Andrew Prine has been a favorite of mine for a very long time. He is one of those actors that just seeing his name in the credits told me that I was going to enjoy this movie, even if was only the parts he appeared in! A regular in a lot of movies, both film and television, playing all sorts of characters, both good and bad. And no matter what, he was always holding our attention while on screen. He really is a genre icon.
We had the opportunity to sit down with Prine for a few minutes back in April of 2005, to get some of his thoughts on some of the movies that he worked on that we loved so much. Since we didn’t have a lot of time, I would just throw some titles out there and we’d go from there. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did talking to this legend.
Kitley’s Krypt: What can you tell us about Simon, King of the Witches?
Andrew Prine: Simon was written by a practicing warlock and he was dead serious about being a warlock. He had a coven of witches and the movie that he wrote was based upon a part of his life. He was making money at Hollywood parties, doing what he called ‘fakery’. And that supported he real motives of which were to conjure up ‘witching’ powers. This guy was not kidding. He was a fascinating character.
So we attempted to do his life as it really was. We weren’t trying to make a horror movie. That’s both the good and the bad of it is. It didn’t have a great market when it came out. But now it’s a cult film. But we were simply trying to do the life of the warlock.
KK: Kind of like a documentary?
AP: It had elements of it, but that was our motive. Was to do it as close to the real guy as possible. But it doesn’t have a lot of murder in it. I think I only kill a couple of people, which isn’t a lot for me in a movie.
KK: Was he on the set during the making?
AP: You know I don’t recall, but I think he was. Because we did chat a lot and it had to have been on the set, I just don’t recall.
KK: What about Crypt of the Living Dead?
AP: Crypt was a great deal of fun. I read the script and didn’t like it. I said I wouldn’t do this. I’m not going to be a witch killer. I asked where are they going to shoot, in the valley? They said, “No….we’re going to the Black Sea, Istanbul, and Spain.” And I said, you know, maybe there’s something I can do with this. And I went and just had the time of my life. It took us three months to shoot it.
KK: Three months?
AP: Yea, we had a lot of logistical difficulties. We were on a small Turkish island in the middle of the Black Sea. So it’s hard to get things in and out of there. And then we were in Istanbul. And then we were in Barcelona. And Madrid. And shot the last scene back in L.A. at the Pacific Palisades. It was difficult movie to shoot, but I had a ball because I got to go all over the world. And I was with a very dear friend of mine, Ray Danton. He had been an actor and he was directing. So Ray said, “Come on and do it. We’ll have a hell of time.” And we did. A great adventure.
KK: Anything comments on Mark Damon?
AP: Mark was a very nice fellow. Mark was a star in Europe, but never was here. And he later became a producer. Though he never phoned. He could of called and said, “Hey Andy…” But he was quite well known in Europe, so that did very well for the film all over western Europe.
KK: What was the original working title?
AP: The original title was Hannah, Queen of the Witches, which didn’t work nearly as well as Crypt of the Living Dead to me.
KK: How about Grizzly?
AP: Well for Grizzly, we had no script. My agent called me up and said, “They’re paying this amount of money. You’re getting on a plane tomorrow. And you’re going to Clayton, Georgia, in the Smokey Mountains.” And I said, “What do you mean? What’s the script?”
He said, “The script is Jaws. They’re writing it. Go. Get going. They’re going to start paying you tomorrow. And you’re the captain from Jaws.”
It was right after Jaws and they were the first movie out to capitalize on it. Over the years, I can’t imagine how much money that little piece of popcorn made.
KK: What was it like working with the title character?
AP: We were with the largest grizzly in captivity. I was the only guy in the electrified fence around the forest. That was the only thing that bear was scared of, the electricity…like Frankenstein or something. And I was the only person that got in with him. His own owner would not get close to him. His eyes were thirteen inches apart. So that’s an indication of how big his head was. He was humungous. And you can not train a grizzly. So I used to throw him pieces of bread to make him to come towards me. And then they’d hold a fish up off camera way up above him to make him rear up. Every now and then he’d stop and look at me like, “What the hell is this guy doing in here with me?” I was young and I was foolish. He was big.
KK: What about the director, William Girdler?
AP: We became very close friends. Unfortunately he died scouting locations for a movie that we were going to do about a couple of narcs on a drug bust in the Philippines. The last I saw of him, he said, “I’m leaving tomorrow to scout the location. I’ll be right back and we’ll start shooting.” And he died in a helicopter crash, which broke our hearts. Everybody loved that guy. He was the nicest dude in the world. And on his way. He was big in exploitation already by then. A real good guy.
KK: He had already done Abby and Three on a Meathook…
AP: He did Day of the Animals, which I would not do. He wanted me to do a role and I read it, and said, “I’m not going to do this. There’s no way I’m going to be in this thing where you kill one after the other. Not me.” And he actually liked me for it. I said there’s a bottom to all of this and I’m ain’t going there. I’m not going to be killed by a rabid squirrel. He also did one with Tony Curtis and Susan Strasberg.
KK: The Manitou, which was very successful.
AP: Yes, that was quite a successful little a ‘popcorn movies’. And he was learning! He did these on very short money. So he was coming up fast. I’m awfully sorry he had to go.
KK: How about The Evil?
AP: I thought The Evil was nice. It’s the genre of “put a bunch of people in a haunted house and kill them off one by one”. You can not lose money with that formula. No movie has ever lost money doing it. Now it’s always teenagers. Put a bunch of teenagers in it and its Camp…Hell, or whatever.
But we had real good actors. We had Joanna Pettit, Richard Crenna, and Victor Bunno….all quality actors. We were in New Mexico at an old turn-of-the-century spa that had been shut down many years earlier. It was a health spa and it was a castle. So we were able to shoot the whole thing right there. It that movie did very well too. I thought it was a pretty good idea.
KK: What about Barn of the Naked Dead?
AP: Oh…you would bring that movie up, wouldn’t you? That’s the worst movie I ever did, I must say.
KK: The title alone is what gives the film it’s cult reputation.
AP: It was originally called Terror Circus, which was perfect. Because it was a terror circus. I ran a circus, and I was a terror. I killed the girls off…blah, blah, blah. And then in the wise-ness of producers all over the world, they thought, “Wait a minute….Night of the Living Dead…Day of the Living Night…Barn of the Naked Dead! The title along is enough to turn your stomach. I must say I get along on any movie and they were nice people. But I wasn’t glad I made that picture.
KK: Sorry I brought that up.
AP: Oh no, it’s alright. We all got one in the closet. Every actors got one, you know.
KK: Last one…Amityville 2?
AP: Oh, terrific. It was shot in New Jersey where the set is, not the actual house. Then all of the interiors were shot in Mexico City. Which was really odd. So it took us a long time to get it all done. They actually sunk a lot of money into it. That was Dino De Laurentiis. Damiano Damiani, the Italian director did it. Spoke no English, but was a terrific guy to work with.
KK: How did that work? Did you have an interrupter?
AP: To an extent, because we had some Italians, some of his crew was there, who actually did speak English. But after a while, it’s amazing how you get along. When I shot Crypt of the Living Dead, of course the director spoke English, Ray Danton. But we had a German sound crew, Turkish grips, and Spanish camera crew. And almost none of them spoke English. My stuntman was Turkish, and he played the monster. And he spoke no English. And we hung out together the whole time and became great friends. Never understood a full sentence of what the other guy was saying. But we knew what we were talking about. You just knew. You get used to it. Isn’t that weird?
KK: Well, Mr. Prine, I appreciate you taking the time to talk to us.
AP: Oh sure. My pleasure.