Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Me, Thriller and the man who made it.

I don't remember how I got in contact with the director of Thriller, en grym film (aka They Call Her One-Eye), but it ended sadly and I guess that was my only chance to really know the secrets of Bo-Arne Vibenius. Anyway, we had contact a lot through email, though he really didn't tell me much. He was mostly writing about how he got fucked by the movie industry. 

By chance Mr Z (I think, it could have been his friend which I forgotten the name of) contacted me, probably through some forum. They wanted to start a DVD company (called Chrome by the way) and somehow maybe they knew that I was in contact with Mr Vibenius. One thing led to another and soon Mr Z and his business partner was in Sweden, and we was meeting the director or Thriller. 

You heard many stories about Vibenius, but I can tell you (and I think Z would agree), that he was a very pleasent guy to meet and spend some time with. A true classic swedish gentleman. We went to his apartment where he served some salmon and other swedish delicatessen, and they signed the contract. The americans had smuggled a large amount of money (six figures) through the swedish customs, and Vibenius counted them carefully. Then he said there was money missing. The americans went pale and a silence fell over the room. Then Vibenius laughed and said he was only joking. 

After this he took out a fantastic carton box with photos from his career and from the making of Thriller. There was a great photo of him and Ingmar Bergman, there was amazing stills of Christina Lindberg from behind the scenes of Thriller. He showed us a gorgeous poster of Breaking Point (I could kill for that poster) and then he also produced the only master he had of Thriller. It wasn't in good shape at all, and I could see that the americans where a bit worried about that. 

Vibenius left the room when we was watching Thriller. He didn't like it, and probably felt tired just thinking about it. But he came back later and talked a little about the movie. To us he said that he intended the graphic sex to be there all the time. It was a good way to sell the movie. He confirmed that he used a real corpse for the eye-scenes. He knew a doctor at Karolinska, how let them used a body for this. The doctor later got fired, or was forced to retired, because of mental problems. He also mentioned that one of the stuntmen later made a sex-change. Not Lars Lundgren though, who is one of the stuntmen in the warehouse-fight. I had a pleasure of working with him in one of my earlier movies, a really bad one by the way) For the slow-motion scenes he used a military camera, used for weapon experiments, something he managed to do through his contacts in the military. He claimed to have worked for military intelligence and had good connections with CIA. We where skeptical about this though, but after a while he showed us something else... More to that later.

He asked us if we wanted to see Breaking Point, and of course: who could say no to that? This time he stayed with us, and I had a strong feeling that he was very closely connected to this movie. The reason they made the movie was that another project (some art-movie financed by Roger Corman, with music by Ralph Lundsten) crashed, and he hade some money to spend (from the success of Thriller) and a crew to make a movie quickly. They wrote the script on one-two days and the director of cinematography, Andreas Bellis, took the lead. Like in Thriller, Ralph Lundsten, created the soundscape, but as we all know, there a very famous tune in it to: Anton Karas theme from The Third Man. Vibenius actually took Anton Karas to Stockholm, put him in a studio where they recorded the theme once again for Breaking Point. Anton Karas, according to Vibenius, never enjoyed this job - but took the ten thousand swedish kronor he was offered and did his job one more time. 

Breaking Point got interested from an american businessman who bough the US rights and all the material involving the movie, even the original negatives. He never released it, at least never properly, and Vibenius never saw any money. He later tried to located the material, but it was lost and rumour said it was destroyed in warehouse-fire - either by accident, or by the businessman (mafia, said Vibenius) to hide something else. 

Breaking Point is obviously a very personal project for it's director, and it's a shame that the destiny of that movie was to be a lost movie.

The next day we followed Vibenius to the home of the very nice and original Ralph Lundsten, a pioneer of electronic music. His house is absurd. And it's surreal. He showed us his studio, his sexual art, told stories about the wild seventies. A great man. We had wine in his garden, it was an experience I never forgot. I was in contact with Vibenius and Ralph a long time after this. For a couple of weeks Ralph actually worked on the music for a movie I produced, but the contract that his lawyer (aka Vibenius) offered us was so absurd and impossible to agree to, that we made the music ourselves instead. And by the help of some other groups around Scandinavia. Vibenius himself stopped communicating with me personally, instead his assistant "Otto" wrote the emails. It was obviously Vibenius himself, a man fond of pseudonyms and wordplay.

You all probably heard of the huge fight that Vibenius started regarding the DVD release of Thriller. Chrome never came to exist, what I know, and they sold the rights to Synapse that released a very nice dvd of it. I never got any credits for my involvment in this, which (to be honest) I feel a bit bitter about even today. It's a movie I cared for, and I spent some personal money on traveling and stuff to make it happen. But shit happens. But I'm glad to have spent some time with the highly original Bo-Arne Vibenius (or Fridolinski that he calls himself when it comes to everything regarding Thriller) and that I helped (a little) Thriller to be widely available. 

Ah, you wonder about the connection with military intelligence? Well, after showing us some photos and chatting nice about his movies and mentioned his intelligence work and connections with The CIA. Then he showed us an official letter. It was a "thank you" for long and honorable service. Signed by... George H. W. Bush, former president of the United States and former Director of Central Intelligence...

Over and out,



Patrick B said...

Amazing story, Fred :) Thank you very much for posting this!

I had no idea.

Tobias Thuresson said...

Very interesting story. Thank you for posting that.

Jack J said...

Very cool, Fred. Hmm, I looked you up on IMDb and it says about you:

"Always wears a couple of modified Ray Ban glasses"


Ninja Dixon said...

Patrick and Tobias: My pleasure! :)

Jack: Oh, that was a long time ago! But I wear them a couple of times years, often at summer and when I really needs a kombination of real glasses and sunglasses :)

David A. Zuzelo said...

Great to see this story from your eyes Fred! For the record, I was never a partner in "Chrome" at all-and to this day not one single penny of money has come my way, which is what made me crazy when I would get BOO YAR emails from Bo.
Dolph and Dolph Chairino basically allowed me the choice of "pick a movie..." and Thriller was the only choice I could make because it is the best movie ever ;)

This all came to be right when I had the wedding and kid plans in the very near future-so I share a lot of your frustration-but I would not trade that trip and the chance to sit with Bo and tour Stockholm with you (looking for a toilet and Ninja Mission) for anything.
I do remember the day the DVD was released well, I did not get a copy before it was reviewed online (!!) and had a friend confirm that my liner notes were passed over. I was SO pissed off I actually punched the door in my bedroom and put a hole the size of the one in John Morghen's stomach from Cannibal Apocalypse in it.

Well, the world got Thriller and I got some good memories, a lovely obsession with Christina and still get to chat with the Swedish Shinobi.
If you are reading this, believe me...Thriller:A Cruel Picture would still be sitting in Vibenius' closet without Fred.

I should break out my journals from the time (including a list of stuff in that box-which I hope Bo got back, I have no clue what happened to it)-but it is such old news I doubt anyone wants to hear stories of cab accidents, severe jet lag and salmon in the middle of the night/Swedish Morning, meetings at Media Blasters, Synapse Faxes or Bo Arne BOO YAR anymore.

And for the record, you are 100 percent right, Vibenius was VERY nice in my opinion and I'll never ever forget Dolph's 'pitch' going so berserk or his walking out on the awesome BREAKING POINT.

Is it me, or do you remember a book of stills that featured alternate, violent, shots from Breaking Point in stills? I'd love to see that again!

Ah...so many memories, thanks!