The first time I saw Predator (1987), I thought to myself
"It was a good movie, but it could have been a great movie".
The second time I saw it, I thought to myself
"No, it was a great movie, but it could have been an epic movie".
Now, I just think it is an epic movie, one of the best of all time. The movie is book-ended with foundations in antiquity, by the centuries old legend of a demon, of an apparition, which takes the lives and bodies of men. Placing the movie, the actual events in the jungle on this plinth which is raised way above the level of superficial normal events by these two pillars of the legend is a superb piece of screenwriting. Then, like all the best ghost stories, all the events have an apparent explanation in real life, yet remain tinged with mystery. The movie Night of the Demon (1958), which was adapted from the MR James story The Casting of the Runes uses a similar technique, as do all the MR James ghost stories. There Predator (1987) stands to this day: One of the handful of movies which guard the lofty peak of an original screen plot. Predator (1987), The Maltese Falcon, Where Eagles Dare, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly guard the approach to this peak.
- The movie has produced not one but four world-class quotes and two state governors, nearly three. There may be a movies which produced a president but I do not think there is a movie that can touch the record of Predator (1987) in this respect.
- - At 00:08:41: Jesse Ventura delivers "Bunch of slack-jawed faggots around here..."
- - At 00:27:29: Jesse Ventura delivers "I ain't got time to bleed..."
- - At 00:56:23: Sonny Landham delivers "And it ain't no man..."
- - At 01:16:08: Arnold Schwarzenegger delivers "Get to the chopper ..."
Predator (1987) was filmed in three locations in the jungles of Mexico. One the west coast of Mexico above Peurto Vallarta , at El Eden and the other two south of Palenque at Misol Ha and Agua Azul . Richard Burton filmed Night of the Iguana (1963) in Puerto Vallarta and enjoyed it so much he maintained a house there, the Casa Kimberley on Calle Zaragoza 445 . Puerto Vallarta had an influx of Californian ex-pats throughout the Fifties and Sixties and so many owned villas in the nice part of Peurto Vallarta that the area became known as 'Gringo Gulch'.
The jungle at the northernmost location, behind Peurto Vallarta was more deciduous jungle than the real jungle at Palenque. Lots of brown leaves on the forest floor blighted the jungle atmosphere which the director was trying to create. The crew put in green foliage to crowd the frame and make it look more like the thick tropical jungle they desired.
The harsh conditions within the jungle, the mountainous terrain made filming difficult. The cast and crew all suffered gut infections from the local cuisine, some losing as much as forty pounds. Gut infections are a natural product of visiting Third World countries and your first month is usually spent dealing with them. Partly it is because there are new sets of bacteria for your gut to get used to and partly because in Third World countries, there is not a lot of hygiene. In one restaurant in Quetta (Northern Pakistan) I thought the wallpaper had black dots. It did not have any wallpaper, it was the flies.
The knives and machetes in the movie were made by knifemaker Jack Crain
Arnold Schwarzenegger's watch was a Seiko model H558-5009
Jesse Ventura, playing the character Blain carries a Gatling machine gun which was normally a helicopter door gun. It had been adapted for carry by an infantryman but in fact required a huge pack of automobile batteries to provide the heavy amperage of current required to run the mechanism. In real life Gatling rotary cannons fire anything between a thousand rounds a minute and seven thousand rounds per minute, which means that an infantryman could only carry a backpack full of ammunition sufficient to feed the gun for several seconds.
The mainstay of Hollywood armorers, Stembridge Gun Rentals, built the gun and Mike Papac from Stembridge had to come down to Mexico to rebuild it because of incessant jamming. Not only did he rebuild the gun but had to make replacement parts locally. The director was concerned that when Jesse Ventura fired the gun, the torque would make it twist in all directions, possibly burning Jesse with the exhaust from the blank cartridges. When they tested it, it turned out that the torque produced so much gyroscopic force that it kept the gun in the same position.
After Stembridge closed Mike Papac went into business on his own.
The insurers specified that a bodyguard must be hired to accompany Sonny Landham twenty-four hours per day. This was not to protect Sonny but to make sure that Sonny Landham stayed out of fights and did not get himself arrested or shot. He sounds like my kind of guy.
