Cast & Crew
At an asylum for the criminally insane, inmate Hammersmith resides in a locked cell, studiously avoided by the staff, who fear his oddly powerful allure. When dimwitted Billy Breedlove is hired as an orderly, however, he is seduced by Hammersmith's promise of wealth and strength and agrees to release and accompany him. One night, Billy visits the local diner and is instantly smitten with waitress Jimmie Jean Jackson. After sparring briefly with an obese customer who considers the long-haired, motorcycle-driving Billy "trash," Billy flirts with Jimmie, and as soon as he mentions marriage, she pulls him into a back room to make love. Afterward, they compare their hard-luck lives and Billy declares that if she meets him the following night at the bridge, they can begin their new life on the road to riches and fame. The next day, Billy frees Hammersmith, after which head orderly Oldham, a Monopoly- and needlepoint-obsessed milquetoast, drags Billy to the asylum's head doctor, who chastises him for wreaking immeasurable damage upon the world. Billy then races to the bridge, where Hammersmith and Jimmie are waiting for him. Ignoring Jimmie's queries, Hammersmith leads them to the nearby drive-in and instructs Billy to choose a car. After indicating the obese man's vehicle, Billy pulls Jimmie to the ground to make love, and when they finish, Billy accepts the car keys from Hammersmith with no concern for the car's owner. They drive to a hotel, where Hammersmith visits the gym and steals a suit in Billy's size from a locker, killing the owner when he returns. On the road the next day, Hammersmith orders Billy to stop at a topless bar and there offers Guido Scartucci, who owns the bar along with his five silent brothers, one million dollars for the deed. As agreed, Scartucci shows up the next morning at Billy's "office," a public building's bathroom, where Hammersmith murders Scartucci and steals the deed. Three weeks later, however, Hammersmith decides to move on and plots for Billy to become an executive. Back at the asylum, the doctor plans to go in search of Hammersmith, leaving Oldham in charge. Soon after, Hammersmith installs Billy as the head of a pharmaceutical company, but quickly sells the company to the Japanese. Now a millionaire in Texas, Billy lazes by his pool and disdains Jimmie, whom he considers cheap, although Hammersmith warns him that, as an up-and-coming oil tycoon, he must have a wife. One night, they throw a raucous party to celebrate a deal to buy the oil properties of Henry Joe Fitch, Jr. As Billy carouses with other women, Jimmie attracts Henry Joe's affections, and after extracting a promise from him to take her away, she takes him to her bed. There, however, Hammersmith brings Billy to eavesdrop on their plans to run away, and although Hammersmith knocks out Billy and allows the couple to spend the night together, Jimmie realizes with dread that he will soon acquire Henry's company and then kill him. As soon as the papers are signed the following morning, Henry Joe and all of his lawyers are dispatched to their deaths. Weeks later, the doctor arrives at the Texas mansion but finds it empty because Hammersmith has moved on to the realm of politics. When Billy's funding catapults his candidate to the Presidency, Billy is named an ambassador-at-large. Despite committing a large diplomatic faux pas and causing an Asian civil war, Billy's power grows and Hammersmith moves them to a castle in Spain. There, Billy spars with Jimmie, whom he demands that Hammersmith kill. Although Hammersmith agrees, he secretly arranges with Jimmie, who longs to have a child, to impregnate her and murder Billy. Instead of killing him, however, Hammersmith causes a water-skiing accident that leaves Billy handicapped. The three move into a new castle, but when Billy orders Jimmie to leave the rooms unfurnished, she reveals that she is pregnant with Hammersmith's child and that Billy no longer has power over her. Billy struggles to his feet and aims an axe at her neck, but Hammersmith rescues her and hands Billy a gun, calling him a colossal disappointment and instructing him to kill himself. Just then, the doctor's helicopter lands on the lawn. Hammersmith and Jimmie go out to greet the doctor, who explains to Hammersmith that the police are behind him and that he must return to the asylum, where he is understood and the challenges to his intellect are more interesting. As a gunshot is heard inside the castle, Hammersmith follows the doctor without a word, leaving Jimmie behind, alone. Months later, the new orderly reads Hammersmith a telegram from Jimmie assuring him that she and their daughter are well, and Hammersmith mesmerizes the orderly, promising him riches and strength in exchange for his release.
