STUDIO: Cinema Epoch
MSRP: $29.98
RUNNING TIME: 480 minutes
• All 41 of Don Glut’s amateur films w/ commentary
• Behind-the-scenes featurette
• Bonus short films
• Creature featurette
• Photo galleries

The Pitch

"It’s what would happen if HGTV aired shows with interesting topics."

The Humans

Mostly Don Glut, the subject of the film. Also, appearances from his mothers, childhood friends, Forest J. Ackerman, Scott Shaw, and others.

Read my review of The Mummy’s Kiss – Second Dynasty

The Nutshell

During Don Glut’s childhood, between the years of 1953 and 1969, he oversaw production on forty-one amateur films. We’re talking "Hey, we’ve got a camera and sort of an idea" style amateur, the opportunistic method of passing long summer afternoons. Whatever the quality of the actual films, the process of shooting them and doing just about all the post-production himself makes for an insightful origin story behind a minor influence and his corresponding technology.

Next step on Johnny’s descent into office supply abuse:
freebasing HP ink cartridges.

The Lowdown

As the venerable sage William Cosby once said, "I started out as a child." Individuals always have something to gain by reflection on their own childhoods. For example, I gain a newfound appreciation for pasteurization while meditating on my experience gulping goat’s milk straight from the bucket. With such events contributing to a kid actually becoming a human being, it’s easy to see why we’re often interested in the childhoods of our favorite entertainers, politicians, and other boring people. We want to see the humble origins, because we’ve already got an impression of the lofty heights.

While Don Glut, the prolific subject of I Was A Teenage Movie Maker, never quite reached the nosebleed level, he did become widely-known enough to attract the interest of such filmmakers as John Carpenter. So, instead of being a nostalgia piece, about the life of a familiar face back when it had baby fat, this documentary is an education in childish enthusiasm, as well as in the techniques of filmmaking back in the fifties and sixties.

"Nein! Halten Sie! Dieses ist eine gutes… Deal! Ja! Tires sind neu!"

It’s got a playful tone, with intercut images that add humor to Glut’s memories of his youthful drive. There’s a sense of style to the whole thing that is somewhat dissipated by the bottom-shelf production values. There’s also the sense, never fully staved off, that this is a vanity piece, with Glut carrying the majority of the interviews, and puffing himself up either shamelessly or unknowingly.

Teenage Movie Maker ends up minorly misguided sort of doc — educational, but not in the way it seems to have been intended. Instead of giving an interesting profile of Mr. Glut himself, it serves as a handy, entry-level education into the history of home cinema. Glut initially began filming movies because he wanted something to show off in his living room, back when films were viewable in the cinema, and there were no methods of obtaining run films for home exhibition. It’s an interesting slice of old format America, in which movies were available primarily to crowds. This was back when DIY was the only way to DI.

Not to worry, fellow citizens. He’s just trying to get noticed on BoingBoing.

Glut fashioned himself a thick portfolio of monster movies, ripoffs, and dinosaurs, growing more sophisticated in technique as he went along. The depth of insight into the arcana of editing, makeup, special effects, and the like isn’t quite enough to carry the interest of the audience. It’s too shallow; though it could provide an introductory film course with a lot of good material, it lacks context and comparison to modern technique.

As a character story, Teenage Movie Maker has too narrow a focus; as an educational film on film technique, it lacks breadth of material. Modern young filmmakers don’t face many of the challenges that Glut did when he started out, and any audience will be ambivalent toward the prospect of watching the man overcome them for himself.

A taste of things to come.

The Package

There is plenty of padding on this two disc set. Most notably, all forty-one of Glut’s amateur movies are included, most with optional commentary by the filmmaker. These shorts are fun to watch, in bits and pieces, but aren’t really included for the entertainment value. Glut’s commentaries are filled with little nuggets of amateur wisdom, and reminiscing about various setbacks encountered while he was learning the craft.

There are a few bonus short films outside Glut’s teenage productivity, and a behind-the-scenes featurette, as well as an extended featurette on the creation of one of Glut’s favorite monsters: Count Gore DeVol. Add a little mortar around the edges with some photo galleries, and you’ve got a body of work suitable for a library, though not quite up to those institutions’ editorial standards.

6.7 out of 10