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Untold Tales of Hollywood #98

Film #20: The Hitcher(1985)
Directed by Robert Harmon
Production Designed by Dennis Gassner

The experience of making The Return of the Living Dead was so brutal, that I quit the Film Biz for nine months after making that film.

Then I was sent the script for The Hitcher. It was a terrific screenplay by a young new writer, Eric Red.

As I recall, Eric was hitchhiking from the Midwest to Hollywood to break into the Film Biz when he got stuck in the middle of nowhere with only enough money to make one last phone call. He used his very last quarter to make a call to set up a meeting in regards to his screenplay for The Hitcher.

Eric miss-dialed and called the wrong number with that last quarter.

The number he accidentally called was that of an agent — Dan O’Bannon‘s agent. The agent listened to Eric’s pitch over the phone and immediately wired him the money to complete his trip to Hollywood. Red’s screenplay was sold immediately and his career in film suddenly skyrocketed. What are the odds?

Robert Harmon was signed to direct The Hitcher. When I got hired, Robert was out of town on a location scout.

“Since Robert’s not here, what would you like me to board?”

“Start with Page One, Scene One and go.”

Which is what I did. I began to fill the walls with my storyboards for The Hitcher. Members of the film’s crew would occasionally pop in to see what I was doing. From every single one of them I got the same bizarre response. Each person gasped looking at my boards and said something to the effect of “Holy cow…” or “Oh my God…” Then they would leave the room. I was mystified as to their response. It felt really weird.

The line producer came to see me.

“We want to show you Robert’s first film as a director. It’s a short called China Lake. We’ve set up a screening for you at 6:30 PM over at Technicolor.”

I drove over to Technicolor. I had the screening room all to myself. I told the projectionist he could roll film.

China Lake began to unspool.

I was shocked. China Lake looked like a film I had directed but had forgotten I’d directed it. Robert Harmon’s visual storytelling and screen composition styles were exactly the same as mine. Now I knew why I was getting such weird reactions from The Hitcher team.

Robert Harmon got back from his location scout a couple of weeks later. He came in, briefly glanced at the boards, and proclaimed, “Yup. That’s exactly how I’m going to shoot it.”

I pictured the hitchhiking monster as a skeletal, vulture-like character and drew him that way. I thought Harry Dean Stanton would have been perfectly cast as this devil-like hitchhiker. Here’s how I boarded the film’s opening:


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Untold Tales of Hollywood #97

Film #19: Spawn of the Dead (1985)
Screenplay by William Stout

It seemed like every crew member on The Return of the Living Dead had written a sequel to Dan O’Bannon‘s directorial debut, myself included. I won’t recount the plot or show the zombie designs I did for my story, however, as I still would really like to make this film! I don’t want my original elements lifted and used in another film before I get a chance to use them.

I followed the same rules that made The Return of the Living Dead so special, beginning with what Dan O’Bannon called “Principle Corpses”. Each zombie design was unique, interesting and colorful; no George Romero-style zombies.

Toward the end of the making of The Return of the Living Dead there was an attempted coup. Thinking I was on board with the coup, I was told that the film was going to be taken away from Dan O’Bannon.

“He’s gone over budget. We can get him on that.”

I was deeply offended by this attempt to wrest away the movie from its creator. I immediately went to Dan and reported what was going on behind his back.

“Thank you, Bill. I knew you were on my side.”

Ron Cobb told me that Dan tended to see things in black and white terms.

“You’re either Dan’s good friend or his great enemy. There are no shades of gray in Dan’s world.”

The morning of the coup attempt Dan came in prepared.

“Before we begin,” Dan stated, “My accountant is here. I am writing a check for $100,000 to cover our film’s budgetary overruns.”

The opposing side had suddenly lost their key pawn in this power struggle. Their opposition melted away; they had nothing to stand on. Dan was still the movie’s director and we proceeded to finish the film.

Producer Tom Fox (1935–2004) asked me to be the production designer for a TROTLD sequel. I read the script he gave me. I was appalled. Two thirds of it were a direct rip-off of Dan’s screenplay. Tom mistakenly thought that the success of TROTLD was due solely to its “Living Dead” title. He didn’t realize that it was the originality of Dan’s script and story that made TROTLD so special.

I told Fox in no uncertain terms that not only I would not be designing the film but that I would sue him if he used the zombies I owned and created from the first film, particularly the Tar-Man.

I confronted the writer in regards to his plagiarism. His reply was total bullshit.

