home plays overview hot news films tv photos download shop discussion best scene study

all the sites

Steven Berkoff early films


 

 

From Clockwork Orange to Rambo: "Films have transported me to many lands, but then I have usually been a passenger on someone else's carpet"

Berkoff acts in films, television and advertisements to subsidise his theatre work. He is usually typecast as the villain. His performances in the roles are professional and enjoyable (Rambo) and where he is allowed to play other characters (Revolution) he excels.  After Beverly Hills Cop Berkoff could have cultivated a lucrative career in films.  But he had little interest in such films other than subsidising his theatre work.    The cinema's loss is our gain.

Berkoff´s character Harry in his short story Agent (from Graft) says "most films had little space for such quixotic creatures as actors. Characters were now divided into two archetypes in the Hollywood lexicon; ´good guys´ or ´bad guys´...everything is reduced to primary colours...as Shakespeare's weapon was verse, the film's weapon was the gun. It would severely strain their imagination to make a film without one".

Berkoff started films uncredited in bit parts, often non-speaking in the background, often with other up-and-coming actors such as Oliver Reed and Alan Bates.

 

The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw

A cowboy comedy with Kenneth More as a Brit who ends up as sheriff in the town Fractured Jaw, as lame as it sounds. Berkoff has a bit part.  Says Berkoff "There I was watching Jayne Mansfield go through her paces with Kenneth More; she was fascinating to watch as she was choreographed by her dance coach and singing her song. I was amazed as I heard the rich sound rumble through the set and saw her miming to the soundtrack" (from Free Association).  In Tales from an Actor's Life Berkoff suggests he was paid for £5 as an extra.  Connie Francis was the singer who dubbed Jane Mansfield's songs.  Directed by Raoul Walsh in 1958.


I was montys double I Was Monty's Double

A second world war drama about an actor playing the role of a decoy for British army leader Montgomery. An enjoyable lightweight piece, typical of British post-war films, with John Mills starring and Clifton James as Monty and the double.  One of Berkoff´s earliest appearances in film, a tiny shot as one of the soldiers when Monty inspects the troops.  Directed in 1958 by John Guillermin.

 

The Captains Table The Captain's Table

A comedy about a captain of a tug boat who takes over a luxury liner. He soon discovers the passengers are the real problem.  A predictable British comedy, lots of women who want to hook the captain, and a range of stereotype vicars and majors.  Berkoff and Oliver Reed are extras hidden somewhere in the depths of the ship.  Directed by Jack Lee in 1959.


The Devils Disciple The Devil's Disciple

A George Bernard Shaw play filmed with Olivier, Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster.  The setting is New England as the Americans fight for freedom against the British. Olivier is of course the British officer "Since we can't hang you, perhaps you will care to have tea with me". Lancaster is a preacher and Douglas, the Devil's Disciple, rebels against everything. Eventually Douglas takes the place on the gallows of Lancaster- there are a lot of hangings- "hanging is one way to achieve fame without ability". Not a bad film.  Says Berkoff "I was vaguely in some crowd, but watched the astounding Burt Lancaster cycle home after work" (from Free Association). The Berkoff scene features Lancaster but not Olivier.  Directed by Bond man Guy Hamilton in 1959.



 Steven Berkoff The Flesh and the Fiends title

The Flesh and the Fiends (American title Mania) directed by John Gilling in 1960.  A Peter Cushing horror film based on the Edinburgh grave robbers Burke and Hare.   It could be one of Cushing's Hammer films, but is actually a Triad Production.

Steven Berkoff The Flesh and the Fiends body in coffin

"The Burke and Hare murders in Edinburgh's West Port were infamous and destroyed the career of Edinburgh anatomist Robert Knox.  During the 19th century, there was a chronic shortage of cadavers for anatomy classes in Edinburgh. This gave rise to a new industry in the city: grave-robbing.  The best-known of the 'Resurrection Men' were William Burke and William Hare, who took the grisly practice one step further. The pair murdered at least 16 people during the period 1827-1828, selling the cadavers to Dr Robert Knox's anatomy school." (from Burke and Hare, The College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, 22 Sept 2021, the link is here).

