“Citizen Kane,” “The Godfather” or “Raiders of the Lost Ark” it’s not.
But “I Was a Teenage Mummy” holds a place in movie history.
In Westport, anyway.
And if you were in town 60 years ago today, you remember it well.
The film had its world premiere on April 26, 1963 in the Staples High School auditorium.
A full house — 1,200 people — packed the place. The next night there were 2 more showings, both also sellouts. Tickets were 75 cents in advance, $1 at the door.
Life Magazine and the New York Times covered the event. Hugh Downs invited the cast onto the “Today Show.”
Not bad for a 90-minute film, produced and acted by a group of feisty Long Lots Junior High 9th graders.
Of course, they had adult help: a 21-year-old, with fantasies of Hollywood.
Jeffrey Mullin — one of the “Teenage Mummy” stars — went onto a 40-year career as a documentary filmmaker. He learned editing and cinematography from legendary documentarian Bill Buckley, and between 1985 and 2008, worked with Buckley and fellow Westporter Tracy Sugarman.
These days, Mullin is retired. But as the 60th anniversary of his teenage adventure drew near he checked in with “06880” from his Cape Cod home, with a trove of materials.
“Mummy” — a satire on horror movies — was the brainchild of that 21-year-old, Ralph Bluemke (part-time manager of a Stamford theater).
He enlisted his Half Mile Common neighbor Mullin, Allen Skinner of nearby Cross Highway, Steve Emmett and Jayne Walker. Michael Harris played the mummy. Jeff’s 8-year-old brother Scott was the villain.
They raised funds by selling “stock” in Jerall Films (a combination of their names) to parents and friends.
Filming began in September of 1962. Locales includes beaches (for “the desert”), Longshore, and an auto chase scene throughout town.
The Westport Police Department let the teenagers “borrow” a police car — and officer. An auto dealer provided a Cadillac. And, Life reported, “one mother was conned out of her new Mercedes.”
The movie also includes a scene at Idlewild (now John F. Kennedy) Airport. Jayne Walker’s father — a TWA pilot — held his passengers on board for half an hour while the main characters scurried up the steps, and were filmed “disembarking.”
It ran through January, with interruptions when the cast had to raise more cash. The go-to job was babysitting.
The total cost: about $375.
After its Westport premiere, Life magazine said, the film was booked into theaters in Fairfield and nearby counties.
“I Was a Teenage Mummy” did not reach the enduring fame of “The Wizard of Oz.” It’s not mentioned with classics like “The Jazz Singer” or “Star Wars.”
But for a few brief springtime weeks — beginning 60 years ago today — “Teenage Mummy” was very much alive and well in Westport.
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