The raw footage shot of actor Ernest Borgnine driving across the country, which became the 1997 documentary Ernest Borgnine on the Bus but was originally shot to be an early reality series, is now online, thanks to Jeff Krulik, its director.
Krulik may be best known for the cult classic Heavy Metal Parking Lot, a 1986 short documentary about heavy metal as illustrated by fans in the parking lot of a Judas Priest concert (rent it for $3), which eventually led to other similar films and a reality series on Trio that was actually developed by current Bravo VP Andy Cohen.
Anyway, Krulik has released the footage he got filming Ernest Borgnine for a week, as he notes on his YouTube page:
“In 1995, we spent a week with screen legend Ernest Borgnine and his son Cris as they drove across the Midwest in his 40-foot bus The Sunbum, taping them for a tv show we were pitching called ERNEST BORGNINE ON TOUR. This was a reality tv show five years ahead of the curve. Nobody in show biz was interested, but we had enough footage for a one hour documentary we called ERNEST BORGNINE ON THE BUS. It was well received in film festivals, on regional PBS, and on home video. In honor of Ernie’s 95th birthday, we wanted to share the entire week because it was such a fun time on the road….”
My friend Mike Riggs profiled Krulik for Washington City Paper in 2010, noting that “Years before Jersey Shore, the film turned the unintelligible ravings of drunken fans into a documentary for the ages,” and “Krulik followed the masterpiece with more efforts to wrest gems from fan culture,” although “diminishing returns from subsequent exercises in parking-lot verite mean Krulik’s been having a hard time even gaining traction among the documentary-geek types who once adored him.”
One of his later films, Heavy Metal Picnic, is now on DVD, and you can still buy Ernest Borgnine on the Bus. But to see the footage that became the documentary, or things that didn’t make it, there are now there are 36 videos of raw footage on YouTube, including this one, in which Ernest Borgnine searches for a Dairy Queen: