On the Set of "Though the Heavens Fall"

Brian Graham-Jones writes:

My dad was in the military and we lived in Hawaii on and off. I was the only child in my family to get to go the same high school (Leilehua High School) all four years as my dad retired to Hawaii when I was in the eighth grade.

Anyhow, I moved back to Hawaii from '76 to '78 to save enough money to return to college by living with my parents and working. While I was back in Hawaii, I met these people who gathered in the park at the east of Waikiki near the Zoo on Sundays and fenced. It was quite fun, we'd hang out in the park and have bouts and beers, a good time was had by all.

Well, a woman who was very impressed by the Renaissance Fair in California decided Hawaii should have one and we were invited to participate. The first year at Punahou School was very informal, but the following year was on the North Shore in acres of pine forest and two of the guys and myself ran a booth, 'Sir Loin of Beef School of Fencing', we would give lessons, bout with people, oversee bouts, all for a reasonable charge.

The local chapter of the Society of Creative Anachronism was also involved and every once in a while we would have melees and they figured out how we could be involved. They were great people and it was all quite a bit of fun.

I guess a casting director for 'Hawaii Five-O' saw me and went through the producer of the Renaissance Fair to find me to ask if I could put together a group of fencers for episode #262, Though the Heavens Fall. It would pay about $100 per person and they wanted about eight people. So I talked my friends into doing it and we were off and running.

So we go to the shoot and it was pretty entertaining. They had the very best equipment, the best helmets, gloves, foils, sabres, everything. The costume people had their hands full because we were so excited by the great equipment we kept wanting to bout but they kept stopping us so we wouldn't damage the merchandise.

Finally, we ready to shoot our scene. I believe it's the first time McGarrett meets that episode's villain, Robert ("Brady Bunch") Reed as Richard Slade. So the director tells me what he wants, and we divvy up the tasks. The only fencer without a mask in the scene is Neal McHenry, who was really trying to have an acting career and so wanted the part where they got to see his face. The fellow who stood in for Robert Reed, because he was the same build, whose name escapes me, was a winner of the Pan-American games, he was very good.

I and my friend were supposed to do sabre. McGarrett was to enter the room, go around behind my friend and I and then approach and speak to Slade. The lighting guy told us we had to stay within a three foot wide, eight foot long rectangle "because of the lighting". This is a very difficult area within which to do saber. We told him this but he was adamant.

We decided the only way of doing it was with a modified Belgian style. In this method you're doing saber with a stein of beer in your free hand. When you're not drinking your beer, it is planted behind your back foot. The real finesse is while bouting to reach down, grab the beer, advance, take a sip, and put the beer back down behind the advanced foot. You never retreat. Thus you can end up doing some pretty crazy upclose maneuvers. And with only eight feet of length to work with, that was about the best technique we had available.

So we do a run-through practice take without rolling film. My friend and I stay within our 8x3 area and McGarrett and his cohort enter and confront the adversary and cut. Then Lord blows up. He comes over to me and says, "That was terrible! What was that, some sort of grade-B Hollywood schtick? What's the problem? Haven't you guys ever fenced before, is it the equipment, what?"

So I explained to him about the lighting fellow's demands and that I understood that we had to be clear of him when he delivered his lines but if we could be free to move we could show him some good fencing.

So Lord calls the lighting guy over, and gee, now there's no problem. Sure they can do that, the lighting guy says, no problem, just wanted to make sure they they weren't blocking you Mr. Lord. Certainly they can do that, no problem at all!

So that settled, we do another take where my friend and I are free to move (in the episode I'm the one on the left of the screen doing sabre) and at 'Cut' I remove my mask and Jack Lord looks over at me with approval on his face and gives me a 'Well Done' nod.

So that's the story.

A few more tidbits:

The silver-haired fellow who was in the scene with Jack Lord (I believe he was playing the Governor [this is Dennis Patrick, who looks like the Man from Glad, playing Elliott Webster, boss of the sportsman's country club]) regaled us with a story of how he basically gutted a fellow he was fencing in a pirate movie by mistake.

Also, my friend, Ricardo or Roberto, who had won the Pan-Am Fencing and fenced for Reed was also the agent for the cars they used in Five-O and told us they would get carried away during filming and call him and say, "Say Ricardo, if we had just pushed your car off a cliff and blown it up, how much would you want for that car?"