Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Yosemite Sam and the 3D movie era


Remember the days of 3D movies? When arrows would come through the screen right at you? When bar fights resulted in fists coming at YOU rather than at its intended foe? BUT… the worst part was having to wear those stupid stereoscopic 3D glasses.

Well, let me take you back to 1972 when the film industry came very close to seeing an end to those annoying 3D glasses, a time when movie-goers came very close to being spared the use of these grotesque gizmos hanging on their faces.

Four Baton Rouge locals were the principals in this gripping and mesmerizing adventure … the late Ray Spruel, Larry Hubbard, Tony Thompson and myself. All great inspirations begin with a seed of an idea. Ray and I were en route to New Orleans one balmy day in the late 60s when the subject of 3D movies crept into the conversation. I mentioned that it was too bad that 3D movie-goers had to be subjected to the annoyance of having to wear those goofy, paper contraptions. Then Ray said “If a motion picture camera could shoot alternate frames, i.e. left eye, right eye, etc, then there would be no need for the glasses.” I said “You sure?” He said “The optic nerves in concert with the brain would automatically fuse the projected images and the viewer would see 3D.” I said “Ray, that sounds very feasible. Have you thought about developing such a lens?” He said “Hell, I’m not a camera technician.”

While the idea of alternating frames was quite intriguing, I had to admit that I too was no camera technician. So this concept laid dormant for about 3 or 4 years until the day came that another great inspiration blossomed.

When my father passed away in 1971 my mother gave me his 8 mm Bell and Howell camera. This camera, in addition to shooting movie footage, was capable also of shooting single frames. If occurred to me that with this capability I could at least test Ray’s theory.

I ran this idea by my two GSRI (Gulf South Research Institute) colleagues, Larry and Tony, and we all agreed that this just might work. GSRI had just opened its labs on GSRI Ave and we agreed that the new engineering lab would be the ideal “scientific” venue for this exciting undertaking. After all, this lab was not yet in use and we thought it certainly needed to be christened with a worthy project. The GSRI bosses signed off and we began planning our strategies. We pooled our considerable financial resources in order to purchase the items we would need. We set up a light table in the lab and purchased a roll of 8mm film (mail-off processing included), a 6 foot 2x4 board, 2 large nails and a 6 inch bolt.   


Since this was going to be a movie, we needed a “star.” We didn’t have to conduct auditions because Larry said he had a little 4 inch tall Yosemite Sam figurine. Great! Casting was complete. Our star would be Yosemite Sam. Our total investment in this venture up to this point came to just under 7 dollars.

Here was the plan. The two nails would be mounted onto a small platform, ….. Aw heck, let’s not to get too technical; suffice it to say we shot all 3600 frames showing Sam in motion against a small cardboard set. We had placed a few other stationary objects on the set in order to increase the effect of depth. We then sent the film off for processing.

Now all we had to do was await the processed film and we would be treated to 3D without the need for stereoscopic glasses …. presumably. I called Ray and told him what we had done and he said to let him know when the film came in. I told him that we were going to form a corporation, producing gizmo-free 3D motion pictures. He said to make him a “silent partner.” Agreed.

It seemed that the processed film was going to take forever to come in. “Forever” is a euphemism for “we were very anxious.” In the meantime Larry, Tony and I spent several lunch hours contemplating what our soon-to-be multi-BILLION dollar corporation should be called. We toyed with many possibilities. Tony said we should incorporate our own names. I said that we were not going to be a law firm. So we discarded the idea of calling it Leggio, Hubbard and Thompson. Then Larry said it wouldn’t sound like a law firm if we simply incorporated some of the letters of each of our names into ONE name. Because Ray chose to be a silent partner, we rationalized that he would also prefer not to be included in the name. We did, however, agree to make him a 25% partner. After all, the concept was Ray’s.

After minutes and minutes of brain-storming we came up with “Thule Tri Dyne Corporation”. THule (for “THompson”), tHUle (for “HUbbard”) and thuLE (for “LEggio”)….. pronounced “thoolee”. The “Tri” represented the number 3 as in 3D and Dyne was for Dimension. Why the “y” in Dyne?  Well, it just looked more elegant as “Dyne” rather than “Dim” for Dimension. Thule Tri Dim just didn’t sound right. Of course on further reflection neither did Thule Tri Dyne. But lets not quibble.


One thing we all agreed on was that the corporate title sounded truly goofy (Thule Tri Dyne) (thoo lee try dyne). But we knew that the end product would bring the corporation the distinction and respect it would rightfully deserve. Remember “Smuckers”? “With a name like Smuckers, it has to be good.” Back then there was not yet “Apple” because Steve Jobs would have been a mere child at that time. But of course we all have come to associate high tech computing and cell phone technology with “Apple” and its missing “byte”. The 3 of us found ourselves fantasizing about the advent of a 3D market dominated by Thule Tri Dyne Corporation. Ok, our new corporate name would probably work. We even agreed to cut GSRI in for some of the profits, which would surely be ample.

