Caroline Munro is an accomplished actress with credits going back to the 1960s. You may know her from classic Hammer Horror films like Dracula A.D. 1972 or Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter. Perhaps you saw her as Naomi the helicopter pilot henchwoman in the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me, or squaring off against the late, great Joe Spinnell in the trio of Starcrash, Maniac and The Last Horror Film. You might have heard her singing in Don’t Open Till Christmas or frolicking with Adam Ant in the music video for Goody Two Shoes. Perhaps you might have met Caroline at a convention, as I did at Chiller Theatre in October of 2018, making her the second guest of that Chiller that I’ve interviewed after Loretta Swit.
However you know Caroline, you’ll get to see her in a new way through this recent interview I did with her. With the assistance of Jayne Crimin, I dialed England near the end of April to have a wide-ranging interview with Ms. Munro. I hope you all enjoy reading this.
Say hello to Caroline Munro!
Caroline: It’s very nice to speak to you.
Johnny: Likewise. I’m looking forward to this, and I have my questions ready to go…
Johnny: …Starting with this: You started out as a model. Who were your favorite designers to work for, and what are the most outrageous fashions you can recall wearing?
Caroline: Oh, my goodness. That’s a really good question, actually. I love it. I started in the 60s, so that was the advent of the miniskirt over here. There was a designer named Barbara Hulanicki, who created the Biba dresses. They were very trendy, and so cheap (laughing). I wish I had some of them today. That would be really nice.
Zandra Rhodes was another one. She was a bit of a fashion icon, and still is doing wonderful designs. One of the first photographers I worked with was David Bailey, who was very prolific from the 60s to the 80s, and very ahead of his time. He was a wonderful photographer, so he would be one of the first ones I worked with. It was ’66 when I started, and that was a long time ago, wasn’t it? (Laughing) I’m sure before you were a twinkle.
Johnny: Well, from modeling, we go to film. Your first film credit on IMDB is as the aptly-named Beautiful Brunette in Alberto Sordi’s 1966 film Fumo di Londra.
Caroline: Aaah, yes.
Johnny: Were you nervous about being on a film set for the first time, or did your modeling help to prepare you for that?
Caroline: Again, that’s a lovely question because you’re going right back. It’s getting the brain cells working again, Johnny. (Caroline and Johnny both laugh) No, I didn’t feel nervous because I was very young, and I’d been photographed a lot during 1965 and 1966. My photo had been taken by Bailey, and it won a competition, so I was used to working in front of a camera.
In the Alberto Sordi film, I was an extra, so it was just as an extra I was working, but I loved it. I just loved taking part in it, and putting it together and seeing it afterwards. It was a mad, wonderful film, and there were many people of the day, the young girls and boys of the Chelsea set, which was very, very trendy in those days. I think even David Bowie had a small part as an extra. All the people in London did.
Caroline: It was, and Alberto was so good. He was wonderful. I love Italian cinema. I know he shot in English, but I love Italian cinema. It’s a different thing compared to working in England and the States, but I love it.
Johnny: Very cool.
Caroline: Very lucky, I was.
Johnny: Oh, yeah. To go to my next question, you had an uncredited role as a Guard Girl in 1967’s Casino Royale. During your time on the set, was the filming as chaotic as many tales have related over the years?
Caroline: Again, I had a little part as an extra. I was just one of the Guard Girls, of which there were many. Again, they came around to the modeling agencies and chose the people they wanted. I got the chance to wear Paco Rabane clothes, which was extraordinary. We were all dressed the same.
It actually wasn’t chaotic. I worked with Val Guest, who was my director, and I found him easy to work with. Again, I didn’t have a lot to do, but I was in scenes, and I remember asking him, when the girls would have lunch or go to the canteen on breaks, as there were a lot of us on the set with Woody Allen, “Would you mind if I sat down to watch and see what happens?”. He said, “Yes, you can watch. Just sit in the corner”.
I spent most of my lunchtime sitting and watching these amazing actors working, from Woody Allen to David Niven, watching them all. I saw how they did the lighting, and I saw them working with these fantastic people. My bits I didn’t find chaotic at all. There were five directors, but we had Val Guest, and he absolutely knew what he wanted to do in the scenes, and they were great fun to shoot. They were wonderful.
To parade around in these Paco Rabane clothes was fantastic. I got to do many photoshoots in those clothes (laughing). It was very exciting. I was very young and very naive but, again, so very lucky to be chosen to do that. Sitting on a film set was educational. Many people go to drama school, so that was sort of my drama school. My learning curve was sitting there, watching how they made films, which eventually became my passion.
Johnny: Cool. That’s definitely a very interesting way to get the education, but I’m glad you got it.
Caroline: Absolutely. On the set, you have to sink or swim. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. Sink or swim…Many times you sink, but occasionally you swim.
Johnny: To go to my next question: You played Evalina in the comedic western A Talent For Loving, a role which has led you to make appearances at several Western conventions over the years. What are your favorite memories of that movie?
Caroline: Oh, wow. I think my parents were even more excited than I was. It was a Paramount film which has now changed its’ name to Gun Crazy, but at the time, it was called A Talent For Loving, based on a novel by Richard Condon.
To my amazement, I got to work with Cesar Romero, who played my grandfather, and Richard Widmark, of course, who was one of my dad’s heroes in many a Western, and other films, too. It was a thrill. To be working on a big-budget film was something else. We shot it in Madrid at Suevia Studios, and then we did location work, too. It was astounding to work with these people.
Again, I would watch them. I would come on these extraordinary, beautiful sets. I don’t know who they were designed by, but they were out of this world. You had the likes of Richard Widmark, Genevieve Page, a French actress who was in Belle de Jour and who played my stepmother in this movie and Topol from Fiddler On The Roof.
