( lire la version française)
To start off this new season, I wish you all the same energy and steadyness as Captain Olivares, hero of the Caribbean Hawk.
In this italian pirate movie, I played his companion Arica, an improbable mulatto girl with a tragic fate. The producers had probably thought of me after seeing me as an eurasian girl in The Terror of the Tongs.
Our director, Piero Regnoli, did not lack energy either, but in spite of his tenacity, he could not overcome the production's financial problems. Finally, Caribbean Hawk became the only unfinished film of my career. You can imagine how surprised I was when, a few years ago, austrian friends of mine sent me a videotape of the film, dubbed in German !
In the middle of the 16th century, a group of escaped prisoners, led by Captain Juan Rodrigo Olivares (Johnny Desmond), manage to take over a spanish ship terrorizing the West Indies. Olivares falls in love with the grand-daughter of the viceroy of Santa Cruz, abandoning his companion Arica (Yvonne Monlaur), a mulatto girl he had saved from slavery. Faced with the threat of an english attack upon the coast, the viceroy and captain Esteban manage to rally Olivares to their cause and send him ahead to confront the english naval forces.
Regnoli was a huge fan of "genre" movies (1). His screenplay, abounding with unexpected twists and epic scenes, conformed with all the conventions of Hollywood films. It would probably have needed more money than the production was able to invest. Anyway, Cinecitta still had some set elements from Manckiewicz' Cleopatra, which, if properly used and dressed, could sustain an illusion of grandeur.
The film was mostly shot in the port of Anzio, near Rome. There was a village there, and a refurbished antique float, thus the strange and bare aspect of the spanish army's gallions. When they needed more extras, the producers enlisted the port's inhabitants, who joined the troups during the battle scenes.
Johnny Desmond (2) sometimes seemed a bit lost in the middle of this whole mess ! But I was not surprised with the chaotic atmosphere of the set. I had already shot quite a few Italian pictures in the same conditions, but, this time, financial problems arose at the very beginning of the shooting. They had an impact on all artistic aspects.
I remember going with the wardrobe lady to the roman fleamarket in order to find some cheap fabric for my slave tunic. In the end, she fashioned for me a dress with a piece of cloth with printed flowers, looking more like a "sixties" curtain. Given our overall budget, this became my sole outfit through the entire film.
Regnoli rewrote the script everyday in order to adapt our planning to the financial restraints. His differences with the producers soon forced him to announce that the shooting had to stop !
For a month, the technical crew and the actors had to hire lawyers to fight for their salaries. Shooting finally resumed, with a totally new screenplay. But to no avail. Regnoli deserted the set and production stopped for good.
In its current form, the film (released in Belgium but not in France under the title L'Epervier des Caraïbes) has a beginning and an end, but sometimes suffers from abrupt transitions because of unfinished battle scenes and lack of care in post-production.
Very much like the final scene, where Olivares perishes in his gallion with Arica, Caribbean Hawk has remained in my memory a very sick boat slowly sinking.
(1) He was a prolific screenwriter in all kinds of genres. He is also known in France for his fantasy movie : The playgirls and the vampire, with Walter Brandi.
(2) He was also a popular singer, from Glenn Miller's big band.