Behind every cinematographer, there’s an electrician. But in the case of Lou Bogue, the cinematographer of director E. Elias Merhige’s creepy “Shadow of the Vampire,” the d.p. is also the electrician.
A man trained in the craft as an apprentice and then a contractor, Bogue once found himself by accident on a shoot at the fabled Pinewood Studios. It hardly seemed likely that this English tradesman was soon to find himself face to face with Stanley Kubrick, a situation most young upstarts might have seen as good fortune, but to which Bogue didn’t warm up.
“I had been working at Lee Electrics, a huge rental house now owned by Panavision,” says Bogue, “and Kubrick had been using Lee’s services. He needed some electrical aid on ‘A Clockwork Orange,’ and I was put on as a gaffer. Immediately, I faced off with him over equipment he had requested. I bought items I thought were best. He questioned me on it.
“Now, everybody who worked for Stanley was frightened of him — not that he was a terrible fellow, he wasn’t at all, just that people were intimidated by him. I told him flat-out, ‘This equipment is a better value. I work with these items every day, and you don’t. If you don’t want what I bought, then you hired the wrong person.’ From then on, we got on like a house on fire. He liked my frankness.”
So much so that, between shoots of “Clockwork,” “Barry Lyndon” and “The Shining,” Bogue regularly worked on electrical jobs around Kubrick’s sprawling estate north of London.
He and his family nearly moved to Los Angeles in the early ’80s, on the call of Kubrick’s then-cinematographer John Alcott.
“But days before we were ready to move,” recalls Bogue, “John died suddenly in France. His death was not only a huge loss to the world of camera men, but to people’s families.”
Bogue plowed away in the trenches of British commercial production for over a decade until he interviewed with Merhige for “Vampire.”
“He talked to several first-rate camera men, but I think he liked my ideas for solving the problems of how to make a film about the making of (F.W. Murnau’s) ‘Nosferatu’ in color and still make it seamless with the original,” says Bogue. “I suggested using yellow filters and the old-style arc lights that give off a yellowish glow, instead of just muting the colors.
“I also requested Kodak’s new Vision stock with 800 ASA, which is made for natural light and would, under our conditions, give the film a wonderful high grain. On such a brief shoot — we had six weeks, while Stanley spent 14 months filming ‘The Shining’ — I recalled the old tricks Stanley taught, like muting the whites in coats by simply dunking them into a tea solution.”