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Note about Tremors 5 and Tremors 6 questions:
Stampede did not work on Tremors 5 in any way so we have NO information about it or Universal’s plans for future Tremors movies. All questions about those topics should be sent to Universal Studios.
Questions about Tremors
When everyone discovers the Graboid tentacle attached underneath Earl/Val’s truck, what/why does Burt throw something underneath the truck next to him?
It’s a can of soda he’s drinking as he walks out of Chang’s (and no, I do NOT know what kind!) When he sees the creepy tentacle under Val and Earl’s truck, he discards the soda without thinking about it.
In Tremors 1, it looks like we see eggs among the internal organs of one of the blown up Graboids - are they eggs?
No, they’re various disgusting things they came up with for innards at Amalgamated Dynamics. We didn’t intend them to be eggs. Graboids don’t lay eggs, they metamorphose.
We didn’t. We had a hole in the ground that was deep enough for the station wagon to sink into. In the hole was a specially made machine, sort of like an elevator, that was supposed to lower the car slowly. But the machine jammed – it got clogged and blocked by the special lightweight potting soil we were using for “dirt.” The car only sank a couple of feet. It was our last night of shooting and we could not work past dawn, so director Ron Underwood had to quickly figure out a series of close-ups and insert shots to make it look like the car actually sank. That very last shot (done later in miniature) was a wide shot where you just see the headlight beams blink off and that’s what makes if feel like the car finally went under. Later, when Val and Earl dig the car up, we put just the car’s front grille (taken off) under the sand, with a battery to run the head lights.
Here’s one that has partially stumped us. Production designer Ivo Cristante (Tremors 1 and Tremors 2 tells SS Wilson it is probably corn. He remembers thinking about what Old Fred could successfully grow in that dry environment. Do we have any botanist fans who can tell from the Old Fred garden hoe close ups in Tremors 1?
This is actually a question to which we gave considerable thought: “Why is there a lone teenage kid in Perfection?” Here’s Melvin’s Tremors 1 back story: he’s the son of rather irresponsible parents who regularly leave him home alone to go gambling in Vegas. The townsfolk long ago got used to the situation, as people in small towns do. There was a line explaining this in the original Tremors 1 script. It was said by Val or Earl and was something like, “I wish his parents would just take him with them to Vegas.” As a result, Melvin turned out sort of selfish and money-hungry in Tremors 3, but we understand him since he had to fend for himself from a young age.
Was it just coincidence that the university had students monitoring seismic activity in the valley, or was someone at the University expecting a hatching?
Just coincidence. There is a lot of seismic activity in the southwest and many public and private entities monitor it all the time. If we had secretive people who knew in advance Graboids were going to hatch, we’d turn into the X Files.
Here's a major one. You fans have done it again. In his T-3 town meeting briefing, Burt says the Graboids are moving down from the North, "just like last time." But in a chat room discussion forwarded to S.S. Wilson, some fans point out that in fact, all the early Graboid victims in T-1 are South of Perfection, i.e., between Perfection and Bixby!
Well, this is equivalent to the great number-of-Shriekers-in-a-Graboid slip up and Old Fred’s disappearing car. In the years between making T-1 and T-3, we overlooked this basic geographic reality. Burt’s line is simply wrong. He was let down by the writers. He should have said, “They’re working their way up from the south.”
But the same fans have provided an excellent explanation for the Graboid movements, if not the T-3 line. The 1989 batch could have hatched south of Perfection (unlike the T-4 batch). They found themselves blocked by the granite ridge which separates the south end of Perfection Valley from Bixby. So, they worked their way north, taking out the victims in the order Val indicates, heading back toward Perfection. I have no idea what this does to the orientation-of-the-valley discussion and I’m too tired to think about it.
Boy, you guys are tough.
In a related T-1 question, some of you feel Rhonda seems to be unexpectedly working in two widely different areas of the Valley (where she first meets Val and Earl, and later at the concrete ditch). On that point I think we’re safe. She clearly says she has placed seismographs all over the valley, so it’s logical that she might be servicing any one of them an any given time.
