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Mike Monty, who passed away in August 2006, was an ubiquitous globe-trotter, holding a very special place in the history of cheesy cinema. This workman-like performer can be seen in a truckload of supporting parts: Italian B-movies, French soft-porn flicks and, during the 1980s, Filipino films, in which he became a permanent fixture. One year before his demise, we had been able to locate this missing link of filmdom, who agreed, from his home in the Philippines, to a telephone interview, thereby reconstructing a most unusual career!
Interview conducted by Nikita in June 2005.
Mister Monty, first of all we thank you for agreeing to this interview. Since we know very little about you, we'd like to have some basic information about yourself. Is your real name Monty or Monti? Are you Italian-American, especially since you shared your life between Italy and the US? When and where were you born? How did you start in the acting field?
I was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on October the 23rd, 1936. I'm not Italian-American at all. My real name is actually Michael O'Donahue. I changed it to Monty because in the sixties it was better for actors to have short names. The Italians later misspelled it as Mike Monti (or Monte) in some film credits. I've been a professional actor since 1963. Actually, my mother wanted me to act when I was a kid and kept sending my photo to agencies, but I just wasn't interested. Then I found a job at a health club, where all these actors, like Steve Reeves and Gordon Mitchell came to work out, and they went to work in Italian films. So I also got an opportunity and got a part in an Italian film. There was a lot of work for an actor in Italy back then.
So you started to act in the early sixties. The IMDB actually lists your first film as being in 1972.
No, no, I made like fourteen westerns in the sixties... I played supporting parts in small productions. But I can't say if I was always credited. The Italians were tricky dealers. There was sometimes a little hanky panky going on about the money, like not paying you, etc, so sometimes I just didn't bother to be credited, let alone see the movies. I haven't kept a record of all my films. Sometimes they were released with completely different titles and I just didn't bother to check.
Do you have a favorite film in this period, nonetheless?
I can't really put my finger on one... Well, a film I really like is Thompson 1880, which I made in 1966 with Gordon Mitchell and Spanish actor George Martin.
Gordon Mitchell was a friend of yours, right?
A very good friend! We actually lived together for 10 years! Nothing sexual, mind you, we just shared the rent. (laughs) I also was good friends with Richard Harrison.
How was the working situation for an American supporting actor like you, in Italy?
Well, it was a lot of ups and downs. For foreign supporting actors, it was a bit tough. For one foreigner, they had to have five Italians on the sets. Sometimes we just didn't get to work, sometimes we were doing several films in a row, it depended.
Mike Monty (uncredited) as Captain Nixon, in the Italian war movie "Five for Hell" (1969).
Were you never tempted to go back to the States and work there?
I gave it a thought, especially when I had an opportunity to appear in a film Bob Hope was making in Italy. But I couldn't, because I was being involved in another production. However, it was very complicated to work in the States, because you had to join the Union, and all sort of things, so I didn't really bother.
You worked a lot with American producer Dick Randall, who was very active in Italy. What kind of man was he?
Oh, he was an interesting character. He had some kind of brushes with the law, and went to jail for some kind of financial scam, so he was sort of in exile in Europe (laughs). He was very good at producing movies for just a few bucks; the pictures weren't big hits, but they raised enough money to make others, and so on.
Any memories of Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks, where you had a small part as a peasant?
That was fun. Dick Randall was the producer again. It had an amazing cast: Rossano Brazzi, Gordon Mitchell... There was Edmund Purdom, a very nice guy and a good actor. It's a shame he didn't have a better career, but he had an issue with alcohol back then... There was that midget, Michael Dunn, and Salvatore Baccaro, who played the caveman. He was a very gentle guy, very quiet, but scary-looking. I had never seen a face like his in my life!
You appeared in several films made by French director Jean-Marie Pallardy. How do you remember him?
