let Jimmy placate him with a shot or two of good liquor. When the two of them would imbibe just a bit too much… usually late in a shooting day… things could get a little ‘over the top’ in one way or other. For instance, Bill was pretty well oiled when he did the Temple scene talking to the idol and stealing the jewel. So he ad-libbed pretty much all of the dialogue based on what he could recall of the lines he’d been written. That made doing the ADR (re-recording) a lot trickier, you can bet.

In the scene where the Dragon slaps the tied up Tony, Bill and Jimmy had been imbibing a bit and rough housing some before hand and when the camera rolled for that shot, Bill, feeling a bit ‘exaggeratory’, really slapped Jimmy good and hard. Afterward Jimmy said to me “Damn! I’m surprised it didn’t knock my dentures across the sound stage!”.


It seems William Smith experienced some rough misfortunes during the shooting, would you have some anecdotes about that?

In the Vietnam sequence in which Brunner (Bill Smith) steps on a land mine… the special effects rigger had allowed sand and dirt to fall into the mortar pipes that house the explosives then buried in the earth only up to their tops/openings. These are meant to go off similarly to a roman candle giving the illusion of a ground based bomb exploding. Unfortunately, when you close off their tops they transform into real bombs. When these went off they did not shoot upward but exploded outward slitting the ¼ pipes of which they were constructed. The resulting blast had such a concussive force it knocked Bill Smith off of his feet, knocked him unconscious for a few seconds and deafened him for several hours. I thought we had killed our star. It was a very close call and it scared the hell out of me, that’s for sure. Typically, William Smith shook the whole thing off eventually and it was never mentioned again. At least not to me.

Note from Nanarland : the worst part is that this sequence was shot during the night, and the focus is completely missed! The camera operator must have shot from far away, full zoom. Was it really worth risking William Smith's life for such a flimsy result…?

Also, in a scene in which William Smith is holding 'Baby', the snake, he was actually bitten while he was delivering dialogue! I was there and witnessed this and I will swear to its veracity. We all saw the snake strike and the blood that began to drip off of Bill's hand to the floor but no one said a word. The camera and sound were rolling. Sure enough, as you'd expect from such a man as William Smith, he never flinched. He kept reading his lines until the end of the shot and Jimmy yelled "Cut!". Then as we all stopped holding our collective breath and started toward him, he said in a low calm voice "Somebody take this bitch before I make her into a belt". The owner of the snake rushed in and took her away, and after cleaning the wound and applying a Band-Aid (and a shot of Vodka!), Billy was ready to go back to work.

Hello "Baby" !

Regarding the sets or the special effects, Shadow of the Dragon is really a DIY movie...

Oh yes! A lot of the film was actually shot in the same room, that we redressed as several locations. The nightclub, Margie’s dressing room, the hospital, the forensics office, the front entrance of the DoJo (before the DoJo 'fight')... it was all shot at the Los Angeles Science Fiction Society clubhouse, which was then in Burbank, California, and where I had arranged for us to get some cheap rental space in which to shoot.

First we dressed it as a nightclub, the "Kit Kat Klub". There is a funny continuity error when Margie McGee (Donna Cherry) sings her song, with a leather jacket on... then off... then on again! And Margie's dressing room door was actually a 'rest room' door! You can see space for the 'Occupied' sliding sign near the bottom of the frame when Tiny grabs Tony, and later when Tiny listens at the door.

Behind this door, Detective Tony Baker is going to find:
A) Singer Margie McGee's dressing room?
B) The restroom?
(Answer: both)

Then we turned the nightclub into an hospital. We had nothing as medical equipment for the hospital room, so I hastily took the lid from a Styrofoam ice chest, painted it silver, stuck some buttons and dials into the foam, hung an old stereo headphone extension cable (which was from my personal audio equipment) on the 'device' (one with volume controls on a box on the cable) and stuck it over the bed. The IV bottle is also just a drinking water bottle hung from a microphone stand. And voila!

« Here you can recognize the lid from a Styrofoam ice chest above the bed, and the "IV bottle" hung from a microphone standing in the left corner. »

« The forensics office (left) and the front entrance of the DoJo (right) were also shot at the Los Angeles Science Fiction Society clubhouse. »

You mentionned an error of continuity when Margie McGee / Donna Cherry sings in the nightclub. Would you have other examples in mind?

