Allow me to share the background to a lesser-known Nightmare on Elm Street promo…
Few people have had the pleasure of filming Freddy Krueger – the burnt, blade-fingered, child-murdering phantom who haunted Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. And whilst the maliciously gleeful monster was not portrayed by screen-star Robert Englund, I was fortunate to Executive Produce a one-off promotional video for the UK video release of Freddy’s Revenge that was still Hollywood in miniature.
Freddy was required for Warner Home Video UK’s monthly trade video, a sales tool primarily aimed at the network of independent video rental stores but could double as an in-store trailer reel. For the time, we spent a sizeable budget to ensure real production value. Not one, however, that would have facilitated hiring and flying Robert Englund to the UK. So we found our own Freddy. I would have happily played the part; I loved the original movie and was a big fan of the wickedly droll monster. I had already appeared as Freddy at a company fancy dress bash, in a wonderful trademark sweater knitted by my Mum. But it was the sweater destined for the screen rather than me. (However, I did later make an appearance as the Phantom Flan Flinger of TISWAS fame for a PolyGram Video sales conference and with the lovely Sally James!)
Many of our trailer and promo production requirements were produced by Irving Martin’s Soho-based Scores Ltd. The team of Producer/Directors included Jonanthan Glazer (who went on to direct the feature films Sexy Beast and Birth, and Keith English who recently made his debut feature The More You Ignore Me). It was Keith who would direct the Freddy shoot.
Freddy’s Revenge was to spearhead a package of horror titles that included cult-classic The Swamp Thing, and Freddy was the vehicle to drive the narrative from trailer to trailer. A wonderful storyboard, which I possess to this day, established the Warner Offices on a stormy night. They were in fact just off the gyratory near the dreaded Alperton roundabout (a nightmare at any time). A pyjama’d victim is wandering through the derelict moonlit offices past cobwebbed doorways and video film posters, clearly in a dream state. But there are fleeting images of blades, a Fedora and malevolent eyes. Eventually, in the Managing Director’s office, our hapless victim is trapped in the boss’s chair, sinewy rope appears and trusses him helpless as Freddy delivers his final sales message with the warning, ‘You are all my children now!’
It was an ambitious shoot that would take place overnight Saturday to Sunday morning when the offices would be empty. MD David Rozalla’s office was on the first floor, requiring a gantry to be erected for lighting purposes, it also meant hauling some fairly heavy dolly/track equipment up the stairs.
It was fascinating to watch the process and cemented my own ambition to be a Producer. With marketing colleague Reg Thompson (and our respective partners) there was little for us to do and at times the shoot was fatiguing, lasting more than 24 hours. Chemical cobwebs were sprayed everywhere, dry ice smoke billowed round corners and seemed to permeate the entire building. The place stank.
But Freddy looked magnificent. He was gamely portrayed by David Myers, brother of Howard, another Producer at Scores but working as a grip for that shoot. David had to endure a gruelling make-up process with full prosthetic mask that took 12 hours to complete. My office doubled as the make-up room. It was an abiding image from the shoot to see Freddy wandering around donning a Heartbreak Ridge baseball cap.
The dream victim was character actor Kerry Shale, and he did a superb job, uncomplaining through often quite uncomfortable conditions, ranging from being sprayed with chemical cobwebs to having a fan blasting smoke at him full-face.
And when the shoot was finished, the clean-up took hours – particularly the MD’s office. He did, however, forgive us. We were all proud of the finished item, I don’t know if Wes Craven ever got to see it. But I think he’d be quite happy about his monster’s treatment. My Mum wasn’t too happy about the way her jumper had totally ripped and trashed but she was given a credit on the promo (God Bless you Hilda).
As for me, I got to play Freddy one more time. As a publicity stunt, I donned the mask, hat, sweater and gloves to visit the offices of trade magazine Video Business, to goofily pose with rock journo Brian Harrigan and editor John Hayward. To do the role justice I had to buy some KY jelly to add a revolting sliminess to the mask (that was my excuse anyway), and wander through the streets of London with my gloved razor claws in a supermarket carrier bag. The London cabbie who drove me there posed gamely for a publicity shot and I include it here with fond memories.
Something I wanted to add. Actually donning the glove was an eerie experience. It was a superb facsimile of the film prop. The blades were heavy and lethal, just hefting the damned thing might stir all manner of unwelcome imaginings. To prove it’s effectiveness, it was used ‘in anger’ at another publicity event to herald the release of the video. By a fluke Freddy’s Revenge saw WHV’s formally distinctive corporate packaging give way to a larger box that allowed the entire cover to feature the film’s artwork. WHV decided to unveil this new packaging style at a corporate bash at the London Dungeon wax museum of horrors. A giant video box some 7-8 ft high was covered on a podium. At the tolling of midnight bells, the package was uncovered and there were literal screams when Freddy’s razored claw tore through the cover and he leapt through it onto the floor! You had to be there.
So where’s this promo, I hear you ask? My own VHS copy went the way of all flesh. But if I find another one (and someone wrote online about this promo a little while ago) rest assured I’ll make it available. Meanwhile I hope readers enjoy the photographs.
Dedicated to everyone who worked so hard on that promo, creator Wes Craven and Freddy Fans everywhere. Let’s face it – we’re all his children now.
***UPDATE! Promo found HERE on YouTube from a crackly old VHS!***