Gigers talks about Aliens and Poltergeist
Sibylle Ruppert's The Last Ride inspires Giger's Poltergeist II's The Great Beast)
in development still
Sibylle Ruppert's The Last Ride inspires Giger's Poltergeist II's The Great Beast)
in development still
|The Great Beast as it is seen in the final movie
a) Poltergeist 2 Pre-Production
During the time of the Aliens production, Giger found himself involved in the creation of a demonic Gorgon like creature referred to as "The Great Beast" in Poltergeist 2. Brian Gibson, a director who made his name through through his film about the post-punk movie Breaking Glass who would direct Poltergeist 2 knew Giger from his earlier attempt at making the film The Tourist. John Bruno the special effects art director was familiar with Giger's work, he found very dark, demonic and got to him on the level of the subconscious and so he was keen to meet him.
Three weeks later, Giger and his manager flew out to LA, the contracts were drawn up in one afternoon, and he was given the money which he thought was important since he was broke. The writers Mark Victor and Michael Grais, and they were imagining a story in which Giger could use his talents. Before his arrival Giger slowly realised that this movie was not the right movie for him but he thought that he would have enough strength to change the situation. He was promised a lot of freedom and so from his view, these promises were made just to seduce him.
The ghostly designs created by Giger were a transformation sequence similar to what was going on with the lifecycle of the alien life form in Alien. Here, an evil spirit in the form of a worm from a bottle of tequila enters the body of a man and then later is vomited in the form of a large bulbous worm before it transforms into grotesque midget crawling around on all fours with vestigial limbs and then transforms into a huge ferocious creature that would be known as the Great Beast and in Giger's designs was seen to resemble a huge Gorgon like thing perhaps harbouring the souls of the doomed followers of the the character Kane played by Julian Beck. Originally Kane was named Reverand Boatright but the name was changed and many might recall that it was the surname of the character who was gave birth to the alien creature in Alien
|Mockup of the Great Beast where it looked as if they generally
understood at one point how the great beast's body was structured.
Shortly after Giger returned home, he began to sketch ghosts and ever time Brian Gibson came to visit him, Giger would have an airbrushed picture ready for him. Back in those days, there was no fax machine and so it took quite a while for Giger's sketches to reach LA. However most of the people there could hardly make out what his sketches were supposed to represent. It got to a point where Gibson began to ask why Giger's drawings were in a vertical format if the film was being made for wide screen, and Giger's response was that Gibson could film his ghosts diagonally. To Giger it seemed as if Gibson knew nothing of special effects.
|Giger's Great Beast design p13
|Steve Johnson working on the Great Beast's head
which would be hidden beneath a mass of tentacles
|Great Beast head detail
|This film has tons of incredible effects!
Image: a rare behind the scenes photo of the great beast puppet from Poltergeist II The Other Side (1986), designed by H.R. Giger (Alien) and created by Steve Johnson's creature effects team at Richard Edlund's Boss Film Studios (Ghostbusters, Fright Night) How many love this monstrous creation? ( Posted October 39th 2019 https://www.facebook.com/StanWinstonSchool/photos/a.132306723471670/2552757124759939/) (Thanks to Monsterlegacy for reposting the image https://www.facebook.com/monsterlegacy426)
b) The hiring of Cornelius De Fries
Cornelius De Fries (known as Connie De Fries) was hired by Boss film to represent Giger at the studios, as Giger himself didn't want to leave Zurich for months at a time anymore. Every time everyone in LA finally came to an agreement on Giger's sketches, he air-brushed it and then had it photographed. The procedure took a week although Giger worked day and night.
Before Cornelius De Fries arrived, the sculpting team were already sculpting but interpreting the artwork in their own way. But even though he was present and as far as they understood was there to make sure that they followed Giger's designs, and sculptors such as Stuart Land who sculpted the great beast out of water clay were sure that they were working to his specifications and he didn't like what he himself was doing then or any time from then on. If the designs came out out wrong the sculpting team understood that the onus would have been on Cornelius De Fries for either the directions he was giving or the design changes that he approved.
However De Fries could not get an actual labor permit and so was not actually allowed to contribute to the actual construction of the actual models and was restricted to constructing small scale models based on Giger's drawings. But what De Fries did inspired Steve Johnson enough who admired the difference of De Fries' style of sculpting as he has sculpted a lot of the heads of the doomed souls on the great beast. His style, as Johnson saw, was very amorphous, loose, not finished off or detailed as if it were rough emotion thrown into clay.
