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Introducing Dark Commandos

What if Michael Bay directed a vampire film? If the director did choose to turn his focus to the undead, the resulting film would undoubtedly be along the lines of something like “Vampire Marines” – a team of young, good-looking, kick-ass vampires working on assignment for the U.S. government.
At least that’s the conclusion that Tom Sanders and Edward Gross came to when they turned that particular question over in their minds and created Dark Commandos, the live-action Internet series that can be found at The show, airing in three-to-six minute installments, chronicles the adventures of the Undead Brigade as they take on the missions that no one else can handle.

Dark Commandos originally began existence as a script called Millennium Rising. That story told the tale of New York Detective David Manning and his struggle against a blood cult headed by one Timothy Jenson, whose ultimate plan was to trigger a war between humanity and his vampire army. Additionally, Manning had to deal with the return of his late wife – a victim of Millennium Rising – who has returned as a vampire and who conceivably holds the ultimate clue on how to stop Jenson.

“We really saw it as a tragic love story set against the backdrop of an epic struggle for the survival of the human race,” says Gross with a smile. “Granted we were aiming high.”

Things were progressing well, until the aforementioned references to Michael Bay and Vampire Marines entered the picture. At that moment, Dark Commandos was born. Manning’s story was temporarily shelved (to be resurrected later in the show’s run) and a group of all new characters were introduced instead.

Dark Commandos in its current form stars Justin Neal Thompson as team leader Non Agememnon Gage, who is over 500 years old. Dreyfuss, second-in-command, is played by Bradley Upton. Turned during the Spanish-American War, Dreyfuss was actually on a suicide bid when he was attacked by a female vampire, suddenly finding himself cursed with eternal life. Christopher Boicelli is cast as Ed “The Kid” Torin, turned by Non while a Prisoner of War in Vietnam. Chronologically, Ed is about 50, but physically (and some would say emotionally), he’s in his 20s. Amber Phillips is Sue Janic, the newest Commando. In her early ‘20s, Sue is a top CIA agent who is persuaded by someone high up in military intelligence to join the Undead Brigade. In many ways, Sue’s journey will be the audience’s into this bizarre world of the undead.

Filming of the first eight episodes took place several years ago, with Sanders leading cast and crew through four grueling – yet satisfying – days of production. The total budget for these episodes was $15,000, which is fairly impressive when considering that episode one features an all-out chase as members of the DC attempt to rescue the kidnapped daughter of the Vice President of the United States.

“Dark Commandos was designed from the beginning with computer graphics in mind,” Sanders explains. “Nearly every shot includes some form of CG element, whether it’s a virtual set, a graphic overlay or some kind of digital image manipulation. You could describe DC as the inverse of Roger Rabbit. In that film, animated characters inhabited the real world of our universe. In DC, flesh and blood ‘human’ characters inhabit a computer-generated fantasy world. While that sounds expensive, it’s actually the most affordable way we can tell the story we want to tell. Some of the sets we’ve designed were budgeted at upwards of $100,000 if we were to build them in physical space. On the computer it’s only the artist’s time. Plus, it frees the artist to be as creative as he can be, so it’s a better experience for everyone involved.”

Particularly gratifying to the duo is the fact that the audience is gradually discovering the show thanks largely to increasing mentions on a number of sites. “The coolest thing,” says Gross, “is that we came across a fan site devoted to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and – check it out – Dark Commandos. Now that blew our mind.”

“What was really amazing to me,” Sanders says, “was being surrounded by a group of people for whom Dark Commandos had become an entity in its own right – greater than merely an idea created and shared by Ed and myself. Creative and technical crew members invested themselves in the project in a personal way, and when they expressed their belief in Dark Commandos, it suddenly seemed to take on a life of its own. That was a very gratifying experience.”

The adventures of the Undead Brigade will be presented exclusively on Earths Mightiest in webisode and comic book form.
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