Freddie Krueger's glove gave people nightmares 40 years ago. Here's how it was made.

Special effects maestro Jim Doyle tells us how he made the most iconic prop in horror movie history for Wes Craven’s A Nightmare On Elm Street

Freddie Kruger's glove is one of the most iconic movie props of all time. (Alamy)
Freddy Kruger's glove is one of the most iconic movie props of all time. (Alamy)

Forty years ago a new kind of killer stabbed, sliced and diced his way into the nightmares of a generation in A Nightmare on Elm Street. Freddy Krueger, the horrifically disfigured child killer who haunts the dreams of the eponymous street’s teens, would become the most iconic of the golden age of slasher movies’ villains, thanks — in part — to his iconic bladed glove.

And while the devilish imagination behind it was horror legend Wes Craven, much of the gooey visual magic — and that glove — that made the film a franchise-spawning hit was down to Jim Doyle, a young, ambitious special effects wizard who saw the movie as a potentially career-making challenge.

"I only ended up doing the movie because the guy that they had pitched it to said there was no way to do that movie on the budget they had," Doyle, now 69, tells Yahoo UK from his California home. "But he said they should give it to me because I would kill to do it. And he was right."

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On first reading the script Doyle was blown away by the movie’s visual inventiveness, but also by the scope of what he was being asked to create on a tiny effects budget of just $57,000. "Basically if you break it down there's a big practical effect on almost every page. There's 84 effects setups in a 95-minute movie you know?" he laughs.

1984's A Nightmare on Elm Street featured many memorable special effects 'gags'. (Alamy)
1984's A Nightmare on Elm Street featured many memorable special effects 'gags'. (Alamy)

"And here I was, 28 years old. I'd never done anything like that. I like to think that I had a large part to do with the look and success of that movie because many of the ideas for the gags were coming from me as I tried to figure out how to get the effects for the film."

The first order of business was Freddy’s signature weapon — the glove — which wasn’t nailed down until relatively late in pre-production. "Wes told me, 'I want a weapon and I want it to be something that he could make in a boiler room,'" remembers Doyle.

"I ended up drawing what we ended up making, which was a glove. We used just the technology available to a boiler maker, copper tube and rivets. So the original glove could have been made by any competent tinker or tinsmith."

A Propstore employee places Freddy Krueger's (Robert Englund) screen matched metal glove armature (right) next to a hand drawn schematic (estimate £200,000 - 400,000) from the films 'A Nightmare on Elm street' and 'A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge' respectively, during a preview for the showbiz memorabilia auction, at the Propstore in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire. Picture date: Wednesday September 20, 2023. (Photo by Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images)
Freddy Krueger's screen matched metal glove armature and hand drawn schematic from A Nightmare on Elm street were up for auction in 2023. (PA Images via Getty Images)

Doyle made three versions: a 'hero' glove for close-ups, with real knives, and a couple of 'nerfed' versions for long shots. "We only had time to make one hero, with the real sharp blades on it," says Doyle. "The first time Robert Englund put it on he poked himself in the arm with it. Practically everybody did that. We had to stop people trying it on.

"Most of the time there was cutting done I was the one who was doing it. We would shoot two units. I would go be Freddy's glove and Freddy would be running around the house."

The knife-fingered glove would become the most instantly recognisable props in horror movie history, the ruby slippers of slasher movies. "I know the guy who has it," Doyle says. "He's a big collector, and he brought it down here to have authenticated because it hadn’t been seen in decades.

"He paid $75,000 for it years ago. It went up for auction recently. He wanted $200,000, but offers only reached $190,000. I don’t think he really wanted to sell anyway."

Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare On Elm Street. (Alamy)
Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare On Elm Street. (Alamy)

But the glove was small potatoes compared to the other dream sequences Doyle was tasked with realising. The most challenging were the murder of Tina (Amanda Wyss), who is flung around her bedroom while being slashed by an invisible assailant, and the untimely end of Glen (Johnny Depp) who is swallowed by his own bed before being ejected in a geyser of blood.

Doyle decided to solve both problems by building a revolving set, an incredibly ambitious idea since generally the technique has been used only by directors working with huge budgets (think Stanley Kubrick on 2001 or Christopher Nolan on Inception).

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"I didn’t know any better," laughs Doyle. "We just ploughed into it. They were, 'Well how are you going to afford to do that?' And I said, 'Well I'm going to keep it after the move and you're not going to give me any s*** about it.' So I kept the rotating room. I ended up spending about fifteen thousand on it. But the fact that I was able to keep it afterwards kept me busy doing other films for a year and a half."

"And anyway, I thought they were way more complicated than they needed to be. Instead of trying to do something in steel, I built it out of pre-stressed wood because I couldn't afford the steel anyway. And instead of being automated, you cranked it by hand. It looked pretty good."

Glen's death scene took gallons of blood and a revolving room to achieve on screen. (Warner Bros.)
Glen's death scene took gallons of blood and a revolving room to achieve on screen. (Warner Bros.)

Even so, things went slightly kerflooey when Craven came to shoot the geyser of blood sequence. "Yeah, err, oops," laughs Doyle. "We figured because it was manual we didn’t need brakes. And it just didn’t connect that we're going to dump 55 gallons of liquid into this room, which is fine as long as it's just sitting there.

"Problem is when you try to rock it a little bit to turn it with all that liquid in, well the blood bounced off the wall and dumped it out the window. On us of course. Thankfully the only thing that short-circuited was the lamp in the ceiling, which I hadn't adequately grounded. It became a bit insane. We pulled everybody off the stage, and fortunately, nobody got hurt. But it's a life lesson. You know after that I always stood back and thought, 'Okay, what the f*** could go wrong with this?'"

Looking at the movie forty years after its release Doyle is happy with a lot of what he achieved, but other moments still make him wince. "It's hard to watch your own work. Some of the stuff worked so well. And some was embarrassingly bad. Like the stretchy arms in the alleyway. I hated that effect, yet everybody loves it. I was, ‘'Why? It looks stupid?' But people say it looks really f***ing creepy."

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, Heather Langenkamp, 1984. ©New Line Cinema/Courtesy Everett Collection
Freddy terrorising Nancy while she sleeps in the bath in 1984's A Nightmare On Elm Street is one of the movie's most iconic moments. (New Line Cinema/Everett Collection)

"It's easier to watch now because I've got more distance. I mean the arm pops up in the bathtub and I'm like, 'Wow, that's me I was in there'. A bunch of the people I work with now can't believe that I played Freddy Krueger in all these different shots."

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Doyle would go on to win an Academy Award for developing a revolutionary new kind of smoke machine but left the movie industry after working on The Nutty Professor in 1996. He went on to become Director of Design Technology for WET design and has created the technology behind some of the world’s most spectacular attractions, including the 'rain vortex' at Singapore’s Changi Airport and the Bellagio Fountains in Las Vegas.

Jim Doyle, right, a water architect at WET Design in Sun Valley puts his arm in a water and fire  treatment that they are testing on June 03, 2013.  Doyle who designs ambitious, high profile water landmarks has created the Mirage volcano in Las Vegas, and a variety of water effects. His next project is a water treatment for Alonzo King LINES ballet's
Jim Doyle has gone on to design many high profile water landmarks. (Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

"I don’t miss it a bit," he says. "I looked around one day and I didn’t see a lot of 55-year-old effects guys. The film business for the below-the-line people is practically carnivorous. It eats them alive. So I saw the writing on the wall. I don’t miss the bean counters. But I do miss people like Wes Craven."

A Nightmare On Elm Street is available to rent or buy on digital.