By Edna Wright
Glennray Tutor and Deborah Freeland, in their individual time and space, never went through the process of choosing a profession. They have always been artists. Together, they have created a fun Sci-fi movie based on one of Glennray’s paintings.
If you are a “Baby Boomer;” if you grew up watching serials at the movies with rocket men as they crossed the screen in supersonic flight with faintly seen ropes attached to their backs; if you knew the monsters were really people dressed in horrendous costumes but you were scared and delighted anyway; if you read and collected comic books; if you knew that the ferocious, roaring ‘B’ movie dinosaurs were really lizards with paper fins glued to their backs; if you knew that the giant killer spiders were really captive tarantulas filmed up close and controlled with strings; and if you still find joy in all these things, then you are going to love “I Was A Space Refugee, The Movie.”
Deborah Freeland grew up in Houston, Texas when this country was in the space race with Russia. In the early 1960s, all the astronauts lived in Houston and could be seen on and off the TV screen. She remembers driving past John Glenn’s house and saw the first human to orbit the earth in outer space, mow his lawn. In the 1970s, Deborah hosted a TV show broadcast over the Ole Miss Network. With “Around the Square,” she interviewed locals of interest, one of whom was her friend from art graduate school at the University of Mississippi, Glennray Tutor. They talked about his Halloween series of drawings and realized they had a mutual joy of comic books, ‘B’ movies, sci-fi and all things scary. Though the tapes from these conversations have been lost, the dye was cast way back then.
Comic books and monster movies have starring roles in the spaces of Glennray Tutor and fellow artist, Deborah Freeland. After many years of amazing portraiture, Deborah has recently become a movie producer. With the loyal support of Deborah’s friends who believe in her multiple talents, and a cast of characters, both real and animated; these two artists melded their talents to produce a 15-minute spoof of comic books and B-movies of the ’50s. With a smile, Glennray describes it as “..a spoof and sort of serious at the same time.”
Mark Parker, the CEO of Nike, admires Tutor’s paintings and commissioned the painting that became the inspiration and title for the movie. Deborah used still photographs made as the painting progressed to document the progress and to become a metaphor of Glennray’s struggle to create a painting. As Deborah states, “objects are powerful in our memories in the way that music is powerful in our memories, and Glennray’s objects are so real that it seems as if the objects are coming out of the canvas.”
Glennray remembers every comic book he collected as a child and every page he read and every panel he saw. All who are familiar with his work understand this. Tutor had an extensive comic book collection until he discovered girls. He sold his precious collection to buy a $5 bottle of Channel #5 for “…the love of my life,” who left him a week later. So much for his effort to leave childhood. By the time he was 30 years old, he had replaced 90 percent of his collection of comics, Mad Magazines and monster magazines. All of us who enjoy his vivid paintings have benefitted from this effort to return to childhood. The similarities and differences of adulthood and childhood are expressed in his paintings. The cosmic infinity of time and space is seen in the endless depth and beauty of his childhood marbles. Adult and childish use of gunpowder is explicit in the graphic fireworks.
Glennray remembers first seeing comic books when he was about 3 years old. When he was 7 or 8 years old, he saw a Mad Magazine on a high shelf in a store. He couldn’t reach it and couldn’t buy it, but he fell in love with the cover art.
He found the first one he owned on a rotary stand in a grocery store. It was about Tor, a cave-man character who lived a million years ago. Tutor found his second comic book about the same time. Robots of the Lost Planet is the story of robots taking over the plant and how humans regain it. Glelnnray didn’t read these early comics, he memorized every panel.
Deborah did all the editing, animation work and special effects. She recruited real actors, Melody Watson as the Space Vixen and Steve Wooten as the Martian. Costume designer, Jessica Ham, created the perfect costumes for the actors based on the figures in the painting.
Originally, Deborah and Glennray thought they would set the action to Mozart, but it didn’t really work. Glennray turned to another of his talents- composing music. He not only wrote the songs but recorded his music accompanied by fellow musician, Mark Carroll. One simple painting has evolved into a surprising fantasy of costumed actors, vivid special effects and animation, original music and a fun story.
Make sure you treat yourself to this movie. It will be screened as part of the 2017
Oxford Film Festival, at the Malco Theater on Jackson Avenue, Sunday, February 9, at 12 noon.