Revisiting Gone With the Pope, the Exploitation Jewel with an Unlikely Oscar Twist
An instant fanclub was born?
It was. We just said, "We gotta find this guy!" Bill rang around and found out he'd died back in 1981, which was sad. But a little while later, he tracked down his son, Jeff, and he was living just a few blocks from Bill. So Sage, Bill and I went over and said we were big fans and we'd really like to re-release The Executioner. Jeff didn't have any idea of what happened to that movie but he said he had another one his dad had shot but not finished. He said he didn't think it had even been edited, and if we wanted to try to do something with it then go ahead. Of course, we said "Absolutely!"
What did you find?
We pulled out this bunch of dusty old boxes from a storage closet in his parking garage. They'd been there since Duke passed away -- all the negative, sound tapes and work picture. There was no shooting script, just a lot of scenes written out in notebooks, on pieces of paper, and even on envelopes and cocktail napkins. There was a very crude, rough assembly of the movie. There were 17 reels, and reels nine to 13 were totally missing and never found. It was in such rough shape, we knew that finishing it would be a big job.
Where did you start?
We started by trying to do a fine cut of the movie from the assembly, then going back to the trims and outtakes when necessary to make the scenes and story flow more smoothly. For the missing reels, we went through the original negative to work out what we didn't have, and then did a fresh work print of that material. Then we -- that's Paul Hart and Jody Fedle, who worked with me on Army Of Darkness and Hard Target -- edited that from scratch. The whole thing was a giant jigsaw puzzle.
How much time did you put into it?
I worked on it whenever I had time between my real editing jobs over the past 15 years.
Were you still doing it during The Hurt Locker?
Not the picture. I finished the picture cut between Spider-Man 2 and 3. But then there was the sound, and that was just as tough. I got Paul Ottosson, who'd done the Spider-Man movies, dialogue editor Robert Troy and foley artist John Sanacore, who both did The Hurt Locker with me, and Marti Humphrey and Brad Semanoff, they'd done the sound mix on Drag Me To Hell. There were a lot of sound challenges, but we're talking top people using state-of-the-art technology, and we created a great sound mix last summer. The last thing to do was scanning all the original camera negatives and doing full restoration at Fotokem Lab in Burbank. We spent something like 1,000 hours cleaning up the picture, removing all the dirt and scratches. Then Alastor Arnold graded color and density and HTV/Illuminate restored as much sharpness as possible to a few out of focus shots. It was only about two weeks ago that we filmed out the negative and saw a complete 35mm print.