Thursday, November 13, 2014

Squirrely Comedy Unspools in Wisconsin

It's a toss-up which is weirder: the history of the Gerold Opera House, which is playing host to Wisconsin's 4th Annual Weyauwega International Film Festival November 12th-15th. Or the plotline of the closing night mockumentary, Bucky and the Squirrels.

Let's start with the the Gerold. In 1939, Bill Peterson purchased the joint from his aunt and moved in with his newlywed family and relatives in 1942:

They built an apartment in the lower half of the building on the west side. The front room was [young son] Dennis’s. He had a big Lionel Train set up in the corner and whenever the film distributors would come by, they would have to play with the trains before they would talk business. Dennis’s sisters lived in the middle room and his parents by the kitchen. His mother had a coal burning cook stove in the kitchen. Dennis said that whatever happened in town happened at the theater. A governor had spoken there once. They had weddings, dances, auctions as well as movies.

This Saturday's closing night feature was originally titled Long Live the Squirrels. It's about a 1968 one-hit Wisconsin group that, after crashing that same year in the Swiss Alps, is discovered five decades later and cryogenically revived.

The faux documentary was shot locally in Appleton last year, with a sizable amount of help from Lawrence University students. At the helm is writer-director Allan Katz who, before he became involved with TV series like Laugh In, M*A*S*H and Roseanne, wrote the ad copy for popcorn snack Screaming Yellow Zonkers.

[Bucky and the Squirrels]

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