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Interview with Cast Members of "What Waits Below"
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Image The review for What Waits Below was one of the earlier articles on the website. Over the years, I noticed a neat trend: members of the cast were checking in and posting on the Reader Comments page. I contacted them and was rewarded by responses from Bruce Howard and Dale Kells.

Bruce's part in the movie, filmed for the "South America" portion, was cut entirely in the end. Dale played the part of a cave dwelling Lemurian.

Interview Date: 13 January 2007

Andrew: How old were you when the film was made?
Bruce Howard: I was 25, give or take a few years. I don't remember what year the film was made.
Dale "Denyer" Kells: 17.

Andrew: How did you become involved with "What Waits Below?" Though, I think it was filmed and known as "Secrets of the Phantom Caverns."
Bruce Howard: I think I saw a notice posted somewhere that they were looking for extras and made the phone call.
Dale "Denyer" Kells: I was a tour guide for the caverns.

Image "I was a 'South American Soldier.' They gave me a khaki uniform, leg wrappings, and a huge bolt-action rifle. Those of us who were dressed like this never appeared in the final film because they cut those scenes."

Andrew: What was your part in the film?
Bruce Howard: I was a "South American Soldier." They gave me a khaki uniform, leg wrappings, and a huge bolt-action rifle. Those of us who were dressed like this never appeared in the final film because they cut those scenes. I had done a fair amount of extra work in the past, but ironically the only one I ever did where I was listed in the credits was also the one where I was cut out of the movie entirely.
Dale "Denyer" Kells: I was one of the lead Lemurians. I was also the one that ripped Lisa Blount's hair band out.

Image "I was also the one that ripped Lisa Blount's hair band out."

Watch Dale in this scene.

Andrew: The outside scenes that were in the movie quickly turn into a difficult to follow running battle. What was the content of the scenes that were cut?
Bruce Howard: If I remember correctly, the scene I was in involved a group of "rebel" soldiers who had been captured. They did the thing where the rebels were the ones with up-to-date camo uniforms and M-16's and the goverment soldiers had khaki uniforms and equipment that looked like something from the British army of 1936. We (the government soldiers) were standing in a line and generally shouting at and abusing a captured group of the rebel soldiers as they were marched past us. As I said, none of this appeared in the final film. There seemed to be a lot of improvisation and on-the-spot rewrites.

I believe that there were scenes involving a scuba diver that never appeared in the final film either, unless I just missed that during my one viewing of the film. Someone I knew said that he was paid to do this after he mentioned that he was a scuba diver and had equipment (no, unfortunately, I do not remember his name or might have been Rick Davis, but I'm not sure).

Image "There seemed to be a lot of improvisation and on-the-spot rewrites."

Andrew: What was it like being a Lemurian? Did the director or someone give you a brief, providing an idea of mannerisms and guidelines? In addition, that looked like quite a bit of white makeup. How long did you require to get ready and how easy was it to remove?
Dale "Denyer" Kells: We were directed to make very deliberate movements because Lemurians communicated with E.S.P. and didn't move our mouths. The white makeup and prosthetics took two or more hours. I had a front neck piece and very itchy wig. I also wore (glass) contacts that fogged out my irises. To take off all of the spirit gum hurt a lot, especially at the hair line in the back.

Image "I also wore (glass) contacts that fogged out my irises."

Andrew: Supporting a film crew requires everything from meals to hygiene facilities. Most of the movie takes place in the cave, but some sections were set in a tropical forest. What were the filming locations? Was there a town nearby that everyone used for boarding or were you living in a tent city?
Bruce Howard: I was in the "tropical forest" part, which in actuality was the woods of northern Alabama. The extras were locals who drove in from their homes. I assume the cast and crew were staying in a motel somewhere. If they had catered meals on the set I missed them.
Dale "Denyer" Kells: I was not on location, lucky for me. I lived nearby and was able to drive to the cave every day.

Andrew: In the movie, it seems like the caves are large and remote from the surface. How far in did you have to go for the scenes and what was it like, working in the dark and enclosed spaces?
Bruce Howard: I wasn't in the cave scenes. I have been in that particular cave before, though. I once saw Bill Monroe perform on a stage set up at its mouth.
Dale "Denyer" Kells: There were a lot of lights so darkness wasn't really an issue. However, the trip from the outside to the filming location inside was a bit of a walk.

Andrew: Mention was made of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. What happened? (Was this caused by equipment, such as generators? Who first recognized the danger?)
Dale "Denyer" Kells: It was myself that felt the carbon minoxide poisoning. I felt very dizzy and then all of the sudden I passed out. I was sent to the hospital with an oxygen mask on. I also was the last person to be released from the hospital.

The cause for all of the build of poisonous gas was that they were running huge airplane propellers as fans to push all of the fumes outside, but they decided they were too loud while they were filming.

Image "...they were running huge airplane propellers as fans to push all of the fumes outside, but they decided they were too loud..."

Andrew: Bruce, the carbon monoxide poisoning appears to have happened when someone in charge had the crew turn off the fans that were used to circulate the air. In short, they put a safety measure in place, then did not use it because it was causing them too much interference. Since you were largely involved in the outside shooting, did anything like this happen or was the outside crew on the ball with explosions and squibs?
Bruce Howard: I didn't witness any explosions, squibs or et cetera. If I had, I would have maintained a safe distance. These folks really didn't seem like they knew what they were doing, but maybe their tech people were OK. Just the fact that they didn't seem to be keeping track of where anyone was at any given time would have made me a bit leery about explosions.

Image "Just the fact that they didn't seem to be keeping track of where anyone was..."

Andrew: Whether it was a camera operator, the director, or one of the actors, does anyone stick out in your memories?
Bruce Howard: Not really. I do remember waiting a long, long time before I got a check. As I recall I had pretty much given up hope when it finally arrived. I do remember hearing (from a distance) someone with an Australian accent screaming at someone, although I never knew the particulars until I read the postings on your site.
Dale "Denyer" Kells: Timothy Bottoms. After he was all finished filming as a human, he decided to join us as a Lemurian. He had all of us laughing so hard. But all the people that were involved with the production were a class act.

Andrew: I have to ask, because some of the strangest things can be funny in the right situation, but what had all of you laughing so hard?
Dale "Denyer" Kells: Timothy was quite tall. He more resembled the abominable snow man. He was a big goof. We were all trying to come up with bad Lemurian jokes, like, "I got my jewelry at Cave Mart." And we all needed a tan. Just very silly people with a lot of time on our hands!

Image "We were all trying to come up with bad Lemurian jokes, like, 'I got my jewelry at Cave Mart.'"

Andrew: Were you involved in any films after "Secrets of the Phantom Caverns" and what are you doing now?
Bruce Howard Before doing this movie I was an extra in two episodes of "Gunsmoke", Martin Scorsese's movie "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore," the amazingly bad big-budget musical remake of "Lost Horizons" (THAT one you should do an article on!), a two-part pilot for a TV series called "Petrocelli", and a made-for-TV Zorro movie. "What Waits Below" was the last movie I was involved in. Now I am raising two teenage boys and doing warehouse work.
Dale "Denyer" Kells: I am now a mother of three and soon to be Grandma! That entire experience was one of the best times of my teenage life. I would do it all again, noxious gas and all!

Thanks to both of you for taking time to complete the interview as well as casting your mind back to remember details of events that took place more than two decades ago. It is obvious that, sometimes, having a fun experience depends on the people you are with. The story also reinforces something I have seen again and again: if you identify a hazard and put a control in place (in this case, the fans to circulate the cave air), do not cast aside your safety measures. I am glad that Dale escaped from serious harm.

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