The SCI-FI Explosion!
LOGAN'S RUN & STAR WARS
An exclusive look at the show challenging 'Star Wars' for the sci-fi crown; Plus an inside view of those very special effects and how they work - Richard Blackburn
Greg Harrison and heather Menzies have been inervied-a lot. The media has sensed that their series for CBS-Logan's Run-is hitbound, and during the fielding of questions the two have developed a playful put-on of the typical interview.
"I just want to say," Greg assures, "that Heather is great to work with."
"And," chimes in Heather, "I feel the same way about Greg."
They smile winningly. Cut. Print. Yet showing through the banter is a genuine liking and respect. Both had long talks about their parts before filming began and saw the challenge of making three-dimensional people out of Logan and Jessica.
"Since we enter into a new civilization every week," heather explains, "there's a lot of exposition and not so much character development. We have to put it in when we can. Sort of between the lines. Jessica is really a strong character but in the early scripts she was always asking for things to be explained to her. We're changing that now."
"I'm asking for explanations," says Greg. "Of course, there's always the temptation to ask Rem."
Sandy-haired Donald Moffat, who plays Rem-the duo's Mr. Spock-like android pal-also speaks of overseeing his character. "There was a line in the episode we are doing now that makes me sound if I'm condoning murder. I had to add the phrase 'From the murderer's point of view.' Rem may be logical but he is totally against hurting human beings. Even though he can't lie he can withhold information if its disclosure would be dangerous to humans."
Many times, writers are overly concerned with creating scenes and dialogue which only move an episode to its desired conclusion. Actors, on the other hand are so into the parts that they play that they can instantly tell is a line or action doesn't fit them. The individual characteristics, catch phrases and bits of business peculiar to a character happen over a number of episodes, and give the actors a sense of contributing more to the show than just line readings and apleasant face.
Greg and Heather agree they've been cast for type. Do they mean as "attractive young people?"
"Attractive young people on the run," stresses Greg. "Very important distinction." He then, more seriously, compares his Logan with the one in the film. "The Logan there started out killing somebody and then picking up a hooker. His semi-conversion to humane values wasn't really convincing until the film was three quarters through. In our show he is already converted to another way of thinking because we have to make him likable right away."
"And the Jessica in the film," adds Heather, "was a different physical type than me. She was older and -"
"Had a better figure," interrupts Bob Urich, Heather's actor husband who has his own series, Tabatha, on ABC. The two first met while appearing in a Libby's Corned Been commercial.
"Hold on," says Greg "I want it definitely understood that the unidentified male voice that said that was not mine!"
An ex-surfer, Greg's been a science fiction fan since childhood. In his view "science fiction is our best vehicle for philosophy. The show wouldn't be fulfilling the nature of science fiction if it didn't have a moral premise. We're not trying to shove a message down anyone's throat but the ramification of humanitarian ideals is certainly there." he lists his favorite sci fi writers as Heinlein, Asimov and Ellison.
Heather prefers reading mysteries and Anais Nin. No great fan of science fiction, she fell asleep while attempting to watch the movie of Logan's Run. However, she remembers thinking that it would make a great TV series. When she heard that a pilot was being cast for just such a thing she knew somehow that it would be sold. "I had been offered the part in a sit-com pilot that I knew wasn't going to sell when Logan's Run called wanting to screen test me. I couldn't do both and the sit-com pilot was a firm offer so I turned it down and then-and they never do this- they said 'Well how about we just give it to you?' No audition or anything. And sure enough, the sit-com didn't sell and here I am."
Comparing the series to Star Wars, Greg mentions that even though good deal of money is being spent on the effects and the sets (see box), the budget and time limitations demand that the show cannot rest solely on technological marvels. Human interest will be a very important element in Logan's Run.
"Star Wars is a great movie," says Heather, "but it wasn't an actors film. In fact, I think this show is clarifying character relationships that the film Logan's Run left unfocused."
Heather, although a committed thespian who attends a acting workshop when she has the time, admits that ballet and modern dance are her main loves. "Even now, when I am working, I miss my dancing classes."
Greg is interested in writing. In the future he may try his hand at one of the scripts for the show. His great passion, however, is composing and performing songs which fall into a James Taylor/Jackson Browne MOR bag. Already, in the spotlight because of the series, he's spoken to record producers.
