Maine-made comedy hits DVD

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Slapstick “Throg” earns raspberries from amateur critics; filmmakers don’t mind

A silly comedy starring Mechanic Falls Town Manager Dana Lee is finally ready for the public.

However, the public may not be ready for “Throg.”

The tiny-budgeted film, subtitled “An Epic Tour de Farce,” was released on DVD in late April. Since then, at least nine online movie renters and sellers, including Netflix, Blockbuster and Amazon, have begun offering up the movie to their customers.

And the customers don’t seem to like it.

Netflix renters have rated the Maine-made movie at 1 stars of a possible five. One amateur critic called it “the worst movie ever made.” And at Amazon.com, the two customer comments came from an angry Brit and from a Swedish man who liked the film in spite of itself.

Not that its makers mind.

“It’s a stupid film, but it’s fun,” said producer-director Matt Power of Portland. “To appreciate it, you have to have a totally offbeat sense of humor.”

After two years of production and two more years of finding a distribution deal, it’s finished.

“To me, I focus on the fact that we got it done,” Power said.

Lee and Power, buddies since the fourth grade, began the movie as a way of trying out a new digital video camera. Power wanted to make it work and Lee, a natural ham, came up with a dopey caveman character named “Throg.”

A story developed. Friends helped until they’d collected a cast of dozens.

Principal photography lasted for nearly two years. On weekends, they shot in the woods of Cumberland, spent a day in Casco Bay and shot in and around Mechanic Falls. They took over the town’s wastewater plant, the library and the Town Hall gym, where they hung a blue tarp from the ceiling and shot a scene set on Mount Olympus.

The movie was completed in 2004 and was shown at film festivals in Rome, Georgia and Boston, picking up a cinematography prize at the latter.

“It cost $35,000 to make,” Power said. “We fooled a lot of people into thinking this was just a low-budget movie that cost half-a-million dollars. We had a zero budget.”

Earlier this year, Power and Lee signed a distribution deal with SRS Cinema, a small company that specializes in grade B horror movies.

The DVDs of “Throg” appeared online about three weeks ago.

The disk includes several deleted scenes and trailers. The box also includes a bit about the production and its low cost, something which most online renters never see. Power used the movie as a practical film class, spending the money to produce an experimental movie rather than on instruction at a film school.

People need to see a movie like this with different expectations than they see a Hollywood film with a budget of millions, he said.

“I think it would be perfect for a fraternity,” Lee said. He imagines a bunch of college students enjoying the slapstick campiness of the story.

“It’s definitely a movie that gets better, the more you drink,” Power said.

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