For years it seemed that Harlington Film was to be consigned to the dustbin of history. After an initial succession of profitable films in the 1940s and 1950s, a slew of disappointing returns through the 1960s threw the future of the studio into uncertainty.
However, just as all hope seemed lost, the studio was saved in the early 1970s by two main factors: the renaming of the site to the now familiar Harlington Straker Studios and the surprising breakout success of their first major production – cult science-fiction film Was It Only You I Saw? (1973).
The producer of the film, Ed Straker, went on to become one of the biggest names in the British film industry. Today, almost a decade on from the success of that film, the world still knows virtually nothing about the man who, despite the fame of his productions, prefers to keep firmly out of the spotlight.
It is with great pleasure that we can now reveal this never-before-published interview with Mr Straker as we caught up with him on the set of his latest production Where? Who? Why? which is set for release in mid-1983.
A21: Mr Straker, thank you for agreeing to this interview, we know your time is extremely limited and we appreciate you giving us a few minutes.
ES: It’s my pleasure.
A21: How does it feel to have been the driving force behind one of the most unexpected film success stories in the last decade?
ES: I guess I was just playing my part. A lot of other people brought that picture together.
A21: Nevertheless, Was It Only You I Saw? remains exceptionally popular today, with fans not just here in England, but in America and other countries around the world too.
ES: Yes, it went global. That was…. unexpected.
A21: What do you think was the secret of its success?
ES: The science fiction genre had a certain appeal.
A21: Audiences were ready for something new?
ES: Tastes change. Westerns had died out. The spy movies were winding down. Science fiction seemed to be the way to go. They had done some pretty big pictures in the States. Monsters from Mars, that sort of thing. Even here in England there were those sci-fi puppet shows and animations on television.
A21: They’re still quite popular, so much so that they’ve just had a repeat run.
A21: The following films stuck with the genre and Where? Who? Why? continues that tradition. We’re surrounded by props and sets even now.
ES: They don’t come cheap. By staying with the sci-fi angle, we can re-use sets and props with minor amendments at a fraction of the cost of building new ones. That helps keep these things inside a budget which, despite appearances, isn’t infinite.
A21: Are those the laser turrets from the X-1 space fighter?
ES: That’s right. Harmless of course. Made from fiberglass mostly, but they look good on camera.
A21: Your filming schedules are famously hectic. Is it true you have special permission to work 24 hours a day?
ES: Due to the complex nature of some of our productions, it’s often necessary to move equipment outside regular working hours. Naturally we try to minimize this where possible to avoid any unnecessary disruptions for the public.
A21: I must say many of these items are extraordinarily realistic. If I didn’t know better I’d say they’d been copied from the real thing. Where do the ideas for these fantastic designs come from?
ES: We have some very talented people in our art department.
A21: What can audiences expect from Where? Who? Why? when it reaches cinemas?
ES: It’s a more cerebral story. It deals with concepts that we’ve never tackled before. Asking the important questions behind the motivations of the antagonists.
A21: Intriguing! Oh, I think we’ll have to leave it there, your stage manager is trying to attract your attention. Looks like it’s urgent.
ES: It usually is. Thanks.
In the hectic life of a film executive there’s never a dull moment, it seems. We hope you’ve enjoyed this brief glimpse into the world of Ed Straker and Harlington Straker Studios and be sure to look out for their forthcoming film Where? Who? Why? when it arrives in cinemas next year.