Apparently, a film I wrote, The Warrior and the Sorceress, has surprisingly (to me, anyway) gained in popularity to the point where it is now considered a cult classic! I recently was interviewed at length for an Italian publication about my participation in the film.
I wrote a pretty substantial blog on this subject several years ago. Using parts of my recent interview, here’s an expanded version of my old entry.
(“FB” refers to Francesco Borseti, my interviewer)
FB: It seems that The Warrior and the Sorceress was your first produced screenplay.
WS: That’s true.
FB: According to some sources you wrote the outline (uncredited) of Galaxy of Terror.
WS: That’s true as well, although I am credited in the packaging of the latest DVD of that film. I also did a rewrite of the Jim Danforth movie, Timegate.
If I had known what was going on with Timegate, I never would have done it. Timegate’s creator, stop motion wizard Jim Danforth, was a friend of mine.
Acclaimed Stop Motion Animator Jim Danforth
John Broderick, the director of The Warrior and the Sorceress, lied to me and told me Jim was off the picture. I should have checked with Jim, as when I rewrote his film, I had no idea Jim was still involved. Jim thought I had stabbed him in the back. Later, when I found out what John was trying to pull, I called Jim and explained to him what had happened. Knowing Broderick, Danforth totally understood how I’d been duped. Happily, we’re still good friends.
The screenplay that got me into the Writers Guild of America was the one I wrote for Jim and Lisa Henson, a dinosaur movie that, unfortunately, didn’t get made — although some might say it got made as The Land Before Time, as the two screenplays were similar.
Poster by Dan Goozée (with dinosaur anatomy assistance by Stout)
The T. rex character from the Jim Henson dinosaur movie
I know, however, that The Land Before Time was based upon (some might say “stolen from”) my award-winning children’s book, The Little Blue Brontosaurus.
I also wrote the Where Is Thy Sting? episode of the animated Godzilla TV series, plus several unmade feature film scripts (including a sequel to The Return of the Living Dead and a Conan film based upon his exploits as a pirate) and TV show presentations.
FB: Roger Corman made Sorceress in 1982 (director Jack Hill), his first “Sword & Sorcery” picture.
Then he sold New World and went to form his new company, New Horizon. Deathstalker was another sword & sorcery film, and it was the first of a long series of pictures of the same genre made in Argentina.
John C Broderick returned to direct after several years (Bad Georgia Road, 1977).
What was the origin of The Warrior and the Sorceress? How did you get involved with it?
WS: In 1977 I got a call from actress Carol Lynley’s former boyfriend, John Broderick. I was living in Hollywood at the time up on Beachwood Drive. I was doing a lot of movie posters and “presentation art” back then. Presentation art is a picture or series of pictures created to help sell a film project. Most producers or studios won’t read screenplays, but they’ll look at pictures. The pictures often took the form of (fake) movie posters. The art not only told what the film was about but also reflected a way in which the film could be sold.
John called me to create presentation art for a sword and sorcery film project based upon (or stolen from) the John Norman Gor novels, softcore bondage porn disguised as sword and sorcery.
He asked me if I was familiar with “Gor” and “sword and sorcery” novels. Over the phone I thought he was referring to “gore” and I said “Yes!” (I actually had read a couple of the Gor novels but didn’t think much of them).
At the time I was a big sword and sorcery fan (I’m referring to the books; that film genre had yet to be invented). I was well-read in that genre, being especially enthusiastic about Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories (I eventually worked as a key designer on both Conan movies and the related Red Sonja film as well).
We had the first of a series of meetings at Farmer’s Market, the Los Angeles market where food photographers buy their fruits and vegetables, as they are famed for having the best and most beautiful produce in the city. It’s also a show biz hangout.
About half an hour into our meeting I figured out that I had confused “Gor” with its homonym “gore” but I didn’t confess my error. John liked my picture ideas, character ideas and my thoughts about the movie, so much so that he proposed I write the screenplay. He would direct.
John recommended I watch Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo for inspiration.
Japanese Yojimbo One Sheet
I’ll always be thankful to Broderick for turning me on to Kurosawa; I became a huge fan and eventually saw every film Kurosawa ever made. I had never written a screenplay before, so I took story notes while watching Yojimbo. I then wrote the first draft of our film, using the structural bones of Yojimbo, but setting it in another world. I figured that if I did that, my screenplay would be the proper length. Then, I went back and did a complete rewrite, changing everything in the story that was similar to Yojimbo (I didn’t want to plagiarize the Kurosawa film). I didn’t type (I still type with just one finger), so I wrote out my screenplay, and subsequent drafts, entirely in longhand. I titled the movie Kain of Dark Planet.
By the time I figured out that John had meant “Gor” (not “gore”), it didn’t matter, as John was very happy with my story and we were on our way.