In Tremors 1, why didn't the townspeople just take truck Rhonda's to the base of the jeep trail? With the trail being a mountain path, the Graboids wouldn't be able to follow, and the people could walk safely to Bixby. I know the real answer is that it would just kill the whole movie plot, but what's the "creative" reason?
You’re envisioning the trail as starting right at the base of the mountain. We envisioned the jeep trail as starting way before that, out in the desert. Our intention in the dialogue where the townsfolk discuss it was to imply that the trail was so rough that the little two-wheel-drive vehicle would not make it to the rocks. Earl says “You need major four wheel drive just to get up that jeep trail,” which makes it sound like he might means to get up up the mountain itself — but he didn’t! Honest!
When they are stranded on the rock at the end, is the cannon Burt refers to the same one Hiram obtained in Tremors 4?
If you are referring to Hiram’s punt gun, which is sort of like a small cannon, no. The punt gun was never found after the Graboid pulled it underground in Tremors 4. If you are referring to the Gatling Gun Christine gives Hiram at the end of Tremors 4, also no. It’s technically not a cannon and it went to a museum in San Francisco after Hiram’s death. The cannon Burt refers to in Tremors 1 is a firing replica of a Civil War mortar (type of cannon). We wrote it into early drafts of Tremors 3, but the scene didn’t make it into the movie. It’s one of the few things which wouldn’t have been totally destroyed in the explosion of Burt’s house, but we’ve still never been able to show it. Maybe someday.
It is actually a shotgun called a Darne, with an unusual sliding breech action. It was huge, an 8 gauge (the smaller the number, the bigger the gun). We had dummy cartridges custom made from solid brass rod stock, with the bullet held on via a screw.
Wow, you’re asking us to go way back in time on that one. Boring reality version: the wardrobe department picked out a variety of things which seem to fit the character (in this case Fred’s character, Earl Basset). Then the director picked what he liked best. Also, the legal department has to approve use of the name. So it may be that it just happened to be a company for which we could get permission.
More romantic version: Earl worked odd jobs all over the country before landing in Perfection and teaming up with younger Val. No doubt he did a stint at Alumax, bailing with his hat when he got fed up with the 9:00 to 5:00 grind.
Sorry, we don’t have any record of that and can’t tell for sure from the existing footage which models they are. Maybe some of our sharp-eyed detail-oriented Burt fans can help here?
A friend asked me, “Why didn't the Graboid scream when it regurgitated the bomb that landed on the other bombs?” I said its probably because he knew the bombs hurt his seismic sensors and took cover then returned to the food.
We appreciate it when fans ask and answer a question at the same time. But I will also add that the Graboid in question was “spitting” out the bomb, so it had no need to roar or scream.
Yes. The movie ratings system is always changing. Some lines we thought would be acceptable when we started shooting were not acceptable by the time we finished. Since then, somewhat to our surprise, we’ve realized that the Tremors films are loved by kids and families. So we have limited most bad language in the later films, except for the name of the ABs, which some people have objected to.
Val and Earl say at the end that Burt gave them the new tires for the Jeep, but how did they mount them on the rims? They couldn't use rims Burt had since Jeep rims don't match his Chevy rims. Chevy has six holes and Jeeps had/have five holes. Perfection doesn’t seem to have a garage where they could do tire changes and stuff.
Truth: we hoped no one would notice or ask. But our fully plausible after-the-fact explanation is that always-prepared Burt maintained backup tires and rims of several sizes and makes, in case he had to commandeer a vehicle other than his own in an emergency.
FAN SUPPORT UPDATE: (A fan wrote in to say why the rims would fit!) Just so you guys are aware, a lot of the old trucks that had 6 lug nuts for the rims used the same mounting pattern. All full size Chevy trucks, full size Chevy Jeeps, and even the old small Toyota and Nissan trucks could all use the same rims.
Ironically, though one would think so, Burt is not ex-Army. His deep-seated resistance to authority and his desire to live life exactly as he wishes made him a bad fit for that highly regimented institution.
We had not thought about that. But Bertram kind of makes sense, since he’s a descendant of Hiram Gummer. Might reflect a family bias for similar-sounding names.
