Harry Guerro couldn't believe his good fortune after making the 3,000-mile journey from New Jersey to the West Coast in late 2012 and unearthing a 35 mm print of the 1975 horror thriller, "The Intruder," featuring a cast of Hollywood legends.
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"I discovered the film in a storefront storage location on the outskirts of the Mojave Desert along with hundreds of other films that had been neglected and left to rot under terrible conditions for decades," Guerro said.
Even more amazing, the film had slipped into total obscurity. "I was not familiar with the film at all - no one was. The film had no Internet Movie Database entry and didn't appear on any filmographies of the principals," he said.
Now restored by Guerro's company, Garagehouse Pictures, "The Intruders" was released Aug. 1 on Blu-ray (see www.garagehousepictures.com).
Long before the restoration, which took six months, Guerro saw the full film for the first time in his home screening room with friends. "We were all intrigued by what we saw and curious how a film with four name actors could remain lost for so long," he said.
Those name actors include two popular classic film stars - Mickey Rooney and Yvonne De Carlo - as well as Ted Cassidy (Lurch from "The Addams Family") and Chris Robinson, who also directed and wrote the screenplay.
"And I cast it, put the crew together, and shot it, all within six weeks," Robinson said from his home near Sedona, Arizona. But what became of the film after shooting? "I have no idea," Robinson said. "I wasn't involved in the editing and didn't even see the finished film, which was never released. I moved on to other projects and just forgot about it."
Robinson was living in Florida at the time and shot the film near Palm Beach on a budget of just $25,000. Pressed to write and shoot a film quickly by an investor who needed to spend the money as a tax write-off, Robinson came up with a plot based on a vague memory of seeing the old Agatha Christie murder mystery movie "Ten Little Indians."
"Guests are invited to a mansion and killed off one at a time, and I liked the idea of setting 'The Intruder' on an island so they couldn't escape," said Robinson, who quickly cast Mickey Rooney.
"He was living in Florida at the time, too," Robinson said. "He was just the nicest guy, always on time, and did everything you asked of him - a true gentleman and, in my opinion, one of the great stars of all time."
Robinson had directed Rooney the year before in "Thunder County" (also released under other titles such as "Convict Women") which also starred Cassidy.
"Ted was a real gentleman, very sincere, and just a nice guy," Robinson said. "We became friends, and I used him in three films. In 'The Intruder,' you'll see another side of Ted Cassidy, and he does something he was never able to do in any other film. You'll see something very interesting with Mickey, too."
The third big name cast in "The Intruder" was Yvonne De Carlo, known for her film work in the '40s and '50s and as "Lily" on "The Munsters."
"To be honest, I don't remember how I found her," Robinson said. "She may have been in Florida filming and was available, so I probably just made a call and got her. But there were no problems at all with her either."
Rounding out the veteran cast was Robinson, whose film career began in the late 1950s and extended to more than 100 film and television projects as an actor, director and writer. He became a regular on the '60s series "12 O'Clock High" and later, daytime TV, including "General Hospital."
He said it was "a big surprise" when "The Intruder" resurfaced. "For what I did with the limited time and budget available, I think 'The Intruder' was equal in quality to a lot of bigger budgeted films of the period."
"Bringing to light a lost film starring such beloved actors as Mickey Rooney, Yvonne De Carlo and Ted Cassidy should be of interest to movie fans and cinephiles everywhere," Guerro said. "It's not every week where a movie like this is found and released after 40-plus years."
Nick Thomas has written features, columns and interviews for more than 650 newspapers and magazines. See www.tinseltowntalks.com.
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