Saturday, August 22, 2009


From: HOLLYWOOD EXILE Or How I Learned To Love the Blacklist
by Bernard Gordon

Other effects problems were more trying. Our premise required the creature, whether in his original form or in his subsequent forms (after he had inhabited the bodies of many of our characters), to turn burning red eyes toward the character he had chose to take over. With the lights dimmed, these frightful red eyes had the power to drain the contents of the victim's brain and add it to the accumulated knowledge in the creature's brain. When this happened, the victim's eyes turned a blank white, signifying that the victim had suffered a brain-drain that left him goo and dead. In the story, our leads, Cushing and Lee, playing the anthropologists, verified this when they began to catch on to the process and performed autopsies in our all-purpose freight car. They found the exposed brains to be smooth as bowling balls, having lost their normal wrinkles!
It was relatively simple to have the eyes go white. Carefully supervised by an accredited ophthalmologist, we arranged with a local optometrist (in exchange for a screen credit) to insert black white plastic covers under the eyelids. The actor could see nothing through these, but he (or she) didn't have to do much except lie down dead. Turning the eyes into red headlights as the audience watched was more difficult. I urged the cameraman to try working with the red reflective material used in roadside warning signs, the material that appears to light up brilliantly when the headlights of a car hit it at the right angle. My notion was to seal a bit of this material over the actor's closed eyelid. The cameraman was dubious, but he arranged a trial. That never worked. I felt I was running into resistance, that the film crew didn't like my idea and didn't make a strong effort to get the angle of the lighting right so that the red reflection would be caught by the camera.
I was willing to consider anything that would work. The special-effects people came up with a dandy solution. It sounds tricky, but it worked easily. A tiny package was concocted of a very small flashlight bulb behind a red glass lens. A hidden wire led from this to a switch held in the actor's hand and connected to a battery pack. The eye package with the bulb and red lens was sealed over each of the actor's closed eyes. When the tiny bulb inside the package was switched on, the light shone through the red glass lens and produced the appearance of a "normal" eye that glowed red. It wasn't possible to see the entire package, including the red lens, was actually placed over the actor's closed eye. This was certainly a case where the Spanish effects people and cameraman knew a lot more than I.

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