23 January, 2011

Franco's 80s actors: RICARDO PALACIOS

The Cantabrian-born, Madrid-based actor Ricardo López-Nuño Díez, better known as Ricardo Palacios, may be familiar to many from numerous Spaghetti Westerns, as well as much of Franco’s output from the early eighties. Born in 1940, he was a personal favourite of Antonio Margheriti, who used him in several films, even when there was no Spanish co-production involved, but it was Jess Franco, however, that gave him his first key role, as the bandit chief in The Blood of Fu Manchu (1968). This was the last time Franco and Palacios were to work together in a long time.

About a decade and a half later, Palacios’s close friend Antonio Mayans wheedled him into acting for Franco at the time when Mayans had become the filmmaker’s main assistant. During this period, Franco roles played by Palacios include that of the big mobster in Juego sucio en Casablanca (1985), the militarist prison warder in Furia en el trópico (1985), and Dr. Orgaz (a Hispanised Orloff) in Sola ante el terror (1986), a remake of Los ojos siniestros del Dr. Orloff (1983). Prior to this, his growling voice had appeared, minus his bulky presence, dubbing the butler in El hundimiento de la casa Usher and narrating Los blues de la calle Pop (both 1983).

Palacios had graduated in both acting and directing at the Escuela Oficial de Cinematografía (EOC) but it was not until precisely his spell as a Franco regular that he also realized his dream of taking up directing. His directorial debut, Mi conejo es el mejor (1982), was an S/M softcore film, in which Franco had no participation, although the leads were Lina Romay and Emilio Linder (taking over from the originally intended Mayans) and the supporting cast included Carmen Carrión. His next, more ambitious project was the Civil War comedy ¡Biba la banda! (1987), which was produced by Franco (who also did second-unit work) and featured Juan Soler Cózar among the actors, along with Mayans (also the film’s production manager) in a bit role. Palacios himself drifts in and out of the film, in the unresolved character of a Valencian landowner, one of several details suggesting that the film’s troubled history affected the final result. Palacios is on record as blaming Franco and Mayans for the production problems it encountered, although actors Alfredo Landa and José Sancho are agreed in finding Palacios himself somewhat disorganized.

Whatever the truth, Franco was fired from his own production and Palacios ceased to be on speaking terms with Franco or Mayans. The head of the Arcofón sound studios took over as producer and the film, despite all the trouble, opened to a good response. A sequel was intended but failed to take off, as did another film project of Palacios’s dealing with the Civil War. Palacios, however, found himself much in demand as a writer and/or director on Spanish TV. Ten years after the making of ¡Biba la banda!, the film served as the basis for La banda de Pérez (1997), a comedy TV series written entirely by Palacios and directed between himself and Josetxo San Mateo. At this point, Ricardo Palacios had largely abandoned his career as a screen actor, mostly concentrating on his work as a dubber and, especially, as a TV writer and director. This activity was enough to earn him enough money to gradually withdraw from show business in the wake of health problems he encountered in the late nineties, to the extent of necessitating surgery. There appears to be no information on film or TV work of his after the year 2002. He appears to be retired and still living in Madrid.

On the whole, he has acted in dozens of feature films and TV shows, performing under the direction of people as disparate as Roberto Rossellini, León Klimovsky, Ignacio F. Iquino, Paul Naschy, Juan Antonio Bardem, José María Zabalza, Juan Logar, José María Forqué, Richard Lester, José Luis Merino, Eugenio Martín, Sergio Leone, Rafael Gil, Juan Bosch, José Antonio Nieves Conde, Jaime Chávarri, Pedro Lazaga and Vicente Aranda. As for his work as a dubber, he can be heard as the voice of a sailor in Amando de Ossorio’s Serpiente de mar (1984) and that of Michael Berryman in the Spanish-language version of Sylvio Tabet’s Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time (1991).

Most of the above information is taken from Carlos Aguilar’s valuable book Ricardo Palacios. Actor, director, observador (2003), a lengthy interview in which the actor talks about his life and career. The son of a prison governor, he spent much of his childhood in expensive boarding schools (which he hated), and later, in his adulthood, following a spell with the right-wing Carlists, he subsequently joined the Spanish Communist Party. Roberto Rossellini, Eddie Constantine, Fernando Sancho, Juan Logar and Ignacio F. Iquino do not come off too well in the account he gives of his encounters with several notable people; Rafael Gil, Nieves Conde, Bardem, Lazaga, Frank Braña, Klimovsky, Margheriti, Leone and Merino are viewed more favourably. He also talks about his film interests: his favourite director is John Ford.

Regarding Franco and his 80s films, he says: “I went through outrageous situations during that period. For instance, I was left behind as a hostage in a hotel, along with the rest of the crew, because the money had run out and Franco and Mayans had gone to Madrid to look for more”. Regarding the man himself, his words are: “One thing I can say about Jess is that he’s got this wonderful capacity for ignoring what’s right and what’s wrong if it serves the purpose of making his film. Jess Franco is neither a good nor a bad person, he just wants things to be done his way and couldn’t care less about the rest of the universe”.

Text by Nzoog Wahrlfhehen

1 comment:

scott said...

fascinating reading