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'Lemmings' lemon returns to South Whidbey
A low-budget bust filmed on South Whidbey nearly 25 years ago, a tale of zombies, time travel and Arthurian knights, will re-debut in Bavview this weekend as a benefit for veterans.
"Lemmings" will be shown at 3 p.m. Sunday, July 13, at The American Legion South Whidbey Post 141 as a fundraiser for the veteran-focused organization.
Directed in 1990 by Brian Smith, a then Freeland resident, the film was funded by community investors and "employed" a host of local actors.
"There was probably 100 people involved with it; it was a big production," said Don Wentworth, a Saratoga Road resident and former actor in the movie.
But despite lots of interest and participation from South End residents, the $75,000 project was never finished. Smith had successfully sold 25 $3,000 shares, many to local investors, but years of filming took its toll and at the end of the day the pennies needed for completion were nowhere to be found.
"We all had a feeling it was going to go nowhere," said Mike McVay, another former actor and long-time South Whidbey resident. "And when the film finally came out it was terrible. It was really unfortunate."
According to a 1993 South Whidbey Record story penned by former staff writer Sue Frause, Smith did his best to pitch the piece to industry funders, but it simply didn't meet muster. Three years after the production began, Smith announced the project was over.
"Lemmings will always be the movie that could have been," said Smith, in the 1993 Record story.
But while the movie was a wrap, many who worked on the set, which was filmed in woods outside Langley, still have fond memories of the long ago affair, particularly the parties afterwards.
"What was cool was the off-screen debauchery of alcohol, sex and drugs," laughed John Norby, another former actor in Lemmings.
His father, the late John Norby, also had a role in the film.
Norby added that "Lemmings" may have been a flop, but that it was better to have tried and failed than to have never tried at all. As for Wentworth, he speculated that a genre change may have been helpful.
"If it had been a comedy it might have been successful," Wentworth said.