We were working with all these people, and they got me a flat in Madrid, in the center, and they picked me up every day. My parents came with me. I was quite young, so they came out and enjoyed the museums of Madrid. It was lovely to go back to the apartment with them. It was an extraordinary time that I have such fond memories of.
Again, It was a great learning curve, working with all those people. I got to work with Derek Nimmo, who played my love interest. Maybe you don’t know who he was. He was a comedian. I say comedian, but it was kind of pathos. He was flying between a play in England and shooting Talent in Madrid. That’s a long time ago. Again, you’ve got the cogs working in my brain (Caroline and Johnny laugh). Thinking about it, it was a wonderful time in my life.
I almost forgot. I had to learn to ride a horse. That’s quite a crucial bit. I had to learn to ride a horse, but I had told them because actors say, “Oh, you have to say you can do everything”. I was very young, and maybe naive, but I said, “No, I can’t ride”. They said, “Don’t worry. We’ll teach you”, which they did. They took me out because they were prepping the film for many months beforehand. It was a big film.
They took me out to this wonderful ranch in the countryside in Madrid, and a few of the actors would be learning to ride horses, while others were honing their riding skills already. I was taught to ride. My horse was beautiful. He was called Albino. He was white, but he had these kind of red eyes (laughing). I think hee took a dislike to me because he knew we were filming, but he was perfect for the part.
We were preparing. I’d ridden a lot, and Topol took me out to ride a lot, and a young actor named Judd Hamilton led me out to ride. I was doing quite well, but one day, I was riding with Topol and maybe Judd, and we came to a steepish, but plowed, field. We were coming back from the ride, and we were tired. Basically, I lost my stirrups and my horse didn’t seem to understand “Stop!” or “Slow down!”. We even tried it in Spanish (laughing), but he didn’t understand it.
In my naivete, there was a fence looming at the bottom of the field, and I thought, “He’s going to try and jump that”. I had no idea what to do. I was young, all of 18 or 19. I decided to jump off, which I proceeded to do at full canter (laughing). Not a good thing to do, so I fell off onto the luckily plowed field. Richard Widmark rushed out, and my shoulder was sort of sticking out by my ears.
I’d broken my collarbone, and I had to be taken by ambulance. I had an operation on my shoulder to put it back. They stuck a pin in it, and I was back to filming within 4 days in a full period costume, which is obviously very time-consuming, and very tight and uncomfortable to wear. That was some experience, really (laughing), but one I don’t regret.
I loved the film. Sadly, it didn’t get a huge release, which is a shame. The producer was Walter Shenson, and it was originally penned for The Beatles to do the film, but I think something had changed. Richard Quine, the American director, stepped in, and it became a whole different thing, but it was great fun to make, and we were there for months, it seemed like. I fell in love with Madrid. What a beautiful place, and lovely people to work with.
Johnny: That’s definitely an amazing story, and definite proof of how badass you are to come back from such a horse-riding event…
Caroline: I did. Well, I had to do it. They shot a lot of film, and they couldn’t afford to start again, but I had the pin, and the first scene that I was required to do, or meant to do, was at this wonderful old house in the country outside Madrid, which was meant to be the family home, Cesar Romero’s and my home, being his granddaughter. I was meant to be diving into the water and saving these two men, which I obivously couldn’t do because I was all, more or less, strapped up until we did the scene.
They had to get a double to do the jumping in. They put a dark wig on her, and the period costume, so she did that, and I did the bit in the water, trying to hold up the men, but my shoulder hurt. That was quite tough, and I have the scars to prove it to this day (laughing). I had to have the pin taken out when I got back to England months later. It was interesting. Anyway…
Johnny: Before jumping into your 70s work, I have to ask about the first of your several musical ventures over the years, which is your rendition of Tar And Cement, a classic piece of 60s British pop music. How did you end up performing that song, and what was your favorite time performing it?
Caroline: Well, I only ever did it in the studio, but it was fantastic. It was at Abbey Road Studios. I’ll tell you how it came about. My father was a solicitor. That’s a lawyer. He worked in the city in London, and his best friend, Steve, was the head of Decca Records at the time. They met on the train up to Brighton, and they used to travel a lot on the train. They got to talking about this, that and the other, and I remember Steve had just signed The Rolling Stones to Decca Records.
He had a new producer called Mark Wurtz, who was a producer-cum-writer-cum-musical director, and they wanted a female singer. I sang in a church choir in Rottingdean, which is a little village outside of Brighton, where I grew up. I’d just started the modeling, so I had quite a few photographs taken, and they said, “Would you like to maybe have a try at singing?”. (Laughing) I said, “Well, I’m not sure. I don’t know”.
Anyway, I went to meet with Mark Wirtz, who was very sweet and very young. I remember doing My Guy by Mary Wells, which I loved at the time, and he said, “That doesn’t sound too bad”. I think, due to my dad’s friendship with Steve, they liked it enough to get me to the studio. It was written for a young girl, so lo and behold, I never believed I would find myself in a record studio, let alone Abbey Road, which was becoming very famous because of The Beatles.
I went into the studio, which is still there. I live close to it, near the famous crossing. I have been there. Anyway, we went into the studio, I did the recording, and my dad was so excited when I came out. I remember this very well. He said, “You’ll never guess what”. I said, “What?”. He said, “I’m speaking to these chaps, who are very nice and very polite, in the studio next to yours'”. I looked, and I saw The Beatles! (Laughing) My father had been talking to The Beatles. He didn’t know who they were at the time. He was a lawyer, so he wasn’t really up on that sort of thing, but I knew. They were very nice.
