Cinema Epoch // 1953 // 480 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dennis Prince (Retired) // December 1st, 2006
Home movies, even when presented via the magical new digital medium, can still be an insufferable bore.
Here's a curious little experiment that provides a rarely-seen view into the realm of human behavior, personal motivations, and vanity. While those of us old enough to remember the halcyon days of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine are familiar with this youngster, Donald F. Glut (say it "gloot"), his wider notoriety seemed to fade as the magazine itself succumbed in the early 1980s. But, Mr. Glut (now 62) is still very much alive and he's eager to tell you all about himself. Sit still and he'll unveil his 41 amateur movies to anyone who'll watch.
Of course it's appropriate we encourage and support amateur filmmakers but, by that very advocacy, we also expect such eager beavers to actually grow and improve their craft. Don Glut started his "filmmaking career" in 1953 with the childish Diplodicus at Large. Initial efforts, of course, are expected to be crude, and that's OK. However, those other artisans of the fantastic whom Glut truly wished to emulate -- the likes of Ray Harryhausen, Dennis Muren, or, later, John Landis and George Lucas -- clearly showed an innate vision and style that Glut simply didn't have and still doesn't. It's with absolute discomfort, then, that we listen to Glut speak today as if he has achieved a skill similar to those he attempted to emulate. Hoo boy. Will somebody please tell him?
Much as hearts are crushed on today's talent search shows, it's for good reason that the untalented be told the truth lest they be mercilessly exploited for laughs as was the case with American Idol's William Hung. To listen to the droning autobiographical documentary found on this disc, it's clear that Glut had developed his own idealized "fame" by nipping at the heels of Forrest J. Ackerman and Bob Burns. Through association and a relentless method of foisting his "films" on anyone who'd unwittingly befriend the fellow, Glut envisioned himself an acknowledged and even celebrated filmmaker. It's painful to witness, really.
This two-disc drudgery, I Was a Teenage Movie Maker -- Don Glut's Amateur Movies, is an amateur production itself and begins with Glut telling us his story, seated stiffly under a glaring shop light while we sit distracted by a reflection of whoever that is operating the camera. Initially, our curiosity is piqued as Glut begins to tell of his earliest fascination with dinosaurs and monsters and how he dreamed of making movies like the ones he saw at the local cinema. Within about 10 minutes, we begin to shift a bit uncomfortably in our chairs, believing it is our seated position that must be causing us unrest. Another five minutes goes by and we realize why restless -- we're bored. Glut speaks about himself for what seems an eternity, imparting upon us his life's story while we cozy up for an unplanned nap. His enthusiasm for his own work isn't to be considered contemptible, it's just that it's not as interesting as that of Rick Baker, Joe Dante, or even Ed Wood.
But Glut is firmly and forever absorbed in his every exploit and displays for us every little trinket and trapping from his youth. He displays plastic dinosaurs from 1953, rubber masks from 1957, and even his leather jacket to which he beams, "and it still fits!" Terrific. It's curious, really, because this fellow has preserved practically everything he ever owned as if he were curator to an important museum of worthy relics. How cute.
After the documentary, we can skim through his oeuvre of 41 amateur films. There's nothing here as significant as, say, Evolution (Harryhausen's first effort) or Equinox (Dennis Muren's cult classic student film). Instead, we get a variety of 5-minute basement exploits like The Time Monsters, I Was a Teenage Apeman, and Dragstrip Dracula. Most of the films include more of current-day Glut as he provides audio commentary (as if to unlock some vital and telling details).
But, there is some redeeming content to be found amid this Saturday afternoon exploits that feature clay dinosaurs, cardboard skeletons, and desk lamps-turned-mad lab equipment. A 1962 home movie that features a visit with Forrest J. Ackerman and also includes a few vintage glimpses of Disneyland is fun to see. Frankly, this is the sort of material monster mongers of old are most eager to see.
Mind you, this is not intended to be any sort of poison-pen attack on Glut's work or even his unfettered boyish enthusiasm. It's certainly fun and even healthy to get lost in one's own nostalgia, enjoying simpler times in a personal and usually private manner. But, unlike the rest of us who might unearth an ancient school arts-and-crafts projects and acknowledge that its crude style would appeal only to we who fashioned it, Glut seems to insist the rest of us would be amazed and impressed with his similarly-fashioned film relics. Sure, perhaps a quick glance might be of passing interest but 12 hours of it is staggeringly imposing and frankly impolite.
Bottom line, this two-disc set comes to us in suspicious manner as if it hopes to ride on the coattails of the excellent The Sci-Fi Boys DVD. Glut found his way into that one (ever the unguarded walk-on) and likely thought he had compelling stuff that would buoy his own self-indulgent odyssey. Well, at least he thinks so.
Review content copyright © 2006 Dennis Prince; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Cinema Epoch
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 480 Minutes
Release Year: 1953
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Audio Commentaries
* Behind-the-Scenes Footage
* Count Gore DeVol Creature Featurette
* Photo Galleries
* Filmmaker's Site