Plague Productions

Revere Model 99 8mm Movie Camera

I started writing another Willceau Illo News entry about one of the last round ups for the Ducks and DUCKWORK when it started to get way too long and convoluted. I decided to have mercy on my readers if any and break it up. It also needed some background and some blanks filled in. So here we go:

Christmas-1968Brian, my younger brother and I grew up in that strange era of the 1970s in a strange place known as New Jersey. Neither one of us had any aptitude towards athletics nor were we necessarily mechanically adept so that meant that both sports and cars were not for us. We ended up with what was behind Door No. 3 – we were cursed with creative inclinations. Besides, you had to do something once you realized how dangerous it was impersonating Evel Knievel on a bicycle.

One or the other or both of us at one time or another received cassette tape recorders as Christmas and birthday gifts. Soon after we tired of trying to tape songs we liked directly from the speaker of an AM radio blaring a top 40 station, we started doing bits and comedy routines on tape. These routines were either audio spoofs of movies or knock-offs of comedy records that were wildly popular at the time. This ultimately led to us freeing our Dad’s 8mm movie equipment from storage and giving motion pictures a go. Our first movie, Brian Bubonic and The Plague, was a punk rock, musical farce shot silently.

Brian Bubonic & the Plague

This led to what is probably our best film, The Huns. It was a project for Brian’s Early European History Class. My guess is that the teacher got bored and decided to let his class take a shot at a creative project rather than forcing them all to write term papers which he would have to slog through and grade. Let the kids paint or draw or build a diorama or do whatever they wanted so he wouldn’t have to suffer reading a chicken scratch on loose-leaf paper analysis of the Fall of The Roman Empire. Brian offered to make a film about Attila the Hun, and a whole bunch of his classmates jumped on the bandwagon all claiming to have co-authored the script in order to get a full class credit. Brian wrote the script and edited the film. I directed. The other kids did what I told them to do which was mainly march past the camera, look mean, and most importantly, don’t look at the camera.

The Huns

It borrowed heavily from Philip Kaufman’s The Wanderers which was being played to death on HBO at the time. It also borrowed liberally from Animal House with a bit of Monty Python thrown in.

Turning the Huns into an urban street gang was a stroke of brilliance. For one, it made it a lot easier to create the costumes. The problem was we didn’t know how guys slicked their hair. It was the late ’70s. The wet head had been dead for years and everybody, female and male, used blow dryers. We didn’t know what Brylcreem was and wouldn’t know where to find it so we figured we would try Vaseline. Brian was the guinea pig and below is the only photographic evidence. It looked great, but it took two weeks for Brian to wash that crap out of his hair. There was no way we were going to get a whole cast to grease up their hair so we opted on having the boys wet their hair down and comb it back between takes.

Brian Bubonic Buttons

The Huns had a separate soundtrack on tape that was synced badly to the film. There was a lot of stopping and starting of both the tape player and the projector. It was low tech but we were happy with the result, and the cast and crew wound up acing that history class project.

We made a number of other films. If there was a grade or some kind of class credit involved, we would have a fairly sizable cast and crew. If it was just for fun, it would just be Brian, Mickey Connelly, maybe a niece or nephew and me. We attempted making horror films, but they invariably all ended up being comedies because nobody could maintain a straight face.

Yes, one day I will digitize these movies. First I have to find the soundtrack for The Huns. I’m hoping Brian has it stowed away somewhere.

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