Legendary film maker Kevin Connor left school at sixteen, and entered a documentary film company, British Films Ltd., in London's Soho, as an Assistant film editor. From here on in he progressed to being one of the most celebrated directors around. With the release of some of his classic films onto DVD for the first time we decided to chat to this in demand director about his ongoing career and his time at Amicus.
HC: How did you get started in the movie business?
KC: I left school at 16 in 1953 and managed to get a job by writing to every Film Company in the London Telephone Directory. After many negative letters I finally landed a position as a Trainee Editor with a company called British Films in Soho. I wanted to go into the camera department but as it turned out the editing experience was the best route to go.
HC: Which directors did you admire whilst you were growing up??
KC: Carol Reed - John Huston - David Lean - John Ford - Lindsay Anderson.
HC: What was it like working for Amicus?
KC: An absolute delight. Milton Subotsky had come across some scripts I had adapted with two friends of mine - he took four of them and made them in a 'compilation film' and added a linking story - and offered me the directing job. 'But I've never directed …' I told him. 'Editors make good directors and I'll surround you with the best technicians' And he did. That was From Beyond The Grave. Milton and Max never imposed themselves or interfered with me on the set and left me entirely to my own devices. They were both great. I was very lucky.
HC: Your were involved in many of their classic movies including the aforementioned From Beyond The Grave, The Land That Time Forgot and At The Earth's Core. What was it like working on such movies?
KC: Again, Milton and Max left me totally alone once the script was locked and as long as I completed the days work and didn't go over budget - they were happy. I used to edit the films very quickly and Milton was generous with his comments on my cut and we worked amicably together to complete the final cut. The composer, editor and sound editor were always my choice - the boys rarely came to the mixing theatre and never viewed the movie until the final graded print was delivered. It was a wonderful luxury.
HC: Did you ever have large budgets to play with?
KC: Not really. From Beyond the Grave was miniscule. In the early 70's the film business was in the doldrums and we could get a superb cast for almost minimum Equity. Land was around $250,000, as far as I know. But that was hand puppets and front projection. We shot the plates on a small Vista Vision Camera to get the best quality. No CGI in those days! Earth's Core and People were somewhat higher, probably around $450,000 - $500,00 – more ambitious because we tried to develop the technique of putting stunt guys inside the beasts. We also went to a foreign location on People. The largest budget I had after that was for Arabian Adventure - $4,000.000. but that wasn't really an Amicus film.
HC: You worked with Peter Cushing n a number of occasions; what are your memories of this great gentleman?
KC: My strongest memory of Peter was his wearing of white cotton cutting room gloves when smoking off camera - to stop his fingers being stained by the nicotine. Peter Cushing was indeed one of the great gentlemen. Grave was my first directing assignment and Peter was very supportive and responded to my direction and ideas with out question. I did several films with him and he never changed his love for everyone on the crew and fellow actors. I saw him in Olivier's Hamlet the other week - what a career Peter had.
HC: Why do you think your Amicus movies are to this day still loved around the world?
KC: Basically, because they were innocent movies and made in the era of 'Saturday morning pictures'. I couldn't believe the response from the all kids at the premiere we had in London. Just like when I was a kid - booing the baddie - cheering the heroes and groaning at the love scenes! There was no CGI and the trickery was very basic - and that's what it was - pure adventure stuff. Not pretentious in any way.
HC: Would you like to remake any of them using today's technology?
KC: No, I don't think so. They were what they were and had their own charm. Move on.
HC: Do you have a favourite genre you like working in?
KC: I love high adventure pictures and thrillers. Not so much horror these days. Everything is so graphic whereas I firmly believe that what you don't see is more frightening. I’ve done many big TV Mini series all over the world - usually in exotic locales - taking the crew and actors into the dunes of Mongolia or up the mountains of Africa and creating drama and chases is just the best way to make movies for me.
HC: You're still working hard, what drives you to a project?
KC: Yes, I'm still at it - mainly TV these days but I am still pressing ahead with several features that I am passionate about. Those are the hard ones to get made! When the phone stops ringing... as they say!
HC: Kevin Connor, thank you very much.
For the chance to try and win a set of Amicus movies, some directed by Kevin on DVD click here.