Sunday, 14 April 2013

interview: Robin Davies

I interviewed Robin Davies by phone in May 2003 when I was researching a Blood on Satan’s Claw feature for Fangoria.

Was Blood on Satan’s Claw the first thing you did after Catweazle?
"Did I do Catweazle then? I’ve been thinking about it - it was just another job, you know. Most of us went to school together: myself, Wendy, Denis and the other kids who were in it."

Was that at Ada Foster?
"Good god, you have done your research! We were all child actors and we all knew each other. You were doing an advert here, an episode of something there, you were always doing something. Catweazle came 1969/70, I think."

Did you have a small role in Lindsay Anderson’s if...?
"Yes. if... was before Catweazle. That was my first feature film. Madchen was the character, simply because I looked like a little girl and Lindsay thought: what a funny thing because ‘madchen’ is German for girl. I’ve seen that quite a few times, and every time I see it I think, ‘Good god, there’s my daughter!’"

How did you and the others come to be cast in Blood...?
"There was a casting agent, God knows who. I think it might have been Maud Specter - it generally was Maud in those days. You trundled along, you and all your mates, you got the part and you were then chaperoned. Phil Collins’ mum was one chaperone from Barbara Speake. Linda Higginson [Hayden], Wendy and Denis were older than me, so I used to cadge a lift from Linda to the studio because she lived nearby, or Denis - and then we turned up and did it. It sounds arrogant, but it wasn’t difficult. You just did it."

It must have been great fun.
"I think there was only a couple of weeks’ shooting. We were at Pinewood I think. I remember seeing Sam Kydd - I’ve never forgotten it - and thinking, ‘My god, that’s Sam Kydd. He’s in every film that’s ever been made.’ I was in awe. I don’t know where the location was. It was in the middle of nowhere. There was a house that can’t have been real, or maybe it was, I don’t know.

“I remember Wendy Padbury and I playing brother and sister; she’s now my agent. There was a schoolroom scene, with a line like, ‘Because he were a man and she were a woman.’ And the big talk was of Linda peeling off - that was all we knew. We weren’t allowed to see it. I don’t know whether she had done Lolita then or whether she was about to do it. But I can see why it’s become a cult film."

It’s very nicely shot, nicely produced, takes itself quite seriously. It’s quite a classy production.
"I remember being slightly frightened of Piers Haggard. His brow was always furrowed. He was a very serious man and I don’t think he tolerated us young’uns messing around very much - quite rightly. I’ve seen it a couple of time and I know I’ve got a video somewhere."

It’s coming out on DVD this year.
"Catweazle came out on DVD. We don’t make any money out of these things, alas."

A lot of people consider Blood... one of the best horror films of the period, along with Witchfinder General, The Wicker Man etc.
"I would put them far higher personally, but then who am I? I’ve actually got some stills from it in the attic somewhere."

Did you have any scenes with Patrick Wymark?
"Yes, with Simon Williams. There was a sort of cottage that I lived in; I don’t know who played my parents."

Charlotte Mitchell was your mother.
"Charlotte Mitchell was a great friend of Wendy Craig’s. After I’d finished that I went off to do a sitcom with her for nearly eight years."

Mother makes Three/Five.
"I think that, and Catweazle, was how I got the job. I remember, Mr Kipling - James Hayter. I was in great awe of these, what I would call solid British actors who were in every film ever made. Patrick Wymark - I’ve no reason to say this but in the back of my head I always thought he was pissed. But I don’t know. I’ve no reason to say that at all. I remember me putting him into a coach - and the sweat! And I can remember Simon Williams on a horse and not being able to control it. And somebody else I remember was Barry Andrews.

“Wendy was much much older than use - she must be in her mid-50s now - and she had just taken up with Melvyn [Hayes] then; they’re divorced now. I had the hots for her at school, so to be working with Wendy Padbury was oh wow! But Denis Gilmore and I were old friends from school. He’s a red-headed lad and I don’t think he was given a character name, he was just AN Other. It was a great comedown for Denis. I felt for him because he was the original Just William on telly, and he was the Fruit Gums boy, and he was a sort of little mega-star in his own right. I was in awe again of him at school, and I was very conscious of the fact that suddenly I had gone that little bit further.

“And I wonder whether Phil Collins was there, because his mum was around. There were extras in the background - Ian Ellis was there, we just all knew each other. We were friends, it was a laugh. If you weren’t doing that you were on Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or on Oliver! or something. It was just an excuse not to be in school. It’s something that no-one’s ever covered - the child actors of the 1960s and 1970s because us lot, we’re still around. Last week I spoke to David Parfitt who won the Oscar for Shakespeare in Love - which was my last film of course, I’m still hanging in there. It’s funny that no-one’s ever followed it through, that time. It was the birth of telly in a way and we’re now all in our late forties, early fifties. I’m trying to explain it to my kids, but they’re not interested."

Nowadays everybody on TV seems to be in their teens and it’s nothing special.
"In those days it was an enormous thing. I remember being at Pinewood and walking down the corridor there, seeing all the Oscars. Early in my career I worked with Morecambe and Wise. The running gag was Eric used to chop people on the back of the neck. My job at the end of each show was to come on with a ladder, climb the ladder, chop him on the back of the neck and bugger off. I think it was the Elstree days, the Lew Grade days. I remember them walking towards me and, being shy, I thought, ‘They’ll never know who I am. They won’t remember me.’ I remember Eric turning and saying, ‘Oi, oi! You’re too big for your boots now, are you?’ And I thought: what a nice bloke. One of my memories of making Blood on Satan’s Claw was seeing Eric and Ernie again and thinking, ‘He won’t speak to me.’ And the Oscars, that line of Oscars."

Did you go and see the film?
"No, I wouldn’t have seen it, I wasn’t old enough. I don’t think Linda saw it. She used to give me a lift home in this enormous black car, a limo. I don’t know what she was doing with a limo! She was driving and she lived up towards Pinner, so she used to give me a lift. So I don’t think she saw it, and I know I didn’t."

It was quite successful when it came out.
"From my point of view, it was Linda’s film - she was the star of it. And you had proper actors, not us kids. We just moved onto the next project, it was just another job. No disrespect to it but it was just another couple of quid. I think the first time I ever saw it was on telly, and I was not quite sure if it was me or not. You did so much that you didn’t know. I’ve seen things where I don’t want to sound arrogant but I think that was me. But that’s how it was in those days.”

interview originally posted 23rd February 2010

No comments:

Post a Comment