...for TheDeadGuy...

Luther: "Aw, Bag of Crushed Child! Another one? You killed another one?"
Bag of Crushed Child: "Grrglaarr."
Luther: "Aw, hell. She was even gonna put out!"

Horror movie, released in 1979. It was directed, written, and produced by Lawrence I. Eltberg, with special effects provided by Doug Genner and Stephen Lest, cinematography by Oscar "Fathead" Vickers, and music by Thunderland, a rock band from Atlanta, Georgia. The stars included Eltberg as Luther, Artie Plugg as the sheriff, Wendy Theckerton as Wendy, William B. Planter as Farmer Joe, Carrie Echols as Carrie, Terry T. Tedd as Officer Simpson, John Lansing as Officer Jones, Reginald Sanders IV as Stinky the gas station attendant, Phillip Watson as the unnamed token black guy, Sam Donavon as the bus driver, Vickie Byers and Sandra Tucker as hookers, and an unconvincing special effect as Bag of Crushed Child.

Farmer Joe: "Kid, whatchoo doing out here at this time of night?"
Luther: "Who, me? I'm just walkin'."
Farmer Joe: "You best be careful out here. There's coyotes all over the place. Cats, too."
Luther: "Hey, what's your name, man?"
Farmer Joe: "Me? Why, I'm Farmer Joe!"

Basic plot: Luther is a hippie/headbanger/drifter, and his brother (or merely good friend -- the movie is ambiguous about how they know each other) is Bag of Crushed Child, a sealed plastic bag containing the pulped, bloody, undead corpse of a baby. Luther is a pretty easygoing guy, but Bag of Crushed Child is a vengeful, angry, murderous monstrosity. Luther doesn't much enjoy the way Bag of Crushed Child kills random people everywhere it goes, but like I said, he's an easygoing guy, and if his pal wants to assault and dismember bus drivers, farmers, police officers, and teenagers, Luther doesn't really feel like it's his place to make too many waves. So Luther and Bag of Crushed Child drift through a rural town. Luther tries to pick up chicks and avoid the pigs, while Bag of Crushed Child (usually carried in a thick burlap sack by Luther) slaughters people. At the end of the movie, Luther and Bag of Crushed Child are captured in a wheat field by an angry mob and beaten to death with farm implements.

Officer Jones: "Hell shit! What the hell is that?"
Bag of Crushed Child: "Grrglargg! Grraaarrr!"

This is a really awful film. The acting is universally laughable, the direction is inept, the photography and sound is muddy, the music is just plain stupid (Thunderland combined all the worst elements of Bad Company, Iron Butterfly, and Boston, with none of the musical skill), and the special effects are distractingly, embarrassingly bad. There are a number of similarities to the plot of Frank Hennenlotter's "Basket Case" (which wouldn't be made for another couple of years) and to the themes of David Lynch's earlier work, particularly "Eraserhead," but "Bag of Crushed Child" simply never rises far enough above the level of "crap" to qualify as anything other than just pure and simple crap. This isn't even "Plan 9 from Outer Space," which is entertaining despite its ineptitude; it's just a painfully bad movie.

Carrie: "Whatcha got in that bag, baby? You got something for me?"
Bag of Crushed Child: "Grrglargg! Grraaarrr!"

So is there any reason at all to try to track this movie down and watch it? Well, you could be a masochist. You could be an aspiring filmmaker looking for something that will make you look like a cinematic genius. You may want to groove on Bag of Crushed Child's "special" effects -- imagine mixing a Cabbage Patch Kid with five pounds of raw hamburger, a couple quarts of ketchup, and about a dozen cocktail onions, all stuck inside a freezer bag, which sometimes gets hurled at the camera to simulate a deadly attack. Voila! You've got the special effects for Bag of Crushed Child!

Luther: "Hey, Bag of Crushed Child, you ever wanted something bigger in your life? You ever wondered what's out there in the big, wide world?"
Bag of Crushed Child: "Ggrrglarrr. Grrrarghh."
Luther: "Yeah, me too. Tell you what, Bag of Crushed Child, someday, I gonna marry a rich woman and eat that fancy chicken all day long."
Bag of Crushed Child: "Grrrglarrr."

