Damn, if that Sam isn’t a poet! I had always wanted to shoot the meltdown sequence in Stop Motion. I think Sam’s idea was a deflating clothing and smoke effect, sort of fast. As it was, that short paragraph took two FX guys three months to create and film.
In Sam’s super 8-movie experience, he was always focused on telling stories and I was obsessed with animating stuff trying to be Harryhausen Jr. or O’Brien 2. It was more my area of interest and experience so I had to sell Sam on the idea of Stop Motion. As an example of what I had in mind for the meltdown I discussed with Sam, the animated Morlock that decomposes rapidly as Rod Taylor escapes in time in George Pal’s “The Time Machine.” Sam had seen my super 8 stop motion films at some of our film festivals at his and Rob’s M.S.U. apartment
I finally convinced Sam I could do it in clay animation and got the go-ahead. I did eight drawings to represent the meltdown action, which Sam saw and liked. I was going to need a cameraman and fortunately, Sam and Rob knew the perfect guy in Bart Pierce. Not only an experienced cinematographer but an animator as well. Not to mention he worked at Producers Color Service in Detroit so we could get our film back quickly. Sam got us together. We met when Bart picked me up in his van as I had a pickup shots shoot to do with Sam and crew north of Lansing, Michigan and this would give us a chance to get acquainted. This was in the early summer of 1980. Bart and I hit it off really well, as we both loved the original “King Kong” and all things Harryhausen and Danforth. That was until it came to how to approach the meltdown sequence. I wanted to do animation, but as much as Bart loved to stop motion he felt that with all the new advances in make-up effects like the work of Dick Smith, Rick Baker, and Rob Bottin audiences might might not go for it.
TOM: Also there was concern that it does not look like “bad” animation. As I recall Bart and I was having a loud disagreement as to whether it was Stop Motion. No. Live action, Stop Motion, etc. when it dawned on me to use split screens and combine Stop Motion and live action. Lots of Goo and hair dropping off as a supernatural rotting of “Evil Dead” flesh via stop motion. Just like the Reese’s Piece commercial and everybody was happy. All this was in front of Sam and the cast and crew on the pick up shoot. We had everybody’s attention. Just like the Reese’s Piece commercial and everybody was happy. All this was in front of Sam and the cast and crew on the pickup shoot. We had everybody’s attention. But as soon as it clicked, we were all buddies again. We both cared about what we were doing and wanted this to be powerful, serving the audience as well as kick-starting our SPFX careers. Bart and I both enjoyed the technical challenge of the sequence and quickly became good friends.
In the first week in Aug. 1980, I had to leave my wife Penny again, living away an average of six days a week, enjoying a cot in the basement at Bart Pierce’s home. Bart and I were in sync and having a blast developing the meltdown. Sam and Rob were away in New York in the post, so Bart and I started our planning in Detroit. We expanded the sequence from the eight original drawings to about thirty storyboards that I drew. We had control over the action and camera movement, lighting, and the solutions to the SPFX. That’s why it works, we’re left alone and allowed to go nuts. Later Sam added some inspired close-ups of Bruce and viola! Genius.
I had previously commuted to Bart’s Basement studio and we shot a test of the Animation/Split screen effect, which was incredibly gross and a smashing success. At the same time, we shot a bit of film to project onto Bruce before the projector explodes in the basement in “Evil Dead.” I poured the fake blood onto a whiteboard and Bart shot it. So with lots of confidence, we plunged ahead. Soon we were able to keep working on the meltdown animation with bile tubes, falling hair, live-action arms, critters and such until we had a sequence. There are at least two shots that Bart and I did that were excised as too gross.
Too bad because they were the most complicated. There are photos that I shot during the meltdown production
that Ren. Pics. should have, that shows the behind-the-scenes stuff I shot. Speaking of photos there was a great loss of the photographs I took during the making of “The Evil Dead,” nine rolls of 36 exposures, everything going on during my seven weeks. The production, the effects, the sets, the actors, Rob and Sam at work, the crew, at rest, at dinner, in makeup, fricking everything I could shoot, I shot. The only problem was that I couldn’t afford that much film on my salary so Ren. Pics. paid for the film. The deal was I’d shoot them using my camera and could buy a copy when they were developed.
However as show business goes, my photo documentary of the production was left for the summer in the trunk of some executive’s car, undeveloped. So that, upon processing, they had a large but fruitless processing bill. Sigh…all that work, all those publicity photos, lost. I’m gonna be sick!