Tessa Alvarado The Queen of Swords Anthony De Longis

Behind The Scenes And on The Set With Anthony De Longis


Page Four

The battlefield location At left: this field near the highway is the location used for the battlefield sequences used in both "Death to the Queen" and "Vengeance."

Two for the Price of One

The battlefield flashback for the Doctor Helm and Marta the mindreader sequence utilized one of the plains above the rambla just off the main highway, and was actually shot while we were filming "Vengeance." Brian Grant needed a rather elaborate battle scene for "Vengeance" so Jon Cassar utilized the same location and shooting opportunity for "Death to the Queen," getting the shots he needed for his own flashback sequence. We had cannons and soldiers and muskets and mayhem.

One of my favorite shots came at the end of the day. As the sun was setting, I ran from the cliff-top rescue sequence of Ramon by the Queen in "Vengeance" to the nearby battlefield location. I wanted to supervise the last shot of the day, a mini-tramp explosion of Chencho flying through the air as the fire and explosion silhouettes him from behind. We timed the explosion as Chencho launched himself from a mini-tramp hidden behind some brush and shot the sequence on my Hi8 camera so we'd have a record of the stunt. We have a great shot that was admired by cameraman Brian Gedge who came to look after his own shot was finished. Unfortunately, this stunt was part of the 12 rolls of exposed negative footage from "Vengeance" that got lost on its way to development and post-production in Canada. But we've got it on my memories reel.

Queen captured at the mine. Tessie is "tied" to the stake as they slate the sequence between her and Javier Lago who played Sergeant Alonzo

Meanwhile, Back at the Mine

The Spanish actor who played the evil Sargeant at the mines had a "Dennis Price" British-sounding accent, which may be why his voice was dubbed. Tessie especially enjoyed his performance and commented several times on how effective and creepy her scenes with him had felt. They cut the sequence of the Queen sneaking into postion at the mine and disarming two guards including Chencho, Peter's double in the upcoming "Vengeance." It was becaming a tradition that, at some point in every episode, Chencho would get clobbered in the puss with a fist, rifle butt or pistol. Chencho, smoking a cigarette, also gets clobbered with his own pistol after Helm cuts the Queen free.

At the mine, both Valentine and Anthony Lemke's galloped into the scene and dismounted, both looking very good. Valentine is an experienced horseman but Anthony got his trial by fire in this first episode. To his credit, Anthony came out to ride and swordfight whenever his schedule permitted and his rapid progression in both areas is very apparent.

Anthony with Effectos Especiales Anthony on the set with the Special Effects specialists Tomas Urban Ruiz (left) and Carlos Fernandes Hernandez. Special Effects was responsible for firearms, explosions and fire. They were also responsible for preparing and maintaining bladed weapons, inlcluding dulling edges, polishing blades and guards, and creating rubber weapons when possible.

The Right Weapon for the Right Job

"Death to the Queen" was our first use of firearms. Gun safety is everyone's responsibility, all the time. The normal set procedure calls for a specially trained and licensed armorer to take care of the weapons and institute a strict gun safety protocol for everyone on the set. This especially includes training the actors and stuntmen and anyone else who carries a practical weapon. Of course we only used blanks but John Eric Hexum's unfortunate accident proves that blanks can be just as deadly if a strict safety protocol is not rigorously enforced. Being our first episode, this was a time of sorting out who was doing what and plugging the gaps as we found them. To my horror, I discovered on this day that the extras with muskets hadn't been schooled in a safety procedure and had virtually no experience with firearms or firearms safety. It was a scary moment when Peter approached a line of soldiers whose guns were loaded and pushed one aside to say, "If you plan to commit murder today, you may have to commit more than one." I apologized to Peter for the situation and told him to take extra care with his own safety until we could get this ironed out. We immediately instituted a policy whereby EFX gave each person with a gun the basics in handling and safety before they were allowed to hold a weapon, loaded or otherwise.

Flintlock pistol At right: one of the flintlock pistols supplied by Effectos Especiales. This particular gun was used by Anthony in "the Hanged Man."

Flintlocks pose additional problems outdoors since the flint must first spark the powder held in the pan in order to ignite the waiting powder in the barrel. Neat little cartridges with self-contained primers didn't come along until later. This delay affords the opportunity for the wind to blow sparks into the shooter's own eyes or those of his neighbor if they are positioned too close. Indeed, the reason for the large turned down brims on the hats of the Musketeers was to protect the eyes from the man next to you when shooting as a group. You also have to keep the pistol or rifle pointed at your target until both powders have ignited and the weapon has fired. I think Anthony Lemke was unfamiliar with a flint lock's mechanics. He aimed his pistol to shoot the Queen and pulled the trigger. He heard the initial ignition of the powder in the pan so he raised the barrel into the air for safety. The pistol then fired in the vertical position. Although he was destined to miss the Queen in our story, we decided to reshoot that one.

The ceiling inside the mine was too low for a sword fight. You could touch the ceiling with your hand at the entrance and the roof got lower the farther into the cave you progressed. We had the Queen hide behind a supporting post and pop out so the startled Sargeant's sword would bury itself in the wood and enable the Queen to position herself for the quick strip disarm I had taught Tessie during our training period in LA. Tessie did great and we easily got our shot in very cramped confines. Don't forget it was raining outside, so the entire camera and sound crews were also crowded into this very tiny area. If they ever turned the camera around so you could see behind the scenes you'd be surprised how roomy the interior of a sardine can looks by comparison.

During episode five, Natalie and second unit returned to shoot the inserts with booted feet and the sword hilt smashing into the powder barrel.

Natalie also doubled Tessie for the big climactic explosion. We loaded dust and chunky cork debris into two high pressure air cannons. This was supported by a controlled explosion and a small flame ball in the final explosion. I draw your attention to the two guards who crash down the slope outside the mine as the explosion is triggered. We quickly removed some of the larger rocks to create a narrow dirt path between the chunks so they could do the stunt safely.

I really liked how the editor assembled the final sequence. We actually set up the explosion twice. I had suggested to Jon that Tessie drop to her knees in prayer. This would allow for an easy substitution with the double from the knee drop to the final forward fall onto her face. The first explosion is behind Natalie as she falls towards camera. Jon Cassar wanted more carry and debris so we dusted off Natalie and I told Carlos Hernandez to double the pressures on his cannons. The next shot gave us what we wanted and really ended the sequence with a bang. You see the second, larger explosion from an off angle and the smoke billows out of the cave over Natalie and the unconscious soldiers to provide the thick smoke screen cover for the Queen to escape Grisham's charge into the mine.

Our final shot was dropping card into frame for Grisham to retrieve and bring to the fuming Colonel Montoya. That effortless flutter into the center of frame each week is no easy task to get on film. This was our first try and it set an ugly precedent for succeeding episodes. Well that's my report on "Death to the Queen." Everyone worked very hard to get that puppy on film and we all breathed a big sigh of relief. The next day, we were back to work with a new director and a whole new story to tell. No rest for the weary. Stay tuned for my behind the scenes report on "Vengeance."

Anthony at end of the Day. Best Always, Anthony De Longis

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Copyright 2000 Anthony De Longis. All contents, unless otherwise noted, are the property of Anthony De Longis or used with permission of the copyright owner. All text and photos herein may not be reproduced or distributed without the express written consent of Anthony De Longis, his official representative, or the copyright owner.

The Queen of Swords is trademark of Fireworks Productions, Toronto, Canada, and is a production of Fireworks (Canada), Amy Productions (UK), Morena Films (Spain) and M6 (France), and is distributed in the United States by Paramount. The Official Queen of Swords Website can be found at


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This page last updated November 24, 2000