Monday, June 29, 2009

Sitter Splitter

Plot: Two brats drive their babysitter insane with fake ghosts. But when real ghosts show up, the boys end up joining their sadistic sitter in the loony bin. If you enjoy watching high schoolers pretending to be annoying little kids, then, wow, not only is this your lucky day but I feel kind of sorry for you, too.

It's hard to see how a few flying pillows could drive anyone mad, though Shad and Joe's screeching performances are another story. This is mostly notable for the final shot (set at the creatively spelled "Mt. Pleasant Mental Hospitol"), which is genuinely disturbing. Seriously. Watch it and try to tell me all that giggling doesn't leave you a little unnerved.

Finally, a mystery revealed: Child-welfare advocates may be wondering about the "Catering by Smitty's Wine & Spirits" in all of our closing credits. Yes, it's true. The entire Danman crew would get plastered before every shoot. Scandal! Oh, who are we kidding? We couldn't even score real cigarettes. Smitty's was just a short-lived local liquor joint that we felt obligated to mock. Alas, it was we who should have been mocked by Smitty. Sorry, Smitty.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Plot: A girl's new "4-D" television is bunches of fun... until she changes the channel to Dracula. Clearly by this time I was feeling the cocaine buzz of confidence: a zany premise, multiple costume changes, in-jokes, cheap laffs. Basically, ugh.

This is notable mostly for Joe's triple role as a frustrated tennis pro, Faith No More guitarist, and Count Dracula. But there's two more things I want to draw your attention to:

1. Jenny as an overweight game show contestant. After getting a whammy, I find her delivery of the line, "Thanks, Wink!" especially eloquent.

2. During the shot of me in the closing credits, I whine "Joe!" as Joe screws up the shot. It's obvious I'm actually pretty pissed. Ah, moments like these are what make this whole blog worth it.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Doll House

Plot: An abusive dad suffers the inane vengeance of his daughter's dolls. Who's to blame? I'd put my money on that "priceless Egyptian jewel" that Dad stole from "the museum." Possibly the biggest mystery of this deeply mysterious movie is why anyone would go through all the trouble of stealing a "priceless Egyptian jewel" only to leave it sitting on their living room cabinet.

With Shad and Julie limited to last-second cameos, this one's all about the acting chops of Joe and Jenny. Though technically Joe was younger than Jenny, he gives a masterful, nuanced performance as her father, doing all the things that fathers do--you know, getting bombed on vodka, incinerating their kids' toys, and saying befuddling things like "I lost my money." You what your what now?

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Friday, June 19, 2009

The Geek

Plot: some bullies accidentally impale a geek with gardening shears. When the geek returns from the grave, bad make-up and disturbingly realistic screaming ensue. Say what you will, "The Geek" is a quantum leap forward from "Kat Killer." I mean, the scene where Shad gets whacked? That scene oozes tension! Perhaps oozes is too strong. It trickles tension. At this point it became clear that Shad was the only one among us with an iota of acting ability. That didn't stop me from hilariously featuring Joe in lead roles. Stay tuned.

Shad's death scene also features a fake cigarette made from a rolled-up piece of paper. We weren't even cool enough to score real cigs. Losers.

If that scintillating picture of dirt still hasn't convinced you to press "play," consider this: a freaking corpse will rise from that dirt! It was our first special effect, and even though you can clearly see the rest of Joe's arm on the right side of the frame, dude, were we stoked about this shot! (I was somewhat less stoked when Joe laughed on camera while he was supposed to be dead, but what was I supposed to do? I'd already impaled him with gardening shears.)

One thing I can't figure is why we always had the damn TV on while we were shooting. In the background, you can clearly hear MTV playing a U2 song followed by a Raid bug spray commercial. Perhaps "The Geek" was a commentary on the ills of commercialism. Yeah, that's the ticket.

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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Kat Killer

Plot: An idiot tries to find out which of three idiots killed his idiot wife. Idiocy ensues. Plus there's some cats (we always had 20 or 30 cats running around the house), some implied cannibalism, closing credits that take up about half of the total running time, and, if you watch close, our soon-to-be-trademark joke of the Three Men and a Baby ghost hiding among the drapes.

I know what you're thinking. Whoa boy. This is bad. Worse than you had imagined. Almost unwatchable. But don't abandon hope! Wait until you see The Blob! You will never forgive yourself if you crap out of this experiment before The Blob!

Anyway, "Kat Killer" is historic for so many reasons. 1) It was the first time I'd ever picked up a camera. 2) It features our very first racially insensitive character (check out Julie no habla-ing Ingles). 3) It is the debut leading-man performance of Joe. Oh, Joe. You will grow to love Joe. If that robotic, maniacal chuckle at the end doesn't steal your heart, then you, sir, are made of stone.

Obviously our "Tales from the Creep" parodies were based on HBO's "Tales from the Crypt" series, which was brand-new at the time. Since there are four more of these coming, I apologize in advance for how irritating I am as "The Creep." I don't know what to say. I'm sorry?

[EDIT: See the original script here!]

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Francis Ford Iowa FAQ

Q: What was Danman Productions?
It was teen me scribbling so-called scripts in a notebook an hour or so before shooting it on my family's mini-VHS camera. (Yes, "mini-VHS" was an actual format.) It was me telling people what to do, poorly, and them, to various degrees, trying to do what I said, also poorly. It was an unmitigated disaster that lasted approximately four years and 40 videos--until my final 2-and-a-half-hour epic went over budget, over schedule, pissed off all my friends, and led to the overdue collapse of Danman Productions.

Q: These movies suck! They totally suck!
That's not a question.

Q: At least tell me why the editing is so lousy.
Cut me some slack! I didn't have any editing equipment. The movie had to be shot in sequential order. If I wanted music, I had to play it live from a boombox. If an actor flubbed a line there were only two options: 1) ignore it; or 2) rewind the camera, which was wildly risky--it usually lopped off the end of the previous shot. Eventually, to anticipate such lopping, I began ending all scenes with excessively long, soap-opera style close-ups. It was a constant battle of Suck vs. Suckier.

Q: And why does everything keep going out of focus?
Only years later did I see that the camera had a manual-focus button. Not that I would've known what "manual focus" meant.

Q: Why does the sound keep dropping out?
Being a teenage moron, I thought it was a great idea to record all my movies onto a single VHS cassette set to "EP" speed. For you youngsters out there, that meant I could fit 6 hours (ie, the entire Danman Productions oeuvre) onto one tape. Yay! It also meant that the tape degraded rapidly. Boo! When I recently crammed these movies through the internet tubes, sound issues emerged. It's a miracle they played at all, so stop complaining.

Q: Are you really going to upload every single one of these disasters?
You mean, how long shall I prolong the suffering? That's a toughie. I'm going to do at least 40 posts, everything up through my first magnum opus, The Godfathers Part One. After that, I might quit. Unless there's a public outcry or scads of money thrown my direction.

Q: What the funk does this have to do with your amazing new novel, The Monster Variations?
These early video exercises laid the groundwork for my future narrative endeavors. Hahahaha, you fell for it. Really I just want to celebrate my book release by embarrassing my childhood buddies. Duh.