About 100 people gathered at Trobec’s Bar Tuesday night for the world premiere of “Catalog Bride,” a movie conceived and directed by Ben Ferche of St. Stephen.
The audience took its leisurely time eating big steak suppers, sipping drinks and chatting merrily. Then there was a stir in the crowd when it was announced one of the movie’s two stars, Angie Reisinger of Sauk Rapids, was about to arrive in a sleigh pulled by a horse. In the frosty air, a gaggle of papparazzi jostled on the sidewalk in front of Trobec’s Bar, their camera flashes brightly flickering, as Reisenger stepped down to the curb. Then her co-star, Ben Ferche, gallantly accompanied her into the bar where groups of people gathered ’round to greet her.
Excitement mounted as people finished their suppers. Then, finally, shortly after 8 p.m., the movie began. It’s the story of a mail-order bride who comes from Texas to Minnesota in 1852. The opening sequence shows the bride in a carriage pulled through the woods by a spotted horse. She is coming to marry a man named Ben, a Minnesota farmer, who ordered her from a catalog. In those days, women were scarce in Minnesota territory. Ben is played by Ben Ferche.
The bride no more than gets to the farm, however, when Ben has a nasty accident. A tree falls on him in the woods. The dog Shep barks frantically. Ben’s son hurriedly seeks his father, knowing something is wrong. He comes across Ben, pinned under a tree. There are gobs and buckets of blood everywhere as Ben wiggles, blubbers, squirms, pants, rolls his eyes, twitches and convulses in a death agony. The spotted horse named Banche (pronounced Banshee) brings Ben’s body home to the grief-stricken bride. They put Ben in a wooden coffin. Then Ben’s son delivers a passionate speech about the good land and how the Creator, not men, own it; and about bounteous harvests; and about the U.S. Constitution and about how all men are created equal and should have bountiful harvests well into the future. By the end of his speech, Ben’s son is fairly shouting about freedom and other sundry platitudes.
A soldier, dressed in modern military garb, is the only attendant at the outdoor funeral, besides Ben’s son and the bereaved bride.
Suddenly, whoa! A shocking thing happens. The bell attached to the top of the coffin begins to tinkle loudly. The bride faints onto the ground. Alas! Ben is alive! He steps out of the coffin. He and his bride sit on a bench next to the yellow brick house, and Ben tells her over and over what a “razzle-dazzle” future they will have together. The horse, standing nearby, nods in agreement.
The movie was filmed mostly on Ferche’s Century Farm in rural St. Stephen, the farm on which he was born and raised.
During an interview before the premiere, Ferche told the Newsleader “Catalog Bride” is only his second video production. For many years, Ferche managed a real-estate rental business, but a few years ago he got a sudden hankering to make a video about a mail-order bride. He hired the services of Jim Mcallister’s Tel-A-Vision Productions in St. Joseph. The movie was completed just three weeks ago.
Ferche said the first parts and some of the last parts of “Catalog Bride” were meant to be comedic, although the elegy by Ben’s son was meant to be serious, an homage to his father and grandfather and their life of hard work on the farm.
The comedy parts certainly worked with the audience. There was lots of laughter throughout the movie, especially during the death-agony scene, which Ferche obviously enjoyed doing in a veritable fit of overacting. The ringing bell on the coffin also brought gales of laughter, as did Ben’s rambling monologue about how the future is going to be so razzle-dazzle for him and his new bride. Several times, Banche the Spotted Horse earned laughter and applause from the audience. Banche, indeed, proved himself to be a star in his own right.
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.