Linda Gaye Scott
J. Cornelius Crean
Robert S. Eisen
Richard H. Kline
Erma E. Levin
Leon Askin (1907-2005)
Born in Vienna, Austria as Leo Aschkenasy on September 18, 1907, Askin developed a taste for theater through his mother's love of cabaret, and as a youngster, often accompanied his mother to weekend productions.
He made a go of acting as a profession in 1925, when he took drama classes from Hans Thimig, a noted Austrian stage actor at the time. The following year, he made his Vienna stage debut in Rolf Lauckner's "Schrei aus der Strasse."
For the next six year (1927-33), he was a popular stage actor in both Vienna and Berlin before he was prevented to work on the stage by Hitler's SA for being a Jew. He left for Paris in 1935 to escape anti-semetic persecution, but returned to Vienna in 1935, to find work (albeit a much lower profile to escape scrutiny), but after a few years, the writing was on the wall, and he escaped to New York City in 1939, just at the outbreak of World War II. His luck in the Big Apple wasn't really happening, and in 1941, he relocated to Washington D.C. and briefly held the position of managing director of the Civic Theatre, a popular city venue of the day. Unfortunately, after the tragic events of Pearl Harbor in December of that year, the United States became involved in the war that had already engulfed Europe for two years, and seeing a possibility to expediate his application for American citizenship, he enlisted in the U.S. Army.
After the war, Leon indeed became a U.S. citizen and changed his name from Leon Aschkenasy to Leon Askin. He returned to New York and found work as a drama teacher, and more importantly, landed his first gig on Broadway, as director and actor in Goethe's Faust in 1947, which starred Askin in the title character opposite the legendary Albert Bassermann who played Mephisto. The production was a huge success. Askin followed this up with another director/actor stint with Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice and co-starred with Jose Ferrer in Ben Hecht's 20th Century. They were all Broadway hits, and Askin had finally achieved the success he had worked so hard to seek and merit.
It wasn't long before Hollywood came calling, and soon Askin, with his rich German accent and massive physical presence, made a very effective villian in a number of Hollywood films: the Hope-Crosby comedy Road to Bali (1952); Richard Burton's first hit film The Robe; and the Danny Kaye vehicle Knock on Wood (1954).
Askin's roles throughout the 50's were pretty much in this "menacing figure" vein, so little did anyone suspect that around the corner, Billy Wilder would be offering him his most memorable screen role - that of the Russian commissar Peripetschikof who gleefully embraces Amercian Capitalism in the scintillating politcal satire, One, Two, Three (1961). Who can forget this wonderfully exchange between Peripetschikof and Coca Cola executive C.R. MacNamara (James Cagney):
Peripetschikof: I have a great idea to make money. I have a storage full of saurkraut and I'll sell it as Christmas tree tinsil!
MacNamara: You're a cinch!
His performance for Wilder was wonderfully comedic and wholly memorable, and after One, Two, Three the film roles for Askin got noticable better, especially in Lulu and The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (both 1962); but he began to find prominent guest shots on hit television shows too: My Favorite Martian and The Outer Limits to name a few; yet his big break came in 1965, when for six seasons he played General Albert Burkhalter, the Nazi general who was forever taking Col. Kilink's ineptitude to task in Hogan's Heroes (1965-71).