Steven Berkoff The Flesh and the Fiends - Peter Cushing

Peter Cushing´s benign character comes over even when playing Knox, a (sort of) villain.  His interest is in saving lives by experimenting on corpses, but he doesn't care where the bodies come from.

Steven Berkoff The Flesh and the Fiends - Donald Pleasance

Donald Pleasance (right) is good in a leading role as the killer Hare.  It was his 22nd film, he would make another 166 films.  George Rose (left) as Burke appeared in The Devil's Disciple where Berkoff also had a small role.

Steven Berkoff The Flesh and the Fiends - Billie Williams

Samuel Beckett actress Billie Whitelaw brings subtlety to a cliché role, the tart with a heart of gold.  She of course becomes a victim to Burke and Hare.  More than 30 years later she would appear again with Berkoff in The Krays. 

Steven Berkoff The Flesh and the Fiends - Berkoff

Berkoff, front, has a bit role as a student listening to Cushing lecture.  He is uncredited and on screen for a few seconds only.  Editor Jack Slade also worked on Berkoff's next film Konga.

The encyclopedia.com gives the film a somewhat jaundiced summary including "Highly atmospheric representation of dismal, 19th century Edinburgh" (from encyclopedia.com click here).

Steven Berkoff The Flesh and the Fiends - Fiendish Ghouls

Some of the trailers give a previous title The Fiendish Ghouls.

All images from the DVD of the film and the DVD extras.


Steven Berkoff Konga title

Konga, a cheap King Kong copy.  In Diary of a Juvenile Delinquent Berkoff writes as a child he recalled being deeply impressed by King Kong.  Here he has an uncredited bit part playing a student- though for once he is upper-class.   Directed by Jack Lemont in 1960.  Associate producer  Jim O´Connolly would direct Berkoff in Vendetta for the Saint in 1969.

Steven Berkoff Konga

Dr. Charles Dekker played by Michael Gough returns from Uganda with Konga, a chimpanzee, and starts experimenting on him using his new growth drug.  Dekker reveals his megalomania "Through Konga I shall not only dominate a corner of the earth, but blaze a new trail in science".

Steven Berkoff Konga

The drug works increasing Konga's size and also seeming to convert him from a chimpanzee to a gorilla (albeit a man in a gorilla suit).  Konga is played by Paul Stockman "In 1961, Mr Stockman donned a hairy suit to play the titular character in Konga, one of only two British entries in the giant-ape genre (the other being the comedy Queen Kong from 1976) and a film that I’d regard as a guilty pleasure if I felt any guilt" (from Darren Stockford, Inside the Konga suit: Unmasking Paul Stockman, 23 Jul 2014,  from darrenstockford.com click here).

Steven Berkoff Konga Margo Johns  Steven Berkoff Konga Claire Gordon Michael Gough

Dekker's assistant Margaret (Margo Johns) seems to do little more than make tea, but she wants to marry Dekker.  Despite promises from Dekker, he seems more interested in student Sandra (Claire Gordon).

Steven Berkoff Konga giant

Her jealousy is aroused and she injects Konga with more serum, increasing his size even more.  He goes on the rampage.

Steven Berkoff giant Konga detroys house

While most of the special effects are poor, the scenes with miniatures are quite well done.

Steven Berkoff Konga  Steven Berkoff Konga

The army are sent in, and poor Konga does not have a chance.

Steven Berkoff Konga

Steven Berkoff Konga

Berkoff, left in both images, is one of Dekker's students though he doesn't have much to do in the film.

Steven Berkoff Konga breaking in

The film does get very silly.  The New York Times dismissed the film "the British "Konga" is nothing more than an overblown "King Kong," hammily played by Michael Gough and an improbable-looking ape" (Eugene Archer, New York Time, 16 Sept 1961).

