22 September, 2006


Louis (Deke) Heyward
AIP's DESADE, which I saw at the local Adult theater THE RIVIERA circa 1969 is a film I wish that Deke Heyward had assigned to Jess Franco. AIP's biggest budgeted project to that date, they made the fatal error of casting Kier Dullea in the title role, at least Franco had the sense to cast Klaus Kinski as the "Divine Marquis" in JUSTINE. Unfortunately, they put Cy Enfield (ZULU) in the director's chair. Eventually Roger Corman had to be called in to sex it up ("Sam, we've run into a hitch on this DE SADE thing. Do you think Roger could fly over to Berlin to help us out?"). Future Franco producer Artur Brauner (VAMPYROS LESBOS, THE DEVIL CAME FROM AKASAVA, X-213: FLIGHT TO HELL) provided the German cofinancing and arranged the entire shoot at his heavily guarded CCC facility in Berlin. The estimable Richard Matheson talks on the DVD about how his original script for DESADE was in the style of Robbe-Grillet's LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD but was rejected by the powers-that-be, presumably led by Deke. According to Heyward's CV (up at his ASK DEKE site), he was the head writer on the TV classic, THE ERNIE KOVACS SHOW, which introduced me to surrealism in the dark and distant 1950s. As Head of European production for AIP from 1963 to 1973 he was involved in the writing and production of such interesting films as Michael Reeve's WITCHFINDER GENERAL and the Lovecraft adaptation THE CRIMSON CULT.

Jess tells an amusing story on the 99 WOMEN DVD how Heyward told him he'd never work in Hollywood after viewing Franco's cut of that film only to invite him to dinner and congratulate him after it topped the VARIETY boxoffice charts a few months later. Heyward was also responsible for the US versions of Mario Bava's PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES and DR GOLDFOOT AND THE GIRL BOMBS (in which he appears in a small role as a General). To his credit he attempted to set up a Mario Bava directed version of Lovecraft's THE DUNWICH HORROR which unfortunately fell through. He employed Vincent Price in the Harry Alan Towers-Eurosleaze item HOUSE OF 1000 DOLLS, which would also have benefited from the Franco touch as opposed to the terminally dull direction of Jeremy Summers, whom Franco would proceed to replace on Towers' THE BLOOD OF FU MANCHU.

Deke has been dead and buried for four years now and maybe he wasn't fully to blame but DE SADE, given Matheson's original conception, could have been Franco's masterwork...


Tim Lucas said...

Deke and I were in the midst of a hilarious e-mail interview about the making of DR. GOLDFOOT AND THE GIRL BOMBS when I signed online one morning and read the news of his death on AOL's Classic Horror Film Boards. It was a great blow, and I still miss him and the easy access I once had to his great store of knowledge, gossip and information. When Deke died, that was the first time it really struck me that not only Deke was gone, but everything he knew that he never shared was also gone.

He once told me that DE SADE was the finest screenplay AIP ever put into production, but as they say, poop happens. No one knew that Cy Endfield would have an aversion to filming erotic material. I don't think the film turned out half badly, actually. As much as I'd be interested to see what Franco could have made of DE SADE in his prime, I don't think he'd be the guy I would entrust with "the finest screenplay AIP ever put into production," if I had been in Deke's shoes. Notes on a napkin, sure!

Robert Monell said...

Thanks for the Deke-memories, Tim.
I just watched DE SADE again last weekend and I find it as much of a disappointment as I did when I saw it over 35 years ago. Gorgeous sets and costumes and camerawork but that's all. It lacks a directorial overview, given Enfield's destruction of Matheson's nonlinear conception and his aversion to eroticism which you point out. Without that and the terrible miscasting of Dullea we are left with some good performances in the supporting areas and a distortion of the meaning of Sade's life and work. The red tinted orgy sequences remind me of the color gel effects in EUGENIE, where Franco WAS able to competently film a script which wasn't his own but had strong literary merit of its own.