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Arts and Entertainment


Film professor's 1973 horror movie comes back to life
Cinematheque uncovered the film after the director's former student put clips on Youtube
by WKSU's VIVIAN GOODMAN


Reporter
Vivian Goodman
 
The late Cleveland actress Marji Dodrill played a leading role in The Wednesday Children
Courtesy of Jorge Delarosa
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Kent State University emeritus professor Robert West will reunite with cast members of his 1973 horror movie, "The Wednesday Children" this weekend at the Cleveland Cinematheque.  The thriller about children falling under a demon's spell was filmed in Wadsworth on a very low budget and faded into obscurity after only a few local showings. But West believes its message about the need to listen to our children is just as relevant today.

 

The Wednesday Children live again

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Bob West believes his 1973 film,  “The Wednesday Children”, is still relevant. “It’s a message about kids.  How to relate to them. What happens if you don’t.” 

West, an emeritus professor of journalism  at Kent State University, shot “The Wednesday Children” in 16 millimeter. He wrote, directed and starred in it, too.

 “I played the role of a minister in a small church in Medina County and I just happen to be a minister in a small church in Medina County. So I played myself.”   

At 85, West still preaches once a month, and still teaches at Kent State. He was on the edge of the beat poetry movement when he joined the faculty in 1975, and the beat sensibility is reflected in his movie.

“Part of the Beat Generation was the generation gap which started in the mid-50s. If you tell your children they can’t do this and you do it. You can’t smoke. And you do. You can’t drink, and you do. It becomes obvious that it’s hypocritical and that generation gap is pointed in this film.”

West made the movie on what he calls “ half a shoestring”.

The money-man was the late Homer Baldwin, a Wadsworth cable television producer. West says Baldwin came up with the title from the old nursery rhyme. “Wednesday’s child is full of woe. ”

It’s about a group of kids who come under the spell of a demon who turns them against their neglectful parents. Most of the action takes place in a barn where the kids play after school, and where they meet the man West calls the villain of the movie, Mr. Fenton.

He is the custodian at the church, who is not what he seems to be. He’s cynical and he has the power, a secret power he’s going to give to the kids so they can take over the country and the world.”  

Many of the actors were amateurs, most of them Wadsworth school children.  Producer Homer Baldwin, who was also the head custodian at the high school, helped recruit them.

 West and Baldwin had met when West, then a radio and advertising executive, first moved to Wadsworth:

 “I was teaching film at John Carroll University and on Saturdays or Sunday nights we’d show those films at my home. I had a movie projector downstairs and a wide screen.  So these people came over and watched movies. So he said he wanted to make a movie. I said well, ‘I want to write a movie.’” 

West has loved movies since the age of two “ My aunt took me as a youngster to downtown Cleveland to see Will Rogers in a movie called ‘Jubilo.’

My father would only go to see a movie if Will Rogers was in it. So we went to see at the old Jennings theater, Will Rogers in ‘Steamboat ‘Round the Bend. ’”

His taste turned quickly, though, from the wholesome to the horrific.

 “ ‘The Invisible Man’ with Claude Rains. That hooked me. And my mother and I, my father wouldn’t go, my mother and I went to see a lot of horror films and I got hooked on horror films.  I think the master of them all is producer Val Lutin and his movies for RKO including ’The Cat People’ , ‘The Leopard Man’ , ‘I Walked with a Zombie’ ”

But today’s horror films…horrify him …and not in a good way.

 “Torture porn films I have no use for. ‘Saw’, ‘Hostel’, films like those.” 

By contrast, West follows Siegfried Kracauers’ 1960 “Theory of Film” . At Kent State, it’s on his film students’ reading list.

And he says if you’re going to do fantasy, ground it in reality.”  

 “The Wednesday Children” exposes the banality of evil in the middle of sunny Wadsworth.

 “No blood. No night scenes. One of the critics labeled it a daylight horror film.”

He’s citing a 1973 Plain Dealer review.  

A modern-day critic, West’s former film student Jorge DeLarosa, loves the reality of “The Wednesday Children”, but he’s realistic about how it would go over today.

 “By today’s standards kids watching it would be bored. It doesn’t have the action. It doesn’t have the violence and the language and the blood and the fast cuts. It’s a lot of talk. But that talking goes somewhere. There is subtlety. It’s great. I love the movie.”

Delarosa singlehandedly saved his teacher’s film.   Professor West hadn’t mentioned “The Wednesday Children” in the class Delarosa took. He learned about it from other students and persuaded West to let him have the only VHS copy of the film. Delarosa used that and his newly-learned editing skills to make a trailer for the movie.

Back in 1973, “The Wednesday Children” was publicly screened only a few times.

West is grateful to his former student for putting the trailer on the internet where it  caught the attention of the late lead actress’s daughter. 

 “ He got it on Youtube and that’s where the daughter of Marji Dodrill saw it and then got to John Ewing at the Cinematheque, and then he saw the preview and decided he should show it on October 29th this year as one of his Halloween films and then he invited me and the cast to talk after the film. The whole thing came from Jorge.”  

West never made a penny from his film:

   “ I actually probably lost money. I don’t care. I did what I wanted to do. I always wanted to make a movie. The opportunity came. It worked out pretty well."

The only film print of Bob West’s “The Wednesday Children”  will be shown Saturday night at 7 at the Cleveland Cinematheque.  

Images with audio

Jorge Delarosa says Professor West serves as an inspiration as he produces his own horror film. It's working title is Mantua Volume One


Jorge Delarosa says Professor West serves as an inspiration as he produces his own horror film. It's working title is Mantua Volume One

(Click image for larger view.)


Related Links & Resources
Cleveland Cinematheque film schedule

Listener Comments:

I was thrilled to find this site! My Dad was in this movie, he supplied one of his radio controlled airplanes and flew it for the movie. I have been searching for this movie for 25 plus years! My Dad is 78 years old now.I wish I had saw this post last year. I remember going to see it at the Akron Civic Theatre. I would love to obtain a copy of this for him. I didn't realize that it only showed locally. I was 10 when I saw it. Is it possible to obtain a copy of this movie? My Dad's name is Ron Plogger. Thank you!

Laurie Houghton


Posted by: Laurie Houghton (Richfield, Ohio) on September 6, 2012 10:09AM
As a current Kent State grad student and president of a small film society in Mississippi, I would love to get a copy of this for screening and review.


Posted by: John Hanks (Mississippi) on November 2, 2011 12:11PM
Bob West hired me to be the afternoon drive DJ on WJW 850 when he was program director there. I'll always be grateful to Bob for that.
Bob and his wife Nancy made working for him a family affair. A number of us who worked for him were single at the time and were invited to holiday meals at their home.
And yes, I remember well when the film debuted.
Thanks Bob!!!!
Ted Lux


Posted by: Ted Lux (Brecksville) on October 31, 2011 9:10AM
Being a part of making this film is a cherished memory for me and it's wonderful to see the renewed interest in it. Many thanks to all for having the screening. Dad would have enjoyed this event(and would have filmed it and made into a documentary too).


Posted by: laurel baldwin (bellingham WA) on October 30, 2011 12:10PM
It would be fun to do it over again.


Posted by: Doug West (Seville) on October 29, 2011 4:10AM
So So So pleased to see Dr. West still thriving, my advisor back in my telecom days @KSU...When I graduated I was in Akron radio for a few years but realized I had to grow up. I sit at a desk now and that is not such a bad thing...

Thanks Dr. West!


Posted by: David V. Bartholomew (Cleveland) on October 28, 2011 2:10AM
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