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Interview with Kevin Danzey
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INTERVIEW WITH KEVIN DANZEY
Image Kevin Danzey, who worked in the special effects shop for The Brain gives us a behind the scenes look at the movie and talks about the friends he knew and worked with. Making the movie was obviously a lot more than just a paycheck or way to gain experience for Kevin.

The picture is Kevin, kneeling beside the almost-complete Stage 3 Brain.

Click here for the original poster artwork, courtesy of Kevin.

Interview Date: 31 July 1999

Andrew: Hello Kevin, in a post to the website it was mentioned that you were involved with the production of "The Brain" and actually had the monster prop stored at your house. How did you get involved and what part of the crew were you?
Kevin Danzey: Hi Andrew, and no, I don't have the whole "Brain" monster stored at my house, just parts of one, a three-foot diameter "face" made off the mid-sized Brain mold before the plaster disintegrated. Somehow, I've kept that for 12 years. Also, I have part of one of the tentacles.

"The Brain" movie was made in 1987-88 by my friend, Ed Hunt. It was his "brainchild" if you'll forgive the pun. Ed and I had become friends a few years earlier, when I was writing for a couple of small-press film making magazines. He had made "Starship Invasions" with Robert Vaughn and Christopher Lee, as well as an amazing little thriller called "The Plague." It was after seeing "The Plague" (on a double-bill with "The Bees") that I sat down and wrote to the production company behind "Plague" seeking correspondence with Ed, and I soon heard back from him. So began our friendship. That was probably back around 1978 or so. Anyway, to fast-forward a bit, in 1986 or '87, Ed sent me the first draft screenplay for "The Brain" for my feedback. He and I had a wonderful (to me) correspondence going, and he seemed to really respect my thoughts, which was quite an honor to me. I mean, here was a guy who had made already several feature films, and he was looking for feedback from me! At this time, I was still living with my folks, since my dad was very ill and I wanted to be with him. We were in San Jose, CA, and Ed lived near L.A. I was writing for some film making magazines (don't ask for names, they're too embarrassing) and I was making short films myself with great regularity, in San Jose, and showing them at film festivals and sci-fi conventions.
Anyway, some background to fill things out for you there. Back to Ed and "The Brain." So he sent me the first draft script, which I liked, except that in the first draft, the Brain talked! Other than that, I liked the script. I'm glad Ed left out the talking later. I liked the fact that Ed had written a pretty cool sci-fi horror story with some subtle ideas about society and culture. I always liked that in his work.

Anyway, as work progressed on The Brain, Ed needed to find a special effects chief who could work on his budget, which as I recall was something like $750,000. Now, I happened to have a friend named Mark Williams, a San Jose guy also, a very talented and energetic artist and sculptor, who worked on the special effects crew of "Aliens" and "The Fly" in the early 1980's. Mark had worked with me on some of my short films, and he was just fresh off working on those two big films, and was basically relaxing by the pool in his apartment complex, wondering what his next job would be. So I introduced Ed Hunt and Mark Williams. Mark was able to "brainstorm" (forgive the pun again) with Ed, and come up with sketches and ideas as to what the Brain would actually look like, especially in it's large, final form. Then in order to sell the film to investors, Ed took Mark to a meeting (or so the story was related to me) and at the right moment, Mark unveiled a small clay or plasticene tabletop model of The Brain monster, and that, along with his experience of working on big films like Cameron's "Aliens" and Cronenberg's "The Fly" apparently convinced the investors to back "The Brain."

Image The face from Mark's tabletop sculpture and the Stage 2 Brain on the set, with the barefoot operator inside.

Andrew: You helped create those things! Well, thing, but it does seem to evolve during the movie's course. Was the monster pretty much cast in stone and you just had to put it together or did you brainstorm the way it looked?
Kevin Danzey: Well no, I didn't create the Brains, I only had a small hand in the physical labor in the special effects shop. I have some photos of The Brain (in it's various forms) under construction in the shop in North Hollywood. Mark Williams, again, was the sculptor and the one who cast the Brains, he had made very large plaster molds which the latex and polyfoam was put into later. Mark, with input on design from Ed and a lot of help from a wonderful guy named Ray Greer, put the Brain together.

There were a couple of other people in the shop working, but I can't remember their names. There was a sweet lady named Cathy Mullamphy, who did a good amount of work too. But Ray Greer did all of the dirty work, as I recall. He was an extremely hard worker. Mark was a lot of fun, and very talented, but he was like a big kid, and it was all a party to him. Which was okay, because it kept the atmosphere light. The main thing I did when I worked in the shop was to create some of the tentacles, which you see in The Brain shooting out of the mouth of the big monster. I also painted a few coats of latex over the big Brain, the final one.

