I am really happy to have the star of cult classics like Eagah!, Wild Guitar and The Sadist share a few thoughts with the readers of The Uranium Cafe. I don't think I am a good interviewer type and there are much better blog interviews than this one out there on the net, but it was really kind of Arch to take time out of his busy and full life to answer these few questions. I had many more of course but I know people like Arch are beset upon by bloggers with loads of questions and so I felt a bit guilty. But he is a gentleman and was kind enough to share some memories with us. While I asked some of the standard Arch Hall Jr. Qs I also took a chance and asked him about some adventures related to his flying career and got one of the best ever Arch Hall Jr. stories. More reviews of Arch's film in the works. On to the actual questions now:
Hi Arch, thanks for taking a couple minutes to look these questions over. I know you have a full life with lots of demands on your time, but some of the followers of the Uranium Café are big fans of you and your films and music work and of course I am a geeky fan of your old films. But now I also have a heck of a lot of respect for your achievements after you decided to say goodbye to Fairway International Films and your acting career there. Truly amazing life since you said bye to acting.
How did your dad, the legendary Arch Hall Sr. react to that at first, he must have been a bit disappointed in the beginning, and how did it eventually work out with him?
BILL, THERE ARE SEVERAL COMPLEX FACTORS YOU MUST TAKE INTO ACCOUNT BEFORE FULLY UNDERSTANDING MY DECISION TO STRIKE OUT IN ANOTHER DIRECTION. FIRST, FAIRWAY WAS BURIED IN DEBT FROM BEING DEPENDENT ON A VAST NETWORK OF BAD DISTRIBUTORS ACROSS THE NATION. SOME VERY POORLY WRITTEN AND IMPOSSIBLE TO ENFORCE CONTRACTS, WHILE OTHERS WERE OUT AND OUT CROOKS RIGHT TO YOUR FACE! ON THE OTHER SIDE WAS THE BANK & THE LABS WHICH OPERATED ON A CASH BASIS. MOST CITIES LIKE CLEVELAND OHIO FOR EXAMPLE WOULD WANT TO OPEN IN MAYBE 5 MULTI SCREEN DRIVE-INS AND 8-10 WALK IN THEATERS ON THE SAME NIGHT! 35mm PRINTS WERE I RECALL ABOUT $2100 for BLACK & WHITE AND $2700 EACH + SHIPPING IN TWO HEAVY MULTI REEL METAL SHIPPING CANS. THE LAB WOULD SHIP THE PRINTS AND WOULD DEMAND TO RECOUP FIRST MONIES “OFF THE TOP” TO RECOVER THE PRINT COST, OK (STAY WITH ME NOW) MANY TIME THE PRINTS WOULD BE SEVERELY DAMAGED EITHER BY POORLY MAINTAINED PROJECTORS AND/OR IMPROPER HANDLING BY IDIOT PROJECTIONISTS. EITHER WAY IF THE PRINT COULD NOT BE REPAIRED IN THE FIELD? A REPLACEMENT PRINT WAS SHIPPED OR THEY WERE SHORT.
SO FINANCIALLY FAIRWAY WAS MORE THAN HURTING. IT WAS AS MORTALLY WOUNDED AS THE INCOME FROM SAY A MAJOR CITY MULTI-SCREEN DRIVE-IN WOULD BE AN AVERAGE OF $15 FOR AN ENTIRE WEEK END! SOME WERE AS LOW AS $9.00. SOMETIMES THEY WOULD REMIT NOTHING AT ALL! EXCEPT TO SAY THEY HAD RAIN. THIS IS WHY I WOULD HEAR MY MOTHER SOBBING IN THE MORNING WHEN OPENING THE MAIL. STARTING TO GET A PICTURE YET? I WOULD PLAY IN BEER BARS AT NIGHT FOR $25-40 A NIGHT NOT WITH MY BAND BUT WITH MOSTLY TRIOS IN BEER BARS TO MAKE ENDS MEET.