Well, okay, you might want to watch it just for the fact that no one ever calls Bag of Crushed Child anything but "Bag of Crushed Child." Luther never once calls it "Bag" or "Crush" or "Kid" or "Fella" -- it's always something like, "Hey, Bag of Crushed Child, you wanna watch TV?" And Bag of Crushed Child's victims follow this rule, too. Every single time someone gets attacked, they scream "BAG OF CRUSHED CHIIIIIIILD!" before they snuff it. This is weird enough when it happens to the sheriff, who at least knew what he was dealing with, but when Farmer Joe, Carrie, and the cops get killed, they all scream "BAG OF CRUSHED CHIIIIIIILD!" even though it's the very first time they've seen the critter. Somehow, it's creepier than anything else in the movie -- you get the feeling that Eltberg really, really liked the character of Bag of Crushed Child more than was healthy for any sane man and thought it would take its place among cinema's greats.

Luther: "Oh, wow! WOW! You guys are great! What's your name, man?"
Lead singer of Thunderland: "We're Thunderland, man!"
Luther: "Thunderland? Wow, you guys ROCK! I'd buy all your records!"
Lead singer of Thunderland: (waggles tongue directly at the camera while making the "sign of the devil" with both hands)

If you're crazed enough to look for this film... well, I don't think you're going to find it. I've never seen it in any video stores, at Amazon, or at any specialty video outfit. I saw it once in a theater and once on video, but it doesn't seem to be available anywhere anymore. It may even be a lost film at this point. I'm not even sure this is a bad thing.

Bus driver: "Hey, punk, you can't bring that sack on board this here bus. You gotta pack it with the rest of the luggage. Gimme that sack. Gimme!"
Luther: "Hey, wait, man..."
Bag of Crushed Child: "Grrglargg! Grraaarrr!"

Research from the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com)
Bag of Crushed Child was born and crushed in 1976, and the single film that he starred in, Bag of Crushed Child (1979), defined his entire career. He was not, however, credited in the original. As a result of the uproar surrounding the release of Freaks (1932) and the general censorship that has arisen in the film industry, especially concerning the exploitation of minors and cruelty to animals, the film's Producer, Lawrence I. Eltburg followed in the grand tradition of Hollywood: He shafted his star on pay and failed to credit him for his work in order to duck an industry rule.

Bag of Crushed Child was born and crushed in Los Angeles, California. He was the son of Felix Silla and Claire Brennen, who met on the set of She Freak (1967), and whose nine-year affair was never publicly revealed. Rumors abound that Lawrence I. Eltburg actually abducted Bag of Crushed Child for use in this film, which Eltburg held dear to his heart. Eltburg's obsession with this film rivals that of D. W. Griffith's unhealthy devotion to The Birth of a Nation (1915), differing only in that Griffith's film made film history as a landmark film and Eltburg's made history as possibly the worst cinematic attempt until League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003). Eltburg's obsession has fueled numerous and violent debates concerning the possibility of Bag of Crushed Child's status as a special effect or a real person, and whether or not he was abducted. This debate has since been cleared up, as we will soon see.

Eltburg acted as the Bag of Crushed Child's guardian for some time after the film's completion, but turned him out on the street when the film ultimately flopped. Neither of his parents were willing to claim Bag of Crushed Child, and he was taken into an orphanage four years later after extensive testing at several area hospitals and multiple reconstructive surgeries. Bag of Crushed Child stayed at the orphanage until he was turned out at the age of eighteen. He made a humble living for a few years acting, unaccredited, for General Mills. He did several Hamburger Helper commercials which earned him no recognition and even less pay.

This would have been the end of the story for Bag of Crushed Child, and he would have been just another meaty, squashed, face lost in the crowd of washed-up actors if not for Merrick Meyers. Merrick Meyers did extensive research at the University of Iowa, which lead him to contact the Children's Hospital in Los Angeles, where he suspected that Bag of Crushed Child may have been treated just after his abandonment by Eltburg. This proved to be a fruitful lead. Bag of Crushed Child had, in fact, been treated there, but only for a short time, where he picked up a few procedures on Uncle Sam. Hospital records showed him transferred to a government institution at an undisclosed location for several years, and then transferred back only to be released within a week. The events that took place during that time are still completely unknown to Historians of film and science alike. What had appeared, however, was a location and date of Bag of Crushed Child's ultimate release into the world.

