Tuesday, October 6, 2020

"We fell from our horses right on the stones ..."

Born in Bremerhaven (FRG) in 1943, the family of a foreign worker. From the age of three he lived in Trnje, a suburb of Zagreb.

He participated in nine adaptations of Karl May films and spaghetti westerns. He was an understudy for Italian actor Mario Girotti, and one of the first car stuntmen in Yugoslavia. After 1968 he left the film industry. Retired since 2008. He currently lives with his family in Switzerland and Croatia.

Ra conversation with stuntman Milan "Emil" Mikulian took place in June 2014 in Croatia at the "Marasović" konoba, located in a picturesque place not far from the entrance to the legendary Velika Paklenica gorge. The conversation turned out to be more detailed than the one that took place in Platac.

Dear Emil, during our previous conversation you talked about how you came to the cinema. What about the other stunt partners who happened to be with you?

I must say we were very friendly back then and always held together as a large group. We looked after each other and helped each other. There was a very well-coordinated team. We talked like real friends.

How would you today, after 50 years, assess your work and the work of your colleagues?

You know, I rate it very highly. Superb! All the directors were always very pleased and did not skimp on praise. Elke Sommer speaks highly of our work today. By the way, she also surprised us with her courage. Actually, we often did stunts differently from what is customary in American cinema. A lot of sand is usually poured there. And we - no, we fell from our horses directly onto stones or onto solid ground.

It is known that you are very friendly with the chief stuntman Ivo Krishtof. How did you meet?

In 1962, Ivo was not yet with us, I did not know him at all. But after the first German western I got some pictures of myself in cowboy gear. Once Krishtof saw these photos from a Western at Yazo's ( * Croatian stuntman Shimun Jagarinets - Approx. Big Chief). He liked them. Krishtof asked what kind of guy he was and could I meet him? Yazo replied that he knew me well. That's how we met. Ivo started going to the hippodrome. He knew how to ride a horse! Ask - where? It's simple: his father always kept horses in the house. They were draft horses. Ivo and his father transported cement and everything that would be needed during construction on them. It was on these horses that Ivo learned to ride without a saddle at all. There was a river not far from their house, so he constantly brought water from there, and from the meadow - grass for the horses. In general, when he appeared at the racetrack, he was already an excellent trained rider. There we became close and have been friends ever since. He always calls me "Small". The fact is that Ivo is taller than me, and at that time he was bigger, so he gave me such a nickname. Today, when I call him on the phone and we speak.

Last time you said that "Among Vultures" is your favorite film. Did you remember something during the filming of this tape?

Yes, I remember ... It was then that I received my worst injury. During the attack of a gang of "vultures" on the convoy of immigrants, we rode directly onto the wagons. Here we are racing, next to a white mare of a partner. According to the plot, it is necessary to fall soon, but either we got close, or something else, my horse suddenly slipped and fell earlier than necessary. The impact nearly ruptured my hip joint. I am not exaggerating. The doctors later ascertained a serious crack. The pain was very intense. Director Alfred Vorer was on the set at that moment. He was the first to jump up to me: “Well, how are you? Alive?" The horse and I, both of us, continued to lie there. Then I was not really worried, but today, when I remember ... In general, they raised me. They wanted to be transfer me to a hospital in Split, but I would not agree. I somehow existed for a couple of days but the pain did not subside. They took an X-ray and showed the doctor, it turned out that there was a crack. After a while, it got a little better. Two weeks passed in this way. Then everything healed by itself, but I could no longer ride. All the remaining shooting was on foot.

They say that in this film, and in the other two, the German actor Götz Gheorghe always performed all the stunts himself. It's true?

Yes it's true. He started out as an amateur. In the first film "The Treasure of Silver Lake" he only learned to stay in the saddle, but almost immediately joined our group of stuntmen and spent all his time with us. He simply said, “I don't know how to ride. Teach me to do it well. " He was a great talent and had a big heart. Gheorghe watched our movements closely and learned a lot very quickly. I confirm that he did everything, absolutely everything himself! He didn't need any understudy. The directors, of course, did not support him. Had he been injured - and that's it, filming would have to be curtailed. But he was a risky man of very great courage, I must say. By the way, in pauses he often boxed with us ... Indeed, a multifaceted talent.

Stunts are dangerous. But injuries could have happened not only on the set. Remember the bus incident during the filming of Apaches Last Battle?

Quite right, there were funny things that happened off the set. I remember that incident well. We rode from the Alan Motel in a bus along the embankment road to the top of Mali Alan. From Alan - to Alan, so to speak ... It was early in the morning, a good fog was spread around. And on this well-known mountain serpentine road, a truck suddenly takes off from behind a sharp turn. A second - and he crashes right into us. The bus spun so that it almost blew down. Only a large stone detained him - it is still there. And the bus almost slid into the abyss. If it were not for the stone, I think that we would be gone. How far down - one hundred or two hundred meters ... In general, the bus was extremely unstable, and we got out very slowly. I was not hurt - not a scratch, but Yazo - he just dozed off at the moment before the collision - hit his nose hard on the front seat. Broken nose bleeding. As were many, by the way,

Did you have any funny moments during filming?

Sure. Here is one of them. I remember being at the Alan Motel, after a long hot day at work, we went for a swim. I must say, then everything looked different there. There were practically no buildings around, but a lot of thickets. Since there was no beach as such, and the motel was located relatively far from the coast, we decided to swim completely without clothes, which we left right on the sand. There were probably five or six of us. And so the five of us took a swim and were going to leave, but the sixth was not. He splashes in the sea. Tired of waiting for him and then they decided to play a joke - they took away his clothes. As a result, he had to return to the motel naked. Just imagine - there are many guests at the bar in the bar, and people were also running around. And then a completely naked man comes back past them. In general, there was a lot of noise and laughter ... Not for him.

When was the last time you stood in front of the camera?

In November 1968 a film was filmed in Paklenica with the tentative title "Bitka za Radar". I don’t know what the film was called after filming. I can say that this happened quite often. For example, we filmed with Italians in a western with James Mitchum. Its working title was "Izazov u Red Gras". I still don't know the exact name of the film.

I think I saw this movie. Several scenes were definitely filmed here in Paklenica. 

Yes Yes. In Paklenica, and also in Tomb. What was it called?

It seems to me that this is Massacro al Grande Canyon (1964) .

In German, the film was called something differently ( * "Not a cent for Ringo's head" / Keinen Cent für Ringos Kopf - Approx. Big Chief ). It also starred Krishtof and Yazo. Vladimir Medar, by the way, too.

Dear Emil, what did you do after making movies?

Since 1969 I have been living in Switzerland. Several years, as already retired. In recent years, I usually live in Switzerland somewhere from the end of September until Easter. The rest of the hot months my wife and I always spend with pleasure in Croatia in our apartment by the sea. My beloved wife's name is Duzhitsa, or Duda. We have a daughter and a seven-year-old granddaughter.


Interviewed by Big Chief, June 2014

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