Watch for the re-release on Blue-Ray, DVD of Robert W. Morgan's 1976 thriller Bloodstalkers (The Night Daniel Died) late 2017. The story behind BLOODSTALKERS by Robert W. Morgan.
The screenplay originally entitled THE NIGHT DANIEL DIED was tailored especially for Kenny Miller. We all knew of his fine work with actors Anthony Quinn, Charlton Heston, Michael Landon, Burt Reynolds, Karen Black, Fabian, and more. David Legge and Herb Goldstein were stage thespians, and Jerry Albert and Lane Chiles had worked with me on the film IMPULSE with Bill Shatner and Harold "Odd Job" Sakata. Also, with Ruth Roman and Jennifer Bishop on MAKO: JAWS of DEATH, my screenplay.
I was fresh from making THE SEARCH FOR BIGFOOT, a TV docudrama that followed my research with The American Yeti Expeditions and my segment on the Smithsonian Series, Monsters, Myth or Mystery. Bill Grefe, the president of Ivan Tors Studios in Miami, called to ask that I create three screenplays plus a TV series for him to produce. Being new to the industry, I took Bill at his word and handed them over on a handshake. Wrong move. My concept for a TV series IN SEARCH OF THE WORLD'S MYSTERIES - that was supposed to be me! Somehow it ended up becoming Alan Landsburg's hit TV series IN SEARCH OF ... with STAR TREK'S Leonard Nimoy. Welcome to Hollywood, Morgan!
The upside to this affair was that Grefe introduced me to film making by making me the "art director" (and grip, driver, go-fer, water boy, stand-in and stunt man) on his film IMPULSE. I am a fast-study; in watching constant Grefe's gaffes, I knew I could direct as well or better, much better. I also became close with cast members Bill Shatner and Harold Sakata, and Jennifer Bishop. Nevertheless, when I saw Grefe's intrepetation of my script JAWS OF DEATH, I demanded my name be replaced with a nom de plume!
I then joined Creative Film & Sound to make my directorial debut. We were searching for a story line when Stan Webb asked "Is that Everglades Skunk Ape anything like Bigfoot? I've heard that poachers made that up to keep people out of their hunting grounds." BOING! The legend of BLOODSTALKERS was born., and I called upon all of my friends to help me out. They sure did; every person on that screen also worked behind the scenes. Lane Chiles, the sheriff's deputy, is was our lead gaffer; the men in the car ignoring Mike's plea for help are my attorney Ted Ernst and my Bigfoot tracker Mike Polesnek was our cook, grip, and animal handler.
How did I become bad guy Jarvis? Call it sheer desperation! The actor that was to play that part called the night before we were to roll camera - from jail! What? How could I get a replacement at that late hour? Stan Webb looked at me and said "Hello, Jarvis!" I took revenge by writing him in as that scene-stealing, lip-popping idiot who shambles about.
The main location is truly in the heart of the Everglades. Sadly, only the corner posts exist now of the old cabin, but the old gas station is still standing. In addition, those signs you see about trespassers being "persecuted" are as real as the cabins and church. Unfortunately, that wonderful old cannery where we filmed the chase scene burned down on the last day of our shoot. We had been spotted there earlier in the day by location scouts who discovered we were shooting an independent film. Florida permitted non-union crews - but these thugs didn't. On impulse, we told them we had just begun to shoot there - it was our last day. Take a good look at the cannery. It was burned to the ground that same night.
Remember the rattlesnake in the opening shots? Our wrangler, cook, go-fer, stand-in and extra, Mike Polesnek was also a snake-catcher. He had also appeared with me in The Search for Bigfoot as my truly expert tracker - one tough dude. However, Mike's sense of humor nearly got us pitched out of a motel when he casually tossed that same snake into the communal swimming pol!
Mike was also new to film and its lingo. He overheard the producers discussing the need for some alligator "inserts" that we intended to get from the film library. Mike was unaware of stock-shot libraries. The next morning, he delivered to us one pissed off 'gator tied up in the back of his van.
The hairiest night came when when we were shooting the "love scenes" between Cissy and Kenny, and the one with John Meyer pitching alligator hides down from the loft. We heard a pickup pull up outside and three swamp rats stroll in, all dirty, sweaty, and unshaven. Polesnek slipped a butcher knife closer to his hands while David Legge balled his fists and looked for an ax. Me? I welcomed them even when they asked if they could watch for a bit. Sure. Sit down over there and don't make a sound, I said. They did and hardly twitched for hours. Then, when John Meyer began pitching down bundles of alligator skins, the swampies stepped outside. When they returned they handed me an alligator skin. They were poachers! Therefore, the skin you see in the film is illegal as hell - but I was not going to refuse the loan of it. Instead, we served them coffee. Thanks, guys, wherever you are.
That scene with Krissy the dog at the door where she died was completed in a single take. We had expected to use a stuffed doll, but Kenny Miller insisted she could do it; hell, she was a film mutt, right? Krissy - usually hyperactive, lay there all the while the camera was rolling , and Irv was zooming in while I held my breath. I milked it to the last possible moment before I said "Cut!"
Krissy lept to her feet, shot me a dog sneer, and stalked off.
Watch for the terror on Cissy's face when that door flies open and she screams. I had shot that 6-7 times but wasn't getting the effect I wanted. So I told everyone (but Cissy) to stay very, very quiet for one last take. I also made Cissy nervous by sighing and shaking my head , and with her being such a love, she so wanted to please us. Okay. I positioned her and closed the door. She hears me say, "Roll camera!" so she expects that door to open. But it doesn't. I let her stew ... then, the door opened and I SCREAMED RIGHT IN HER FACE! Check out her reaction!
Sadly, David Legge died of a heart attack. Stan Webb is gone, too. Jerry disappeared into Hollywood, as did Cissy. Irv retired. Toni is the voice of a TV station, and Ted Ernst was killed. Thankfully, Mike Polesnek is still alive and meaner than cat dirt (smile), Kenny went on the nightclub circuit and lived in Palm Springs. Me? Watch for my autobiographical works, CITIZEN SPY as well as LIES OUR FATHERS TOLD US. Peace!