Girth McDürchstein's 'The Hedge'


In 1999, Girth McDürchstein found himself jailed for crimes he didn't commit: convicted on two counts of first-degree murders and one count of rape, he spent nearly three years in a Montana state correctional facility. During that time, Girth was an exemplary convict. He organized a volleyball league, single-handedly eliminated gang and corruption problems within prison walls, and established a book club for the few inmates who could read.

The book club gave Girth his original inspiration for The Hedge. After assigning a nonfiction junior-reader diary entitled El Labertino de los Diablos, Girth was struck by how similar Chilean teen José Barrenechea's life was to his own. Even the harrowing last three entries in the book, which chronicle Barrenechea's descent into madness and slaying of two innocents in a motel, reminded Girth of the experience that led him to his incarceration. It made him wonder about the man who really had committed those crimes — was it really possible that only a few burst synapses separated Girth McDürchstein the heavy-metal star from Girth McDürchstein, insane murderer?

The Hedge was born. In what Girth describes as a "fever-dream," songs rushed into his soul and he tried his damndest to catch them on paper. Within months, an early version of The Hedge — totaling more than three hours — was performed by a prison drama and music club formed by Girth. It received a tepid response from guards and inmates; Girth knew he had work to do, had to pare down the story to a digestible and coherent form — Girth knew that this his entire life had led him to this story, and if he didn't tell it, nobody would.

By the time his conviction was overturned in 2001, Girth had finalized a version of The Hedge that he deemed ready to record and perform live. Although he would cut some of these songs from The Hedge's final incarnation (especially the "Skullfucking Infants Estampie," a 23-minute "dream ballet" that couldn't fit on the album and truly baffled live audiences in early performances), Girth knew how to tell his story as nobody — not José Barrenechea, not ghostwriter Beatrice Sparks — could.

To record the album, Girth used a surprising influx of cash into Kelleystein Records to purchase a $3.5 million castle in Cornwall, which he converted into a recording studio and English base of operations for Kelleystein Recordings. Nearly a year later, Abysmal Crucifix released Girth McDürchstein's 'The Hedge' to eager audiences stateside. They also launched a national touring company performance of the show, featuring Girth McDürchstein in the lead role and his fiancée Margo Atwater as The One.

The double-album had poor sales worldwide, which many experts attribute to the length of time Abysmal Crucifix spent outside the limelight between 1999 and their resurgence in 2002. Without Girth to lead them, the rest of the band floundered, simply waiting for Girth to get out of prison. Despite the critical and commercial success of Backseat Delightlah!, the controversy surrounding Girth's conviction, and the early buzz about the never-released You Can Touch It for a Quarter, the world had moved on and forgotten about Abysmal.

Despite the commercial and critical failure of The Hedge, Girth continued to spend Kelleystein promotional dollars to ensure its eventual success. Although he signed a lucrative deal to have the stageplay script printed by Dramatists Play Service, few independent performances of the rock opera were produced.

A copy of the Dramatists Play Service Acting Edition, ca. 2003. Now out of print. Click image for larger size; Click here for high-resolution image.
The script for the 2002 stageplay version of The Hedge, written by Girth McDürchstein, is currently unavailable as the result of a dispute with Dramatists Play Service, Inc. We hope to resolve this soon, at which time the script will be available for download.

In 2003, independent film producer/director Vance Sloane (Hector's Secret, Plight of the Spiteful) approached Girth about creating a film adaptation of the stageplay and concept album. Although the project was shot on location in Chicago, Illinois, in the fall and winter of 2003, dwindling finances led to the project's demise in early 2004.

However, in early 2006, Mr. Sloane had finally acquired enough money to continue on in post-production. A rough cut was screened on April 7th, 2006, at the Cedar Rapids Independent Film Festival. Though it received a lukewarm response from the festival audience, Mr. Sloane did catch the interest of a distributor willing to finance post-production to completion and release the film in select theatres in 2007.

Though Girth's association with the film concluded once production was completed in December of 2003, he fully supports Mr. Sloane's continued efforts to bring Girth's vision to the silver screen. He wishes to make available his shooting script for The Hedge.

Click here to download Girth McDürchstein's original screenplay for the film version of The Hedge.

