The Mike and Roberta Findlay history page!

By Keith J. Crocker and Michelle Alexander

**To read the articles, just save them and zoom on the text**


Michael Findlay was born in 1938 into an Irish-American family and grew up on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, New York City. In between attending parochial school and avoiding his alcoholic nun aunt who was always around the house making a nuisance of herself, Findlay became a regular at seedy Times Square cinemas, checking out the early nudie films. Mike originally intended to become a priest before he discovered the lure of the grindhouses. In the early 1960s Findlay began working at ABC TV as an editor, where he became good friends with his co-workers, brothers John and Lem Amero, who themselves would become filmmakers. Mike was also studying at the City College of New York, as was a young woman called Roberta Hershkowitz...
Roberta Findlay (nee Hershkowitz) was born, according to herself, in 1948, though her real date of birth is possibly 1946. The youngest of three children to Hungarian immigrants, Roberta was raised in the Bronx in a tenement she claims is not far removed from the decrepit building housing the hapless residents in her film Tenement (1985). A talented pianist from age four, she began attending City College at fifteen, after graduating high school two years early.
At the college, Mike was running a program of silent movies on campus, and advertised for a pianist to accompany the films. It was Roberta who volunteered, who by then was a 16 year old music major. Thus fuelling the beginning of an intense decade-long personal and professional relationship which bore a series of distinct, ultra low budget S & M tinged sexploitation product before both partners branched off directing XXX fare.
Mike and Roberta quickly fell in love, and with their parents insisting they marry, did so when Roberta turned eighteen. Roberta was obsessively infatuated with Mike, abandoning her music studies to collaborate on a number of films with him and the Amero brothers. For the first two features they collaborated on, Body of a Female (sadly a lost title) and Take Me Naked, Roberta persuaded Mike that she play the female leads for fear of her husband being tempted by other women. Ironically, in the early 1970s the couple’s relationship disintergrated when Roberta left her husband for distributer Allen Shackleton. Sometime before this, Roberta gave birth to a daughter by Mike – Findlay clinging desparately to hopes that a baby would repair the marriage. This was not to be, as Roberta callously adopted the child out when Mike was away on a business trip. Hit with the double whammy of his wife leaving him for another man and giving away their daughter, Mike was beyond devastated. Both Mike and Roberta threw themselves  into work, Roberta becoming one of the first female hardcore porn directors, and Mike veering into gay adult cinema.
On May 16, 1977, it looked like things were looking up for Mike Findlay. He had developed a 3-D camera, and was meant to be demonstrating the prototype at the Cannes Film Festival. However, May 16, 1977 also marks the date of a horrific tragedy. Findlay, holding his camera and about to board a helicopter on the roof of the then Pan Am building (now the MetLife bulding) to take him to JFK Airport, was decapitated by a falling rotor which had detached from the helicopter. He was killed instantly, and cinema sadly lost one of its most innovative and transgressive low-low budget filmmakers.
Roberta Findlay, after dumping the loathsome Allan Shackleton after he punched her in the face, causing her to fall down a flight of stairs,  went on to direct a series of ultra-cheap horror films in the 1980s, assisted by her long-term partner, the late Walter Sear.  Sear founded the legendary Sear Sound, the oldest recording studio in New York City and today Roberta, long retired from filmmaking, runs the studio.
-bio written by Michelle Alexander


Some historical gold here – a thankfully digitally preserved copy of City College’s student newspaper ‘The Campus’, dated December 6, 1961, features an article on Michael and Roberta’s film/music collaboration.  Go to Page 5 to read about this pivotal moment in time...(MA)


Article on Roberta Findlay's collaboration on a presumably lost film, 'Double Circle', with an all-women crew. From 'The Daily Times', Salisbury, Maryland, May 10 1973. (MA)


An interview with Roberta Findlay from Film International Magazine, Volume 1 Number 2 May 1975 (KC)

 






Here is my original SNUFF poster that I bought from a grouchy WWII veteran named "Marty" who ran a framing shop in East Meadow, NY. He had a ton of posters, lots of exploitation and horror material. He never really valued those posters, sold them for real cheap. My SNUFF poster cost me $2.50. This was in 1987. I don't want to even imagine just how much it would run for today. By the way, it's extra special because it is announcing the films premier, which was February 11, 1976. I'll be posting tons more Findlay movie material in the next few weeks, so hang tight! (KC)











 New York Times articles dating May 17 & 18 covering the accident on top of the Pan Am building which killed filmmaker Michael Findlay and several others on May 16, 1977. (KC)
 





An interview with Roberta Findlay from Take One Magazine, September 1978 (MA)


An interview with Roberta Findlay from Fangoria #52, March 1986 (MA)

An interview with Roberta Findlay from Crimson Celluloid, c.1987. Known as the only Australian interview with Mrs. Findlay to date...special thanks to David Nolte (MA)