The Klansman is a 1974 American drama film based on the book of the same name by William Bradford Huie. It was directed by Terence Young and starred Lee Marvin, Richard Burton, O. J. Simpson (in his feature film debut), Lola Falana and Linda Evans.
|Directed by||Terence Young|
|Produced by||William D. Alexander|
Peter A Rosie
Daniel K. Sobol
|Written by||Millard Kaufman|
|Based on||novel by William Bradford Huie|
|Music by||Stu Gardner|
Dale O. Warren
|Edited by||Gene Milford|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures |
In a small town in the South, Sheriff Track Bascomb breaks up a crowd of black and white men molesting a black woman. He visits Breck Stancill, a local land owner who is politically liberal.
White woman Nancy Poteet is sexually assaulted and beaten by a black man. Sheriff Track Bascomb tries to find the guilty party while the Ku Klux Klan - whose members include Bascomb's deputy, Butt Cutt Cates - takes matters into its own hands.
Members of the Klan - not wearing their uniform - approach a bar frequented by blacks. They chase after two men, one of whom is Garth. Garth escapes but his associate is captured, castrated and shot by the Klan.
Loretta Sykes, a black girl who grew up in the town, returns home. She is approached by members of the civil rights movement. They try to get Breck Stancill involved.
Nancy Poteet's husband leaves her and she finds herself an outcast for the town. She is befriended by Stancill.
Garth dresses up as a Klansman and kills one of the vigilante gang who killed his friend. At a funeral for the dead man, held by the Klan, Garth shoots another Klansman from a tree.
- Lee Marvin as Sheriff Track Bascomb
- Richard Burton as Breck Stancill
- Cameron Mitchell as Butt Cutt Cates
- O. J. Simpson as Garth
- Lola Falana as Loretta Sykes
- David Huddleston as Mayor Hardy Riddle
- Linda Evans as Nancy Poteet
- Luciana Paluzzi as Trixie
- David Ladd as Flagg
- John Alderson as Vernon Hodo
- John Pearce as Taggart
- Virgil Frye as Johnson
- Larry Williams as Lightning Rod
The novel was published in 1967. Film rights were purchased by the Robert Leder Company for $100,000. Originally TV director Don Stewart was meant to direct and Chuck Connors was going to star as the sheriff.
Film rights were bought by a black film producer, William Alexander, who formed a company, The Movie People, to make the film and reportedly spent a year putting it together. Bill Schiffrin who sometimes acted as Sam Fuller's agent  said he put the film together. The first draft of the script was done by Sam Fuller. It was rewritten by Millard Kaufman. Schiffrin says Kaufman "distorted" much of what Fuller wrote. "I wanted Fuller," he said.
Schiffin says Terence Young was hired as director at the insistence of the European investors. Young was best known for his work on the James Bond films. In a bit of stunt casting, he hired Luciana Paluzzi, who had played Bond villain Fiona Volpe in Thunderball, as Trixie in this film. The studio had American Joanna Moore dub in Paluzzi's lines. Schiffin says he wanted Moore to play Paluzzi's role originally. "I never thought an Italian should play a Southern girl."
"The day Young was hired I should've left the show," said Schiffin. ""Four times during filming I wasn't speaking to Young." Fuller claimed Paramount had a prior commitment with Italian partners as a payback for a prior deal and when Young came on the film Fuller walked off the project.
Alexander obtained a $1 million guarantee from Paramount. The rest was raised from various banks and tax shelters in the US and Europe.
Richard Burton was to be paid $40,000 a week for ten weeks work plus a percentage. Lee Marvin got 10% of the profits.
Filming took place in Oroville, California.
Richard Burton allegedly drank so much alcohol during the making of this film that many of his scenes had to be shot with him seated or lying down, due to his inability to stand. In some scenes, he appears to slur his words or speak incoherently.
During the location filming in a small town outside of Sacramento, the crew was based in a local motel. One motel room, next to the office, was filled with cases of alcohol, in rows, from floor to ceiling. Burton, Marvin, et al., were dealing with personal issues off the set, as well as what seemed a difficult shoot; but, all were professionals, despite the quantity of alcohol consumption, and were always on time and ready with their lines.
Burton and wife Elizabeth Taylor were staying in a rented house in town. The crew passed around rumors of tension between them. As well as the big rumor among the crew, which concerned a shouting match (over a young girl from the town), which led them to throwing, first decor items, and then furniture at the walls of the house, which led to near complete destruction of the interior.
"It's enchanting here," said Burton. "It reminds me of my old valley in Wales."
It may have caused Taylor's visit and the altercation; but according to the crew, Burton was using the young girl as a cover for his real affair with a local married woman (with children) who was working on the location shoot. When the woman left her husband and children to meet him in LA, he had changed his mind and had decided to reunite with Taylor.
During one late night shoot, due to ongoing lighting issues, Burton wound up lying on the cold, damp ground for over an hour, with no protection under him and without an overcoat. Finally by 3 AM, after he had read and reread his line, over and over, and he was nearly frozen and completely exhausted, the 30 second scene was deemed properly lit. And that was the shot that was used in the film. After the last shot, he had to be lifted to his feet and wrapped in a blanket.
Burton went to hospital after filming and was treated on bronchitis. While there it was announced Burton and Taylor would be getting divorced. Burton ended up staying in hospital for six weeks.
Walter Schiffin later said Burton should not have been paid "at all considering the performance he gave. He was... drinking three quarts a day. He didn't know what town he was in let alone what film." Schiffin says Marvin in contrast "was highly helpful throughout the shooting."
