Full Eclipse (1993) Retrospective

SUMMARY
Max Dire is a Los Angeles detective who is feeling the strain that his profession entails when his wife of two years, Liza, accuses him of bringing his work home and leaves him to ponder her future, while his partner, Jim Sheldon, commits suicide by shooting himself in the head. Realizing that Max is experiencing problems, Adam Garou, a high-ranking officer distinguished by his success in reducing crime in other big cities, invites Max to join him at his apartment for a weekly meeting with other police officers who are experiencing difficulties. Adam advises Max that since he is a good detective and he should try to solve his problems rather than quitting the force.

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Although Max is skeptical as to whether he will derive any benefit from the meeting, as he and his wife had already attended counselling sessions without success, he reluctantly attends the meeting where he meets other police officers such as Casey Spencer and Ramon Perez. Everyone who Max meets at the meeting praises the impact that Garou’s influence has had on their fortunes. Max soon realizes that the activities of the group also entail embarking on vigilante missions to clean the streets of criminals.

Max initially tells Garou that he is not interested in joining the group, but agrees to accompany them to a party where criminals are exchanging weapons. Before gate crashing the party, Max notices that each of the group members injects themselves with a strange chemical, which he learns has been produced by Garou. After they have injected this chemical, Garou and his team become more powerful and seemingly impervious to injury. The next day Max attempts to advise his incredulous boss of the strange goings on, but to no avail.

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He visits Casey Spencer who tries to persuade him to inject himself with the chemical. When he refuses, she shoots him. As Max lies dying on the floor, she injects him with the chemical and he is instantly healed. They sleep with each other and, afterwards, injecting themselves and raid a criminal lair after. As Max and Casey easy dispatch the criminals, they sprout long claws from their knuckles, and grow sharp teeth. One of the criminals escapes and informs his crime boss what he saw. He is given instructions to deal with Garou.

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Garou learns of Casey’s sexual encounter with Max and angrily advises her that he is ‘top dog’ before raping her. Afterwards, Garou and his group, including Max, gather together for another night of attacking the criminals. After injecting themselves with Garou’s chemical, the officers enter a vehicle to depart. The vehicle explodes as the key is turned in the ignition. As the remnants of the vehicle burn, the criminal who had been instructed to kill Garou is horrified to see that all of the officers have survived and that they are in their monster-like state. The dead bodies of the criminal and his associates are dropped from a helicopter through the glass ceiling of the crime boss’ home.

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The same night, Max meets a deformed ex-police officer in a holding cell. He tells Max that he knows Garou and they used to work together. Garou has worked in numerous cities, and after the streets are cleaned of crime, all of the officers who work with him were killed (though he had escaped). He also explained that his deformity was caused by overuse of the chemical. Garou kills the officer to silence him and Max covers for him, but his suspicions are aroused and he begins to conduct some research into Garou.

After making a startling discovery, he sneaks into Garou’s apartment and finds Garou extracting the chemical from his own brain with a syringe. Max advises Garou that he realizes that he is a werewolf. Conflict ensues and although Max and Casey escape from Garou’s apartment, the latter is fatally injured. The next day Garou prepares to complete his final operation and Max resolves to stop him. After Garou has killed all of the criminals, including the aforementioned crime boss, Max shoots him with a silver bullet and Garou falls to the ground. Thinking that Garou is dead, Max turns away. However, Garou, who informed Max previously that a full eclipse protects him from everything (including silver), reappears behind him. A full eclipse had passed overhead as these events took place. He then turns into an extremely large werewolf, losing his human form entirely.

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Max flees as the other members of Garou’s group are killed. Garou tries to kill Max, but the latter injects Garou with a solution of silver nitrate. As the eclipse is over, this kills Garou. Before he dies Garou returns to his human form and tells Max that if he lies in his blood he can take his power. In the finale, Max is shown to have moved to Denver with his wife Anna and their relationship seems to have improved. She is shown cutting her finger with a knife as she is chopping up food. Max licks her finger and then leaves to undertake some paperwork. She notices that her cut heals immediately and stares after Max bewildered. Meanwhile, Max is shown looking up on a computer the dates of coming eclipses in different American cities.

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DEVELOPMENT/PRODUCTION
The project was initially titled The Pack, after the name of a special unit of the LAPD that utilizes a secret new drug to help them combat crime. On the LA street location, director Anthony Hickox calls quickly for another take before the smoke disappears and the sun rises to ruin the shot. The FX crew relights the flames around the van and fans blow smoke across the scene. swirling it around the six actors who make up the Pack. “Action! One. two, three, monsters!” Hickox calls in his polite English accent. Slowly. the half-dozen transformed werewolves rise from the ground, move through the smoke and stand together. united in power.

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The story was born when writer Richard Christian Matheson was approached by a friend. Michael Reaves, to co-script a werewolf/cop movie. Matheson, who has written for over 30 TV shows including Amazing Stories and Tales from the

Crypt, wasn’t sure he was interested in working in this subgenre. As he explains further. “I’ve never been a fan of werewolf movies. As soon as they transform, they seem kind of benign to me. They don’t seem so eerie. and they lose all the facial detail that can be most frightening in a monster. I wanted to make sure that when they transformed. they did not look like wolves. I felt that would diminish the effect.