Tracking Bag of Crushed Child was a much more difficult matter. It was almost as if he was evading detection. Bag of Crushed Child was always suspicious of credit cards and loans, considering them to be the tools of a corrupt capitalist regime, and therefore always paid for everything he could in cash. Furthermore, Bag of Crushed Child held a Swiss bank account, which made tracking him all the more difficult. The key that gave Bag of Crushed Child away was a trail of forged documents. Red flags had been erected concerning a long string of transactions, trailing from Los Angeles to Texas, which had been executed with various stolen identities. What led Meyers to look for criminal activity in the financial records of the time is still unknown, but remains a miraculous decision.

This string of crimes finally lead Meyers to General Mills, who had faced a few fines for failing to regulate their employees' payroll properly. Specifically, they had been posting income to incorrect Social Security Numbers. Meyers had found Bag of Crushed Child living alone, wallowing in his star-studded childhood, and working for General Mills as a lowly prop. After following leads through multiple pseudonyms, and across 60% of the United States, as well as a few trips to Europe, Meyers finally located Bag of Crushed Child, primarily through his long list of tax crimes, which had grown in severity over the years from identity theft for survival to minor forms of embezzlement targeting General Mills. Meyers had finally done what historians had not been able to do; he had solved the riddle of Bag of Crushed Child.

In October of 2003, Meyers made the fateful phone call, confirming his suspicions. Having traced some illegal Internet activity in following with Bag of Crushed Child's criminal style to a specific town in Maryland, he started looking up all of Bag of Crushed Child's many pseudonyms in the town. He found a match, and dialed the number.

"Hello, my name is Merrick Meyers, and I would like to speak to Gregory Duchovnay."
"Greg? One moment please…"
--background noises---

After a long conversation Meyers convinced Bag of Crushed Child to come to Iowa and help him remake the film that defined Bag of Crushed Child's career: Bag of Crushed Child.

As is evidenced in the primary document provided above, Meyers did much of the work for the release of Bag of Crushed Child (2004). In the film we see a more mature Bag of Crushed Child who has refined his bludgeoning techniques to perfection. This, as well as Thunderland's Oscar-worthy performance, is the only thing perfect about the movie. Of course, just like any subjective statement, this may be debated. Many of the long, continuous shots, such as that of the band Thunderland performing, may be considered to be the result of the ineptitude of the director or editor, or they may be considered to be an avant-guard rejection of more glamorous scenes including close-ups and cross-cutting to an audience as bourgeois symbols of modern excess. Despite many criticisms of the poor acting and editing, and the questionable camerawork, it must be considered that these devices may have been in Homage to the earlier film The Blair Witch Project (1999), which does, in fact, surpass this new Bag of Crushed Child in quality.

The interesting thing that must be noted, however, is that in the document above, Meyers addresses the process of replacing the original Bag of Crushed Child 'prop.' As it turns out, Meyer's motivations were less than immaculate. Meyers had, several years earlier, become involved with the occult, and believed that he was the reincarnation of Eltburg (despite the fact that Eltburg was still alive at the time). Meyers was trying to recreate and properly construct the Magnum Opus that is Bag of Crushed Child. Though he did credit Bag of Crushed Child on film to appease him, he undermined this effect by releasing multiple statements and commentaries discussing the 'Choosing of props.' Bag of Crushed Child was not crushed by this, however, because he never found out. Both Bag of Crushed Child and Meyers died days after the release of the second Bag of Crushed Child film of Heroin overdoses in Meyers' garage.

Merrick Meyers: A Biography Harcourt Press: 2003
Library of Congress Archives

I haven’t done an aftermath writeup mainly because it’s difficult to adequately describe how cool noders are in real life. Maybe someday I’ll get around to writing about everyone I met down in Indiana but first I have a confession to make. The nodermeet was only part of the reason I traveled out of state. I don’t want anyone to think I’m devious but when another noder told me he was going to be in Chicago for the weekend, I started making plans. One of my cousins has a pretty swank place not far from Lake Michigan. She’s in sales and her territory is up in Canada so I knew I’d have her place to myself for however long I wanted it. I wouldn’t normally go out to eat with someone I had never met before but after talking with the ninjagirls and a couple of good noder friends I decided that I could trust this guy not to be an axe murdering lunatic. I have to admit that I was curious to see what he would look like. We were already friends on Facebook but he doesn't have a picture of himself up on his profile page.

