Sometimes a movie really can be saved in the editing room. Such was the case when my grisly horror film, Gein and Bates vs. Leatherface, inexplicably transformed into my charming children’s film, The Adventures of Milo and Otis.
Up in some Wisconsin middle of nowehereness, my crew and I were busy robbing local graves for props. Official shooting hadn’t begun, but I had my second unit director go out to film some local wildlife for cutaways and stuff like that. We only expected him to be gone a day or two, but when he still wasn’t back three weeks later, we figured he was dead and ordered another camera.
Then, while we were filming Leatherface romantically persuading Norman Bates to come over to his side, this guy walks back onto the set carrying our lost camera and twelve canisters of shot film.
“What the fuck are you doing? Where have you been?” I screamed at him.
His face beamed and his eyes opened like stupid, innocent saucers. “The most amazing thing happened!”
“Fuck your most amazing thing! You’re fired! No wait, you’re not fired. HA! Yes you are, I just wanted to fire you twice because you’ve got half the brains of two idiots!” Sorry. This is how I act when away from L.A. too long.
Anyway, we continued with the horror film. When it was finished I locked myself into the editing room only to find that my film was a complete bastard disaster. All of the props we spent so much time stealing backfired by looking horribly fake on the screen. And no amount of makeup could hide the fact that Kelsey Grammer was a poor man’s Anthony Perkins. Gein and Bates vs. Leatherface was too embarrassing to ever release, a two million dollar travesty. I put a gun to my head and started counting down from three, when I happened to see those B-roll canisters I’d been using as beer coasters and “touchable” boobies on my playboy calenders. “What the hell,” I said and threaded them up.
What this guy had filmed was hours and hours of a cat and dog dicking around with other animals in a bunch of different natural settings. When watched in sequence, a silent little story appeared: cat and dog are friends, they leave the farm, get separated, and have to find each other again, badda-bing badda-bang. I don’t know how he did it, but with a minimal amount of shaping, this three-act story structure really came through. He must have had a lot of cats and dogs though, because each animal they encounter in the unedited footage ends in death. Watching a kitten get killed by a crab is one of the most horrifically erotic things I’ve ever seen.
Immediately I called one of my ex-babysitters, J.K. Rowling, whose Milo and Otis earnings bought her that car she lived in for a while. After turning in the script, she recommended Dudley Moore as the narrating voice of God. I didn’t think that was a bad idea. Having a British guy as the voice of God leads to all kinds of funny in-jokes about how British Imperialism really was a Holy endeavor. That joke never really caught on, but it still lives in my heart.
With these two elements I had a finished film in four days. I tried to call the guy who shot it to tell him the news, but I was sadly informed that he’d committed suicide. Oh well, at least he left behind one hell of an omelet.
There’s not a whole lot to say about the finished film, other than it made my money back times…about four. Otis, the dog, is a pug, and I have a theory about pugs. My theory is that after God invented the “If my dog were as ugly as you I’d shave his butt and make him walk backwards” joke, he wanted to see what that would really look like. Even when they breathe it sounds like air coming in and out of a butthole. God’s funny like that. He’s no Chris Farley, but he’s funny.
Milo, the cat, is pretty cute, but he’s still a cat. All cats are the same to me: killers. I don’t care how much you think your cat loves you. If you woke up two inches tall tomorrow, your cat would torture then kill you whether it recognizes you or not. Cats aren’t domesticated. They’re just small. I have ten and I keep an eye on every fucking one.
(thanks to Beth Herlocker for the recommendation)