What Dexter Dolby saw before him that Friday night, was unlike any spectacle
he had ever seen. It was the night after Halloween. Police had blocked off the
streets in front of the La Mancha Cineplex where a crowd was starting to form.
Lights and camera bulbs were flashing.
Looking up at the marquee, Dexter, a writer and movie critic for the
Letongaloosa Register-Journal-Challenger-Sun Chronicle, couldn’t believe what
he saw. The marquee announced the premiere of his one-day, iconic film,
Attack of the 50-Foot Turkey.
Dexter couldn’t pinpoint the age that his obsession with cult classics, indie films
and campy “B” movies truly started. He always wanted to make them. Now he
was the winner of the La Mancha Fall Film Festival, and had received the
Trailblazer Award for Up-and Coming Filmmakers. And he was coming face-to face
with his creation.
As a kid, Dexter took the bus to La Mancha and got off in front of the old Odeon
Theatre. Every week, he bought a ticket for the afternoon matinee, headed to the
hamburger stand for a burger and a chocolate shake and then visited The La
Mancha Wildlife Conservatory. He loved to see the animals, particularly the
turkeys, before the movie started.
It was always a fun afternoon, but it was inside the theatre that Dexter felt really
alive. It always excited him to see the creatures come to life onscreen. With
popcorn and candy in hand he sat on the front row and watched the strange
plots evolve, and enjoyed the weird costumes and odd camera angles of
movies like Attack of the Puppet People, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes and It
Came from Outer Space.
As an adult, Dexter was a behind-the scenes kind of guy. He preferred observing
and capturing life’s quirky little oddities from behind the lens of an old Revere
8Mm movie camera, a present from his grandpa, George. Dexter filmed
whatever walked in front of his camera. Frequently what walked in front of his
camera were turkeys from the conservatory. The strutting birds often escaped
and paraded through the center of downtown. One Saturday, Dexter picked
up his camera and followed them.
Later, he learned everything he could about turkeys from the biology of their
beaks to the grandeur of their gobbles. He learned that turkeys are related to
dinosaurs. They have the same chest structure as the giant T-Rex.
Now, all these years later, Dexter stood on the red carpet, lights of the
photographer’s flashbulbs capturing his image. He wasn’t used to the frenzy
that came from being in front of the camera, But he was a filmmaker now and
he was loving every moment of it.
People had told him that Hollywood directors and producers were attending
the film festival. If that was true, he’d love to work in Hollywood. Regardless,
hoped they liked what they saw. He hoped everyone did.
The audience began to take their seats and as he took his usual position in the
front row, almost frozen with excitement.
People loved the movie. They complimented Dexter on the strange plot lines,
the weird costumes and the odd camera angles. And a Hollywood director did,
in fact, approach Dexter that night.
He was wearing a black tuxedo, a long white scarf around his neck. “That was
quite a film, Mr. Dolby,” he said. “I’m Paul Peterson. I own a production
company in California and I think you’d be a good fit for us. He handed Dexter
Dexter felt good as he walked away from the Cineplex that night. It had turned
out to be quite a night for this small-town movie critic.
The next day, Dexter did what he had done every Saturday since he was a kid.
He headed to the La Mancha Wildlife Conservatory to visit the turkeys that
helped him realize his dream of becoming a filmmaker. He ate his usual burger
and chocolate shake. But as he walked into the theatre to watch the campy
movies he loved so much, Dexter Dolby did a little dance in front of the box
office. He wasn’t just going to watch campy movies, he was on his way to
Hollywood to make them.