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The Demon of Black Death - The Film

It may seem hard to believe, but the film, "The Demon of Black Death" was an idea I had back in 1974 on a return trip from visiting a freind who lived in Las Vegas

This is a true story

I had been out for a visit to Mike’s in Vegas and after a few days vacation I had said my good-byes and left for the six hour drive back to Venice, California. I had left late that evening and it was already dark as I saw the lights of Vegas, sliding farther behind in the rear view mirror and then disappear entirely. There was a chill in the early autumn air as I crossed the desert. As one does, when often alone on a long car drive, your mind begins to drift and think about different things. As I passed the small whistle stop town of Baker, on Interstate 15, I knew that a few miles up the highway was a crossing road called Zzyzxs. A very odd name indeed. It was close to midnight as I came up to the road and I felt the urge and need to stop for a minute. So I pulled off I-15 and drove south for a quarter mile or so on Zzyzxs. I stopped the car, turned the engine off and opened the door. At once a blast of cold air enveloped me as I exited the car. I stood there for a brief few minutes, stretching my legs. Feeling colder and colder with each passing minute as I looked up into a moonless sky over flowing with a countless number of cold hard stars. Standing there, the cold crept into my being, into my very bones and I suddenly felt I was not alone in all that vast expanse of desert. I felt as if something else was near by and slowly coming towards me. It emanated an icy existence that raced out before it with a feel of great malevolence. I thought at first, that my mind was just playing tricks on my as I was little tired. But the feeling intensified. Creeping into what seemed my very soul. I became frightened. Truly frightened. There was an malicious presence come toward me. I looked all about me, as I slowly backed up toward the car. I felt that if I stayed there, I would never leave that place. I quickly climbed back into the car, with a real pray on my lips. The thought crossed my mind, what would happen if the car wouldn’t start. The feeling was intense now. I fumbled the key into the ignition and to my relief, the car started right up. I flipped the car lights on, high beam, and as I slipped the car into gear and pressed my foot on the gas peddle and quickly turned the car around on the dirt road, I felt, what ever it was, was there, by the road side, just feet from the car, as I slammed my foot on the accelerator and spraying chunks of dirt and rock behind me, I headed back toward the Interstate. Leaving the icy, vile thing behind me, screaming, if it had a voice, in rage. I quickly rejoined the other travels on the highway, but for a long time, could not shake the cold that had crept into me, even with the heater on full bore. As the miles past, and time, I regained my composer and began to wonder what had happened. Was it my mind just playing tricks, or was there really something back there in the dessert. By the time I passed Victorville. I began to wonder, and think about an evil so cold and filled with rage that it could fill a person with what I had felt just as it grew nearing to a person. I could not shake that feeling and the thought came to me about how to exorcize this terrifying event from my mind. I fell back on how to explain what had happened in a film idea. The last hundred miles of my trip, my mind raced to put together an outline for a film. A film about something so vile, so wicked, that it had nearly frozen my very being to a spot on the high desert mere hours before. I had broken the film idea down into three parts in my head by the time I reached home in the small hours of the morning. I had a fitful sleep that night and awoke and sat at the small desk I had, and began to write down the outline for the first of three films. “The Demon of Black Death,” “Demon’s Revenge,” and “Demon’s Birth.” Now, here’s the strange part, “The Demon of Black Death” and “Demon’s Revenge,” are just the precursors to the feeling of what had happened that long frightening drive back from Las Vegas. The first and second film, with their separate creatures, just lay the ground work for the third film in which that event on the desert had driven into my memory.

More coming on the making of the first film back in '75.
Auditions for The Demon of Black Death were held at the Klamath County Government Center, 305 Main St., Klamath Falls. Friday the 14th from 6PM to 9PM and Saturday the 15th from Noon to 3PM.

The original cast of main characters were:

Wayne Sweat as John Talbert
Jill Aho as Christine
Robert Sergel as Mike Horner
Shelby Wilkerson as Lois Horner
Jason Boese as Rodger Duffy
David Reed as Mr. Bolles
Collins Sanford as Father Owens
Jessica Chaulet as Kate Hope
Tom Cooley as Gustav Robson
Kelly Barrows as Neith

Possible extras:

Tabitha Lasater
Art and Structure design studio -
Jesse Widener began scoring The Demon of Black Death, providing this title theme, in a Bernard Herrmann / Igor Stravinsky vein.

Said Tom Cooley:

"I got to hear some of Jesse's original music score he's been working on for the Demon film. It is very cool. In fact it gave me a chill. It is AWESOME"
Art and Structure design studio -
Tom sought locations:

"G’day all. Well now that we are starting to move on the Demon film, I am going to turn all of you into “Location Scouts.” I need these for the film, badly.

