Tuesday, November 01, 2005

'Crash Gordon' World Premiere in Charleston on Friday

This Friday we get a rare chance to attend a world premiere right here in Charleston. I'm talking about "Crash Gordon," the newly re-dubbed spoof by West Virginia filmmaker Bill Richardson. Not only is this your chance to see the first public showing of "Crash Gordon," at the moment, it's the only scheduled showing. So, if you like wild comedy with clunky robots, you won't want to miss out on this chance to catch this flick.

I traded e-mails with Bill, and he told me about the creative process:
"The origin of this film began several years ago when I learned that there were a number of really great movies in the public domain. When something is in the public domain it basically means that everyone owns it. As an independent filmmaker I began looking for ways to use this discovery to help me make my first feature film.

After extensive research I decided that I would take the four-and-a-half hour serial "Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe" and turn it into a 90-minute comedy. The original film had a lot of unintentionally funny elements like silly robots, clunky spaceships and odd aliens and I felt I could build on those things and add a lot of other humor as well. The result is a film that has a very modern comedic sensibility but retains the visual character of the original film, with its soaring art deco sets and vintage sci-fi elements.

I have written dozens of scripts but this was by far the most difficult one I’ve ever done. Usually you start out with a blank page and can then let your imagination have free reign. In this case the visual part of the film was a given and I had to develop a plot, characters and jokes to fit the images. As a result, I spent hundreds and hundreds of hours with a remote control in my hand rewinding and playing the original footage. It was a huge challenge. Not only did I have to come up with jokes that were funny, but I had to craft the wording of them so that they fit the lips of the characters on screen. A good joke is very hard to write. You have to use exactly the right words, in the right rhythm, with the right setup."

The cast for "Crash Gordon" had to be adept at comedy, and flexible enough to do a sort of reverse lip-synch to match the footage. Crash Gordon, the lead character, is played by Dan Henthorn. Dan worked on "Falcon Crest" and has done summer stock and a lot of local theater. K.C. Bragg plays the scientist Dr. Jagov. Bill spotted K.C. when he was Hamlet in a local Charleston stage production. The female lead is Dull Ardent and she is played by Cindy McCoy. Cindy is a drama teacher at a small college in Williamson. She's done voiceover work on some of Bill's documentary projects.

The evil Emperor Bing is played by musician and actor Will Taylor. Another large role in the film is Captain Dork. He is Emperor Bing’s main henchman and is a thorn in the heroes' side throughout the movie. Captain Dork is voiced by actor/singer/would-be-governor Jesse Johnson. Jim Damron, who was in both "Forest Gump" and "Matewan" played two different characters in the film, Captain Thong and Harelip.

Richardson assembled a troupe of voice artists to assay the minor incidental and background roles. Greg Harpold, Jeff Bukovinsky, Jason Dunbar, Jamie Dunbar and Richardson himself all voiced several different characters in the film. Bill tells me that some of the funniest lines in the movie are delivered by this little troupe.

"Crash Gordon" promises to be a unique West Virginia film experience. This is your chance to attend the first public showing of a movie that may very well become a huge cult hit. The premiere is 7 p.m. Friday night at the Capitol Center Theater on Summers Street with a Q-and-A with Richardson after the film. For more on the film fest, see the official festival site here.

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