Roles dried up for Askin after the run of Hogan's Heroes, save for the occassional guest spot on television: Diff'rent Strokes, Three's Company, Happy Days; and parts in forgettable comedies: Going Ape! (1981), Airplane II: The Sequel (1982). After years of seclusion, Askin relocated to his birthplace of Vienna in 1994, and he began taking parts in numerous stage productions almost to his death. In 2002, he received the highest national award for an Austrian citizen when he was bestowed with the Austrian Cross of Honor, First Class, for Science and Art. He is survived by his third wife of three years, Anita Wicher.
by Michael T. Toole
Leon Askin (1907-2005)
Sir Peter Ustinov (1921-2004)
He was born Peter Alexander Ustinov on April 16, 1921 in London, England. His father was a press attache at the German embassy until 1935 - when disgusted by the Nazi regime - he took out British nationality. He attended Westminster School, an exclusive private school in central London until he was 16. He then enrolled for acting classes at the London Theater Studio, and by 1939, he made his London stage debut.
His jovial nature and strong gift for dialects made him a natural player for films, and it wasn't long after finding theatre work that Ustinov moved into motion pictures: a Dutch priest in Michael Powell's One of Our Aircraft is Missing (1941); an elderly Czech professor in Let the People Sing (1942); and a star pupil of a Nazi spy school in The Goose Steps Out (1942).
He served in the British Army for four years (1942-46), where he found his talents well utilized by the military, allowing him to join the director Sir Carol Reed on some propaganda films. He eventually earned his first screenwriting credit for The Way Ahead (1944). One of Sir Carol Reed's best films, The Way Ahead was a thrilling drama which starred David Niven as a civilian heading up a group of locals to resist an oncoming Nazi unit. It was enough of a hit to earn Ustinov his first film directorial assignment, School for Secrets (1946), a well paced drama about the discovery of radar starring Sir Ralph Richardson and Sir Richard Attenborough.
After the war, Ustinov took on another writer-director project Vice Versa (1948), a whimsical fantasy-comedy starring Roger Livesey and Anthony Newley as a father and son who magically switch personalities. Although not a huge hit of its day, the sheer buoyancy of the surreal premise has earned the film a large cult following.
Ustinov made his Hollywood debut, and garnered his first Oscar® nomination for Best Supporting Actor, as an indolent Nero in the Roman epic, Quo Vadis? (1951). After achieving some international popularity with that role, Ustinov gave some top-notch performances in quality films: the snappish Prinny in the Stewart Granger vehicle Beau Brummel (1954); holding his own against Humphrey Bogart as an escaped convict in We're No Angels (1954); the ring master who presides over the life of the lead character in Max Ophuls's resplendent Lola Montez (1955); and a garrulous settler coping with the Australian outback in The Sundowners (1960).
The '60s would be Ustinov's most fruitful decade. He started off gabbing his first Oscar® as the cunning slave dealer in Spartacus (1960); made a smooth screen adaptation by directing his smash play, Romanoff and Juliet (1961), earned critical acclaim for his co-adaptation, direction, production and performance in Herman Melville's nautical classic Billy Budd (1962); and earned a second Oscar® as the fumbling jewel thief in the crime comedy Topkapi (1964).
He scored another Oscar® nomination in the Best Original Screenplay category for his airy, clever crime romp Hot Millions (1968), in which he played a con artist who uses a computer to bilk a company out of millions of dollars; but after that, Ustinov began taking a string of offbeat character parts: the lead in one of Disney's better kiddie flicks Blackbeard's Ghost (1968); a Mexican General who wants to reclaim Texas for Mexico in Viva Max! (1969); an old man who survives the ravaged planet of the future in Logan's Run (1976); and an unfortunate turn as a Chinese stereotype in Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen (1981). Still, he did achieve renewed popularity when he took on the role of Hercule Poirot in the star laced, Agatha Christie extravaganza Death on the Nile (1978). He was such a hit, that he would adroitly play the Belgian detective in two more theatrical movies: Evil Under the Sun (1982) and Appointment With Death (1988); as well as three television movies: Thirteen at Dinner (1985), Murder in Three Acts, Dead Man's Folly (both 1986).