During this time period John and I became pretty good friends. One day he told me he was going to introduce me to “an old time producer”. He drove me over to a small nearby office where I met Harry Rybnick, whose company Jewell Enterprises, Inc. was responsible for buying the rights for and adapting the first Godzilla film for American audiences.
FB: According to the film credits you co-wrote The Warrior and the Sorceress along with the director John C Broderick.
WS: Actually, John did not do any of the writing until he made a lot of changes just prior to shooting. Each time I finished what I thought was a perfect screenplay, John and I would meet in L. A.’s Farmer’s Market. John combed through each version and requested dozens and dozens of major changes, necessitating a full rewrite each time. I would note everything he didn’t like or wanted changed, then I would do another rewrite. The rewrites were painful. With each one (and there were at least eight) I felt as if I was psychologically flaying my own flesh from my body. It was really, really hard to go back to Square One each time and do a complete rewrite. But I did so without complaint.
FB: My guess is that you were hired to write a script of that specific genre (as well as Ed Naha, hired to write Wizards of the Lost Kingdom).
WS: That’s right. John could see from our conversations that I was intimately familiar with this new movie genre, sword and sorcery. That’s part of what made me so effective as a designer on the Conan films.
FB: I’m interested to know whatever you can recall about the process of writing: who came up with the idea; your contribution and goals to the story, the characters and the film’s general tone…
WS: John came to me with a genre in mind: sexy sword and sorcery. I came up with the story, including all the characters, their names, and the creatures, and then wrote the entire screenplay. Like I said, I didn’t want to plagiarize Yojimbo. I yearned to write a sword and sorcery film of which I could be proud. I wanted everything in my movie to be surprising, original and true to the nature of this genre I so loved: sword and sorcery. I endeavored to push the envelope, film-wise, and come up with things no one had ever seen in a movie.
One thing I was insistent upon was that it be strongly implied that Bal Caz had a sexual relationship with his reptilian pet (who was also his confidant and court advisor), Poog.
John HATED that idea; it turned his stomach. John couldn’t get past his own revulsion to bestiality to the point where he could see how well this worked in the film and how unique the relationship was. That’s exactly why I wanted that relationship to be in the film: it was shocking, lurid and unusual — and had nothing to do with Yojimbo. I’m glad he kept my multi-breasted wasp woman in the film, though.
Once John had approved my screenplay, I began creating the presentation art to sell the project. I painted several pictures depicting key scenes in the film, plus a faux movie poster of our project, which was now entitled Kain of Dark Planet.
During my writing period on the movie John and I discussed casting. John pushed for his good friend Gary Lockwood (or “Foxy Locksy”, as John called him) to have the lead role.
Gary Lockwood in 2001- A Space Odyssey
After appearing at a lot of conventions together I eventually became closely acquainted with Lockwood. Gary is a great guy full of terrifically entertaining show biz tales.
John’s other choice (and my first choice) for the role of Kain was David Carradine.
David Carradine as Kain
I liked David’s look and presence on the screen, plus he was a damn good actor. Ironically, I have never watched a single episode of his TV show Kung Fu, in which he played a character coincidentally named Caine (more serendipitous homonym mischief).
John took my script and paintings and pitched the film to Roger Corman at New World. John was peeved that Roger did what Roger usually did: he proudly presented John Broderick to his New World staff as this “incredible new talent” who was going make “great movies for us here at New World”. John told me, “I was annoyed. I had heard that Corman speech many times before. He treated me like I was some new kid to The Biz.”
John told me he had passed on Roger’s offer and was going to try to sell it elsewhere.
Time passed, and I forgot about Kain of Dark Planet as other work demanded my attention. I was in the heyday of my movie poster period. I ended up working on over 120 movie advertising campaigns, three of which were movie posters for Roger Corman (Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, Up From the Depths and The Lady in Red).
I became friends with New World’s advertising art director. Chatting on the phone one day I asked what was new over in Roger Corman Land.
“Roger is producing a film in Argentina called Kain of Dark Planet.”
“Kain of Dark Planet. John Broderick is the director.”
“Kain of Dark Planet? John Broderick? Do you happen to have a copy of the script?”
“Sure do; it’s right here.”
“Can you read the title page to me?”
“Kain of Dark Planet by John Broderick…”
“No ‘and’ — just ‘Story and Screenplay by John Broderick. Roger just shot a film down in Argentina. Rather than let the sets go to waste, Roger told John to go down there and shoot Kain of Dark Planet re-using Roger’s old sets. Roger gave him a budget of $80,000.”
FB: Do you recall the process to raise money to make The Warrior and the Sorceress?
WS: I wasn’t there during the meeting, but John pitched it to Corman with my script and my paintings. $80,000 wasn’t much dough to make a film like that; I believe Roger and his company provided the entire amount — and the Argentinian sets.
FB: As well as Deathstalker, it was a co-production with Argentina.
WS: If that’s true, then someone in Argentina may have put up half the money for the film.