I was recording in the studio, but the backing track had already been done. I just had to sing along to the track. Luckily, It was sort of in my key, I think, and on the backing track, it was fantastic. You had Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce. They were my backing track (laughing)! They already recorded, so they didn’t have anything to do with me, but that’s how I came to do it.
On the B-side of Tar And Cement was another song, which was very unlikely for me. It was called Sporting Life. Don’t forget. I was maybe 16 or 17 years old and going to an all-girl convent, and this song was about drinking and smoking and those sorts of things. Sporting Life is quite fun, and Eric’s guitar work is amazing. With Tar And Cement, though, I sounded like I just got out of a convent. I mean, I was going to a convent school, but that was it. That’s how I came to start to sing a little bit.
Johnny: Well, you definitely did a great job with the songs.
Caroline: (Laughing) Oh, thank you.
Johnny: No problem. Returning to modeling for a question, you were well-known for your Lamb’s Navy Rum advertisements. Did you ever drink it yourself, or were those ads just modeling jobs?
Caroline: Most of the shots had been in water or in caves, and the Lamb’s Navy bottle had been dragged through the water. They used to give me the bottle, and I gave it to my granny, who loved making trifles. Do you have trifles in America? What would they call them? They’re sort of like sponge cake with custard and all those yummy things.
Johnny: I think we have something like that here.
Caroline: Anyway, my granny used to put the Lamb’s Navy into that, and it gave a nice taste to the sponge cake (laughing). She used to do that, but she was a little bit short-sighted, and she made a lovely one for Christmas with the Lamb’s, but she overdid it, and it was quite strong (laughing). I’ve tasted it. It’s nice, quite a nice drink, rum and coke. I’m not a big drinker, but yeah…
Johnny: To jump back to film, you’re well-known for your work with Hammer Films, and your first major project with them was Dracula A.D. 1972, where you played the character of Laura Bellows. What made that movie such a standout in your career?
Caroline: Well, I loved working on that film. I got to work with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, and all these wonderful up-and-coming actors like Stephanie Beacham and Michael Kitchen and Marsha Hunt. It was an amazing cast to work with, but for me, it was a change of gear. Working with Christopher, who was extraordinary to work with, was a turning point. I realized that, actually, this is what I wanted to do. I wanted to act.
Before that, I’d been going through the motions, whereas now I felt I really believe I am this character. It was like a switch of gear. I can’t really explain it, but I get it now. I can understand it. I hadn’t had any formal drama training as such. Again, it was mostly sitting on sets and watching people perform, watching it all, trying to take it in and think about it, which was a good grounding for me. If you want to do theater, you may need more of a technical background to rely on technique, but for film, it’s more organic, more of a feeling, if that makes sense.
Johnny: Alright. As you did mention Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, what advice did they give you that you would carry throughout your career?
Caroline: Well, with watching them, it was “Be true to yourself”. I remember Richard Widmark saying to me, way back, as I’d never really done much before taking such a big part in a film, “Remember, Caroline, save it for the closeup”. I said, “What do you mean?”. They used to do master shots and head shots and inserts. He said, “Save everything for the closeups. Save the emotions. Save it”. I remember him saying that.
With Chrstopher and Peter, they were such masters at what they did. They were chalk and cheese as people, but when they got on camera, again, it was magical. It wasn’t so much what they said as what they did, and how they approached their work so professionally, so giving. I suppose the word is “giving”. I’ve been lucky that a lot of the men and women I’ve worked with have been giving, like Roger Moore. He was so giving as an actor. He gave me something to work with, and that’s the key to a great actor, I think, for them to give to a newcomer. Just working with them was magical, and I got to work with Peter again later on. I was so lucky.
Johnny: Staying with Hammer, you played Carla in Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter. What went into your creative process when you played her?
Caroline: Oh, I loved her because she was totally herself. She didn’t want to be anything else. She was very, very truthful. She was not a simple girl. She was a clever girl, but she was just very natural, very earthy. She was very giving, too, and very caring. Again, it was just trying to find her, and once I got the clothes on, I think that’s very important for an actor or an actress to put the clothes on, and I had to wear the same clothes for six weeks, every day, day in and day out.
I had the same kind of shabby shirt and crumpled skirt that I wore throughout the shoot. They used to rub pretend mud on my face to make me look grubby, really (laughing), and they’d ask me if I’d washed my hair. I said, “No, you told me not to”. They said, “Good” (laughing). Once you got that, you felt part of the earth. You felt grounded.
I also had the wonderful Horst Janson to work opposite with who was amazing. He was so perfect for Kronos, and there were some great character actors I worked. Brian Clemens was the writer and director. It was his first directing job, so I was lucky enough to work with him. It was kind of magical to work with him.
I am so lucky with most of what I’ve worked on. There was one television project I didn’t like, but with films, I’ve been so lucky with the people I’ve managed to work with, the creative people. With Hammer and Bond, it’s true that it’s like a family, especially with Hammer. I did the two films back-to-back within a year, and they tended to use the same crew, the same hairstylists, the same makeup artists. You know them and you trust them, and you enjoy the company with them.
I think it’s vital to be on side with your crew because your crew can make or break it in a way. They’re the heart of the engine, really, and I really enjoy working with a crew, being part of one. It’s the camraderie, and you might not meet again for a year or even more, but when you do meet, it’s lovely because you have that bond, no pun intended (Caroline and Johnny laugh). I’ve been very, very lucky.
Johnny: It’s always good to develop those bonds. Speaking of Captain Kronos, what do you suppose happened to Carla when the events of the movie ended?