Additional Information on the film:

A Kelleystein & Hector's Spite Production
of a Vance Sloane film
Girth McDürchstein's The Hedge
Directed and Produced by Vance Sloane
Screenplay by Matthew Phillips & Vance Sloane
Based upon the stageplay by Girth McDürchstein
And the nonfiction diary El Labertino de los Diablos by José Barrenechea & Beatrice Sparks
Executive Producers Jonathan Devon
Robert Hutton
Marni Philipps
Matthew Phillips
Music Composed, Arranged, and Produced by Girth McDürchstein
Cinematographer Remy Goldstein
Editor Vance Sloane (A.C.E.)
And the nonfiction diary El Labertino de los Diablos by José Barrenechea & Beatrice Sparks
Cast (in order of appearance)
Hotel Manager John Davis
Bellhop Carl Loutan
Girth McDürchstein Matthew Phillips
Young Girth McDürchstein Charlie Maxwell
Mother Anna Lexington
Father Peter McMartin
Neighbor's Boy Billy Chalmers
Female Companion Margo Atwater
Stripping Girl in Window Carlita Fañuela
Homeowners Carl Davenport
Nicholas H. Kaplan
D.J. Koko
Marni Philipps
Vance Sloane
Blonde Girl Vanessa Anderson
Redheaded Girl Jennifer Lawstone
Examined Girl Bebe Parker
Red, Spiked Demon Tom Johnson
Blue-Green Demon Jake Peters
College Girls Vanessa Anderson
Carlita Fañuela
Jennifer Lawstone
Bebe Parker
Girth's Roommate Carl Davenport
The One Margo Atwater
Sales Manager Tom Johnson
Gregor's Sister Margo Atwater
Boarders Nicholas H. Kaplan
Rutherford "Jam" Malone
Jake Peters
The Hired Companion Margo Atwater
The Judge Peter McMartin
Police Officer Rutherford "Jam" Malone
Unit Production Manager Mary Keller
Assistant Director Wilson Hauptmann
Costume Designer & Makeup Artist Cynthia Lowenstein
Production Designer & Location Scout George Hutton
Music Editor Carlos Ueberschaer
Special Optical & Digital Effects Bruce Greenfield
Special Thanks
Illinois Film Office
Chicago Film Office
The City of Chicago (Richard M. Daley, Mayor)
Abysmal Crucifix
The Conquistadors
The Whisky-a-Go-Go (Los Angeles, California)
Cook County Sheriff's Department & Chicago Police Department
West Bucktown Neighborhood Association & Residents of Wabansia Avenue (for their patience and cooperation)
Columbia College Chicago
Cutters, 515 N. State Street, 25th floor
Chicago Recording Company, 232 E. Ohio St.
Lexie at CRC, Cindy at Cutters
Approx. 100 minutes, Color, Hi-Definition Digital Video (16:9 Widescreen), Stereo, 2006
Filmed entirely on location in Chicago, Illinois
Logline: Reflections of his troubled past drive an unsuccessful rocker to insanity and murder.
Plot Summary: Girth McDürchstein, lead singer/songwriter/lead guitarist of heavy metal rockers Abysmal Crucifix, finally hits the screen in this searing adaptation of his moderately successful stage production of the group's 2002 concept album, "The Hedge." Featuring a cast comprised largely of its original stage actors, "The Hedge" tells the story of a fictionalized Girth McDürchstein, a rocker embittered by his lack of success in art and love, who over the course of one evening finds himself driven to murder.
Many cast members are colleagues of star Matthew Phillips. These include Margo Atwater (Girth's real-life wife and, more recently, the bass player for his band, Abysmal Crucifix) in the pivotal role of The One, Carl Davenport (long-time friend and sometimes drummer) as Girth's college roommate and a frightened suburban homeowner, Jam Malone (Abysmal Crucifix's keyboardist and arranger) as a boarder during the "Metamorphosis" fantasy and a police officer at the very end, Little Riffs Nicky (Abysmal Crucifix's rhythm guitarist) as another boarder, Miami spinner D.J. Koko as a frightened homeowner, and heavy-metal band The Conquistador in the front row during the concert sequence.
The "zombie rushing" sequence at the end was shot over the course of three nights on Roosevelt Road in downtown Chicago, Illinois. As it was one of the last sequences shot and by this time much of the budget had been spent, permits to block traffic were deemed prohibitively expensive and director Vance Sloane found volunteers to block intersections with their own cars and pretend to be plainclothes policemen in unmarked vehicles. He also asked his assistant director and cinematographer to pose as county surveyors to gain access to shoot from a nearby elevated train platform.
Originally filmed in 2003, the budget was so tight that only principal photography could be completed. Without money for reshoots or post-production (e.g., editing, visual effects, sound), the raw footage sat on the shelf for over two years before Vance Sloane personally financed the editing of a rough cut.