Friday, May 28, 2010

the turkey that ate st. louis

seth shostak is a senior astronomer at the SETI institute, but he used to make films when he was in graduate school. great to see old hobbies of well-known astronomers!

seth writes:
"One of the many doubtful activities of my youth was making films. I started doing this at age 11, and by the time I was a teenager, my buddy Jerry Rebold and I had already constructed a sound system that occasionally worked with our wind-up, 16mm camera.

In 1967, while in grad school, fellow student Bob O'Connell, Jerry Rebold and I made a half-hour film entitled "The Teenage Monster Blob from Outer Space, Which I Was." This parody of 1950s sci-fi films starred six pounds of Play-Doh.

The film bombed. It was, as O'Connell called it, "a turkey." This disgusting failure prompted us to change our cinematic strategy in two ways: (1) our next film was just going to be a trailer, rather than a complete film -- that way we could save money and just put in the good parts, and (2) if we were making turkeys, why not make a REAL turkey?

Ergo, this short "preview" film, shot mostly at Caltech and at that school's Owens Valley Radio Observatory. Observant viewers will note then-department chair Jesse Greenstein in the role of Walter Cronkite, and a few other astronomers too (including yours truly).

"The Turkey that Ate St. Louis" was entered in the Baltimore International Film Festival, and automatically inserted into the feature-film category, where it faced competition from major motion pictures from both America and Europe. Despite this uneven playing field, "The Turkey" lost.

"The Teenage Monster Blob" eventually became more popular. Too late."

1 comment:

MikeS said...

Bob used to talk about this film when I was at UVa and apparently showed it to earlier generations of grad students. I'm glad it's now on the intertubes where it will never die and can be enjoyed by generation of students to come.