Shooting had already started for a few days when I filmed my first scenes.
I was not in unknown territory, meeting again many members of the BRIDES OF DRACULA team.
Hammer was a big family, as goes the old saying. It was true enough, since they kept, film after film, a large part of the techniciens who had made it successful. You don't change a winning team (1).
If Anthony Bushell was a new director for the firm, he was not unknown in british cinema circles. He had led an important acting career within Laurence Olivier's repertory company.
He had also appeared in the television series QUATERMASS AND THE PIT, which Hammer would later adapt as a feature film (2).
Bushell encouraged his actors to be creative and propose ideas to enhance their part during rehearsals. Like we did for BRIDES OF DRACULA, we rehearsed a lot on the sets (in the mood) and shot very few takes. The key word was economy.
Bushell was very careful when directing group scenes. There were a lot to deal with in this film.
Although we shared billings, I had no scene against Christopher Lee. I saw him at breakfast time, during breaks. He was very concentrated on his part and we had very few occasions to talk. I remember hiding like a little mouse on the set where he was shooting his final scenes, just to watch him play. He was in his palace, surrounded by his minions. He knew how to use his make-up and commanding voice to offer a disturbing performance. I found him very impressive.
We had an opportunity to meet again, many years later, during an adventure film festival in Paris (3). I still remember that meeting very fondly. Christopher told me that THE TERROR OF THE TONGS was "a very happy film". He also mentioned BRIDES OF DRACULA, which he had seen. An occasion for us to merrily recall the memory of dear Peter (Cushing).
I shared all my scenes with the irish actor Geoffrey Toone, who played captain Jackson. He proved quite a pleasant partner. Between takes, he had a very paternal attitude towards me. A frequent traveller himself, he liked me to speak about France and my life in Rome. He attended a party at the London French Institute on the occasion of the publishing of Wayne Kinsey's book: HAMMER FILMS THE BRAY STUDIOS YEARS in 2002. He greeted me warmly, declaring : "You are forever my little Lee !"
Like in all Hammer classics, set decoration was tremendously important. Bernard Robinson (4) and his team had built, on the banks of the Thames, a very impressive Hong-Kong dock.
Part of the perspective was then added through matte-painting during shooting.
It is in that set that Lee, my character, met her tragic end. I received in the back a hatchet meant to kill the captain. My death triggered a fight between the sect and the forces of the resistance. We shot it during two consecutive nights. Two nights during which I lied with my eyes closed on the dock while I heard extras fighting around me. They did it with so much energy that I had one fear in mind : that someone would walk on my head ! I wasn't the only one to think about that. I still hear Bushell shout : "Be careful ! Don't hurt my girl ! Don't hurt my girl !" His kindness was as personal as it was professional. I still had a few scenes to shoot !
When THE TERROR OF THE TONGS was released in Italy, I promoted it in Rome and Ravello, where I lived. I gave a televised interview in a movie theater. A few months earlier, I had the honor to be awarded the Argento Torre Eiffel, a distinction given to a french actress for her career on the peninsula. That's an another story.
(1) Jack Asher, the brilliant director of photography of BRIDES OF DRACULA was replaced by Arthur Grant.
(2) In the "genre" we are interested in, Anthony Bushell also shared credits with Boris Karloff in the english classic THE GHOUL (1933).
(3) Festival Jules Verne aventure in 2006.
(4) Also known for his ingenuity recycling sets of previous pictures. In captain Jackson's appartments, you may find some elements of Marianne Danielle's room (BRIDES OF DRACULA).