1. An office. Something that’s not fancy. Shooting is only one day. November 19th from 1PM to about 6 or 7PM.

2. A living room for one scene. Preferably in an empty house or a room with little furniture. If there is furniture, we will be covering every thing in plastic sheets, except for one chair. No, there is no splattering of anything, the plastic just adds to the creepiness of the scene. November 13th from 1PM to about 3PM.

3. Something that can pass as a Magic shop. I will be approaching “Astral Games” on Main St. But if any one else can find a place, Please, let me know. November 19th at 11AM for an hour.

4. And the big one. A book store or a personal Library. From 11AM to about 5PM.

Also talk to folks and tell them we need extras for a special scene on Saturday, November 26. We are, if we get enough people, going to shoot a scene on Main St., of sick, dying and a few dead folks lining a block or two of Main St.. This will be a drive by filming. (Ha, I almost said, “Drive by shooting.”) We will meet in the parking lot on 9th Street, between Main St and Klamath Ave. There I’ll explain to all the extras what I want, slap a little make up on some, pass out a few surgical face masks to others and then do three or four takes of what I want. Noon to about 1:30 should do it. Tell them, they will get their names in the movie, but no one is getting paid.

Thanks for your help, I can’t do this by myself but with your help, this will get done. This is what we’re here for. Making movies.

Art and Structure design studio -
The Demon of Black Death began shooting on Sunday October 30, 2011, beginning with "scene 20" at the Linkville Cemetery per Tom Cooley's notice:

"Sunday's afternoon shoot for the Demon film is on. 1PM at the old Linkville graveyard, on the hill behind K.U. I hope to see some of the KFMG members there to help. This should be an easy shoot. I need to charge up my camcorders and get a few props ready to go. Dress warm everyone."

…and later:

"Just got in from the first shoot on The demon of Black Death film. Scene 20, is now "in the can". So, it has started. YEA!!!!!! I've waited thirty years to get this project going. The shoot went well. Had a good time, some laughs on flubbed lines and such. I'm feeling good about it. The next shoot is next weekend. It's a biggie! I just hope that the weather works for us. They are talking about snow and rain. Rats! 
But we have started."

John Talbart (Wayne Sweat) as seen through the eyes of the Demon


In the graveyard Father Owens (Collins Sanford), back to camera, meets with John Talbart (Wayne Sweat), Christina (Jill Aho) and Rodger Duffy (Jason Boese)


Father Owens (Collins Sanford) crosses a graveyard to meet with Talbart


Leaving the Graveyard

Art and Structure design studio -
"Papyrus" 8pt on the smaller words, 18pt on the larger. Pt is relative so however it comes to in the final title, those are the proportions I suggest.

Art and Structure design studio -
Jesse Widener demonstrates scoring the Bolles outside the magic shop scene:

The scene with final music:

[final scene to be added]

Says Jesse Widener:

"Headphones are recommended to hear the music as best intended as the music has not been "mastered" for playback yet, and the bass line in particular played by the contrabass may not be as audible as it should be from small laptop speakers, etc."

…and more about scoring:

"While The Demon of Black Death has been on hiatus due to weather and holidays, I have continued to score it off and on these last several weeks. While many of you are surely itching to get back to film work, I thought I would give folks a better idea what kind of time it takes me to score this...and what work I have been continuing to put in behind the scenes in addition to the time I have been on set. 

The initial scoring video I posted, playing two different melodies against the 1 minute Bolles at the magic shop scene, involved probably about 2 hours writing those two melodies to my satisfaction prior to making the video. I am not certain how long it took me to finish the scoring for that scene to my satisfaction, but it was at least 8 hours more in composing and adjusting the written score (it is actually a fairly complex 4 part counterpoint, heavily syncopated, with 11 meter changes in 22 bars). Thus at least 10 hours for 1 minute of music.

I've since scored a 6 minute scene, and while I don't think it was 60 hours to write (6 minutes x 10 hours/minute), it was definitely more than 10.

Add to this, time to write the initial theme, time playing with ideas for Neith's theme, time researching/contemplating other themes (newscast and a couple other filler scenes) and you get an idea of the effort this takes."
Art and Structure design studio -
Bolles outside the magic shop


Bolles peering through the window

Art and Structure design studio -
John, Rodger, Talbart and Christine outside "the building"


Entering the building to find a mystery man


Christine (Jill Aho) has a bad feeling about this place


A victim speaks his last words

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Rodger (Jason Boese) asks to help Talbart (Wayne Sweat) in his task of fighting the Demon

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On the way to meet the Demon. You're about to get run over!

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Art and Structure design studio -
Shooting the mass death scene on Main Street in Klamath Falls was set for Saturday November 26, 2011 at 1pm, with a call for extras featured in the Limelighter and plugged via radio on KTEC 89.5.

Scenes from the scene:


The extras:

Art and Structure design studio -

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