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Steven Berkoff early films


 

 

From Clockwork Orange to Rambo: "Films have transported me to many lands, but then I have usually been a passenger on someone else's carpet".

Berkoff acts in films, television and advertisements to subsidise his theatre work. He is usually typecast as the villain. His performances in the roles are professional and enjoyable (Rambo) and where he is allowed to play other characters (Revolution) he excels.  After Beverly Hills Cop Berkoff could have cultivated a lucrative career in films.  But he had little interest in such films other than subsidising his theatre work.    The cinema's loss is our gain.

Berkoff´s character Harry in his short story Agent (from Graft) says "most films had little space for such quixotic creatures as actors. Characters were now divided into two archetypes in the Hollywood lexicon; ´good guys´ or ´bad guys´...everything is reduced to primary colours...as Shakespeare's weapon was verse, the film's weapon was the gun. It would severely strain their imagination to make a film without one".

Berkoff started films uncredited in bit parts, often non-speaking in the background, often with other up-and-coming actors such as Oliver Reed and Alan Bates.

 

Steven Berkoff - The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw

The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw- a British Western filmed in Spain and also Pinewood Studios in the UK.  It is a lightweight but pleasant  comedy with Kenneth More as Jonathan Tibbs, a Brit who ends up as sheriff in the town Fractured Jaw. Directed by Raoul Walsh in 1958.

Steven Berkoff - The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw - Tibbs and company

Tibbs works for his father' gunsmith business, and decides the Wild West is a good place to sell guns.

Steven Berkoff - The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw

He is shown the latest invention, a mechanism which hides a Derringer gun under your sleeve, and instantly slides the gun to your hand if needed.

Steven Berkoff - The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw - Kenneth Moore

Arriving in Fractured Jaw he is met by a local gunman, but Tibbs accidentally presses the mechanism and gains a reputation as a fast gunslinger.

Steven Berkoff - The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw - Kenneth Moore  Steven Berkoff - The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw - Jane Mansfield

He meets Kate (Jane Mansfield) who runs the hotel/ saloon, and provides the entertainment.

Steven Berkoff - The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw - Cabaret

Steven Berkoff - The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw - Hotel Rules

Steven Berkoff - The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw - Badge

The town is disorderly with fighting between two rival gangs.  Tibbs, unaccustomed to local whisky and drunk, is made sheriff, though his predecessors ended up in Boot hill Cemetery.  He has now to clean up the town.  "At least in England they shoot at a bird which can't shoot back".

Steven Berkoff - The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw - Boot Hill

Steven Berkoff - The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw

Berkoff has an uncredited bit part- this could be him to the right of Jane Mansfield.  Says Berkoff "There I was watching Jayne Mansfield go through her paces with Kenneth More; she was fascinating to watch as she was choreographed by her dance coach and singing her song. I was amazed as I heard the rich sound rumble through the set and saw her miming to the soundtrack" (Steven Berkoff, Free Association, 1997).  In Tales from an Actor's Life Berkoff suggests he was paid £5 as an extra.  Connie Francis was the singer who dubbed Jane Mansfield's songs.

"This pathetically tired attempt at a Western comedy... Altogether, it is a painful labor that Mr. More goes through, in his familiar hearty manner, with the barest of help to lean upon. Miss Mansfield is present in person- and considerable person it is, too- but her interest in or understanding of the proceedings appear suspiciously remote. Most of her time on screen is spent in trying to strike grotesque attitudes in her fancy Mae West get-ups… But they, Mr. More and even Miss Mansfield can blame a sad script by Arthur Dales and Raoul Walsh's listless direction for the terrible pickle they're in. It is notable that this picture, which came to the Paramount yesterday, was made for the most part in England, far from the Western scene" (Bosley Crowther, 14 Mar 1959, New York Times).  Note contrary to the review, the American Film Institute states "most of the film was shot in various locations in Spain's Andalusia province" with only the opening scenes filmed in Pinewood Studios, UK (AFI Catalog, click here).

All images from the film.

 

 


Steven Berkoff - I Was Monty's Double - title

I Was Monty's Double, also called The Counterfeit General Montgomery and Hell, Heaven or Hoboken.  A second world war drama about an actor, Meyrick Clifton James, playing the role of British army leader Montgomery.

"Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery was one of the most prominent and successful British commanders of the Second World War (1939-45). Known as 'Monty', he notably commanded the Allies against General Erwin Rommel in North Africa, and in the invasions of Italy and Normandy"(from National Army Museum click here).

