|from The Making of Judge Dredd : Jane Killick, with David Chute and Charles M.Lippincott
The ABC Robot
| The idea of introducing the ABC robot, Rico (Judge
Dredd's brother) frees from a gun shop, came from Danny Cannon. "Rico needed
a sidekick, " says the director, "I wanted the ABC robot and put him in
the film because I wanted Rico to have something mechanical that he used
as a friend because that's how void this man is, and that's how much contempt
he has for human beings."
|| The robot is based on Danny's favorite
robot from 2000AD, Hammerstein of the ABC Warriors. Hammerstein , who gets
his name from the war hammer in one hand, is a relic from a far more violent
time. He is programmed to fight and destroy, and to enjoy doing it well.
The original design looked very similar to the comic version, with lot
of body armour,which would make it very easy for the robot to be played
by a man in a suit.
| Executive Producer Andy Vajna wanted
the robot to be exactly that, a man in a suit, because he had never been
satisfied by any purely mechanical robot in a film up to that point. But
the general consensus was that there was a chance of doing something different.
So Conceptual Ilustrator Chris Halls was set to work designing it, and
building an elaborate scale model. "I thought it would be nice to make
it as if a lot of his armour had fallen off and you can see the skeleton
underneath, what powers him," he says.
|| With Chris
Hall's scale model completed, it was clear that in no way could the robot
be a man in a suit.
(extracted from p93 -95 of The Making of Judge Dredd)
|| Center stage
is Mean Machine, an elaborate cyborg designed by one of the top UK Conceptual
Artists, Chris Halls. He had drawn Mean Machine in the comics, which was
where Production Designer Nigel Phelps first saw his work. The way that
Chris had drawn the mechanical arm meant that he would be the ideal person
for the project, not only in designing Mean Machine, but also incorporating
some of that mechanical detail into the buildings.
| It turned out that Chris had a history of working
in film. He had done special effects for six years and was in the middle
of taking a two year sabbatical to work on comics and improve his drawing
when he was approached to work on Judge Dredd
Chris' background meant adapting Mean Machine for
the screen posed few problems. "I'd kind of drawn him in the comic based
on how I would have made him if I was ever going to make him," he says.
" All the time, I was thinking how he was going to work in 3D, so it wasn't
really much of a transition."
| Some changes were made for the film
- specifically making the robot arm smaller and more manageable - but Chris
was careful not to stray too far from Mean Machine's origins. "The thing
is that in the comic, he's a half-wit, a psychopathic half-wit, and I didn't
want him to look too disturbing and frightening because you're supposed
to laugh at him in a way. When he tries to head butt you and you out of
the way and he crashes into a pillar, it's supposed to be half-funny and
| Chris was able to follow through the project from
design stage to sculpting - which he did himself - to looking after the
actor on set. The man cast in the role of Mean Machine was Chris Adamson,
whose slender build was a distinct advantage. It allowed all the mechanics
and prosthetics to be fitted onto him without making him look ridiculously
huge. "I didn't want him to look like he had stuff stuck on the top of
his body," Chris Halls explains.
|| "I wanted him to look like his shoulder stops and
then blends into a robot arm, so it looks like things have been stuck into
him rather than onto him. Like the skullcap and the bits and pieces in
his body, they're not overlapping skin, they're actually on the same level
as the skin. So where the skull ends on his nose, skin starts, so it looks
as if he's had his skin torn away and replaced with these new parts."
| The costume basically encased the actor
in rubber, aluminum and bits of plastic. The mechanical arm was attached
by a harness under his costume, which supported most of his weight. Over
the top of that went the rubber chest part, which was built up to make
Mean Machine look more muscular and hide all the mechanics. The actor's
head was then encased in a two-section prosthetic with a third section
for the face. It was attached with glue, and finally contact lenses were
| But like all prosthetic makeup, it brought
with it it's own characteristic challenges. "I think it was the heat more
than anything, "says Chris. "We had problems maintaining him on set because
it's so hot that the sweat comes underneath the foam rubber and it starts
coming away, so we have to keep maintaining the pieces round the eyes and
his nose all day long." He can't eat either because the greasy food makes
the pieces come off."
| The arm was maneuvered simply by the actors own
arm, with the help of internal mechanics that allowed him to control the
three fingers. There was also a knife that shoots out from a pneumatic
piston at the end of the arm. Although it was not possible to give the
actor control of this part too, it was actually worked behind the camera
with an airline running down the inside of the arm. It was just too risky
to do it the other way in case the knife shot out accidentally and injured
| The arm was made, as Chris puts it, "on the cheap".
Only one copy was produced, so there was a lot of praying and a lot of
crossing of fingers hoping that it would stay in one piece. "I was very
worried, " Chris admits. "I didn't use glue on anything, every single thing
on there is bolted together, because it's too frightening the thought of
it falling apart.... Luckily it survived the shoot, survived a lot of action."
One piece of of engineering that never made it to
the film was connected to Mean Machine's dial on his forehead. It was built
with a motor which would turn on it's own when Mean's mood changed. However
when it came to filming the scene, the other Angels turned it manually,
and only the flashing light was seen to work
| Mean Machine has turned out to be one
of the successes of the film. During the interviews with other members
of the crew, the subject of how wonderful Chris's work was would often
come up unprompted. Chris spent four months on the project and is delighted
with the way it turned out. "It's the best job I've ever had," he says.
with thanks to Dominic Kulcsar