Beyond his work in films, Ustinov was justifiably praised for his humanitarian work - most notably as the unpaid, goodwill ambassador for United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). Since 1968, he had traveled to all corners of the globe: China, Russia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Kenya, Egypt, Thailand and numerous other countries to promote and host many benefit concerts for the agency.
Ustinov, who in 1990 earned a knighthood for his artistic and humanitarian contributions, is survived by his wife of 32 years, Hélène du Lau d'Allemans; three daughters, Tamara, Pavla, Andrea; and a son, Igor.
by Michael T. Toole
Sir Peter Ustinov (1921-2004)
The onscreen credits state that the film's soundtrack was available on Capitol Records. Onscreen acknowledgments include lingerie shop Frederick's of Hollywood and the board game Monopoly by Parker Brothers, Inc. Throughout Hammersmith Is Out, Peter Ustinov, as "Doctor," provides voice-over narration.
A October 14, 1970 Daily Variety news item announced that Clint Eastwood had been cast in Hammersmith Is Out, but he does not appear in the final film. In November 1970, Daily Variety reported that Ustinov planned to produce "a number of feature films" with then-married actors Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, using small crews and budgets. The article stated that Hammersmith Is Out would be the first of these productions and would be made in America, Switzerland and Mexico for $720,000 using Cinemobile and a crew of eight. According to Army Archerd's Daily Variety column in June 1971, the film's final budget was $1.5 million, and Ustinov, Burton and Taylor deferred their salaries for ownership of the picture. The final film was mainly shot in Cuernevaca, Mexico as well as in America, as noted in contemporary sources.
Hammersmith Is Out was financed by John Cornelius Crean, a millionaire mobile home manufacturer who also produced the 1972 film Man and Boy (see below). Although a March 1971 Daily Variety new item stated that Crean would distribute the film, in August 1972 Cinerama Releasing was announced in Daily Variety as the worldwide distributor. Archerd reported in a December 1975 Daily Variety column that Crean was selling Hammersmith Is Out to Burton and Taylor for $50-60,000.
Hammersmith Is Out marked the final feature film pairing of Burton and Taylor, who previously had appeared together in eight films, starting with 1963's Cleopatra, during which the two began an affair that led to their marriage in 1964. After divorcing in 1974, they remarried from October 1975 to August 1976. Burton directed and co-starred with Taylor in Doctor Faustus, based on Christopher Marlowe's 1594 novel The Tragedy of Doctor Faustus, which also inspired Hammersmith Is Out. The couple had previously worked with Ustinov as their director in the 1967 film The Comedians. Both Cleopatra and Ustinov's prior roles as Romans in films such as Spartacus (1960, see below) are referenced satirically in Hammersmith Is Out. Burton and Taylor also co-starred in the 1973 television movie Divorce His-Divorce Hers. A modern source adds Stan Ross to the cast as a patient.
Two lawsuits resulted from the film. In June 1972, as noted in Variety, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) sued Crean's company over the size of type for screenwriter Stanford Whitmore's credit. The suit stated that Whitmore failed to obtain an agreed-upon credit in the same style and size type as Ustinov and asked for $50,000 in damages, but was dropped, as reported by Daily Variety on June 19, 1972, upon stipulation that in the future Whitmore would receive the desired type size. On June 14, 1972, Daily Variety noted that executive in charge of production Frank Beetson was suing J. Cornelius Crean Films, seeking a full accounting of costs, for failing to provide him a bonus if the film's final negative cost was less than $1.9 million. The disposition of the suit has not been determined.
Hammersmith Is Out was screened at the Berlin Film Festival, which ran from 23 June-July 4, 1972. There, Taylor won the Best Actress award and Ustinov, who was nominated for a Best Director award, won a special award for the originality of his work as a whole. In addition, Whitmore was nominated for the 1973 WGA award for Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen. Despite these accolades, most American critics disliked the film, with the Los Angeles Times reviewer calling it "a tasteless and tedious little atrocity." The film marked the last that Ustinov directed.
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1972
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1972