For those growing up in the era of pre-technological ease, the most exciting thing in the world was being able to catch a horror flick on the Movie of the Week – say something like Damien: Omen II. While The Omen (at least the original) is regarded as a classic by many, Damien: Omen II was a fast paced gore fest (that even the often unreliable IMDB reviewers proclaim as “An excellent sequel to The Omen!”) that titillated many a thrill deprived youngster. Those at an impressionable age upon viewing will never forget the sight of Elizabeth Shepard being pecked to death by a pack of venomous crows, Meshach Taylor, a long way from Designing Women, enact a blood strewn death by plummeting elevator or the slow path of a one teen’s drowning beneath a pool of hard ice (perhaps one of the most hauntingly tense deaths captured on film). Neither will they forget the cold, stomach crunching demise of Dr. Charles Warren, director of the Thorn Museum, portrayed by celebrated actor Nicholas Pryor. The friendly and responsive Pryor, whose other genre-type credits include Brain Dead with Bill Paxton, the thriller Pacific Heights and comedy spoof Airplane!, upon hearing of my love for Damien, years ago, generously gave me a detailed account of his filming experience. Pryor’s kind, nostalgic gift to me is now mine to present to all film trivia buffs seeking an extra Halloween chill or two! Enjoy.
“Filming in Chicago – we did a good deal of Damien there! I think I will never forget the sequence in the train yards when Bill Holden and I were poking around in the boxcars before one of them grabbed me and squished me. When we shot, it was early in December of a usual Chicago winter – which put the temperatures in the train yards at about -20. I was running around in a light polo shirt and jacket because I wanted to be able to shake with fear, but I didn’t want to think about it or do it, and I figured if I was cold enough it would take care of itself. Well. It worked, but the catch was we were there for three days. The first day it was kind of cloudy and overcast, but that night it snowed. The next day was snow on the ground and bright blue sky, so what we shot the first day couldn’t match and we did the first day’s work over. Then finally finished the next day, our third, and by that time I had become aware of a little woman from the wardrobe department who was wrapped in so many layers of clothing she literally had no face, just kind of a slit in all her head scarves. She kept wondering up to me and peering at me, and finally I asked her what she was doing, and she said, “Just looking to see if you have frostbite yet.”
As a postscript to the file “Its Not All Tinsel and Make Believe”, while we were shooting my getting squished, I noticed the sound guys listening to their tapes and shaking their heads. I asked what was happening and they said the snow on the ground was soaking up all the noise of my screaming and I would probably have to loop it later. I did.
Four months later, I spent all afternoon in the basement of a recording facility at 20th Century Fox screaming my lungs out for a director who kept saying, “Let’s do another and see if you can make this one more helpless!”
(In his correspondence with me, Pryor signed one shot with his Port Charles’ character name as he thought the photo was more representative of the role than himself. Pretty remarkable difference, right?)
Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!