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Zorba the Greek: changing production companies and the Oscars

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Zorba the Greek: the finale
Walter Lassally Film-maker
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The finale of "Zorba", as you probably know, is the collapse of the cable railway. And that was shot right towards the end. In fact, it was the last bit of shooting that we did, and that was all staged. We had some- there's two or three cameras in use on part of that sequence. And one of the cameras- actually we got hold of a small Eyemo, which is a small combat camera, basically, which takes 50ft, 100ft of film, and we managed to attach that to the cable behind the log. The logs were on a, sort of, sled. And we made an extension to one of the sleds, or had another sled linked to it, and on this sled we mounted the camera. So you're going down the cable railway, with the log. And then we planned to recover the camera at the end, just before it went into the sea, but we said if we don't, the value of that camera is not very great, so it could be sacrificed if necessary. But we managed to, to catch it before it went into the sea, and the shot is in the movie. A couple of shots. And- then there were some special shots of the- just of the cable- of the towers collapsing and all that. But, as I say, it was almost the last thing we shot and I'd already left the location when I got a frantic phone call or telegram, or something, from Cacoyannis to say the collapse of the cable railway was no good and it's got to be redone. I said- oh, well my- George can do it, I'll send George. No, no, no, you have to do it yourself. And there was a big argument. And I said, look, this is an engineering problem, the cameras are set. Any idiot can photograph it, not to call George an idiot, but anybody can do it. But Cacoyannis was absolutely adamant. So I said, all right, all right, I'll come back and do it. And we did it all again. Because in the initial collapse, it was there in one frame and it was not there in the second frame. There wasn't any feeling of collapse, it was just bup, gone. You know like that, like you wipe your hand across, and it's gone. So that, of course, wouldn't do. So that had- so that had to be redone and I came back and we just spent a day shooting the actual collapse.

Born in Germany, cinematographer Walter Lassally (1926-2017) was best known for his Oscar-winning work on 'Zorba the Greek'. He was greatly respected in the film industry for his ability to take the best of his work in one area and apply it to another, from mainstream to international art films to documentary. He was associated with the Free Cinema movement in the 1950s, and the British New Wave in the early 1960s. In 1987 he published his autobiography called 'Itinerant Cameraman'.

Listeners: Peter Bowen

Peter Bowen is a Canadian who came to Europe to study and never got round to heading back home. He did his undergraduate work at Carleton University (in Biology) in Ottawa, and then did graduate work at the University of Western Ontario (in Zoology). After completing his doctorate at Oxford (in the Department of Zoology), followed with a year of postdoc at the University of London, he moved to the University's newly-established Audio-Visual Centre (under the direction of Michael Clarke) where he spent four years in production (of primarily science programs) and began to teach film. In 1974 Bowden became Director of the new Audio-Visual Centre at the University of Warwick, which was then in the process of introducing film studies into the curriculum and where his interest in the academic study of film was promoted and encouraged by scholars such as Victor Perkins, Robin Wood, and Richard Dyer. In 1983, his partner and he moved to Greece, and the following year he began to teach for the University of Maryland (European Division), for which he has taught (and continues to teach) biology and film courses in Crete, Bosnia, and the Middle East.

Duration: 2 minutes, 14 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008