Actor Jess Conrad who plays Sandra's boyfriend and would be a victim of Konga later appears 25 years later with Berkoff in Absolute Beginners.

Konga TNT

A 2020 film uses the Konga name for a giant gorilla.  "According to its credits Konga TNT is based on the Charlton Comics series of the same name which is in the public domain, not the 1961 film which is still under copyright. That’s despite the first issue being an adaptation of the film, published the year before its release... A UFO crashes in a remote jungle that looks like a Canadian forest and its power supply is retrieved by a tribe of Amazons. White, professionally tattooed Amazons who wear lipstick... There’s no attempt to integrate the creature into the footage either, it’s obvious he’s simply walking in front of projected stock footage" (Jim Morazzini, Voices from the Balcony, 19 Mar 2021, click here, included with kind permission).

Konga TNT

All images from the DVD of the film, and the trailer and poster for Konga TNT.

 



Prehistoric Women Prehistoric Women
also known as Slave Girls

An early bit part for Berkoff in a Hammer Amazon women film. A hunter stumbles on a prehistoric civilisation where the black haired women ruled the blonde girls (Slave Girls) and the men are kept imprisoned in a cave.  The white rhino is their god, and there are actually good images of the rhino as carvings, a statue, masks and live. But of course the film is mainly about girls in fur lined bikinis.

Steven Berkoff in Prehistoric Women

A young Berkoff on the right

Berkoff misses the girls. At the very end, back in the twentieth century, he has a negligible bit part introducing the hero to a visitor, who turns out to be a reincarnated cave girl the hero had fallen in love with.  Directed by Michael Carreras in 1967. The film was a cheapie, using the same sets as 1,000,000 years BC.



Steven Berkoff - Vendetta for the Saint - title

Vendetta for the Saint with Roger Moore as the Saint in a full length cinema story, but there is no more depth than in the shorter television episodes.  It was actually dual purpose, according to the DVD commentary- it was designed as two episodes of the TV series, but also together as a single movie.

Steven Berkoff - Vendetta for the Saint - Roger Moore

The Saint tangles with the Mafia, as a Don is dying and they seek a successor.  Directed by Jim O´Connolly in 1969.

Steven Berkoff - Vendetta for the Saint - Ian Hendry

Moore discovers one successor Alessandro Destamio (Ian Hendry) has a secret he wants the Mafia never to find out.  Hendry would work with Berkoff again on The Passenger and McVicar.

Steven Berkoff - Vendetta for the Saint - bomb

Berkoff plays  Bertoli an Italian henchman, with dark glasses and fake Italian waiter accent.  He plants a bomb in the Saint's car, but the Saint spots it and jumps seconds before it explodes.

Steven Berkoff - Vendetta for the Saint

Steven Berkoff - Vendetta for the Saint

Bertolli confronts the saint, but inevitably ends up being shot.

Steven Berkoff - Vendetta for the Saint - crypt

Moore discovers the real Alessandro Destamio is dead, and the person calling himself that is a fake and not the rightful heir to the Mafia leadership.

  Steven Berkoff - Vendetta for the Saint  Steven Berkoff - Vendetta for the Saint

Director of photography Brendan J. Stafford would go on to work with Berkoff on the UFO series.  Most of Stafford's photography is the usual workman-like but bland work that is expected, but he does manage to sneak in some more interesting shots with an assailant reflected in dark glasses (a la Goldfinger) and a bus reflected in a mirror rather than just showing the bus.

The novelist behind The Saint Leslie Charteris wrote the first Saint novel in 1927.  Vendetta for the Saint was a late novel written in 1964 and the DVD commentary states it was actually ghost written.

Roger Moore would move onto playing James Bond and Berkoff would appear opposite him as the villain Colonel Orlov in Octopussy.

Steven Berkoff - Vendetta for the Saint

All images from the DVD of the film.

 


click arrows for more pages

click for previous page click for index click for next page

 


home plays overview hot news films tv photos download shop discussion best scene study

all the sites

www.iainfisher.com / send mail / © 2001-2021 Iain Fisher