I picked up my first movie camera for a buck and a half at a garage sale. It was about the size of a small Kleenex box, and could shoot a four minute cartridge of silent movie film… outdoors in the daytime. Despite these technical limitations, I was all set once again to make a movie. This time, it would be a space adventure based on the comic exploits of Ray Blaster, Astronaut.
Ray Blaster started out as a comic strip in my seventh grade science class. My lab partner – Brian Cichon – and I came up with this swashbuckling hero in the spirit of Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers. Ray and his sidekick zoomed around the galaxy in the atomic rocket X-1 (like, what else do you name an atomic rocket?), looking for adventure.
Well, to be technical, he would have zoomed around the galaxy looking for adventure, but the comic turned out to be rather short-lived. And when I say short-lived, I mean one page. Ray barely got off the ground.
Ray Blaster’s cinematic debut – “Attack on Planet Zaberia” – didn’t have sound and the special effects were best left to the imagination. Actually, they were imagination; I couldn’t afford anything else. The film cartridges cost about seven bucks, almost a month’s worth of allowance. We didn’t even have the luxury of a second take.
The plot of “Attack on Planet Zaberia” is as follows: The intrepid crew of the X-1 (I believe I actually described the crew as “intrepid” on the intertitles) lands on the mysterious planet Zaberia. At first they detect no life forms. However, aliens appear and capture the crew. One particularly intrepid crew member escapes. Meanwhile, Ray has avoided capture. He frees his crew and they all escape in the X-1 to fly off for another adventure.
We shot the movie in an afternoon at a local park. The rocket X-1 was a duck blind, the Zabertrons were my brother and his little friends, the prison was the fence around the infield of a baseball diamond. Tim Tokarz – my next door neighbor – played the escaping crew member. He climbed up the fence and got stuck at the top, cutting up his leg in the process. It was windy and the intertitles – written on regular typing paper – kept blowing around while I was trying to film them. Otherwise, the shoot went pretty smoothly. We finished up in a couple of hours.
We had to wait about six weeks to get the film back to watch it (developing costs were another month’s worth of allowance). The world premiere was held in my basement, attended by the cast and half a dozen friends, and it was a great success. We watched it twice.
Afterwards, the girl who lived across the street from me started talking about using a Ouija board and I managed to convince most of my neighbors that my basement was haunted. But that’s another story.