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Art Binninger's STAR TRIX: Of Clay And Cardboard

Tom Vs. Joe La Rita 17 - 24
Home | 1. Pre-Trix: Getting from There to Here | 1a. Tom Vs. Joe La Rita Filmography 1970-1972 | Tom Vs. Joe La Rita Episodes 9 - 16 | Tom Vs. Joe La Rita 17 - 24 | 2. Airman Art | 3. A Starship Is Born | 4. The Changing Scene | 5.The Second Time Around: STAR TRIX II | 6. Up In Smoke: STAR TRIX III | 7. Out of Uniform, Into the World | 8. The New Trek Begins | 9. Sidetracked and SMEGed | 10. Building Sets And Momentum | 10a Sliding Into Space | 11. Lights! Camera! Stop-Action! | 12. Kitchen Counter Cinema | 13. STAR TRIX: THE FLICK | 14. STAR TRIX: THE FLICK Reel 2 | 15. Silly Art, TRIX Are For Lawyers | 16. Moving On | 17. ESCAPE FROM VEGAPINTO | About Me | Favorite Links | Contact Me

17. THE MAGIC WAR

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Joe's cheating at cards and pops out when he's caught by Tom.

This is my first film of 1972 after acting as cameraman on Mark Kantor's and Russ Freitag's social studies project. I roped them into doing a bit for episode 18. 

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Tom doesn't like Joe's putting bunk beds in their room.

The rearranging of the room was shot once then edited switching back and forth. A wider lens on the camera would have made the changes more noticeable.

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After transporting Tom from the room, Joe's machine malfunctions.

This film was shot in late January 1972 when velour shirts were still popular. They show up brightly on film which is why they were originally used on Star Trek's first season.

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The device appears in Tom's hand and gives alien powers.

Since Tom was an Earthling, not all of Joe's powers worked the same way on him. Without antennaes, Tom was disappearing in flashes of color.

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Tom changes the room to its original setup but Joe changes it back.

The velour pullover shirts made the quick changes needed for the film go much quicker.

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Joe gets some of his tricks used against him by Tom.

While I still used the copper wire for levitating small objects, sometimes it was easier to just throw them. Like in this scene.

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Joe levitates a pillow at Tom.

The wires wouldn't hold the pillow so it got chucked at Tom too.

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Tom gets turned into a dog and tries to flea, I mean flee.

The family almost got a second dog but the first dog proved to be quite enough so Perry had to go. He did manage this shot at immortality.

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When Tom returns to human form his powers disappear.

After a frantic back-and-forth battle, Tom loses his powers as indicated by more marker-to-emulsion animation.

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When Joe regains the rest of his powers, all is back to "normal".

Joe regains his powers which brought an abrupt end to the battle and to the film.

18. DR. SMELBY AND THE BLACK AND WHITE ROOM

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Joe floats his Martian cold remedy from the desk.

In a return to the original idea from the summer of 1971, Joe's potent cold remedy drains the color from the room. The copper wire again serves to float the container.

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After spilling the medicine, Joe discovers it has drained the color from the room.

I think that the B&W filmstock I used was Verichrome Pan Super 8. It was grainier than the Kodachrome I usually shot for the series. 

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Unaware of Joe's goof, Tom calls Dr. Smelby about Joe's cold.

For a scene showing the phone book page, I drew up a few lines from the real Suffolk phone book and inserted Dr. Smelby's fake number into it.

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The doctor is dealing with a terminally annoying patient.

I served as cameraman on Mark Kantor and Russ Frietag's social studies project and here they perform together for my film.

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The doctor races off to see what this weird kid wants now.

Mark and I were both seniors in high school but Mark got his driving privileges first. Thus the doctor was spared the indignity of riding a bike to house calls.

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Tom discovers the subtle change in his room.

In keeping with my established habit of trying to shoot as much in sequence as possible, I would switch film cartridges (from color to B&W) when the scene called for it. The shot following this one would shift to B&W.

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Joe works on a counter-agent to be applied to his antennae.

Oops! The antennae clip is visible here and in other places as well. The frantic pace of shooting made me careless about little things like making the antennae seem like they were actually coming out of his head.

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Dr. Smelby tends to Joe's cold but soon discovers the lack of color.

Mark plays out the scene first done by Joe Aimetti where he discovers that the room and everything in it is monochrome.

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Joe showers the room with color rays, restoring things to normal.

For this shot I took a B&W enlargement of Tom with his antennaes and animated the color rays on cels over it. From the hair in the bottom of the shot, this scene was apparently photographed on the same camera as the opening titles.

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Dr. Smelby, who prefers normal himself, flees the house.

