This is an email interview conducted with Rick Catizone on February 19, 2012. Rick worked on a number of stop-motion animation sequences for Evil Dead II, such as Ash's severed hand, as well as the various stages of Henrietta's transformation.

Working chiefly in the medium of artwork & animation, Rick has worked on a number of now-cult films including Creepshow, Creepshow 2, Flesheater (AKA Zombie Nosh), and even George Romero's original Night of the Living Dead. You can view Rick's official website Here.

Rick Catizone appearing in Dead Effects; an extra for the 2011 US Lionsgate Evil Dead II Blu-Ray release

Tell us a little about your work just prior to Evil Dead II?  
Well, I started at 19 years old as animation cameraman with The Animators, owned and run by Bob Wolcott. It was there that I eventually did the animation stand photography of the end stills sequence on Night of the Living Dead. I became a partner in The Animators around 1972. Then in 1979, Bob wanted to just do motion graphics and suggested I open my own studio. That was the birth of Anivision (not the Asian company). I created the animation for the first Creepshow film, as well as doing some base sculpts of the hands, feet, and chest for the creature in The Crate, for Tom Savini.

The end title sequence for Night Of The Living Dead (1968)  

Bridging animation for Creepshow (1982)  

The introductory animation for Creepshow 2 (1987)
Then I provided about twelve minutes of cartoon style animation on Creepshow 2. That was a real treat as I was able to design the Creep and most of the other characters, do most of the animation myself, and handle the production of our part of the film. I did do a little title piece and probably credits for the Zombie film Flesheater, which was a Bill Hinzman project. Sadly, Bill just passed away a week ago. As an aside, after being asked to be a guest at Famous Monsters and some other conventions, Bill and I met again after about a fifteen year lapse. He was so much fun, and like any real friend, time between meetings never mattered to him or I. I will never forget how he would come down in full makeup for Saturday’s greeting of fans and signing autographs. We had a nice dinner with him and his wife Bonnie after one of the last shows. That was, sadly, our last meeting.

Had you seen The Evil Dead prior to working on Evil Dead II?  
Well, after I got the call to come down to North Carolina and meet with Sam about doing the crawling hand, I decided I had better do my homework. So I ran out and rented The Evil Dead. I was somewhat disappointed by the quality of the production on the film. I wasn't aware that Sam had made that film with very little money. But it was good that it got made, because it got him a much bigger budget on Evil Dead II, and then his career seemed to just take off from there.

Were you present on set in Wadesboro or the re-shoots, or was all your work post-production?  
Mike Trcic could better say when I came on board. He was the one who got me on the film, by telling Sam about a stop-motion crawling hand test I did for Creepshow. When I went down for one on-set shot, that was the long-shot of it crawling across the floor, I did see them shooting the 'upside down/reverse' shot of that poor girl sliding along the floor and pulling the vines out of her face. When flipped and run through the projector, they snaked up and under her skin. Very creepy. My other shots were done in my studio here in Pittsburgh, with a replicated floor and wall piece. Sometime down the road, they asked me to do the face-changing, neck-growing shot of Henrietta, a couple others, and then the full shot of Ash swinging his chainsaw at Henrietta.

Can you just give a brief overview of all the effects you were tasked with?  
Well, I created the armature for the hand, and the armatures for the full Henrietta puppet and the half-Henrietta puppet. I did the animation for the shots that used them. I did the facial change set of heads that took Henrietta from one possessed stage to the 'more' possessed stage, with help from Ken Brilliant.

Rick's stop-motion hand armature for Evil Dead II (©1986 Rick Catizone)
Henrietta armature (© Catizone)

Was the apportioning of the various effects set from the beginning or did you take over or relinquish anything over the course of the production?  
Well, I think that they just had so much to do, that someone decided help would be a good thing. The hand, as I said was somewhat of a natural thing because Mike had the test footage and had showed it to Sam and Rob. The rest of the work, I think I 'inherited' because they needed (or wanted) to get more done faster. Animation affords a great deal of control, but it isn't 'fast', especially not even computer animation. The only thing I 'relinquished' was something that I talked with Rob about, but never officially took over.

Rob had wondered if I could do something more. I don't recall the words. maybe 'more refined', for the hand becoming possessed, you know, the frenzied staccato movement and dark veins appearing, etc. They sent the shot that I believe Tom probably created. It seemed to work just fine, but I did some thinking and planning. My idea would have entailed several sculptures, and also having the evil take over in more of a set of stages over a few shots, and would have required more screen time to make it look the way I wanted. The hand would have been partially taken over, then animated in some hand action, then another twitching and vein growing, and so on. I also wanted to do a slight raise on the skin, etc.