That is what we call in professional film making circles: a mistake.
We thought of them as being in their mid-to-late 30s.
What kept the Graboids from diving deep below the floor of Perfection Valley and emerging at the bottom of the "Cliffs to the North"?
As you go down the face of those cliffs, you encounter older geologic layers. Before you reach the bottom, you come to hard sandstone, which the Graboids can’t penetrate.
What exactly were those construction workers doing when they were killed by Graboids? Burying phone lines?
Here it is from the original script: they are repairing a section of road already damaged by a rock slide. Carmine is breaking up asphalt (for eventual replacement).
Nestor Cunningham. Jim and Megan Wallace. Old Fred does not have a last name in the script, so apparently that’s up for grabs.
What happened to the 8 gauge elephant gun (actually a Darne shotgun) Burt used to kill the Graboid in his basement?
It was returned to the private gun collection from which it was rented.
How did you come up with the name, Burt Gummer? Was it possibly an homage to the Charlton Heston's RoBERT Neville, in "OMEGA MAN"?
No, S.S. Wilson came up with the name out of the blue early in the writing process. There was no connection to anything. The name just sounded funny and it stuck. It’s one of the few character names S.S. Wilson has contributed to the many scripts he and Brent Maddock have worked on. Most names are invented by Maddock and some point.
Burt’s gun wall: Exactly how many weapons does he have on that wall? Could you please name them all?
Sorry, we don’t know and we can’t. Our weapons prop master did a superb job of putting all those different guns together, but I’m not sure even he could remember how many and what they were all these years later. So, maybe one of you really dedicated fans, working diligently from frame grabs of the basement sequence, referencing your well-worn copy of the 1990 Shooter’s Bible –??
In Tremors 1, what were Bert and his wife mixing in their basement with that machine that attracted the graboids? Something to do with making their own bullets but what exactly?
The machine is a shell case polisher. The device agitates empty brass cases in a mildly abrasive medium, gently polishing off the burns and powder residue from the previous firing. Perfectionists like Burt and Heather want their cases sparkling clean before they reload them!
After Tremors 1, what exactly happened? Did [the town] automatically start attracting tourists? And when did Jodi move in and fix things up?
The Graboids were pretty big news. A new life form! Photos of them flew round the world. Plus Rhonda and Val were on a few national talk shows. Even so, Perfection is very remote, so there wasn’t a flood of tourists right away. Jodi arrived quickly to oversee her uncle’s store. Once she got there, she saw opportunity and decided to stay.
Is it possible you guys can convince Universal to release a new Blu ray release of Tremors with a remastered transfer? The transfer on the current Blu ray is HORRIBLE. (this review really sums it up http://www.blu-ray.com/movies/Tremors-Blu-ray/14445/). Also, if they ever release a new release Tremors, ever consider doing an audio commentary for the film?
It’s not likely Universal will do a better Blu-ray release. Sadly, they don’t view Tremors as a major property and have made many disappointing marketing decisions over the years. For example, Tremors 4 was released in the United Kingdom with none of the cool extras. Though we made the movies, they own them and we have no control over what they do with them.
Well, the answer is getting lost in the mists of time, but I don’t have Michael Gross’s thoughts about it. He says, ” I recall saying I wanted to wear a baseball cap of some sort. Someone (wardrobe? Ron?) asked it might be a sports team, and I said I thought that would be okay, but specified it should be a team from some southern state. Next thing you know, these hats from Atlanta show up on the set, and off we went.”
Toward the end, why didn't the townspeople just jump into Rhonda's truck and drive it to the base of the Jeep trail? With the trail being a mountain path, the Graboids wouldn't be able to follow, and they could just walk to Bixby. I know the real answer is that it would just kill the whole movie plot, but what's the "creative" reason?
Actually, our version is that the jeep trail, criss-crossing sandy washes and ravines, becomes heavily rutted and impassable well before it reaches solid rock at the base of the mountains, so they’d be goners if they tried it.
