Interview with director-producer Michael Huck
Q : The 1994 shot Unhappy End! episode Die Schulfeindin is about a young beautiful student (Marlene Marlow) who is taken prisoner and tortured by a former schoolmate Miriam (Kerstin Orf) and her friend Karin (Claudia Splitt). How did you come up with that swtory as you also wrote the script.
M-H: Actually when I was about 14 or so I watched something very interesting; between two classes during a break I watched a girl who played with a scarf in her hands while starring a little maniac-like at another, very beautiful girl who was right next to her reading something. I noticed that the first girl really looked kind of creepy and her hands started trembling and all of a sudden she screamed something like "Let´s tie her up!" and started to tie up that beautiful girl with her scarf. Immediately another girl shouted "Oh yes, good idea!" . This took not very long and that beautiful girl needed only very short time to get rid of her bonds but that incident really impressed me and I could not get that out of my head for years. I always wondered what those girls were thinking. The first one I do not know as I never talked to her about that but I could imagine she simply was kind of jealous and liked the idea to tie that beautiful girl up and have her at her mercy. I talked to the other girl who had been tied up and to my surprise she told me actually she likes to be tied up. So I really kept that in mind and when I many years later started shooting the Unhappy End! series, I wrote a script using this as a basic outline.
Q : The actresses all were involved at a very early stage you mentioned earlier?
M-H : Yes, it is always good if you know in advance who will play a part, at least I feel more comfortable this way. I knew all three actresses before writing the script, when I contacted them I had only an exposee and we talked about the story while I was writing the script. Marlene Marlow had already played the lead in a 35mm movie and she and Kerstin and Claudia all brought in own ideas. The uncanny scene with the rat, actually the actresses came up with that one, I was afraid of using a rat as I feared the actresses could get hurt but Kerstin finanaly got us a rat that was used to humans and the rat did behave quite well. The actresses were very cool and were not afraid at all.
Q : How long did you shoot?
M-H: We shot in 1994, By then there was time to rehearse more than today. Today everything is fast, almost no rehearsals, you come to the set, you shoot, that´s it. I think we had about 5 days rehearsing and then two weeks we actually shot, so two weeks for a 60 minute episode. So all in all about 3 weeks. Today everthing is faster, I shot a 90 minute feature in 7 days.
Q : How did you rehearse?
M-H: We did of course not rehearse all the scenes, we selected some scenes with much dialogue, the first we rehearsed was the scene when Marlene and Kerstin are talking in the kitchen, which is a very long scene with much dialogue for both. We did videotape and watch together to decide if it is ok or what to change. Next we started rehearsing some of the fight scenes, that is very important, so noone gets hurt when you start the real shooting and videotaping this we also got an idea where to place the camera and what angles to use. We also videotaped the actresses in the clothes they would wear and with Marlene we had a special shooting day to selsect the clothes but also to practise how she is tied up and gagged. The episode is 60 minutes and Marlene is tied up almost two thirds of the time and in many scenes also gagged, so we rehearsed the scenes with different gags and different ways she is tied up, hands in front, hands tied on her back, a green gag between her lips, the green gag over her mouth, a red gag and so on. Finally it looked best with a red gag in her mouth what was a very tough thing as she spent sometimes hours bound and gagged but it looked simply better with the gag between her teeth. Over the mouth mostly looks fake.
Q : The shooting itself went well?
M-H : Yes, very well. We were on time and never behind schedule, the actresses were very well prepared and worked well together, this is very rare. The parts are very well played the only regret I have is that as it was one of the first we did I had not much experience in producing and made so many things wrong as a producer, I paid much to less attention to a thing that is so important especially in low budget independent picutres and that is production value. Now I know pretty well how important this point is and even if you are shooting low budget you can make a picture look pretty good and much more expensive if you carefully choose loactions. Now I always try to get a location that look really good if necessary I rent a castle what we did occasionaly and what gives you a great production value. Having read many books on filmmaking and watched all the Troma videos on filmmaking I realized Amicus made their pictures look quite expensive using simple tricks like renting a studio in which just had been shot a mulitmillion dollar movie and telling the studio, they can leave everything like it is and then Amicus just used those expensive sets for their little horror thrillers and made them look VERY expensive or the Troma Team hanging around the CBS studios and TAKING the sets and props they are about to throw away. Cool. I always wanted to remake this one but it is hard to find actresses that fit so well.
What I like is that the suspense factor works quite good here in a simple story set up what is very important if you shoot low budget. When I started to write the script - it was the first 60 minute episode, earlier we shot mostly half hour episodes with 15 minutes set up of the story and then the last 15 minutes the action or thriller scenes. With the 60 minutes episodes I tried another approach. I knew when I was watching a movie, serial or tv show the most interesting scenes were the ones when the beautiful heroine is captured by the maniac, bound and gagged and about being torutred in horrible ways when she finally is rescued just in time. A perfect example is Diana Rigg as Mrs Peel when she is tied to the railroad tracks in the famous The Gravediggers episode ot the great British tv series The Avengers and of course she is saved just in time by her partner John Steed. Or the scene in Alfed Hitchcocks Jamaica Inn when Maureen O´Hara is tied up and gagged and Charles Laughton tries to escape with her and the hero finally arrives just in time to save the beautiful heroine. Actually this is the climax of the movie or tv show in the last act. So my idea was, ok, if that´s the most suspenseful sequence, then why not do the whole episode ths way and I wrote a script and the heroine is not captured at the end in the last act but in fact already very early in the picture. And so Marlene is captured just after 11 minutes into the story and spends most of the time now till the last scene bound and gagged, so in a 60 minute episode she is not 5 minutes in danger bur 50. and this worked pretty well. it also did make everything upside down. Usual in a movie the leading actress has most of the lines but in this case, Marlene was tied up most of the time and with a gag in her mouth she could not talk and many of the lines went to Kerstin and Claudia who did all the talking while the beautiful heroine was silenced for good and her acting job was mainly to look desperate and angry but actually could not talk. It was a situation like in a nightmare you are in and cannot get out. For Marlene one of the most horrible scene was when she managed to get rid of her bonds, beats up Kerstin and is about to get free and then Claudia returns and Marlene again is overpowered and bound and gagged again. This was so horrible as she was so close to get free and again she was captured. In the original version we had a classical rescue scene a la John Steed in The Gravediggers and the idea was that Marlenes boyfriend finally would get suspicious and come to the rescue. But while shooting we all felt it would be better if Marlene manages to get free herself and kill the maniacs herself instead of being rescued.