ARCH SR’S HEALTH WAS FAILING HIM. FOR A ONCE TOUGH BRONC BUSTING COWBOY AND STRAPPING 6’ 2” MAN WITH A 28” WAIST IN HIS MID TWENTIES… HE NOW SUFFERED FROM CHRONIC BRONCHITIS & EMPHYSEMA (COPD) HIS HEART WASN’T GOOD EITHER. HE WAS HOSPITALIZED IN ITALY WITH A MILD HEART ATTACK WHILE NEGOTIATING TO PRODUCE FOR AN ITALIAN COMPANY BACKED BY THE VATICAN. IT WAS A VERY BIG OFFER. IT WAS ALL LOST AS THE COMPANY FELT HIS HEALTH WOULD NOT PERMIT IT. BACK IN BURBANK, WARNER BROS SENT A LETTER REQUESTING INTEREST IN HAVING HIM AS A STAFF PRODUCER AS THEY SAID MOVIES LIKE THE SADIST & DEADWOOD 76 WERE DONE ON IMPOSSIBLE BUDGETS IN THEIR ESTIMATION AND ASKED HIM IF HE WAS INTERESTED IN A CONTRACT WITH THEM ON A STREAM OF UPCOMING PROJECTS? MY MOTHER OPENED THE LETTER FIRST AND HANDED IT TO ME AS IF IT WAS A GIFT FROM GOD. I WALKED IT PROUDLY INTO MY DAD’S OFFICE AND SAID SOMEBODY AT WARNER’S WANTS YOU POP, YOU’RE TO CALL HIM RIGHT NOW! HE DID AND I WENT TO RUN SOME FILM TO A WAREHOUSE IN COMPTON. WHEN I RETURNED MY MOTHER HAD BEEN CRYING. BEFORE I ASKED ABOUT THE WARNER BROS OFFER, SHE SAID HE TURNED THEM DOWN. AT THE TIME I DIDN’T UNDERSTAND BUT YEARS LATER NOW I DO. HE WANTED TO BE IN CHARGE NOT BE AN EMPLOYEE, SECOND HE WAS CONCEALING HOW FINANCIALLY BURIED FAIRWAY HAD GOTTEN. A YOUNG MAN NAMED JERRY KURTZ (FORMER B-52 PILOT) HELPED BUNDLE THE FILMS FOR TV SALE IN A PACKAGE HE DUBBED VANGUARD. IT HELPED BRING MORE MONEY IN BUT IT WENT DIRECTLY TO THE LABS AND THE BANK. HIS BANKER WAS AN OLD B-17 PILOT AND LIKE MY DAD BUT HAD REACHED THE END OF HIS CREDIT LINE. LASTLY HE CONCEALED FROM EVERYONE HOW SERIOUS HIS HEALTH SITUATION HAD GOTTEN. ONLY GREG VON BERBLINGER KNEW. (Greg Von Berblinger was a camera man and electrician that worked on films like Psycho A Go Go, The Incredibly Strange Creatures That Stopped Living and Became Mixed Up Zombies and Love Beat the Hell Out of Me – Bill)
MORE FROM ARCH HALL JR. >>
I have to ask you some things about The Sadist, still your favorite film of mine. Seen it several times. Lots of stuff online about that film, more than your other film projects, but I couldn’t find too much on one particular topic, and that is information on the late Helen Hovey. She was your cousin I believe. She did a wonderful job as Doris the teacher. How did it come about that she, a non-professional actress, came to land the part? And what did she venture into after the role? She seemed like a truly dear person.
HELEN WAS AN ACCOMPLISHED ACTRESS IN COLLEGE PLAYS AND SUCH AND RAISED THE BAR VERY HIGH FOR THE REST OF US. SHE ONLY MADE THE ONE FILM BUT TO NOT CALL HER A N0N-PROFESSIONAL WOULD SOME HOW BE WRONG DON’T YOU AGREE? (I would totally agree and humbly apologize for the way that sounded. It is so hard to find information on her online so I had no idea she was so into acting and that maybe it did not work out for her. Certainly her attitude and performance was professional. – Bill) HER LIFE TOOK ON BAGGAGE LIKE ALL OF US WITH MARRIAGE AND CHILDREN AND HER HUSBAND WAS I THINK DEEPLY AGAINST HER ACTING ANY MORE. MY FATHER KNEW OF HER SERIOUS DESIRE TO BE AN ACTRESS IN PLAYS BUT NEVER FILM AND KNEW SHE WOULD NAIL DORIS EVEN BEFORE SHE READ FOR THE DIRECTOR JAMES LANDIS.
