Lights. Cameras. Traction.

Or, hopefully, worse.

To bleed or not to bleed, that was the question Saturday night at the Baltimore Civic Center, where the climactic scenes of an upcoming wrestling and gore feature, "Blood Circus," were being filmed before several thousand wrestling fans who had paid $10 each to be extras.

The natives were restless. Too much film, too much waiting around, not enough wrestling and certainly not enough blood.

"Ah, I saw the head they pulled off that one guy and it didn't even look real," complained a fan, who then directed his criticism to the film crew surrounding the wrestling ring.


Which he eventually did.

Voodoo Malumba (real name: Jerry Reese), 6'5" and 410 pounds, flopped into the ring with his assistant "Dog" tied to a leash. His opponent, poor Vinnie Valentino, tipping the Toledos at a mere 200, was saved only by the arrival of the masked Mystery Men from Zorok, who surrounded and beat up Voodoo.

And then they ripped him apart and devoured him right in the middle of the ring.

A member of the film crew explained: "It's about an alien group of men who are exiled from their planet, sent to earth because they're cannibalistic wrestlers, okay? They come down here and munch up on the Russian team and then they munch up on the American team, eat them all up and spit 'em out, and then this big old giant from the stands comes down and whips them up. It's sort of like 'Rocky II.' Long John is the hero. He's backstage right now. You can't miss him. He's eight feet tall and he's got two women with him."

He's not quite eight feet tall (7'7", 450 pounds) and the two women had apparently taken a powder, but John Harris III ("call me Killer John," he insisted) was sitting backstage next to a cart piled up with decapitated heads, mangled torsos and skewered limbs, props that look decidedly more real than most of the wrestling out in the arena.

"I'm the eight-foot guy," Harris said helpfully. "I'm the tallest wrestler in the world and the tallest actor in the industry." He grew further than up in Suitland, went to Suitland High and still keeps a home in Upper Marlboro. He's with the World Wrestling Federation, and sometimes does tag team matches with Andre' the Giant.

"It's a real nice movie," Harris said, half-convincingly. "I've worked 13 movies in the last three years. I've worked in the James Bond movies with Roger Moore and Sean Connery, I did a little double work for Richard Kiel, you know, 'Jaws'? And I was just in L.A. doing 'Pee Wee's Big Adventure' with Pee Wee Herman, the comedian."

Also backstage, after being devoured, was Voodoo.

"Yeah, I got ate up," said Voodoo, looking none the worse for tear. He was sitting backstage with fellow wrestlers Ox and the Mummy and Spike and the Junkyard Dog, waiting, like everyone else. Out in the arena, the pool of fake blood in the middle of the ring seemed to get larger after each bout.

The crowd was bored with all the delays and the confusion. Voodoo took a verbal beating from one Laurie Pritchard of Wheaton. "He's too fat. We want to see pure muscle, like Roddy Piper, the best." Asked what was going on, she shrugged. "I don't know. I'm too drunk to know."

Drunk or not, much of the audience didn't seem to know what was going on. Director Bob Harris was shouting instructions through a bullhorn, but that meant only about a quarter of the crowd was hearing what he was saying at one time. Of course, probably only a quarter of the crowd cared what he was saying at any time.

Back in the ring, the Crying Blondes, who looked like two aging British rock singers, had just whupped the daylights out of Mucho Man and his partner. Maybe too much daylight, because as they came backstage, the fighting broke out again and the thwacking of flesh that sounded curiously false out front now sounded all too real. Apparently, the Blondes viciously delivered Mucho Man's head into a post when no delivery was expected and whatever bad and/or fake blood existed between these teams is augmented by some real blood.

While "America the Beautiful" played in the background, the Crying Blondes finished on top.

Jeffrey Kenderson, 15, Andy Lavan, 14, Kenny Kenderson, 11, and Sheldon Buckner, 16, all from the Baltimore area, draped themselves over the barriers separating the crowd from the wrestlers. They are, they said, hard-core wrestling fans ("our parents hate it") and they are absolutely thrilled to be so close to both the good and the bad guys.

"It's pretty good," they said of the filming.

"We see gore films all the time . . ."

"I have to sneak out of the house to go . . ."

"I'm supposed to be sleeping over at his house . . ."

"They threw the guy's bloody head in the stands. It was excellent," said Buckner. "I wish I'd caught the head so I could throw it back."