Caroline: Rather sad, isn’t it? There was supposedly going to be another one, but it was ahead of its’ time. People didn’t get it. If you’d seen the Hammer films beforehand, you usually saw blood and lots of heaving bosoms. It was very racy (laughing), and different from our Kronos, which was, for lack of a better word, a very esoteric film. Have you seen the film at all?
Johnny: It’s been a while since I’ve seen it. I plan on reviewing it again soon.
Caroline: It’s quite a charming little film, but they weren’t going for blood. They were going for youth. It was a really different film, and they did think about maybe resurrecting it and doing another one. I think they should’ve because it’s really gained its’ legs. People really enjoy that film. They see how clever it was. It was Brian’s baby, and it was so clever, really, without being explicit. It was a very clever film, and he did it really well. I’m just sad he didn’t do any more directing. Again, I had great joy in making it. It was amazing to be part of.
Johnny: I’m glad you had such a good experience on the film.
Caroline: I did.
Johnny: Going to my next question: You played Margiana in 1973’s The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad. What are your favorite memories of that shoot?
Caroline: Wow, that was something else. Again, I was back to Madrid, so I was living there. It wasn’t any of the same crew, as far as I know. Ted Moore was our cinematographer and, of course, I worked with my lovely friend, Ray Harryhausen. That was quite astounding to actually watch this maestro at work. He was unbelievable. John Phillip Law, whom I loved as the Blind Angel in Barbarella, was to be our Sinbad, and the wonderful Tom Baker played the baddie.
The costumes were so beautiful, and the sets were amazing. Again, we shot at Sevila Films Studios, but we did a lot of location work. Most of it was done on location. I remember doing night shooting with John Phillip and Ray. Gordon Hessler was our director. He was a good director, and Ray would always step in to do the directing when it came to the special effects because he knew exactly what he wanted. He would show us the storyboards, and then, for the rest, we had to use our imaginations.
It would take him about a year to put all the effects together after the fact. He didn’t do it beforehand. He did it after we’d done the live-action. It was…Wow, an experience! Again, I think of how lucky I’ve been to be involved with these different genres. It was wonderful because this was fantasy, and the horror was horror. I look back, and there was never a plan. I just felt grateful to be invited to do various things. Obviously, you’ve got to go for interviews and castings and stuff, but to be chosen for Margiana was quite a thrill.
Actually, I support the Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation. One of my best friends is Vanessa Harryhausen, his daughter, whom I speak to every week. She’s in Scotland now, and she’s looking after Ray’s legacy with a museum there. They planned to have a grand opening last year in Edinborough, but they couldn’t because of the pandemic. John Landis was coming over, and Randy Cook, the special effects genius from the states. They were going to come over for Ray’s centenary. He would’ve been 100 last year. This year, he would’ve been 101. That was a truly magical experience to be part of that. It was so beautifully shot and lit. It’s just magical.
We had the premiere in London. I don’t know if you’re familiar with London at all, but Leicester Square is one of our big squares. It’s the center of the city, and it has all the big cinemas. We had the premiere of Sinbad at the Empire in Leicester Square, one of the big cinemas, and it was lovely because it was a children’s premiere. Obviously parents came along, but it was a daytime premiere, which was perfect. You had a cinema full of kids, which was lovely. It was a fantasy film, and had some frightening bits and beautiful bits and magical bits and creatures. That was so special, being at the premiere. It was extraordinary. I loved that. I have really happy memories of that. Ray became a truly good friend. I’d see him a lot. I’d go around to the house, and Vanessa, to this day, is one of my besties. We’ve kept in touch a lot.
Johnny: That’s lovely to hear. To go to my next question, you played the small, but memorable, part of Naomi in the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me. Pictures from the movie are popular for you to sign at conventions, so what do you think draws people to The Spy Who Loved Me after all these years?
Caroline: Well, I suppose all the Bond films, though obviously different, have elements of people, men or women. You had your Bond, who was the main one, obviously, and my Bond was Roger. I was lucky enough to work with him. I don’t know. I think, again, it’s fantasy. It takes you out of the normal world, even though you have a lot of the espionage that goes on today, but it’s fantasy, pure fantasy. Bond has gotten much more realistic, but our Bond was about pure fantasy…Beautiful locations, lovely costumes, some great actors taking part, and Lewis Gilbert was my director, who was just extraordinary to work with.
I don’t know. The magic of Bond, certainly in England, and in the United States, every two years or so, apart from this one, means people wait to go to the cinema and watch Bond . It’s always a huge occasion. The premieres are wonderful. Even our premiere was spectacular, because we had the premiere, and I’ll remember this date for as long as I live, on 7/7/77. That was our date (laughing). It was a lovely premiere at the Odeon in London. It was the biggest, most beautiful cinema. Princess Anne was there, and of course, Roger Moore and his wife. Richard Kiel, whom I did many shows with, was there.
That was magical, and I remember we got introduced to Princess Anne. I had to learn to curtsey a bit, and wear white gloves. They had a wonderful premiere ball afterwards. Also, one thing I do remember about the premiere is that the film had started. The opening credits came up. Roger skiied off the side of the mountain, and he falls and falls as the credits start. It was quite amazing to see it in a huge cinema. I don’t know about Princess Anne (laughing), but it was quite magical there. It really made the hair stand up. It was beautiul. Very happy memories. Roger was a dream to work with. Again, very giving.
Johnny: That’s lovely to hear. Knowing your musical talent, have you ever performed the movie’s theme, Nobody Does It Better, at any convention appearances or Bond-related events?
