"9" by Mike Smith
A Day in the Life of an Astro-Zombie by ED Tucker
|GROWING UP FANBOY|
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century by Chris Woods
|THE ASIAN APERTURE|
Linda, Linda, Linda by Jason Fetters
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Disrespectful Outcry...missing The Point .... Bye,bye Van Jones .... .... .... .... .... .... Acorn Outted...child Prostitution by Brandon Jones
We’re Here!!!!! .... John Madden Can’t Stay Away .... Emmitt Smith Downs The ‘boys .... Ah, The Good Life .... .... .... .... by Chris Munger
have We Forgotten? .... Number Nine...number Nine .... Passing On .... .... .... .... .... .... My Favorite Films, Part 2... by Mike Smith
|Archives of Nolan's Pop Culture Review|
In December of 2008, I sat at a table in the Benihana Steak House in the Las Vegas Hilton listening intently as Ted Mikels described his latest feature film which was currently in pre-production. This new project would be the cult director’s third time out with his most popular creation, the Astro-Zombies. The synthetic psychopaths made their debut in 1968 in the self titled film The Astro-Zombies and returned thirty-four years later in the 2002 sequel, Mark of the Astro-Zombies. As Ted finished his pitch, I immediately blurted out what I had been thinking for the last twenty minutes – “I want to be an Astro-Zombie”!
The new film, Astro-Zombies: M3 Cloned, began shooting in March of this year and principle photography was completed in a matter of weeks. While Ted and I had remained in contact during the filming, it was difficult for him to guarantee exactly when he would be shooting so it was impossible for me to schedule a trip from Florida to Las Vegas with almost no lead time. Once I heard that the bulk of the filming was completed, I wrote off my chances of being in this film and crossed my fingers that the Astro-Zombies might make it back for a fourth one.
It was rather ironic, a few months later, when my friend Danny came up with some phenomenal airfare prices to Vegas and I decided to return to Sin City anyway. I had every intention of meeting up with Ted on this visit and at least getting to hear about how the filming went. When I told him of my impending trip, he mentioned that they might be doing some pick up shots while I was there but I refused to get my hopes up again. About two weeks before my Vegas vacation, I got a phone call from Ted posing an odd question; did I have any black pants?
Director Ted Mikels with Chris Turner
After briefing us at his home and fitting me for one of the Astro-Zombie masks, the three of us left for the film site with a brief detour to grab lunch before our 2:30PM shoot time. Ted, who was driving his own equipment filled vehicle separately, was insistent on going to McDonalds but all I could think of was how the grease in their food was going to mix with the Nevada heat. The only thing I could think of that could be worse than being out in the sun in a heavy latex head piece would be if I threw up in it! Fortunately, there was an Arbys right next door and I grabbed a much more easily digested roast beef sandwich instead. Chris and I also picked up a couple of extra bottles of water to begin the hydration process we knew would be crucial.
Assistant Director Rob Darren-Newberger
The rest of our cast and crew had all arrived almost simultaneously and we were quickly introduced to Rob and Terri as well as Marilyn Weinmann, who would play my victim, and Doll Squad agent Fran Niznik. Marilyn described her character, called “Moms”, to Ted and then headed into the house to transform. When she returned a few minutes later, she looked as though she had aged twenty years and fallen on hard times somewhere in the process! Chris switched into professional crewmember mode and was wrangling equipment and assisting Ted like the pro he is. To anyone just wandering by the shoot, they would have thought Ted and Chris had worked together for years rather than this being a spur of the moment pairing.
ED Tucker: Astro-Zombie!
Our small crew was huddled under an aluminum carport while we prepared to shoot. I had not received any instruction on how an Astro-Zombie was supposed to act but I had recently studied the other films in the series. I imagined that an Astro-Zombie moves essentially like a person but with slightly stiffer and more deliberate motions due to the synthetic organs and reanimation process. With today’s technology, which the original Astro-Zombies film anticipated by many years, artificial implants are used as substitutes for damaged body parts but, no matter how sophisticated they are, nothing ever works quite as well as the original. While Ted set up the first shot, Chris gave me a few pointers on holding the machete so that it would look the most impressive to the camera.
Humans beware the Astro-Zombies are here!
After a few shots of me running up on “Moms”, Ted changed the camera angle slightly for a close up of me whacking her with my machete. My first blow knocks the hapless housewife to the ground and then I proceed to get medieval on her in my lust for blood. While my machete was only painted plywood, it still had some bulk to it and I was trying my best not to hit Marilyn too hard. Ted called for retakes on this shot several times and continually instructed me to slash harder and faster. I knew that if I made contact with a full swing, I could have dislocated her shoulder and the limited field of vision caused by the mask made misjudging one of my blows and grazing her face a real possibility. On one take I actually did break the skin on her arm in my attempts increase the intensity. As Ted called cut, we realized Marilyn was also cut and the blood on her arm was the real thing. We took a break so she could get cleaned up and, trooper that she is, Marilyn even refused a bandage to avoid a continuity error.
ED Tucker, Marilyn Weinmann, and Ted Mikels.
Following my scenes of murder and rampage, I got to cool off for a few minutes in the shade while Ted did some shots of Fran in her Doll Squad uniform. As I sat in a chair drinking my fifth or sixth bottle of water and resting a cold wet rag on my neck, I noticed the thermometer under the carport read one hundred and two degrees! I asked Terri if the gauge was correct and she assured me that not only was it but that the reading was from in the shade. She said it was more like one hundred and seven in the sun. All I could think of was that I was going to get heat stroke and miss the Beatles’ Love show that I had tickets for that night at the Mirage!
Fran Niznik of the new Doll Squad.
Ted had one more shot in mind before dismissing the crew for this day’s filming and, while I was integral to it, I didn’t have to be dressed as an Astro-Zombie. As I changed back into my street clothes, I removed my rubber gloves and poured several ounces of sweat out of each one. Ted had noticed the Lincoln MKX rental car I was driving and decided the windows were the perfect size to film out of. He wanted to get a shot of Fran running down the sidewalk in her uniform, so we moved a few hundred yards up the street from the house and got into position. Ted yelled action as Fran ran up along side the vehicle and then I accelerated to keep pace with her to the house.
I took every opportunity I could get to remove that mask!
Ted Mikels gives ED Tucker directions on how to look menacing.
As Chris and I parted company at the hotel, I realized my day as an Astro-Zombie was over. I knew it was one of those things I would appreciate much more in hindsight than while in the middle of the process. After a few more bottles of water and a cold shower, I even felt human enough to eat dinner and take in a show that night. I wouldn’t mind being in a movie again but I think I will make sure the set is indoors and air conditioned next time!
Special thanks this week to Chris Turner and Marilyn Weinmann for their photographic contributions and to Ted Mikels who made it all happen.
"Retrorama" is ©2009 by ED Tucker. Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2009 by Nolan B. Canova.