Sunday, November 8, 2009

Happy Birthday, Invader!

Twenty years ago, on the first of November, principal filming started for a movie that had the working title of The Killing Edge. It was released in theaters all over the world with various names, but eventually came out on VHS as Invader! Later (much later), it was released on DVD.

Here you see the German cover.

This is the Japanese Cover.

And here we have the British cover.

Here's my story on the film.

I headed down to Virginia on Halloween, and somewhere in Maryland, the drive chain on my car broke, leaving me stranded. A state trooper came along, called a tow truck, and I wound up in a motel on Halloween night. The only good thing about that was that the motel had cable, and I got to watch Evil Dead, a film by John's friend, Sam Rami, who I was later lucky enough to meet at the premier for Invader!

The next day, I finally got down to John and Cindy's house, and started my part on the movie, which was, initially, to do all the computer work and hold down the fort and do administrative things for two weeks while everybody else was on location.

They started off the location shooting with one of the crew running an errand with John's car and crashing it. This movie was hard on cars at the beginning. There was another car it was hard on, too, and that was a little yellow sedan, which we put bullet holes in during filming. Later on, John became the hero of all the little kids in the neighborhood when he drove up in a car full of bullet holes.

While everyone else was on location, the Berlin Wall fell, and when they came back, everyone was asking about it. They were asking because other people were talking about it, and none of them had heard news reports or done anything but film a movie for two weeks.

Most of the film was done on location, one way or the other. The place we filmed in most often was the Prince Georges County Film Office, where we got into some really interesting things at one point with some dueling videotaping. Except for the initial two week location shoot, one of my main jobs was to document the making of the movie on videotape. But while we were at the Film Office, they wanted to document the making of the movie, too, and the video cameraman was blown away that we were also videotaping it, so he took a lot of footage of me, and we eventually got into a game of taping each other. The film office got a batch of this footage broadcast on TV, so I got to be on TV along with everyone else. There were some shots of me applying makeup to some of the actors in what looked like a glamorous dressing/makeup room, but was really the men's room at the Film Office. Of course, they interviewed John and Phil, and showed lots of action shots, which made it a fabulous trailer for the movie.

One interesting day, we were filming at some government office in PG County, and it was supposed to be a cafeteria in the Pentagon. It was memorable for several reasons.

First of all, we shot Robert Biederman.

Walter Suarez, who did all the explosive special effects for Invader and New Genesis, rigged Robert for it, and Robert was really nervous because he had never done it before. But Jack Lane fired a prop pistol at Robert, and he and Walter did a fabulous and very visual job of showing him getting shot!

Hans learned CPR especially for the occasion, right before we filmed him doing CPR. One of the "medics" that showed up to take over from him was a real paramedic, and was the one who taught Hans how to do it.

The other "medic" was a friend of John's who wanted to be in the movie. He was supposed to be in the military, but he showed up with hair so long that he could almost sit on it! Not something that anyone in the military would be allowed to have (except a woman who kept it up when in uniform). John gave him the choice of not being in the movie or of cutting his hair. He finally agreed to get it cut, but didn't know where he could do that. So, John had me cut it for him. I left it longer than was regulation military, but soaked it with water, and plastered it against his head in the back so it would look shorter. I heard later that his mom was delighted with it because she had been trying to get him to cut it for a long while. I heard that he even liked it, once he got over the shock.

That same day, I got to stand on a table with the video camera and pretend I was a surveillance camera and film a fight in the cafeteria.

We did one marathon day and night at the Film Office. We initially did a lot of filming in a conference room there, and one of the actors involved was George Stover, who has a cult following due to having been in all of John Water's films.

Later on, we did some shots that were part of the night scene in the film where the prototype fighter tries to kill everyone. During breaks in the filming, Hans Bachmann, Al Smith and Rick Foucheux did a little chorus line number, kicking up their feet. While they were doing that, Phil Cook grabbed the smoke machine and ran around behind them to add more foul-smelling "smoke" behind them. He came dashing back and dropped the smoke machine to the cement floor of the sound studio, where it struck a spark and burst into flames.

Matt Herath, who was slouched down in his chair, and looked like he was asleep, was actually totally awake, and yelled "fire!" before I could manage to, and I was paying attention. I guess Matt was, too. Phil skidded to a halt, ran back and grabbed a cardboard box, which he upended over the flaming smoke machine. Luckily, the lack of oxygen put out the fire before it could ignite the box. Matt yelled across the room at him "Oh, very good, Phil! I always use cardboard to put out fires!"

Right after I met Steve, who I later married, we needed to do some pick-up filming. Principal filming was over and we were in the process of editing it, so it was a bit later. I asked Steve if he wanted to be an extra in a film. He, and a bunch of his friends showed up to be in it, and we all played soldier for the day.

Well, there are a lot more stories I could tell, and I'm only telling stuff I saw with my own eyes, so it's only one person's view of the filming. There's so much more to say.


The Librarian trilogy is currently playing on TNT. Quest for the Spear is almost over, and Return to King Solomon's Mines is about to begin. But if you enjoyed the New Orleans parts of my Halloween post, check out Curse of the Judas Chalice later! There's a lot of good New Orleans stuff in it.

I hope you've been having a great weekend!

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