Caroline: No, I haven’t, actually. It’s quite a difficult song to sing. Carly Simon does an amazing job, but it’s quite a difficult song, I think. I’ve tried it in the bath (laughing), but I don’t think I could do it. Singing? I’m okay, but I’m not a great singer by any stretch of the imagination. I’m passionate about music. I love music. I’d like to be able to. One of my daughters is really good at singing. They’re clever girls. The other one is an actress, very good, up-and-coming.
Johnny: Well, to go to a different credit, you played Stella Star in Starcrash, a very unusual space opera film. What are your favorite memories of that movie?
Caroline: That was a long film to shoot, a long, long film. I loved working with Luigi Cozzi. First of all, I got to work in the famous Cinecitta Studios in Italy. We were living just outside of Rome, which was just beautiful, and an amazing city to travel to. I love Italy. I think they have the most beautiful cities. They have the Colusseum and all these amazing buildings.
Anyway, Cineceitta was a famous studio. Clint Eastwood shot a lot of his Westerns there, and in Almereia in Spain. Fellini had worked there, and I actually had the great pleasure to meet Fellini through Luigi Cozzi, our director. He’s lovely. I see Luigi quite a lot. I’ve worked with him twice, once on Starcrash and once on a film called The Black Cat. I was there for so long with the costume fittings and the meetings.
Marjoe Gortner was in it, and we had some amazing actors. Of course, Christopher Plummer was on it. He flew in from Canada and only shot for a day and a half, but what a lovely man, one of the nicest men on set, a lovely Canadian. Very gentle, sweet-mannered, so, so good…When he came to do his scenes, we just stood around and watched him. All the actors were in awe, just watching this extraordinary man working.
All of it was memorable…Happy, happy days working on that. Long hours, incredibly long hours…I was exhausted by the end of it. We started filming in early Summer and worked right through to Christmas, and then Luigi wanted to shoot some additional scenes after Christmas, so we came back after Christmas to finish the scenes. We had unbelievable locations to work in. We had the studios, and they built most of the sets, but then we were lucky enough to work in Sicily. We shot a lot of stuff on top of Mt. Etna (laughing). Can you believe it? A volcano.
We worked there, and we worked all over Italy. We worked on beaches and mountains. All the outside stuff was real, so you had to do it in real time. All the running I did was real. All the fighting and karate-chopping was real. No stand-ins…It was all real. I got very fit on that film. I really did. I loved working on it, and I loved working with David Hasselhoff. He was very sweet to work with. I think he’d done a soap opera before, but this was his first European film, and he was a joy to work with.
The next time I saw him was in L.A, and he told me, “I’ve got this script. It’s something about a talking car. I don’t know if I’m going to do it or not. I’m not sure”. I said, “Oh, that sounds fun”. He said, “Yeah, maybe I’ll do it. What do you think?”. I said, “Yeah, go ahead and do it”, so he did (laughing). Yeah, he was great to work with.
Johnny: To take a change of pace, you played Anna D’Antoni in the 1980 horror film Maniac. The movie was a rather drastic change of pace from your work with Hammer, so was there any hesitancy on your part about signing up for the movie?
Caroline: Well, I wasn’t originally going to play her. It was going to be Daria Nicolodi, wife of Dario Argento. She was penned to do it, but she was working, and I just happened to be in New York as I was attending a Fangoria convention. I worked with Joe Spinell on Starcrash, and we were both at this convention. We got along so well when he played Count Zarth Arn in Starcrash. We were on a panel. Bill Lustig was there, Joe was there, I was there, and we were all on this panel talking about film.
They heard that their lady, Daria, couldn’t get over because she was still filming in Italy, and they had to start shooting that Monday. It was Friday night, and I thought I would just be there for a long weekend for Fangoria. Joe said, “We’ve lost our lead actress. What do you think about it?”, because they wanted a European actress. I said, “What do you mean, what do I think?”. He said, “Take the script. Read it. Let me know what you think because we’d really like you to do it. Bill’s seen some of your work, and he thinks you could do the part”.
I said, “Well, maybe, but I’m back in London on Monday or Tuesday”. He said, “Take it and read it”, so I read it and it made my hair stand on end. I said, “Oh, my goodness. Wow, this is different. This is strong”. I remember Bill took me on a Saturday or Sunday evening. He said, “There’s a film I want you to see, and I want to do ours’ in the same vein”, so he took me down to 42nd Street, and we watched Halloween. I’d never seen anything quite like Halloween (laughing).
He said, “We want to do something like that. What do you think?”. I said, “Well, I love working with Joe, and you’re rather nice”, so, basically, I agreed to say yes to it, and I started the film on a Monday (laughing). Little did I know there would be more special effects afterwards. That was something, really, but again, I was working with Joe. I was working in New York for about three weeks, and I loved it. I love New York. I love the people there. Whereabouts are you in New York?
Johnny: I live in Greenwood Lake, New York. We’re simaltaneously upstate from New York City and downstate from Albany, and we share a border with West Milford, New Jersey.
Caroline: Oh, how lovely. I have friends in New Jersey, and of course, the Chiller Theatre show is in New Jersey. Meadowlands, the Hilton, all those big Chiller shows…Do you know the shows?
Johnny: Oh, I do, very much so, and I’ll actually be asking about those later.
Caroline: Oh, great, great. They’re so much fun, and you meet such wonderful people. You meet all the actors, but you also meet such characters. It’s so sad that so many of them were canceled last year and this year. It’s so sad, but the world has changed.
Johnny: Well, I’ll ask more about the conventions later, but to stay with your collaborations with Joe Spinnell, the third and final one was 1982’s The Last Horror Film. Another cult classic of the horror genre, what was it like to be filming at Cannes as opposed to promoting movies there?