I enjoyed the chemistry between you and Richard Alden. I read an interview with him recently and he had a good time making the film it seemed. In particular I liked the scene where he charges you and you’re loading the hand gun as quickly as you can with a stunned look. Can you recall a special moment between you and him during the filming?
RICHARD WAS AN ACTOR FROM CANADA THAT JAMES LANDIS HAD WORKED WITH ON A TV SHOW, MAYBE A WESTERN OR COMBAT? ALDEN WAS INTENSELY COMMITTED TO GIVE JIM A GOOD PERFORMANCE AS ED THE PE TEACHER. RICHARD WOULD PUMP BAR BELLS JUST BEFORE A TAKE TO LOOK LIKE A BUFF GYM TEACHER AND HE HAD COMPLETE TRUST AND CONFIDENCE IN MY SHOOTING SKILLS AS WE USED LIVE AMMO IN MANY SCENES.
Director James Landis showed talent but seemed to be a real outsider in regards to his relationship to the movie industry as a whole. Didn’t do much after The Sadist, unfortunately. His work with photographer Vilmos (William) Zsigmond really raise the film a few notches above most drive-in fare of the time. What was it like working with those guys at the time for you?
VILMOS WAS A HARDCORE WORKAHOLIC AND SO WAS JIM LANDIS. LANDIS / ZSIGMOND TEAM WERE LOCKED IN SYNC. VILMOS WOULD ASK FOR CERTAIN THINGS AND COMPLAIN IF HE SAW A FLAW OR MISTAKE THAT OTHERS HAD MISSED. LANDIS HAD HOWEVER A HOT TEMPER THAT COULD EXPLODE AT ANY MOMENT. HE WAS A PERFECTIONIST AND WAS DISTRAUGHT IF ALL WAS NOT EXACTLY AS HE FELT IT SHOULD BE.
Finding out you have had a long musical career. Love all your guitar shots on Facebook. I just saw Wild Guitar and expect3ed the songs to be cheesy from what I have read about the film, but they are really nice 60’s pop-rock ballads. Did you write all those songs and what it is it about making music that gets your blood going?
I DEEPLY ENJOY PLAYING MUSIC, PRIMARILY ELECTRIC BLUES AND ROCK AND SOME COUNTRY AND SOME BOSSA NOVA. WRITING SONGS IS A SPECIAL GIFT. I COLLABORATED WITH ALAN O’DAY, MY DAD, DEKE RICHARDS ON MAY AND A FEW I WROTE BY MYSELF.
One last question. The big passion in your life is flying I will assume. You have had a very successful career in that field. It is something to be truly proud of. I know that many of your flight and stay overs brought you to Southeast Asia, and it seems Thailand and Cambodia in particular. Do you have a memorable hair-raising adventures yarn, the type found in your novel Apsara Jet, to share?
I HAVE MANY WHICH MIGHT QUALIFY BUT TWO IN PARTICULAR STAND OUT TONIGHT. THE FIRST WAS WHEN A KHMER ROUGE 107MM ROCKET EXPLODED NEAR ME WHILE I WAS CHECKING FOR DAMAGE TO OUR LANDING GEAR ON A STRETCH DC-8 IN PHNOM PENH’S POCHENTONG AIRPORT ONE DAY. THE SHOCK WAVE KNOCKED ME DOWN AND THE LETHAL CONE OF SHRAPNEL MISSED. THE ONLY INJURY WAS WHEN I PICKED UP THE ROCKET’S TAIL PIECE I BURNED MY HAND AS IT WAS STILL VERY HOT. OH I TORE THE KNEE IN MY UNIFORM TROUSERS TOO.
