I recently came across an interesting link on the popular social news site Reddit about a B-movie that was filmed in Wichita. Having been a fan of low-budget gems since childhood, I was instantly intrigued. The film is titled The Beast from The Beginning of Time.
According to a retrospective look by Richard Chamberlain, it was filmed in Wichita in 1965 by a group of local personalities that worked for KSN-TV, known back then as KARD. The plot involves an unearthed caveman who goes on a murderous rampage when he hears the sound of thunder.
Directed by local television host Tom Leahy, the film stars longtime Wichita State University theater director Dick Welsbacher and local Santa Clause legend Henry Harvey.
According to the film's assistant director, Don Golledge, it was made for only $8,000. The movie's cast and crew members each pitched in $98 to help fund the film. It was shot at Lake Afton, parts of west Wichita, the Wichita Municipal Airport and KSN studios in the middle of the night to help accommodate for the crew's regular work schedule.
With the exception of a cast party screening, the film sat on the shelf for the next 15 years until it was broadcasted as a Halloween special in 1980.
"It was a blast and I'm glad we did it," says Golledge. " It was one of the worst movies ever made, but it was a great time."
Another B-movie that was filmed in Wichita is King Kung Fu. Directed by Lance Hayes, the plot involves a martial arts-trained gorilla from China being set loose in Kansas. Similar to Beast, the film stars Leahy and includes KMUW's own Pat Hayes and Jim Erickson.
According to the film's director, Lance Hayes, the budget of the film was $100,000, but costs grew when prints of the film needed to be made for screenings.
With production beginning in 1974, the film took nine months to shoot, but almost three years to finish special effects, which included stop motion and editing.
Shot all over Wichita, you can catch local landmarks like Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, Century II and the Garvey Center.
The film first screened more than a decade later in 1987 for a two-week run at the Crest Theater. Shortly afterward, it was aired on KAKE-TV. The movie has since played at the historic Orpheum Theater for a couple of benefit showings. King Kung Fu eventually saw a DVD release in 2007.
"It certainly had its problems, but I would view it as an accomplishment," says Lance Hayes. "Besides, how many people can say they got to make a movie in Wichita, Kansas?"
Other B-movies that have filmed in Wichita include Darkness, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a screening at this year's Tallgrass Film Festival, and The Dead Can't Dance, which you can catch at the Palace later this month as part of the theater's October cult film series.
While the city may have a relatively short history with B-movies, it might have a bright future with the film industry as a whole.
According to the website Moviemaker, the Wichita film community was listed in the “On The Rise” category because of its ongoing transformation into a cultural and entertainment center. The city provides perks for the average filmmakers that include a 30 percent tax credit and no state filming permit requirement or hotel occupancy taxes for anybody staying over 28 days.
With these incentives to film in Wichita, maybe filmmakers, both local and abroad, will produce more films here...even if they are deliciously bad.