At some point in the film, there is a thug who steals drugs from the 'Mekong Dragon', and ends being blown up in his pick up truck. He was my next door neighbor, Ron Hinton. But you see Ron again later in the movie, standing with the Dragon and three other henchmen, as they are instructed to go to Tijuana to beat up O'Malley. Oops!

Ron Hinton steals drugs from his boss, get in his red pick-up truck, the vehicle blows up. A few minutes later, Ron Hinton (standing on the left on the last screenshot) gets orders from his boss. Oops!

There's also a splendid continuity error at the end of the movie…

I believe you're referring to the outfit on Daniel Kong in the Ming's Temple, right? It's true that his costume seems to be white in some shots and blue in others. But there is actually an explanation for that.

On this screenshot, Minh (Daniel Kong) is dressed in white…

…and when he gets up, his shirt turned blue!

This was due to a deal Jimmy cut with the Buddhists who ran the Temple you see in the exterior shots. They allowed the Temple to be shown if they could approve the scenes. The script didn't bother them... but when they saw the print and saw that we had Daniel in an all white outfit, they got very upset. Only the highest of priests in the 'order' get to wear all white. So they threatened to refused to give permission to use the footage unless we changed that. Jimmy's ‘bright idea’ was to have the lab tint the film blue, so that his clothing would appear to be a light blue color. It barely worked... sometimes it looks more white than blue, sometimes it looks light blue. And I suspect that different release prints may have worsened the 'effect' as well. 

What about the stock-shots used in the film – those at the beginning, in Viêt-nam, or the explosion of a car for instance – were you also in charge of that?

No Jimmy handled that, he had some source for stock. Hollywood is full of little 'producer's stock library' type services. Pay a price get some footage. The smaller the fee, the cheesier and more ragged looking the clip. Obviously, big bucks gets quality footage. Guess what kind Jimmy chose...

I believe you wanted to react to  what Tommy Bull told us?

Yes indeed. Tommy was, and still is, a spirited and wacko sort of guy. Working with Tommy on Shadow of the Dragon was one the more enjoyable experiences for me in the making of the film. I had had some background in martial arts and theatrical fighting, so Tommy found me to have an understanding point of view regarding filming stunts fight and a dependable working partner on the set. He seemed to recognize me as a kindred spirit in various ways and I was pleased by that. We actually had a lot of fun during our time working on Shadow of the Dragon together. At the time Tommy was quite young and seemed to be overflowing with nervous energy, which some people, including Jimmy Williams, found overbearing and annoying. Youth is like that though, so this is not a personal critique of that behavior, simply an observation. Tommy was working a lot on other TV and film productions and had to fly in from Florida to work on Shadow of the Dragon. It all took so long from first filming day to the wrap of production, that I suspect Tommy can be easily confused about which experiences took place on which job. I liked, and continue to like, Tommy and I am very pleased to see how well he has been doing with many film roles over the last two decades as well as currently and the success of his BullworX gym and Training Program.

The big fight scene near the end of the film was actually shot twice, the first time by Jimmy and many months later again by Chris Bernal. Sadly, when Jimmy shot the first stunt sequences he chose to 'under crank' the camera intentionally to speed up the action artificially. This was a mistake. The resulting footage looked comical. So additional footage was shot using cameraman and aspiring film maker Chris Bernal to augment or replace footage from the original shoot. Apparently Tommy Bull had been promised that he would be allowed to choreograph and direct this fight scene. But Jimmy really wasn't comfortable with that idea. However, Tommy aggressively reminded him of his promise, so Jimmy arranged the shoot but told Chris that he and I were to make all directorial decisions and Tommy was really only to choreograph the fights with my assistance. And then Jimmy left the set and did not return. I think because it galled him to give over the reins. Jimmy, in his inimitable fashion, probably did not tell Tommy any of this. In the long run the sequences were choreographed and directed by a 'committee' of the three of us.

