CAMP NOBEBOSCO, NJ – Critics enjoy mocking the Friday the 13th films as a mindless exercise in human slaughtering by the goalie masked wearing Jason. The body count was more important than the plot. But amongst the carnage of the dozen films was one that stood out. Friday 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives combined a ghoulish sense of humor without compromising the grotesque homicides. What’s even more astonishing is that it gave us Sheriff Michael Garris. He was a lawman that could handle the undead Jason Voorhees.
“Don’t piss me off, junior, or I will repaint this office with your brains,” he announced. I had a chance to talk with the man behind Garris’ badge and mustache when David Kagen called the Party Favors hotline. He was ready to chat about the DVD release of Friday 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives: Deluxe Edition.
While the earlier five parts were shot in the Northeast and California, the producers took this sixth outing deep down South to Covington, Georgia. The low budget production was also low profile to keep the locals happy.
“When we were down in Georgia filming, they didn’t want people to know what was being filmed,” Kagen said. “When they posted signs, they called it something else.”
Was it hard to keep Jason and his iconic goalie mask shielded from the locals?
“We didn’t go out to eat that way,” Kagen said. “We did the killings and everything were done in secluded places. There was a lot of night shooting.”
The amazing thought is how in today’s internet age, there would be little chance of a production keeping such a secret. Somebody would leak out the location via a twitter. But back in the mid-80s, the was no instant communications for film geeks.
Most stories about filming in Georgia include descriptions of unbearable heat and humidity. There are nightmarish tales of film melting in the cans. What sort of weather did Kagen experience?
“It was comfortable at night. We put a jacket on,” Kagen said. Anytime you can’t remember the weather in Georgia, it had to be good weather. For those curious of the days it was shot, Kagen went into Atlanta to see Tony Bennett and Rosemary Clooney at the Fox Theatre.
How did he land the role of Sheriff Garris?
“My manager was friendly with the people casting it. He got me in,” Kagen said.
His manager might have got him the meeting, but it was his ultimate cop mustache that made him perfect for the role. Turns out he didn’t grow the facial hair just for the role.
“I had the mustache for a lot of years,” Kagen declared. “It was just my thing. I played bad guys, cops and detectives, lawyers and hard-boiled businessmen. It was kinda related to what I did. Gave me a little edge.”
As the film went on, the role of the Sheriff grew bigger for Kagen.
“They added some things. They really liked what I was doing. That whole fight between Jason and myself was all added. They liked what they were seeing and they put together this whole thing. I was excited and flattered by that.
“The way I did my work as an actor and the way the script was written with the jokes and the tongue and cheek, I just sunk my teeth into and did my thing. Tom (McLoughlin) just kept encouraging me. It was very satisfying and fun.”
The film was rumored to have a budget of $3 million. Was it an extremely low budget film for its time? Or could you get a lot of film production for that price over two decades ago? Kagen didn’t know the actual budget, but he remembers it wasn’t a lavish set.
“The guy who was the DP was also the camera operator, Jon Kranhouse,” Kagen. “I don’t know if that was by his choice or if it was a budget thing or both. It was nice for me. I can’t remember any other film that I quite had that experience. Usually there’s a separate camera operator. We only shot for six weeks or so. For a bigger budget feature film, you’re talking twelve weeks. So we got half. But I didn’t feel it. It was a wonderful experience.”
The budget was big enough so the producer’s mom never showed up to cook all the meals. Even though Kagen wasn’t in a majority of the film, his time in Georgia wasn’t short.
“I was there the last day when it wrapped. We shot all night and had a wrap party at six in the morning. I’m not sure if I was there from the very, very, very beginning. They tried to consolidate my time. I was in a lot of the movie so I was there for most of the shoot. It seemed like four or five weeks.”
Kagen doesn’t mind getting to the set earlier and watching what’s going on when he’s not in front of the cameras.
“You sort of get a feel for what’s going on for the whole movie,” Kagen said. “I like to do that whenever I do something. I’ll show up early. I like to be on the set and get a feeling of the style, the tone and the feeling of how everybody is working.”
Was he able to hang with Ron Palilo (Horshack on Welcome Back, Kotter)? Ron bit it early.
“Yeah,” Kagen said. “We talked. I was around. Nice guy. It’s just the way it is. I was around so much, I got to meet most of the people.”
The film marked the cinematic debut of Tony Goldwyn (Ghost) in a memorable murder scene. Did Kagen get to see Goldwyn’s memorable VW Bug related death?
“I was around for that, but we didn’t talk a lot,” Kagen said.
The cool part about making a film in the mid-80s was that the stunts weren’t completely composited in CGI. The signature stunt of Friday 13th Part VI was an RV wreck that only Jason survives. Was Kagen around the day they launched the RV?
“Oh yeah. That took a whole day to set that up. That was the last shot and they had to get it done while there was enough darkness so it would match. They had cameras planted here and planted there because that was a one time thing.
