Yesterday saw me take another trip to Board in Brum for another excellent 7TV day. This time I would be 'filming' a trilogy of low budget zombie flicks as the studio was short of cash following the expense of shooting on location at the last event.
The first order of business was to recruit a (40 ratings) cast, including a faded star and a whole load of extras, who'd work for peanuts:
- True Believer (Co-Star)
- Freak of Nature (Co-Star)
- Bloater Zombie (Extra)
- 2 Patient Zeroes (Extras)
- 3 Crawler Zombies (Extras)
- 3 Rager Zombies (Extras)
- 24 Zombies (Extras)
The premise of the plot was that deranged priest Father Ezekiel (played by Dick Van Dyke taking a break from Quincey MD) is determined to bring about the day of revelation, on which the dead will rise from their graves and cleanse the wicked from the face of the Earth.
'BOOK OF REVELATIONS'
The first film in the series saw Father Ezekiel lead the restless dead against the fanatical Red Shadows, a secret organisation bent on world domination. Their leader, Baron Ironblood, sought the secret of the Book of Revelations by capturing and torturing men of the cloth. Their treatment of Ezekiel not only drive him mad, but enabled him to tap into the power of the book.
To save on costs, the film reused the set of a 'weird' war movie. In fact, most of the Red Shadows costumes were simply German uniforms dyed red.
The climactic scenes of the movie saw a deranged Ezekiel return to the scene of his torture at the head of a horde of zombies. His goal was to retrieve the book from where he had hidden it during his escape and bring God's vengeance down on the sinful Ironblood and his cronies.
Despite the number of extras, costs were further cut by focusing much of the action on smaller conflicts such as the clash between the robotic 'Skeletrons' and a few zombies over the site of the hidden book.
Every so often the camera would cut away to long shots (thus reducing the need for lots of expensive make up) of the shambling horde. In fact these were actually all taken as a single shot which was liberally cut throughout the finale of the film.
Perhaps the most expensive sequence in the film saw a giant red robot pummeling an oversized zombie into the ground. This proved so popular with test audiences that it caused the production team to include oversized monster fights in the rest of the films in the series.
The conclusion of the film saw Ezekial watching on as the dead tore through the base, before heading off into the sunset to bring about the end of the world.
'BOOK OF REVELATIONS 2: CADAVERLAND'
The second film in the series suffered from lack of communication between the scriptwriters, costume and design departments. Also, somebody thought that hiring lookalikes of famous actors like Hugo Weaving, Sean Bean, Jason Statham and Billy Connolly would add glamour on the budget. It didn't.
The antagonist in the sequel was 'El Generalissimo', the despotic dictator of a fictional Latin American state who, inexplicably, had decided to personally lead a hit squad (which included a giant insect at the studio's request) to retrieve the Book of Revelations. If this flimsy plot wasn't bad enough, the lack of budget meant that the location team had only been able to secure a disused funfair as a set. This was 'justified' as Father Ezekiel's secret lair (in Latin America) where he plotted to bring about the end of days.
The finale of the film saw El Generalissimo lead his team into the heart of the funfair searching for the deranged priest, only to be ambushed by a gibbering horde of zombies.
A sequence of pyrotechnics amongst the zombies poorly intercut with repeated shots of the Sean Bean-alike firing an SMG from atop a rollercoaster made it look like his shots were exploding like artillery rounds amongst the dead.
Once again, cost were kept down with plenty of shots of individual zombies creeping up on El Generalissimo only to be gunned down as they got too close.
There was, as requested, a monster mashup between a giant zombie and an oversized insect, however, it remained incomplete as some of the footage was lost and it was deemed too expensive to film again.
It's to be assumed that the giant zombie won as it appears later, alongside Father Ezekiel as they deliver righteous vengeance unto him.
However, perhaps the most well known scene from the film is an oft-played clip on blooper shows. Realising that they needed to explain the absence of the giant insect, there was a brief reshoot which involved the insect being chased down by a large zombie (which eagle eyed viewers noticed was blown up earlier in the film) and both of them exploding for no discernible reason.
'BOOK OF REVELATIONS 3: END OF DAYS'
The third film in the series saw Father Ezekial actually launching his cleansing of the Earth, and focused on a team of archaeologists, explorers and journalists (accompaniedby a giant ape because, well, the studio said so), as they raced to find a way to stop him.
