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Death Machine

1993 Making Death Machine, directed by Steve Norrington. (Latterly famed for Blade and The League of Extraordinary Gentleman.) This was his feature debut and we shot it at Pinewood Studios. Here, the 'Deathbot' appears through a vent in the Chaank Corporation's headquarters. Norrington's work up until this time was as a SPFX technician working on intricate mechanical effects. (Remember the Return to Oz mechanical chicken?) He was keen that everything should be shot 'in picture' and as real as we could make it hence full size deathbot operated by a bewildering array of Bowden cables, electrical actuators and pneumatics.

We even shot front projection with Charlie Staffel for the plumetting lift shot. It was hard work and time consuming, but gave good value for money. Whether you think the film has any merit or not, the interesting thing is that Norrington shot all this for a shade over 2M. Some of the sets were small marvels of budgetary constraint. Amazing what you can do with lots of ducting, a vac-former and a few shipping containers. Almost every shot of the film was storyboarded by Norrington, who was (and presumably still is) an exceptional artist. When the film was over I had 'baggsied' the Deathbot head as a trophy. Problem was, so had the producer. We tossed for it and I lost. Boo. Lighting was by John DeBorman.

Olympus XA, Ilford HP5

Death Machine

1993 Death Machine. This is Ely Puget and Martin McDougal attempting to despatch the Deathbot with some advanced Chaank weaponry. The guns operated on propane, with a piezo igniter that went click-click-click when you pulled the trigger, giving pulses of fire that look like automatic weaponry. Early on in camera testing I mooted the possibility of syncing the gas guns with the camera shutter so that the firepower looks like a continuous tongue of flame and not the erratic sputs that unsynched weapons give you.

On the back of the Arriflex BLIV there is a socket that gives you an 'on pulse' when the shutter is open, and in cohoots with the SPFX boys we synched the clicks so that they only occurred when the shutter was open - hence the continuous burst of fire you get on screen. The idea was first used in Scarface, which was where I heard about it. I suggested the idea for Goldeneye but it was cheaper and easier to use real AK47s, and when you run the continuous fire on the soundtrack, you don't really notice the flashes are intermittent.

Olympus XA, Ilford HP5

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