The day finally came when the much awaited processed film arrived. Larry was beginning to regret having asked GSRI’s highly educated urban planners, economists and physical scientists to constitute our premier audience. Larry kept muttering “it’s not going to work. We’re going to want to hide when this is shown.” Tony and I didn’t attempt to re-energize Larry’s optimism because we too began having some misgivings.

But too late! Everyone was comfortably seated in our make-shift theatre in the engineering lab. I loaded the film in the projector, Tony set up the screen and Larry curled up in a corner near the side exit. Lights out, projector on, Yosemite Sam was now performing. Had Yosemite been a life form, he’d have gotten sea-sick within 15 seconds. Yosemite fluttered viciously from side to side. Even the viewers were beginning to get sick amid sadistic laughter. Flutter! FLUTTER!! After about 30 seconds I shut down the projector, Tony flipped on the lights and Larry announced “I think we need to do a little more work. Next time we will …” But he was cut off by one of the senior staffers saying “Who says there will be a next time?”

It’s been over 40 years now and Thule Tri Dyne Corporation has remained dormant, quiet and, mercifully, inactive.

Ray was not able to attend our premier, but when I told him about the debacle, he simply said “Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.” Thanks, Ray. Well, yes, I guess it did sound feasible. At least we saved Kodak, Sony and Panasonic the expense of developing an eye-width frame-alternating lens.

 Larry, Tony and I took a tally of our loses. We each had put in about $2.25 into this investment. At least we didn’t have to mortgage our homes.

Somewhere deep in a warehouse there resides the 8mm flutter-footage of Yosemite Sam. But having been in a NON-climate controlled environment now for over 40 years and having not cranked up my 8mm projector for over 30 years, I have serious doubts about the prospects of ever again viewing this epic footage. And Larry has no idea where his Yosemite Sam figurine is. Too bad; so sad. Perhaps in some far off century when archeologists discover a lost, former capital city in their exploratory diggings, some heads may be scratched … “What the hell was this all about???

When we form our next corporation, you will only hear about it if it becomes a public offering on Wall St.

But don’t hold your breath.





 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

MOTHMAN (SyFy)

The following review from the UK's Horror Cult Film website I am particularly proud of:

Click to enlarge


In 2010 I was cast as FRANK WAVERLY in a Sci Fi Channel made-for-TV movie entitled MOTHMAN.  My character was that of the town's old, blind, curmudgeon who knew more about the MOTHMAN legend than anyone else.  Here are a few favorite clips.  The first 3, UNLESS you're an Apple or Mac user, should be no problem.  The last one is a Youtube.  


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Click here for --->My BIG finish









Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Monopoly and Batman




My friend Lloyd had finally gotten what Santa had promised to bring him – a Monopoly Game. Lloyd had long dreamed of having a Monopoly Game and finally on Christmas morning of 1944 he came bounding over to my house proudly announcing that Santa had brought him a Monopoly Game.

For many a weekend he and I and our other friend, Homer, would play Monopoly. What fun!

But Monopoly wasn’t our only d
iversion. One afternoon Lloyd said “Jerry, come over to the house and let’s iron these Batman decals on our T-shirts.” So he and I arranged his front room floor so we would have room to iron these decals onto our t-shirts. When done, we eagerly donned our new creations and went dashing down the street, showing off our new attire. Such fun! How proud we were!

When we reached North St, we heard the sound of sirens. We looked at each other and decided that the sound was growing nearer. And nearer. And nearer still until around the corner a block down and approaching us was this big beautiful red fire engine. Lo and behold it was now turning down our street. We had to see this. We charged down Canal st. and watched as the truck stopped in front of Lloyd’s house. What’s going on?  


When we got to Lloyd’s house, we were held back while 2 firemen entered Lloyd’s unlocked house from which smoke from smoldering linoleum was pouring out.  A neighbor had seen the smoke and called the fire department.

Lloyd turned pale and said “oops, I think I know what happened.” He had failed to unplug the iron which he had placed on the linoleum floor. Upon completing the extinguishing, the head fireman said to Lloyd: “You live here?” “Yes, sir” “Where are your parents?” “They both work.” Seeing the freshly decaled t-shirts on Lloyd and me, he said “You boys put these decals on?” “Yes, sir”. The fireman then said “Well, the iron burned through the floor. You didn’t turn it off.” Lloyd gulped. The fireman then got Lloyd’s name and some personal information. They then left. The iron had burned completely through the floor and fell to the ground below.

 Lloyd said “My dad’s going to be real mad”. Lloyd’s dad was a blue collar hardworking hulk of a man. Poor Lloyd trembled at the thought of what his dad might do to him. Soon his mom came home. He was relieved that she came home first. Then came dad. Lloyd was now in his house and I prayed that he wouldn’t be too severely punished. I didn’t see him the rest of that day.  

The next morning I went outside and waited to see Lloyd. It seemed like hours before he came outside. When he did, I asked “What happened?” He said “Well, we won’t be playing monopoly anymore.” I asked “Did he take it away from you?” Then Lloyd said “Come see.” I went with Lloyd into his house. He pointed to the floor. His dad had nailed the Monopoly board over the hole. Then with great relief Lloyd said “But at least I didn’t get a whupin’”.