Okay, I’ll probably get this wrong since I haven’t re-watched the movie to double-check. If you read other faq answers you’ll see we got the number of Shriekers-in-a-Graboid wrong in Tremors 3. But I’ll give it a shot. I say 10. Edgar Deems, Old Fred, two road workers, the doctor and his wife, Nestor, Walter Chang; and two telephone repair workers. Dedicated FAQ Followers feel free to correct me.
I gotta be honest, neither me, Ron Underwood nor Brent Maddock remembered where the song came from. And I could never have answered this question without help from two Facebook friends who led me to Keith Blackwell, a member of the band Fahrenheit. They recorded the song as a demo and, since they knew some of our production people, offered it as background music. Better yet, Mr. Blackwell has put it up online and you can hear it in its entirety, all these years later, at http://soundcloud.com/keith-blackwell/you-are-the-one
Who provided the movie clothing in Tremors, specifically for Val and Earl. I noticed a lot of western wear. And where did Val get that awesome belt buckle! Was it specially made for the movie or can it be purchased? - NEW
OMG, this may be the first Val belt buckle question ever! It was part of many costumes provided by the Tremors wardrobe department. The good news is, all these years later, director Ron Underwood remembers choosing it! Ron writes, “I remember the meeting with Abigail Murray (costume designer) in our production office in the [San Fernando] Valley where she brought in her “find” of the belt buckle. I think it was in a heart shape around the name “VAL.” I remember thinking it was great as soon as I saw it. She found it in a second hand store as I recall.”
So, the bad news is, it was a rare item even back then. We don’t know who made it or when or how many might have been made.
What has Finn Carter been doing lately? Also, if you ever get permission from Universal to make Tremors 5, would she be in it? - NEW
Finn has continued to do all sorts of things (including have kids). She has done guest spots on many TV shows over the years since Tremors. We did not write her character, Rhonda, into Tremors 5 since, in the Tremors universe, she’s gone off to live with Val. But Finn was a total delight to work with and fearless in going for the quirky Rhonda we had in mind.
How come the tentacle on their truck is not seen when they drive away from the hillside where "Stumpy" grabbed their axle?
Well, we tried to shoot and edit that scene so that you never really see the back of the truck or very far underneath. Hopefully it’s not too much of a cheat
How did Rhonda, after grabbing the lighter out of her pocket, catch up to Val and Earl since they had been running full tilt for 14 seconds?
Finn Carter would laugh if she read this question. She had a heck of a time that day. We shot and re-shot the three of them running many times. It was insanely hot and she was super exhausted. That said, remember that she is calling after Val and Earl, “I’ve got it! I’ve got it!” So, clearly, they slowed down and let her catch up. The way the footage is edited, that might not be clear, but that is totally what happened. In my mind.
Update: here’s an answer from a helpful fan who emailed Stampede. Thanks!
“Because Rhona runs faster than both of them. At the beginning of the movie, she easily catches up to Val and Earl with her backpack on when they run on the rocks from the worms.”
In the opening scene at the cliff, in the shot of the cattle, the sun clearly overhead, like high noon with heat waves. Yet when Val wakes Earl up, he says, "Good morning Mr. Bassett, this is your wake-up call." Why?
Answer 1: Earl slept very late.
Answer 2: You shoot low budget movies as fast as you can, from sun-up to sundown. You usually don’t have a choice where the sun is. So you just hope people won’t notice and send you questions 25 years later.
I know you and the Stampede crew went with CGI for the sequels in places where it would've been impossible to pull off with live creatures, but when you guys were doing the first film, was there ever talk about doing some stop-motion Graboid shots?
Since S. S. Wilson comes from a background in stop motion animation, yes! We considered anything that would help us get the movie made. But the fact that the creatures were always seen in dirt and kicking up dust made stop-motion an unsatisfactory choice, since those are hard elements to work with (or add in later) when doing stop motion.
In Tremors 1, when they jump into Rhonda's truck and she is in the window, you realize that behind Val for a few seconds you can see the stunt driver right?
I have to be honest. No, I did not realize that. I will look for him the next time I watch the film.
Update: I checked. It’s pretty subtle! Like half a second! And only half the guy’s head!
Why didn't Earl use a revolver holster for his Colt when he was riding the horse. He would have never lost it then after the graboid attacked his horse.
