Saturday, June 11, 2011

Part 28: Ghost Soldiers becomes The Supernaturals production

Foam Latex needs to "vulcanize" or cook at a minimum of 140 degrees Fahrenheit for it to be "set".  Generally, this is done in a relatively expensive industrial oven and they can range in size from smaller models that are used for baking small prosthetic molds, to giant ovens that larger studios use for larger projects.  Neither big, nor small, Mark's studio, alas had not an oven large enough to bake our foam-latex fabricated suits.  So, what to do?

Mark and I, when we were living in a house in East Pasadena, had success by "building" a make shift oven using a plywood box, aluminum foil, bricks, heat lamps and a fan.  If it ain't broke, don't fix it.  Utilizing an open but vacant room in the building, we would creep in after hours, "build the oven" and then bake the foam all night only to disassemble the oven and return everything to it's proper appearance by the morning.

The oven is set up, ready for action!
Ahhhh, baked to perfection!  Note the thermometer on the post to the right.
We did the same thing for the gloves.  Using the hand casts we pulled spandex gloves over them, spatulated foam latex onto them, and baked them in the box-oven.  The task of painting most of the actual suits fell to me.  Mark designed a paint scheme that he wanted followed on all of the pieces and as the masks were painted, they were assigned to the bodies and then the paint was tied together.

Pax painting suits.
Foam latex glove is painted and nails glued onto it.
We all spent time molding head sculptures as they became available. Since we knew that they would be run in casting latex, all of the head molds were made with Pottery Plaster.

Ed and Bart at the molding table.
For some reason, I recall that we made molds two at a time.
And as the molds were completed, it was time to clean them.  Bart looks a bit tired of cleaning molds!
The wardrobe department sent over some uniforms for the Ghost Soldiers, but not only were they the incorrect color, but they weren't up to the standards that we were striving for.  Mark called in a friend of his, Lisa Jensen, who made and aged all of the costumes.

Since she worked so closely with the individual suits, she was able to design the tattered clothes in a way to hide seams, joins, and other construction challenges.

The suits are lined up, ready for final paint and assembly.
Bart's Ghost Soldier gets its wardrobe.
As the shooting day drew near, we prepared set kits that we'd need for the application and maintenance of the suits and effects on location.  Before fluorocarbons were reduced due to their environmental impact, there used to be a silicone-based medical adhesive known in the industry as "355."

"355" was very expensive and would be thinned with tri-fluoro tri-chloroethane (not sure if that is spelled correctly, sorry) which would "flash off" more quickly than be absorbed into the skin.  The viscous, clear liquid was not only the industry standard (and expensive!) but it was also offered in aerosol form.  We had cans of this Spray-355 that we would use on set to dress the final Ghost Soldiers with dried moss and fuller's earth.

Late afternoon, and Mark and Bart "salute" on their way to set.
Ed returns "the salute."
Shooting took place, for us, primarily at night since that is when the Ghost Soldiers would be attacking the cadets.  The actors playing the cadets would include Maxwell Caufield of GREASE II fame, Talia Balsam (who was Martin Balsam's daughter), and Levar Burton!  They were being commanded by a tough drill sergeant played by Star Trek's Nichelle Nichols. 

I wish I had tons of funny stories from set, but mostly it was just running around gluing fabric and moss over seams, getting overheated actors water, and other typical set duties.  I do recall one of the non-Ghost Soldier actors being a bit...inebriated on set and vomiting on their boots just prior to a hasty bolt to some bushes to continue their purging.  I can also recall one of the Ghost Soldier actors, who was from Belgium, telling us that he and his friend used to cruise around the French Riviera looking for young, female, American tourists.  After gaining their trust, as soon as the women were distracted, these guys would privately photograph each other genitals with the girl's camera and return it, unseen.  They would laugh hysterically later imagining what these young women would do once they would return to American and get their photos back from the lab.

It took a couple of years for THE SUPERNATURALS to get released and I don't remember seeing it in theaters.  I think it went right to video in 1986.  It was difficult for me to be objective about the movie.  I recall being disappointed in how much the Ghost Soldiers were used in the film.  We had put in so many hours and I recall that they were mostly shown back lit and in shadows.  All of the gags that we did were either cut away from,  cut down  or cut out (for pacing?).  Mark and his friend Anthony had gone back months after we wrapped to do inserts that Mark told me later ended up on the cutting room floor.

In hindsight, none of it mattered.  THE SUPERNATURALS was one of the most entertaining film experiences I have had and was an appropriate introduction to a career in motion pictures.

1 comment:

  1. Just really loving this account of your career and experience with such detail Shannon, went back to your first post and reading each - enjoying the heck out of it.