Together we decided that we needed some sort of recognition system. We talked about it on the phone, as anyone who catboxes regularly knows, he has an offbeat sense of humor and it’s even more apparent in real life. His idea was that each of us should bring something to identify ourselves. I told him I’d bring some peanut butter. At first he wouldn’t tell me what he was going to bring. He said it would be a surprise but it would be something that would immediately identify him as a noder. The harder I tried to guess what it was the funnier it got. He started making outrageous suggestions, the best of which was Schweppes Bitter Lemon, I’m a fan of it and he is definitely not. The more we talked the better I got to know him. Unless people hang out in the catbox I don’t feel like I really know them and even then talking about boobs, computers and politics tends to limit the information you can get about what someone is like outside of E2. Talking on the phone with him was like having my own personal catbox. We started off talking about E2, the conversation drifted from that to our personal lives and the upcoming nodermeet. The best part of our two hour talk was the way that he made me laugh. It was after midnight when we hung up. He still hadn’t told me how I could identify him but he guaranteed that I would know who he was when I saw him at the restaurant.

Packing for the nodermeet was just like packing for any other trip. I threw three pink tops in with some jeans and my toothbrush. I made a list of things I needed to purchase, I like to buy practical little presents for people so I wandered around the aisles of the grocery store until I found some really nice strawberry preserves for my friend. That was one of the few things I knew about him, that he likes bagels with jelly. The crunchy peanut butter was an idea I stole from an award winning node, that was his way to identify me and as soon as I walked into the restaurant I knew who he was from his big, red, Bag of Crushed Child t-shirt.

I was laughing so hard a good thirty seconds went by before I noticed his burlap sack. Once we were both comfortably seated he handed me a small gift wrapped package. I was dying to know what was inside but he told me it was something for later. The service at the restaurant was exceptional as was the food we were served. He ordered clam chowder, I'm deathly allergic to shellfish so I ordered a fabulous mushroom and spinach dish. I thought it was delicious. He said he would take my word for it. We had some time to kill after lunch. The weather couldn’t have been nicer so we spent some time down in Millennium Park. I had passes to the Art Museum but walking around and observing the day that Mother Nature had provided us with was a better time than being shut up inside a stuffy museum. After about an hour of walking and talking he said he needed to get going. He offered to drop me off at my cousin’s, I told him I could find my way but he insisted. We were standing at the top of the stairs when he told me I could open my gift. I tore the paper off and there was a copy of the movie Bag of Crushed Child.

Don’t ask me why but that touched me more than something sentimental would have. I gave him a hug and there were tears in the back of my eyes when he picked me up and spun me around. I knew he had to go meet his friends so I waved goodbye. He said the get together wouldn't last long and if I was lonely in the Windy City he might be free later. I told him I’d be okay, he walked down the hall, I didn’t think I would be seeing him for a while which shows you just how wrong a woman can be. Later that same evening he came over with candy, popcorn and soda. I had just gotten out of the shower so of course my hair was all over the place. Fortunately he didn’t seem to mind. I threw some clean clothes on, he teased me about my pink and white striped pajamas but you don’t spend the weekend at someone else’s house planning to sleep in the nude or at least I don’t.

We settled down on the couch and for anyone who hasn’t seen it I can safely say that Bag of Crushed Child is one of the worst movies I have ever seen. The funny thing about watching it is it was fun because it was so bad. We were sitting on the couch talking about who knows what when out of the blue he threw a handful of popcorn at me. Normally I would have remembered that I was in someone else’s apartment, that she had nice furniture and that as her guest I should be careful. Maybe I was a little drunk, one of the reasons I had asked my cousin if I could shack up at her place was because I knew she’d have a bottle of red wine for me. I made a desperate grab for the half-empty bag of microwave popcorn and dumped the entire thing over his head. He reached for the carton of Whoppers, I hit the bottom of it and seconds later it was raining malted milk balls in my cousin’s ultra-clean apartment.

The food fight didn’t last long. I sat down on the couch while he picked the candy up, I couldn’t stop laughing, everything was hilariously funny and I was having the time of my life right up to the moment he leaned over and kissed me. If you’ve never been kissed by someone who’s laughing when you are I have to tell you that laughter is a seriously underrated aphrodisiac. We threw caution to the winds, my pajamas and his clothes went flying. I knew what I was doing and who I was doing it with but it was more than just good sex. It was great sex with a side of serious fun. After we were done he flipped a piece of popcorn at me. I threw a Swedish fish at him, we spent the rest of the night drinking wine, sitting on the couch and feeding each other dark chocolate. When it was time for bed we gave my cousin’s clean sheets a good workout. I threw them in the washer to erase the evidence, he put another video in and we ended up falling asleep on the floor next to each other. I know I’ll never forget that night, lunch with him was absolutely amazing and maybe I should feel bad about this but I’ve always wanted another baby so I was really excited when I found out that Donginger and I are going to have our own little Bag of Crushed Child. Grrglargg!