Caroline: Oh, yes. Cannes is a huge marketplace for selling films, and we had the audacity to actually go along and try and shoot a film. It was pure guerilla filmmaking on our part, I think. It was an extraordinary experience. Again, I think it was written around Joe. We all wanted to work with him. He was just such an amazing actor, and a gentle pussycat off-screen, too (laughing). He was clever and witty and funny, just amazing to work with. I loved working with him because he just inhabited his character. He really did.
That was a challenge, so far as making a film during the festival because the whole of Cannes is taken over during the festival with all the movie people. You had all these wonderful producers and directors and stars. It was a film-within-a-film. It was a clever concept, but again, the audacity we had to go and make a film there…A lot of the time, it was sneaking in, or going up the red carpet, not invited, but as my character, Jana Bates. That was the whole idea, that she was a Hollywood actress getting some awards, so they’d hide the cameras. It was very cleverly done.
I haven’t seen it for quite a long time. I think it’s now called The Fanatic, but when we shot it, it was called The Last Horror Film. It had a superb camera person, Tom De Nove, and a cast of really good actors and, of course, Joe. He was the whole heart of it, and again, it was magical. He made it his own. I was so lucky to work with him three times. We were going to work together again, but things never seemed to work out, and he sadly passed away, but I have many wonderful memories with him, doing the shows with him…His persona was larger than life, but he gave of himself so much. He was such a good person, and such an incredible actor. I know he worked with Stallone and De Niro and Pacino. He worked with all these amazing actors, so he really knew his stuff. Hopping back to Maniac, I remember, at the premiere, that he had many of his friends, huge names like Robert Duvall.
Johnny: Jumping back to music, you appeared in the 1984 horror film, Don’t Open ‘Til Christmas, singing the song Warrior Of Love. You really rocked that song…
Caroline: Thank you.
Johnny: …So was it ever released as a single?
Caroline: No, because it was never finished. We never finished it. It only had a few choruses and the hook-y bit, but other than that, we didn’t finish it. Maybe my daughter can finish it because she sings it so nicely, she really does, but yeah, I enjoyed that little bit in it. It was good fun. I’ve never seen Don’t Open ‘Til Christmas. I was asked if I could be in it for my husband, George, who was doing the special effects for the film. The director asked if I could do something, so we just did the song.
Johnny: Staying with music, you collaborated with Gary Numan on the songs Pump Me Up and The Picture, both of which are excellent examples of new wave music. How did that colllaboration come about?
Caroline: You know, I’m not too sure. I think it was because of a journalist called David Witt, a very sweet man who’s still going writing articles. Gary Numan was doing some new music at the time, and David knew I did a little bit of singing, so I think he mentioned it. It was really through him that Gary heard Tar And Cement, so I think that’s how it came about.
The first time I met Gary was at Shepperton. He’d already recorded the songs, so I had to slot in my voice. If I’m being honest, it was a little too high, but he was Gary Numan, and he was just so creative and so nice. I saw him in 2019 at a place called The Roundhouse, a very famous venue in London, and it was absolutely packed with fans. He lives in L.A now, but he comes back here to tour.
I’d only met him a few times within the studio, but then he asked me to do a television show called The Main Attraction. Gary was on it, and one of his backing singers couldn’t be there, so I just had to do a few oohs and aahs, which I did (laughing). He was there with his band, his brother and all the boys in white, which Gary was wearing at the time. Now he’s wearing all black all the time. He really looks good.
Johnny: Well, I have to say that Gary Numan is a man I definitely admire. We have the same autism spectrum disorder, and I admire him for being able to accomplish what he has in spite of it.
Caroline: He has. Exactly. It hasn’t stopped him. He’s just brilliant, and you are, as well. You’re asking amazing questions and, I must say, digging deep. He’s got some really interesting quirks. I like it. Gary Numan is amazing, and very charming and sweet, a lovely man, and he deserves every bit of success he’s had, and will continue to do so.
Johnny: Oh, definitely. I’ll definitely have to consider reaching out to him about an interview, but to stay with you, you made a memorable appearance in the music video for Adam Ant’s Goody Two Shoes. What stood out the most to you about that shoot?
Caroline: I loved working on it. Mike Mansfield was the director, and he chose me to do it. He’d been to my acting agent, and he chose me because he used to get many actresses to do bits in his videos. I think one of the most amazing things was Adam showed me the storyboards. He was a wonderful artist who knew exactly what he wanted. I was so impressed by how he took control, with Mike Mansfield, of how he wanted to shoot it and get it right.
It was just such a creative process, and he was so clever and charming. The bigger they are, very often, the more charming and modest and sweet they are, but he was lovely to work with. I loved working with him. I went to see him not so long ago at the O2 in London, which, again, is a big music venue and was packed with his fans. I took my singing daughter back, and we had a chat. He’s lovely, and doing well. He had a bit of a break, but he’s back and recording. He loves doing live performing. He does quite a bit in the states. Have you seen him live?
Johnny: Honestly, the number of live concerts I’ve seen over the years, I can count on one hand, but I do hope to be able to see him someday.
Caroline: It’s well worth it if you’ve got the chance, because he’s really good.
Johnny: I’ll definitely have to check him out. Jumping back to film, you played Carol Manning in the horror film Slaughter High. Having had the great pleasure of meeting you, which I’ll discuss more later, I know how kind and sweet you are, so was there any hesitation on your part about playing such a nasty character like Carol?