Mark had to hold his position so I could swap the B&W cartridge for the color one. He propped himself against the projection table for a minute or so for me to switch film. Then the action proceeded normally and I edited the two stocks together later. 

19. A FRIEND UNNEEDED

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Joe uses Tom's dart pistol against him.

A teaser segment that had nothing to do with the rest of the film. Tom tries to pop Joe with a dart pistol but Joe, via backward photography, returns the dart to the gun. He levitates it over and shoots Tom instead.

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Joe is "maturing" as he loses his baby antennae.

A MY FAVORITE MARTIAN episode mentioned that Uncle Martin's nephew lost his "baby antennae" and only one of his "adult antennae" had grown in. I decided to show this happen to Joe.

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Tom's nosy schoolmate shows up at an awkward time.

Tom's school friend Anthony Murphy played his friend in this film. His character was another of those nosy sitcom people who barged through other people's homes like they owned them.

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Until his adult antennae grow in, Joe can't disappear.

This is the first occasion of Larry doing backside stand-in duty. He would kneel on a chair to bring him to Tom's height, open his mouth so his jawline looked like Tom from the rear. All that was left was to keep them from laughing at each other.

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Tom's friend hands the books to Joe, who isn't much help.

Here's some cartoon trivia: those two large dictionaries Tom is carrying were given to me by cartoonist George W. Booth, a frequent contributor to The New Yorker. He was teaching a cartooning class in Stony Brook where I met him. My mother would see him at Stony Brook post office over the years and have a chat.

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Although Tom's friend is nosy, he doesn't know his Tom from his Joe.

After the previous few effects-heavy films I wanted to see if I could do one with a minimum of film tricks. This one depended mostly on Tom and Joe keeping the nosy friend off-balance since Joe was unable to disappear after losing his antennaes.

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Joe eludes the kid's detection.

Tom was still short enough at this point where he could have just stood behind this kid and stay hidden from him. 

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Joe experiences another close call being found in the closet.

Before the door swings open on Joe, I shot a zoom-in on Anthony's hand turning the knob to add  "tension".

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Finally, Tom's schoolmate goes home.

On the door behind Tom is an early form of CGI, a drawing of Snoopy in his WWI flying ace helmet drawn by a computer. Who knew back then what that simple line drawing would lead to?

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Another reason to rejoice, Joe's adult antennae have grown in.

Unlike the MFM version, I needed Joe to have a fully functional set of antennae so both his adult ones grew in together. We used a slightly longer set of clip-on antennaes in the last batch of episodes. Size matters.

20. BABYSITTING BRAT

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Joe intercepts a babysitting job meant for Tom.

After stopping my paper route and starting work at McDonald's, I earned film money with a few babysitting jobs. This film was shot at neighbor's house that had a similar floorplan to our own.

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Tom is suspicious but Joe disappears on him.

Here's another scene with Larry doing stand-in duty. Since Tom had to look at Larry propped on the chair with his mouth open, he couldn't help but break up, as seen here.

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Joe relaxes at his cushy sitting job and fetches a TV Guide.

It was interesting working inside a house just like ours but furnished differently. That made it easier knowing where the outlets were and where I could set up the camera.

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Things get interesting when the babysitee starts trouble.

I used Josephine Cardillo (alias Jojo) only for the film. Her brother Matthew was alright but since I was shooting while their parents were out, I decided to just concentrate on having just one kid perform. 

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Joe dodges a toy the girl has thrown and goes after her.

When Jojo won't go to sleep, the action moves upstairs. The wall near the staircase at our house was closed off but was open here allowing a different angle to shoot from.

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After she locks Joe out, she vacuums him up when he smokes under the door.

Jojo was very natural in front of the camera and played along with my instructions quite well. This included interacting with effects that would be put in later, such as the markered-in smoke effect.

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The girl checks her handiwork and goes to enjoy the sitter's munchies.

This scene was shot in the same room layout as Tom's. It even resembles his room before it was panelled.

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When Tom finally gets wise, he shows up to find the girl sitting for herself.

I shot the film as quickly as possible to be finished before the parents got home. I don't remember getting any negative feedback afterwards but then I don't remember being asked to sit for them again either.

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Tom releases the humiliated Joe from the vacuum.

Animating on film with a marker (Super 8, no less) is something I would do at 17 but now that I'm in my 50's I think I'd find another way.

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As a parting shot, Joe turns the kid into a poodle.

The Cardillo poodle cooperated with me for this shot. It may have been intimidated by the bright movie light or maybe by the kid with the wires sticking out of his head.

