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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.