No other motion picture has had has many larger than life characters played by such larger-than-life actors. For example Jesse Ventura who was ex US Navy Underwater Demolition Team (SEALs) was a Vietnam veteran.
James Earl Jones, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger may have the best voices in acting but Sonny Landham has the best sounding laugh of all actors: A deep timbre and resonance which is constant over a wide range of frequencies. I wish I had a laugh like Sonny Landham.
The opening scene at the beach was filmed near Puerto Vallarta. The Rebel Camp was located up the valley behind Puerto Vallarta at El Eden. The scenes in the jungle were filmed above El Eden and in the jungle at the two locations south of Palenque, at Agua Azul and Misol Ha. If you see brown leaves on the floor, and more deciduous looking trees, then that jungle is at El Eden above Puerto Vallarta. The tropical jungle was at the locations south of Palenque, mainly Agua Azul.
Two waterfalls are used in the climax of the movie, both near Palenque in Mexico. The first is the high waterfall at Misol Ha, just outside the village (beginning and end of the sequence), and the other is the flat waterfall at Agua Azul about an hour's drive away (the middle part of the sequence).
SCENE: Meeting with Dillon
Location: The scene on the beach where the helicopters arrive was filmed on the coast at Puerto Vallarta.
SCENE: Dutch's team raid the Rebel Camp.
LOCATION: El Eden, above Puerto Vallarta .
Co-Ordinates: 20 31 45.96 N 105 16 18.25 W
+ The Hunter's Lair Blogspot
The Rebel Camp was up a valley behind Puerto Vallarta at a place called El Eden. There was a restaurant and jungle tourism Eco-tour business based there until recently. They had the original fuselages of the Huey helicopters which were used in the scene. El Eden is given acknowledgment as a restaurant in the credits of the movie.
In the above map, you can see the location of the valley used above Puerto Vallarta.
The Rebel Camp was constructed at El Eden. The remains of the helicopters and buildings are still there.
This is the location of El Eden, where the Rebel Camp was constructed. Many of the jungle shots were taken further upstream.
SCENE: Retreat from the Rebel Camp to the extraction
LOCATION: Above El Eden
One of the few shots to show enough geography to locate it. This is further up the valley from the location of the Rebel Camp at El Eden
From documentary footage: Jesse Ventura wields the Gatling
MISOL HA - HIGH WATERFALL
SCENE: Dutch slides down a chute to escape from the Predator.
LOCATION: Misol Ha Waterfall
Co-Ordinates: Latitude 17.390818, Longitude -91.998482
The high water fall over which Arnold Schwarzenegger slides when escaping from the Predator is at Misol Ha, south of Palenque on Highway 199 on the on the Shumuljá River
SCENE: Dutch crawls out of the water
LOCATION: Agua Azul waterfalls, South West of Palenque , Between Highway 199 and Highway 243 as they fork to the north.
Co-Ordinates: 17° 16' 4.35" N 92° 7' 20.72" W
The large tree which serves as Dutch's base while he prepares a trap for the Predator was constructed here. It was made from concrete.
In the above map, the two waterfalls used as locations, south of Palenque on Highway 199
At 00:54:55 Bill Duke uses a phrase
"A real number ten night" which is from 'Nam, where "number 10" in pidgin Vietnamese English meant "the worst", as in "on a scale of one to ten."
You don't hear this much now.
In his speech to Dillon after Dillon gives away their position by stumbling through the jungle, he uses the phrase
"I don't care who y'ar back in the world".
In Vietnam era slang, grunts used the phrase "..going back to the World" for "I am returning to the United States". It may be difficult for young persons to understand that in 1987, it looked like we had had the last war and that was Vietnam, which ran from 1969 to 1972 and then to 1975. Gulf War One, which came as a shock, as a surprise to everyone, was not until 1990. Gulf War One marked the transition to the new world. So nearly all movie scripts which contained combat veterans had to contain veterans of the Vietnam war.
- Script drawn from the subtitles may be found here
Documentary: The making of Predator (1987)
One of the best frames in the motion picture
Left to right: Ventura, Black, Schwarzenegger, Duke, Weathers, Landham, and Chaves
Arnold Schwarzenegger in Predator (1987) The watch has been identified at Watches in Movies as a Seiko H558-5009.
Scene: Over the credits, a flight of Bell Hueys bring Major Alan "Dutch" Schaefer and his team to an FOB in South America for their mission
Location: Peurto Vallarta
The larger frames are from the Blueray edition of the DVD.
The Bell Hueys land on the beach at Puerto Vallarta
Dutch's team in civilian clothes.
When in fatigues, Dutch's team have to be the best looking unit ever to take to the stage or screen. The colors are given but the shapes had to be chosen. The M69 flak jacket makes looking good easy, but boy-O-boy were they heavy. In pre-production movies spend a lot of time on wardrobe, color selection and testing. In Predator (1987) they may not have had that much time. I think the colors I would have chosen, as well as the forms, would have been the colors used on the different aircraft carrier deck crew (shooters (yellow), catapult (green), fuel['grapes'] (purple) , ordnance (red) , handlers (blue), squadron (brown))
Jesse Ventura (wearing sunglasses), as Blain, spits his chewing tobacco onto the sand. He is wearing his MTV T-shirt.
Arnold Schwarzenegger lights his cigar before alighting from the helicopter
Arnold Schwarzenegger smokes a cigar while they consider air charts
SCENE: Major Phillips briefs Dutch Schaefer on the location of the downed helicopter.
During the briefing, the camera shows an air chart of the mountains of Mangabeiras in Brazil. You can see the Rio Franciso river in the lower right of the frame. The Latitude -10 degree South and Longitude +45 West degree lines are visible mid upper left of frame.
From the map, the chopper looks to be down at Latitude -10.5 degrees South , Longitude +44.5 degrees West, South-West of highway Pl-255. This would place them on the NATO air chart TPC N28-A. The the frames visible, the town of Barra appears to the lower right of the crash site red circle. Barra is on the north west bank of the Rio Franciso at Longitude 11 degrees South and Latitude 43 degrees East.
The relevant selection of TPC charts may be found here: https://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/tpc/
Diagram of the interchart relationship of NATO ONC air charts, showing sheet ONC N-28. The red circle indicates the marker position from the air chart used in the motion picture. The country shown is Brazil and the red marker is about one third of the way east across Brazil. The river is the Rio Franciso
At Google Maps
The map in the motion picture is an 1:1,000,000 air chart but does not appear to be the NATO ONC 1:1,000,000 air chart. The terrain markings on this air chart are only rudimentary, compared with NATO ONC. Careful comparison of the two reveals that those rudimentary terrain markings are in fact the river drainage system.
The actual location is one third of the way West across Brazil and is not close to any border.
NATO ONC N-28 air chart, scale 1:1,000,000 , Brazil, showing the location of the downed C-130 as marked on the map in the movie.
With the frame from the movie superimposed to match the geographic features on the NATO ONC air chart scale 1:1,000,000
NATO TPC N-28A air chart, scale 1:500,000 , Brazil, showing the location of the downed C-130 as marked on the map in the movie.
With the frame from the movie superimposed to match the geographic features on the NATO TPC air chart 1:500,000
The air chart in the movie, with togographic features annotated. The position of the transponder fix, the red dot inside the circle is at Latitude -10.5 degrees South of the Equator, Longitude +44.5 degrees West of Greenwich. Marked are Barra , Sao Francisco , Parnagua , Varzea do Jenipapeiro . The large river lower right of frame is the Sao Francisco .
Comparison of the square Latitude 10 degrees South, Longitude 44 degrees West, on NATO ONC, NATO TPC and the air chart from the motion picture which shows the transponder fix for the downed C-130. The blue triangle to the upper left of the red transponder fix indicates the town of Parnagua. You can see that the markings on the air chart in the movie frame are in much lessor detail than even the NATO ONC.
NATO TPC air chart showing the grid square and transponder fix marking from the moive frame superimposed
NATO TPC air chart showing the locale of the transponder fix from the downed C-130
A comparison of the air chart in the movie frame with the same area on the satellite imagery, which has been overlain with the same markings. The lake to the upper left of each image is Lake Parnagua. Both road and river communications lead south east from Lake Parnagua up to the location of the circle which marks the transponder fix.
The satellite image of the same area over-lain with the red circle marked on the air chart in the movie frame
Satellite image of the area marked by the red crayon circle on the air chart in the movie frame.
The air chart showing the area under the crayon circle marking the transponder fix blown-up in detail from a satellite photograph. It took several man-days of work to accomplish this.
Arnold Schwarzenegger in profile: The director frequently uses Arnold Schwarzenegger's profile in close-up. This allows the director to signal to the audience that something is not quite right by having Arnold Schwarzenegger glance sharply sideways when he is suspicious. Detail like this really makes a film but there is rarely enough time to include it in the shooting schedule.
Scene: On the mission. In flight. About to reach the LZ.
The mission is underway as Long Tall Sally plays on the stereo.
Blain: "Bunch of slack-jawed faggots around here ..."
Blain: "This stuff'll make you a goddamn sexual tyrannosaurus, just like me..."
Dillon looks like he is wearing Danner Fort Bragg boots. You can see regular GI issue jungle boots in the upper right of frame.
Brown foliage on the ground indicates this location was at Puerto Vallarta
Notice the Remington 870 shotgun fitted under the barrel of the M16 in the same place and M203 grenade launcher is fitted. I have to admit I would prefer the M203 but the 12 gauge can launch all manner of specialist rounds such as flares, flechettes, fragmentation rounds, slugs. See Thomas Swearengen's definitive reference work The World's Fighting Shotguns
The World's Fighting Shotguns by Thomas Swearengen
The green foliage indicates that this location is probably at Palenque. Sonny Landham wears his bayonet (in this case Jack Crain knife) on his M69 flak jacket in the inverted position (my favorite position, too).
Arnold Schwarzenegger's friend Sven-Ole Thorsen plays the Soviet advisor.
El Eden, at Puerto Vallarta
Jesse Ventura as Blain wields Ol'Painless, the Gatling gun.
Arnold Schwarzenegger fires his M16 and M203 Grenade launcher. Nothing wrong with this load-out. This combination was highly desireable. The British SAS during Gulf War 1 had to obtain theirs via unofficial contacts with the US Army.
A henchman attempts to start the Huey in order to make his escape.
The Huey cockpit interior and dashboard.
As the production continued, the cast and crew became thinner and thinner because of the dysentery which they were suffering caused by consumption of the local food. You can see that in the scenes shot last Arnold's face is gaunt. Compare the with the frame from below Hercules in New York (1969) when Arnold was at his heaviest weight.
Sven-Ole Thorsen, right of frame.
Scene: 00:27:29 "... I ain't got time to bleed"
Blain: "I ain't got time to bleed ..."
A good shot of the belt feed on the Gatling while it is mounted on Blain's back.
00:29:39: Arnold Schwarzenegger lights up a cigar with his Vietnam issue Zippo
Sonny Landham . Outstanding in this role. He has been underused as an actor. I would have written movies as vehicles for him solely from his performance here.
Arnold Schwarzenegger lights up an after-mission cigar in an epic piece of camera work.
The scorpion. It was a real scorpion.
"No PETA weenies were harmed during the making of this movie. But we sure scared a few".
US Army DMS jungle boot. Not my favorite boot. It's the sort of boot you issue to a conscript army. #
Sonny Landham prepares to give his iconic laugh.
Above El Eden at Puerto Vallarta
Sonny Landham looks hot and tired. The cast were taken on "boot camp" treks through the jungle by a US Army trainer to learn to move like a team.
Arnold Schwarzenegger gives one of the army handsignals #
Probably jungle at Palenque
That looks like the handguard from an M60 on the Stembridge Gatling
Jesse Ventura wields the Gatling
# Arnold Schwarzenegger inspects the scene of the attack of the Predator
# Bill Duke moves to join the fire-fight
# Muzzle and forearm of the Gatling
Receiver of the Gatling #
# The body hangs in the trees dripping blood
Jesse Ventura aims the Gatling
Certainly, the most visually impressive weapon ever to appear in a movie frame.
Bill Duke wades into the fire-fight
Bill Duke picks up Gatling from the hands of the now dead Blain and fires into the jungle
Bill Duke fires the Gatling into the jungle after retrieving it from the hands of the dead Blain. You can see the belt feed ammunition chute coiling away to his right. This is perhaps the best wide-angle shot of jungle in the whole movie.
Arnold Schwarzenegger , Bill Duke # and Sonny Landham fire into the jungle in one of the best movie frames of all time
Huge muzzle flash from the Gatling. You can see the muzzle flash periodically lighting Arnold's face during his close-up
Sonny Landham fires his M16 and Remington 870
Close-ups of the receiver of the Gatling
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bill Duke and Sonny Landham loose off fire into the jungle
In one of the all-time-great movie frames, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bill Duke and Sonny Landham lay down fire into the jungle.
Close up of the receiver of the M16 and M203 grenade launcher .
On a mission like this where you are doing it 'out of a suitcase' you can only take what you can carry. That means you can only take as much ammunition as you can carry. This limits your ability to get into a prolonged engagement because as the ammunition runs low you have to start making a decision on breaking contact with the enemy and the possibility of being pursued. If you are pursued when you are low on ammunition then your level of insurance in the case of getting into a fire-fight is low. You have to be judicious in your choice of terms of engaging the enemy and judicious in your expenditure of ammunition. There is nothing wrong with the choice of M16 for missions such as this because it is light and the ammunition is small and light. However, the ability of 5.56mm ammunition to penetrate cover is limited. 7.62mm ammunition is greatly superior when it comes to penetrating canopy. In WWII in the PTO there was a US Marine unit which all carried BARs (.30-06) because of the ability of the .30-06 round to penetrate jungle and tree trunks and the ability of the BAR to produce a low continuous rate of fire which was easily controllable. In the Vietnam War before the M16 was issued, infantryman found that they could clear an LZ of trees for helicopters to land by shooting several rounds through the trunk of the tree, which felled it. You cannot do this with 5.56mm. The BAR has become one of my favorite weapons due to its versatility. In the action at LX X-RAY the 5.56mm would not penetrate the tall grass that covered everything. Only the 7.62mm from the M60 saved them from being over-run.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers and Bill Duke
An early scene: Arnold still has some flesh on his face
Scene: 00:56:23 "... and it ain't no man"
Billy: "... and it ain't no man..."
Crossing the great tree-trunk
Movie blanks are not just regular blanks. They have special formulation for muzzle flash. Nighttime movie blanks are formulated to give plenty of flash.
Scene: 01:16:08 "Get to the chopper !"
"Get to the chopper ..."
»Get to the chopper !« , a line Arnold Schwarzenegger reprises in Expendables 3 (2014)
Anna gets to the chopper
The Misol Ha high waterfall
Grenades from the M203
Scene: The Predator is mortally wounded and iniaties his nuclear demolition charge
LOCATION: Agua Azul waterfalls, South West of Palenque , Between Highway 199 and Highway 243 as they fork to the north.
The Predator opens his wrist computer and initiates the count-down sequence to the demolition charge going off.
The late Kevin Peter Hall as the helicopter pilot. Hall also played the Predator
Egress: The rescue helicopter carries Dutch Shaeffer away from the blast zone.
Arnold's Seiko wrist-watch.
The Gatling is fitted to Jesse Ventura.
Jesse Ventura reads a comic book
Cast and crew: The late Kevin Peter Hall center frame.
Arnold Schwarzenegger smoking a cigar wearing his Rolex
Arnold Schwarzenegger and Carl Weathers
+ SEE ALSO
- Script of Predator (1987) drawn from the subtitles
- Night of the Iguana (1964) - Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor lived at Casa Kimberly on Calle Zaragoza 445 after coming to Puerto Vallarta to film Night of the Iguana (1964). They purchased two villas, one on either side of the street and constructed a bridge between the two.
+ EXTERNAL LINKS
- Predator at the Internet Movie Script Database - http://www.imsdb.com/
- The making of Predator (1987)
- The script of Predator (1987) at http://www.scifiscripts.com/
- Seiko Diver H558-5009 http://seikodiver.blogspot.co.uk/
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