Saturday, December 26, 2015

Biehn Scene: Deep Red

From the Dammaged Goods VHS library comes 1994's Deep Red, a science fiction action noir flick starring Michael Biehn. Written by D. Brent Mote and directed by Craig R. Baxley, Red has the distinction of being then Sci-Fi Channel's first original movie. The film opens similar to Predator as an alien vessel soars across starry space and heads towards earth. But down here, the ship is actually tiny in scale and crashes into young Gracie (Lindsey Haun), effectively infecting her with Deep Red. The alien substance provides healing ability and possible immortality. Gracie is thrust into danger as mad scientists wish to exploit the power and come after her. Enter burnt out private detective Joe Keyes (Biehn) and his ex-wife Monica Quik (Joanna Pacula) as they set out to protect young Gracie. For a straight to TV genre flick, Deep Red contains an excellent cast, surprisingly large scale action and a tone that's noir meets The Terminator.

Biehn plays haunted former police officer Keyes who is thrown into the deep end protecting Gracie against seemingly super powered thugs. Moody lighting and lengthy shots accompany voice-over discussing good and evil as Biehn is a cashed out non-believer who eventually comes around. Perennially sweating with a cigarette dangling from his mouth and disheveled hair, Biehn digs back into his bread and butter as the wounded action hero lead. By the early 90's, stunt man, driver, choreographer and coordinator Craig R. Baxley had already worked with the likes of Warren Beatty, Joel Silver, Walter Hill and John McTiernan providing explosions and fights for The Warriors, Predator and TV's The A-Team. With feature directing credits under his belt including Action Jackson and I Come In Peace; Baxley carved out a niche as a guy who could deliver an exciting, action packed and familiar face filled flick on a budget.

Baxley chimed in for the writing of this article, lamenting that Deep Red "wow, was a couple years ago" and it was the "first in house movie made for the Sci-Fi channel". Baxley worked with then President of Universal Cable Division Barbara Fisher and signed on. When asked who he saw as the lead, Baxley suggested the sensitive yet physical hero of The Terminator and Aliens, Michael Biehn. Fisher didn't think they could get Biehn interested let alone afford him. Baxley recalls, "I took it upon myself to call him on on the set of Tombstone and after a brief conversation had his commitment".  Deep Red featured plenty of character faces like Tobin Bell (Saw), Joanna Pacula, John de Lancie (Star Trek: The Next Generation) and John Kapelos (The Breakfast Club). The film was shot around LA in 20 days with no second unit on a budget of just under $3 million. Baxley states "I tried to give it a film noir look as well as the feel of a Sci-fi action flick. We didn't have the budget to do the action but I think we actually pulled it off." Like many of Baxley's efforts, the action ranges from physical dust ups (Biehn gets tossed around an office), gun exchanges, pretty Damme big explosions and some chases. Under Siege and Double Team's Gary Chang provides the ambient and kinetic score.

Deep Red debuted on Saturday, March 12th of 1994 as a Sci-Fi Channel Planetary Premiere before hitting VHS in June. Biehn would go on to star in the massive NBC mini-series Asteroid in 1997 before headlining The Magnificent Seven for two short seasons while popping up on the big screen opposite Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage in The Rock. In 1996, Baxley directed Twilight Man, the first in house movie for Starz before adapting several Stephen King works as event mini-series. Writer D. Brent Mote would reteam with the rebranded SyFy Channel in 2009 for 5 seasons of quirky action on Warehouse 13. SyFy would make Saturday night original films a staple of their programming to various degrees of success and quality. Most were budgeted around $1 million and embracing the low budget, campy quality, the likes of Eric Roberts, Lance Henriksen, Dean Cain and Kevin Sorbo fought off zombies, dinosaurs, abominable snowmen, giant snakes and blobs of ooze. In recent years their Sharknado series struck social media gold while I can't say I've seen one.

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