Tim Everitt works today as a visual effects artist for motion pictures. However, in 1984, he co-directed a martial arts fantasy film entitled Furious, which starred Simon and Phillip Rhee, two well-known names today in the martial arts film industry. The film is finally getting a DVD release this coming Tuesday from Leomark Studios.
Tim, thanks for taking the time to talk about Furious. Where did the idea for the film come about?
My buddy [co-writer/producer/director Thomas Sartori] and I had just graduated from USC Film School. After graduating, there are some who want to go out and make films and those who end up not making films. We didn’t want to be those who didn’t make films. We had an idea for a film and came up with $19,000, which got us ninety minutes of film stock. We kept down costs during the making of the film, just doing everything ourselves, making a lot of props. We had an office on the west side of Los Angeles and shot the film there so we didn’t have to do a lot of driving.
Simon and Phillip Rhee, two well-known names in the martial arts film industry, star in the film. How did you get to know the Rhee brothers and what was your inspiration in casting them?
We randomly called karate schools in the area and both Simon and Phillip wanted to get into movies. We explained to them that we wanted to make a martial arts fantasy adventure and they were very enthusiastic. They worked out the routines for the choreography themselves, all that great technique was all them. Because Simon was so athletic and really could do incredible moves, we ended up shooting a lot of the fights in master shot, just to show him doing it. It was very impressive.
Simon is an excellent martial artist. He can jump up, and knock out three people at once before hitting the ground. I mean, he jumps, hits two people on his way up, and can hit a third person before landing, and that was very impressive.
With that in mind, we decided to cast the other roles mainly based on the fact that they were top fighters. They didn’t have any acting experience. For instance, the scene where Simon faces off against an army of fighters? They were actually really well trained students of Simon and Phillip’s. We liked that they did well with the choreography even though the acting was atrocious [laughs]. And what’s really impressive is that because of our budget, we shot all the fight scenes with one take. As we set up the cameras, Simon and Phillip worked on the choreography and I would tell the cast that when it came time to shoot that it’s gotta work. We shot a fight scene and then would say “It’s in the movie”.
We had decided to aim the film towards the hardcore martial arts film fans, and they loved it, being impressed with the Rhee brothers. We would see film reviews at the time in martial arts magazines and they praised the fight scenes.
This film can be considered one of the ultimate 80’s cult films with its meshing of martial arts, science fiction, and a dose of the supernatural. It looks like the shoot was a blast.
We shot the film in six days, so the shoot went pretty fast, but it was lots of fun. The movie is pretty much 80 percent fighting and running, and we came up with a small plot to push the film forward. It has a standard martial arts story, you know. Hero’s sister dies, hero must find out who is responsible. He has to fight 3 henchmen, each more powerful than the last, before getting to the big guy, and then finally learns why she had to die. We purposely added comedy to the film. I think back then, people didn’t get the comedy. We felt it needed a Monty Python-esque comic feel. Today’s people are more of a post-Monty Python crowd, and seem to get it.
LIke a Mystery Science Theater 3000 crowd?
Exactly. For example, the first dojo scene had a student who tried to break boards, and he tried three times. But since we had to use every take, we decided this guy must be a lame karate fighter and we kept all three takes in the film. The sorcerer [Mika Elkan], who is actually a magician, messed up throwing cards on one take and to bring that humor, we kept it in there.
With comedy, it’s about “connecting the dots”. That’s what we did, throw in a lot of dots…and a lot of chickens, which play a very important role in the film. If someone tries to explain a joke, it sometimes ends up not as funny. So we did it that way so people can actually put it together themselves, and get an “Ah Ha” moment when they connect it up.
What would you consider your favorite scene in the film?
I liked the courtyard fight and the creek fight against the army. We had one stunt guy who wanted to do these high falls so we just kept setting up the camera for him and then he just did it and we got it. So those were good scenes, with lots of stunts. And the scene where the pig talks, that’s a favorite, because it makes me crack up every time.
I liked the courtyard fight scene too. It’s pretty funny how Simon’s friends help them then just end up dead in various ways that you wouldn’t expect.
Exactly and that’s what we were aiming for [laughs]. You never know what to expect.
Have you kept in touch with Simon and Phillip since making the film?
I lost touch with Simon, but he’s become a stunt coordinator in a lot of studio films where I do visual effects these days. We have worked with the same people but not on the same projects. But we’re not dead yet [laughs] so maybe one day we might end up working on a project together.
After making the film, Phillip actually bought my camera and shot a few films [L.A. Streetfighters in 1985 and Silent Assassins in 1988] before he did the Best of the Best films.
I actually enjoyed Best of the Best.
I did too and I do admit this to people. It is the only martial arts film where at the end of the film, I start to cry.
Exactly. I thought this was going to be another standard film but a scene I liked in the film is the first bar scene, where Phillip stands up to the rednecks and holds back at first. I thought this was an obligatory scene in the genre, but how the scene played out was really impressive. Hats off to Phillip.
Have you seen Phillip’s new film Underdog Kids?
Not yet. It has a Karate Kid feel to it right?
I would say it actually is more like Best of the Best meets Karate Kid meets Bad News Bears [laughs].
That sounds pretty good.
You must be excited about the DVD release of the film. How did you manage to get the film released on DVD after thirty years?
After the film was first released, it gained an underground following. People could only see it on VHS for a long time. And one day, I got a call from a theater chain in Australia asking to show the film, and I asked why they would want to screen the movie in theaters. They said the film actually has a big following in Australia. Then, I did a Google search and found all these reviews on the movie, which I found surprising. They liked the movie and some had even called it “the best American independent film of the 80’s” and that was quite a shock. But with writers, I think people want something to write about, and this movie gives them that something.
All of a sudden, over the past few years, screenings of the film have popped up everywhere. The Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas. Someone in New York City screened the film. I was even asked if a screening can be done in London at the St. Charles Theatre in Leicester Square. Now that’s supposed to be one of the coolest, hippest movie theaters in that area. I was sent a photo of the line of people waiting to see the film and I was shocked at the size of the crowd.
When different exhibitors began to ask if they could sell tapes of the film, I decided that it would be a good idea to finally get control of this. So I contacted a distributor [Leomark Media] in hopes of somehow “corralling” the situation.
I have to share this story. I was invited to a screening in Seattle. There is this big time film critic there who holds screening parties and usually they sit around and talk throughout the films. However, with this film, from the opening credits to the end, this crowd just focused on the film. Except when, as the critic said, there were “cries of incredulity”. They laughed at the right parts, they loved the fights. I was sitting in the back and during the ending credits, one guy actually yelled, “It changed my life!” These were the hipsters of Seattle, long hair, in their twenties. But they dug it.
It seems like this is a big thing with film fans these days. You had mentioned Alamo Drafthouse and they did the same thing with another 80’s rarity just a few years ago. The film was shot in Orlando, not too far from where I live, and it was called Miami Connection.
That’s great because I still wondered for a long time, “Why is this movie becoming more and more popular?” I think all movies will find their audience at a certain point and this looks to be the case with Furious. So now we have the film coming to DVD on the 21st. You can order it from Amazon right now. It will also be on Video on Demand channels and even some Asian Kung Fu outlets.
This is very exciting and I’m going to admit. I’m planning to buy this film. This is going to be one fun film fans will enjoy!
Thanks again Albert and I’ll keep you posted with any news regarding the film.
A special Thank You goes out to Clint Morris for arranging this interview and of course, Thank You to Tim Everitt, whose film Furious, comes out on DVD this Tuesday from Leomark Studios. If you like 80’s independent cult films, this definitely is a must for your list.For more on Tim Everitt, check out his official homepage.