“I Was a Teenage Movie Maker”

From 1953 to 1969, Donald F. Glut made amateur horror and science fiction movies. Shot in 16mm, these films became famous throughout the world. This feature length documentary explores Don’s 41 movies and the stories behind their creation.

Who is Don Glut (pronounced Gloot)?

I had no idea who the guy was.

Some of you reading this may know Mr. Glut (it’s Don, not Mr. Glut!)…errr…Some of you reading this may know Don from his 16mm fan made home movies, or his comic book writing, or his television work, or his independent features, or even from writing a book adaptation to the George Lucas Star Wars juggernaut, “The Empire Strikes Back”. I am embarrassed to say I was unaware of his works or his fan following even considering I owned comics and watched television he helped create. And how can this Star Wars geek not know who wrote the ‘Empire’ movie adaptation. Hopefully I can make penance in this article to Don.

I can guarantee hardly anyone knows who I am. I am just some guy with a deep appreciation for fan produced films or low budget independent films in the sci-fi, superhero, action/adventure, horror type genres. It was about last year at this time I was getting back into writing my old columns on what is known around the fanboy (and girl) community as “Fan Films”. Doing my usual search in Google I found this site which spotlighted all these older horror, sci-fi and superhero shorts. You would think I found the Holly Grail of fan films or something as I spent a great chunk of the evening reading through the site. I even went as far as trying to contact Don via email, but I think I disremembered and actually emailed the people/person at Teenage@FrontlineFilms.com with never a response.

Time travel a year later – I’m writing for the Comic Book Bin and had never forgotten about Don’s films. His website was still book marked in my favorites. I thought I would try to contact him again (using the right email address this time) and sure as heck the next day I received a response. He clued me into a DVD that was coming out October 4th appropriately named “I Was a Teenage Movie Maker” that contained 41 short films he had made in his youth. I contacted Cinema Epoch as Don had suggested to perhaps pimp myself an advanced copy as I had done countless times before. A week later my FedEx guy was being barked at by my dogs – as he had been countless times before – delivering the Cinema Epoch package.

“I Was a Teenage Movie Maker” is contained on two DVDs with over nine hours of content including Don’s 41 fan films. Of course this is sold as a “making of” with the films being extras to avoid any licensing issues they may have with the powers that be who own the characters contained in the films. The feature length documentary that is included on the first disc introduces Mr. Don Glut giving a little background into his family. It was explained how Don’s mother had purchased a film camera for her husband who enjoyed taking movies of the family since the early 40’s. Don didn’t enter the scene until a while later being born on February 19th, 1944 in Pecos, Texas. Almost a year later, Don’s father, Frank C. Glut, who was a pilot in World War II, was killed in action on February 4th, 1945 over Benthe, Germany. It was speculated in the documentary that perhaps the direction Don had taken his life and his film career would have been different if his father had been there as an influence. That really made me think as to the people who are around me and how their influences kind of molded who I am today. I just thought it was a real surreal exercise wondering what would of happened if you turned left instead of right. I’m not sure if that was Don’s intensions, but it did make me think.

donglut_002We time warp once again to Don – age nine living in Chicago, IL., making his first amateur film, “Diplodocus at Large”, using his dad’s 16mm camera. Don went through each film talking out how they were put together explaining very simplistic special effects that could be done in a no budget film even showing the props used he had kept and reused all those years. One thing that was certain through his monologue was his mother was very supportive in his creative efforts even filling in as camera woman for Don’s early films or popping the popcorn for when he would show his films to the neighborhood kids in their basement. His mother does appear in the DVD’s documentary with some humorous anecdotes to tell. Don also seemed to go through his phases the same as Hollywood always does going strong with horror films (Frankenstein), then to dinosaurs, and in his teenage years – superheroes (Spider-Man).

In making these films Don also began to make contacts in the world of Hollywood and appearing in several horror periodicals of the time specifically beginning his writing career for the magazine Modern Monsters. These contacts and experience moved Don into other areas of entertainmnet such as writing for animation, comic books and yes…even the movie adaptation to “The Empire Strikes Back”. But the story goes full circle as we learn of Don’s present films with recent titles such as “The Mummy’s Kiss” or “Countess Dracula’s Orgy of Blood”. No – they aren’t blockbusters that you probably have heard of, but they are fulfilling Don’s life long goal of making film that he hopes to continue the rest of his years. In Don’s own words that I stole from another interview, “And comics – like TV animation – was always for me a stepping-stone to what I really wanted to do – make movies – which I’m doing now.”

I thought I would test Don’s knowledge of the Fan Films being made today and get his opinion on film in general. Don was kind enough to answer a few questions for the BIN:

FAN FILM FOLLIES (through Christopher Moshier): Are you familiar with today’s fan films?

DON GLUT: No, sorry, I haven’t been keeping up. The only other amateur movies I’m familiar with are the older ones by people like Bob Burns, Larry Ivie, Dick Andersen, Bob Greenberg, Ray Craig, Randal Kleiser, Randy Epstein, etc.

