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Ten Seconds to Hell: learning the American way


'There were too many real bombs around': making Ten Seconds to Hell
Ken Adam Artist
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I decided it was better to do some smaller pictures, you know, and I don't know what came exactly after Around the World in Eighty Days, I think it was probably Bob Aldrich, who was a wonderful American director, who was also a member of the Aldrich family, which is one of the big families.

But he was also always a rebel, but very generous with money, you know – and a very good director. So I did a film in Berlin for him, which... I can't remember the title, but I can look it up for you in a moment, yeah – and which dealt with bomb disposal. And it was in – before the Wall was up – so it must have been in… I can't remember the date now.

[Q] Was it called Ten seconds... or something…?

Ten Seconds to Hell, yes. And we shot it at the... not the Ufa Studios in Babelsberg, the Ufa Studios at Tempelhof, because there was no Wall yet in Berlin, and our labour came both from the East, and from the West, there was... and he had an all-American cast but the German bomb disposal people were our experts, you know.

And it was a good picture, and terribly dangerous, you know, as... because there were too many real bombs around, you know. And, in fact, two years later when I was doing another film in Germany, or three years later, there wasn't any one of the actual bomb disposal experts alive, they'd all been killed.

Sir Kenneth Adam, OBE, born Klaus Hugo Adam in 1921, is a production designer famous for his set designs for the James Bond films of the 1960s and 1970s. Initially, he trained as an architect in London, but in October 1943, he became one of only two German-born fighter pilots to fly with the RAF in wartime. He joined 609 Squadron where he flew the Hawker Typhoon fighter bomber. After the war, he entered the film industry, initially as a draughtsman on This Was a Woman. His portfolio of work includes Barry Lyndon and The Madness of King George; he won an Oscar for both films. Having a close relationship with Stanley Kubrick, he also designed the set for the iconic war room in Dr Strangelove. Sir Ken Adam was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2003.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Around the World in 80 Days, USA, Berlin, Berlin Wall, Ten Second to Hell, Babelsberg, Tempelhof, Germany, Robert Aldrich

Duration: 2 minutes, 43 seconds

Date story recorded: December 2010 and January 2011

Date story went live: 14 September 2011