Robert Fripp as Lemmy Caution and Debbie Harry as Natacha von Braun
I recently came across the following entry from an issue of Radio Times dating from April 1979, describing an upcoming edition of a BBC 1 radio show called “Roundtable”:
Debbie Harry joins Kid Jensen to review the week’s new records.
Ultra blonde, ultra bombshell Debbie Harry is turning her thoughts to the big screen. She is thinking of starring with Robert Fripp (who used to be in King Crimson) in a remake of Alphaville, a 1966 film by Jean-Luc Godard. Blondie are recording their fourth album, tentatively called Eat the Beat.
Wait, what? Debbie Harry and Robert Fripp, to appear in a remake of Godard’s Alphaville??
It’s all true.
If you want the TL;DR version of this post, it goes like this: Around 1979 Debbie Harry and Chris Stein were interested in remaking Jean-Luc Godard’s futuristic 1966 movie Alphaville. Amos Poe was going to direct it, and there are images from a screen test that featured Harry and Fripp in character, images that were leaked to the press at the time.
The rest of this post is basically just regurgitating the little scraps of evidence I was able to cull together from scouring Google for information, all of which is still pretty interesting and corroborates that last paragraph.
Anna Karina and Eddie Constantine in Godard’s Alphaville
Amos Poe was going to direct the movie. He was part of the NYC underground filmmaking scene in the 1970s, having directed, with Ivan Kral, The Blank Generation as well as a 1978 feature starring Debbie Harry called The Foreigner. Poe was also involved with Chris Stein’s legendary public-access show TV Party.
On the obsessive King Crimson fan site DGM Live there appears a puzzling entry in “Robert Fripp’s Diary” for the date January 8, 2000. It’s puzzling in that it’s ostensibly something that Fripp wrote but he lapses into a kind of Variety promotional-speak that includes a sarcastic, unflattering reference about Fripp himself. Wait, here, just read it:
Several Blockbuster videos are waiting for return. One of them is “Dead Weekend”, chosen as an accompaniment to brain-death & psyche-dribbling earlier this week. Several surprises accompanied its opening credits. Co-producer Amos Poe. Story by Amos Poe. Directed by Amos Poe. Co-starring (with Stephen Baldwin) David Rasche.
In 1978 Amos Poe was to direct the remake of Godard’s “Alphaville” starring Debbie Harry as Natasha von Braun, Anna Karina (?) in the original film. The detective Lemmy Caution was originally played by Eddie Constantine. For the remake, Debbie’s co-star was to be—yo! wait for this one—an English guitarist almost universally disliked by his former band-buddies. The film was never made, but the stills from his screen-test were fabbo to the max. One of them even appeared on the front page of Melody Maker in December 1978.
If that isn’t enough of Fripp’s NY history to bore you senseless, wait about.
David Rasche is a superb actor whose break came in a Broadway play “Shadowbox” around 1977/8. He played “Sledgehammer” in the cod tv-policier series, and showed up in various films such as “Cobra” (he dies quickly & unpleasantly) & “An Innocent Man” (with Tom Selleck) as the bent cop who frames Tom & sent down F. Murray Abram (?). David & I were both in a Transactional Analysis group in NYC during 1977. A very good man, and one who holds my respect.
With this card, six degrees can now carry me anywhere in the world at all.
If it really was written in 2000 by Fripp, then at a minimum we can say that he’s got a wicked sense of humor, no? Apparently he takes his reputation as being “almost universally disliked by his former band-buddies” at least somewhat in stride…..
[Update: A commenter on Facebook points out that DGM is the label Fripp and others founded in 1992, which certainly suggests that the diary entry is kosher.]
Fripp points out that a still from a screen test involving the two co-stars appeared on the cover of Melody Maker in 1978, and that’s perfectly true. The date was December 23, 1978, and the cover looked like this:
Victor Bockris’ book With William Burroughs: A Report from the Bunker contains the following story:
Debbie recalled that when she and Chris met Goddard [sic] to discuss remaking Alphaville he had pretended that he could not speak English and said through an interpreter, “Why do you want to do this movie? You’re crazy!”
So apparently Godard tried to persuade them not to make the movie. I’m guessing it wasn’t his influence that caused the movie not to be made.
In Lester Bangs’ 1980 book Blondie (yes, Bangs wrote a book all about Blondie) we fnd this tidbit: “When Debbie and Chris were on WPIX’s ‘Radio, Radio’ show in Manhattan (in Feb. 1980), a fan phoned in to ask, ‘Is Alphaville complete?’” Thus proving that more or less regular people were following the Alphaville story and wanted updates.
This is probably the best image of Fripp and Harry in character, and I wish it existed on the Internet in a larger format. It appeared on page 153 of a book called Making Tracks: The Rise of Blondie. Anyway, here it is:
Here are a couple of images taken from DBG Live (mentioned above) of screen test images featuring Fripp and Harry:
In 1979 Fripp released a solo album called Exposure, for which an atmospheric promotional clip was created—in a DM post from 2012, Richard Metzger speculated that the clip was directed by Poe. So if nothing else, it provides a tantalizing clue as to what the Fripp/Harry/Poe version of Alphaville might have been like:
Here’s Fripp and Blondie performing “Jet Boy” on May 7, 1978 during a CBGB benefit for Johnny Blitz, drummer of the Dead Boys:
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Debbie Harry: The Hippie Years