Interview: Ian McCulloch

Features

We chat to the star of Zombie Flesh Eaters.

Posted 3rd December 2012, 10:41am in TV, by Christa Ktorides


Actor Ian McCulloch is probably best known for his role as Greg Preston in classic BBC show Survivors. But it is his role in seminal gore-fest Zombie Flesh Eaters that horror fans will remember him for. The cult film is released on Blu-ray on December 3rd and we had a chat with Ian about director Lucio Fulci and why the film is so enduringly popular.

How did a British actor get involved in an Italian zombie film?
It was for one reason and that was Survivors. The original series went out more or less all over the world but particular in Italy where it was huge and it's entirely due to that I was asked.

Zombie Flesh Eaters isn't the only Italian production you've worked on. How did you deal with the language barrier when making these films?
I don't speak Italian. I was in the army in Germany for a year and half and I don't speak German, so the fourth time in Italy I'm afraid I learned nothing at all. They know when the film's finished it's going to be dubbed into every language in the world, they didn't mind what you say so long as your lips are moving they can lip synch anything that they want.

What was your experience of working with Fulci? His reputation is that he was a little temperamental.
Well I feel a little guilty because I have described him as a bully and in many ways he was but a lot of directors have their ways of working and in terms of stress being real for the characters he may have come in to shout a lot to get results. He focused it on one person, Auretta Gay; a young girl who wasn't an actress and perhaps he thought that was the best way to get the results he wanted. I've been at conventions around the world surrounded by people who worked with him throughout his career and every single one has said something bad and every single one has said something nice.

You famously commented on the level of gore and violence in Zombie Flesh Eaters.
I had to look away! When you're doing the film you don't see any of it. You say your lines and then you go and have a cup of coffee and in the meantime the special effects people come in and add all the blood and flesh. I'd never seen it until I did the commentary for the 25th Anniversary Edition.

How do you feel about it now? Is it still shocking to you?
Well obviously you know it's coming. I showed it last week at my local golf club and the senior golf members turned up with their wives and I thought that one by one they were going to be leaving the cinema in the way that my wife did, she didn't last five minutes. So I was sitting having a cup of coffee waiting for them to join me and they didn't! They sat through it all. The only person that left was one man that had to go to the loo and he got the biggest laugh of the evening [laughs].

Are you a fan of horror films or does it not appeal to you?
The first film I saw like that was a film called The Spiral Staircase. I remember I was watching it at the cinema - I was underage anyway - and I just remember sinking lower and lower in my seat in the hope the seat in front would block out the screen so I wouldn't have to see it! It's not a genre that's my kind. I am very grateful for it but I wouldn't go and see a horror film.

Are surprised that over 30 years later Zombie Flesh Eaters is considered worthy of a lavish Blu-ray release? It's very fondly thought of by fans of the genre.
I'm amazed. The Blu-ray version came out last year in America and I went over there to do a convention and on the day it was released in America it was shown in 100 cinemas all over the place and I saw there were almost three generations there. People my age and teens were all lapping it up and enjoying it

You also wrote a few episodes of Survivors, was writing something that you wanted to pursue further?
I would have loved to have done more. I also wrote a whole new series of Survivors but the BBC didn't like it and then when the new series came out a few years ago I offered to help. I would've loved to have done it.

The restored Zombie Flesh Eaters is out on Blu-ray now.
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