Image Clockwise, from top left.

- Kevin working on the big brain.
- Kevin, surprised while at work on the tentacles.
- Cathy working on the spinal column.
- Cathy showing off a brain tooth.

Andrew: Can you give some information on the different incarnations? First there was the roughly beanbag-chair-sized monster that attacked the young girl and consumed Vivian. Then later the Brain seemed to evolve into a cart mounted beast, what were both made of and were there any sort of controls inside?
Kevin Danzey: Actually, I think there was an earlier version, the smaller one in the tank, but I don't remember if I saw that one in the shop or not. The beanbag-chair-sized one, there were actually two of them, one of which had a face on it, and one which had a big mouth at the end, so that it could later swallow Vivian. I remember those sitting on the worktables in the effects shop, and I probably have some photos of those.

As I recall, the various Brains were all made of sheet foam rubber, then polyfoam and latex. Lots of latex. We had buckets and buckets of it, and man, that stuff stinks. Polyfoam is scary. You mix it up, pour it into a mold, and it kinda "magically" expands before your eyes, blows up like the foam going over the top in a shaken soda bottle, but then it freezes in place and hardens. It's hot at first, as I recall. I didn't mess with the chemicals much, myself.

Now, the big Brain was created, I think, on a framework of PVC pipe, and it was meant to be moved by two strong guys in harnesses. There were motocross harnesses built into the Brain's framework. But the big Brain itself was made of so many things, including chicken wire, plastic shower curtains, sheet foam rubber, etc., that once it was shipped up to Canada for filming, between the shipping and the reality of two guys in harnesses, they couldn't go anywhere. I think it fell over, I think they told me that. So the big Brain ended up being mounted on a camera dolly, and pushed around. The two guys inside were supposed to be able to get "in-synch" and walk the beast, since it had legs, but it was so big and unwieldy that they couldn't do it. And the only controls inside of the big Brain were for the eyes, a little rig that Mark made, which allowed the eyes to look back and forth in unison. I have a photo of the eye rig. He did a great job with the eyes, which were cast in resin. Too bad the whole thing didn't quite work, but still, it was okay.

The main thing I remember being disappointed about were the wiggly teeth on the big Brain. They were just foam rubber teeth and I can remember suggesting putting coat hanger wires or something inside them to stiffen them, so they wouldn't wiggle, but I think by that time there was too much time pressure. Ed was already up in Toronto shooting (the film was shot in Canada to keep the budget down) and this was in late November or early December of 1987. So the film was basically shot over the holidays. I asked to go along, but due to the budget, I had to stay in California.

Image Clockwise, from top left.

- Mark posing with the big brain, wearing his "Mr. Monster Maker" disguise.
- Mark's full size sketch for the workings of the Stage 3 Brain.
- Mark and Cathy try to save Ray from being eaten by the same brain that later ate Vivian!
- The effects shop: visible are Mark, Cathy and Ray, the tentacles hanging from a rafter on the left, the stage three Brain about to be boxed-up and shipped to Canada for filming, also the two stage two Brains on work tables.

Andrew: How long did it take you to create the different versions?
Kevin Danzey: The Brains were made pretty quickly, you know. This was a low-budget picture, and a pretty ambitious one at that. The work in the shop was done in a couple of months, something like that.

Image Clockwise, from top left.

- The resin eyeballs for the Brain in the rig which allowed them to move in unison.
- Rear shot of the Stage 2 Brain in the shop.
- Front shot of the Stage 2 Brain in the shop.
- Mark does business on the phone while resting on a Stage 2 Brain.

Andrew: This doesn't look to have had a very large budget, can you tell us what the total cost was to make the movie? What part of the production cost the most?
Kevin Danzey: It was under a million bucks for the picture, that much I know. I seem to recall the figures of $700,000 or so for the whole film. I think the effects budget was something like $50, 000. And by the way, I never got a dime. Nothing. Not even a free tape. But I did get my name on the end credits under "special effects technicians" I think, and a wonderful personal letter from Ed Hunt saying that if not for my help, "The Brain" would never have gotten made. I was able to get Ed together with Mark, which convinced the investors to put up the money. And later, Mark tried to keep my name off the credits, but Ed made sure my name was on there. That was because Mark and I had a falling out about six months later, when The Brain was in post-production, and I was working with him on his crew for Larry Cohen's "Wicked Stepmother" which was a mess. But that's a whole 'nother story.