“When that RV left the ground, you could see underneath the RV. There was air. You could see people standing across in the field. That thing left the ground. They really did it. God forbid they have to right that RV after it’s been damaged like that and shoot it again.”
The actor had high praise for the tech guys who know how to make an audience squirm.
“The people who have the most fun on the set are the special effects and make up guys,” Kagen said. “There will be a scene where somebody’s leg gets torn off. The first time they shoot they scene, they’ll shoot with the foot pointing towards the camera so you can’t see blood and guts. Then they say, ‘Now let’s turn the guts toward the camera. We need more green here and more disgusting colors.’ It’s really like kids at play. There is the one where the guy gets his head crushed by Jason and I fall down right in his face. That’s one where they did it one way and then added colors.”
The multiple violence levels have led to alternate cuts of the film.
“As I remember it, that was one of the problems with my killing. There are some versions out there where they show the whole in actual time. On some versions it’s very abbreviated. He’d be bending me and suddenly I’m bent.”
When Kagen bumps into actors that appeared in Friday 13th films, is there a bond like students who survived Catholic High School?
“I guess there’s a certain understanding,” he replied.
There are numerous stories about the various actors that played Jason Voorhees in the Friday 13th film series. Did C.J. Young hide from the rest of the actors and only appear when the director yelled action? What was Kagen’s relationship with C.J. Young?
“Good,” Kagen said. “We had fun. We got to be together a lot and talk. He really cared. He wanted to do a good job. He really wanted do what would make it most effective. He paid attention and committed. I haven’t seen him in years.”
According to the imdb, Young might still be a casino manager at the Flamingo in Las Vegas. Jason Voorhees could be roaming the same hotel as Donny and Marie Osmond. Now that would be a Friday 13th worthy of being shot in Imax.
How nasty was it for Kagen to look at the undead makeup Young had under the goalie mask?
“I don’t know if I should tell, as far as I remember, they didn’t do stuff under the mask,” Kagen admitted.
Young didn’t spend hours in the makeup room getting the gore goop applied?
“I don’t think so,” Kagen said.
While Kagen has performed in dozens of films and TV shows over the years, Jason Lives is the one that gets him noticed.
“I run into fans in the strangest places. I was on a hike in the Angeles National Forest on a weekday. I’m walking down a trail and I see somebody coming toward me. As he gets ten feet away from me, he say, ‘Oh my God, you were in Friday 13th Part VI.’ I never expected this.
“I never expected it would be so popular. I continue to get fan letters and run into people who tell me when they first saw it. I went to an autograph signing for the DVD and I got to hear stories about how old they were when they first saw it. This young kid came up to me. I said, ‘How old were you when you saw it?’ He said, ‘Six.’ I said, ‘What? You were six years old?’ He said, ‘My brother and his friends were watching it. I snuck into the room. They saw me there and said, you better not tell mom or we’ll kill you.”
It struck home that Friday 13th Part VI came out around the time that VCRs and renting movies on videotape had become a normal way of watching R rated entertainment in the comfort of a living room. There would be no more tales of having to sneak past the ushers into the forbidden multiplex theater. A generation merely had to remember to hit play after the parental units went to bed.
After the DVD autograph session, Kagen intends on attending more horror conventions.
“I’m just starting to do that. It was really interesting,” Kagen said. “The fans were so nice, sweet and pleased. They’re very grateful for the opportunity to say hello.”
Kagen played Major Klev on the “Detained” episode of Star Trek: Enterprise. Does this qualify him to also pop up at Star Trek conventions?
“Evidently,” Kagen said. “We’re going to see.”
Lately Kagen has been getting roles on shows such as Life, House M.D. and CSI. But I had to ask him about two of his early guest appearances on A-Team and 21 Jump Street. What did Kagen remember the most from his time around Mr. T?
“Well, I was on the set one day when Mr. T decided not to show up,” Kagen said. “They had to double him. He was at a football game or something like that, if I recall. They could double him because he was in a truck.”
He did wish he could have talked with George Peppard since they both went to Carnegie Mellon University. But Peppard had a contract that set up the shoot day so he was last to arrive and first to split.
What was his impression of a young Johnny Depp?
“I didn’t have scenes with him, but I was around,” Kagen said. “What was interesting is that same kind of freedom and bravery and being his own person, you could see that on 21 Jump Street. Between takes there was a level of confidence. He wasn’t uptight. The main thing is he was brave. He wasn’t careful and I mean that in a good way. It’s good for an actor to not be careful. You need to be free to create and do your thing. To not censor yourself. Let people see what your feelings are about a particular scene or moment: do it. Stick your neck out, take a chance.”
You can see what happened when David Kagen stuck his neck out while battling Jason Voorhees on the Friday 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives: Deluxe Edition DVD.
SET SPY REPORT
Our man on the set of Miley Cyrus’ upcoming The Last Song said that it’s impossible to get near the Hannah Montana gal with her wall of bodyguards. Although he reported Greg Kinnear wanders around the locations unprotected. Where are all the Auto Focus fanatics? This man ought to have the Hell’s Angels keeping away folks willing to scream out, “A day without sex is a day wasted!” Where are our society’s priorities?