FB: John C Broderick figures as the main producer, along with Frank Isaac (specialized in sword & sorcery films). The co-producers were the Argentinians Alejandro Sessa and Hector Olivera.
WS: Perhaps Alejandro and Hector put up half the budget. I’m just speculating…
FB: My understanding is that The Warrior and the Sorceress was shot a few months after Wizards of the Lost Kingdom.
WS: That must be where we got our sets.
Anyway, I immediately called my attorney, Henry Holmes. Henry got on the phone with Roger. Roger, of course, knew nothing of John’s subterfuge.
I got a panicked call from Argentina. It was John. He was very, very upset. In fact, he sounded pretty fried.
“Bill! What in the hell is going on?” he shouted. “What are you doing?!”
“What am I doing? You stole my screenplay!”
“We wrote it together!”
“I wrote; you critiqued. But I shared the credit with you in gratitude for what I learned from you. And then you sold it — but not before you took my name off of it — and you never paid me.”
“I’m trying to make our movie! Why are you making trouble?”
‘John,” I replied. “Why did you take my name off the script?”
Then John told me a whopper to justify his actions that I’ll never forget.
“It’s easier to sell a screenplay if there’s only one name on it.”
John never apologized. Instead, he complained that as soon as Roger Corman found out what had happened, Roger, honorable man that he is, paid me for the screenplay out of Broderick’s directing fee and changed the screen credit. John was furious (which I found hilarious)!
I was supposed to get a solo “Story and Screenplay by” credit but when the movie eventually came out John and I ended up with a shared story/screenplay credit, plus an “Original Art by William Stout” credit for my pre-production presentation art.
I saw the film at one of my favorite grindhouses: the World Theater. “Three films for 99¢” in a theater that smelled like the inside of an old shoe. The World’s usher staff wore concealed, fully loaded shoulder pistols under their coats.
The film rolled. I was shocked. John Broderick had changed all of the dialogue I had sweated over. It turned out that John was really crazy about Yojimbo, so much so that John took what I had written and changed it all back to mirror every single plot point in Yojimbo. When I saw the movie, I was mortified. It was total, unabashed plagiarism — and my name was on it!
I was pleased and thrilled, though, that David Carradine, my first choice for the lead, was cast as Kain. I knew he’d be great.
David and I were guests at a science fiction convention. After the show, we shared the same limo back to the airport. I asked him about John and his experience on The Warrior and the Sorceress.
David told me that John was pretty stressed out during the making of the film. That’s understandable, considering how little money he had to make the movie. John was very, very anxious — and the film was still in pre-production, what is typically the “honeymoon” period of moviemaking. Shortly after arriving in Argentina, Carradine saw John cave in to a demand from one of the producers.
“John, I just saw you make your first compromise — and we haven’t even begun shooting yet. If you’re beginning to sell out your vision this early in the game, how many more compromises are you going to make? What kind of film do you think you’ll end up with if you keep doing that?”
John thought about what David had just said to him and decided he would fight the compromise and get much tougher about sticking to his guns.
Anthony De Longis was cast in the film as Kief.
Anthony De Longis as Kief
I later worked with him on Masters of the Universe. He appeared in Masters as a character I designed named Blade.
Anthony De Longis as Blade
He also trained the other actors in their sword work for Masters, as he did in The Warrior and the Sorceress.
FB: Do you know how (approximately) The Warrior and the Sorceress went at the boxoffice and the foreign sales? I’m aware that it was sold in many countries, also in Italy.
WS: The domestic (US) gross was $2,886,225. I couldn’t find anything and never heard anything on the film’s foreign sales amounts.
I’m sorry that John did what he did. I could have been a huge help to him on the movie. At that time, I was close friends with all the greatest make-up and effects people (like Rick Baker, Rob Bottin, Steve Czerkas, Jim Danforth and Ray Harryhausen) in the business (the Film Biz was much smaller back then). We could have had some amazing creatures!
John did show me some of the show biz ropes. It was trial by fire, but I did learn a lot about screenwriting and moviemaking from John.
I guess it came down to ego on John’s part. Perhaps he saw himself as an auteur. It’s sad. He only directed one more film (1998’s A Bedfull of Foreigners, starring himself and Gary Lockwood) after The Warrior and the Sorceress before he died in 2001.
FB: I always ask this question, for “historical” reasons…Do you recall if The Warrior and the Sorceress had different titles at its inception or during the shooting?
WS: Before its release, Roger Corman had changed the title of the movie from Kain of Dark Planet to The Warrior and the Sorceress.
I was mystified by the change.
“But Roger — there’s no sorceress in the movie!”
“That’s okay, Bill. The object of the title of a film is to get butts into seats. Once they’ve paid their money and their butts are in those seats, it doesn’t matter if the film’s got a sorceress or not. Plus, that title means we can put a scantily clad sorceress on the movie’s poster.”
And that’s the tale of my introduction to the business of making movies.