[Editor’s note: This “Reminiscing” story, edited by Richard Lentinello, comes to us from Hemmings Classic Car reader George Ormrod of Rochester, Washington.]
I once had a 1949 Plymouth club coupe that was used in the Troma Classic feature film Space Zombie Bingo. This is a straight to DVD film I directed in my younger days. It was shot on actual motion picture film with a $43,000 budget. The distributor, Troma Inc. of New York is best known for the Toxic Avenger film series. The Plymouth was used numerous times in Space Zombie Bingo, most notably as a police car.
For this we took black and white poster paint and slathered it on the car until a reasonable semblance of a police cruiser resulted. After attaching a light bar, and door insignia we were good to go. We had a scene in Space Zombie Bingo in which we constructed a fake cemetery on some acreage I own near the little town of Rainier just south of Olympia in Washington state.
This is a crucial scene in which the outer space zombie invaders dig up a cemetery to feast on the bodies of the dead. We did this filming in June 1985.
Our tombstones were made of Styrofoam and the bodies were mostly old store mannequins. For gore we used a collection of ketchup, rotten fruit and sausage casings. The Zombies were actors wearing black scuba diving wetsuits, with welders helmets and deely bobber antennas. The 1949 Plymouth police car was used in the filming when the authorities come to investigate the carnage – the Plymouth squishing several bodies in the process.
During filming we were interrupted by some trespassers intent on dumping garbage on my property. They made a quick retreat when they saw our outer space monsters!
The rest of the filming went well. The next day however a sheriff’s deputy came to my home in Olympia to inform me of reports of a devil cult performing human sacrifices on my property! After assuring the good deputy that we were just making a movie he left but not before asking if we were from the Evergreen State College – a local nontraditional liberal arts school. I thought this was the end of it until that weekend there was a front page story in the local newspaper about the sheriff investigating rumors of a devil cult in Rainier. The story was that black robed devil cultists were digging up graves, mutilating animals and spraying satanic graffiti all over town. There was another article a couple weeks later linking the black clothed cultists to even more animal mutilations, and satanic graffiti. The sheriff concluded in the second article that the mutilated animals (dogs, raccoons, & possums) had been accidentally hit by cars and that the graffiti was the preexisting work of high school kids. You can’t make this stuff up.
The Plymouth served us well as an all-purpose period car as Space Zombie Bingo was set in 1951. I purchased the Plymouth in 1983 from Walt, the father of a friend for $100; he was the original owner. He bought it new in Kelso, Washington, and it had flathead 218-cu.in. straight-six engine with three-speed manual shift. It was packed with options such as a radio, heater, and clock among them. The heater was the only one that actually worked when I owned the car. My friend related how his brother, when he was six-years old, once filled up the gas tank with water from the garden hose. Another time the tank was partially filled with rocks and dirt. This made old Walt very unhappy.
Walt stopped driving it in the 1970s, then the Plymouth sat for several years in a field with the windows rolled down, but ran great after I spent a few hours cleaning it up. I once got it up to about 85 MPH until the fan belt flew off. It also had a slow leak somewhere in the brake system in which the master cylinder would go bone dry. Instead of fixing it I would just add brake fluid and for some reason it never needed bleeding.
I also used the Plymouth when I was employed as a clown wrangler. I worked for a small movie theater chain and my job was to drive some professional clowns to a kid’s matinee we put on every weekend in Olympia and Seattle. The old Plymouth going down the freeway with three decked-out bozos in the back seat always attracted a lot of attention.
I kept the Plymouth for several years, once even fixing the body so I could get a $99 Earle Schieb paint job. This made the old Plymouth shine – until the paint started to peel off. Sadly, I sold the Plymouth for $800 in 1987 to make room in my garage for my just acquired 1940 De Soto.
For more information on the cars used in Space Zombie Bingo go to www.imcdb.org