About his short, retro-50s giant monster film, It Came From Beyond the Mountain, director Douglas Bankston commented to UB:
And you’re right — ICFBTM absolutely should be a feature film, but I only found so much loose change under my couch cushions. (I really should start inviting wealthier friends over.)
Man treads on dangerous ground while trying to tame the atom, but power-mad General D.E. Williams doesn’t care — it’s his last day on the job at Pearl Lake Weapons Range anyway. His reckless detonation of a nuclear bomb unleashes an eight-legged mutation that exacts 1950s, B-movie-style revenge on all who get in its way.
A classic! Long thought to have been destroyed in the great vault fire of ’59, a print was discovered during the police raid of a reclusive collector’s home and can now be seen for the first time in 40 years! Teens are terrorized by a giant rampaging spider mutated in a 1950s atomic test gone awry, featuring a mad general, a freight train and a mind-numb… I mean bending… climax that will make your brain turn into some sort of quivering, gelatinous substance.
The epic film was three-and-a-half years in the making — grueling years as Bankston battled “two computer meltdowns, software peculiarities, unforeseen technical difficulties, scheduling disasters, inopportune equipment failures (as opposed to opportune ones), gale-force winds, locusts….”
The result is awesome, as you can see for yourself — because here is the 4:43 min. movie! (Note: I should point out at this juncture that there is also a DVD extended version that runs for 11 minutes.)
It Came From Beyond the Mountain was Official Selection at the 2006 Hollywood Horror , Sci-fi & Fantasy Festival.
Urged to reveal all, Bankston settled for telling us about the VFX:
… the number of effects shots skyrocketed. Because of this, I turned to visual effects artist Erik O’Donnell, whom I met through a friend, to help out … Our first conversation went something like this:
Erik: This movie sounds great! I’d love to help!
Me: Perfect. I’ll get you the footage.
Erik: How many effects shots are there?
After the number of effects shots reached 40, I had to tackle the remaining effects myself because Erik would pretend he wasn’t home every time I came around.
Fortunately the only giant spider available had a lot more presence on film…
Then there’s the train sequence [which only appears in the extended version], in case you were thinking of trying it yourself, at home:
Somewhere outside of Mojave, I found the perfect location with the perfect background to shoot the miniature freight train. It had to be in the middle of nowhere because the train would be on fire and it was the height of fire season. I didn’t need any witnesses to my pyromania. I had bought a bunch of HO trains and track off eBay, and the morning of the shoot I set up a stretch of about 30 feet of track and wired the power transformer to my Jeep. Everything was ready to shoot. Then in the span of about 10 minutes, the nice, calm morning turned into 40 mph wind. The small HO-gauge train just spun its wheels because the track happened to be facing into the stiff wind – the angle for the perfect background. The background was unacceptable if I ran the train downwind. I compromised and turned the track somewhat. This helped, but the wind, now coming toward the train at an angle, frequently blew the freight cars off the track. There is plenty of footage of me running into frame chasing after tumbling box cars as I curse the stinging sand, the wind, and even God himself. The footage was useless anyway. I had borrowed an Innovision Probe Lens for the day. Apparently, the Innovision’s adapter that attaches the Probe Lens to the XL1S was loose. The wind shook the Probe Lens violently meaning the image was all over the place and off the camera sensor. I returned the lens at the end of the day and pointed out the problem. The adapter was loose because of one tiny screw that could be tightened with a jeweler’s screwdriver. “You almost never have to worry about this,” I was told by the equipment manager as my jaw clenched and my knuckles whitened. I was in the Mojave Desert. In the middle of nowhere. In 40 mph wind. I did not have a jeweler’s screwdriver.
For the re-shoot, I charted the wind conditions for Mojave for over a month. Finally, one day, the wind was calm. I raced back to the location, set up and shot the miniature train. My oil fire idea wasn’t working – or lighting – so at this point in the frustrating game I put flame directly to train.
To put the live-action engineer into the train engine, I basically bought a piece of plywood, cut a square out of it, painted it chroma key green and mounted it between two C-stands, then put a second green piece of plywood behind it. The actor stood between the two pieces. The engineer’s hat flew off when I yanked the black string that was tied to it.
Thanks for the great story — and film, Doug! Hopefully someone will give you the money to do a feature-length version someday…
- Source: Douglas Bankston via Kaiju Search-Robot Avery; Production Notes
- Writer: Robert Hood | Research: Avery Guerra