Tom Shaw had a tiny movie studio at S.E. 75th Avenue and Division Street in Portland, Oregon. Before he made "Courier" (later re-titled "Courier of Death" by the distributors). Shaw co-owned most of the porno shops in Portland during the 60s-90s and built his studio, and funded his films, from funds generated by those shops. He originally bought his 16mm film equipment (an Eclair NPR camera and Nargra 4.2 sound recorder, plus various lights, stands, etc., and built a pair of small camera cranes himself) to shoot short porno films in the mid-late 1970s, which never got finished or distributed.
Then he made a short non-porn film, a 20 minute "Home Alone"-style "comedy" called "Brats On the Mountain" about two obnoxious kids who are kidnapped for ransom, but make life so miserable for the kidnappers they they give up and release the kids.
In 1980, Shaw attempted to make a feature-length "comedy" called "The Great Oregon Kidnap Caper", but the script and film was so convoluted that the "plot" was entirely incomprehensible and even several re-edits of the film failed to make it watchable. (The star of "Kidnap Caper", Ross Kerr, has a small part as one of the bad guys in "Courier".) Shaw then hired one Ron Schmidt, fresh from working on the student-Oscar-winning Steve Lusgarten feature film, "American Taboo" (1983) who came in and helped Shaw put together a comprehensible story for "Courier", and was instrumental in completing the film in some kind of watchable form in spite of Tom Shaw's involvement.
Tom was a chain-smoking alcoholic, and this affected both his health, energy level, and his judgment in "directing" his films.
He often staged impossible non-credible action scenes, which the rest of his the crews had to compensate for in shooting and editing as best as they could, and we spent much time making "Courier" the way Schmidt wanted and needed when Tom was taking his afternoon naps, sleeping off his latest round of beers and Vodka-7s. Three of us (Schmidt, myself, and D.P. Jon Henry Schmeer) effectively directed various sequences of the film when Shaw wasn't looking or was sleeping. Also vital to the film's completion was co-editor Gerold Howard, and actor Mel Fletcher, who played Carver in the film, but was also highly involved in post production work on the film. I, Dan Fiebiger, was the main composer, primary sound engineer, but also served many other production and post production functions on the production of the film, and wound up being a primary production organizer for most of 1984.
The entire film was filmed in the greater-Portland Oregon and S.W. Washington area. The river in the film is not one anywhere near in San Francisco area, but is the Columbia River that is between Oregon and Washington, or the Willamette river that runs through Portland. Ariel footage was also shot of various Oregon and Wahington coastal beaches and rivers using Shaw's small Cesna airplane, on which he rigged a Bolex camera mount on one of the wings. Tom's plane and home appear in the film, and Tom plays the old pilot in the film, with a voice dubbed by another uncredited Portland actor.
Yes, the film has lots of bizarre moments, and continuity problems, mostly due to Tom's lack of planning, poor staging, and usually non-existent direction, some of which we were unable to compensate for, as Tom often didn't allow for re-shoots when we desperately needed them. Complicating this further was the fact that actor John Benneth failed to show up for his final scene in the climax of the film, requiring the entire film to be re-structured, delaying the completion of the film for about six months, with about half the film being re-shot with Mel Fletcher as the primary bad guy henchman, who works for kingpin "Bigelow", played by D.P. Jon Henry Schmmer, also of considerable acting skills.
Many other actors and part time crew people volunteered their time to help out in front and behind the camera as the film was shot from January 1984 to mid-1985. Aisde from a constant supply of beer, almost no one was ever paid for their services, during or after the film's completion, except for Shaw who made his distribution deals solely for his own advantage.
Schmidt who, more than any other person, made the completion of "Courier of Death" possible, helped Tom Shaw complete one more feature film, "Take No Prisoners", finished in 1987, and simultaneously worked on two other local feature action films similar to "Courier" in the 80s for another local producer, Jim Lowry. Schmeer followed Schmidt to work on those two Lowry films, and continues to work with Lowry on various projects, including a recent feature film directed by Lowry about modern slavery called "Good Teeth".
Around 1990, Shaw tried to get funding for a supernatural ghost story, but funds never materialized and Shaw never made another film. Shaw's various vices worsened his health and he died in the late 90s.
A small fan club has formed in Scotland (of all places) around the "Courier of Death", the only Shaw film to survive total obscurity. They are attempting to arrange for a CD soundtrack album, a DVD release, and to produce a documentary of the making and history of the film. They are attempting to find members of Shaw's estate and various people who appeared in or who worked on "Courier" to facilitate the revival of the film. Anyone associated with "Courier" who reads this should contact myself via the IMDb or at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Matthew Aldworth at email@example.com.