It would have been cool, but I also wanted to be very clear with him. I said that I hate to cut myself out of work, but that I felt the 'evil dead' twitching effect was a given, so I wasn't sure the idea of something being a bit more 'refined' would be obvious enough to pay me to do the work necessary to do that shot. I didn't want him to shell out a fair amount of cash, and then feel it didn't improve very much from what Tom had done.

Bruce acting alongside Howard Berger's fake 'possessed' arm (1986)

I always believe that a client pays you for your expertise and honesty. I don't recall if he made the decision right then and there or wanted to think about it and called me back. But whichever, Rob thanked me for my honesty, and took my advice that given the parameters of not being able to make the shot longer and that it had to have the spasmodic effect, that it probably wouldn't look significantly different than what he had.

Tom Sullivan's stop-motion hand (1986)
Bruce's possessed hand makeup (1986)
Hand with stump applience (1986)

Tom Sullivan, Doug Beswick and yourself, among others, produced a number of stop-motion animated sequences for Evil Dead II, how were the shots needed split between you?  
I can't recall. I think I was asked what I thought I could or would like to help with. I thought the Deadite would have been cool, but Tom was going to do that one. Then I saw the dancing corpse one, I thought that would be really cool. When I asked about, they said they had already assigned it to Doug who did a beautiful job with it, of course. But as to whether Tom assigned who would take on what shots, or Rob or Sam, I don't know. Rob was my main connection. He may have also made those decisions.

Mike Trcic's sculpting Henrietta (1986)  

Rick animating the stop-motion head (©1986 Rick Catizone)
How much free rein did you have over your work effects, did Sam have very specific & precise ideas about what he wanted, or were and you allowed to be as creative as you liked, and did you add in any of your own ideas?  
Sam had very specific ideas in some ways, and in others I did what I thought would work. I recall that they sent me footage of a live hand drumming its fingers. He wanted me to match that, pretty exactly as I recall. So I threw it on the Moviola and did a count of the timing of how long each finger took to move up and down and the sequencing of the fingers. It was important to have it feel natural. It was a little taxing to keep the overall motion in mind and hit the counts, but it looked great I thought.

Can you elaborate a little on the genesis, design, prototyping, creation and filming of your various stop-motion effects?  
Well the designs and main sculptures of Henrietta and the hand were produced by the make-up effects crew. Since Mike Trcic had done the original, I mentioned to Rob that Mike was back in my studio in Pittsburgh, helping with some cel painting on Creepshow 2. Mike had finished his work on Evil Dead II and had returned to Pittsburgh for his imminent marriage. So I let them work out their deal for Mike to re-sculpt Henrietta's longer neck and head, and remaking that part of the mold.

Here is probably a little known fact. One day, after I sent Rob photos of the cast Henrietta full-body stop-motion puppet I'd made, he called and asked why I shortened the neck. I explained I hadn't. It was from their mold, and I hadn't altered anything. I guess what happened was that the makeup effects guys had a much longer neck so they would never have to see that it wasn't actually attached to a body. I also surmise that in the live shooting, more of the neck became visible that would/should have been seen based on the miniature sculpt.

As for my parts, I guess the hardest shot was the face-changing, neck-growing scene. I filmed it backwards, slicing a piece of neck off at a time, and cutting the heavy duty copper wire inside (so I could animate it), while also lowering the stage appropriately frame by frame so the head would stay in frame.

The shot also entailed animating a weaving motion, then the face replacement animation, and once it was fully grown, the entire neck and head were replaced with a fully armatured one for more precise animation of the whole weaving and rising motion. That entailed precisely sketching the placement within the viewfinder, using surface gages, and replacing the neck, posing it to match where it was, adding the head back on, and making the next move and changing the height of the set.

When I went to unload the camera, I found that there had been a camera-jam, and so I had to re-shoot the whole scene. This time, shooting forward and adding and gluing the slices of neck, lowering the stage, etc, and advancing the rear screen plate a frame at a time, which was a pan up on the wall.

Live-action Ash on the background plate, battling the foreground stop-motion Henrietta in Evil Dead II (1986)

Do you have any memories or anecdotes from Evil Dead II you want to share?  
Well, I guess my main memory is that Sam, Rob, Tom, Mike, Larry and everyone treated me very nicely when I was down there. I was only there for the weekend, but I recall an evening of bowling for the crew, and I love to bowl. I recall sitting across from Bruce Campbell at lunch. He was covered in fake blood, but that stuff usually doesn't bother me. But for some reason, I assume something about that particular hue started making me feel queasy while I was eating, and I finally had to shift down a bit so I wasn't looking at him, and focused on Sam.

