Thursday, February 04, 2010

The Endangered List (Case File #62) -- FOUND!


Directed by
Alan Ormsby

Produced by
Jack McGowan

Screenplay by
Carole Wise and
Alan Ormsby

Gay Perkins
Frank Logan
Dick Sterling
Paul Cronin

Robert Perault
John DeSanti
Lee Sandman
Judy LaScala

Special Guests
Kaye Stevens
Roberts Blossom
Johnny Weissmuller
Henny Youngman
Marsh & Adams
Hy Gardner

Union Artists Production

Filmed in 1973 under the title THE ARTISTS AND MODELS BALL. Released in Miami in 1974 as THE GREAT MASQUERADE. Released by Libert Films as MURDER ON THE EMERALD SEAS in 1976. Also known as THE AC/DC CAPER, and according to Marc Edward Heuck, it may also have been released by Hallmark Releasing as just AC/DC.

Miami Area Craftsmen Form Production Firm

MIAMI – Union Artists Productions has been founded here by Jack McGowan, a Miami cameraman, who claims it now is possible to produce a $350,000 movie for less than $100,000 in cash.

John Huddy, Miami Herald entertainment editor, reports that McGowan isn’t just talking for effect, either. McGowan’s new production company recently raised $240,000 and is now in pre-production stages for a low-budget film that will be Union Artists’ first venture, a picture titled “The Artists and Models Ball.” Most of the filming will take place aboard the Emerald Seas cruise ship during its September 14 Bahamian cruise.

“We are going to use this film as documentary proof of what can be accomplished in film production in Florida,” McGowan told Huddy. “Not only do we have plenty of artists and technicians in Florida, we have the best. Most of us are always working for major companies everyplace but where we live. We want producers to come to Florida to make their pictures.”

Members of Union Artists Productions are Miami film craftsmen and technicians, the “behind-the-scenes” trade people who are often overlooked but who make the film possible – cameramen, stagehands, electricians, costume people and teamsters. Under terms of Union Artists’ organization, these vital technicians are willing to work for union scale and then reinvest their salaries in the film under production.

Huddy commented that while some of McGowan’s contentions fall into the category of show business “hypo” (heavy-handed promotion), the idea is certainly an original one. If the arithmetic is accurate (a $350,000 budget film made for under $100,000 cash), then it may not matter whether south Florida actually has the best film craftsmen at the present term.

At those rates, Huddy declared, the craftsmen around here will get so much practice in the coming year that they’ll become the best available – which could be the real strength behind the concept.

[Boxoffice, August 13, 1973, p. 5]

"Movie Company Formed in Miami" [excerpt]

by Jerry Renninger
Post Entertainment Writer

Union Artists' first production is tentatively titled "The Great Masquerade," a mystery-comedy primarily set on board the Caribbean cruise ship Emerald Seas. It will be the first of three productions to be made back-to-back. John Marley and Patrick O'Neal have been signed to star in the first feature.

"None of us expect to make very much money on this first shot," [producer Jack] McGowan says, "but we want 'The Great Masquerade' to be a kind of commercial for Union Artists, to show the filmmaking business what can be accomplished here in Florida. If producers were right about not being able to find technical people down here, why is it that the people in Union Artists are hired by the major studios to work everyplace except in Florida? With this move, we can show once and for all that you can make a quality film with the finest technicians and still save money by doing it here instead of Europe."

[The Palm Beach Post, September 7, 1973, p. B2]

"Everyone Gets in the Act and It's Quite a Comedy"

by Ian Glass
Miami News Reporter

One thing is instantly obvious about the precious Gregory LaSalle. The only thing he does not mince is his words.

The pompadoured LaSalle is the owner of a charm school, and he is saying to the callow youth who has just entered his salon:

"You are the boy who wants to be a female impersonator in two weeks? Who thinks so little of the art that he imagines its subtleties, its nuances, can be conquered in the miserably short span of 14 days?"

"Ten days."

LaSalle shrieks in horror, at which point, director Alan Ormsby, toothpick in mouth, yells, "Cut!"

"Sorry about the noise," says comedian Dick Sterling, who is playing LaSalle. "Got carried away there." And steps down from the box that has raised him to an eyeball-to-eyeball level with actor Rob Perault. He is wearing elevator shoes.

And so, in a room in Miami Beach's Flamingo Hotel, hung appropriately with surrealistic paintings, the filming of "The Great Masquerade" is played out. It could be subtitled, "We Did It On A Shoestring."

"The Great Masquerade" is described by its producer , Jack McGowan, as a "straight comedy," and the 18 South Floridians involved in lovingly putting it together dropped the last reel in the can last weekend -- hoping they have a hit on their hands -- because that way they get paid.

The 18, who form part of a company named Union Artists Productions, are dedicated to the ideal that fine movies can be made in Miami.

