By ROCCO THOMPSON
From Florida-based filmmaker Sam Farmer comes CRY FOR THE BAD MAN, a micro-budget home invasion thriller starring Camille Keaton. Best known for her turn in Meir Zachari’s 1978 shocker, I Spit On Your Grave, Keaton returns to the type of hard-edged role that made her infamous as Marsha Kane, a woman whose fight to save her home from greedy land developers turns into a bloody game of retribution. Farmer and Keaton sat down with Rue Morgue to tell us how their working relationship began, what kinds of difficulties arise during this kind of shoot, and how CRY FOR THE BAD MAN embraces the legacy of I Spit On Your Grave while charting new territory.
What was the seed that grew into this project?
SF: Pragmatism. When we had the opportunity to work with Camille, we said, “Look, what resources do we have? We know we’re going to have a small budget. How can we make the most out of limited resources and a small budget?” And so the idea of a kind of siege film, like a western…we just decided to disguise a western as a home invasion film. And everything grew out of what do we have around us, what’s at our disposal, and what would Camille be interested in. I think one of the first conversations I had with Camille, she mentioned she really liked the movie Straw Dogs. And it grew from there!
How did you two first connect?
CK: Before I moved to Florida, I went to visit a friend of mine in Jacksonville, and he was there with his wife, and there were a few other people, and that’s how we met.
SF: Yeah, Jerry Rosenberg, one of the associate producers on our film and I were actually working on a project for Christina Crawford at the time, the adopted daughter of Joan Crawford, who wrote “Mommy Dearest?” That’s based on her.
Really? That’s wild.
SF: I had been called in at the very last minute to pick up editing some stuff together for a thing. The project was called Surviving Mommy Dearest. And it was a lot about how her life had changed because of the movie and kind of setting the record straight about some things. The misconceptions that people had about her story, and about Joan, and where she is now. So, I was working on that with Jerry, and he said, “I have a friend who makes scary movies,” but I never thought he would say it was Camille Keaton. The funny thing about that is I was surrounded by it at the time and I had no idea: when I was in Jerry’s condo working from my laptop, I must have passed by this a ton of times without noticing it, but he had this display set up where it was a picture from I Spit On Your Grave where Camille has her ax up in the air, and Camille had signed it. I think it said, “Jerry, don’t go into the bathtub,” or something like that, “love, Camille.” And I had passed by that. So, right when he said Camille’s name, I looked over, and there it was!
Camille’s role in CRY FOR THE BAD MAN obviously draws from Jennifer in “I Spit on Your Grave.” Did her legacy influence your conception of this character?
SF: We just thought about something that would be in her wheelhouse, but maybe… I think maybe if you look at I Spit on Your Grave, you’re looking at a character that’s reacting to a situation. A horrible situation. And we wanted to do something that was a little bit more proactive. And so borrowing the DNA of High Noon, we thought we could have a character that would give Camille something different to do. Obviously, it’s Camille versus a group of guys who think that she is going to be an easy target. But we also wanted to show a little vulnerability, and give her a chance to stretch out and do some stuff beyond being either the victim or the avenger. We wanted to have a little bit more nuance with it. So, she has got a complicated relationship with her daughter. She’s a widow. And then there is a suggestion that she has had a rough and tumble past so that she is not quite the dove that the guys think she is.
Camille, did you appreciate that focus on character building?
CK: Absolutely, yes. The movie starts with my character doing something that would be a really hard thing to do. You would have to be a special type of person to do it. And I liked that actually. I think it would be challenging as well to play a role where I’m just a normal woman, but it kind of sounds boring, honestly!
It seems as if you’re really embracing your status as a genre film icon. Were you always comfortable with this, or was it a process?
CK: Well, you start out with one, and then you do another, and then you do another, and then after that, another. And it kind of just…you go along with it. And it becomes almost like a second nature to you. When I was in Italy, I did some other kinds of films, too. They weren’t all just about revenge or killing. I get to shoot people all the time over here! But, I do like these movies, and people love them. They love to go and see movies that are suspenseful and have lot of angst.
What drove you, as a young American actress, to get your start in giallo films?
CK: This was a long time ago! I was very naïve at the time, and I saw that this actor named Clint Eastwood was doing so well over there, in spaghetti westerns. And I’m thinking, “Well, I can go over to Italy and have a career there. He did it. Why not?” I loved living in Italy. It’s a great country. I did some films, got homesick, and then one day decided, “Okay, it’s time to go.” That’s it!
Did CRY FOR THE BAD MAN’s filming process present either of you with any unique challenges?
SF: Camille, do you want to talk about the physical aspect of it? Because I know that you worked pretty hard, and I don’t think you realized until you were about to leave that it had really taken its toll on your body.
CK: [Chuckles] Yes. I realized that… my goodness, I didn’t realize that until after we stopped filming. On the way home, driving back down to where I live, I stopped to get some gas. And when I got out of the car, I could hardly stand up because my thighs were burning so bad. I thought I was going to collapse. And I said, “What is this?” Filming those intense scenes took a toll on my thigh muscles. It was probably good for me!
SF: From a technical standpoint, it was a time crunch. We had eleven days to shoot. So, everything was so fast, and every shot was planned. We had gone to every location in advance, set the cameras up, determined lenses, everything. But it all went super smooth. The biggest technical challenge is that, as with any film that involves practical effects, they’re unpredictable. And there is one particular headshot in the film that was its own four-hour process that we ended up abandoning on set, and we came back to it later two or three months after we had wrapped filming. But that’s it. Because any time you do something like that, you make a mess. And if you have to do a second take, you have to put everything back together, clean up the mess, and do it all over again.
Eleven days is really impressive for what ended up on screen!
CK: It is!
SF: But there was no pressure. Everyone that was on it worked together before on other projects. And Camille and I had had a chance to work together on proof of concept that we shot for this and also… Camille worked on a film where she actually did get to kind of play outside of her comfort zone. She was in Me and Mrs. Jones where she played a mother with a secret. I was a grip on that, so we all had a working relationship. That elevens days, there was no conflict. There was no stress. Everybody was having a good time despite the subject matter.
What do you hope audiences take away from “Cry for the Bad Man?”
CK: I hope they see that a strong woman, a strong older woman, can take things into her own hands and take care of herself. Take care of business.
SF: I would just say I hope people have fun. I hope that fans of Camille’s work get to see something maybe a little bit different. Something that feels familiar, but a little bit different for her. And that it’s fun. I hope that there’s enough humor in it to kind of balance out the heaviness of it, and that they’re entertained. That’s all I can hope for!
CRY FOR THE BAD MAN is streaming now from Uncork’d Entertainment