Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Spending A Little Time With Mr. B.I.G.

I was reading an old issue of VIDEO WATCHDOG this morning, when I ran across Dave Del Valle's interview with filmmaker Bert I. Gordon. Although Gordon (also known, for obvious reasons, as "Mr. B.I.G.") was one of the most prolific and popular (if not necessarily talented) genre directors of the 1950s, he has, to the best of my knowledge, given only two major interviews of any great depth. One was Del Valle's, published by VW in 2000. The other was with me in 2003.

Though my Q&A with Bert Gordon has been available on the Interweb tubes for a few years, I have neither mentioned nor linked to it from this blog. It's a piece I'm quite proud of, so I thought I would dust it off and introduce it to a new audience. What follows is my original introduction to the interview, which took place in February 2003 and was posted in March 2003 on the original Mobius Home Video Forum:

ATTACK OF THE PUPPET PEOPLE. THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN. FOOD OF THE GODS. These films rank among the most fondly remembered “monster movies” of their eras. And the man responsible for them--the man who served as director, producer, special effects master and often writer--is Bert I. Gordon, one of science fiction’s most idiosyncratic filmmakers.

I met “Mr. B.I.G.“ at the University of Illinois' 20th Annual Insect Fear Film Festival. Each year, the U of I’s entomology department shows three films, sometimes mixed with a few shorts, with insect themes, usually of the science fiction/horror variety. This year's slate was BEGINNING OF THE END, EARTH VS. THE SPIDER and EMPIRE OF THE ANTS, and as a special bonus, the man who directed all three, Bert I. Gordon, was in attendance as a special guest.

Earlier in the day, I got to interview Mr. Gordon, sitting down with him for about an hour and fifteen minutes and discussing his entire career. For a man in his eighties, he looks incredibly young. His memory was spotty on occasion, not surprising considering some of these films were made more than fifty years ago, but he was alert, quite affable and often candid during our conversation. Even perhaps too candid in some moments when he asked me to turn off my tape recorder so he could tell a juicy story off the record. Although he wasn't terribly talkative, and maybe even shy, Gordon’s face would really light up when he got into a story about creating a particular special effect or getting into a scene, just like when he was a kid making shorts in his backyard in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He smiled and laughed often during our conversation, and I was glad he was having a good time.

Although Mr. Gordon was friendly and open during our conversation, he informed me beforehand of a couple of ground rules. He didn’t want to discuss his career in terms of “years” or “how long ago” anything was, and he refused to speak about his family, including his former wife Flora and daughter Susan, both of whom worked on many Gordon films in various capacities. I, of course, respected his wishes.

Please click here to read my career-length interview with Bert I. Gordon.

POSTSCRIPT: Del Valle's Gordon interview is in VW #56. Re-reading both, I noticed several of my questions are similar to Del Valle's (though Gordon's answers are sometimes different). While I had certainly read Del Valle's piece long before my meeting with Gordon (and I probably read it again during my pre-interview research), any similarities are, I assure you, completely coincidental. I urge you to read the VW piece if you can, since it covers some material that mine doesn't (and vice versa).

1 comment:

Steve Johnson said...

Hi, Marty. I've been on a BIG kick lately, and just ran across your interview. Nice to spend time with the guy, and nice to read your sympathetic and well-informed questions. His films have a naive, possibly juvenile tone -- even his sex comedies. (Could he be the exploitation Jerry Lewis?) As a result, they also display a conflicted attitude toward women. Any idea why he refused to talk about Flo? He seems to be making the convention circuit with Susan, now.