Image The brain behind everything - writer and director Ed Hunt (red plaid shirt) directing a scene on location in Canada.

Andrew: You commented on creating several tentacles for the monster, they should have used more of them, the only one I can remember shoots out to grab Janet. (Which Jim attacks with a tube of caulk.) In the script were there more scenes with people getting dragged in and eaten?
Kevin Danzey: The tentacles appeared in several scenes, especially at the beginning of the film in Becky's room, coming out of the walls, attacking her and her mother. Also one comes out of the steering column of Jim's car, just before he loses control and crashes it. Ray and I must have made something like a half-dozen tentacles, which were made of sheet foam rubber, curled up tightly and wrapped in duct tape, then painted with several coats of latex. I think I have a photo of me, sitting on the floor winding up the foam rubber sheets. Now, Mark had made a "tip" for the tentacles, a section about two feet long, which had little "suckers" on it, and those tips were then attached to the rolled-up foam and duct tape. Those tentacles, or parts of them, or at least the same type of thing, ended up some months later in Larry Cohen's "Wicked Stepmother" where they became monster tree roots. And as for what was different in the script, I can't remember, dude, I lost my copies of Ed's script years ago, unfortunately. The main difference I remember, as I said, was that in the first draft, the big Brain talked.

Image Kevin painting the tentacles with latex.

Andrew: Why Canada and were the actors cast in the U.S. or up North?
Kevin Danzey: I think there were (and probably still are) rules about using "local talent," including both cast and crew, when you are from the States and want to shoot a film in Canada. I totally understand and agree with this. Now, I don't know for sure, but I believe the majority of the actors were Canadian. I do know that Cyndy Preston, who was really sweet in the film, is now one of the stars of the TV series "Total Recall," and so my impression is that she is Canadian. She probably would prefer not to be reminded of working on "The Brain" however. And I think Tom Breznahan, who played the young male lead, is American. You see, Ed Hunt, although an American and graduate of the USC film school, made most of his films in Canada. "Bloody Birthday," "Starship Invasions" and "The Brain" were all made up there I'm pretty sure. Ed did some others which are out there on tape, such as "Legion of Iron" and "Alien Warrior," but I think those were shot in the US.

I'm sure you realize that studios and production companies routinely "stretch the truth" about the cost of making their films. As I look back, that figure of $700,000 was only told to me, so it may not be at all accurate. I may be all wrong. You see, Ed and I worked on a film project of mine together, and I was into a second draft script on it, and rounding up the cast and crew. Ed was going to direct, and our budget was in the ballpark of just under $300,000. I shelved the project in 1992 when the production money didn't show any sign of coming through, and when my father passed away.

Image Clockwise, from top left.

- Mark as they set up for a shoot.
- The Brain chows down on Willie as actor George Buza (The evil assistant.) looks on.
- Vivian and the stage one Brain on the set.
- Becky, her mother, and a cute teddy bear rest between takes.

Andrew: It sounds like you parted company with Mark on a bad note. Are you still working in film or have you moved on?
Kevin Danzey: I want to speak about Mark Williams, because despite our personality clashes, I really loved him like a brother. He was a wonderful guy, with a lot of imagination, enthusiasm, and a good heart. He passed away May 27, 1998 at the age of 38.