“Dan’s film is so great, yet I feel not enough people got to see The Return of the Living Dead, so I kept as many elements from the first film as possible in the script so that the public would come to realize what a genius Dan is.”

So, you’re celebrating the originality of Dan and his works by stealing from him?

Wow.

A few sequels to The Return of the Living Dead were made. I haven’t seen any of them. Our little ($1.5 million) original film has turned into a gigantic cult film. Whenever a screening is announced in Los Angeles, it sells out within minutes. The cast and I were guests at various horror conventions, traveling together to a couple of dozen shows over the course of a year or so. We discovered that for some people, The Return of the Living Dead was their all-time favorite film.

Initially, there was only one promotional appearance for The Return of the Living Dead. Dan and I were guests at RiverCon in Louisville, Kentucky. It made a kind of crazy sense, as our film was set in Kentucky. The smoke, fires and explosions at the end of the film was actual Louisville news footage from a chemical disaster the city had suffered years previously.

On the way back to Los Angeles I got to meet Dan’s parents (on our stopover at the St. Louis airport, as I recall). Another piece of the puzzle that is Dan O’Bannon was revealed to me by Dan just before I met his mom and dad. When Dan was growing up, he told me his parents ran a roadside attraction that contained fake freaks.

Some of the folks we met at RiverCon went on to create WonderFest, one of my all-time favorite conventions, a Louisville show I attend every year. Each year I’m in Louisville, I usually get approached by a local TROTLD fan who whispers to me that he knows where where we shot every scene in Louisville. I don’t have the heart to tell him that we never left the L. A. area during the making of our movie and that most of the film was shot inside a Burbank, California warehouse.

One year WonderFest celebrated an anniversary of The Return of the Living Dead. Among the invited guests were Linnea Quigley, James Karen and myself. Just before I got up on stage for a TROTLD panel I was approached by the moderator, my great ol’ pal and talented artist-writer Frank Dietz.

“Bill,” he confided, “We’re going to pull a trick on Linnea. Jimmy is going to pretend that you shot the entire film in Louisville. Are you in?”

“I am definitely in.”

I took my place at the onstage panel table. We began discussing the making of the film.

At one point, James Karen said, “You know, I think for me, the best experience I had was shooting the film here in Louisville.”

Linnea looked confused and stunned.

I joined in.

“Yes; the folks here were so friendly and helpful during the making of our film.”

Linnea looked as if she had just entered The Twilight Zone. Jimmy expanded upon our lie.

“I think my favorite person here was the mayor.”

“Yes,” I added, “He was a great guy. He helped us so much.”

Jimmy took our fib into the stratosphere.

“He was truly remarkable. He had a hollow wooden leg which he filled with the finest Kentucky bourbon. He’d ask you if you wanted a shot. If you said ‘Yes’, he would do a handstand and let you fill your glass from the spigot in his wooden leg.”

“He was so generous,” I added.

“And incredibly kind,” Linnea chimed in. She was now convinced that we had made the film in Louisville, that she had met the mayor and had tasted the bourbon from his hollow leg. She began to innocently add her own false memories to the conversation.

We eventually let her in on the fact that we were joking.

“Oh my God,” she said. “I thought I was losing my mind.”

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Untold Tales of Hollywood #96

I’d like to make this final post on The Return of the Living Dead about its creator, writer-director Dan O’Bannon.

Photo by William Stout

If you’re a long time follower of my blog/journal, then you’ll recognize the rest of this post, as it was written in 2009 as a revealing tribute to Dan that I wrote after he had passed. I think these tales of this extraordinarily talented guy bear repeating.

O’Bannon Tale #1: Dan was fastidious in regards to climate control. He constantly was messing with (and breaking) the thermostats in the Burbank warehouse where we were shooting the interiors for The Return of the Living Dead.

His climate concerns were not limited to the set. They carried over into his home life, too.

One day he got into a conversation with the fellow who was regularly fixing his air conditioning. He quickly discovered that the repair guy was my Uncle Buddy (small world, ain’t it?). My uncle always has done excellent work; he knows his stuff when it comes to heating and cooling systems (he’s retired now). So, whenever anything went on the fritz in the O’Bannon household, which was often due to Dan’s own attempts to “fix” things, he called the air conditioning company, always demanding that “Billy’s uncle” (Dan couldn’t remember my uncle’s name) be sent out (my Uncle Buddy still calls me “Billy”; he’s known me since I was a baby). My uncle loved working at Dan’s home and he loved Dan and his eccentricities.