SUMMER TV FUN
True Blood is back. I was so getting sick of those promise ring wearing Twilight vampires. We’re still trying to come up with a term for the blood snowball that was featured on the first episode. Hung has much promise with Thomas Jane getting back to his Boogie Nights roots. Weeds continues to roll out of control, but at least it’s an interesting tumble. Nurse Jackie reminds me why I hate going to hospitals. Edie Falco has topped her role on The Sopranos.
Cake Boss on TLC is like what would happen if the guys at Ace of Cakes rented out their basement to a meth lab. While the Cake Boss pastries look delicious, the baking crew is too high strung.
The teasers for Khloe and Kourtney Kardashian go to Miami has inspired my new show: Lon Cox: VD Hunter to the Stars. Each week Lon will track down what celebrity has spread a new strain of VD around Los Angeles. Lon is America’s greatest Matlock impersonator so his down home Southern folksie style will disarm people getting the harsh news about why they keep itching in bad places.
G.I. Joe A Real American Hero: Season 1.1 brings us the animated action before the live action film hits the screen. The series was a toy catalog come to life with all the amazing action figures in full motion in 1983. There’s lots of fighting, shooting, exploding, ass kicking and product placement. It’s easy to see why parent groups had major issues with it, but what did those loser know about being entertained? G.I. Joe isn’t an actual person, but the codename for an elite team of soldiers whose sole purpose is the defend the world from the evil plans of Cobra. Duke leads a force made up of characters that could be purchased individually at ChildWorld. Cobra was led by Cobra Commander and Destro, the evil scientist. They were the original terrorists that threatened America and the world. Unlike Super Friends, where a majority of the screen time features barely animated talking heads with a little action, the G.I. Joe episodes have more action than a Michael Bay flick. This is less talk, more rock. Cobra is a well-armed force with massive headquarters. Where do they get their funding? And why did they spend a fortune on a gladiator arena when that cash could have gone to buying more laser cannons? The first three miniseries (five episodes long) can be played like a movie even though they do include the bumpers for the commercial breaks. There’s 22 episodes spread over the 4 DVDs. They biggest bonus feature is the 1963 product introduction reel for the original G.I. Joe dolls. It’s a big thrill to see the four dolls with their numerous military outfits. Easy to see why they became a major seller with the cool weapons. Your father (or even grandfather) will get a kick out of this vintage footage. Prepare to freeze frame so he can figure out which accessories he got for his birthday in 1966. They also have numerous “Knowing Is Half the Battle” PSAs that get spoofed on Robot Chicken. There’s ads featuring the ’80s action figures. As an added bonus, you get a few G.I. Joe and Cobra tattoos.
Reno 911: The Complete Sixth Season, Uncensored brings back America’s favorite messed up sheriff’s department. Things have changed on the force with Deputies Garcia, Johnson and Kimball gone. They’re replacements include Sgt. Declan (a suspected transvestite), Deputy Frank Rizzo (a drugged up undercover agent) and a receptionist (who enjoys giving extras). The chemistry change breaths a fresh breath into the act. Rizzo’s stake out with Jones is hilarious as they keep doing illegal acts to prove they’re legit. Jones and Williams infiltrate a swingers party that leads to a key exchange. The force does their best to make Reno unattractive to avoid a visit from the Pope. They don’t want to deal with the extra work. Two episodes deal with Dangle suspected of homicide at his murder mystery party. There are commentary tracks. The bonus features includes nearly an episode of outtakes including the complete commercials for linoleum floors and the sheriff’s department. A really long sketch features the guys from Human Giant pushing the worst vacation deal ever on the cops. There’s 15 more episodes on 2 DVDs. The incompetent cop humor is in full force in Reno once more.
Arthur Hailey’s Hotel: The First Season is the Love Boat for people who get sea sick. The guest stars checked into San Francisco’s St. Gregory Hotel for adventures that were a little less light than on the Pacific Princess. The place is run by James Brolin (best known as Mr. Barbra Streisand or Josh Brolin’s dad). The pilot movie has Bette Davis owning the joint, but they cart her away before the regular season. The movie does have Erin Moran in her post Happy Days glam. She’s supposed to be a singer. This first season is packed with semi-major stars including Richard Hatch (both Battlestar Galacticas), Gary Collins (Drunk RV driver), Vic Tayback (Mel from Alice), Heather Locklear (pre-Cougar), Scatman Crothers (The Shining), and Adrienne Barbeau (Maude). Roy Thinnes (The Invaders) plays a guest who can’t remember who he is. If he walks out on his bill, they’ll know who he is. The most stunning moment is Tori Spelling as a little gal. She got this role without any help from her father, executive producer Aaron Spelling. Hotel’s weird casting keeps it lighter than the scripts intended it to be.
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