Bedivere was not a man anyone would have expected to become a hero to the cause of film history and restoration. In his youth, he’d had few ambitions other than to fulfill the family tradition of joining the army, and with his service during the early years of Vietnam came the loss of both his idealism and his left arm. He’d ended up as script supervisor on The Forest that Dripped Blood largely as a favor from his friend Art, as an alternative to out-and-out charity. Sure, he liked movies, but no more than your average man.
Something about The Forest that Dripped Blood changed that, he said in his memoirs. Or maybe it was just working with Art Pendragon and his contagious enthusiasm.
It was due entirely to Bedivere’s saving good prints that the minor cult film lasted to the point that it could have a VHS release, followed by DVD and Blu-Ray. It was due to his essays in underground magazines that, years later, Pauline Kael would reference his term “Idealistic Filmmaking.” It was due to his affable willingness to parody himself that he not only encouraged Mystery Science Theater to show a highly edited version of The Forest that Dripped Blood, but that he cameoed as himself, allowing the small robot Tom Servo to kick him in the shins for his poor job at continuity.
Though he spent much of his career as a film writer explaining the notion of Idealistic Filmmaking, perhaps the most succinct summation came from his interview with the editors of Incredibly Strange Films.
“We had no budget,” he told the interviewer, “we had what actors we could find, and it was only by the grace of god or the devil that we ended up meeting a guy with a pet lion he could coax into lounging around for the final fight scene. Now, I’m not trying to insult other low-budget horror filmmakers here- Roger Corman is legitimately a genius- but a lot of them would have just shrugged, said that nobody was expecting a masterpiece, and turned in a piece of crap. But Art cared, really and sincerely, about making a good movie. Not just a good movie, but one that was smart and well-made and not especially misogynistic. Sure, we all knew we weren’t going to able to make Citizen Kane here, but Art wouldn’t let any of us just give up.
So that’s what I mean by Idealistic Filmmaking. I know it sounds pretentious, but it’s the best way I could explain it. You’re given crap to work with, and you know there’s a good chance that what you produce will be crap, but you’ve got to try. You’ve got to act as if your movie is going to be good. Art believed that, and because he believed it, the rest of us believed it.”
Bedivere waited for the interviewer to come up with another question, which turned out to be about the surprisingly good cinematography. He smiled.
“Viv- that’s the assistant who was embezzling from the studio, not that Merlin didn’t deserve it- she gave us a camera. She said it was high quality, though it didn’t look different than any other camera. She said it would be good luck to us.
I still have that camera, you know. Someday I oughta make a movie of my own with it.”