An enjoyable lightweight piece, typical of British post-war films, with John Mills starring and Meyrick Clifton James as Monty and the double.  Cliffon Jones actually did play the role of Monty in the war.  "During WW2, a soldier who also doubled up as an actor impressed his fellow soldiers with his perfect impressions of General Bernard Montgomery.  His name was Meyrick Clifton James and he was thus chosen for a decoy mission meant to trick the Germans so that they could divert their troops" (Sidney Mucheru, 11 May 2015, War History Online click here).

Steven Berkoff - I Was Monty's Double - Cliffon Jones  Steven Berkoff - I Was Monty's Double - Montgomery

Left the actor playing Monty, right the actual Montgomery.

Steven Berkoff - I Was Monty's Double

Steven Berkoff - I Was Monty's Double

Steven Berkoff - I Was Monty's Double

Some scenes, such as a kidnapping attempt by the Germans, were invented to introduce more action into the film.

One of Steven Berkoff´s earliest appearances in film, possibly one of the soldiers when the real Monty inspects the troops.  Directed in 1958 by John Guillermin.

All images from the film except the photo of the real Montgomery.

 

 

 

 

Steven Berkoff - The Captains Table - title

The Captain's Table, a comedy about a captain of a tug boat, played by John Gregson, who takes over a luxury liner

Steven Berkoff - The Captains Table

Steven Berkoff - The Captains Table

Steven Berkoff - The Captains Table

 He is helped by Burtweed, played by Reginald Beckwith.

Steven Berkoff - The Captains Table

Steven Berkoff - The Captains Table 

He soon discovers the passengers are the real problem.  A predictable British comedy, lots of women who want to hook the captain, and a range of stereotype vicars and majors.

Steven Berkoff - The Captains Table

Steven Berkoff - The Captains TableSteven Berkoff - The Captains Table

He does however enliven the children's party.

Steven Berkoff and Oliver Reed are extras hidden somewhere in the depths of the ship but I can't find them.  Directed by Jack Lee in 1959.  Christopher Challis was director of photography and the editor was Frederick Wilson.

All images from the DVD of the film.

 


Steven Berkoff - The Devil's Disciple

The Devil's Disciple, a George Bernard Shaw play filmed with Olivier, Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster.  The setting is New England as the Americans fight for freedom against the British. Olivier is of course the British officer "Since we can't hang you, perhaps you will care to have tea with me". Lancaster is a preacher and Douglas, the Devil's Disciple, rebels against everything. Eventually Douglas takes the place on the gallows of Lancaster- there are a lot of hangings- "hanging is one way to achieve fame without ability". Not a bad film.  Says Steven Berkoff "I was vaguely in some crowd, but watched the astounding Burt Lancaster cycle home after work" (fSteven Berkoff, Free Association, 1997). The Berkoff scene features Lancaster but not Olivier.  Directed by Bond man Guy Hamilton in 1959.

"The Devil's Disciple by George Bernard Shaw is better than this film version would indicate to those unfamiliar with the stage original. The final third of the picture is superb Shawmanship, but the major portion preceding it is fumbling and unsatisfactory... That all is not lost may be credited almost entirely to Laurence Olivier. His character, that of General ‘Gentleman Johnny’ Burgoyne, is a witty, mocking figure and mouthpiece for Shaw’s wicked shafts into convention and history, in this case the American Revolution... The other two stars, Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas, fare less well. Lancaster is Anthony Anderson, the peace-spouting person who eventually becomes a fiery rebel. Douglas is Dick Dudgeon, self-proclaimed, a shameless, cowardly scoundrel, who in turn displays the truest Christian attitudes... Directors were changed in mid-filming and there seems in the finished product to be a division of style. Guy Hamilton must bear the blame for the uncertain mood and pace." (Variety, 31 Dec 1958, click here).

..."The Devil's Disciple is, somewhat disappointingly, less the biting satire of the stage and more an unevenly paced comedy-melodrama leaning heavily toward action. As such, The Devil's Disciple moves along at a lively clip but Shaw's meticulous development of character and a healthy portion of his gibes and barbs are merely shadowy effects here.Although its most prominent players are Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster, whose combined independent companies produced and filmed this "Disciple" entirely in England, its outstanding acting attribute is personified by Sir Laurence Olivier in the relatively minor role of General (Gentleman Johnny) Burgoyne.Sir Laurence's portrayal of the polished British commander is a bland, understanding yet taunting and underplayed delineation that most pointedly projects the comic iconoclasm for which Shaw was famed" (A. H. Weiler, New York times, 21 Aug 1959).



