Fortunately, I know the answer. The smoke bomb is on my desk because I put it there. And, technically speaking, it’s not a bona fide smoke bomb, but rather a smoke test candle. All I know is that the last time I lit the fuse on one of these puppies – some 33 years ago – it did a damned good smoke bomb impersonation.
Did I say 33 years ago? Jesus Christ.
It was a freezing cold day on Gooch’s Beach…or was it Goose Rocks Beach? At any rate, my pal John and I were, as I’m sure many of our classmates were doing on that weekend in mid-winter, wrapping up principal photography on a film. Our Super 8 epic motion picture, Two Bony Parts That Hold the Teeth and Frame the Mouth, a subtle spoof of Jaws, would soon be unleashed upon Kennebunk High School, though I’m sure most of the viewers would be able to dredge up memories of the movie only through hypnosis.
Naturally, we had to blow up our shark, which had been rendered in white Play-Doh so realistically that it gave us the chills. Or maybe that was the wind whipping off the Atlantic in January. Either way.
Explosives were out of the question. No one wants to go to the hospital with burnt wads of Play-Doh lodged up his nose. Once is enough. So we got our hands on three smoke test candles, which are the size and shape of a .38 revolver’s cylinder, though slightly less intimidating, with a three-inch green fuse. I forget where we got them. At some point I’ll ask John and see if he remembers. Stay tuned for an update.
So we positioned the shark on a hump of sand with the ocean in the background. The plan was to frame the shot so that it would appear the shark was surfacing while exploding. Because neither one of us was an actual cinematographer, and because we had decided to forsake storyboards (ahh, I rue the day we forsook storyboards), naturally what ended up on the screen was a blob of Play-Doh with a fin on it lying on a hump of sand, smoking furiously, as though a smoke test candle had been lodged up its ass. Cinema gold, I tell you.
The first take was good enough for two reasons: 1. Super 8 film stock did not grow on trees, and 2. our standards were flexible. Considering the overall quality of the finished product, that Shark Death Scene was pretty much our Sonny Gets it at the Tollbooth Scene.
I’ve saved some mementos from our Has-Been Productions days (we could never be faulted for having overinflated egos), including the films, shooting scripts, drawings, stills, props, and technical devices, including the two unexploded smoke test candles from Two Bony Parts (I’ll spare you the rest of the title; once is enough…which, coincidentally, is exactly what the audiences said).
I’ve been doing some spring cleaning lately, weeding through boxes of photographs, writings, documents, magazines, and ephemera (which, in the case of our movie artifacts, probably isn’t ephemera enough). Why do I still have these smoke bombs, and why is one of them on my desk? Is it because I expect to establish a Has-Been Productions Film Library and Museum? No, but since you ask, that’s not such a bad idea. After all, we hardly ever use the dining room. (Note to self: Sound out wife about founding a museum in our dining room.)
I suppose I’ve been meaning to send one of these puppies to John. Maybe he could turn it into a Christmas ornament. That’d be safe. But it seems every time I go to the post office to mail something, they ask – in a roundabout way – if what I’m mailing might possibly explode. I’d actually have to say yes, and I’m afraid what would come next.
We may have to meet for lunch.