Well, the simple answer is, he didn’t have one. Remember, we first see the gun when Val and Earl’s truck gets stuck at the road work site. When Earl grabs the Colt from the glove box, it’s just wrapped in paper.
Well, not really. We didn’t feel Val and Earl should be experts, and a tentacle would be pretty hard to hit with a handgun.
You know, we’ve never though about that. But we feel that they did. Their kids were grown and they were building their retirement place near Perfection.
We never wanted it to be rated R! We like to make fun family movies. We were upset the first time we submitted it , because it DID get an R — for language. We had let Kevin and Fred use too many unacceptable words, so we had to go back and make changes to get rid of enough to get our PG-13.
I thought Nestor was Melvins dad and that was why he was crying and so upset when Nestor was eaten. So if he wasn't his father, apart from the loss of a friend.. why does he freak out more than the others?
Yeah, Nestor is not Melvin’s dad. Melvin’s parents just left him alone a lot when they went to gamble in Las Vegas. But we think Melvin’s reaction is still understandable. He’s just a teenager, and he’s never seen anybody killed, let alone in such a scary way. It makes him see how much danger they are in.
We’re not quite sure what this means. Do the tentacles have guns, or are Val and Earl shooting at them like wild west guys? If it’s the second version, we think it’d only work for a short time. The Graboid would pull its wounded tentacles underground and attack from below unless they got to safe ground. We sort of did that with Black Hand Kelly in Tremors 4. But the tentacles didn’t have guns.
In the opening scene when Kevin Bacon is taking a whiz over the edge of the cliff, and the ending scene where they run full tilt toward the same spot, are they really at the edge of a cliff, or is it special effects?
It is a special effect — a beautiful old-school, perfectly done matte painting. We couldn’t find a cliff that looked right anywhere in the area where we were shooting. It had to look like dirt, not rock. So we finally had to bring in a world-class matte painting team, Illusion Arts.
In the beginning of the movie Val and Earl are putting up a barbed wire fence. I was wondering if the multiple attempts to hit the nail was planned or if he missed that many times on purpose.
It was an accident. Kevin just didn’t hit the nail for a few times. Director Ron Underwood thought it was a great moment that seemed very real, so he left it in the final film.
OK ! Enough Hollywood trickery!! In the final action scene, Kevin Bacon starts running and the 'ground' under his feet is BOUNCING. Please go back and edit this, then re-release the movie in all major theaters across the world.
That’s funny! Yeah, nearly all the effects in the original Tremors were done “live” right on the location, so we did end up with things like bouncing dirt. Under Kevin was a big sheet of plywood covering the large hole in which the Graboid was placed during other parts of the scene. I guess today any young person with an iPhone and a movie app could digitally erase our dirt bounce. But we’ll leave it as is for posterity.
The first film had the best distinctive theme song why didn’t you guys keep it as the main theme for all the films?
Believe it or not, the original score was not loved. In post production, much of it was thrown out and some “action” music hastily written by a new composer. That said, we love the “Val and Earl” theme, if that’s what you’re referring to; but using it in later productions would have been a tough sell to the studio.
Ok, after Earl warns the highway workers that "there's a killer on the loose" the guy's foot gets stuck in the air-pressure hose. How did that happen since the scene immediately prior shows it clearly outside of it? Did the Flash mess with the time-line again?
Actually, there is a very clear closeup of him stepping into the loop of hose right before the jack-hammer takes off.
Great question! That would be totally like Walter, but no, he really didn’t have a gun. He only sold ammo at his store — mostly to Burt.
The Internet Movie Database says that: "One idea by the special effects crew was for the worms to have an outer shell. When above the dirt, the shell would retract to reveal a slimier 'inner worm'. However, many production members started to giggle at the 'phallic' resemblance it had with a foreskin, so this was changed to the big worm sprouting several smaller worms from its mouth." Could you confirm, or deny, the story?
This is partly true. Early sketches by the guys at Amalgamated Dynamics did have the retractable head skin, and it did get a laugh in an early meeting, especially from Exec Producer Gale Ann Hurd, as being too phalic. So the retracting skin was dropped. However, it is not true that we replaced it with the tentacles. They were always part of the design and were described in the original script.
