One Saturday night in the summer of ’76, I abandoned a group of pot-smoking friends (I didn’t inhale) to watch the weekly Creature Feature that played on UHF Channel 20 in Washington DC. I don’t recall what the feature was, but I’ll never forget what followed it. Count Gore De Vol, the program’s vampiric host, had introduced a new segment: amateur horror/sci-fi movies made by local filmmakers. Even though I’d refused the pot, I found myself getting high on Attack of the Paramecium Men. It was a silent, black-and-white slapstick short (with jazzy music), featuring three leather-clad greasers who first evade and then defeat the humanoid paramecium. It was, in the word of Wallace Shawn in The Princess Bride, “inconceivable.”
One month later, on Pre-Orientation Day at the University of Maryland, I began my inevitable future as the compleat film auteur. I was enrolled as a film major and found myself in the company of a single fellow “auteur.” He was a Woody Allen-type, only taller, and looked just as bewildered as me. We struck up a conversation, and he casually mentioned that he’d made a number of 16mm shorts. One of them had even aired on Channel 20. It was, of course, Attack of the Paramecium Men. I hailed him like a brother, and from that moment on my life took a turn for the comedic.