Cut to a wider reverse-shot, we see the Truck Driver (TD) at his workstation. The aforementioned film mold appears in a triglyph manner in this, the fourth shot. A proscenium arch of curtains, shutters, and glass frames our first hint of the outside world where the action is to take place. TD gazes at the monitor – the world reinterpreted via ones and zeds (“zeros”); and his hand in motion seemingly with a pencil. What is he thinking?
It is an off-cited fact that the military uses technology thirty years more advanced than what is available to the average consumer. With this in mind, we cut back to the computer display monitor itself. It features dark text on a light background in three (not five) groups: a header at the top, subtitle to the right, and an interesting numerical array that is in flux. A formula as narrative. Recalling that in 1983 the more typical graphic style would have been light text – perhaps green or amber – on a dark background – the zeitgeist would not change until the early-1984 introduction of Macintosh with its notorious 16-bit monochromatic GUI. Are we to infer that the Truck Driver is therefore clairvoyant or using military-funded industrial technology from the future? The more pressing question is whether he is actively or passively using the terminal: is he monitoring a situation or engaged in the action? The numbers: are they coordinates? If they are coordinates: are they terrestrial or celestial? A shadow occurs half-way through: another character, love interest, sibling, or all three? These are all questions that demand answers.
We cut to a wider shot with the aforementioned computer monitor in the background – seemingly the brainchild of a character whom we will dub the Truck Driver for reasons which will later become apparent. He (and I can say this with confidence as the younger Artist Himself did not know any women besides his sisters) is typing on a Commodore 64 home computer. Note the lazy punching of the keys: his hands do not stray far from the center of the keyboard. A floppy drive, desk lamp, and damaged telephone completes the scene. Given its release date of August 1982, we can date this shot to no earlier than Fall 1982 – placing the creator square in seventh grade.
Eight seconds of early-1980s computer graphics open the film. The imagery appears to be created on a (then) state-of-the-art Commodore 64 – 320×200 resolution in 16 colors running a basic BASIC routine to display what is presumably the title sequence. We see two bands of white at the top followed by the text itself, the name of the film – “The Creature from Outer Space”, credit to the authors – Evan Mather, John Emeigh, the remainder – a curiousity. Of these last four words – which are in fact screened back in a darker shade – the second of which appears to be a number of some kind, the year of filming, 1983. One might then infer that the first word is “Copyright” and the last two – a mystery. Note that the fungus from sitting in a box for thirty-one years is still visible.
Leader film is more than just a strip of white tape. It is a transition from reality into interpretation – think the velvet red curtain at the Chinese Theater. We wait as the leader film calibrates the projector – lest it chew up your family vacation to Lake Erie. Leader film is all about anticipation – we know something is coming and wait. Patiently. The waiting can be nearly painful. The leader could be longer than the feature presentation. Imagine a film of just leader film = 100% suspense. Leader film as title sequence.
But what is special about these thirty-three frames of Super-8 film leader? They are an archive of the 31 years of fungus growing on an undeveloped cartridge.
A few months ago, my mom found an undeveloped Super-8 cartridge in the attic. Not knowing what was on it – or whether any images could in fact be recovered – I sent the 23-year old film (my remembered estimate of filming in 1991) to the lab to be developed. Update: the film was recoverable – and is in fact a complete b/w short film from … 1983.