Jean-Marie was a good friend of mine. I made like, four or five films with him. They were soft porn movies, we had a lot of fun. I met him in Italy, and often went to visit him in France, and he'd come to visit me in Italy. He was kind of hectic, a bit helter-skelter, but you got used to it. He always had lots of ideas and projects. We worked without a script. When we asked him about it, he'd say that he had it all in his head! Now I get to work with the Japanese, who are a bit like that. At least, with Jean-Marie, we could speak the same language! (laughs) In L'Amour chez les poids-lourds [a.k.a. Love Trucks], the lead actress was Ajita Wilson, who was a transsexual. A very strange person... I was confused about her and wasn't positive about her sex change for a long time. However, she had big hands, very manly... She hanged around a lot with Dick Randall. Who knows what happened between them? (laughs)
Do you still get in touch with Pallardy?
Actually, I got to talk to him on the phone last year: he had a project in the Philippines, but he couldn't get it done because now, it's kind of dead for the co-productions.
One the films you made with him, Le Journal érotique d'une Thaïlandaise, had a hard porn version. It starred Brigitte Lahaie, who used to be a very famous porn star...
Yeah, it was a soft porn movie, but they made an alternate version with hard porn scenes. I remember Brigitte was very good at giving head. I had a simple part, and didn't get to participate in those scenes, but I was on the set and sure enjoyed the show! (laughs) [Nanarland: actually, we checked and Mike does participate in those hardcore scenes, including one with no less than Brigitte Lahaie and Marilyn Jess] I also met Sylvia B., who also was a famous sex star at the time. She had a kind of a crush on me, we stayed together for like seven months, she'd come to see me in Italy and I'd come to see her in France. She was such a way out girl, a really wild broad... I saw some of her movies and couldn't believe what she did on screen! She owned a sex shop in Paris, where she'd sell all kind of stuff, like bicycles with dicks on the seats! (laughs)
How did you get to live and work in the Philippines?
Well, I first went there in 1980 to make a film called Pleasure Island, that was being produced by Dick Randall. It was an erotic movie and I was the male lead, I played this adventurer who wrecks his ship on the island and gets to free the local women from sexual slavery...
I really loved the place, life was very cheap, the people were so nice and they also spoke English. And the girls were really wild. You see, I was 44 back then and it was getting hard with the girls in Italy. A man of my age would be called "matusa", which meant "old geezer" (laughs) But in the Philippines, wow! I got girls like, 16 or 17 years old, running after me. I was in a real man's paradise! (laughs). So, as I wasn't getting much work in those days, I went back and forth, and became permanent in 1983. I made it known to filmmakers that I was available there and that gave me work in a lot of international co-productions shot in the Philippines. I also gave advice to many Italian filmmakers to come to the Philippines and make their movies there. Some, like Anthony M. Dawson / Antonio Margheriti, came on their own, but others I made come to the Philippines.
Mike Monty abusing a helpless stunt dummy on the set of "Jungle Raiders" (1985) [photo courtesy of John Dulaney, on the left of the picture].
Did you also work as a line producer or assistant on those films?
No, on those days I was just acting. I was very, very busy back then. We had crews from all over the world, USA, Italy, Germany, France, coming to make movies in the Philippines. And the Filipinos also started making movies of their own, made for exportation, which were even sold to the American market. I made like 14 movies in 1986; I think I made about 80 movies in the eighties.
Mike and Christopher Connelly, still on the set of "Jungle Raiders" (1985), directed by Antonio Margheriti (a.k.a. Anthony M. Dawson).
Could you tell us more about the other westerners who worked there as actors, like Romano Kristoff, Mike Cohen, Don Gordon Bell, Nick Nicholson, Jim Gaines?
Romano Kristoff and Nick Nicholson still live in the Philippines. I haven't seen Nick in a while. We used to dub movies together. Don Gordon had some sort of a revelation, he became "born again" and was ordained as a missionary. He was later sent to South Korea. Jim Gaines was born in the Philippines: his father worked at the American embassy, I think, and his mother was a Filipino. There even was an American crew that contacted him not so long ago to make a documentary about his life, but I don't know if it got made. Many Caucasians were actors as a hobby: Mike Cohen, for example, was a retired army colonel who was running a mall in Manila. He was a very nice guy. He died many years ago, shortly after we appeared together in a futuristic film called Desert Warrior, with Lou Ferrigno... The poor guy was very overweight.
