Tag Archives: Ralph Bluemke

Sixty Years Later, Town’s “Teenage Mummy” Lives On

“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.

Life Magazine covered the movie story.

“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.

Teen idol Pat Boone gave the movie a boost.

“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.

(If a story happened — or happens — here, “06880” covers it. Please click here to support our non-profit. Thank you!)

The cast of “I Was a Teenage Mummy.”

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.