Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Vault of Horror

What you are looking at is an artifact of untold value. It is the original handwritten script to Kat Killer, the very first Danman Production. All over it are the scribbles, revisions, and doodles of yours truly. From whence did this veritable Shroud of Turin come? From a cardboard box in an Iowa basement, where I conducted (one last time) the final, ultimate search for all surviving movie materials. What I found - in both quantity and quality - will shock you.

First, let's take a closer look at this seminal screenplay.

Even as a teen I had an innate sense of drama. Look at the first three words I ever wrote: "Guy walks in." Guy? What guy? Walks? Walks how? In? Into where? So many delicious mysteries to be solved! Kat Killer was just one of the many scripts, notes, tapes, and figments of esoterica that I uncovered. Like the explorer who first disturbed the fetid air of King Tut's tomb and glimpsed that first gleam of gold, here is what mine eyes did see:

The Francis Ford Iowa project has been a nostalgia trip of epic distance, but up until this point my memories had been reliant on the finished films themselves - there was no scrap of behind-the-scenes matter. Suddenly, I was faced with the ample evidence of my hurried tomfoolery, my hasty compromises, and my dependence upon a certain exclamation:

Not a single script I found didn't have someone screaming "Noooooooooo!!!!!!" at some point (if not multiple points). For example, there were several such wails of protest in Misery. Oddly enough, the script itself was titled Misery II. It was my first remake, so I must have toyed with the idea of considering my movies as sequels rather than copies. Anyway, note the "Noooo!!"

Even more incredible is the promotional material that survived. I've already shared the amazing poster for The Godfathers: Part Two - but that was just for our own amusement. In fact, there were two fliers expressly created to hang up all over town in order to advertise local public access screenings. Somehow I had the sense of historical obligation to save one copy of each.

Below is the advertisement for The Godfathers. (I especially like the threatening tagline: "Miss it and by tomorrow morning you will be suffering.")

And here's the stylish advert for Evening of Fear, touting the world premiere of Harvest of Wrath:

Packed alongside these two posters was the only production still ever taken on one of my sets. The memory is hazy: already costumed for my part in The Godfathers, I indulged my mom's insistence that I stand outside our house for a portrait. She had a hunch I'd want to see it someday. She was right.

For all the fun I had scouring these scripts for discrepancies from the finished films (who knew that Father Sin originally featured a Joe-murders-Matt K. scene?!), the best crap is the random crap. Here's a little checklist I found on the Night of the Living Dead script. Seems like I had I successfully acquired make-up, my friend Ben (but not Chris), and some scary music... but that gravestone was giving me hell.

From the same script, here's an amusing last-minute music swap: Laura Palmer's theme from Twin Peaks is out; the Rocky IV training-montage music is in.

Finally, a mystery is solved. Remember how I couldn't find The Godfather's Two: Director's Cut (and so I recreated it)? Well, apparently it was called the "Special Edition," and exists on 3/4-inch tape. How about that?

And that stupid "The Naughty Elephant" hackey sack that got its own commercial and a cameo in The Godfathers? Yep, found that, too.

An exciting haul, to be sure. But all of this is dwarfed by three discoveries that will shake the very foundations of the Danman universe:
Oh, man. This is going to be good. Stay tuned as Francis Ford Iowa makes its climactic sprint.

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Sex, Drugs, & Film: The Rise and Fall of Danman Productions - Part I

Danman Productions was dead. Long live Danman Productions!

[Note: first 7 minutes has a bad echo--fight through it!]

It was three years later when I found myself in a college class called Video Art. If the title doesn't tip you off, it was the kind of class that would enrage any tuition-paying parental unit. Situated in a basement within a decrepit building about three miles off campus, the class was about as underground as education gets in a major state university.

Not many film students knew about Video Art (and the A grades they handed out like candy), so it was mostly populated with performance artists who made blurry videos involving copious nudity and/or menstrual blood and/or feces. Bored to tears one day while watching an "art film" about fisting, I had a revelation: Danman Productions! Mockumentary! Interviews with my old buddies! No fisting! Just fun!

Taking the approach that Danman Productions was "the most controversial, cutting-edge production company in the industry's history," this Behind the Music-style doc traces the studio's rise from avant-garde outsider to household name to tabloid fodder. An uncredited (and English-accented) Matt K serves as the narrator, while nearly every Danman player shows up to take sides on the enigma that was Dan: brilliant visionary or drug-addled despot? (Yes, I make an appearance, too, offering up fatuous proclamations like: "Fear was about Vietnam.")

The ongoing thread detailing the feud between Shad and Joe is pretty funny. Also funny is Mike, supposedly driven to an obsession with monkeys by the lunacy of The Bastard Chicken Clock from Hell. We even dig into obscure Danman lore, including the infamous "wooden dildo" scene, which I happily managed to avoid discussing when I posted Father Sin. Well, there's no avoiding it now.

So where's Part II? Here's the story: Part I was essentially "the rise" of Danman Productions, leaving off right before the filming of The Godfathers: Part Two. The second chapter, which I shot simultaneously, covered "the fall"--how that disastrous epic sent me into a delirious tailspin that brought down everything around me.

Tragically, Part II was never edited. I blame the fact that a few months after editing Part I, I began shooting my first bona fide feature film. Yet I still have hope. After all, I doubted that I would find Part I, and was pessimistic that the obsolete 3/4-inch tape would still play. So isn't it within the realm of possibility that the raw footage to Part II still exists, packed away in that Iowa basement? I intend to find out. [EDIT: The footage was found and the sequel is done.]

[Embeddable playlist of entire 5-part movie here.]

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