O’Bannon Tale #2: I’ve mentioned previously that Dan’s tales often emanated from his own intense neuroses. O’Bannon was probably the most paranoid guy I ever met. He tapped that paranoia as a writer, creating classic scripts for Alien and Blue Thunder.

While making The Return of the Living Dead, I was in the process of buying a house with the Conan the Destroyer money I had squirreled away while living on my per diem down in Mexico City during the making of the film. Dan had just been through the process of buying a house.

Now, Dan was a researcher. He loved to research everything. Buying a home was no exception. On our hair-raising drives (when Dan was driving we ALWAYS missed our freeway exits) together to location scouts and our sets, Dan gave me the benefit of all of the house research he had just done.

Dan had determined that the absolute best house to own was a Spanish adobe-style home. He told me, though, that Spanish adobes had one crucial drawback.

“The walls aren’t machine gun proof.”

So, at enormous expense, after purchasing his very expensive Santa Monica Spanish adobe abode, he had the house’s walls taken out and had steel plates inserted inside of them before replacing them. Now they were machine gun proof! Problem solved!

O’Bannon Tale #3: Like I do, Dan O’Bannon loved comics. Before he died, I had enthusiastically agreed to drawing a whole series of comics with him. We were both very excited at the thought of collaborating again. I had read so much of Dan’s work and knew him so well that I was convinced we were going to produce some great things together and make history in the world of comic art.

You may or may not know this, but Dan O’Bannon wrote what was to become one of the most influential comic book stories ever published. No, it didn’t do a lot to influence other comics. But it changed motion pictures forever.

The story is called “The Long Tomorrow.” It was illustrated by Dan’s friend Jean Giraud — better known to comics fans as “Moebius.” I believe it originally appeared in the French comics magazine Metal Hurlant and was reprinted here in the States in Heavy Metal.

Hunt it down. The entire look, ambiance and feel of the story was used by Ridley Scott as the visual template for Bladerunner. Scott even duplicated some of the panels as shots in his magnificent film.

That was not the first time that Dan had changed film making forever.

In the mid-1970s Dan was hired by George Lucas to design the onscreen computer graphics in Star Wars. Not long after that, Dan was hired by Alejandro Jodorowsky to work as the Special Effects Supervisor on Jodorowsky’s filming of Frank Herbert’s Dune. The phenomenal cast that was slated for this epic sci-fi adventure included Orson Welles and Salvador Dali. Together, Jodorowsky and O’Bannon assembled an amazing art department that boasted Moebius, Ron Cobb, Chris Foss and H. R. Giger.

I have to halt this story for a moment to emphasize the historical importance of what Dan and George Lucas have done for the art of cinema, art direction-wise.

History lesson: The first production designers were originally called “art directors.” The two most important art directors (IMHO), William Cameron Menzies and Anton Grot (I borrowed heavily from Grot for my production design of Masters of the Universe), came from an illustration background (they have been reported to have been children’s book illustrators but I have yet to find a single copy of any book they illustrated. Their work does look like early 20th century children’s book illustration, however). Menzies began in the silent era with Douglas Fairbanks Thief of Bagdad; Grot designed the Errol Flynn swashbucklers.

Later in his career, William Cameron Menzies not only designed Gone With the Wind, he storyboarded the entire film in full color. On top of that, he directed a third of the film, including the famous “burning of Atlanta” sequence.

This presented GWTW‘s producer, David O. Selznick, with a problem. The film’s other director, Victor Fleming, did not want to share directing credit for the movie.

Selznick came up with a solution.

He approached Menzies, explained the problem, and then presented Menzies with his solution. Although Menzies would not get a director’s credit, Menzies would receive the on-screen credit “Production Designed by William Cameron Menzies.” That was the first time the title “production designer” was ever used. It quickly caught on and soon there were both production designers and art directors on movies.

Here’s the basic difference now between the two (and this varies from picture to picture): The production designer is responsible for everything you see on the screen except for the performances of the actors. That’s sets, costumes, make-up, special effects, props, etc. The art director usually is in charge of the Art Department’s budgeting and scheduling, with hands-on involvement in regards to the entire Art Department.

Decades later, the backgrounds of Production designers and art directors had changed. No longer were they from an illustration background. Instead, nearly all of them came from the world of architecture. In the studio system, set designers slowly worked their way up the ranks to become art directors. If they were lucky (and careful politically), some eventually became production designers after a few decades.

George Lucas changed all of that by hiring illustrator Ralph MacQuarrie to design Star Wars, along with a team of other talented artists (although Ralph didn’t receive the production designer credit; neither Moebius nor Syd Meade received the production design credit they deserved for Bladerunner).

