Sunday, March 31, 2013

"Star Track VI: Khan Is Alive!" Home Movie

So now we come to a special moment.
I can clearly, well sort of clearly, well, hazily-- okay, so I barely remember the story behind this movie.  It was Memorial Day weekend of 1989.  I was finishing my junior year of high school.  I was 16.  So, yeah, I'm kind of old now.  Anyways...

Two years before, on the night before my older brother Tim's graduation from high school, he borrowed my uncle's old-school (but at that time really state of the art) VHS video camera-- one of those numbers where there's the camera and then a cable attached to a GIGANTIC VCR which just so happened to have a shoulder strap on it!  We were faced with the realization of a dream: we had always wanted to make home movies, but our parents never could afford to buy either a Super 8 or one of those "camcorder satchels" like the one we were about to use.

Unfortunately, and we realized that, once we'd all convened to the garage to film (what else) a Star Trek movie, that this camcorder required LOTS of lighting!  The 6-minute Trek film that we made on that night ended up basically looking black and white.  We laughed at the end result, but we secretly swore that one day we'd do it again, and do it right.

Well, instead, two years later we made "Star Track VI: Khan Is Alive!"  We ended up using the same cumbersome camcorder, only this time we used multiple lamps and even a floodlight in the den of our home in order to have the bright colors of our hastily constructed set show up on the screen.

The set, which was a the result of my brother's effort, involved scavenging fast food containers from Jack-in-the-Box, Burger King-- you name it-- and begging refrigerator boxes from the local appliance store (to use for the walls of the bridge).  I believe the cans of paint were what we already had on hand, and he painted the set using latex paint and rollers.  The fast food containers were glued randomly on the wall, and even gamepieces from our Battleship game were glued to consoles.  An old-fashioned bottlecap also makes an appearance.  Some of the fun, actually, while watching is to attempt to spot these re-appropriated containers.  It's a fun thing to do in case the movie really begins to bore you.

Yes, the villain's ship is made of paper plates and paper towel tubes.

Yes, Khan's wig is a mass of cotton balls, taped to my head.

And yes, Khan's "death pendulum" is a garden hoe.

Anyways, the 14-minute epic was shot overnight, with model shots done later in the week.  You'd never know it, but my brother and I did actually spend a lot of time on those space ship shots!  The starfield was a piece of plywood, spraypainted black with specs of white paint for stars.

Now, a quick word about the "performances."  What you'll be seeing isn't us trying to portray Kirk, Spock and McCoy.  Instead, you'll be watching an inside joke that only we could ever get, which is pretty lame to do in the format of a movie:  your audience probably needs to know what you're trying to do!

Anyways, Loyd  (the same Loyd who drew those "tag doodles" featured in a past post here) would often mimic Shatner's delivery on just about anything, and it became an inside joke among us.  His version of it seemed the natural thing to do.  My brother's take on Spock was a very cartoony version of Leonard Nimoy's performance of the Spock character in the unaired pilot "The Cage."  When he says, "We must cease power!", he's repeating the line from the pilot that always made us laugh, when Nimoy exclaims, "Our circuits are beginning to overload! We'll have to cease power!"

My take on Khan was a blow up of Dana Carvey's Khan from the classic SNL episode when Shatner was the guest.   In the skit, Shatner's opening a Star Trek-themed restaurant, and Khan, all burned up and mutilated from the end of Star Trek II, appears with the health inspector to exact revenge on "Kaark" and have his restaurant shut down.  Anytime we were all sitting around goofing off, we would mimic the way Carvey would say the name "Kaaaark!"

I took the injured aspect a bit further, and had him suffering from radiation sickness, and so yes, Khan is apt to vomit profusely during the movie.  The sound effect was achieved by pouring spaghetti-o's in a toilet.  Yeah.