Right now it's the acting that absorbs all their energies. They work 14 hour days: from six to six-thirty in the morning, to eight or eight thirty at night. In the midst of all this activity it sometimes gets rough. Greg is still a little apprehensive of the hovercraft he drives and was recently hit by a rock during an avalanche scene. Heather caught a ray gun in the face when Greg whipped around too fast trying to protect her from the oncoming robots. Both have been singed by exploding walls.
Still nothing really serious has occurred to the resilient pair. In fact, Heather refuses to regard the time as work at all. "Its like we're playing," she says, and then with a kid's grin, "only we're getting paid for it!"
(box mentioned in article pages 28,29)
Star Wars has created a market for lavish science fiction. To this end, Logan's Run has secured the services of two movie men who are both strangers to a "common" TV series. They are prop and effects man Jimmy Thompson and art director Mort Rabinowitz.
Jimmy, a native of Glasgow, keeps a pretty hectic schedule-often he and his people work weekends to get everything ready. Added to the difficulty is the fact that all the props are originals-nothing has been lifted form the movie. His workbenches are covered with ray gun models, freezer coils, sliding door panels, transformer machines and complex dashboards for spacecraft. Of the ray guns, only Logan's produces its own flame; the others are non-functional-the beams being 'burnt-in' (onto the film itself).
In earlier episodes they killed people; now as an antidote to excessive violence, the shafts of light imprison their victims. Three colors are available whose effects range from a mild shock to total incapication.
At times, its hard to tell on the set what is a part of the shown and what is the latest Hollywood fashion. Weirdly striped jerseys, elevator booties, lapel less tunics-the projected future is always in danger of being taken over by out free-for-all present. However, Jimmy's work on the robot from the episode "The Innocent," was way out in front Optic fibers, little blinking threads, were painstakingly attached to its surface to make it light up in a stunning effect.
Mort Rabinowitz, a new Mexico based painter and sculptor for some 20 years, initially got into features because of the money. Now he's running around like a kid in a toy store. "Basically, what I've got to work with is form and color. Texture and surface decoration sometimes take too long to get." His trademark is a constant use of vibrant, primary colors applied to simple shapes. Most of his ideas come from his own work which has been heavily influenced by the imaginations of Pueblo Indian children. He received two National Endowments of the Arts grants to teach them, but feels they were the ones who taught him.
Among all the people who've given him support, he singles out set decorator Linda De Scenna for special praise. "I draw just one artifact of an imagined culture, give her a color code and she produces the rest."
True enough. Today, characters are eating a futurist meal in a Rabinowitz rec room of bright blues, greens, reds, and yellows. To match this, Linda has invented what appears to be maroon coleslaw, green apple sauce, yellow cottage cheese and light blue mashed potatoes.
Mort admits that his machinery owes more to graphics than to electronics but calls himself a "fantasy buff" rather than a sci-fi fan. "Star Wars was one of the greatest visual experiences of my life." Prophetically enough it was at a promotional display for Star Wars that he came upon one of his best ideas for the show-styrafoam packing molds. "There they had used them more abstractly, more jokingly, but I thought they had great potential." His frozen corridors are lined with molds intended to house medical equipment, and on a living room wall is a mold used to cushion videotape.
Like Jimmy, Mort is holding up well under the terrific pace. The show averages ten sets for each episode. This is practically unheard of in TV which tends to re-use the same three sets every week. Even the old Star Trek was shot mostly inside the Enterprise. But it making the sets that frustrates Mort as much as getting the director and the cameraman to show them. The tendency in TV is to work very close to the actors, in an interior, because backgrounds are usually so limited. Because Mort's always demanding a wider angle lens he's got a nickname on the set of Logan's Run he's known as "Mr. 14 Millimeter." - Richard Blackburn
Picture Descriptions: Click on the underlined word to see a larger version!
1) Rem works on fixing a female android from the pilot episode. "Spock-like android Rem repairs a robot in his workshop. 'Logan' is an expensive show, using ten new sets each episodes."
2) Jessica, Logan, and Rem in a TV guide photo shoot. Logan is pointing his gun as Jessica and Rem look on. In front of that red door with the blue foil wall. "Trio on the 24th century lam: Logan (gun in hand) is played by Greg Harrison, Heather Menzies is Jessica, and Donald Moffat is Rem."
3) A worker adjusts controls to split Jessica into her negative and positive. Jessica is standing in the splitting chamber form Half Life. "Heather Menzies (as Jessica above) fell asleep watching the 'Logan's Run' movie, but spurned a sitcom role to be in the TV show."