In addition to the truly horrific film mentioned above, Bag of Crushed Child is also the name of a Musical that opened Off-Broadway in 1984 in the Sondegard theater. The music was composed by Jerry Lundquist and the lyrics were written by Theodore Miles, who took his own life three hours before the show opened on July, 7th. Lundquist was a dentist who had never mounted a theatrical production before; Miles was a troubled musician who had once played back-up for several Motown acts, and had only recently kicked a serious heroin addiction. The two had bonded over a midnight screening of the film and had come up with a basic outline of the musical over whiskey. Lundquist took out a third mortgage on his house and looted his savings, while Miles called in favors from minor recording industry figures who served as financial backers.

After workshopping the play in Lundquist's offices in Connecticut, the pair cast Louise Simone, a previously unsuccessful Northern Soul recording artist who had emigrated from Robin Hood's Bay, England to New York in pursuit of a recording contract that never panned out. Gordon Mays, a respected baritone who had received polite praise for his role as Isaac in Sing for Me, Boss Tweed, and who had been cast in Cats until a knee injury forced him to withdraw from the production, was cast as Luther. Bag of Crushed Child was a puppet performed by two people, Davis Lett, and Maria Lawson, and was also voiced by Lett.

The musical opened to a nearly full house on Saturday, July 7th. Critical reviews were mixed. Writing for the Times, Allen DeVore called it, "A stinking midden-heap of all the worst excesses of the modern musical... both mawkish and joyless." Whereas Lois Moreau, writing for Backstage praised it as "a breathtaking avant garde triumph" and concluded, "Despite Lundquist's sometimes leaden direction, Bag of Crushed Child both soars and breaks your heart." Despite the breathless enthusiasm from Backstage and good word of mouth, the musical closed after only eight performances, due to a fire that broke out shortly before a scheduled matinee performance on July 14th. The Sondegard burnt to the ground, and all six puppets used to portray Bag of Crushed Child onstage were lost. Arson investigators determined that the fire was accidental, but noted that there was evidence of embezzlement by the Production Manager, Ivan Kutozov, who had purchased sub-standard materials in set construction while billing Lundquist more than triple their cost.

The musical takes its basic plot from the 1979 film, but inserts a tragic love triangle between Luther, Carrie, and Bag of Crushed Child, which reaches its apex in the second act. Forced to choose between her burgeoning love for the rough and tumble, ruggedly handsome Luther, and her secret tortured desire for the hideously deformed murderous monster with the soul of a poet and the vocabulary of a dog choking on a banana, Carrie decides to run away with Luther in his pick-up truck in the lavish stage number "I'm running away with you to Reno in your Pick-up truck, Luther." Even more crushed by the betrayal of his beloved, Bag of Crushed Child exacts a terrifying revenge in the conclusion marked by the finale number "Grrrglaaargh!"

While never officially released, bootlegs of the original cast recording have been in constant circulation among certain sets of musical aficionados since 1984. I have heard the recording and can attest that despite the substandard quality of the audio, the act two opener, a duet between Carrie and Bag of Crushed Child, "Grrrglarrg means I love you" is quite touching. The score is in sensitive support of Simone's whisky-tinged soprano, while Lett's staccato cries of Grrrglarrg and Grarrglrr are heart-breaking in their intensity. Also of note is Luther's soliloquy "I'm gonna get me a hooker and a big-ass steak" which showcases Mays' excellent comedic timing and wry phrasing.

It's a shame that this quirky, ambitious bit of musical theater never received the fame and accolades that it deserved. Simone died a few years later of cirrhosis of the liver, and Mays' career never recovered after a sordid sex scandal involving two kilos of cocaine, three rent boys and several gallons of heated boysenberry jelly. Lundquist was financially ruined, and never returned to the world of theater. He still practices dentistry today in Connecticut and refuses any requests for information about the Musical. Still, if you can find a copy of the bootlegged cast production, you can hear the Magnum Opus of Theodore Miles' troubled career, and be amazed at the virtuosity of Louise Simone's voice.

Research from The New York Times, Backstage, Gaslamp, interview with Gordon Mays, and reviewing the cast recording.

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