Giger's Poltergeist II The Great Beast P14
|torso of the Great Beast as sculpted by Stuart Land
|detail 1 of above photo
|detail 2 of above photo
c) Troubles arise
However according to Giger it got to a point where Cornelius De Fries had to defend Giger's designs at Boss Films, he saw that the designs were begin executed in a casual manner. People were interpreting Giger's ghosts in their own way. There was no money in the production to have Giger invited around to see the models or the shooting, and so in 1986, Giger visited the production at his own expense, Cornelius de Fries had announced his visit and had also told Giger that it was too late to change anything. Giger felt that he was conducting an unnecessary inspection. The entire Boss crew were present, and as Giger saw it, they wanted only one thing, to be praised and to hear no criticism. And so Giger did this accompanied by Richard Edlund and Cornelius De Fries, he praised everyone and gave them his blessing, it was all too late and he felt that he didn't want to ruin it for the people who had done a lot of work on the project. Giger would blame Richard Edlund's style that his employees had adopted and unwillingness to move into a new area and so the continuous disagreement between Richard Edlund and Giger over the years would begin from there.
d) The Final Beasts
The designs for the creatures as it would be seen in the movie Giger's designs for the film were very inventive, but he thought that they failed to translate through the art department of the film into anything of worth, although he enjoyed enough the scene where the creature is being vomited out and also the construction of the Primitive Creature, which was a sort of a humanoid with very short limbs but he thought that the puppet created from his paintings of the Great Beast was terrible. While sculptor Stuart Land remained proud of the work that he did on the Great beast, he couldn't say anything about the final creature in the film since it had nothing to do with him. The final movie creature looked as if it's body had been replaced by a latticework of goo. Giger later would blame himself for being involved in the production, his ideas didn't centre around horror transferred to a totally different dimension, whereas he preferred something more realistic and rooted in this world
e) See also: Poltergeist 2 creatures' rib cage and spine influence on Alien3 beast?
- H. R. Giger: Poltergeist II was created in 1985, in the Boss Film studios, in which Steve Johnson and Richard Edlund also worked. After the success of Alien, I would have liked to work on ALIENS with Cameron. But the director of BREAKING GLASS, Brian Gibson, for whom I had designed THE TOURIST (which unfortunately was never produced because of E.T.), insisted that I not be informed about ALIENS - because he was afraid I would switch movies, which, of course, would have happened. (Giger's Film Design, p50)
- H. R. Giger: First, my manager and I flew out to L.A.. The contracts were only drawn up in one afternoon, and I was given money, which was important as I was completely broke. The writers were Mark Victor and Michael Grais. These two screenwriters were imagining a ghost story in which I was to use my talent. Shortly after I returned to Switzerland, I began to sketch ghosts. Every time Gibson came to visit me. I had an air-brushed picture ready for him. In those days I had no fax, so it took quite a while for my sketches to reach L.A. Most of the people there could hardly make out what my sketches were supposed to represent. Soon Gibson began to ask me why my drawings were in a vertical format if the film was being mae for the wide screen. I told him he could film my ghosts diagonally. He knew nothing of special effects (Giger's Film Design,p50)
- H. R. Giger: Conny de Fries was hired by Boss Film to represent me at the studios in a dignified manner, as I did not want to leave Zurich for months at a time anymore. Every time everyone in L.A. finally came to an agreement on one of my sketches. I air-brushed it and then had it photographed. This procedure usually took a week, although I worked day and night. From the moment Conny De Fries began to defend my designs at Boss Films there was trouble, because he wasn't used to seeing my designs executed in such a casual manner. Those people obviously interpreted my ghosts in their own way. The film did not become a great success, in spike of Julian Beck and Will Simpson (the Indian from One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest). (Giger's Film Design, p50-56)
- HR Giger: In 1986, I visited the production at my own expense. Conny de Fries had announced his visit and had also told Giger that it was too late to change anything. I felt I was conducting a totally unneccessary inspection. The entire Boss crew were present. Everyone stood by their work and wanted only one thing; to be praised and to hear no criticism. And so Giger did this accompanied by Richard Edlund and Cornelius De Fries, he praised everyone and gave them his blessing, it was all too late and he felt that he didn't want to ruin it for the people who had done a lot of work on the project. That's what I did. Accompanied by Edlund and Conny De Fries, I praised everyone and gave my blessing to everything. It was too late anyway, and I didn't want to ruin it for the people who had done a lot of work on the project. There are so many other ways to mess up a film, even if the special effects are superb. A film's quality ultimately depends on the producer's and - even more importantly - on the director's skills. Thus it would have been better for me to work on ALIENS with Cameron than to work on Poltergeist II. (Giger's Film Design, p56)
- Stuart Land: (http://studiosl.com/movie-sculpture)
- Stuart Land: Nice interview, though some facts are not quite correct. I worked on Aliens and Poltergeist 2, in fact, I sculpted the body of the Great Beast. Although the resulting puppet was shit, as Giger and everyone else state, I sculpted the body to the exact specifications of Giger's assistant, who was brought in to supervise all the designs. As I remember, he was a nice guy, but a bit arrogant, and very demanding. Everything had to be just so. Since I had nothing to do with the final result, I can't speak to that, but what I made was nothing like the images shown on this page, nor what was presented to us as the finale design. If you want to see what the original body looked like in clay, you may visit my website at studioSL.com. (Stuart Land's post to this blog, 12th May 2014) (Note: Earlier I had mistakingly understood that Giger had made the comment about Land's sculpture being like gnarly skulls etc)
