Thursday, May 10, 2018

Cut and Paste Film Making (Part Two)

While we are on the subject of 'cut and paste' movie making - where footage is lifted from an older production and used as the basis for a new film - as we were last post, several more examples have occurred to me.  Any discussion of the subject has to make mention of the great Roger Corman, king of the low budget movie.  Having produced the relatively expensive (by his standards, at least) Battle Beyond the Stars, it was inevitable that he would recycle the special effects sequences, which he duly did with Space Raiders, which repurposed the footage for a new story.  In more recent times, I recall seeing a low budget action film on Movies4Men which was built around the special effects sequences from Airport 80: The Concorde.  I can't for the life of me remember the title of the new film, but I do recall that the matching of the footage was quite well done.  TV, of course, has regularly used footage from old movies to make their episodes look more expensive than they actually were.  The Lee Majors series The Fall Guy, for instance, where he portrayed stuntman and part time bounty hunter Colt Seavers, often incorporated movie footage.  There was one episode which was composed mainly of footage from a movie called Stunts, with Majors' costumed to match Robert Forster, the film's star, in the long shots.

Science Fiction TV series often use a similar technique, except that instead of recycling footage lifted from an old film, they continuously recycle their own special effects sequences.  The Gerry Anderson series UFO is a good example of this: early on in the production cycle they clearly filmed a series of elaborate model sequences for things like the SHADO interceptors taking off from the moonbase and flying over the moon's surface, or the SkyDiver submarine launching the sky aircraft from uner the sea.  These were then used over and over again in episodes when such shots were required.  When you watch the series in its entirety, it quickly becomes clear that very few new special effects sequences were filmed for specific episodes, the scripts instead being adapted to accommodate existing footage.  In fact, it wasn't just model shots which were recycled in this way: several actors featured in more episodes than they actually filmed as shots such as the interceptor pilots sliding down the chutes into their craft, or sitting in their cockpits, were re used episode after episode.

Finally, there is an example of 'cut and paste' film making of local interest to me.  The Will Hay film, Oh Mr Porter! was partially filmed at a disused station on a closed (and now long since lifted) branch line near Crapchester.  This hadn't been the first time that the line had been used as a film location.  A few years earlier, in the silent era, when the branch was still open, another movie, involving train chases and derailments, was filmed there.  The train footage was subsequently lifted and used, with an added soundtrack, in the Will Hay film, to supplement the newly filmed material.  It was only in recent years that the original silent film was restored and re released.  So, there you go, a brief guide to 'cut and paste' film making.  There are many other examples out there, I've simply outlined those I'm most familiar with.  The big question, obviously, is whether the resulting films are any good and have any merit as movies in their own right?  In part, I suppose, it depends how much recycled footage they use.  Frequently, only a few seconds of old footage might be used to save costs where mounting a new special effects sequence from scratch would have been prohibitively expensive and time consuming.  But I have to admit that those films which seem to exist solely to reuse old footage have always left me feeling somewhat disappointed.  They don't feel like films in their own right and I can't help but feel that they are essentially lazy, cheating paying audiences by peddling second hand wares in the guise of a new product.  In truth, of course, most people watching these films never realise that they are seeing second hand footage spliced together with minimalist new scenes.  It's only sad bastards like me who have seen too many movies who notice, let alone care!



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