FFF: The studios you made your movies based on their creations didn’t really bug you back in the time…as I mentioned others are doing what you did once upon a time…why do you think Warner Brothers or Marvel are leaving these filmmakers alone?

donglut_003DG: Is it good for them to save face (just leaving these filmmakers alone) and at the same time promote their characters via free publicity? I really can’t say, other than that these movies were made by kids like me who loved the characters. So, in addition to our movies maybe being called “parodies,” they’re also “tributes” to those characters. And as such, I think they do promote interest in those characters, interest that inevitably translates into comic-book and movie ticket sales.

FFF: I think your story would make a perfect feel good movie. I mean from making and experimenting with your genre of film in your youth to finally making your higher (lower) budget movies with your own production company. True you are not Spielberg or Lucas – OF COURSE NOT! You’re DON! – and I am not comparing apples and oranges here, but to me there is a true success story as you are doing what we all love to do for a living – something we enjoy. Kind of like Ed Wood for the sci-fi age.

DG: Thanks, but I REALLY am tired of being compared with Ed Wood! I like to think that we’re more like apples and mushrooms. Also, I’m much taller than Lucas.

FFF: I viewed a film, “The Mummy’s Kiss: Second Dynasty” I know that was written and directed by you. It had lots of -skin- that I always try to encourage. Can I ask how well these movies are received? I can imagine there is a market or they would never be made. Is there still a big B-Movie market out there and what keeps you involved in it? Are your movies still considered B-Movies or am I just being way off base?

DG: I like to think of them as B-plus movies, and yes they do well, especially now that we have a new distributor, Cinema Epoch.

Hmmm…are you thinking of investing maybe?

FFF: In the documentary you have some great footage from the 1962 SCI-CON and the 1964 World’s Fair. I wish there was more time spent on these two topics in your documentary. How has the cons changed from the 60’s up to present time?

DG: The last Worldcon I attended was about 20 years ago. I think they used to me more fun, less commercial. Also, more of my friends that I liked hanging out with at the cons – Kirk Alyn, Russ Manning, Bob Clampett, Jack Kirby, etc. – are now gone. I can certainly say that, regarding the San Diego Comicons, I haven’t attended one in over a decade, even though I’m always on their pro guest list. Just too big and too commercial for my tastes.

FFF: You wrote the adaptation to a little know franchise called “Star Wars”, specifically the “Empire Strikes Back”. Not much was said about this on the DVD. How much input did you have in the story. How much did you add to the Star Wars lore in that adaptation?

DG: That’s a whole “nudder” story that there’s no time to get into here. Let’s just say I’m not and never have been a Star Wars fan, and the closest you’ll ever hear of me mentioning anything related to it in one of my own projects are references to that wonderful movie “THE VAMPIRE STRIKES BACK,” starring Tony Markham. You’ll note that I don’t refer ESB or to its producer by name on the DVD, nor in the book I’m writing for McFarland on the amateur movies. And there are reasons. It’s a sore spot, to say the least.

FFF: Not touched on it your DVD is the state of horror and the big boom of Superhero movies coming out of Hollyweird. What do you think about these movies in relation to the movies of old?

DG: The Spider-Man and X-Men movies are great, in my opinion. I’ve hated all the Batman movies except the last one and REALLY hated “HULK.” And I have reservations about the new “SUPERMAN RETURNS,” which I mostly liked, but which is also a topic unto itself.

FFF: Is there a fan film deep inside you that you want to make before you can’t make movies anymore? If you had the ultimate buDGet what movie would you be destined to make?

DG: It might have been “KING KONG,” but I hear somebody recently beat me to it on that one. Okay, now that that’s been done, maybe “TEENAGE DOLL.” And “FRANKENSTEIN” and “DRACULA” have yet to be done right as per Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker, respectively.

FFF: How has Hollywood or even underground film changed in your lifetime? With a cheaper and better (or maybe not so better) technology has that saturated the market or growing the market?

donglut_004DG: Most movies now look and sound like videogames, all fast cuts, loud noises and phony CGI effects that seem like hi-tech cartoons. I miss the old movies that had story and characterization and special effects that you didn’t take for granted.

FFF: Please promote yourself as to what you have coming up in the world of “Don Glut”?

DG: Oh, LOTS of things, including…”Dinosaur Valley Girls: The Novel”; “I Was a Teenage Movie Maker” original CD soundtrack; “Dinosaur Valley Girls” restored DVD; “I Was a Teenage Movie Maker: The Book”; the book “Dinosaurs: The Encyclopedia, Supplement 5″; oh, yes, the next two movies, “COUNTESS DRACULA AND THE MUMMY’S KISS” and “SHEWOLVES.” I think that’s all for now, but I’ve probably forgotten something.

So why should you purchase this DVD you may ask? For amateur filmmakers and fan filmmakers it’s a must have. Don was/is an innovator. This type of film making was unprecedented fifty years ago. We take picking up a video camera shooting some film then easily getting everything edited on our computer for granted in this day and age, but “I Was a Teenage Movie Maker” very nicely puts these type efforts into perspective. It took me two evenings to get through the entire double set DVD. I thoroughly enjoyed myself! You will too!

Make sure you check out Don Glut’s website for a lot more information on the filmmaker.

Facebook IconYouTube IconTwitter Iconfacebook like buttontwitter follow buttonSubscribe on YouTube