The following video was shot very, very, very late at night.
That is the reason some of the scenes may not look like normal scenes.
We apologize in advance and hope you will still enjoy the following program.”
— Scroll opening to “The World’s Worst Imitation Japanese Movie” (1986)
The best thing about staying with my dad was he never said “no” to much of anything. It was easy for me to get permission to stay at my friend Dave’s house overnight. We camped out in his family room; sleep not even making the agenda. We hooked my video camera to his non-portable VCR and started playing around. We passed the camera back and forth; doing stupid things (like any home movie). Dave had a pet gerbil in an aquarium and we decided to try to get him on tape. With the close-up lens, we got some pretty good shots of him wiggling his nose and running around. I suggested we shoot some kind of bad Japanese movie. We’d have one shot of us running and screaming in terror then cut to a giant gerbil running behind us. We cut up little paper buildings and stuck them in the cage, but the gerbil would not cooperate with the buildings, the camera, or us. Thus careers are made and broken; the gerbil passed on becoming put first Spectreman villain.
The wonderful thing about Dave’s house was very little was ever thrown away. His mom worked for Avon and cardboard boxes were stacked all over. Dave was 16 (only a week younger than me), but he still had a Sesame Street puppet, goggle-eyed and bright orange. That became our monster. We had to use string to hold him up because the puppet was heavy. In any case, it would be funny. Our Spectreman philosophy was born. With the production limitations, it would be next to impossible to create believable special effects, so we decided to create unbelievable special effects. The Avon boxes became the city. An old black chair became the attacking airplane. We were set except for a main character. Dave thought of Spectreman, so he got to be the hero. We found some aluminum foil and tore eye holes out of a brown paper bag (we didn’t have any scissors). I scribbled “Spectreman” on the front in case anyone actually wanted to know who the hero was. Finally, because we couldn’t talk very loud at the risk of waking everyone up, we did each other’s voices. Whoever was on camera just flapped their lips while the person running the camera spoke quietly into a microphone, trying to say something before cracking up completely.
We jotted down some ideas on a piece of paper with a crayon (of course). Dr. Gorey was a purple faced gorilla in the series, but surprisingly Dave didn’t have any gorilla masks. And neither of us could remember the name of Dr. Gorey’s assistant. That stumped us through six produced episodes. Finally, we gave Spectreman a way to defeat the monster; with poker chips. This became a running gag, homage to the poor continuity of all dubbed Japanese monster movies. At the climax of the episode, Spectreman throws one poker chip. Cut to the monster who is hit by half a dozen poker chips. We let go of the string and the monster died.
It was “Miller Time”.
Dave wrapped it up and flew away with us singing what we could remember of the Spectreman theme song. We rewound the tape and found a few problems. Dave’s VCR – to be polite – was a cheap piece of junk. It had no true pause, so there were big static filled gaps between the scenes; the beginning and ending of every scene broke apart with a weird audio squeal. The tape had gone back too far when we shot the dramatic model plane crash. It was now completely gone (just as well, it wasn’t all that funny). Despite the lack of editing and effects and music and any real script, Spectreman turned out to be pretty funny. The camera problems and video problems made it even funnier. We watched it several times that night before finally passing out around six in the morning.