I met Mark when he was around 20 years old, and he was working in a comic book store. He was amazed I think to meet a guy like me, who knew some of the people I did, and who also loved people like 1950's monster maker Paul Blaisdell. In fact, later on, Mark had a large tattoo of Blaisdell's "She Creature" on his arm. Mark used to dress up and go with his girlfriend to Rocky Horror, he played Brad. And we'd get together on Saturdays to watch old movies on TV.
My fondest memories of Mark Williams are of us working together on films in my folks' garage, where I built sets and had a little studio, and of how much fun we had, so much that we could hardly stop laughing at times. He was very intense, though, and a lot of people just couldn't keep up with his energy level. Now, to show you that he was a person with a lot of sensitivity, another great memory of Mark was when I had just suffered the loss of a dear and close friend, Arthur C. Pierce, who was the writer/director of several cool little sci-fi films from the 1950's and '60's. Arthur was like a beloved favorite uncle to me, and he spent ten years teaching me how to write scripts, direct, etc. Arthur had died just days before I went to work with Mark, Ray and Cathy in the effects shop on "The Brain." Mark knew I was hurting and depressed, so he went out of his way to take me places and do stuff with me. One of the most fun things in the middle of working on "The Brain" was the night we went to a grocery store in North Hollywood at midnight to buy a couple of boxes of Cap'n Crunch cereal, a few bottles of soda pop, and to pick up some pizza, then back to his apartment, where we dug through his collection of old toys, found a Mattel "Creepy Crawler" maker, plugged it in, and stayed up all hours cooking up some rubber critters using a few old bottles of "Plastigoop!" So we had a lot of fun.
Mark and I had a falling-out during the making of "Wicked Stepmother" and I can't really remember the details, except that I couldn't afford to live in L.A. and eat and put gas in my car on what he had in his budget to give me. But that's long ago forgotten. Mark was a good guy, he was very "on" most of the time, but he *never* touched drugs or alcohol, and had no patience for people who did. He was a clean-living, hard-rocking "metalhead" monster maker, a little boy at heart who wanted to play. He worked on a bunch of films, made a slew of monsters, he loved Alice Cooper and collected monster and sci-fi toys and model kits, comic books and Famous Monsters mags, he bleached his long hair and had tattoos of movie monsters all over himself, he wore lots of leather, and he had a pet spider named Alice (after Cooper of course) ... he was a fan and an artist whose dreams of making movie monsters came true, and may God bless him and keep him forever.

Andrew, I shot my last short film in 1990, it was something like my 70th film. As I said, I made a lot of these things, showed them around, I ended up writing for film making magazines for a while, tutored some young filmmakers, and did some video production. I loved film, but I had totally burned out by that time, and so I took a whole new direction in life. I lost weight, got married, went back to school, got into computers, and became a teacher and speaker in a totally different field, dedicated to public service, and so yes, I definitely moved on! Now, at age 45, I look back and have a lot of memories, I met a lot of amazing and talented people, and got to be a part of some interesting things.
I'm proud of my involvement in "The Brain" because, while it's not the greatest film ever made by any means, it's a definite notch above a lot of what was being made in the low budget field at that time. It didn't take the easy "slasher" route, but tried to explore some ideas about society, the media and mind control, and it had a pretty cool monster, which to me is a lot more fun to watch any day than a guy with a steak knife! It was a great thrill to see The Brain come out on tape, and later HBO, Cinemax, and all over cable. I am very grateful to this day to Ed Hunt, for being a great film teacher, a loyal friend, and for sharing his knowledge with me over the years. Without a doubt, Ed Hunt was the mind behind "The Brain!"

Image Clowning around in the effects shop, with something like this sitting in a corner can you blame Mark for acting the ham?


Dedicated to Mark Williams. Special thanks to Kevin Danzey.



Comments:Write CommentPages: 1 [2]
Re: Kevin Danzey Interview
Reply #9. Posted on June 24, 2009, 02:21:19 PM by Josh Martin
Hi this is a great interview i read it years back and have it saved in my favorties.I had a few questions for Kevin on the brains contruction.Im a huge fan of the late great mark williams, and would love to know the ways they created some of the brains for the film.
Was most of all of them created out of foam? What was sculpted out of caly then molded? Would really love to hear some stories!
Thanks again,
Josh Martin
Re: Kevin Danzey Interview
Reply #10. Posted on June 30, 2009, 04:48:49 AM by Kevin
Josh,

The different stage brain "faces" were originally sculpted full-size (either clay or plasticine, can't recall) by Mark, then plaster molds made on those sculpts. The inside of the molds were given several coats of latex, then backed with polyfoam. The rest of the brain forms were made of sheet foam rubber, cut and sculpted, then formed on frameworks made of stuff like PVC pipe, chicken-wire, or in the case of the largest brain, even plastic shower curtains. These were coated with a lot of liquid latex, painted, and eventually airbrushed. I'd have to say that Mark did most of the real creative work himself. I made the tentacles from Marks' concept, and did a little bit of latex work on the "big daddy" brain as well, as some of the photos show. When we worked on Larry Cohen's "Wicked Stepmother" about 6 months later, I did the same procedure, this time making oversized tree roots instead of tentacles.

Kevin
Re: Kevin Danzey Interview
Reply #11. Posted on February 26, 2014, 03:36:51 AM by Robot Ears
Really enjoyed reading this, thank you. This movie The Brain doesn't have a lot of information to be found about it online at all, especially not information this intimate, so I thought it was interesting to read. I love this movie, and I agree, this type of horror can be more fun than the slasher stuff in my opinion.
Pages: 1 [2]


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