 Steven Berkoff The Flesh and the Fiends title

The Flesh and the Fiends (American title Mania) directed by John Gilling in 1960.  A Peter Cushing horror film based on the Edinburgh grave robbers Burke and Hare.   It could be one of Cushing's Hammer films, but is actually a Triad Production.

Steven Berkoff The Flesh and the Fiends body in coffin

"The Burke and Hare murders in Edinburgh's West Port were infamous and destroyed the career of Edinburgh anatomist Robert Knox.  During the 19th century, there was a chronic shortage of cadavers for anatomy classes in Edinburgh. This gave rise to a new industry in the city: grave-robbing.  The best-known of the 'Resurrection Men' were William Burke and William Hare, who took the grisly practice one step further. The pair murdered at least 16 people during the period 1827-1828, selling the cadavers to Dr Robert Knox's anatomy school." (from Burke and Hare, The College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, 22 Sept 2021, the link is here).

Steven Berkoff The Flesh and the Fiends - Peter Cushing

Peter Cushing´s benign character comes over even when playing Knox, a (sort of) villain.  His interest is in saving lives by experimenting on corpses, but he doesn't care where the bodies come from.

Steven Berkoff The Flesh and the Fiends - Donald Pleasance

Donald Pleasance (right) is good in a leading role as the killer Hare.  It was his 22nd film, he would make another 166 films.  George Rose (left) as Burke appeared in The Devil's Disciple where Steven Berkoff also had a small role.

Steven Berkoff The Flesh and the Fiends - Billie Williams

Samuel Beckett actress Billie Whitelaw brings subtlety to a cliché role, the tart with a heart of gold.  She of course becomes a victim to Burke and Hare.  More than 30 years later she would appear again with Berkoff in The Krays. 

Steven Berkoff The Flesh and the Fiends - Berkoff

Berkoff, front, has a bit role as a student listening to Cushing lecture.  He is uncredited and on screen for a few seconds only.  Editor Jack Slade also worked on Berkoff's next film Konga.

The encyclopedia.com gives the film a somewhat jaundiced summary including "Highly atmospheric representation of dismal, 19th century Edinburgh" (from encyclopedia.com click here).

Steven Berkoff The Flesh and the Fiends - Fiendish Ghouls

Some of the trailers give a previous title The Fiendish Ghouls.

All images from the DVD of the film and the DVD extras.


Steven Berkoff Konga title

Konga, a cheap King Kong copy.  In Diary of a Juvenile Delinquent Steven Berkoff writes as a child he recalled being deeply impressed by King Kong.  Here he has an uncredited bit part playing a student- though for once he is upper-class.   Directed by Jack Lemont in 1960.  Associate producer  Jim O´Connolly would direct Berkoff in Vendetta for the Saint in 1969.

Steven Berkoff Konga

Dr. Charles Dekker played by Michael Gough returns from Uganda with Konga, a chimpanzee, and starts experimenting on him using his new growth drug.  Dekker reveals his megalomania "Through Konga I shall not only dominate a corner of the earth, but blaze a new trail in science".

Steven Berkoff Konga

The drug works increasing Konga's size and also seeming to convert him from a chimpanzee to a gorilla (albeit a man in a gorilla suit).  Konga is played by Paul Stockman "In 1961, Mr Stockman donned a hairy suit to play the titular character in Konga, one of only two British entries in the giant-ape genre (the other being the comedy Queen Kong from 1976) and a film that I’d regard as a guilty pleasure if I felt any guilt" (from Darren Stockford, Inside the Konga suit: Unmasking Paul Stockman, 23 Jul 2014,  from darrenstockford.com click here).

Steven Berkoff Konga Margo Johns  Steven Berkoff Konga Claire Gordon Michael Gough

Dekker's assistant Margaret (Margo Johns) seems to do little more than make tea, but she wants to marry Dekker.  Despite promises from Dekker, he seems more interested in student Sandra (Claire Gordon).

Steven Berkoff Konga giant

Her jealousy is aroused and she injects Konga with more serum, increasing his size even more.  He goes on the rampage.

Steven Berkoff giant Konga detroys house

While most of the special effects are poor, the scenes with miniatures are quite well done.

Steven Berkoff Konga  Steven Berkoff Konga

The army are sent in, and poor Konga does not have a chance.

Steven Berkoff Konga

Steven Berkoff Konga

Berkoff, left in both images, is one of Dekker's students though he doesn't have much to do in the film.