Lee Marvin later said his character was meant to be a war hero and had a son who did not want to go to West Point. There was a subplot where Burton's character sided with the son. All this was cut from the final film. In addition, Marvin was not paid a final $50,000 owed to him.
While the film was being edited at Sam Goldwyn Studios, the studios caught fire.
At the last minute, one of the investors failed to come up with the money so Marvin and Burton were not paid their full salary and Paramount put a lien on the film.
Fuller said he later met Terence Young when both were members of the Festival du Film Policier de Cognac. Though Fuller originally had a grudge against Young, he was won over by Young's insistence that he had never read the original script and had only accepted the direction of the film to pay debts. Fuller admired his honesty .
Vincent Canby of The New York Times called it "a thoroughly clumsy adaptation of William Bradford Huie's novel," adding that the filmmakers "effectively defuse the very real drama by so lovingly depicting the horrors that one comes to suspect their motives. As the movie progresses, the events comes to seem less and less urgent and particular to a specific time and place, and more and more like the automatic responses to the demands of cheap, easy melodrama." Arthur D. Murphy of Variety declared it "a perfect example of screen trash that almost invites derision ... There's not a shred of quality, dignity, relevance or impact in this yahoo-oriented bunk." Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film one star out of four and called it "a tawdry rip-off of a half-dozen films: 'In the Heat of the Night,' 'The Liberation of L.B. Jones,' 'tick ... tick ... tick' ... What's amazing about this drivel is that Lee Marvin and Richard Burton lent their talents to it. They must have been offered a very sweet deal, because 'The Klansman' is pure demagogery." Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times slammed the film as "one of those sleazy, exploitative, incompetent pieces of motion picture waste which makes you suddenly unsure that film reviewing is a fit occupation for a grown man ... If any frame of the film carried a convincing sense of the real tensions, fears, hatreds and tempers of the rural American South you might be able to forgive some of the rest. But the acting is so amateurish in the lesser roles as to be comical and the dialogue in the major roles is unplayable." Gary Arnold of The Washington Post called it "the sort of film that raises only academic questions. Could the original source, a novel by William Bradford Huie, have been as terrible as the movie? Probably not, but it must have given the screenwriters, Millard Kaufman and Sam Fuller, a few ugly situations to kick around, like a castration and a pair of interracial rapes and a shootout with the Ku Klux Klan, and they've proceeded to kick them around like champion Hollywood hacks, leaning hard on the exploitation elements and reducing characterization and social analysis, if there were any, to a bare minimum."
Paul Mavis, of Movies & Drinks, reviewing the 2017 Kino Lorber Blu-ray release (which featured a heretofore unavailable unedited print), wrote, "Seen today, The Klansman’s not nearly as bad as our imaginations made it out to be, but it is a wonderfully bizarre exercise in conflicted intentions, with the saving grace of all good exploitation—it wallows in its own grotesqueries. In other words: must-see viewing for lovers of deeply wrong moviemaking."
- "Burton: Bringing Gold to Oroville: The Observer". The Washington Post. 11 Apr 1974. p. D17.
- Weiler, A.H. (31 Dec 1967). "The Klan Rides Again". New York Times. p. 57.
- "Forget the Credit; They'll Take Cash". Los Angeles Times. 9 Dec 1974. p. f16.
- Fuller, Samuel (2002). A Third Face. Borzoi Books. p. 471. ISBN 0-375-40165-2.
- Weiler, A.H. (13 Jan 1974). "News of the Screen: Lumet Directing A Christie Story Selected Shorts: 'Bugsy' Coming". New York Times. p. 61.
- Fuller, Samuel (2002). A Third Face. Borzoi Books. p. 473. ISBN 0-375-40165-2.
- Lentz, Robert J. (2000). Lee Marvin: His Films and Career. McFarland. p. 148. ISBN 0-7864-2606-3.
- Newsmakers----: Burton's Ring of Fans Grows in Oroville Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File); Los Angeles, Calif. [Los Angeles, Calif]24 Mar 1974: 2.
- THE SOUTHLAND: End to Pasadena Fund Cutoff Seen Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File); Los Angeles, Calif. [Los Angeles, Calif]18 Apr 1974: a2
- "Reconciliation Fails, Divorce Planned: Liz, Burton to End 10-Year Marriage---Again". Los Angeles Times. 26 Apr 1974. p. a3.
- Kerwin, Robert (29 Sep 1974). "Alas, poor Burton: Burton "Poetry and drink are the greatest things on earth. Besides women." Burton Men smiled when Burton made passes at their wives. Burton Perversely and repeatedly, he keeps getting a line wrong. Burton "If she isn't somebody, throw her off the set."". Chicago Tribune. p. h25.
- 3 Sound Stages Will Be Rebuilt, Executive Says: Studio to Carry On With Production in Spite of Major Fire Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File); Los Angeles, Calif. [Los Angeles, Calif]07 May 1974: 3.
- Fuller, Samuel (2002). A Third Face. Borzoi Books. p. 473. ISBN 0-375-40165-2.
- Canby, Vincent (November 21, 1974). "Screen: 'The Klansman,' a Deep South Melodrama". The New York Times. 54.
- Murphy, Arthur D. (November 6, 1974). "Film Reviews: The Klansman". Variety. 20.
- Siskel, Gene (November 20, 1974). "The Klansman". Chicago Tribune. Section 3, p. 6.
- Champlin, Charles (November 13, 1974). "'Klansman': Film Without a Clue". Los Angeles Times. Part IV, p. 20.
- Arnold, Gary (November 26, 1974). "Questioning 'The Klansman'". The Washington Post. B7.
- ‘The Klansman’ (1974): A must-see for lovers of deeply wrong moviemaking — Movies & Drinks