Saturday, August 12, 2006

Dubs Come Unexpectedly!

He took a bite out of Carroll Baker in BABY DOLL.
But could Karl Malden have also been...

I come to you in the breathless state of a reporter with a scoop.

As a lifelong devotee of the somewhat sneaky craft of movie dubbing, I've always paid close attention to the voices I hear on the soundtracks of foreign movies dubbed into English. Over the years, I've been able to put names to some of the more familiar voices heard on the English dubbed tracks of Italian and other imported genre films, and done my part to make actors like Carolyn De Fonseca, Bernard Grant, Brett Morrison, Dan Sturkie, and Tony Russel better known to film fans who, like myself, know their voices and think of them as old friends.

I just finished watching the second film in what might be called the "Nostradamus Quartet," THE MONSTERS DEMOLISHER. (Ridiculous title, I know, but what are you going to do?) According to Phil Hardy's THE OVERLOOK FILM ENCYCLOPEDIA: HORROR, this series of four Mexican films -- THE CURSE OF NOSTRADAMUS, THE MONSTERS DEMOLISHER, THE GENIE OF DARKNESS, and THE BLOOD OF NOSTRADAMUS -- were filmed in 1959 as twelve 25-minute serials, and later re-edited into these four continuous features for export. The English versions were dubbed in Coral Gables, Florida and released under the auspices of kiddie-matinee entrepreneur, K. Gordon Murray.

While watching THE MONSTERS DEMOLISHER, I was especially looking forward to the performance of the actor credited as "Grek Martin," who later relocated to Spain, where he became better known as Jack Taylor, the co-star of many Paul Naschy and Jess Franco films. Taylor turns up in the film's third act, looking very much like himself, but the voice he was given by the Coral Gables dubbers was disorienting. Not only was it completely unlike Jack Taylor's own voice (which graces many a dubbed Spanish horror movie), but it was also familiar... damned familiar. And not because it was one of the voices usually heard on the dub tracks of Murray's matinee fodder, like those of Paul Nagel (interviewed in VW #2) and Manny San Fernando.


Every time Taylor speaks in THE MONSTERS DEMOLISHER, he sounds like the one and only Karl Malden! ON THE WATERFRONT. BABY DOLL. POLLYANNA. HOW THE WEST WAS WON. THE CAT O' NINE TAILS. THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO. "Don't leave home without it." It's not just the voice, but the enunciation -- everything.

As soon as the movie was over, I got online and went to the IMDb to see what Karl Malden might have been doing in 1962, when this film was dubbed for American release. As it happens, this was a time when Malden was one of the busiest actors around, getting second leads and even top billing in some cases... but, in his very busy year of 1962, one of the many films he made was John Frankenheimer's ALL FALL DOWN... which happened to be shot on location in Key West, Florida!

He could have spent one of his days off in Coral Gables. And I think he did.

Incidentally, Jack Taylor's character also appears in the third Nostradamus film, THE GENIE OF DARKNESS, and the voice heard there is the same. So that's two highly suspect Karl Malden dubbing credits!

In my past years as a Dubbing Detective (a sideline to my work as a Video Watchdog), I've had a couple of other interesting eurekas along these lines. When I saw Sergio Corbucci's MINNESOTA CLAY (1965) for the first time, a couple of years ago, on a Japanese import DVD, I noticed that whoever dubbed Fernando Sancho's villainous performance sounded a lot like Anthony Quinn. I later found out that Quinn was indeed working in Rome around the same time, starring in a picture called MARCO THE MAGNIFICENT. I'm convinced that it's Quinn's voice, but I have no proof. It makes sense to me that Quinn might have agreed to do the job for many reasons -- for the experience, for the bread, for a friend. And it makes me wonder, as does this Malden ID, how many big stars might be lurking on celluloid unseen but heard.

There's also the case of Roger Corman's THE YOUNG RACERS. The first and only time I saw this 1963 movie, shot without live sound in various European locales, I realized that Mark Damon's entire performance had been dubbed by William Shatner -- from his vocal mannerisms as much as his voice. From the moment I made that realization, the movie became hysterically funny for me... and I wrote about this in VIDEO WATCHDOG. I just checked the IMDb and someone posted the information there under "Trivia." Of course, in 1963 Shatner had just finished starring in Corman's THE INTRUDER -- thus establishing the connection and the timeline.

I always get THE YOUNG RACERS confused with another AIP flick, Daniel Haller's THE WILD RACERS, which stars Fabian and Mimsy Farmer. In that one, Dick Miller dubs one of the lead performances and turns up in a cameo role. Thanks to you-know-who for setting me straight.

And Richard Harland Smith tells me that he's been able to identify Hal Linden (pre-BARNEY MILLER) as the voice of "Baby Lucas" in Radley Metzger's CARMEN BABY, as well as the voices of Pier Paolo Capponi (Police Superintendent Spini) in THE CAT O'NINE TAILS and Romano Puppo (Dino) in COMMANDOS. "Capponi and Puppo have scenes together in COMMANDOS and I keep expecting Linden's voice to come out of both of them!" says RHS.

We all know that the voices of actors like Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford can be heard, anonymous but recognizable, on television commercials. Same thing here... in fact, better thing here, because Malden, Quinn, and Shatner were using their talent to act. It's too late for Anthony Quinn to come forward, but I think it's high time that the great stars of yesteryear stood up and admitted that they dubbed films, and which films they dubbed, while they're still among us.

It's nothing to be ashamed of. It's actually kind of wonderful.

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