THE SLEEPWALKERS

    This film was sadly never released as it was blacklisted by the British Unions at the time.
    The storyline apparently revolved around some shipwrecked individuals who encounter space aliens?! Some visual footage of the film exists at the BFI but cannot be released without the copyright holders approval. There is no audio track on the safety copy so it is unlikely to ever be seen.
    The BFI web catalog for the title is here

    From his personal archive, Stan provided a couple of grainy photos from the shoot, which you can see below.

    The Sleepwalkers

    • L-R: English actor Humphrey Lestocq, Dyan Cannon (later Mrs Cary Grant) & Stanley Morgan

    The Sleepwalkers

    • Also stars Morton Lowry & Charles Fawcett.


    Stan also recounted some wonderful memories of the film shoot:

    I had done a number of commercials for director Peter Seabourne, a helluva nice fella who told me he was about to do three back-to-back films for an English producer named Charles Dean (I can't find any trace of him on the web, not surprising in view of what follows!). I naturally pressed Peter for a role, and he sent me to see Dean in his London flat for an interview.

    Dean, a big teddybear of a man, said he was setting up a deal in Portugal, and was planning to begin shooting the first adventure film, entirely on location, in December (1959). He stressed that it would be a low-budget movie, that he was mortgaging his house to raise capital, and that he was determined to be the youngest British movie producer extant. The salary he offered was minimal (the equivalent these days of 500 a week), but the role was that of leading man with lots of action and a love interest with a Warner Brothers starlet! Did I want it?

    I ruminated for, oh, 4 nano-seconds. Of course I wanted it!

    In due course I learned that I would be flying out to Lisbon with English actor Morton Lowry, and met him in a Soho pub to get acquainted. Lovely guy, in his fifties, told me he'd knocked around with John Carradine and John Barrymore, and they were known, for some reason as 'The Three Jacks'. I detected on that occasion that Morty was fond of a tipple, so what followed in Portugal came as no great surprise. Morton was a likeable soul who had tons of greasepaint but not a single practical cell in his ageing body.

    The weather was appalling. Required to stay overnight in a Lisbon hotel, Morton got nicely sploshed on vino and fell off the tall stool in the hotel bar. I put him to bed.

    At 4am I was awakened by a battering on my door. It was Morton, telling me he'd gone down to the bar for a 'nightcap' and on return discovered his room, his luggage, and all his possessions had 'disappeared'. He was terrified. I managed to calm him and eventually found his room, and possessions, on a floor different from the one he'd reached after his 'nightcap'.

    The following afternoon and into the blackest night imagineable, in torrential rain, we travelled by train in a southerly direction, to a location we had never before heard of.(It turned out to Portimao, now extremely well-known). We sat on these wooden seats for hours and hours, surrounded by Portugese people dressed like gauchos, who could not speak a word of English. After an hour, I pointed to my watch and mimed a request to an old guy sitting opposite. 'Portimao...? I enquired. 'Ah...UNA', he grinned.

    One hour. Not bad. Morty opened another bottle of beer, one of six he'd bought from a female vendor on the train.

    One hour? No, what the old guy was telling me was 'The train arrives in Portimao, which is as far south as you can go without falling the sea, at one o'clock in the morning, and the best of luck, you soft-assed Brit...and welcome to Portugal and its 17th Century train seats.' Or something like that. And so we eventually arrived, cold, weary, hungry and rain-sodden. Morton had managed to consume a quantity of beer en route, and he, at least, arrived happily at 1am.

    We were met by the producer's assistant, aged seventeen, and driven to a large, unoccupied villa located, from the close roar of the pounding sea, on a cliff edge. Suddenly, there were Morton and I, abandoned, in this creepy, cold, practically unfurnished house. What to do? Go to bed.

    We each chose a room, said goodnight. I tested the rock-hard straw mattress, wondered how life could possibly get worse.

    And then it did.

    The lights went out.