21. REMEMBER AMNESIA

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Joe's football-over-the-door prank has unexpected results.

The old amnesia plot! The football over the door took a bit of coordinating though it quickly bounced out of scene after bopping Tom.

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When Tom recovers, he's forgotten who Joe is.

Before Tom wakes up, Joe disappears since he expects Tom to be mad about the football gag. Forgetting about Joe, Tom peers into his fishtank, which shows up periodically during the series.

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Joe does a quick scan of Tom's mind and discovers his amnesia.

This film was shot around Tom's 13th birthday and he's showing signs of outgrowing his old green shirt first seen in episode 6, one year earlier.

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Tom, fearing the Martian, flees but runs into a force field outside.

Spring has returned to Stony Brook so we were able to do some outdoor shooting. The one-third acre property of most Heatherwood houses gave us plenty of space to roam.

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Tom and Joe collide behind the Douglas fir tree.

The fir tree was planted not long after we moved to Ivy League Lane in 1967. Naturally my mother didn't see us manhandling the tree until well after the film was completed.

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Tom sics his dog on Joe but to no avail.

Jake, the family dog, showed up from time to time in the films but this one gave him the most screen time. He was a bit hostile and had a bark like a seal and was eventually put to sleep.

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While Joe is busy with the dog, Tom scales the fence.

To save time, Tom and Joe wore the same jacket. Tom wore it normally and Joe wore it inside out. Nobody was fooled by that ploy.

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To restore Tom's memory, Joe plans to hit him with a bottle.

In an episode of THE MONKEES they had a plate float up and revealed that it was held up by thin black wire. I decided to try
black thread to hold the bottle. The copper wire was much less visible.

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Tom awakens with his memory of Joe intact.

Sooner or later, all the films end up back in the panelled bedroom.

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Tom remembers Joe but has now forgotten his dog.

We managed to get Jake to behave long enough to give him the closing fade out of the film.

22. THE RUNAWAY SPACESHIP

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Joe carelessly leaves his remote running and his spaceship gets away.

We're gearing up for the final episode. The copper wire is still supporting the ship as it heads for the window.

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After Tom and Joe search the room, they realize the ship is gone.

After the title, the film fades in on Joe's butt bent over looking under the bed. Tom's weight gain was getting noticeable and I took a cheap shot.

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The errant craft lands in the local high school where its discovered by a science teacher.

A lot of the story revolved around the spaceship being found by my physics teacher Jack Matier in the Ward Melville High physics classroom.

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The ship is put under a microscope and shown to another teacher.

Vic Villandre, another teacher, was "volunteered" to be Mr. Matier's colleague. They got so animated in their performance, that I forgot to tell them what came next. There's a quick pause before I told them to pick up the ship and walk out.

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Joe brings out the machine he first used to retrieve his ship.

I pulled out the old Aiwa tape recorder, telescoping pen and orange frisbee again to bring back the spaceship.

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The ships takes flight while the teacher displays it for his colleagues.

I don't remember who was pulling the wire to lift the ship but I kept the camera in close so whoever it was wouldn't be seen.

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The science staff watches as the spaceship flies across the room.

The physics department is represented by Mike Meier, Delores Baker and Vic Villandre watching the spaceship take off from Mr. Matier's hand.

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The ship escapes thus ruining the science staff's claims to an amazing discovery.

Having gotten more secure with the projector handling splices, I would slightly overshoot scenes and cut out the excess. For the ship going out the window, it was swung toward the opening and the swing back was cut so the spaceship appeared to be leaving.

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Joe is pleased to see that his ride home is undamaged.

Tom was imitating a similar pose from a BEWITCHED commercial where Elizabeth Montgomery was holding a toad in the same manner. 

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Tom sarcastically refers to Joe and his ship as "father and son".

Another BEWITCHED influence was that since it was still in first-run episodes at the time, Tom began inserting Elizabeth Montgomery's facial mannerisms into his act. There were lots of eye-rolls and grimaces during his close-ups.

23. JOE LA RITA GOES HOME (Part 1)

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Joe is ready to use his Atom Enlarger to make his ship full size again.

It's finally time to say goodbye to Joe La Rita. His Atom Enlarger was a coaxial connector, which really sounded impressive to me back then.

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Joe instructs Tom to carry the spaceship outside.

The back of Larry's head gets into the act again. Fortunately, this time they were used to doing this and didn't have any giggle-fits.

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The atom enlarger does it's job.

The ray from the Atom Enlarger was courtesy of a needle scratching the emulsion of the film. Amazingly, years later I noticed a 1953 episode of THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN where an electric shock was achieved the same way.

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The ship has returned to its normal size.

