Name dropping, pt 2

Christopher Lee filming in Westminster for a f...

While I was stationed in Holland with the USAF I got to work quite a lot. Mostly I did adverts for the Armed Forces Network aka AFN guys downstairs. I have always done “voices” different accents and impressions. My then boss mentioned this to the AFN guys who ran upstairs and begged me to do some spots for them on the radio. It seems that they were all tired of hearing themselves on the airways and were desperate for some kind of change. So for a four year time period I did adverts and the occasional live show. It was fun and kept my diction sharp as well making me work on my stale impressions.

It was through the AFN guys that I got most of the work I did while stationed in The Netherlands. I had a friend from AFN come up and ask me, “Didn’t you act some?” I owned up quickly sensing this could mean work. “Well they’re making a film and they’re looking for American and English actors. Call this number.” So I did.

The film was called Murder Story, the Movie it was being produced by Elstree Film Studios. The folks who brought us Eastenders on the telly every week. The film was to feature the master Christopher Lee and an unknown  young actor Alexis Denisof. I was beside myself with excitement. The chance to work with Dracula himself! I had been a fan of Mr Lee’s since I was a boy and  watched the Saturday night Creature Features and seen him in so many Hammer Horror films.

To cut a long story short, I and a friend from AFN got parts in the film. We were to be security policemen from the Air Force base where Alexis’s dad worked. We had what seemed like huge parts. We had a little action some dialogue and, unfortunately, we were not going to be working with Christopher Lee.

On the day of our shooting we went to the railway station at Soest. There we got assigned our characters by what ever costume would fit us from wardrobe. Thus I became a Staff Sergeant and my mate became a private. We were introduced to the actor we would be working with Garrick Hagon, a real “jobbing actor” who was lovely to work with. We also met Alexis Denisof way before his Buffy and Angel days. A nice young man who was only there briefly to set up the shot for his stunt double to perform.

Alexis Denisof

Elstree Film Studios had just announced that their feature film section had gone bankrupt. They would still continue to produce Eastenders, but, that was all. Our big scene suddenly shrunk. No longer did we have dialogue or get out of our jeep to confront Garrick. Instead we pulled up to the crash site and just glowered at him from the jeep.

This small scene took more than three quarters of a day to film. The Director Eddie Arno asked if we would mind staying so that Garrick had someone to re-act to for his close ups. We said of course. Afterword Garrick came up to thank us profusely in a mixture of Dutch and English. As we had never spoken, he assumed we were Dutch! We all had a chuckle and our shooting day was finished. I had brought my ‘then wife’ to the shoot so she could see what actually happened on a film set. She was a bit disenchanted by the whole process. I told her as we drove home that the film would probably collect dust on a shelf somewhere as Elstree had gone bust. I was wrong.

It did release as just Murder Story, straight to video. After many years of searching I finally found a copy so I could see how Phil and I had looked on the day. It was then that I found out why it had been relegated to a straight to video release. It was a shame for Christopher Lee and Garrick and Alexis had performed extremely well. But the overall film lacked something.

Still I was happy. I had one more credit under my belt. Sure I did not get my name on the credits but I had met Tom Reeve a UK producer and of course the other folks mentioned above. I did not get to even see Christopher Lee. But at least, by gosh, I’d been in a film with him!