Rick's completed possessed Ash hand, with internal armature for stop-motion animation, for Evil Dead II (1986)

Another was Sam asking about getting Ray Harryhausen to do something, maybe the Deadite battles. I explained to Sam that my understanding of Ray's work was that he did not work on other people's films. Then amidst the various comments from everyone, Sam says, "'We don't need Ray Harryhausen, we have Rick Catizone!" To which I responded that while the thought was very kind, there was absolutely NO comparison between Ray and his body of work and excellence and my own. But it was nice to be thought of in such good company. Ray and I have maintained a long-distance friendship over the years. He is an amazing man.

Were there any effects or storyline ideas discussed with you, or even created and shot, which were trimmed out of the final picture for any reason?  
I don't think so, but I would have to go watch the whole film. The only thing I know that might have been cut was one or two shots I did with the bust of Henrietta in close-up flying towards camera and opening her mouth. Oh, and in the hand giving the finger shot, it appears they cut back to the live hand for that. I did a stop-motion cut of that as well, though I was very hesitant to animate the insulting gesture. I guess they felt they got more out of the live version.

Ash being attacked by the animatronic severed hand in Evil Dead II (1986)
Were you happy with the way everything turned out, or were there any of your effects conceived or created that didn't see their full potential realized on screen?  
My only real disappointment, was when I first saw the face changing scene. In watching my own dailies, I was very pleased with the shot and the imperceptible changing from the one neck to the full armatured neck. But when I saw it with sound, and the mixed in chimpanzees, etc, I thought, "What did you do to my shot?", because it again sort of poked fun at the whole thing. Again, I hadn't really understood the whole vision that Sam had for his film.

Sometimes that happens when you are only doing small parts and aren't as involved. I guess if they had explained that, and maybe they did and I missed it because I was focused on the technical challenges, I guess it wouldn't have been such a surprise. But it is part of what makes up the whole Evil Dead genre.

What's your opinion on the swing away from the realistic & bloody effects of the first film to the more fantastical & comedic effects of the second, and even more so to the third?  
Honestly, I have never been a big fan of gore. I am more of a fantasy fan. And I think understating and NOT showing something can often be far more frightening. I believe it was Peckinpah's Wild Bunch with the throat slitting scene (and others) that opened the gates of the bloodletting we saw later on. I mean Night of the Living Dead is not a blood-fest but it was very scary. So I am probably not the one to compare the pros and cons of how-much blood-letting, or how real it was, within the trilogy.

At any point were you approached to work on Army Of Darkness?  
I recall coming back from a meeting with an agency about a commercial and was told that someone had called to ask if I was available. They were told that I was. I think I had been in Ohio for a meeting with the client and production of the soundtrack for the animation on some spots for AT&T. I did call back once and asked about it. But I never heard anything beyond that. I believe they just decided to do everything in one shop. Too bad, I would like to have worked on it.

I see there is an ED4 in the making. I assume they will do CG effects. It would be kind of cool if they had Doug Beswick and myself do some of that work since we also transitioned into CG, and worked on the original Evil Dead II.

The last productions on which you worked were during the early 1990's, can you just tell us a little of what you have been working on since?  
Well, the reality is that feature films don't come along that often. I did do some small storyboard sections on Lorenzo's Oil, The Dark Half, and Cemetery Club when they were in town. I worked on the effects crew on The Dark Half. I worked on an episode of Starship Troopers Chronicles as an animator. I have done animated commercials here and there as well as a good bit of the animation that is featured on the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team scoreboard.

But much of my 'work' over the last 20 years has also included teaching in the animation program at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh, sharing knowledge and techniques in animation related courses. I also get to teach a little sculpting as well.

I have several projects I have toyed with over the years. One is a kid's half-hour that might be a nice little series. My son also did some of the writing and would do all the music. But a lot to do for one person on the visual side. And I have a children's book or two that I am finally wrapping up. Next, I have to do the illustrations and then publish. And I am still playing soccer against many who are 15 years my junior. Not bad for a guy 'my age'. Not that I am a great soccer player by any stretch. I just love the game, and have 'endured'. And there is the constant staying up on all the changes and additions to various computer programs that never ends.

I was very fortunate to be able to lend a hand to Ernie Farino on his publication of the three volume set of Mike Hankin's book, 'Ray Harryhausen, Master of the Majicks'. Ray has been a hero of mine and a prime inspiration of why I wanted to be an animator. I scanned a ton of photos and contributed some from my own collection. It was great to be able to give something back to Ray for all he has given all of us.

A poster for George Romero's The Dark Half (1993)