Caroline: She was horrible, wasn’t she? (Laughing) Not a nice girl at all. She deserved everything that happened. She was so not kind. Not really. I wanted to branch out, and recently I’ve been doing some different stuff. That’s always good, especially the older you get. You’ve got to try and branch out. You never know until you try. I wanted to do that because she was so mean.
It was such a great group of people. I got to work with some great people. None of us were particularly well-known, but I think it was well put-together. I think it was slightly meant to be tongue-in-cheek, so people got that. If they like horror films, they’ll see that. My husband directed that, and he did a really good job with it.
Johnny: Definitely. To jump ahead, in the New 10s, you appeared as the title character in a series of online short films called The Landlady. A very intriguing role, how did you come across that part?
Caroline: I was just asked to do it. It was two new filmmakers, directors/writers, and they’d seen me at a venue where you can go to talks with various actors or directors. I think they met me at one of those, and they said, “We’ve got a project we might like for you to have a try at”. That’s how I got to do it, and again, she was a horrible character (laughing). Nasty…I certainly wouldn’t stay in her place at all if I’d met her.
It was quite a bizarre film. We shot it in a few days, and I was working with some lovely young up-and-coming people. That was a joy, and Jason Read was wonderful to work with as he did the camera work. I really enjoyed that. Again, it was a bit of a challenge. I felt ugly, which was perfect for the part (laughing).
I did another project before COVID called The Haunting Of Margam Castle. I haven’t seen it yet, actually, but I enjoyed it, and again it was a very different part for me. It’s vital to branch out. It really is. You never know what you’re going to get. I’m amazed I get asked at my age, but hey, I mean something.
Johnny: Speaking of intriguing projects like that, you played Baroness Bartov in the tribute to Hammer Horror, House Of The Gorgon, a project I donated to on IndieGoGo. What made that movie so special to work on?
Caroline: I got to work with my daughter, Georgina. She’s the lead in that, and I got to work with my bestie, Martine Beswick, too, and Veronica Carlson and Christopher Neame…All of us Hammer Horror stars back together. I hadn’t seen Christopher for years, really. I’d seen him a little after we did Dracula A.D., but to see him and work with him again was wonderful. I’d never worked with Veronica or Martine, although I speak to Martine almost every day. Just to work with those people was wonderful, and for my daughter, Georgina Dugdale, who was wonderful in that fillm, it was very special. Have you seen it at all?
Johnny: It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, but I do plan on re-viewing it. It’s always wonderful to reunite with old friends, and work with family.
Caroline: Yes, exactly, and the director, Josh Kennedy, I think he was 23 when he directed that. I was speaking to Martine about him, and apparently he’s got his own film studio, so well-done, him. He lives in Texas, so we shot it all in Texas, which was great. We had such a lovely time shooting there. It was wonderful. Again, this was before COVID.
Johnny: To go to my next question, you’ve been a guest of many conventions, including Chiller Theatre, where I had the great pleasure of meeting you in October of 2018.
Johnny: Yeah. I regularly post pictures as profile pictures or cover photos on my Facebook page.
Caroline: Oh, that’s so cool. So you were there when they had the bomb scare…
Johnny: Yes, I was.
Caroline: Oh, my goodness. That’s amazing, Johnny. That’s so brilliant! (Laughing)
Johnny: So I have to ask: What’s been the most rewarding part of attending conventions for you?
Caroline: Meeting the people. I’m amazed at the people who come and say hello. They don’t have to buy anything. They can just come and say hello, and they know your work. I’m amazed at that. I’m very, very humbled that people come along and say hello. I love the shows. I miss them so much. I think Martine and I were penned to do last year with Kevin Clement, but if it comes back, maybe next year. Who knows? I hope they’re all well and keeping okay over there.
I miss the shows. I was meant to do a Monster Bash last year, but I couldn’t do it last year because I hadn’t been very well, and then this year I think I was meant to be doing it, but we weren’t able to because of COVID. The world has stopped a bit, hasn’t it?
Johnny: Well, it seems like it’s starting back up again, so hope springs eternal.
Caroline: Absolutely, for sure. We have to have hope. That’s what we need as human beings…Hope and love. We need that so much, and we’ll do it. We’ll get it right if everybody gets their acts together and cares about other people and not only themselves. That’s very important because we all live in this world. It’s not the best of times, but we make the most of it, don’t we?
Johnny: We certainly do. Staying with conventions, what’s been the most wonderful piece of memorabilia you’ve signed at a convention?
Caroline: I sign a lot of arms and legs, huge posters, the wonderful artwork people have done…I can’t remember one thing that stands out because I’ve signed many things over the years I’ve been doing them. Quite a few times I’ve signed, and then the next year they’ve gone back and I see it tattooed. Quite a few people have done that. To me, that’s extraordinary. I mean, gosh, you want that tattoo when you’re older (laughing)? “Yes”. That’s so sweet. I’ve been tattooed many times, along with Christopher Lee. That was somebody’s leg. Several people have gotten my face tattooed. I just think, “Are you sure you want to be stuck with that?”, but they’re art pieces, and there have been quite a few of those, which is always astounding to me, really.
Johnny: Well, I definitely think that’s cool. I mean, I’ve never gotten a tattoo myself…
Caroline: Nor have I. It’s quite a big step, really.
Johnny: But those are definitely hardcore fans.
Caroline: They are. They’re wonderful. They’re so sweet. I’ve got two that come to see me wherever I am, Gail and Nathan. I mean, there are so many people who come, and they’ve been doing it for years and years. They come and they write. They’re just so sweet and so kind. Humans are naturally very, very kind. I do believe that the good certainly outweighs the bad. Do you?
Johnny: I absolutely do. Staying with Chiller, as you mentioned, a major event that happened at the October 2018 Chiller Theatre was that bomb threat, leading the hotel to be evacuated, so what did you do during the bomb threat?
