This week marked a major turning point in my film-to-video work. I finally got the reel of eight short films I did between 1970 and 1973 into the computer for editing. One in particular, CHEMISTRY OVERSIMPLIFIED, was a priority since I had promised to get a copy of it to the lady who appeared in it back in 1971. We met at our 40th high school reunion in 2012 and I fully intended to get it to her within a few months, if that long. Well, some bouts of pneumonia, some hospital stays and various other calamities kept me from following through until a couple of weeks ago. Once I had my desk rearranged for transfers in April, I kept testing the video cameras and through trial-and-error got some decent results.
Art and Jill in CHEMISTRY OVERSIMPLIFIED. I never thought my eyeglass frames would come back into style.
The other films are crude but considering the technology available to a 16-year-old high school student with a paper route and nearly zero instructional material I just "Ed Wood"-ed my way along.
Below are stills from the various other films I fought through the projector. With some coaching from long-time friend Martin Baumgarten in Plattsburg and some silicone spray, the 40 plus-year-old Kodachrome Super 8 and Ektachrome magnetic-striped print made the transition to video.
Utley makes his first appearance in SOLID WASTE, a short project for biology
class about trash and the environment. This was made in early 1970 and had
a soundtrack added in 1973 when I got a Eumig sound-recording projector.
THE SPRITZER FAMILY 1971 was shot in one night. The class assignment was to make a two-minute animated film. My Lafayette camera couldn't shoot single frames but a classmate's father had one that could. However, she would lend it to me but it had to back the next day. I had some rickety cardboard sets so ran the characters through a simple sitcom-like plot that leaned on camera-shaking explosions or falls to make up for the time-consuming animated scenes.
DAN (1972) was another film made with a borrowed camera but it was available for more than one night. However, it couldn't focus close enough on the camera stand so most of it was a bit-soft looking. Not to worry, the story was rather soft too. Again, without benefit of any animation literature (I would have devoured Preston Blair's animation book if I had known about it) I muddled through and had occasional help from classmates in painting the cels. The animation stand was lit with four blazingly hot lights but fortunately the scenes were short. I kept the artwork and reshot a number of scenes in 1973 when I got my own camera that shot single-frame.
Bill Higgins was one of those high school eccentrics who was very intelligent but enjoyed playful antics too. He and his friends would hang around a table in the school library saying or doing odd things. I spotted him balancing this artificial flower on his nose, foot and finger and asked him to let me film him doing it. That's all there was to it. I don't know who came up with the ending of him being impaled by the flower stem but I guess it seemed like a logical conclusion. For all you folks who live in areas with high summer humidity, this was shot in June of 1972. Bill wasn't shy about displaying the dark armpits on his shirt (he claimed to use spray deodorant after donning it) that were a result of the muggy weather.
After a year in the Air Force, I pulled out the Spritzer's battered set and gave them another go. This time, they're beset by green Eek-Eeks and Utley saves the day. Although I had my sound projector for a few months, I didn't animate any specific dialogue for them but added some lines when recording the track. Probably shot in late summer of 1973.
My brother Tom (former TOM VS. JOE LaRITA star) played a white glove-wearing living cartoon character who can't get to sleep due to noises and interruptions. He finally decides a pistol to the head should do the trick. Filmed in July 1973, it was around this time that interest in classic cartoons, particularly the Warner Brothers shorts, was building as the first generation of TV-babies reached adulthood. I would say we were subconsciously patterning this after Chuck Jones' GOOD NIGHT, ELMER with a dash of Bob Clampett and Tex Avery.
There's more to come as I clean and lubricate the other films for transfer. STAR TRIX hasn't entered the picture yet but is on the horizon.