The ship model was placed on a piece of black cardboard and positioned on a table in front of the camera. Except for a little soft focus, the trick turned out quite well.

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Joe stores the ship in the garage until he's ready to leave.

Considering all the junk we had in the garage, the spaceship would have been difficult to squeeze in there in real life.

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Joe wistfully begins to reminise.

The remainder of the film consisted of clips from the early episodes. When Kodak's Ektachrome 160 was introduced for low-light filming, I did a test where I filmed all the flashbacks off the screen and inserted them in this film.

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Tom also goes into flashback mode.

When the films were transferred to VHS in the late 1980's or early 1990's, I went back and actually spliced the original Kodachrome scenes into the film for transfer.

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Between flashbacks, Joe has completed packing his bag.

As with many films requiring flashbacks, the wrap around segments were filmed quickly. They didn't require any special tricks aside from quick changes of shirts.

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Tom tries to illustrate a point about Joe's antennae.

I shot this scene from Tom's side to break up the monotony of all the shots being straight-on from the front.

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And they all had a good laugh.

In the last couple of seasons of BEWITCHED, Elizabeth Montgomery would mug a bit at the conclusion of some scenes. Tom picked up on that and gives us one of his Samantha grins here.

24. JOE LA RITA GOES HOME (Part 2)

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Joe plans to hitch his ship to a probe going to Mars.

This NY Daily News story appeared several months before this segment was shot but I held onto it until I was ready to do the final episode.

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Joe tries to assure Joe that he'll stop back for a visit someday.

Tom acted unhappy that Joe was leaving and made it look convincing throughout the film.

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Joe brings the ship out of the garage and prepares to enter it.

It's pretty obvious that all the spaceship on the driveway scenes for Parts 1 and 2 were shot the same day.

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Tom watches as Joe lifts off the driveway.

Despite the futuristic design, the spaceship propulsion was provided by my index finger and thumb holding and lifting the front end.

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Tom tunes in his TV to watch the rocket launch.

The TV footage of the launch was the actual liftoff of Apollo 16 on April 16, 1972. This narrows the shooting for the other scenes down to early April of 1972.

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Joe's ship makes the approach to dock with the rocket.

The ship model was filmed against a black velvet background and projected against a 35mm enlargement of a Viewmaster slide of the Apollo 11 mission.

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Docking complete and the launch commences.

A Super 8 film using footage from the Apollo 11 moon shot was sold to the amateur market around 1970. I spliced the color launch scene into my film so I didn't have to rely on the B&W TV screen footage exclusively.

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Once in space, Joe separates from the rocket and leaves Earth.

This earth slide had a long life in my films and showed up in a Capt. Coors segment and The Spritzer Family Play Star Trix. 

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On his way to Mars, Joe passes by Earth's moon.

Another slide that also showed up in the first Star Trix film in 1974.

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Tom is NOT sorry that Joe is gone and even jeers the audience who watched it all.

Some people were a bit annoyed with me for ending the series this way. However, if you look over all the mean things Joe did to Tom throughout it, I think he would be glad to be rid of the alien creep.

The (Not Quite) RETURN OF JOE LA RITA 

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Tom checks a UFO report in The Three Village Herald.

December 1973: the last Joe La Rita was shot nearly two years earlier and here we were trying to pick it up again. Tom saved a Three Village Herald newspaper that contained a UFO report for our use.

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A more refined animated title shot with my Yashica LD-6.

I had been in the Air Force since July 1972 and experimenting with my Yashica LD-6 since early 1973. I made a new animated title using real animation cels and camera stand.

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While reading the paper, Tom is diverted by flashes of light.

I now owned more than one floodlamp and used it for the flashes to alert Tom of Joe's arrival.

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The one, the only Joe La Rita has returned from Mars.

I think we still had Tom's old clip-on antennae and put them to use again.

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His first order of business is to turn Tom into a baby.

My brother Mike and his wife were visiting so Tom and I snagged our baby niece Cathy to do movie duty. This was our chance to use the Yashica's lap-dissolve mechanism. 

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Joe invisibly tosses a plastic bottle at Tom too.

By now, the copper wire for floating objects was a distant memory since I started using fishing line of different weights to levitate.

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Tom dodges an identified plastic object.

I didn't need any wires for this shot since Larry was more than happy to throw the bottle at Tom.

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Just like old times, Tom isn't thrilled about it.

It didn't take long for Tom and I to realize that we had closed this door in April of 1972. Even though we now had the tools to improve on what we did in the early 1970's, we were now ready to move on. However, some of the footage of Tom reading the UFO report did resurface in the first Capt. Coors film in 1977.