Friday, April 21, 2006

Video projects

One of the sillier yet more ambitious projects we did in 1975/76 at Turtle Video was 'The Scarless Pumpernickel'. In our more juvenile moments we called it 'The Scarless Pumporlickit'. If you look at a couple of the jokes I've posted here in recent months you might be justified in thinking that I'm still somewhat juvenile. I'll live with that; it still amazes me, at times, to realise I'm pushing 52; it sure doesn't feel like I am.

Of course I could simply be falling into the baby boomers trap; imagining that I can hold back the inevitability of time in a manner that would have made King Canute proud! Remind me to relate the story of my mid life crisis (the third one) in 2000/2001. I remember it was the third mid life crisis; the problem is that I can't remember the first two! :-)

I was the star for reasons I no longer remember. If you went by my ability to act in front of a camera you'd already know the project was a non-starter. But we didn't let a little thing like that stop us!

I played the title character, Scarless. It seemed important at the time to define the outfit Scarless would wear and it went as follows. Tailcoat and (fake) tophat, because I already had those. A White shirt and a red bandana. Jeans cut off above the knee and, most importantly, cut off at differing lengths on either leg. Blue panty hose and riding boots! To complete the outfit I carried a length of orange plastic pipe which acted as my sword.

As we were going into production we fronted at a shop at the Highpoint Shopping centre, in search of those panty hose. We none of us had a clue about sizes; we confronted the young lady at the counter and asked her what size panty hose would fit me? The look on her face was a study in comedy!

As for who or what the title character was? He was a fearless crime fighter of course! Could anyone dressed like that be anything else? My sidekick, played by Dave, was Festering Wound and the third member of the crime fighting team was a minor character called Backup, played by another Dave. He had hair in those days!

We, Heino and I, spent considerable time sweating over the script. The Scarlett Pumpernickel was, we were determined, to be different from past projects where we'd pretty much turned up at a location one or the other of us thought might be photogenic and made it up as we went. Doing that was a lot of fun but the end result was self indulgent to excess.

I remember we spent a fair amount of time in the tiny non-chain supermarket just up the road from Heino's house, planning a shoot-out between Scarless and the criminals. Where would Scarless be, where would the criminals be. How would we shoot it? There's an awful lot of planning goes into any decent length of footage.

We stole shamelessly. I'm pretty sure Homicide[^] didn't run outside Australia so I can't rely on my older readers in other countries knowing the opening. Suffice it to say that we ripped the opening off; to the extent of shooting me driving my car along the South Eastern Freeway (back in the days when it was a 'free'way) then pulling up outside Russell Street Police Headquarters, stepping out of the car in the same way they did on the TV series as the camera panned up the building toward the antenna on the roof! Naturally we ran the Homicide theme over that footage!

Heino sent me a DVD of the rebroadcast, as part of the 7 networks 50th anniversary celebration, of the first colour episode they made, circa 1973. I enjoyed it immensely. How could you not enjoy something that showed the daggy clothes we wore back then? How not enjoy, if you were in your very late teens at the time, the seeing once again of Clarendon Street South Melbourne in all it's pre yuppie glory?

More interesting to me as one with a good memory was the sight of the Victorian Supreme Court building before it had been cleaned! It was really really grubby, the result of decades of air pollution. When the ABC[^] made Power without Glory[^] in 1976 they cleaned just enough of the building as they needed to show pristine sandstone in the backround of the shots. The contrast between the cleaned portion of the walls and the rest was so vivid that government paid to have the entire building cleaned. As a taxpayer I record that I thoroughly approved of that expenditure!

We also let the imagination run wild. How else explain a dream sequence where Robin played a mad monk presented with my head on a platter. He was supposed to pull a sword and cleave the head in twain. When we came to shoot the scene I was, understandably, reluctant to present my own head so we got one of those dummy heads you find at hairdressers and wig sellers. Some skilful editing would hide the transition from the real me to the fake me! Then Robin raised his sword high and brought it crashing down on the fake head. The bloody sword bounced and left barely a crease in the polystyrene! We all fell about laughing!

In the end we were left with a few minutes of footage as interest in the project waned. When I see that footage these days (only when I'm at Heino's because he hasn't transferred it to DVD - I really must talk to him about that :-) ) I remember back to a time when I was very young, very inexperienced and didn't know that some things are difficult to achieve. But I also remember a time when anything was possible, a time when I had the most fun you can have clothed, a time that I will always treasure.

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