Ted V. Mikels on Astro Zombies by Vince Bonavoglia
From where did the idea for Astro Zombies' symbolic title sequence come?
I had NO MONEY for titles, so I asked the lab if I could bring them edited footage of background material, would they charge me only pennies. They agreed, so I went to a toy and novelty store on Hollywood Blvd. next to Fredericks' and bought two battery-operated metal 'automaton' robot fighters. I then took one of my Arriflexes, a roll of 35mm film loaded in a mag and took the whole shooting match to Griffith Park. I used a smoke bomb for visual effect, used a pola-screen filter and underexposed for day for night, and shot the entire title sequence myself. Saved a ton of bucks I did not have to spend.
The film was very much ahead of its time with its mind-boggling array of futuristic concepts. Although the writing chores were attributed to yourself and M*A*S*H's Wayne Rogers, from where did the bulk of the ideas come?
The idea for the original screenplay that I had written years earlier came from my head. I originally intended the movie to be realistic and futuristic, but years later, when working with Wayne, he thought it would be unique to make it "campy". Since he and Kenny Altose put up part of the tiny wherewithal for me to shoot, I went along with it.
What were Carradine and Satana like on the set? Did you have any difficulty in working with any of the cast members?
The stars were ALL a DELIGHT to work with. To this day, after roughly eighty films, I have NEVER had a single problem with stars or any cast member and I have always retained communication and friendships with everyone, cast and crew. I have been in constant touch with Tura Satana ever since, and am very close to her kids, especially Lani.
What was the origin of Dr. DeMarco's lab?
DeMarco's lab we had put together on a little stage in Santa Monica Blvd., the same stage where we shot the making of the Astro Zombies, etc., and used the memory extractor, and the blood exchanger. All of these things I had in my original script. I dug up ANYTHING for props, as I DO NOT BELIEVE in renting props or having anyone supply them.
Who was responsible for the Astro Zombie's fantastic appearance?
For the headpieces of the Astro Zombies, I designed them, including the photoelectric cells that generated power for the heart-pump to work. Tony Tierny was experimenting with rubber I had bought for him, and he made the two masks we had. More fun. I think one day I may produce them for sale on the Internet. Several people have expressed an interest in buying one, but in such very limited quantities, they would be very expensive, like two or three hundred dollars.
Other than the previously reported incident in which the local police and fire departments arrived while you were shooting, were there any other noteworthy occurrences that cropped up while filming?
When I was shooting the car driven by the woman in the opening, I had NO HELP WHATSOEVER, so I laid on the hood of her car and shot her driving along hand-holding my Arriflex. Probably very foolish because if she stopped for any reason I would have slid off and in front of the car. I had nothing to hold myself or the camera in place. In those days, I was a daredevil cameraman. Needed the shot so I had to do it. With today's costs, rented camera-cars, grips, rear-screen projection, chroma-keying, etc., that shot alone could have cost a great portion of my minuscule budget (maybe even ALL OF IT). I still love to shoot, and would be a DP (cinematographer) for any company, independent or otherwise, that would utilize my years of shooting experience. As of now, I have recorded as cameraman and/or director, over one and a half MILLION camera set-ups, and for the last several years, I direct all my films from behind the camera. LOVE to shoot (or directing for others if they would like). So far, I have started and taught hundreds of cameramen, and many other wanna-be filmmakers as well, and love lecturing on filmmaking at colleges, such as I recently did at Carnegie-Melon University.
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