What's your best memory of working on Asylum? Any bad ones?
My best memory was jumping on the trampoline outside of the mansion
watching all the activity going on around me (make-up man injecting red
paint into the cotton balls on his face; the extras on the big lawn dressed
as nomad/zombie/patients). It was a nice moment. I really enjoyed every
moment of working on the film.
Carla Borelli was crying on the set one morning. I didn't understand
why. I found out from the friendly old drunk lighting director it was
because she didn't want to do the semi-nude scene she had apparently agreed
to do. She was holed up in another room on the phone to her husband (I
think) for a long time. Word came out that (for the first time) we were
going to have a closed set.
(Click HERE to see Carla in the near-buff. Mpeg movie: 1.47 MB)
I was told, that the clap would happen, I would exit the scene, the gaffers
would leave the scaffolding, and filming would begin. At seventeen, the
thought of seeing actual female breasts put me into high gear and I quickly
devised a plan. We were shooting on 16mm, to be eventually blown up to 35mm
for theatrical distribution. I learned by screwing up the loading of one
film magazine that the film costs were the major expenditure of the
production and every foot was precious. The longer I took to exit the
scene, the more film would be burned. I tripped, paused, changed direction,
fell, etc., until (I swear this is true) one of the Asman brothers yelled,
"Just stay on the set--duck or something."
A sweet victory. I clapped the next scene and proceeded directly to the
closest wall that was out of frame. And faced the wall. And stood there.
And felt like an idiot. I'd gone to all that trouble to stay on the set and
now I was too shy to turn around.
Any truth to that Church of Satan consulting credit at the end?
Oh you bet. That was one weird day. We had been told that a couple (man and
a woman) from The Black Church or whatever, would be there for the alter
scene. All I thought was, wwwOOOOoooOOOoooooo! Who cares right? I didn't
buy into any of that stuff. I had enough to do to help with all the damn
smoke-makers (hot oil heaters).
A bunch of high school girls (some daughters of investors) were dressed in
virginal white, given candles and positioned in a circle around Borelli who
was roped to the alter. A guy in a rubber suit. (Girdler said the suit/mask
was from "Rosemary's Baby" but wasn't shown in the film, thus it was
affordable and available and, of course, cool.)
There was a lot of motion involved. I think the guy in the rubber suit was
on an apple box with wheels. The Asmans were on the largest crane we used
the whole time, if I remember correctly. Multiple takes were done, all the
time Kissinger (I think) was reciting the invocations that had been written
by the satanic guy who was standing in the wings watching all of this take
place. The incantation, if that's the right word, was repeated any number
of times with as much sincerity as Charlie Kissinger could muster, as
multiple takes were filmed.
(Click HERE to see Charles Kissinger conjure Satan. Mpeg movie: 696 KB)
During one take, and at some very convenient point in the "prayer," like
"...if you're present, show yourself..." or something like that, one of the
white-draped high school daughters of an investor passed out and hit the
floor. Everyone was horrified. The two people from the Black Church without
hesitation ran to the girl's limp body and began saying all sorts of weird
shit, speaking in some unidentifyable tongue. The girl's mother, who was
there, TOTALLY freaked out, running to her daughter's side screaming "You
leave her alone...get away!" to the two satanists.
The daughter came to in a few moments, and was excused for the day.
Everything was really tense for a couple of hours after that. I think some
folks started to wonder what the hell we were messing with. I made a mental
note to try to keep track of that girl who fainted, but I haven't had the
nerve. I really don't want to know.(1)
In the scene where the wheelchair-bound woman is locked in the room
with the rubber spiders, is the eerie smoke really just foam from a fire
We used fire extinguishers a whole lot. Cheap. Effective. Refreshing.
Did you have anything to do with the snake/pool scene? How was that done?
Oh yeah! We went to this bizarre health club in St. Matthews for that one.
Girdler got the facility after hours, which meant we started filming in the
middle of the night. I think I carried things and waited outside. I don't
remember anything specific about this night, it was one of the late ones.
In the scene where Carla is startled by the black cat, it's your voice that shrieks. Carla couldn't scream?
I had a really good scream, and the sound guy had it on his list one day of
things to pick up. I'm sure the scene with the cat was done MOS (without
sound) and they needed a shriek and I was convenient.
(1) (Updated 12/27/01): Contrary to previous information offered to this site, the Satanic advisor on this film really was part of The Church of Satan, headquartered in California. Michael Aquino, the advisor from CoS, doesn't recall a fainting, and surely doesn't remember scaring any parents. A number of other people remember the fainting, but didn't attribute it to anything more supernatural than too much dry ice. To see another explanation for the fainting, check out the Lee Jones studio tour clip found in The Kentucky Trip article.