Steven Berkoff Konga breaking in

The film does get very silly.  The New York Times dismissed the film "the British "Konga" is nothing more than an overblown "King Kong," hammily played by Michael Gough and an improbable-looking ape" (Eugene Archer, New York Time, 16 Sept 1961).

Actor Jess Conrad who plays Sandra's boyfriend and would be a victim of Konga later appears 25 years later with Berkoff in Absolute Beginners.

Konga TNT

A 2020 film uses the Konga name for a giant gorilla.  "According to its credits Konga TNT is based on the Charlton Comics series of the same name which is in the public domain, not the 1961 film which is still under copyright. That’s despite the first issue being an adaptation of the film, published the year before its release... A UFO crashes in a remote jungle that looks like a Canadian forest and its power supply is retrieved by a tribe of Amazons. White, professionally tattooed Amazons who wear lipstick... There’s no attempt to integrate the creature into the footage either, it’s obvious he’s simply walking in front of projected stock footage" (Jim Morazzini, Voices from the Balcony, 19 Mar 2021, click here, included with kind permission).

Konga TNT

All images from the DVD of the film, and the trailer and poster for Konga TNT.

 




Steven Berkoff - Prehistoric Women - Slave Girls - title

Prehistoric Women, also known a Slave Girls from 1967 directed by Michael Carreras in 1967.  The cinematographer is Lionel Lindon and the editor is James Graham.  90 minutes.

An early bit part for Steven Berkoff in a Hammer Amazon women film. A hunter stumbles on a prehistoric civilisation where the black haired women ruled the blonde girls (Slave Girls) and the men are kept imprisoned in a cave.

 

The white rhino is their god, and there are actually good images of the rhino as carvings, a statue, masks and live.

Allan Nixon as Engor, captured  by the women.

Laurette Lueze as slave girl Lotee.

One of the slave girls must  be selected for sacrifice to the rhino, and of course Lotee is eventually chosen.  But of course the film is mainly about girls in fur lined bikinis.

Steven Berkoff - Prehistoric Women - Slave Girls 

A young Berkoff on the right.  Berkoff misses the girls. At the very end, back in the twentieth century, he has a negligible bit part introducing the hero to a visitor, who turns out to be a reincarnated cave girl the hero had fallen in love with.

  The film was a cheapie, using the same sets as 1,000,000 years BC.

Steven Berkoff - Prehistoric Women - Slave Girls - credit

All images from the DVD of the film.




Steven Berkoff - Vendetta for the Saint - title

Vendetta for the Saint with Roger Moore as the Saint in a full length cinema story, but there is no more depth than in the shorter television episodes.  It was actually dual purpose, according to the DVD commentary- it was designed as two episodes of the TV series, but also together as a single movie.

Steven Berkoff - Vendetta for the Saint - Roger Moore

The Saint tangles with the Mafia, as a Don is dying and they seek a successor.  Directed by Jim O´Connolly in 1969.

Steven Berkoff - Vendetta for the Saint - Ian Hendry

Moore discovers one successor Alessandro Destamio (Ian Hendry) has a secret he wants the Mafia never to find out.  Hendry would work with Berkoff again on The Passenger and McVicar.

Steven Berkoff - Vendetta for the Saint - bomb

Berkoff plays  Bertoli an Italian henchman, with dark glasses and fake Italian waiter accent.  He plants a bomb in the Saint's car, but the Saint spots it and jumps seconds before it explodes.

Steven Berkoff - Vendetta for the Saint

Steven Berkoff - Vendetta for the Saint

Bertolli confronts the saint, but inevitably ends up being shot.

Steven Berkoff - Vendetta for the Saint - crypt

Moore discovers the real Alessandro Destamio is dead, and the person calling himself that is a fake and not the rightful heir to the Mafia leadership.

  Steven Berkoff - Vendetta for the Saint  Steven Berkoff - Vendetta for the Saint

Director of photography Brendan J. Stafford would go on to work with Berkoff on the UFO series.  Most of Stafford's photography is the usual workman-like but bland work that is expected, but he does manage to sneak in some more interesting shots with an assailant reflected in dark glasses (a la Goldfinger) and a bus reflected in a mirror rather than just showing the bus.

The novelist behind The Saint Leslie Charteris wrote the first Saint novel in 1927.  Vendetta for the Saint was a late novel written in 1964 and the DVD commentary states it was actually ghost written.

Roger Moore would move onto playing James Bond and Berkoff would appear opposite him as the villain Colonel Orlov in Octopussy.

Steven Berkoff - Vendetta for the Saint

All images from the DVD of the film.

 


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