- Stuart Land:
(Stuart Land's post to this blog, 12th May 2014)
- Cinefex: In creating the Giger designed monster, Connie De Fries worked extensively with Mark Siegel, who sculpted most of the beast and contributed some of his own sculptures to what became its torso. (Cinefex 26, p20)
- Steve Johnson: The beast was made up of all these faces that were supposed to be the souls of Kane's followers. Connie sculpted a lot of the heads for the beast. He had a style that was really different from what people in my background have. It was very amorphous - loose, and not finished off or detailed. It was rough emotion thrown into clay. (Cinefex 26, p20)
- Giger: I think I made a mistake on the movie... the story came together very fast, much too fast. Three weeks after Gibson's call I took a plane to Los Angeles with my manager. Before my arrival, I slowly realised that Poltergeist II was not the right movie for me, but I thought I would have still enough strength to change the situation. I was promised a lot of freedom... later I found out that such promises were made just to seduce me. I think they really didn't understand my ideas. I sent only drawings and it's difficult to explain these over the phone and in English. (Giger's Biomechanics)
- Giger: Maybe I was wrong by doing all my work in Zurich. My partner Cony De Fries wanted to begin working in Los Angeles, but he was only allowed to prepare small models - this shows the hostility of the unions. When I went to Los Angeles during production at my own expense, nobody called me. I saw what they shot, but they still had not begun the special effects. (Giger's Biomechanics)
- Giger: It's my mistake, I had not really understood what a "Ghost Movie" is all about. I prefer to keep horror realistic and not transferred to a totally different dimension. (Giger's Biomechanics)
- Giger: Those with the work in the bottle, and the puking scene which loyally reproduced what I had imagined. I also liked the creature under the bed but I do not like the dynamics which it was created with. The movements are much too fast, it would have had very slow movements. Here too the questions of money must have been the reason. (Giger's Biomechanics)
- The Transformation: Several phases of the worm's transformation ; once regurgitated, the phallic looking mass turns into a primitive creature. Ribs split open on its chest. "Because the rib cage "says Giger "always appears very clearly on creatures which have not developed completely." Giger is satisfied with the models produced from his drawings but he thinks that the movements of the creature in the film are unnaturally fast. At least the technicians that manipulated the creature don't mind the extra effort. (Giger's Biomechanics)
- Giger (RE. the Great Beast): It was made to fast, it was badly constructed, the rhythm was bad.(Giger's Biomechanics)
- Giger (RE: The Smoke Beast): Monsters were needed in the smoke of the Indian fire. I thought of two fighters. But I was told "No, one is enough" And who fights against who.... Richard Edlund's people have adopted his specific style and did not want to move into an unknown area. By the way, this is why Ridley Scott preferred to shoot all of Alien in England - to escape the almighty unions and their rigid customs. (Giger's Biomechanics)
CFQ:Why were you dissatisfied with Gibson's POLTERGEIST II?
Giger: I got mixed-up in the wrong project. I started working on that film under a misrepresen- tation. I thought: they're going to make a film with a big budget, which will allow to a large degree the input of my own fantasies. The producers [Mark Victor and Michael Grais, who also wrote the screenplay] confirmed this feeling and gave me the impression that I would be able to create something really new for this film and that the script could be adjusted if need be.
Unfortunately things went differently. They led me on and I was rather displeased by that. I ask myself: why don't they hire the same people who did the original? Why me? I only cause trouble because I'm not easily satisfied and I make bad publicity if I don't like the film.
CFQ: For POLTERGEIST II you made drawings of The Reverend, as portrayed by the late Julian Beck. Why weren't these used?
HR Giger: Originally the film was going to start with a scene in which The Reverend was to be discovered, sitting in the underground Cuesta Verde cave, sur- rounded by some of his followers. And I thought, in this film evil mostly stems from a worm. So I wanted to go along that line by showing two worm's tails protruding from the ears of The Reverend, thus marking the evil. I wanted them to retract the instant a light shined on them, like when you enter a hole with a pocket- torch and the animals who live there hide themselves—the devil retracting his horns, that was the idea. But in the film they turned it into scheisse, with a skeleton dropping some- thing from its mouth. I described it all perfectly well in my drawings, but apparently they didn't understand or they didn't want to understand. The same goes for the hill in the cave, with those corpses of the Reverend's followers lying on it: you can't even see it properly! It was filmed much too dark! Besides it was very badly constructed.
CFQ: Were you ever asked to attend the shooting or the construction of the models?
HR Giger: No, there was no money available for that. But I also didn't really want to be there. My partner, Connie de Fries, was there to construct small scale models from my drawings. But he couldn't get a labor permit and wasn't allowed to contribute to the construction of the actual models. Apparently none of the special effects people understood my drawings. They didn't have the faintest notion of what could have been done with them. (Cinefantastique 18 04)
|Torso of Great Beast puppet with body covered in glue hiding the heads