“If the script was going to be about werewolves. I also wanted it to be about addiction and overcoming the controlling influence of the lunar cycles,” he continues. “With that in mind, we set about putting the story together.

2.anthony-hickox-2015You know what, I love horror more than anything, but after making five of them, it was like, I wanna blow some shit up. Full Eclipse came along, which was a Richard Matheson script, who’s a horror writer generally and it was just such a great, for me, it had everything I wanted to do.HBO put six million dollars on that budget, which is why I could do all that shit. I love Full Eclipse because I got to do horror and these great action scenes, John Woo action scenes. Also, I was watching all these action movies thinking it must be so much fun to get to do that. – Anthony Hickox (Director)

Matheson is vehement when he describes how he visualized the creatures. “They weren’t going to be covered with hair and they weren’t going to be fully transformed.” he says, “They were going to be, in essence. stuck at the halfway point. because that’s the most frightening thing to me.

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“Full Eclipse is not really a werewolf movie,” he insists. “It’s almost about the id coming under a sort of preternatural influence. It’s about addiction, and the ghastly transformational tendency of drugs. Like those guys who take STP and lift a car up, or can take a couple of rounds from a police revolver and keep coming at you.”

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It didn’t take Matheson long to place the screenplay with Home Box Office. The writer has an uncanny ability to sell spec scripts, and to date has sold nine to various studios. The next step was finding the right director, and the production soon chose Hickox. He had his own opinions as to the important elements of the script and how the Pack should look, right down to their futuristic outfits and weapons. Luckily, the director and writers shared the same vision.

“I’m a huge comics fan: I read a lot of Marvel Comics, so I had a look I wanted.” Hickox explains. “Superheroes gone wrong. the whole Marvel mutant thing. I’ve always liked that concept; people with superpowers were a heavy influence. I’m quite sure I can’t buy the rights to the X-Men, so this allowed me to do my own version.”

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Classic movies also played a part in Hickox’s conception. “I wanted the wolves to look like the first actor Henry Hulll who played one in Werewolf of London (1935),” he says. “We were going for a cross between him and Oliver Reed in Curse of the Werewolf. There’s a great moment where he turns from the jail cell window, and that’s kind of how I hope our werewolves are going to look. But I also wanted this to be different, especially with the two stages. There’s a first stage the Pack goes through, where they become superhuman and look like the true werewolves as the legends describe them-half man and hall wolf. Then there’s the stage where they become full wolves at the end.

“We really tried to let the actor shine through.” says the director of this approach. “It’s funny how each

face takes on a different character. We didn’t want them to just be covered in makeup. We really built on their foreheads, cheeks and necks. I also love their weapon claws, and the fact that they actually bleed when the claws come out of their fingers, which I think would happen if you were transforming.”

Bringing these ideas to screen life was a big jump, which is why veteran Tony Gardner, head of Alterian Studios was hired to create Full Eclipse’s special FX makeup. Gardner, in his quiet, professional way is a problem solver and a master artist. Not only did Alterian design the transformation makeup, as well as a terrifying 12-foot wolf for the final fight scene, but they developed the futuristic combat gear, helmets and even the insignias and logos for the Pack members.

We have a stage one look, which is just additive makeup and dentures. Gardner explains. “Stage two is where we get into appliances that go down from the forehead almost to the outer corners of the eyes. We’ve got this weird, funky appliance that goes from the tip of the nose to the lip line, just to connect the two in a more animalistic way. We’ve also got upper and lower teeth. Bruce Payne is the only person who enters stage three. That’s a big appliance makeup which goes from his collarbone over his head and covers him entirely, with big fake ears and hair and stuff like that. It’s a much larger cranium, and you see a lot more skull structure.

“We change them gradually to reveal them more and more as werewolves.” Gardner continues. “Different people are taken to different degrees. The only one you’ll see transform completely is Bruce’s character, who turns into an 11- or 12-foot wolf with fur over his entire body. It’s a big monster.”

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Yet even great makeup concepts wouldn’t mean much without the right actors in the parts. For the role of daredevil Pack officer Casey, Hickox brought in his old friend, British actress Patsy Kensit. Well known for her starring turn as Mel Gibson’s stunning South African girlfriend in Lethal Weapon 2, Kensit is also a major horror movie fan. The concept of becoming a werewolf appealed to her, despite the four hour-plus makeup process.

“I loved that,” she says. “I’ve I never done anything like it before. Garrett Immel, who works with Tony, was kind of my key person. They were fantastic. They’re so into it: they’re really great people and so talented. What they can do with just a bit of shading and some prosthetics is incredible.

Kensit not only enjoyed the special FX side of the shoot, but was enthusiastic about everything she was required to do, from a sexy love scene with Van Peebles to a midnight swim in the Pacific ocean. The love scene, naturally, was a great deal easier and more fun. “Anthony originally wanted something that involved a lot of nudity, and I wasn’t prepared to do that,” she explains. “Now it’s very erotic, but it leaves a lot to the imagination. Anthony’s got a great mind. So he shot it beautifully, and it’s pretty steamy.”

