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The Beast--Thoughts on the Production

As veteran of a tour in tanks, I loved working on this film. I've always been fascinated by the inter-action between members of a good tank crew and I was convinced the interior of a combat tank would make a good stage for storytelling. I was also less than impressed by the tanks I had seen in earlier films. They were too clean; obviously carefully and lovingly protected specimens from someone's collection of war relics. That's not the way tanks look in combat as any veteran will tell you and I was determined that our tanks would not look like museum relics. They had the right look, I believe and the crews performed extremely well on camera.

An interesting aspect of our work on The Beast was my early mission to Israel during which I was given negotiable securities and ordered to purchase two captured Soviet tanks from the Israeli Defense Forces. Fortunately, I had some personal contacts in the IDF from active duty days and I was able to negotiate a deal for two T-55s over a couple of beers in the bar of the King David Hotel in Tel Aviv. I hadn't realized until that moment that working as a military advisor on films might employ me as an international arms dealer.

I was very concerned that firing the main cannon on our tanks look right. I had seen entirely too many films in which tank cannons fired and there was simply a flash and a puff of smoke. That's not what happens when a tanks fires a high-velocity round down range. I wanted that cannon to recoil! The only way to do that was to actually fire a round but that was impossible on a film set. Working with Israeli tankers, I finally came up with a mock 90mm cannon round that would make the recoil system of the tank function. We filled a projectile with a quantity of water that equaled the weight of a normal HE round and sealed the round with wax behind a normal primer and a small amount of powder. When the powder detonated, the recoil system sensed the weight, resisted the weight of the water...and the recoil system functioned. All that came out of the muzzle was a spray of water, smoke and steam but the tank rocked as if it had just fired a live round. I was very proud of that innovation and of the film in general. It didn't get much support in theatrical release, but I think it's a real gem.