Chucklehead’s The Legend of Craggy John

This was meant to be a much longer piece but, much like Werner Herzog’s “Fitzcarraldo” and Terry Gilliam’s doomed “Man of La Mancha,” it was hit with obstacles of epic proportions. Much of it was shot on Super-8 in New Jersey and Central Park, but then the Super-8 camera got stolen.

I have only vague memories of shooting this. Having a guy bring a suitcase on a hike was a nice touch, and I believe it was Jay’s idea. As for Craggy John’s hawk friend Mojave flying, there was a lot of conjecture on how it was done? Built-in remote-control airplane? Stop-action animation? A matte shot? The simple truth is that Mohave’s right wing was on a stick. I believe Mark Sarto, who played Craggy John, actually assembled Mojave, as he was the silly propmeister for the troupe.

I don’t know whether it’s clear from this footage, but the original premise was that Craggy John put the campers in harm’s way so that he could save their lives. But, over the course of it all, he became more and more injured. And so he sent Mojave off to attack them out of revenge. At least, that’s the way I remember it.

Note the severed hand. Whenever things got slow, we’d have Mark cut off his hand. My favorite was when he was playing a nerd taking a class in making sushi in “The Learning Hut.” Distracted by a beautiful nerdette played by Ronnie, he lets the knife slip and, well, you get the picture.

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2 Comments

  1. Rob, My super 8mm camera wasn’t stolen in 1984 — that was the fate that befell my VHS video camera 3 years after Craggy John! What happened with Craggy is that I was shooting everything in sound Super 8mm film, and using the VHS for behind-the-scenes clips (Susie was shooting). About midway through the wilderness park shoot (one of 5-6 days of Craggy locations around NY and NJ), the super 8mm sound started to stutter, and then stopped working. I went to Plan B — VHS. That Super 8 version would’ve been killer! As it was, we ended up adding a broken-headed woodsman statuette to narrate the boiled-down epic. What I also recall from the wilderness shoot is jamming four C-heads into my tiny Honda Civic along with Susie, for the ride from and back to the train station. It was like a circus clown act.

    • Thanks for clarifying, Doug, and by legitimizing this site by commenting. The only thing I left out is I seem to remember being on some cliff in Central Park and was nervous about hanging off it. So, we had me sort of lie on a steep descent and someone filmed or taped me from above to make it look like I was hanging off a cliff. Seems like we spent a considerable amount of time on that one–didn’t we?


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