The following commentary on the film Project Kill comes from three of the people who knew Bill Girdler best.
Among other things, J. Patrick Kelly III was Bill's best friend, brother-in-law, and business partner. Joe Schulten handled the insurance for most of Girdler's movies, he was Bill's Best Man, and he also served as an investor and occasional FX artist. David Sheldon produced Project Kill, wrote the original story, and he also collaborated on several other popular Girdler movies.
J. PATRICK KELLY III: I flew over with Bill and Dave Sheldon months before we started the movie to scout locations. We got cheap seats on Philippine Airlines through our Philippine contact, who I think worked for or with, "Audie" Aquirre, whose father was the money man on the project. Anyway, I was always amazed that we flew back and forth on 747's with tickets that had no dollar amount listed on them. Oh well! Then we returned home. The deal was made that the "Aquirre group" would fund all the expenses associated with production in P.I., in exchange for the rights to distribute the movie in P.I. and surrounding countries. American International would fund film, key talent and post-production expenses for rights to the rest of the world.
Then I flew back over about three weeks before the movie shoot started and began location arrangements, hiring staff, renting cars, lining up local movie equipment, etc. I was put up in the brand new resort hotel complex that Mr. Aquirre was part owner of -- outside (South of ) Manila. We were pretty isolated there, but the resort was beautiful. Years later I visited again and noted that the Hotel complex had tripled in size and was a Mecca for Japanese tourists.
We received great cooperation from all levels of government and the people of P.I.. I was even made an honorary member of the Philippine Constabulary - their national police force. We needed only to ask for permission to use something and it was granted to us. Two incidents stand out most clearly in my mind. One was the delightful weekend cruise we had across Manila Bay to Corrigidor on board the Aquirre yacht, which was about a 75 foot junk style ship. The crew cooked a lunch of tropical fruits, wine and fresh fish obtained from a passing fishing boat we met at sea. Can't get it much fresher than that. On Corrigidor, they gave us the tour and it was awe-inspiring.
Another incident I recall was the trouble that erupted with Mr. Aquirre when they received the final bill from the hotel at the end of our visit. Seems they thought we would pay for all food, drink and incidentals - whereas we were of the opinion that all expenses at the hotel would be picked up by their side. A difference of about $20,000. over the three months as I recall. Boy! Was he hot - I stayed low, because I wasn't in on the financial dealings, so I couldn't say who was right. It did create a bit of a unpleasant chord at the very end of our visit however, and I often wondered if they greeted Billy as warmly when he returned to consider the next project over there - the trip where he died.
By the way, when you watch Project Kill, notice the shoulder patches on the uniforms. I designed those and had them made - based on the old Armor triangle patches from my Army days. A small but nice authentic touch I thought.
JOE SCHULTEN: I used to say Project Kill was a mediocre film with worldwide distribution. That's what it was meant to be. Some little guy from the Philippines called Billy and told him, "You can make a movie here real cheap. We'll take care of everything. Just come out here. We've got the equipment, the insurance, everything!" So he and Pat got something together and flew over there. Two days later, Billy calls me and says, "This guy doesn't have anything. No equipment, no insurance, no studio. Nothing." So I got in touch with a place in Chicago, they sent over all the equipment, and I rushed to take care of the rest.
Project Kill was supposed to be distributed in a lot of countries. Nancy Kwan was an international star at the time, and it was booked up all over the place. But the man who was going to distribute the movie was either killed or committed suicide right before the film was scheduled to come out. So the release was tied up in an estate dispute. I don't think Project Kill was ever released to movie theaters. I think it only showed up on cable in the eighties.
DAVID SHELDON: I conceived the story for Project Kill, adapting a story that I had written called "The Kill Machine." I gave it to my friend Don Thompson to
write as a new screenplay. I was supposed to direct Project Kill and Bill
produce it, but I was having so many problems raising the financing that I
had to let Bill do most of the directing. The intent of our partnership was
that we take turns directing and producing.
Project Kill was released in the theaters, though not a very wide
release. It has been on television quite a bit and there's a home video in
the stores. We pulled the picture from Arnold Kopelson (Inter-Ocean Films)
who was supposed to distribute the film overseas, but was taking too long. A
company called Sterling Gold tried to take it next, but the owner was found
murdered (organized crime style). Finally, I put it with Picturmedia who
released it theatrically and sold the home video rights. The CEO of
Picturmedia is Doro Vlado Hreljanovic. Picturmedia has done a poor job in
releasing the picture. It deserves more.