Cult filmmaker Greydon Clark doubles up on DVD double feature

by Mark Burger

He hasn’t directed a film in over a decade, but for devotees of drive-in cinema, Greydon Clark is an elder statesman of the B-movie spectrum, having made such cult hits as the all-star UFO thriller Without Warning (1980), a precursor to the big-budget Predator (1987), the 1981 slasher spoof Wacko and the unforgettable lambada melodrama, The Forbidden Dance (1990).

Now, VCI Entertainment has released the Greydon Clark Drive-In Double Feature (click HERE for review), which includes special editions of Clark’s 1973 directorial debut The Bad Bunch (in which he also plays the leading role), and the 1978 hot-rod thriller

Hi-Riders. Clark contributes audio commentaries to both films, and the DVD includes trailers and additional interviews.

Born in Michigan, “I came to Los Angeles to be an actor,” relates Clark in an exclusive interview with YES! Weekly. “I had no idea what a director did. I realized that someone wrote the script for a film and that someone directed, but as to what they actually did… a complete mystery.”

Not for long. “Within a few hours on my first day on the set it became obvious to me that the director had the best job of anyone.”

Clark soon shifted his focus from acting to screenwriting and then to directing. Although his films were aimed squarely at the drive-in trade, most of them also explore themes topical to the times in which they were made. The Bad Bunch depicts racial unrest in Watts during the Vietnam era, and the youthful rebellion of Hi-Riders remains a common theme in films today, as the success of the Fast and the Furious franchise attests.

“I feel that a film can generally be broken down into character and story,” he explains. “I’ve tried to write scripts that give equal weight to both.”

It had been some time since Clark had seen either The Bad Bunch or Hi-Riders. He thinks they hold up and he’s glad that fans will finally get a chance to see them on the new DVD, with both films uncut and presented in widescreen format.

“I attended a screening of Hi-Riders at the Los Angeles Film Festival last fall — first time I‘d seen it in 30 years,” said Clark. “It was received very well. I hadn’t seen Bad Bunch in many years. Doing the director’s commentary was enjoyable. It brought back fond memories of each film. VCI Entertainment is responsible for the great look and sound of the DVD.”

The 67-year-old Clark admits he had no grand career design. “I consider a film successful if it generated enough box-office to allow me to make another film,” he says. “The Bad Bunch was my second film, Hi-Riders my fifth. I’ve directed 20 films. I’ve been very lucky.”

Such films as 1976’s Black Shampoo (a “blaxploitation” riff on the Warren Beatty blockbuster Shampoo), 1979’s Angels’ Brigade (take a wild guess what TV series inspired that one), Satan’s Cheerleaders (1977), Without Warning and Joy Sticks (1983) may not have found much critical favor, but they found an audience.

“When I was making all of my movies, I was concentrating on that particular film with no thought of an overall career,” he said. “One film simply followed the other. I was pleased when each had enough success to allow me to make another. When I first began attending filmmakers’ conventions, I was very pleasantly surprised that the films were remembered fondly by so many people.”

He remembers them fondly, too. “The honest answer is that I enjoyed all of my pictures,” he says. “I just can’t single one out. Some were more successful than others — some I think work better than others — but each was an experience that I wouldn’t change. And in each case, I see so many mistakes that I’d love to do them all again.”

Clark amends his statement: One thing he could change.

“As you may know, we had a tragic accident on Hi-Riders and lost the stunt coordinator, Vic Rivers,” he says. “Vic was a wonderful young man. It’s been more than 30 years since that awful day on the set. I think about him often …” To date, Clark’s last film was Star Games (1998), a science-fiction family film that starred Tony Curtis, Darby Hinton (a Clark “regular” who also appeared in Hi-Riders and Without Warning) and Clark’s sons Trevor and Travis. But he doesn’t consider himself retired.

“It’s tougher than ever to raise production funds,” he explains. “I’ve been working for several years to do a remake of Without Warning. MGM owns the US theatrical rights. I own the remake.”

With the studio in the midst of being sold (again), “perhaps I’ll have some success with the new people in charge.”

In recent years, Clark has attended a number of film conventions and retrospective events. He enjoys interacting with fans, and has his own website, where he promotes his appearances and sells memorabilia. The official Greydon Clark website is www.GreydonClark. com Although his actress wife, Jacquelin Cole (who appeared in several of his films), passed away some years ago, their sons are continuing in the show-business tradition. “One of my sons is in television news, the other attending university majoring in creative writing. They, like me, love movies and are finding their own path.”

He also sees as many new films as he can.

“I see all different types of films and can find something to enjoy in all films,” he says.