Break out your LD players or your 16mm projectors,
because The Wizard of Speed and Time is the Greatest Movie EVER.
Click on the VHS cover or the title above to download our review of the film,
featuring celebrity translator Neil Nadelman.
Review in a Nutshell: A film that is both a love-letter to the magic of making movies and also a scathing condemnation of the way that Hollywood does business, The Wizard of Speed and Time is a highly improbable film that peels back the curtain on special effects techniques that are rapidly becoming a lost art.
I vaguely remember hearing about this movie, Paul – but I didn’t know it ever came out….
I remember going to science fiction conventions a lot as a kid; Mike Jittlov was always there, going on and on about how much he hated dealing with studios and the “film industry” and what-not. He’s an interesting guy, if not a bit…iconoclastic? I guess. Still, if you’re going to make one movie, this was a good one; the stop-motion effects are still pretty impressive.
Like so many others, I didn’t realize this movie was out at all, yet I was slightly familiar with his work, namely one short film he did as a student at UCLA in the 70’s I use to see constantly either on Nickelodeon or Showtime in the early 80’s called “Good Grief”, a rather bizarre, morbid little piece involving a guy having these nightmarish things happen while in bed. To this day Jittlov likes to state how he felt he was the inventor of the “Have A Nice Day!” happy face logo because he used a similar looking happy face figure in this film, and would often put a happy face in his signatures too. You can see a good chuck of his early work here…
I suppose it kinda startled me to see who released this film at all. The only SGE release I can recall was the pre-viewed copy of “Beverly Hills Body$natchers”. Not sure why my mom bothered to get it but she did one day at Blockbusters when it was among the sea of other pre-viewed tapes they had (at least Vic Tayback and Frank Gorshin got some work).
I suppose this movie was up on the shelves of video stores in my town but I never thought of it at all until the past decade when it just sorta showed up in my life, though not the classy Image Entertainment LD release. Sometime later I came across the “Starmaker Entertainment” VHS release. This different in several ways from the Shapiro-Glickenhaus Entertainment release of before, namely that it had different edits in places such as extra dialogue in scenes that were silent before and additional scenes not seen previous on the VHS and LD release. I was glad to get this for rarity sake the best I did to it was sync the Spanish-dubbed audio to it (as it was also based on the same cut too). The only downside is the Starmaker tapes tend to be recorded in EP mode and you have to take what you can get there. But if you’re willing to go where I went, here’s this (apparently this guy was lucky too, it’s the exact tape).
While you went on about some of the familiar cameos and other people who show up in this, one person I like to add that also makes an appearance is one of the Nine Old Men himself, Ward Kimball. He mainly plays the IRS guy inside the building as Mike does his wall run sequence. He also shows up as some random guy walking about in a daze in the Animators’ Union (of which all the Union guys were played by Will Ryan who also narrates the trailer and the president’s voice). I can see why Jittlov would cast him in this, he’s made some pretty funky works in his own right, often rivaling what he was doing at Disney’s itself. In 1970 he received an Oscar for his film “It’s Tough To Be A Bird” and directed a neat little film starring Kurt Russell called “Dad… Can I Borrow The Car?” (one of many episodes of the Disney anthology program that had been a staple of Sunday Night viewing in America). But probably his best known work outside the Mouse Factory was this…
A while back someone I know was trying to publishing a book on his life and career but Disney turned it down to due whatever offended their reputation based on Kimball’s own opinions. Truly a shame too. We’ve been waiting years for this.
Aside from what Jittlov did for that special in unleashing his WOSAT on Americans nationwide, another of his unique works that was produced to coincide with Mickey Mouse’s 50th birthday was this…
Apparently here’s the whole special this was aired on (if you care to do so). Unlike “Major Effects” which you can only watch half of as Neil explained.
As Neil had already mentioned (and hinted at in this movie) he also designed one of the first interstitial pieces for the new Disney Channel that came into being in 1983. A satellite shaped by Mickey Mouse’s head, piloted by “The Wizard” hovers over the country beaming The Disney Channel to homes across the nation (for a fee). Though I can’t quite find a full version of that piece out there, here’s one he made as a intro to movies on the channel.
While true of how the music in the main film shifts between whatever original scores were composed for it and the stock library stuff, I kinda dig how it was done, but perhaps I’m a little weird for that stuff as a kid during that time. That music which Nadelman ID’d as being from some cartoon is partly correct. It was the “Hi-Q” library from Capitol Records who maintained a library of production music that was used in all sorts of productions from movies to TV shows and cartoons. The music was best remembered in sitcoms like Donna Reed, Dennis The Menace and in cartoons like Huckleberry Hound and Yogi Bear.
I would agree Neil comparing the way Mike would drop in his previous work into the feature to Gainax dropping in Daicon IV footage into Otaku No Video despite what you think of that Paul (and I can agree, that didn’t age well and I’ve come to resent Gainax as a studio as a whole).
Speaking of which, I got something I’d like to share with Paul but I’ll ‘tweet’ that later!
Due to Jittlov basically getting screwed over by an evil producer (who, oddly enough, also had a role in the movie…as the evil producer), it never really had a good commercial release. When he finally got the rights back, Jittlov granted permission for the laserdisc version to be shared online. Just google “Wizard of Speed and Time” “Bearded Swordsman” and you’ll find it.
“Due to Jittlov basically getting screwed over by an evil producer (who, oddly enough, also had a role in the movie…as the evil producer), it never really had a good commercial release. When he finally got the rights back, Jittlov granted permission for the laserdisc version to be shared online. Just google “Wizard of Speed and Time” “Bearded Swordsman” and you’ll find it.”
Shame he couldn’t just take what he had, put a Kickstarter together to get the “definitive edition” he so cares to do, then simply license the finished product to a potential company to release, or simply release it himself. That would seem like the sensible thing to do.
Recall Paul was right about the whole bet between Striker and Bookman being too much as it is. The whole thing with the car chase bit kept reminding me of those Disney movies of the 60’s and 70’s, you know, the ones with Kurt Russell up against middle-aged cronies like Joe Flynn and the rest. I’ve seen tons of those in my life to tell those plots well. I did sorta like the sassy black roommate for the girl in the film and how she obviously has street sense to know how shady this all is, yet bothers to help out (if ever). Kinda like her remark on Mike taking the girl to his “Casting Couch” for his bedroom. Aside from the Jewish studio owner with his nephew who becomes a victim of circumstances and the gay choreographer, there’s also McTavish the studio bankroll guy or whatever he was who Mike’s friend has to deal with in one scene just to be ranted on about wanting money in that thrifty Scotsman manner we so associate those people for (“Now I know what PO stands for”).