The venture into the Pacific ocean was anything but steamy, as Kensit recalls. “When Mario and I went into the water, it was freezing cold. I had kind of a half wetsuit under my dress. so it wasn’t as bad, but Mario had nothing. We were both covered in sand burns afterwards, and it was a really mucky part of the ocean. It was the most horrific. freezing cold night of my life, with the waves crashing over me. Apparently it looks great, and that’s always worth it. That was really the hardest part of the movie, but it was a great experience. It’s something I’m glad I explored as an actress.”

Kensit wasn’t the only one who enjoyed the opportunity to play a werewolf. Van Peebles also found the concept attractive, and is eager to discuss what he calls “man’s fascination with his animal nature, or his animal side. We’ve always been curious about our evolution from beasts, and our connection to them. I always wanted to play a werewolf or a vampire, or something of that nature. It’s very cathartic to be these different people. see what they feel and let that part of you go. It’s healthy to do this.”

Van Peebles didn’t mind the heavy makeup either, and in fact was intrigued by the whole process. Hickox saw a preview for Posse, which Van Peebles both directed and starred in. and immediately decided he was the right man for the part. The actor gives Hickox points for his progressive views on casting. “It was very forward-thinking on Anthony’s part.” he states. “Because it wasn’t written for someone black, or green or blue. And Patsy as the leading lady-it’s very avant-garde in that it doesn’t pander to typical views.”

If Full Eclipse’s hero is atypical. then its villain breaks just as many molds and stereotypes. Captain Garou is one of the most compelling bad guys since Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Both Matheson and Hickox were concerned that without the right performance, Garou could turn into just another melodramatic villain. And, as Matheson explains, that wasn’t what either of them had in mind. “Garou didn’t want to be a monster.” the writer says. “He wanted to join the human community and make it better-to evolve and protect it. He was also learning to master his lycanthropic curse. Most monsters have a sort of grudge against humanity, but I don’t think Garou does: he simply dislikes crime. That makes him interesting. and Bruce really brings all of those nuances out. He’s a wonderful actor and a very bright man.”

Those levels of the character were exactly what interested Payne. While he worked to prepare for the action sequences speaking to friends in Delta Force and members of the Los Angeles SWAT team who were working with the film company-it was the psychological factors that Payne was more concerned with.

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“We’re all looking for something quicker, faster and easier that gives us a shorter feeling of contentment.” he says. “I found a lot of undercurrent issues within this character of a police officer who really feels he’s a shining knight. He’s developed this serum which is really part of his own body. This bad guy thinks he’s the good guy: he believes he’s on a good quest.”

To give the character of Garou even more depth and poignancy. Hickox decided to make some slight changes to the final transformation scene. The sequence involves Max and Garou having a terrible fight, in which Garou changes completely into the huge, towering wolf and almost tears the young cop apart. But in the end, when good naturally triumphs. Garou reverts to his true form: a very old man. The full makeup change wasn’t decided upon until the last moment, and therefore presented the film’s biggest challenge for both the special FX team and Payne.

“When you have a two-day warning, it’s impossible to create that prosthetic stuff.” the actor elaborates. “Fortunately, Tony is a very clever and energetic young man with a lot of good ideas. The man who actually did the hands-on application and coloring of the makeup was an old friend of mine named Mike Smithson. whom I had the great pleasure of working with on Switch. He’s a true talent, and he basically pulled together some of his own pieces, from his own face. They tried to match them and enhance a very old, elegant face as best they could. We put on a small. old forehead piece, but it wasn’t built for me, so he had to cut it and shape it, which is incredibly difficult. Actually, it’s a taboo thing. You don’t cut a prosthetic. because as soon as you do. the thin edge suddenly isn’t there and you have a ledge. In prosthetic terms, that ledge is the equivalent of missing a floor in a parking structure as you’re building it, so hiding it requires incredible tenacity.

Anthony Hickox was finishing Full Eclipse. This is another project where I focused writing around a rhythm section – hammond, guitar, bass and drums. For the action cues, many of Billy Ward’s performances were on midi pads, so that I could take his recordings and associate the information with other sounds – such as pitched slate tiles and other found sounds.  All in all, we had a lot of fun on this one, and I heard that Jim Kerr, who was married to Patsy Kensit at the time, liked my end credit theme when he heard it at the cast screening!Gary Chang (Score Composer)

CAST/CREW
Directed
Anthony Hickox

Written
Richard Christian Matheson
Michael Reaves

Mario Van Peebles as Max Dire
Patsy Kensit as Casey Spencer
Bruce Payne as Adam Garou
Anthony John Denison as Jim Sheldon
Jason Beghe as Doug Crane
Paula Marshall as Liza
John Verea as Ramon Perez
Dean Norris as Fleming
Willie C. Carpenter as Ron Edmunds
Victoria Rowell as Anna Dire
Scott Paulin as Teague
Mel Winkler as Stratton
Joseph Culp as Detective Tom Davies

CREDITS/REFERENCES/SOURCES/BIBLIOGRAPHY
my-blog-of-interviews
halloweenlove
Fangoria#129

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