Caroline: Well, we were whisked away. There was quite a few of us, and I think we were going to have something to eat. That was in the afternoon, wasn’t it? We hadn’t had lunch, and it was going to be a few hours, so we were whisked away, and somebody around there knew where we could go. We went to this lovely place that I can’t remember the name of, but it was a sort of Mill-like place, and we had a lovely lunch together. There was a whole lot of us actors. We bought our own lunches, but it was lovely. That’s what we did, and then the driver got a call saying we could go back, so we all went back. That was it. Did you got for one day?
Johnny: I was there for all three days of the show.
Caroline: You were there.
Johnny: I met you again on Sunday after having met you on Saturday…
Johnny: I got some more autographs from you, and we did take another picture or two…
Caroline: How sweet.
Johnny: I can recall that you were in the room with Ann Robinson from War Of The Worlds. She had a screen that was playing War Of The Worlds, and when I heard a siren going off in that movie, it was like, “Oh, Jesus, not again!”.
Caroline: (Laughing) Not again! We need to get ready. Yeah. She was lovely. That was a really nice room. I enjoyed that. I was delighted to be there. Kevin is so warm and lovely, and I love doing his show. I look forward to doing it again.
Johnny: Absolutely, and it was a great honor to meet you there. To go to my next question: You’re the first British person I’ve asked this of, and as you’re British, I’m sure you have an opinion on this: Which band do you prefer, The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?
Caroline: That’s a difficult one. I don’t prefer either. I love both (laughing), but they’re different. They’re hard to compare, really. I love the Stones. They’re still together and rocking, aren’t they? Really, they’re amazing. I love their stuff, just so different. Both are amazing writers and performers.
I’ve seen the Stones a couple of times live, and I also saw the Beatles when I was very young. Again, my dad’s friends had gotten us tickets to go see them, myself and my friend. We were 14, I think. We saw them at a place in Brighton, which is by the sea, called The Dell. They just had Please, Please Me, and it was magical. I’ve also seen the Stones on the Bridges To Babylon tour, and at Wembeley in London, which was fabulous. I like both, really. I can’t compare.
I’m also a Fleetwood Mac girl. I’ve always loved Fleetwood Mac. I saw them first at the Rose Bowl in L.A, and then my daughters took me to see them about three or four years ago for my birthday. They were over here at the O2. I love them. I know all the notes.
Johnny: Well, I do have another comparison question. This I’ve asked of several British–adjacent talents over the years: Which do you think is funnier, The Benny Hill Show or Monty Python’s Flying Circus?
Caroline: Again, very different (laughing). Gosh. I would say Monty Python, really. It’s slightly more cerebral, but Benny Hill was more like Carry On. It was very slapstick and funny. I’m not sure today if it would work because of all the women’s jokes. He was a very funny man, and the girls were very lovely. I don’t know if that would work today, while I think Monty Python would still work. I think I would be more of a Monty Python girl, there, really, but Benny was lovely. A big hit with the boys, too (laughing), but he was a very clever chap.
Johnny: Well, that means Monty Python is up 3-1 on this. I now do come to my final question. I’ve asked this of quite a few of my previous interview subjects recently, and you kind of alluded to your answer to this before, but what are you most looking forward to once the chaos of coronavirus passes?
Caroline: Meeting people again. People. I miss people. I miss the shows. I miss the work. I’ve missed it. Obviously, I have my beautiful daughters, and I lost my husband last year. As long as my girls are fit and well and doing okay, that’s my main thing, but also meeting people, getting out there and doing some work.
I’m taking part in a cartoon on Thursday. I’m going to be recording at a studio, my first time back in a studio. She’s great fun, and a very interesting character to play. We’ll see what happens there, but I’m excited to do it (laughing). I work in bits, and there’s a nice American director in L.A who put feelers about to my agent about how maybe there’s something we can do once it settles down. He has a very good reputation, so we’ll see what happens there.
Johnny: That sounds fantastic, and that does it for my questions. I thank you again for taking the time out of your schedule to speak to me. I do have to say that I’ve been wanting to interview you ever since I met you at Chiller Theatre.
Caroline: Oh, that’s so sweet, Johnny.
Johnny: Before we do wrap it up, I just do want to say that you’re definitely one of the kindest talents I’ve ever met, and you’re still a great beauty after all these years.
Caroline: Oh, thank you so much.
Johnny: Oh, you’re very welcome, and apologies for sounding like a pig here, but in my opinion, you’re the sexiest actress who has never done a nude scene.
Caroline: (Laughing) Almost, but not quite.
Johnny: I hope I don’t cause offense with that comment.
Caroline: Of course you don’t. Leave a little bit to the imagination. I’m so not a prude, but it didn’t feel right. You’re very sweet to talk to.
Johnny: Oh, no problem, and thank you very much for your compliments on my questions. With any luck, we’ll meet at Chiller Theatre again someday.
Caroline: I hope so. Yes, come out next year if we do. It would be lovely to meet you again. Lovely speaking to you, Johnny, and take care of yourself as well.
Johnny: Likewise, and thank you for the compliments on my questions.
Caroline: They were really good questions. Take care, Johnny.
Johnny: You, too. Be well.
Caroline: Thank you. Bye.
I would again like to thank Caroline Munro for taking the time out of her schedule to speak to me, and I would again like to thank Caroline’s manager Jayne Crimin for connecting us. I hope you all enjoyed reading this interview, and as always, if you have any ideas for talents you would like to see me interview in the future, please leave a comment.
Who will I Flashback with next? Stay tuned.