Remembering ‘Comrade’

Posted: April 27, 2012 in Uncategorized
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I somewhat have a head for dates. My old friends used to joke about that fact, but I’m far from being like actress Marilu Henner who remembers every single day of her life. Now, that’s amazing. In addition to some useful dates, I tend to remember more obscure ones like the anniversary of one of the Super 8mm films that my friends and I produced during adolescence.

The latest anniversary came to me in March 2012 when the 30th anniversary of our short re-make of the Clark Gable classic, Comrade: X rolled around. Well, it wasn’t exactly a “re-make;” we just copied the title because it sounded cool… As teenagers we discovered a little something about the Cold War. We were somewhat fascinated by the psycho warfare between the United States and the Soviet Union. Those feelings pretty much ended there since we were typical apathetic American teenage boys. So, my film-making buddy Dan and I set out to film the short with me playing the American hero who battles the Soviets who planned to bomb the White House and put the U.S. under Russian rule. For the role of Stephen Harlowe, I put on my best jacket, cords and boots to play a nerdy hero who stumbles upon the Soviet’s secrets. In the film, the unlikely hero Stephen battles “the KGB” and an evil dictator by the name of Comrade: X played by my other friend Chuck.

I’m not trying to over-analyze a Super 8 film from my youth, but I think our short version of Comrade: X is somewhat telling in retrospect. Like millions of others who have grown up in America, I was a kid raised on the “Clint Eastwood of good versus evil” model. That basic motif plays out in so much of our modern media. No, I wasn’t anywhere near part of that 1950s “duck and cover” generation who were most likely a bit more aware of the U.S.-Soviet tensions, but we had our concerns in the early 1980s. Not terribly far after we filmed Comrade: X, the television film, The Day After was released and it certainly had an impact on me.

After filming that short, my friends and I produced two sequels — both almost 30 minutes in length, quite an expensive feat in those days: The Last Day and The Optimist. The Last Day shows Stephen being kidnapped by the masked KGB and taken to the Baltic Sea to build a Soviet nuclear bomb. The Optimist deals with its predecessor’s fallout.

So, here I am 30 years later reflecting that those issues are quite trivial compared to what the world is dealing with today. My daughter has been producing video shorts for the past few years, some of which deal with current events. I wonder how she will reflect upon those projects 30 years from now.


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