    Utter blackness.

    A wail from Morton's room. 'STAAAAANNNN!!'

    Fortunately, Morton was a smoker and possessed a box of matches! It contained six.

    It took five matches to locate the fuse box, set in a wall in the cellar stairwell. I opened the cupboard. Eureka! A stub of candle. We lit it with our last match.

    Smoke drifted from the fuse box. I could see the reason immediately. Littering the floor of the box were lengths of wire - no, not fuse wire- electrical cable of varying thicknesses. Someone, obviously as practical as Morton, had experimented with different colours and had decided brown would be nice.

    I chose the thinnest wire, managed to peel off the insulation, and wrapped it around the terminals. Shoved in the fuse. Flicked down the switch.

    LIGHTS!!

    I think Morton cried.

    In a state of euphoria we mounted the stairs, reached our rooms, turned to say a relieved goodnight.

    And the lights went out.

    I think Morton cried.

    What followed that episode was two months of utter chaos and disaster.

    Mine was a 'leading man' role, playing opposite a very young Dyan Cannon (later to become Mrs Cary Grant). A very promising role for me.

    The film was shot entirely outdoors, on the beach and on the cliffs of that lovely coastline. Shortly after shooting commenced, Dyan contracted a poisoned thumb from fossil grains, and went to local hospital to have it treated. That evening, we, a group of actors, were sitting in the Fortaleza Restaurant courtyard having a meal, when Dyan suddenly keeled out of her seat and struck the stone floor with her head.

    We got her back to the villa (the same villa Morton and I lived in), and called a Portugese doctor. He arrived, I kid you not, swathed in a black gaucho cape, wearing a black-and-silver Zorro sombrero, and smoking a cigarette through a long black holder. Could you make this up?

    Dyan awoke from a partial coma, unable to speak, and scratched her feelings of terror on the plaster wall beside her bed with her finger nail. Although not hospitalised, she was unable to work for a week or so, during which time she lost so much weight that when she eventually began to work she looked quite dreadful in the rushes.

    There followed a litany of disasters that beggar belief and the imagination. Homosexual relationships devloped among the crew that triggered jealousies which threatened the technical stability of the shoot; the producer offended the local populus by driving like a madman through the villages; Dyan became increasingly unhappy with her contract and discovered that the producer had not been telephoning her L.A. agent, as promised; the producer was running out of money; the weather turned cold and made outdoor shooting difficult for everyone (I spent quite some time in the sea, knife-fighting with dear old Morton who, mostly in his cups, was so potentially lethal that evenutally I had to refuse to do the scenes!)

    And the story? Now, promise not to laugh...oh, all right then, go on...

    We were a band of shipwrecked individuals who, in the opening scenes, drag ourselves ashore from a wrecked yacht, and find ourselves on a beach entirely land-locked by towering cliffs. Thus imprisoned, frustrated by many failed attempts to climb the cliffs, our relationships begin to disintegrate.

    But then - hold the phone! - on the verge of murdering one another, we spot a band of gauchos on the cliff top! Hurrah! We are saved!

    No, we are not. For they are not really gauchos, they are...yes, you've guessed it...they are ALIENS from a distant planet! Oh, was it really that obvious?

    I don't know who conceived the initial script. I do know that we all sat around daily, before shooting commenced and tried to repair the damage. But it was unfixable.

    The sad ending to the story is that the film 'The Sleepwalkers' was never distributed. The producer ran foul of the English unions by employing cheap Portugese non-union labour to haul the heavy equipment up the cliffs. The British union got wind of it (possibly shopped by our own technicians!) and, so we heard, blocked distribution.

    For me, it was particularly frustrating because it was my first major role, teamed with Dyan who was a Warner starlet, making out with her in the sand dunes, knife-fighting with Morton Lowry, interacting with Brit actor Humphrey Lestocq and American actor Charles Fawcett - it would have done my early career a heap of good.