Don Gordon Bell, Mike CohenNick Nicholson and Jim Gaines.
Any memories about Max Thayer, with whom you made Deadringer and No Dead Heroes?
Oh, yes! Max Thayer is kind of strange. He's a bit cold on set, then very friendly off set. I guess that's because he's a serious actor. I saw him again in the US in 1987, when I went there to see if there were work opportunities. He wasn't working much then, so we hanged around a bit. I didn't stay in the US, because of all that Union stuff again.
Did you read the interview Mr. Bruce Baron has granted us? He said that the lead actors were being paid about 1500$ a film.
Yeah, I read that interview. Bruce Baron hasn't changed a bit. Very bitter guy, very negative... I never heard him say anything positive about anyone. What he told you just isn't true. Actually, I was friends with Mr Lim, the producer, and I know how much he got paid. So be assured that I was the one who was getting more money and not the opposite! (laughs)
Bruno Mattei, Mike Monty and Claudio Fragasso in Zombi 3.
Could you tell us about Bruno Mattei, with whom you did several films, like Zombi 3, co-directed by Lucio Fulci, and Strike Commando, in which you have a major part but aren't listed in the credits?
Bruno is a professional guy, a bit old-fashioned, maybe... He knows he isn't making Doctor Zhivago, but he tells the stories he has to tell, as they should be told. Only, sometimes he has to work with some guys who aren't even real actors. No idea why I'm not credited in Strike Commando. When it was released in Manila, I was credited. I liked working with Reb Brown. Very nice guy, very experienced...
The film work seems to have more or less ceased in the Philippines around 1991...
Yeah, the Philippines just stopped making co-productions... The co-producers were messing around with the money, so it stopped being interesting. The movies weren't quality enough for the international market, which was being saturated anyway, so the Filipinos just stopped making them. Also, the country has had problems with the terrorists, so most of the foreign film crews have stopped coming.
Mike Monty, Romano Kristoff, and Filipino crew members on the set of "Ninja Warriors" (1985), directed by Teddy Page [photo courtesy of John Dulaney].
In 1994, you appeared in The Labyrinth of Love (Labirinto dei sensi), an erotic movie shot by Joe D'Amato... Any memories?
Did I? Really? Oh, god, yeah, you're right, I played a grandfather part or something... No, sorry, can't remember...
You have kept making movies since the Filipino film industry slowed down. Could you tell us about your activities?
Well, I made several movies with the Japanese. I learned to my surprise that I was fairly well known in Japan! There was some Japanese TV series, with three Caucasian girls. It was made after Charlie's Angels, and I was playing the Bosley part, driving them around and taking orders... I think the title was White Tiger but I'm not so sure how it got released worldwide. Right now, I often work with the Japanese. I'm half-retired, but basically, when they shoot a movie or a TV series in the Philippines, and need a Caucasian actor, I'm available!
Mike Monty on the DVD cover of "Blowback: Love and Death" (1991), produced by Japanese and shot in the Philippines.
You also worked on several films directed by Bruno Mattei between 2000 and 2004.
Yeah, I worked as some sort of production assistant, I helped write the scripts, I translated them for the locals crew members. I also played small parts. I'm almost 69 now, and I can't play the action leading man anymore! (laughs) Some of the movies were adventure/horror, others were erotic quickies.
Do you plan to spend your remaining years in the Philippines?
See, I'm married, and we have a kid who's 19, and finishing university, so soon I won't have to look for him anymore. Maybe we'll stay in the Philippines, but I miss Italy, so I might go back there. We're not very positive about it yet.
Thank you for your time, Mister Monty.
Thank you, too!