Those Space Visitors Are Back with a Vengeance, as Aliens Battle Earthlings in a Sequel to V

updated 05/14/1984 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/14/1984 01:00AM

They had only 67 days to save the world (and a network's ratings while they were at it). They built city-size flying saucers for the alien lizards who came to Earth to steal our water and devour our population. They made 6,500 uniforms—orange for the bad guys, basic black surplus for the good guys. And they bought rats and rabbits for the bad-guy lizards to nosh on (until, that is, they could eat us good guys).

In just over three months, from December to April, with $14 million, Warner Brothers Television made V: The Final Battle, the riveting six-hour sequel to last year's NBC sci-fi smash. This may not in fact be the final fight, not if the sequel, airing May 6, does as well in the ratings as the original, which was watched by more than 65 million. V could become a series or another mini. The only problem is: Saving the world every season is expensive, and it's such hard work.

Warner Brothers' makeup chief Leo Lotito, for instance, had to transform human actors into alien lizards—and then turn around and disguise the lizards as humans. Not easy. In one scene lizard leader Richard Herd is exposed by heroine Faye Grant, who rips off his human "skin" to reveal lizard flesh underneath. To get ready, Herd had to be fitted with a bald cap. Then part of his face was covered with green, scaly lizard skin. This, in turn, was covered with flesh-colored latex. Then came a toupee. Grant had to pull away Herd's latex skin, exposing his lizard layer but not his real skin.

That was just one scene. More difficult was the matter of creating the illegitimate, intergalactic offspring of a reptilian Romeo and an earthly Juliet. The exact nature of their progeny was so secret that the "mother," actress Blair Tefkin, wouldn't tell her offscreen boyfriend about it. "The child has special characteristics," says director Richard Heffron. "For one thing, it molts." Lotito and company had to make more than one baby (one was rejected as "too cute") for the filming of the scene.

Then there was the matter of the aliens' rodent diet. No one can expect an actress to eat a live mouse for her art. So they constructed fake lizard heads with extra-large mouths. Last year the head of Diana, the bitch lizard played by Jane Badler, started cracking after only seven snacks; this time a new latex has let her head survive 20 feedings. In fact, this year she's eating large, live bunnies. Alien lizards do have strange tastes. Speaking of diets, the set designers also had to create gelatinous cocoons for the human beings held for consumption later on the spaceship—giant Jell-O-and-people salads. And they had to give the lizards eerie red, glowing eyes with the help of special contact lenses.

There was also a lot of basic sci-fi, Stars Wars-type work to be done. The producers built spaceships that were not, of course, city-size—but they weren't miniatures either; they're big enough to hold a few people inside. The ship's control room, 100 feet long, 26 feet wide, 17 feet high, fills an entire sound stage, and is packed with dozens of fake computer screens, some coded with a special alphabet created just for the lizards' language (their logo is alleged to be a computerized variation of a swastika). Most times, according to video coordinator Rick Whitfield, the Lizardese messages on the computer screens say, "This is a test." He admits, though, "that every now and then you get mad at the art department or somebody and put angry barbs in there." Don't ask for examples but be assured, lizards curse.

Another backbreaking construction job was the $250,000 "conversion chamber," where lizard Diana tries to bring earthling Faye Grant over to the aliens' side with nightmare scenes of attacking snakes and such. Grant took it all very seriously. "I almost pushed myself to the point of convulsing and puking," she says. While she was being held prisoner in the script, Grant didn't eat in real life; she isolated herself in her trailer and turned out the lights, imagining it to be her prison cell. By the end of her conversion scenes, Grant says, "I was foaming at the mouth."

If so, it was the only effect on V not achieved by the special-effects department.

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