Contrary to what Tommy Bull remembers, there were never 200 potential fighters auditioning to be in this fight. In fact, it was difficult to assemble even the 10 or 12 men that did eventually work in this big fight scene. Several of them were friends with whom I had to plead for assistance because we were so short of performers. Not to mention performers willing to work into, and possibly through, the night. Edward Green, Cary Martin, Willem Griffin appear in this sequence because I called them to help out. I knew they had the fight training to do the job. Most of the others are in the sequence because they were already seen as heroes or henchmen earlier in the film. I got Stunt Choreography credit for being part of that team and for the actual ‘set ups’ I did in the original shoot footage. For instance, the bit with the bad guy that I kick at the same time I take his shotgun from him (Edward Green) and then turn and throw it to Tony, my fight with a henchman (Willem Griffen) during the big end fight at the end, Big Mac tossing me up in the air and into the wall and a few other minor bits were ‘set ups’ that I did.

Again, contrary to what Tommy recalls, Jimmy Williams although overweight was not in bad health or bad physical condition. I simply do not recall any time at which Jimmy had to leave the film to be hospitalized or any time that Tommy was called in to replace him as director of Shadow of the Dragon.

At the beginning of the interview, you said you had to « ADR some 75% of the film »… Could you elaborate?

The post production included a lot of ADR (Automatic Dialog Replacement), that is to say replace previously recorded dialogue by lip syncing new recordings to the film. The motive for this was that it allowed, in some cases, better clarification of the point of the speech. In other cases the original audio track had been lost. However, ADR was not done in a traditional and professional manner. Almost all of the re-recorded dialogue was done in my small apartment in North Hollywood using a standard nineteen inch television, the actual finished release print on VHS tape and a DAT cassette recorder! So over several months, the actors we could get back to redo their parts (Jimmy Williams, Sandy Palm, Donna Cherry, Trudy Adams, Robert Z’Dar, Gerald Okamura, Daniel Kong and a few more) sat in front of this little screen and let me direct and coach them through the process. I am oddly proud of the fact that Jimmy Williams would usually be there to greet the talent when they arrived, but would leave before the session began telling the actor “Trust Billy!“. And amazingly, they were all very trusting and cooperative, even under these unusual circumstances and the primitive process. It was not as easy as it would have been in a proper studio with just their parts projected for them to re-read their lines against. Their willingness and hard work was endearing and I am very proud of how well their parts came out. In many instances the actors were given a chance to read their lines with different inflection and emotion than their original performances, which have often been rather flat due to lack of rehearsal and Jimmy's style of not really directing his actors. Trust me when I tell you that they were all delighted with this opportunity! They were all better performances for it.

Because William Smith was no longer available to dub his own voice two years or so after the shooting, I am his voice throughout the entire film! It took Jimmy Williams a year to convince me to be the voice over actor to re-record William Smith’s dialogue. I had been doing it as a gag for some time, calling Jimmy on the phone using Billy’s voice and he would ‘buy it’ every time. But, I knew my voice was still a bit too young for the role. Besides I am a huge Bill Smith fan and have so much respect for the man that it just seemed sacrilegious somehow to me. But, I also recognized that I really understood the how and why of Bill’s vocal style and some other actor would have just growled like Wolfman Jack or some such. That would have been totally unacceptable. So believe it or not, to protect Bill Smith in this debacle, in the best way available to me, I had no choice but finally agree to do it. Now, due to age, my voice is much more suited to doing a fairly good impression of Billy… when I make the effort. But other than the pitch of the readings, I am still proud of the result of my attempting to get the feel and sound of a William Smith bad-guy performance.

Actually, aside from being William Smith's voice throughout the entire film, I did over 20 minor character voices – including two female parts!

Over 20? And you dubbed female characters? Why??

Literally on the day I was to do a final mix down of all the audio (music, effect and dialogue) for the film, I spotted a black female character in the jail scene with Ellen who visibly speaks a line of dialogue, but there was no audio for her and her mouth just opened and closed mysteriously. How I had missed for that long is beyond my reckoning. This would never do. Unfortunately, I could not reach a single female friend to record that line and I was nearly out of time. So, I had no choice but to try to do it myself. There was no line written for her that anyone could show me either. So in the end, I had to invent a line for her to say and the voice of the black hooker in the jail cell is actually my voice. The moaning sound that Margie makes a she wakes up in the Dragon's hideout is also my voice.