Well — because the panties were our idea, that is, the director and writer/producers. We are not fans of monster/horror movies where women are scantily clad for no reason, but we also really liked the scene in which she has to get out of her pants to escape the barbed wire, so we discussed it with Finn and all agreed on the modest version she wore.
In all the years of answering Tremors questions, this is a first. I am embarrassed to say we’ve never thought much about Mindy’s father. We do think that free-spirit Nancy was not married to him and that they drifted apart for some reason. But that’s about it.
On part two, we’re not sure where that question comes from. Nancy does not hate Earl. She pretty much likes everybody, though she gets impatient with Burt at times.
Burt makes a comment about eminent domain in Tremors 1. Given that its use became much more common after the 2005 USSC ruling, did you feel prophetic?
No, but you can be sure Burt never misses an opportunity to point it out.
Why didn't you incorporate the 2016 Tour de France as a prequel to Perfection Valley terror? You could have had the Graboids take out some of the Yellow jersey leaders, then head west to America for more delectable cuisine. Pogo sticks just don't compare to bicyclists going downhill at 55mph. Plus bridging the Space-Time continuum would increase audience participation by incorporating the Sci-Fi types.
Uh —- what? I think this one went over our heads.
Forgive me, there are lots of funny answers to this question. We are writers, after all.
The entire town of Perfection would have been eaten, and it would have been a very dark, depressing horror movie.
We would have had to add people to the town to get eaten so Val and Earl, and maybe Rhonda, would still survive.
Burt would have had to come up with a mini-nuclear bombs instead of his ordinary ones.
We would have had to come up with four more cool ways to kill a Graboid.
The movie would have been twice as long! But twice as expensive and we wouldn’t have been able to make it!
But seriously, we are amazed at the new questions fans keep coming up with all these years later. Thanks!
When Walter was being eaten by the Graboid that came through the floor, why didn't Earl help him with that axe he had?
This is a good question. Indeed it is true that Earl found an axe earlier when trying to help Rhonda. But when the motor in the soft drink cooler turned on, we think he left the axe by the table he was sitting at across the room. He had no time to get off the cooler, over to the table and back before Walter got pulled down.
We think this might be a trick philosophy or political question. But we don’t deal much in philosophy, or politics, so our answer is that the purpose was to tell a fun, off-beat, exciting story as best we could.
It’s interesting to us that fans like to rank things so much. But we’ll offer our opinion. Old Edgar died of thirst up on the tower, but didn’t suffer the horror of being eaten. The road crew guys seemed to get killed pretty quickly. The doctor and his wife had it pretty bad, both being slowly pulled underground, so they are definitely up near the top. We don’t really know what happened to the telephone guys, so it could have been the worst of all, but probably not. Nestor got pulled under very fast and we think went unconscious fairly quickly. Our vote would be poor Walter Chang — grabbed, stabbed in the back with tentacle horns, and slowly pulled through the floor with a leg bent backward. Yeah, now I’ve totally creeped myself out.
Great question. We hadn’t really noticed it, but it’s quite true. It’s due to how we thought of Val and Earl as we developed the characters through several drafts of the script– as kind of ranch hands plus small-town handymen. It’s also due to Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward working with director Ron Underwood, and wanting to play the characters with a strong Southwest feel. In the later movies, as we moved on to new characters and had to adapt the stories more into the modern world, the cowboy feel kind of got left behind behind.
REAL cameras! MOVIE cameras! Shooting big heavy rolls of 35mm motion picture film! Mostly they were by Arriflex.
For 20 years now I have been trying to find a copy of Burt's vest when they leave the house in the trailer. I even tried to contact Abigail Murray through her agent to ask the same question. What brand is it?
Sorry to report that, as of this late date, no one we’re still in contact with remembers. During production, these decisions get made quickly, often choosing from dozens of options. It’s possible nobody even paid attention to what brand it was at the time we were shooting. It just got picked because it looked right to the director, costumer, and Michael Gross.