The movie was originally made and assembled (using two VCRs hooked together in a VERY hot room) in a week, and then shown to a group of family friends.  It was an instant stinktamonious classic.  But... almost from that moment, we were hoping to go back and fix it.  For those of you who don't know, back in the old days (the 1980s), when you were recording something on VHS, and you hit stop, and then you continued to record, there was this clumsy rainbow-colored bar that would wave across the screen.  Everyone hated it, some people accepted it, and some kids like me read about "flying eraser heads" and the promised day that we would have no more "rainbow bars" to mark our stop-starts.  Anyways, imagine watching this movie with EVERY single cut being followed by this "rainbow bar." Yeah...

Also, my brother and I, in the heat of trying to edit this thing (VCRs would only stay in PAUSE for 5 minutes, then shut down), ended up accidentally cutting a very funny scene out, and adding in a scene that was boring and unnecessary! No kidding!  We always wished it could have been better.

About a year later, we tried to get everyone together and re-dub the audio, but that was a failure.  No, the original performances were right, it was just the editing (and lack of music for most of the movie) that hurt it.

We all went on with our lives, and my brother ended up taping a movie off of TV or something and using the VHS tape that had the FINAL CUT on it to do so. Of course.  Well, it seemed that that was the end of it. But then.....  stored away in a box in my closet was an old Memorex VHS tape with the words scrawled on the label, "Star Track 6 complete takes."  Yes, that's right, the packrat that I am paid off!  On this tape was indeed every single blooper and take, almost two hours of video, plus all of the space shots!  Even the "lost scene" was there.  I knew what had to be done.

It was 2003, and technology was there to save the day.  I digitized all of the footage, re-assembled it, restoring the lost scene and chopping the boring one, and even added original Star Trek music and sound effects where once we'd only dreamed they could be.  I made sure to maintain the original look of the film, but by God, there were no more RAINBOW BARS!  This truly was a "restored" "special edition"!

In the end, I don't believe the extra touches betray the original movie;  I mean, just look at how crappy the quality is-- nothing added would make it into "Lawrence of Arabia."  But there was a sort of peace about having it back in shape, and looking better than ever, which I know doesn't say much.  But shoot, we made a Star Trek movie back in 1989, and it's still here over twenty years later!

Quick things to look for (or to look away from):
  • The sound of the ships was achieved by placing the mic in front of a house fan.  If you listen semi-closely at the beginning, you'll hear what sounds like a bird's wings flapping.  That's exactly what it was.  My pet bird Sam was startled by the wind of the fan, and began to flap his wings as I recorded the sound.  If you listen throughout the bridge scenes, you just might hear Sam squawk every now and then.
  • There are two scenes in which the silver microphone is all too obvious!
  • There's a matte painting in this movie, see if you can find it!
  • Spock's ears were made of silly putty.  In the outtakes tape, there's repeated footage of Loyd reshaping Tim's ears in between takes.
  • We taped for about 30 minutes that night before we found that the mic wasn't working!
  • In the shot of Khan's ship's demise, if you look at the lower right-hand corner, you'll see a metal cooking pot, full of water.  We were burning this thing in my brother's room, and made sure we could put it out right away.
  • During the next morning, while we were outside in my backyard taping the "planet surface" scene, there was this old guy next door peering over the fence at us, wondering just what on God's earth we were doing at 6 in the morning.
  • After we'd completed filming, my brother and Loyd got the munchies, and drove to the nearest grocery store.  My brother didn't realize it until later that he still had his Spock costume on!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Plastic Pantheon- Monogram Frankenstein!

Years ago, I picked up this kit from an online toy store whose name escapes me. I was really disappointed in the kit's size-- the figure is only about 7 inches tall. His head is so small that doing any involved painting is going to be a chore.

It's probably because of my disappointment with the kit's size that I ended up tossing into the "wasteland," akay garage.

Well, now I've decided to get it done. First, I have to take care of some seams on the thigh and a spot on the base where I was supposed to glue on a production clapboard (and I am not). And so it begins...

He's about the size of a Mego figure's little brother.

The original, crappy paint-job.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Star Trek III U.S.S. Enterprise Leaves Drydock...

She resides above my drawing table, between my P-51 Mustang and Imperial Shuttle.  The light coming through the window underneath reflects off of the metallic panels.  I can now breath a long one-- it's over.