The final showdown was filmed in an Amish village and was the source of some controversy as the elders had kindly agreed to allow the filming to take place because they had been informed that 'Book of Revelations 3' was a religious film that would bring its audience closer to God. Although this could be argued to be technically true, giants apes and zombies is certainly not what they had imagined.
The final film in the trilogy actually had a plot the held together as the dynamic team of heroes raced to stop Father Ezekial reaching the Gettysburg National Graveyard to raise the dead there and begin the Apocalypse; although it didn't explain how he and his shuffling horde of zombies had travelled from Latin America to Pennsylvania. The final scenes saw the last stand in an Amish village on the edge of the cemetery.
By this film, a formula had been established. A series of implausible lookalikes held the line, this time featuring Doug McClure and Groucho Marx, and monsters clashed with the great ape succumbing to the bloodied fists of a giant zombie.
There were more comedic explosions as the Groucho-alike, surrounded by zombies, pulled the pin out of a grenade whilst saying, "I've had a perfectly wonderful day, but this wasn't it." After the explosion, the smoke cleared and the Groucho-alike stood amidst a pile of dismembered corpses, unaffected by the blast, save for his pith helmet being knocked to one side.
Again, costs were reduced in the apparent mass battle by focusing on individual battles and refusing the two dozen extras in zombies outfits.
The final scenes of the film saw a giant zombie smashing down one of the last defenders and Groucho looking on in horror as Father Ezekiel strode into the cemetery and recited from the Book of Revelations. The final shot was of decayed hands beginning to emerge from the thousands of graves.
The studio succeeded in making savings on the filming but the cheap effects, bizarre plots and bad lookalikes meant that only the most hardened zombie film fans were interested in seeing the third film in the cinemas. This meant that no further films in the franchise were made, although equally bizarre scripts are rumoured to exist.
You can still find them occasionally in bargain bins and on very late night television, however, Dick Van Dyke not only refuses to talk about them, but has been known to claim was also played by a lookalike.
Another great day's gaming at Board in Brum. It's a really friendly store that makes an effort to ensure that games are played on exciting tables; although several were also brought along by participants.
I took along my city board, but I was actually asked if it could be used for a Marvel Crisis Protocol event which was running simultaneously, as it seemed more appropriate for that. Which is true, and so it was.
James Aldridge's V2 base, which was the one I played on first, won best board.
Mike Strong ran the event with his usual ingenuity and imagination. Not only were there scenarios to play, which I have adapted into my narrative (or sometimes totally ignored), but also there were cost saving measure we had to enact, which included trying to advance less than your opponent, speeding up filming by claiming the most countdown cards, and not wasting resources by having the most plot points left at the end. Those that succeeded went into the black and gained small in game benefits, whilst those in the red had small penalties.
There were, quite rightly, no prizes for winning games, as that sort of thing discourages imaginative casts. However, my 'joke' 35 model zombie cast actually proved to be fairly lethal, especially in the first turns, thanks to the filthy Patient Zeroes and zombie moan allowing me to catapult the Ragers at the enemy, and the last turns, thanks to still having plenty of models left - despite having massive chunks blown out of the horde, I was able to pick up 6vps in the last turn Cadaverland.
The participant were as friendly as ever and brought along an eclectic mix of lovingly constructed casts. My own consisted purely of models I've painted during Zomtober over the years, including some truly horrible Wargames Factory models.
Paul (aka David) Smith's excellent Children of the Fields cast won best cast and reminded me that I still have many of these models sitting unpainted from the Kickstarter in 2018!
All three of my games were excellent and my opponents were great. I've play James (Red Shadows) several times and he is always upbeat despite always being cursed with terrible dice against me. Alistair (Despotic Dictator) and I laughed out way through our frankly ridiculous funfair battle, and many of the sillier ideas for my narrative came from our mutterings. Simon (Pulp Adventurers) was an excellent sport, as he was unfamiliar with the Apocalyse zombies and so the game contained a series of 'they can do what?' moments.
I think they must have enjoyed the games too as I was awarded the best opponent prize, despite bringing a slow playing, annoying, accidentally power gamey cast.
I was awarded this enormous trophy and a £25 voucher for Crooked Dice, topping off a genuinely fantastic day.
If you are at all tempted by attending a 7TV day, then I can heartily recommend Board in Brum. The next event is in September and it is NOT a tournament in any way, shape or form.