Many 'day players' couldn't be called back to re-record their parts some two to three years after their scenes had been shot. So I did their voices. The voice of the black martial artist and the DoJo scene is me. The voice of the black martial artist in Chicago who beats up Baker is my voice. The security guard that calls the factory owner out to see three of the Dragon's men is my voice and the thug who demands payment for the Dragon is my voice. I am also the thug getting instructions from the Dragon who says ‘I’ll make him have a nice day’ and I am the voice of the Dragon with whom the thug is speaking. In the L.A. sequence where the Dragon has a thug killed I am the voice of the killer with the metal pin (which he shoves into the victim's neck) and I am the screaming victim. The bad guys at the robbery where the car eventually flips and burns, I am both guy’s voices. The short Asian thug in the factory who say “It is two short”, is me. In the warehouse scene in which the thief's hand is chopped off, I was even forced, by circumstance, to be the voice of Tommy Bull as well. And the very first voice you hear on the soundtrack, the 'Hiiiiiya' over the top of Tommy Bull doing martial arts moves... is me too. Most of the groaning, screaming, ughs and umphs used for bullet hits, falls, punches are me. There were so many bit parts I can not recall them all without actually watching the film again, which at the moment I haven’t done in quite awhile.

On the left, Jack Birch as "Private Roberts" in the Vietnam sequence (he is also credited as 1st Assistant Director). On the right, the same actor in "Road of Death" in 1973. Birch is a former porn performer. He notably appeared in "Deep Throat", along with his wife Carol Connors. The couple did several adult films together. Jack Birch and Carol Connors are also the parents of Thora Birch, of "Ghost World" and "American Beauty" fame.

Then, I was the sound editor during the post production. I sat at a flatbed three plate film editor and sync’d the dialogue/ADR recordings to the film, as well as I could. I also created and recorded much of the Foley sound effects (along with Alexandra Carlyle), which I also edited and sync’d with the film. And then, there was the music cues to be used and/or re-cut to match new edits to scenes in the finished film. I even composed and sang a theme song but, despite the promise made by Jimmy, it has never been used.

With the benefit of hindsight, how do you feel about your experience on this movie?

Like Tommy Bull, I too have a thread of bitterness about the Shadow of the Dragon 'experience', because of the way the production was handled, the end result as a film, and broken promises from the producer/director. But I have actually come to terms (more than less) with all of that. It was an enormous amount of work, because being the associate producer implied to do, find, create or fix a lot of things. As I already told you, I made props, helped with some special effects, scouted and acquired locations, dressed sets, directed the ADR of the actors we could get back, dubbed for all the others, designed and recorded special sound effects, edited and sync'd the sound track, co-directed and choreographed with 2nd Unit, did stunts in the 'big fight' at the end, wrote the scene in which I am featured with 'star' Jimmy Williams, doubled on a few shots, I was the driver in the scene in which a car bursts through a garage door and crushes a bad guy... and still I am probably forgetting something. So yes, it was a hell of an experience for me (both good and bad), to say the least.

Whether it is the interior of a temple (take a look at the floor: an Oriental rug, a patch of brown carpet, some black plywood and a piece of grey linoleum!)…

…or the entrance to the Kit Kat Klub, the sets really look very poor.

I also dragged a lot of people into working on Shadow of the Dragon. Friends like Edward Green, Cary Martin or Willem Griffin (in the big fight scene at the end), Irene Sherwood (the female cop who Tony has dialogue with as he is sitting at his desk), my neighbor Ron Hinton, as well as Glen Blankenship (who was one of the pair of the Dragon’s henchmen, and also my Assistant Property Manager and did the computer graphics of the compression chamber’s pressure meter for the film), Casey Abbott who appears as the bassist in the nightclub band, and in fact all the musicians in the nightclub. Some were there only for a day and found it fun. But for those who worked more and were never paid, it wasn't fun at all. Some had such bad experiences overall that they haven't spoken to me since. They blame me… and I can’t blame them for that.

Thank you Bill!

- Interview menée par John Nada -