Jodorowsky and O’Bannon shared the same vision, using comic book artists and illustrators to design Dune.

Unfortunately, the financing for Dune fell through and the project was suddenly dead. At that same moment in time, though, O’Bannon’s (and Ronald Shusett’s) script for Alien was greenlit. Ridley Scott brought Dan to London to work on the film. Dan mentioned the aborted Dune project and the great art department that had been assembled. Dan suggested that Ridley consider hiring the Dune Art Department to design Alien. Scott looked at their work and agreed.

The success of Star Wars and Alien briefly opened the doors for guys like me to enter the film business. I didn’t have to become an architect and slog away for decades in the hopes of becoming a production designer. In 1979 Ron Cobb (a production designer after five years in the business, beginning with Dan on Dark Star) hired me to work on Conan the Barbarian. That led to other films, and within three years (and with the mentoring and guidance of Ron Cobb and Pierluigi Basile) I became the production designer on an American Godzilla film (sadly unfilmed) and then The Return of the Living Dead.

The door pretty much slammed back shut not too long after that, although there have been a few exceptions (my friend Tim Bradstreet, known for his Punisher covers, just designed a film).

Dan O’Bannon had that vision, though. He knew that visual excellence in one medium could transfer and translate well to another medium. Bless him.

Dan and I attended the cast and crew premiere of Lifeforce, a film that Dan had written (with Don Jakoby) that Tobe Hooper had directed. I much preferred the film’s less pretentious and more honestly descriptive working title, Space Vampires (its title in the UK). In many ways, Lifeforce was a space program/sci-fi version of The Return of the Living Dead. I highly recommend Lifeforce, if only for the abundant nudity of the exquisite Mathilda May.

I was working with Tobe on the remake of Invaders From Mars (that Dan had written with Don Jakoby) at the time. Early on, Dan would visit me in the Invaders art department and suggest things to include in the film. I could tell that Dan was creatively frustrated and eager to direct again.

If you haven’t seen Dead & Buried, a 1981 film Dan wrote with Ron Shusett, definitely track that baby down. It’s got one of the best openings in horror cinema. The rest of the film plays out like a classic Twilight Zone.

Dan told me he wrote Blue Thunder in response to the police helicopters that would hover over his abode at night. They drove him nuts. He used to stand on his rooftop and angrily flip off the cops above him as they shined their Night Sun down on him.

Total Recall was a Philip K. Dick adaptation (from We Can Remember it For You Wholesale) by Dan and Ron Shusett (it was later stated that Ron wrote the picture by himself and that Dan loaned his name to the writing credit to make it easier for Total Recall to get funding. I don’t know if that’s true or not). Originally, the lead character was a meek little Walter Mitty kind of guy (which makes much more sense, dramatically, than the film’s final incarnation if you think about it). When Arnold Schwarzenegger signed on for the lead (which turned Total Recall into a hot “go” project) nearly everything had to change, script-wise, obviously.

Let me end with a bit about my experience with Dan in recording the commentary for MGM‘s The Return of the Living Dead DVD:

Dan and I met at the recording facility. He was anxious. Dan was carrying what looked like a large briefcase. I got distracted by one of the producers. When I turned back to Dan, he had vanished.

Getting close to our taping time, I decided to use the restroom. I found Dan inside. His case was on the sink, opened. It was a thoroughly stocked professional makeup kit.

“I just can’t trust anyone to make me look good, so I always do my own makeup for camera.”

I watched as he skillfully applied various substances to his neck and face.

“You know,” he confided, “I’ve never done this before, this commentary thing.”

“Don’t worry, Dan,” I replied. “I have. I’ve done this live at conventions. They’d begin our film and hand me a microphone. I did live commentary throughout the entire movie. It’s not so hard and the fans love hearing all of that behind-the-scenes stuff.”

“But I’m worried I’ll just clam up, that I won’t be able to think of anything to say.”

“You’ll think of things.”

Dan seemed truly worried.

“You’ll cover for me if that happens, won’t you? I’ll be depending upon you. Really.”

“Sure. Not a problem, Dan.”

We entered the sound stage. Each of us were miked and our volume levels were set. They projected our film on to a huge screen. All we had to do was begin talking about whatever came into our mind about the making of the film, triggered by the images we were seeing.

