What is Caffeinated Clint’s Greats?
I’ve had plenty of emails from you guys asking such questions as “Who were your favourite actors growing up?”, “Do you have a favourite movie?”, “You’re producing films now, any particular film that inspired you to take that road?” and “Hey man, Got Kristen Stewart’s phone number?”, and it gave my an idea – why not profile some of my favourite films? (It saves me from flaming a pimply, unintelligent publicist or another fresh-from-junior-high exec over some harebrained remake he’s just greenlit for a couple of weeks, after all) and in doing so, why not make contact with some of the people from these films?
Title : The Hidden
Year : 1987
Director : Jack Sholder
Starring : Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Nouri, Claudia Christian, Clarence Felder, Clu Gulager, Ed O’Ross, Chris Mulkey, William Boyett
I don’t know where to start with ”The Hidden” – Okay, yes I do… I love it!
I worked at a video store from the age of 16 onwards and ”The Hidden” was the film that was out each and every night – even twelve months after it’s release. It was also one of the few films that customers preferred to steal – I can’t tell you how many times I had to go door-knocking to both cut a membership card in half and, of course, detain a VHS.
I don’t know how many of you out there share my love of ”The Hidden”, and I only say that because every time I bring the film up I either get a ”Really? The Hidden? That Body Snatchers thing?” or a ”What’s that? The flick with Gary Busey living in Mimi Rogers attic?” I’m guessing there’s a lot more fans out there of it than I’m aware of, right? There’s gotta be.
But yeah, those guys are right, it is a “Body Snatchers thing” but unlike say, the 1993 version of it, ”The Hidden” actually delivers – in spades. If “Alien Nation” (released a year after) was the meat & veggies, then “The Hidden” was the serve of garlic bread served beforehand – and we know how much tastier Garlic Bread can sometimes be than a bowl of warm peas. It wasn’t a film that took itself too seriously, in fact I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that it was as much a satire on the old-school B-monster movies of the ’50s and ’60s (it’s definitely ”Neo-Noir” anyway), and that “let’s just have fun” attitude synched with the viewers emotions… and enjoyment of it.
You all know about my love for Kyle MacLachlan – or if you don’t, come back next week for my piece on ”Twin Peaks : Fire Walk With Me” and you soon will. He’s fantastic in this – if anybody was born to play an alien it’s, well, D.J Qualls… but also, MacLachlan. He has the movements, the speech, the gestures down pat. Peter Coyote needs to get his team over to that dude’s house pronto – some plastic sheets are gonna need to be coming down on his lino1 But I digress, MacLachlan is great… as is Michael Nouri. Nouri, as my fellow Generation X’ers will recall, was quite the name in the ’80s – he of course was in ”Flashdance” (as the male lead), but he also appeared in flicks like “Gangster Wars” and “The Imagemaker” – and was more flexible than a nympho gymnast… throw him a role, and he’d wear it like a finely-fitting toupee. His cop and MacLachlan’s alien-cop were a great couple… they had magnificent chemistry (in fact, they reminded me a lot of Agent Cooper and Sherrif Truman on ”Twin Peaks” – which MacLachlan, of course, would spend the next couple of years following ”The Hidden” doing). People talk more about the great rapport between the cop/alien duo in ”Alien Nation” – played by James Caan and Mandy Patinkin – and whilst I think that was a magic match too, the coupling in ”The Hidden” has been unfairly overlooked. These two had the makings of a long-running TV cop show in them.
And the support cast was delicious – sci-fi hottie Claudia Christian was in there, Chris Mulkey (another future ”Twin Peaks” alum) put in a performance, then-action movie staple Ed O’Ross (who a year later would play the villain in Schwarzenegger/Belushi vehicle ”Red Heat”) was in there…even a pre-Rodriguez /post-”Runaway Train” Danny Trejo makes an appearance, playing a jailbird who regrettably decides to insult ‘The Hidden’.
Then there was Michael Convertino’s soundtrack – awesome compositions. The man’s music really added to the experience.
The praise for ”The Hidden” must be tossed in the direction of writer Jim Kouf (who also wrote one of my other favourite films of 1987, ”Stakeout”) and director Jack Sholder (”A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 : Freddy’s Revenge”) – they set out to write and direct, respectively, a certain type of movie here and succeeded. The flick could’ve easily turned out ‘just another’ of those ‘alien jumping from body to body’ movies that have inundated video shelves for the past couple of decades, but the detail they put into this one, the slick and stylish direction, and mostly just their sheer ‘let’s just give the audience as much as we can with the money we’ve got to do it on’ approach (the car chase is insane!) works a treat.
I remember back at the video shop that we always argued as to what category to place ”The Hidden” – was it a horror? Was it a science-fiction? Was it a thriller? Was it an action movie? Or was it an adventure movie? And I still couldn’t give you an infinite answer on that – - it’s a little bit of everything…a big bad buddy cop movie with gore, guns, giggles, and grouse performances.
Hot off the success of his ”Elm Street” sequel, New Line (or more precisely, Robert Shaye) retained Jack Sholder’s services for ”The Hidden”. Though Sholder has directly other, perfectly enjoyable films (His ”Renegades”, with Lou Diamond Phillips and Kiefer Sutherland, was a bit of a favourite of mine there for a while) it’s ”The Hidden” that’s earned him his PDH in kick-assery.
I had the opportunity to chat to Sholder about his hard-to-categorize Reagan-era masterpiece.
Caffeinated Clint : Jack, I take it you got the job for ”The Hidden” off the back of the success of ”A Nightmare on Elm Street 2”?