THE SECOND WAS IN THE EARLY EIGHTIES WHEN I DEPARTED BRUSSELS WITH “FARM MACHINERY” (EUPHEMISM FOR WEAPONS & AMMO) BOUND FOR N’DJAMENA, CHAD. THE EMBASSY GEEK GAVE ME A PIECE OF BLANK PAPER WITH A HAND DRAWN RUNWAY ON IT. AT VARIOUS POINT THERE WERE NOTATIONs AS TO THE LOCATION OF HOLES & CRATERS SO DEEP AND SO FAR FROM THE EDGE OR THE CENTER LINE AND SO ON. I ASKED WHAT KIND OF HOLE? THE EMBASSY GUY SAID MOSTLY BOMB HOLES. AT THE BOTTOM WERE SEVERAL UNDERLINED NOTATIONS; NO FUEL AVAILABLE – NO INSTRUMENT APPROACH – NO LIGHTING -NO RUNWAY LIGHTS - HIGH RISK OPERATION –NIGHT OPERATIONS PROHIBITED! THE LETTER WAS UNSIGNED. I CALCULATED WE COULD EXPECT TO LAND WELL AFTER DARK AS THE LOADING WAS DELAYED ALREADY BY FOUR HOURS. THE EMBASSY GUY DIDN’T WANT TO HEAR ABOUT MY THOUGHTS ON THE MATTER AS WHEN I TURNED AROUND TO SPEAK WITH HIM THE FLIGHT ENGINEER SAID THAT DUDE LEFT A LONG TIME AGO!
THE FLIGHT DEPARTED BRUSSELS NORMALLY WITH THE EXCEPTION THAT THEY DID NOT SPEAK OF THE DESTINATION AIRPORT ON THE RADIO. THE CONTROLLER THOUGHT It WAS RATHER STRANGE BUT COMPLIED WITH THE CLEARANCE THAT “TIGER XXX WAS CLEARED TO YOUR DESTINATION VIA BLAH BLAH BLAH. AFTER THAT WE CROSSED INTO NORTH AFRICA AND WERE HANDED OFF TO BRAZZAVILLE (CONGO), AND THAT WAS INTERESTING AS BRAZZAVILLE CONTROL HAD NO WORKING RADIO THAT NIGHT AND OF COURSE NO RADAR. WE BEGAN TALKING TO OTHER AIRCRAFT AND COORDINATION DEVIATIONS AROUND THUNDERSTORMS MOSTLY WITH THE HELP OF MY FRENCH SPEAKING ONBOARD CHARTER REP (FRENCHY) WHO WAS AN EX FRENCH LEGIONNAIRE. AS WE GOT ABOUT AN HOUR OUT I TURNED ON THE THUNDERSTORM LIGHTS (BRIGHT COCKPIT LIGHTS) AND TOOK OUT AN OUTDATED JEPPESEN AIRPORT DIAGRAM. I SAW THE TOWN ON THE RIVER AND THE SINGLE RUNWAY. I PLOTTED SOME LATITUDE & LONGITUDE THE BEST I COULD IN THE TURBULENCE AND THEN BRIEFED THE CREW ON THE PLAN. MY PLAN WAS TO POSITION THE AIRCRAFT 15 MILES ON AN EXTENDED FINAL APPROACH COURSE TO THE RUNWAY. THERE WAS A PARTIAL MOON AND WE WOULD DIM THE COCKPIT INTERIOR LIGHTING DOWN LOW. SECOND WE WOULD EXTEND THE LANDING LIGHTS TO CONFIRM BOMB CRATER LOCATION AND THAT THERE WERE NO VEHICLES OR WRECKED AIRCRAFT ON THE RUNWAY. I HAD MY FLIGHT ENGINEER STAND OVER THE CENTER PEDESTAL AS HIGH AS POSSIBLE AS WE FLEW DOWN THE RUNWAY GIVING ME A RUNNING NARRATIVE OF WHAT HE OBSERVED. FRENCHY WOULD DO THE SAME ON THE LEFT SIDE BEHIND MY SEAT. THE FLIGHT MECHANIC TOOK THE RIGHT SIDE WINDOW AFT OF MY