Dan had no need to worry. From the very first frame of the movie, Dan was off and running; I could barely get a word in edgewise. He was stepping all over my favorite TROTLD stories but I figured Hey! — this is Dan’s movie, it’s his moment to shine. So, I pretty much just filled in the few gaps where Dan took a break to breathe or when he actually paused for some reason or another.

That same day we shot the DVD’s Designing the Dead documentary (a short doc on my production designing of the movie), so I ended up getting my own proper face and voice time anyway. We both had a lot of fun that day.

And that DVD of our little film became MGM’s biggest selling DVD of the year!

Bless you, Dan. I’ll always think of you with amazement, awe and a smile. I am very, very lucky to have known you and to have counted you as one of my friends. Sleep well, my brother, at last.

Dan and Me in the TROTLD cemetery.
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Charlie Watts 1941–2021

From my forthcoming book, Legends of British Blues:

Charlie Watts (Charles Robert Watts)

Main Instrument: Drums

Born: London, England; June 2, 1941

Died: London, England; August 24, 2021

Recommended Cuts: “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” (The Rolling Stones). Rolling Stones friend Pete Townsend claimed that Charlie’s drums weren’t properly recorded until Exile on Main Street, which showcased five terrific blues songs.

Charlie Watts grew up in Wembley near London, a truck driver’s son. At age ten, Watts discovered jazz. He began playing music on a banjo he had turned into a snare drum. Watts’s parents gave him his first drum kit in 1955. He practiced drumming to jazz records. He studied at the Harrow School of Art until 1960, then worked as a graphic designer for an advertising company while playing drums with local bands in coffee shops and clubs. In 1961 he met Alexis Korner, who invited Watts to join him in Blues Incorporated. In 1962 Charlie met Brian Jones, Ian “Stu” Stewart, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. After they matched his pay rate, in early 1963 Watts agreed to join The Rolling Stones.

Watts has had many non-Stones projects. In the late 70s, he joined Ian Stewart in the rootsie boogie and blues band Rocket 88, which featured many top UK jazz, blues and R&B players. He toured the world in the 1980s with the 32-piece Charlie Watts Orchestra (which included Rocket 88’s Jack Bruce) and released several LPs. Charlie’s previously-moderate use of alcohol and drugs became problematic, especially when he became addicted to heroin: “I became totally another person around 1983”, he confessed, “and came out of it about 1986. I nearly lost my wife and everything over my behavior.” It was Charlie who selected bassist Darryl Jones (ex-Miles Davis and Sting) to replace Bill Wyman after Wyman left the Stones. In 1991, Watts formed the Charlie Watts Quintet, a tribute to Charlie Parker, releasing Warm And Tender (1993) and Long Ago And Far Away (1996), jazz performances of American standards. The Charlie Watts Tentet recorded Watts At Scott’s (2004) at Ronnie Scott’s. In that same year Watts was diagnosed with throat cancer and underwent radiotherapy. The cancer went into remission.

In 2006 Modern Drummer voted Watts into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame. In 2009 he performed with The ABC&D of Boogie Woogie. Watts continued to play with the Stones until August 5, 2021 when he announced he would not participate in their 2021 tour due to health reasons.

Trivia: Charlie had a compulsive habit of sketching every new hotel room he occupied immediately upon entering it. He kept every sketch, but didn’t know why he felt the need to do this.

During the mid-1980s, an inebriated Jagger phoned Charlie’s hotel room late at night asking where “my drummer” was. Watts reportedly got up, shaved, put on in a suit, tie and freshly shined shoes, descended the stairs and punched Jagger right in the face, saying, “Don’t ever call me ‘your drummer’ again. You’re my fucking singer!”

The British newspaper The Telegraph named Watts one of the World’s Best Dressed Men. In 2006 Vanity Fair elected Watts into the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame where he joined his style icon, Fred Astaire.

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Untold Tales of Hollywood #95

I argued against Dan O’Bannon‘s nihilistic ending (I felt that after all of the horror our characters had suffered, at least a few of them deserved to live) — but lost. Here are my design elements for the end of the film:

This was our first day of shooting. We shot this up near the top of Angeles National Forest. Early in the shoot I was scurrying around, getting stuff set up and didn’t notice the blades of a chest-level rear truck lift. I ran right into them and broke some ribs. I got treated by our nurse but told her to keep my injuries a secret until I had mended.

This was a rough of mine for the matte painting. I don’t do matte paintings, as it requires very specific knowledge (like matching the film grain, which is why a lot of matte paintings look so impressionistic; if you paint it too tight or photographic, it doesn’t work) to do well.