Jack Sholder : Well, I’d had a long relationship with New Line starting when they were a very small distribution company with offices over a bar in lower Manhattan. I met Bob Shaye, and he asked me to cut a trailer for a Czech film called The End of August at the Hotel Ozone. After spending a long weekend locked in a cutting room with Bob, we emerged friends, and I did trailers and editing work – mainly recutting, titling, etc – for most of the films they picked up. So they knew who I was and knew they could trust me. Certainly the success of Nightmare didn’t hurt, but it was really Sara Risher who recommended the script to me. Another director was somewhat attached, but I read the script, fell in love with it, and petitioned New Line to let me do it. I guess they liked my take on it, and they hired me.
Caffeinated Clint : Cool. Was Kyle MacLachlan attached to the film prior to your anointment as director? Or was he someone you liked, and subsequently chose?
Jack Sholder : Kyle seems intertwined with the role, and many people see the role he later played in Twin Peaks as cut from similar cloth. The fact is, the week before the shoot we still had not cast the role after seeing dozens of actors. The casting director, Annette Benson, brought in everyone she could find who was interesting, and it came down to Peter Gallagher and Kyle. New Line favored Peter and thought Kyle was too wimpy. I felt Kyle’s vulnerability was exactly what made him so interesting for the role, and they ultimately bought my argument. We also cast Michael Nouri at the same time, I think it was the Thursday before the Monday we started. We rehearsed a bit over the weekend and then started shooting. I thought Kyle was terrific, but I thought Nouri was stealing the movie since he had all the good lines. Little did I know.
Did the script change much before it went before the cameras?
Somewhat. Jim Kouf wrote a terrific script that was fast paced, witty, and original. I felt there needed to be a stronger bond between Beck and Gallagher, and I felt the best way to do it was to create a better relationship between Beck and his wife. In Jim’s script, it was rather breezy and wasn’t where Jim was going with the script. I felt Gallagher could relate to Beck through Beck’s family by having the alien he’s chasing having killed Gallagher’s own family. Clearly the film couldn’t take much time on Beck & wife, so I got the idea of the daughter that would immediately give Beck and wife a bond and who also could sense that there was something special about Beck. So that was my major story contribution. I also felt that the script was really about what it meant to be human, so I added a number of touches along the way – I think the dog looking in the mirror was my idea but I’d have to look over Jim’s original to be certain. It was certainly the direction I was going with the film.
Caffeinated Clint : Who did the rewrites?
Jack Sholder : I did the rewrites myself since Jim was pretty much done with it and was unwilling to do much more work on it.
Caffeinated Clint : What else did you add to the script?
Jack Sholder : I also had the idea that the body-changing alien had to be the same character in 7 bodies, including the dog’s. I got all 6 actors plus the dog and trainer in the same room, and we developed the character of the alien together to make sure they all had the same characteristics and mind-set. Bob Shaye, By the way, was the one who had the idea of the tongue thing. He felt the alien should have a physical thing it did the same in each body. I figured it was easier to see what the dog could do rather than trying to get it to do something the humans came up with. So I asked the trainer. When the dog got really intense, like it was getting ready to attack, it would sort of stick its tongue out a bit and it looked cool. See I had all the actors mimic it.
Caffeinated Clint : I take it a lot of the “alien transfer” scenes were accomplished via stop-motion? Lots of practical stuff in the film?
Jack Sholder : There was no stop-motion. Kevin Yagher made dummy heads that were incredibly life-like. He’d come up with a new substance that everyone now uses but that was revolutionary at the time and was capable of incredible detail and had a very realistic skin quality. In fact, Bill Boyett who played the old guy took one look at his dummy head and refused to look at it again. Kevin also created the alien based around the idea of a parasite. The last thing we shot on the film was the transfer scene in the hospital. I remember it took all night and by the time we were done we’d pretty much ripped up the dummy heads.
Caffeinated Clint : Such great scenes… ones I look forward to seeing on Blu-ray. Heard anything about a release?
Jack Sholder : I haven’t, but the DVD still sells, so I imagine one will likely come out. New Line always had a lot of affection for The Hidden. Now that Warners owns and controls the library, it’s hard to say.
Caffeinated Clint : I recall hearing about a remake a few years back?
Jack Sholder : There was a Hidden II, but I never saw it.
Caffeinated Clint : I did – it was terrible. Almost unwatchable.
Jack Sholder : I’ve heard talk about a remake and even seen some announcements, but I don’t think it ever happened. After all, New Line, and now Warners, owns the rights. There have certainly been other films that ripped of the premise. Fallen was one.
Caffeinated Clint : True. Looking back, did you enjoy working with Bob Shaye on “Elm Street” and “The Hidden”?
Jack Sholder : I’m not sure enjoy is quite the word. Bob was the one who believed in me and gave me my break to become a director, and he is one of my dearest friends, like family. That said, he could be difficult at times to work for. In his own way, though, I think he always challenged me to be better. Here’s a story I think shows how Bob worked, at least with me. I did 3 features for New Line, and we’d always have screenings and then Bob would give notes, not all of which I would agree with, usually in a place that served liquor. In this case, Bob had invited a group of people that he trusted, both from New Line and from outside. There were about ten of us sitting around a table, and there was one note – I have no idea now what it was – that Bob was insisting on and that I was utterly opposed to. So Bob went around the table and asked everyone their opinion. Fortunately, every one agreed with me. Bob said if only one person had agreed with him, he would have insisted. But since no one did, it was “OK, your way it is”.