FIRST OFFICER. AS I TURNED ON TO THE MAGNETIC HEADING OF THE RUNWAYS FROM THE IP AT 2000’ AGL. MY CO-PILOT GAVE ME DRIFT ANGLE READINGS FROM HIS INS, WE TURNED THE LANDING LIGHT ON AND SUDDENLY MULTIPLE STREAMS OF RED TRACERS ARCED UP AT US FROM OUR LEFT SIDE. ALL OF OUR HANDS WERE CLAWING AT THE SWITCHES TO TURN OFF ALL EXTERIOR LIGHTING, NAV LIGHTS, STROBE LIGHTS, AND OF COURSE THE LANDING LIGHTS. I BRIEFED THAT IT WAS TOO RISKY TO CHANCE CIRCLING THE AIRPORT AS ENEMY FORCES MAY HAVE ON THE AAA UNITS ON TRUCKS, SO UNLESS THE RUNWAY IS BLOCKED WE ARE GOING TO LAND IF WE GET SIGHT OF THE RUNWAY. WE TURNED THE LIGHT ON AT 2 MILES OUT AND SAW THE RIVER, THEN SOME BUILDINGS THEN THE RUNWAY I LANDED AND JINKED LEFT AND RIGHT TO MISS HOLES AS THEY YELLED OUT WHAT THEY SAW.
AFTER DOING A 180 AT THE END WE TAXIED BACK AND WERE LED IN TO A PARKING RAMP BY TWO "TECHNICALS" (PICKUPS WITH SOVIET 12.7mm HEAVY MACHINE GUNS MOUNTED IN THE BEDS). ALL TALKING WAS IN FRENCH. BEFORE SHUTTING DOWN OUR LAST ENGINE, I CALLED FLYING TIGER GLOBAL OPERATIONS IN LOS ANGELES ON OUR HF SIDEBAND RADIO AND REPORTED THIS IS HALL WE ARE ON DECK FOXTROT-TANGO-TANGO JULIET – EVERYBODY IS OK, AIRCRAFT IS OK, PLAN TO DEPART IN DAYLIGHT HOURS FOR FUEL IN MAIDUGURI, NIGERIA, SHUTTING DOWN NOW – HALL OUT! WE PROCEEDED TO GO TO A BOMBED OUT HOTEL WHERE ONLY US AND A FEW MEMBERS OF DELTA FORCE WERE STAYING. BELIEVE IT OR NOT THEY HAD A DISCO WITH NON MUSLIM LOCAL GIRLS DANCING ON THE BAR ALL LIT BY LANTERNS AND FLASHLIGHTS AND THE CITY HAD NO POWER. WE SAT AROUND TOASTING EACH OTHER WHILE FRENCHY TAUGHT US A FOREIGN LEGION SONG. NO RUNNING WATER, NO SHOWERS BUT MUCHO COGNAC. (Now that is a story! Damn! - Bill)
Well thanks for the great films, music and book (more books coming? I will be ordering Apsara jet via Amazon eventually, but the shipping rate into China is murder) and your career as a pilot, flying 747s even. If you’re ever in Kunming China my wife and have nothing better to do and I will show you the Flying Tigers restaurant and museum. Thanks!
I’VE GOT A COUPLE OF BOOKS IN THE MAKING BUT I’VE STOPPED WORK ON THEM. MAYBE SOMEDAY. WE’LL SEE. I’LL TRY TO GET YOU A COPY.
THANK YOU BILL, IT’S BEEN FUN TALKING ABOUT OLD TIMES. TAKE CARE!
Thank you Arch. Been a real treat for me to read this stuff. I am in such a good mood now I think I will get this up and kick back and watch a couple of old Fairway films. Take care and best wishes.