By Mary Kerr
A truly brilliant scab
Last week I rediscovered an old film outtake I consider comedy gold.
Here’s the backstory –
NYC, 2005. There was a boy in my class at film school called Ernest Slaughter. I still remember him not only because of his name but also his love of Beetlejuice and his epic thesis film. At film school some people make music videos, some make short films but Ernie Slaughter made his ‘Batman film.’
Apparently everyone has a Batman film inside them and Ernie had quietly been shaping his for years. In classes and workshops, whilst pushing forward shot lists and script revisions for a very serious 9/11 homage to those who had fallen, Ernie was secretly harbouring another dream. The 9/11 movie which his parents had heavily invested in and hoped would put Ernie firmly on the road to Hollywood was their dream not his.
As night fell on the final day before shooting, Ernie called his crew together.
“I’m not making my 9/11 movie.” He said. “It’s my parents dream, not mine.” He cleared his throat. “I’ve decided I’m going to make MY BATMAN FILM!” And in one great ta-dah moment Ernie pulled off a huge dust sheet to reveal a top of the range $5000 batman costume. Every cent of his parents investment now existed in this leather masterpiece, from the smooth, black chest armour to the iconic pointy ears.
The problem was that Ernie had no money left for anything else. Every cent was in the suit. Anyway what else did he really need? He had a suit and a dream. And a cast. However, when he told his lead actress that she was no longer going to be starring in this very serious drama, she pulled out, and one by one the rest of the cast followed.
This was why we had been summoned. We were still in our assigned crew roles, but we were now being asked to play the various characters of Gotham City.
Ernie would of course be playing Batman. The 19 year old producer would be playing the 50 year Lt Gordon, I at 24 would play his ageing wife, the lighting guy would play a troubled youth and at the last minute Ernie had found a comic book fanatic to play the joker who amazingly came with his own costume.
The shoot lasted five days with highs and lows that could rival Gilliam. Ernie of course directed, as Batman, in the full Batman suit and therefore was not able to turn his head to talk without turning his whole body around. I thought this was hilarious. Tony, the guy playing the Joker showed up on set in costume which ended up being more of a pyjama onesie. My ‘husband’ and I were aged with the old school theatre trick of chalk in the hair and the whole thing came to a head when a drugs bust happened a few doors down one night and we all assembled outside to see the drama go down.
Every day I would say to Ernie. “Ernie, seriously, this could be such an amazing comedy.” And he would turn slowly, his pointy little ears swooping down at me and say – “Mary this is NOT a comedy.” And that’s how it went down. A serious fan tribute to a serious superhero.
Unfortunately all that is left of this epic film are two outtakes that I have linked at the bottom here. To me, they are pure comedy.
This footage is from the final set up where Batman, standing undefeated at the top of a skyscraper looks down upon his city before spreading his wings to the sky and diving head first back down to fight crime once again. One man, a costume, a dream and no crash mats…
Ernie Slaughter I salute you.