To that end, they have ploughed back their salaries into the production -- which is costing $300,000 -- and have even come up with a few nest eggs.

"For every $3,000 they put into the film, they own one percent," says McGowan, with unerring logic. He, too, has made the sacrifice by selling his home and houseboat and moving into an apartment, diverting the profits to the film.

Practically everything in the caper is dependent on credit. Film processing labs, costumers, the people who supply the lighting equipment and the hamburgers at lunch-time are content to wait and collect when the movie is sold.

The cliff-hangers' hope is that it will gross a profit, thus restoring the moviemakers' bank accounts as well as their faith.

The plot, out of Harold Lloyd and the Keystone Cops, revolves around an artists' and models' ball, much of it shot a couple of months ago aboard the Miami-based cruise ship Emerald Seas.

A police officer named Dave Collins (Perault), who has the shapeliest and least hirsute legs in the force, is ordered by his chief to take part in the most beautiful and original costume contest, the object being to gain the confidence of some narcotics smugglers. Or something like that. (Which explains his enrollment in the charm school.)

McGowan recalls there was no lack of volunteers among the cruise ship passengers, "though they all wanted to make sure they were appearing in a PG (parental guidance) movie.

"The ship's cruise director, Gino Conti, played a part, got paid $480 for his role, and returned it and an extra $2,000 as investment in the movie."

Every picture has to have a producer; he holds the money strings. No one person put the whole pot into "The Great Masquerade," so McGowan was elected by the others to be producer.

"You can't have a movie without a producer, and I have less to do than the others, so I'm it," says McGowan.

Actually, he is chief cameraman, though he leaves much of the work to his son, Jack, and Don Piel.

(Piel has the additional responsibility of being treasurer of the company, also by erratic election. "He's the only one who lives out of town -- in Ocala -- and he'd be more difficult to find.")

There is an unreal sense of crazy camaraderie about the whole operation. "The electrician," says McGowan, "can go up to the director and say, 'Let's move it, we're taking too long here.' You know what would happen in Hollywood? He'd never work in a movie again. Anybody can make suggestions here. What we've got is 18 producers."

The very pretty girl with the red handkerchief around her head hauling the script around and arguing with director Ormsby is Sandra Ulosevich, and she is McGowan's close friend and associate. (McGowan's first wife, an attractive blonde named Carole Wise, wrote the original script, but it has been through a few hands since.)

"Sandy is the script supervisor," says McGowan. "She keeps the director straight. Directors tend to foul things up, you know." There is a slight holdup while the ubiquitous Sandy touches up Sterling's hair.

Lest this seem to be an irresponsible madcap venture, it would be mentioned that Ormsby has directed two other pictures, the technicians are all well seasoned and McGowan has been cameraman on films featuring John Wayne, Dean Martin, Jimmy Stewart and Raquel Welch, just to mention a lot.

He also has filmed his way around the world.

"But what we want to prove here," says McGowan, "is that you can do everything in Miami. You've got as dedicated and as talented a bunch of people here as anywhere."

His views are purringly shared by one of the film's actresses, Mariasha ("I don't have a last name"), who says she loves the warm atmosphere and lack of throat-cutting she's seen in New York. Mariasha also allows as to how she loves Miami's climate, which may account for the fact she is braless, if haphazardly covered up.

For the umpteenth time, Sterling as LaSalle is hissing at Perrault, as Officer
Collins: "I'll teach you to be the best drag queen in the business."

"You're doing beautifully," someone says to him as the take ends.

"I guess so," Sterling sighs. "I've been picked up seven times."

[Miami News, December 3, 1973, p. 5A]


Brian Albright said...

Weird. I JUST read that Miami Post piece a couple of days ago, and I thought to myself, "I should ask Poggiali about that one..."

Any inidication of how wide a release this got? I believe Jack McGowan was the cinematographer on ZAAT!

Marc Edward Heuck said...

I used to have a trailer for this film, but didn't know what it was because the title MURDER ON THE EMERALD SEAS had been clumsily added to it. The leader on the trailer suggests the working title was AC/DC. That's incredible that it was an Alan Ormsby project!

Josh said...

this is one of the coolest blogs ive seen. awesome stuff!

Marty McKee said...

The version I saw was definitely not PG-rated, though the R-rated footage was filmed and edited in such a way that it could have easily been added later for play in spicier theaters.

Modera said...

I just saw this movie a few minutes ago; I downloaded it off of a blog. The look and feel of it (a badly timed comedy with a very particular color scheme to it and lots of "off" acting) reminds me of an H. Gordon Lewis film. Even a really good actor like Roberts Blossom, who starred as the Ed Gein character in "Deranged" one year later, doesn't come off too well. But still, it was fun to watch, in a way..... Oh, actually the guy who played the drag charm school instructor probably came across best. Without his wig he resembled Joey Arias.