I storyboarded the stop motion animation of the nuclear shell being loaded into the cannon. I know I’ve still got those boards but, for now, I can’t find them. When they turn up I’ll include them on this page.

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Untold Tales of Hollywood #93

Here are some more fun boards and a vengeful practical joke:

There are all kinds of producers in the Film Biz. Graham Henderson was our line producer. That’s an actual job — not just a title. Graham oversaw spending, budgets, schedules — facing and dealing with all of the workaday difficulties and problems in making a film.

Tom Fox was a different kind of producer. He was our money guy. That is, he came up with the money needed to finance the film, either out of his own pocket or, most likely, by finding investors. Other than that, I could pretty much tell that Tom knew absolutely nothing about what it takes to make a movie. Nevertheless, that didn’t stop Tom from having a vanity license plate on his car that said “PRODUCER”.

Oh, please.

Tom’s wife and kids wanted to be in the movie. Tom guaranteed them, being the Big Shot producer of the film, that having them appear in the film was merely a matter of his demanding it.

Director Dan O’Bannon refused his demand. Tom hammered away at Dan until finally, weary of Fox’s nagging, Dan agreed to put Tom Fox’s wife and kids in the movie.

Then, Dan approached me.

“Bill. I want you to design the most uncomfortable make-ups you can come up with for Tom’s wife and kids.”

Dan later approached the victims (Tom’s wife and kids).

“Okay; we’ll be shooting your scenes tomorrow. Show up at 5:00 AM at the make-up trailer to have your zombie make-up applied to your faces and bodies. Don’t be late.”

At five the next morning, the wife and kids endured a several hour make-up process. Once the make-up guy was done, Dan approached them.

“Remember…Don’t touch any of your make-up or you’ll have to have it reapplied all over again. I’ll call you when we’re ready to shoot your scenes.”

The day was hot and muggy. The make-ups that had been applied started to itch. As the day wore on, the itching increased to the point of being painful. Dan approached them at lunch time.

“Remember — don’t touch a single bit of your make-up.”

Late in the afternoon, the wife and kids were in extreme agony.

At 7:00 PM we finished that day’s shooting. Tom’s wife and kids were itching like crazy and were in tears, crying from the pain and discomfort.

“I’m sorry we didn’t get to your scenes,” Dan told them. “We’ll get them tomorrow. Be sure to show up at the make-up trailer tomorrow morning at 5:00 AM.”

They never showed.

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Untold Tales of Hollywood #92

We built the basement domain of the Tar-Man inside one of our Burbank warehouse sound stages.

I consider character entrances incredibly important. I get angry when I watch a film and see the entrance of an important character just thrown away without any serious thought given to the character’s introduction to the audience.

An example of a great entrance is the first time we fully see Boris Karloff as the Frankenstein monster: Anticipation has been built — we are finally going to see the face of the Frankenstein monster for the very first time. It has been wrapped in bandages up until this point. We see a shape slowly emerging from the shadows — but that shape stays in silhouette. The creature finally steps into the light. But do we see its face? No! The monster has backed into the light; we’re seeing the back of his head. Now, however, there is no way we can look away. The monster slowly, slowly turns around, until, finally, we see that great Jack Pierce make-up for the first time. Then, Wham! Wham! Wham! — we witness a series of three quick jump cuts as the camera zooms in on the monster’s face.

I took the visual introduction of the Tar-Man just as seriously. Here are my storyboards for that scene:

As you can see, I did a similar visual tease of the audience in introducing the Tar-Man. Silhouetted, then a glimpse of a dripping hand hits the light, then ribbons of light showing us pieces of the Tar-Man’s face, then the entire face of the creature itself. As the Tar-Man approaches Tina, the camera moves closer to her face, too, as we are seeing her from the Tar-man’s point of view.

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Untold Tales of Hollywood #91

The role of the Colonel Glover was given (on my advice to Dan) to my wife’s (she was an actress) friend Jonathan Terry.

This handmade address sign by me sported the name and street number of the Colonel’s home. The translation of “Estrella Oscura” is “Dark Star”, the name of Dan O’Bannon’s first film.

We shot the General’s San Diego home in Palos Verde Estates. It was inside the home that my limited (I hate using a ruler) skills in designing high-tech stuff came into play.

This cabinet was put together rather quickly. So quickly, in fact, that the Bondo adhesive to the phone plug hadn’t yet dried. You can see the gooey attachment coming apart in the very first cut of the film. We had to promptly create a matte to block the audience’s view of the taffy-like Bondo as the plug adhesive was coming undone. Very embarrassing!