from The Making of Judge Dredd : Jane Killick, with David Chute and Charles M.Lippincott

The ABC Robot

    The idea of introducing the ABC robot, Rico (Judge Dredd's brother) frees from a gun shop, came from Danny Cannon. "Rico needed a sidekick, " says the director, "I wanted the ABC robot and put him in the film because I wanted Rico to have something mechanical that he used as a friend because that's how void this man is, and that's how much contempt he has for human beings." abc robot
chris halls : sketch
chris halls : final version chris halls : scale model     The robot is based on Danny's favorite robot from 2000AD, Hammerstein of the ABC Warriors. Hammerstein , who gets his name from the war hammer in one hand, is a relic from a far more violent time. He is programmed to fight and destroy, and to enjoy doing it well. The original design looked very similar to the comic version, with lot of body armour,which would make it very easy for the robot to be played by a man in a suit.
    Executive Producer Andy Vajna wanted the robot to be exactly that, a man in a suit, because he had never been satisfied by any purely mechanical robot in a film up to that point. But the general consensus was that there was a chance of doing something different. So Conceptual Ilustrator Chris Halls was set to work designing it, and building an elaborate scale model. "I thought it would be nice to make it as if a lot of his armour had fallen off and you can see the skeleton underneath, what powers him," he says. final robot one final robot two
final robot three final robot four     With Chris Hall's scale model completed, it was clear that in no way could the robot be a man in a suit.

(extracted from p93 -95 of The Making of Judge Dredd)

Mean Machine

mean machine     Center stage is Mean Machine, an elaborate cyborg designed by one of the top UK Conceptual Artists, Chris Halls. He had drawn Mean Machine in the comics, which was where Production Designer Nigel Phelps first saw his work. The way that Chris had drawn the mechanical arm meant that he would be the ideal person for the project, not only in designing Mean Machine, but also incorporating some of that mechanical detail into the buildings.
chris halls : desk face prosthesis : clay model
    It turned out that Chris had a history of working in film. He had done special effects for six years and was in the middle of taking a two year sabbatical to work on comics and improve his drawing when he was approached to work on Judge Dredd

    Chris' background meant adapting Mean Machine for the screen posed few problems. "I'd kind of drawn him in the comic based on how I would have made him if I was ever going to make him," he says. " All the time, I was thinking how he was going to work in 3D, so it wasn't really much of a transition."

    Some changes were made for the film - specifically making the robot arm smaller and more manageable - but Chris was careful not to stray too far from Mean Machine's origins. "The thing is that in the comic, he's a half-wit, a psychopathic half-wit, and I didn't want him to look too disturbing and frightening because you're supposed to laugh at him in a way. When he tries to head butt you and you out of the way and he crashes into a pillar, it's supposed to be half-funny and half-frightening." chris halls : sketch
    Chris was able to follow through the project from design stage to sculpting - which he did himself - to looking after the actor on set. The man cast in the role of Mean Machine was Chris Adamson, whose slender build was a distinct advantage. It allowed all the mechanics and prosthetics to be fitted onto him without making him look ridiculously huge. "I didn't want him to look like he had stuff stuck on the top of his body," Chris Halls explains. chris halls : mean machine
chris halls : mean machine     "I wanted him to look like his shoulder stops and then blends into a robot arm, so it looks like things have been stuck into him rather than onto him. Like the skullcap and the bits and pieces in his body, they're not overlapping skin, they're actually on the same level as the skin. So where the skull ends on his nose, skin starts, so it looks as if he's had his skin torn away and replaced with these new parts."
    The costume basically encased the actor in rubber, aluminum and bits of plastic. The mechanical arm was attached by a harness under his costume, which supported most of his weight. Over the top of that went the rubber chest part, which was built up to make Mean Machine look more muscular and hide all the mechanics. The actor's head was then encased in a two-section prosthetic with a third section for the face. It was attached with glue, and finally contact lenses were put in.
chris adamson
chris adamson takes a break
    But like all prosthetic makeup, it brought with it it's own characteristic challenges. "I think it was the heat more than anything, "says Chris. "We had problems maintaining him on set because it's so hot that the sweat comes underneath the foam rubber and it starts coming away, so we have to keep maintaining the pieces round the eyes and his nose all day long." He can't eat either because the greasy food makes the pieces come off."
    The arm was maneuvered simply by the actors own arm, with the help of internal mechanics that allowed him to control the three fingers. There was also a knife that shoots out from a pneumatic piston at the end of the arm. Although it was not possible to give the actor control of this part too, it was actually worked behind the camera with an airline running down the inside of the arm. It was just too risky to do it the other way in case the knife shot out accidentally and injured someone!
    The arm was made, as Chris puts it, "on the cheap". Only one copy was produced, so there was a lot of praying and a lot of crossing of fingers hoping that it would stay in one piece. "I was very worried, " Chris admits. "I didn't use glue on anything, every single thing on there is bolted together, because it's too frightening the thought of it falling apart.... Luckily it survived the shoot, survived a lot of action."

    One piece of of engineering that never made it to the film was connected to Mean Machine's dial on his forehead. It was built with a motor which would turn on it's own when Mean's mood changed. However when it came to filming the scene, the other Angels turned it manually, and only the flashing light was seen to work

    Mean Machine has turned out to be one of the successes of the film. During the interviews with other members of the crew, the subject of how wonderful Chris's work was would often come up unprompted. Chris spent four months on the project and is delighted with the way it turned out. "It's the best job I've ever had," he says. chris halls performs on-site maintenance

with thanks to Dominic Kulcsar