Friday Flashback #54

In today’s technologically marvelous world, any kid with a camera and a computer can make a movie.

Local teenagers do it uncommonly well. Nick Ribolla (“Welcome to Westport“) is one viral sensation example; there are countless others.

In 1962, movie-making was considerably more difficult.

So when a group of Westport youngsters made a feature-length, color production, everyone took notice.

And by “everyone,” I mean the New York Times and Life magazine — along with plenty of movie-goers.

A New York Times story of December 7, 1962. Note that Ralph Bluemke had his own director’s chair.

“I Was a Teenage Mummy” was a spoof of classic horror films. The plot is typical: a 3,700-year-old mummy menaces (of course) Westport.

The movie was the brainchild of Ralph Bluemke. He was the “old guy” — 22.

His co-producers were Jeff Mullin (15) and Allen Skinner (14). The cast — all local kids — ranged in age from 15 down to 9.

Allen Skinner (left) sets up a shot for director Ralph Bluemke. Co-star Jayne Walker looks on. (Photo/Westport Town Crier)

All the cameras were borrowed. “A local automobile dealer lent a Cadillac for one sequence,” Life reports, “and one mother was conned out of her new Mercedes.”

The Westport Police Department lent a cop car — and a cop.

Some scenes were shot at Longshore; “suburban  homes were pillaged for props and costumes.”

Somehow, a pilot at Idlewild Airport (now JFK) persuaded passengers to sit in their seats for half an hour after landing, while a climactic scene was filmed.

Life reports on a “Mummy Movie Made by Kids.” The captions read: “A 9-year-old villain unwraps a teenage mummy in Westport” and “Movie victims litter Connecticut beach in a simulated Sahara.”

Like any moviemaker, Bluemke faced challenges. The mummy’s makeup took 3 hours to apply each day. And “a passing train or somebody dashing by in a bathing suit could bug a whole scene,” he told Life.

“I Was a Teenage Mummy” had its world premiere at the Fine Arts Theatre (now Restoration Hardware) on April 26, 1963. The next night, there were 2 screenings at in the Staples High School auditorium.

Publicity for the world premiere of “I Was a Teenage Mummy.” The tagline read: “It may not scare you to death. But you’ll die laughing.”

Though “obviously an amateur production,” a website notes, “the details are spot on. Lots of little touches and accurate costume details that make it an impressive achievement for a group of youngsters, or adults for that matter. It doesn’t take itself too seriously.”

More than half a century after its release, “Teenage Mummy” lives on. You can buy a DVD for $10.

Ralph Bluemke — the young director — thought of everything, cinematically speaking.

But he never imagined that 50 years later, anyone with a TV could watch his film about a 3,700-year-old mummy terrorizing his — now our — suburban town.

“I Was a Teenage Mummy” — the DVD case.

5 responses to “Friday Flashback #54

  1. So where can we get a copy of that DVD for $10?? I remember when that was being filmed; it was the talk of our 9th grade class at Long Lots!

  2. What a fun time kids had when life was less complicated by today’s technology! Can you imagine people sitting on a plane now waiting to get filmed by kids?

  3. It sounds like a potential screening for the Westport Cinema Initiative. I imagine people would get a kick out of seeing recognizable locations from back in the day.

  4. Carol Barrett

    I’ll have to get the dvd🤣. Jeff Mullen was in my classes. Knew his mom well too. Alan too.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >