Art Binninger's STAR TRIX: Of Clay And Cardboard

Tom Vs. Joe La Rita Episodes 9 - 16

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


A nod to the source of our inspiration.

Since the inspiration for these films is obvious, I thought I'd drop in a reference to it in the opening sequence.

Joe tries to adjust the non-cable TV.

The old black and white TV was a purchase I made with my newspaper route money. It still resides in my sister Joanie's basement. It's a Zenith!

Joe's TV repair ends with a shock.

A leftover July 4th sparkler provided the short circuit in this scene. Although the curtain was pulled back to avoid it catching a stray spark, it's still dangerously close.

Tom is distraught over Joe's mishap.

Tom uses his Stan Laurel look to register his unhappiness.

Joe must keep his antennae up to avoid popping out.

Larry, the antennae pusher, did a nice take with this shot.

Tom keeps nosy Richard from seeing Joe's antennae.

Next door meighbor Richard Dalberg was recruited to witness the antennae endowed Tom and Joe. In keeping with 60's sitcom tradition, he just came barging into the house uninvited.

Joe thinks that two Martian kids should rattle Richard.

A replay of the mirror trick from episode one. Notice the area where the clip-on antennae is pushing the hair up on the side of Tom's head.

In another botched repair, Joe gets another shock.

Another sparkler is used for the shock scene but the bright floodlamp reflecting from the wallpaper obscures it.

Tom admonishes Joe but the zap cures his Popsy.

Either through improper film storage or a lab glitch, the second half of the film had an overall greenish hue. By the time the film returned from the lab I was already working on the next film so I let it stay in.

A recovered Joe displays his "happy face".

Since the scripts were loose to non-existant, many times I'd end a film with Tom grimacing. This particular face was used as my guide for the animated characters in the titles.


Joe is tricked into going into Tom's bottle.

The segment prior to the opening title was shot at the beginning of the summer but was put aside due to Tom getting poison ivy on his face. A bit of pink is visible near his right eye.

Tom has Joe capped and ready to be disposed of.

Tom is now tanner and his crewcut has grown in since the opening sequence was shot. Oh, and the poison ivy is gone.

Tom chucks the bottle-bound Joe in the woods.

The property around William Sidney Mount School had a variety of features that served me well during outdoor shooting. This wooded area is just up from the parking lot.

Thinking that he's rid of Joe, Tom trashes the Martian's devices.

Some of the makeshift Martian gizmos seen here are portable reel-to-reel tape recorder and a busted movie floodlamp used as a cloning device in episode 7.

A passing kid uncorks Joe from the bottle.

Obviously a hot day, Tom's shirtless friend Jamie Bellino had the thankless task of rescuing Joe from the bottle. 

Joe is really mad as indicated by his red smoke trail.

The bottle scenes were shot with Tom standing against the movie screen and the bottle positioned on a folding table in front of the camera lens.

Joe deposits the kid on top of an irate schoolmate.

Originally, Jamie was supposed to be zapped away by Joe but little Joey Oates was tagging along wanting to play an old man with a cane (???). I shot an additional scene of Jamie falling on Joey who kept pummeling him with a stick.

After being in that hot bottle, Joe cleans up.

After a busy afternoon shooting outside, Tom was ready to change clothes anyway so we did it in the style he was accustomed to.

Tom gets the bottle treatment from Joe.

More marker-on-film animation to put Tom in his place.

Tom gets capped as Joe enjoys the moment.

Tom gives us another "grimace" ending.


My first attempt at a cel animated title.

This title was a first experiment in 2D cel animation shot on a school camera capable of single-frame shooting. I did two other title sequences  later that worked better but suffered from soft focus.

Joe as a 1971 hippie.

Like episode 4, this film was virtually plotless but was intended to have a rock music soundtrack.  At present, that hasn't happened.

While lowering his antennae, Joe's wig slides with them.

I don't remember who the owner of this wig was but I poked two holes in it for the antennaes. When they were lowered, they pulled the wig down with them.

Strait-laced Tom is caught up in Joe's rock 'n' roll trip.

The triangle sunglass lens makes a return appearance for a psychadelic effect. 

Joe continues to mess with Tom minus his hippie outfit.

A red lens was slid in front of  the camera for even more oddness but it all looks a bit silly.

Meanwhile, at a local low-power radio station.

The Ward Melville High School AM radio station was the setting for the frustrated DJ sequence.

The DJ is receiving music bleed-over from Joe's place.

Richard Leueck played the annoyed disc jockey since he was one of the DJs at the station. 

Try as he might, the DJ can't clear the music intrusion.

Although the station was piped into the school cafeteria, it could be picked up outside the building too. You had to be pretty close by to get it if the weather conditions were right.

The whirling transition effect.

I was always looking for ways to transition between scenes and landed on a wheel of color placed on the projector rewind reel. I photographed it at close range and would splice about 24 frames in to indicate a change of time or location. 

Tom uses Joe's Instant Transport machine to end the party.

Tom ends the music fest by transporting Joe from the house. A quick shot of a full moon suggested that was where Joe was sent.


Joe experiments with his duplicating wand.

I began doing more editing around this time when I found that the Kodak projector at school flattened the splices and made them easier for my Bell & Howell to handle. This film had Tom and Joe dealing with separate problems.

Brother Larry is a trick-or-treater who harasses Tom.

Tom was having problems dealing with trick-or-treaters while Joe was testing his duplicating wand.

Mr. Willy, from episode 2, makes a return visit.

Unfortunately, Don Hayden's return appearance found him to be reluctant and uncooperative. Even with editing it was clear he didn't want to be there.

Mr. Willy gets two trick-or-treaters to divert Tom.

The little girls who played the trick-or-treaters had been shot much earlier and edited into this film as Don's decoys.

The girls flee from a gun-wielding Joe.

The footage of gun-toting Joe was also done prior to the main part of this film worked into the storyline. 

Mr. Willy tests Joe's duplicating wand and steals it.

Mr. Willy must have been itching for payback after Joe conned him out of "The Living Doll" in episode 2.

Joe tracks down the missing duplicator.

Tom spent most of the film dealing with the Halloween annoyances while Joe tracked down Mr. Willy and his stolen duplicator.

Willy tests the duplicator again in his store room.

Our garage on Ivy League Lane served as Mr. Willy's storeroom. It wasn't necessary to rebuilt his "Lego Office" building again for this film.

Joe and Willy struggle for the wand, resulting in Willy being momentarily disintegrated.

After Mr. Willy accidentally erased himself with the duplicator in reverse, Joe brought him back again. However, Don dropped out of frame when he reappeared, which was not part of the story. I managed to get a shot of him moving to imply that he wasn't killed after his reintegration.

Returning home, Joe finds Tom worn out from Halloween.

Upon returning home with his duplicator (a telescoping pen painted copper), Joe finds a thrashed Tom collapsed on the bed. I used black electrical tape to cover Tom's front teeth, as if they were knocked out during the story.

13. DREAM AHEAD (Part 1)

Tom is reading up about college in his future.

Tom was in trouble. His grades were slipping and his acting "career" was considered the culprit. I shot some wrap-around segments of him and took over in front of the camera myself.

I did temporary Tom & Joe duty in these two films.

Some people can act and direct themselves in a film but I'm not one of them. Rewatching these films I look distracted because I'm paying attention to what's going on behind the camera. Tom photographed my scenes at home and Joe Aimetti followed me at school.

For fun, Joe decides to follow Tom to school.

The distinction between Tom and Joe is difficult since Joe is wearing the same clothes as Tom (I wasn't about to do the shirt changes in the school halls).
Martian On Campus: Joe arrives at Tom's school.
As previously mentioned, I wasn't comfortable in front of the camera and I was occasionally glancing at Joe Aimetti to be sure he was getting the action. A definite control freak at 17.

Tom gets slapped because of Joe's invisible hands.

Sue Cukiernik was nice enough to appear as the first victim of Joe's pranks. Lucky for me she didn't slap too hard because she was tall enough to do some damage.

Another of Joe's pranks get Tom in more trouble.

Mindy Kass (now known as Mindy Kronenberg, famous poet), also got an invisible pinch and summoned assistance.

Tom is again blamed for Joe's mishief.

Mindy's boyfriend is played by John Wayne (yes, his real name). He attended our junior high but went to a private school before returning to Ward Melville. He picked up some adult jokes along the way that went over many of our heads. Mine, at least.

Moosie has a change of heart about his girlfriend.

A streak of bleach etched into the film emulsion caused Moosie's change of heart.

Moosie seems to have broken up with his girl.

Teeny Mindy got a hefty push from John Wayne when he doesn't bash Tom. We made sure to have a comfy chair handy for her to fall into. The school scenes were shot in Ward Melville High School in East Setauket, New York around November 1971.

Back at home, Joe smiles off the incident.

The transitions between present and future involved placing a magnifying glass in front of the camera lens. I zoomed in throwing the scene into a complete blur then switching to whoever was in the next scene and unzooming. The magnifier was removed and the scene shot normally.


Joe continues to probe Tom's future dream.

The two-part episode was just two stories shot in the possible future without any link to each other.

Joe has to hurry to catch up to Tom.

Again, I switched to identical clothes for Tom and Joe at school. For variety, I used a shades of brown instead of blue as in the first part of the story.

Joe takes a fall from the school stairs.

Shooting on the school stairwell offered some privacy but I still kept my antennae down until absolutely necessary. Joe's tumble down the stairs took place while he was invisible, saving wear and tear on yours truly.

Joe gets his bent antennae lubed so he can lower them.

I took advantage of various school locations such as a vacant chemistry classroom for a couple of sequences.

The school computer provides the answer to Joe's problem.

Although I did a pan of the school computer class (no Macs or PCs here) my scenes as Joe were done in the aforementioned chemistry classroom.

Joe's antennae are straightened and one problem solved.

There was a film cartridge problem in the early part of the chemistry room sequence but I switched rolls to get these scenes done. 

The school paper cameraman gets Joe on film.

Joe Aimetti's friend Rich Lentin took the part of the cameraman. In late 1972, I met Rich while I was going to Air Force tech school in Denver. His sideburns gave him away.

Tom and Joe chase the photographer around the lockers.

The scenes around the lockers were shot at about 12 frames per second to give a speeded-up chase feel to it. Unfortunately, my 650 watt floodlamp couldn't illuminate that large area properly.

Joe is discovered by a group of other students.

I had the under-exposed footage printed with more light pumped into it but it came murky AND grainy.

Fortunately, the entire incident is just a nightmare.

Everything is back to normal with the right guys on the right sides of the camera.


The film opens with displays of Christmas lights.

A collection of random tree light displays ending with a shot of the lighting on our house. Seemed like a natural way to start a Christmas film.

Tom and Larry look at the holiday lights.

Although I don't think Tom's grades improved dramatically, we were back in business by early December doing a holiday themed film.

To Tom's surprise, Larry doesn't buy into the Christmas spirit.

Larry's character was rather bland in his earlier appearance in episode 3. He was much snottier in this film and enjoyed it.

Joe plans on giving Larry a Christmas surprise.

Aside from the outdoor footage, this film was fairly quick to do. I seem to remember it being done in one evening.

Larry amps up his brattiness act.

Larry's rambunctious behavior and Tom chasing him brought some action to what was a bit of a static film.

Larry continues being a jerk at bedtime.

Although it was never nailed down, Larry is staying in what was usually Joe's bed.

Joe's been watching Tom's problems with Larry and comes out to help.

Joe hiding in the painted wine bottle is an obvious rip from "I Dream Of Jeannie" but allowed it him to have a hideout when unwelcome guests arrived.

Joe plans to give the youngster a good scare ala "A Christmas Carol".

On the blackboard behind him, Tom decided to record the date we were shooting this scene: December 1, 1971.

A little gruesome makeup gives Larry a jolt.

In an attempt to give the room a darkened look, I bounced the movie light beam from the ceiling. It was darker but everyone was still clearly visible.

Joe illuminates the Christmas tree with his finger.

Larry went to the floor to plug in the tree lights when Joe inserted his finger in a dummy plug. The light had to be bounced again slightly for the little lights to be seen.


Joe activates a machine to retrieve his spaceship.

This film was the beginning of the end of the series. I decided that, like real TV series, I would do 24 episodes for my series. Unlike most series at the time, I planned to wrap up the ongoing story.

Something weird is going on with the miniature spaceship.

In my first experience with a movie lab, I had the Saratoga scenes from the first episode printed so I could edit the footage into this episode. I cut the film so the small ship disappeared instead of appeared. A marker zap was drawn on the emulsion.

Joe finally has a way to leave Earth. Almost.

The little ship was made out of 3X5 cards, coated with Elmer's Glue to smooth the edges then painted silver. It was light weight and could be lifted easily.

Joe tests his spaceship remote on a small tray.

A new levitation aid was fine copper wire from an old radio. It was stronger than the nylon thread used previously and only occasionally refelected the floodlamp.

Joe lectures Tom on the finer points of remote space flight.

Somehow, we got hold of a watchsize golf scorer. This was used as the remote for Tom to guide Joe's ship on his test flight.

With Joe reduced to fit inside, the ship takes to the air.

The copper wires were quite effective against the paneled wall although they briefly caught the light before the ship got to the window.

Tom pilots the ship with Joe inside checking his instruments.

An early "Star Trek" influence here. Instead of shooting the ship on wires, I heard that Trek mounted the ship model and the camera zoomed in on it to create the illusion of movement. Waddaya know, it worked!

Tom follows the spaceship's progress from the bedroom.

More than a couple of people noticed that the ship left the room into a night sky but was flying through daylight. Oops!

After a safe landing, Joe reconfigures himself to normal size.

After a perfect landing, Joe leaves by way of bleach on the emulsion. In the background is the black Cinelarger camera which allowed me to shoot still frames from Super 8 onto 620 film. Finding either type of film these days is quite a task.

Joe admires his functional craft.

Joe now has the means to leave Earth and after five more films he'd get down to business.

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The last eight episodes are ahead.