"Life is like a movie. Write your own ending." - Kermit The Frog in THE MUPPET MOVIE (Dir. James Frawley, 1979)
Looks like I made some serious ommisions according to the many many readers who wrote in about my 10 Definitive Films Within Films (07/01-07/08) post last time out so here's some of the best suggestions, picks, and oversights:
It's the cartoon that opens WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT (Dir. Robert Zemeckis, 1988). An excellent pastiche of a 1940s Tex Avery short, with Roger and Baby Herman unleashing mayhem as only animated characters can. Halfway through, however, the director yells “Cut!”, and what at first seems like a mere cartoon suddenly becomes a live set, with a flesh-and-blood director chewing out his ink-and-paint actors, completely up-ending our preconceived notions of what is “real” and what is movie magic.
Not only does this clever device introduce the film’s main concept – that animated characters are real – it also foreshadows the way characters and events in the main story are not what they seem: how a simple infidelity case turns out to be a cover-up for something far more sinister, and how a certain femme fatale turns out to be “just drawn that way.”
Mike Weber writes: Billy Bright (Dick Van Dyke) watching his old movies on late-night teevee in THE COMIC (Dir. Carl Reiner, 1969) - which I swear was a major part of the inspiration for Firesign Theatre's "Don't Crush That Dwarf" album, which came out the next year and ends with an identical setup.
SEE YOU NEXT WEDNESDAY: in any number of John Landis films (and the"Thriller" video) - but best in AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981). *
Peter Bogdanovich's TARGETS (1968), which uses outtakes from THE TERROR (1963) as the latest film from star Byron Orlok (Boris Karloff), at whose drive-in premiere the ultimate confrontation takes place.
The whole setup for KISS KISS BANG BANG uses an actual film from1987 (DEAD AIM) that featured one of the cast (Corbin Bernsen). Footage from DEAD AIM was used as a film called "Johnny Gossamer", in which the character played by Bernsen is used as part of the McGuffin. *
Though we never actually see any of it, the fictional film "See You Next Wednesday" (based on a quote from 2001 : A SPACE ODYSSEY) is like Mike remarks above a running gag through-out just about every John Landis movie (including KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE, THE BLUES BROTHERS, & COMING TO AMERICA) it even warrants this Wikipedia entry.
Mike also wrote back : "I completely forgot the double feature from the marquee of the theatre in the beginning of GREMLINS (Dir. Joe Dante, 1984) - "Watch the Skies" and "A Boy's Life" - the working titles of CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (Dir. Steven Spielberg, 1977) and E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (Spielberg, 1982).
A lot of people emailed me that DRIVE-IN (Dir. Rodney Amateau, 1976) should have been noted but Jon Futrell made the case best : As a fan of drive-in movie theaters, I'd have to say my favorite movie within a movie is "Disaster '76" from the 1976 release DRIVE-IN.
A production of the equally fictional Executive Pictures (complete with Mount Rushmore logo), "Disaster '76" plays on the screen at the Alamo Drive-in one Friday night. A jumbo jet is bombed on a New Year's Eve flight, knocking out the entire crew except for stewardess Margo. A ship's captain (in full uniform no less!) takes the control and tries to land. Instead, he crashes into a high-rise skyscraper creating "a tower of an inferno". Somebody actually said that in "D '76". While the folks at the drive-in have their own romantic and criminal issues at the theater, there's floods, sharks and an overturned cruise ship on the screen. It's almost a shame that Irwin Allen didn't make a similar "all disasters in one" type of film.
Film Babble sadly notes that DRIVE-IN is not available on DVD at the present time - sigh.
J Campie a film critic from Managua, Nicaragua (Confidential.com) agrees with many of those who wrote in when he writes: Please include in your list "El Amante Menguante" (you can translate it as "The Shrinking Lover", although it loses the poetic bent of the original spanish title). This is a fake silent movie that Benigno watches in TALK TO HER (Dir. Pedro Almodovar, 2002) In it, a man shrinks so that he can actually enter his complete self inside the woman he loves. I know it sounds....strange and icky to say the least, but on the movie it looks lovely, and works wonderfully to highlight the central themes of the best Pedro Almodovar film ever made.
Jeff Beachnau states : You forgot the two (well, 3) greatest movies shown in Christmas classics - "The Night the Reindeer Died" starring Lee Majors shown at the beginning of SCROOGED (Dir. Richard Donner, 1988). *
And the greatest movie within a movie of all time (which I didn't even know until I grew up that they weren't real movies), "Angels with Filthy Souls" and "Angels with Filthier Souls" shown in HOME ALONE (Dir. Chris Columbus, 1990) and HOME ALONE 2 : LOST IN NEW YORK (Dir. Chris Columbus, 1992). * It's a TV movie but I'll allow it.
Other films within films that multiple movie lovers wrote in:
"Devil's Squadron" in THE STUNTMAN (Dir. Richard Rush, 1980) “Living In Oblivion” in LIVING IN OBLIVION (Dir. Tom DiCillo, 1995) SILENT MOVIE (Dir. Mel Brooks, 1976) Was the first major silent feature film in forty years that Mel Funn (Brooks) and cohorts Dom Deluise and Marty Feldman were trying to make actually named SILENT MOVIE? It's been decades since I've seen it so - anybody know the answer? Anybody?
"O Brother, Where art thou" from SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS (Dir. Preston Surges, 1941) This of course is notable because it was a fake movie within a movie that became a real movie almost 60 years later thanks to the Coen Bros. “COVEN” in AMERICAN MOVIE (Dir. Chris Smith, 1999) Another film within that is a film itself on its own - though COVEN is only 40 min. long. "The Spy who Laughed at Danger" from HOOPER (Dir. Hal Needham, 1978) “The Old Mill” from STATE AND MAIN (Dir. David Mamet, 2000)
This one I felt truly ashamed as a hardcore Python fan to have not noted - "The Crimson Permanent Assurance" from MONTY PYTHON'S THE MEANING OF LIFE (Dir. Terry Jones, 1983)
Notable for many reasons but to break it down to the principles - A: Terry Gilliam's tale of elderly anti-globalization office clerks commandeering their workplace structure and turning it into a pirate ship was originally supposed to be inside the movie but it became such an entity itself at over 15 minutes it cost much more than the rest of the production. B: - Matt Frewer (Max Headroom) makes his film debut in it. And C: - It comes back to disrupt the movie from within - an announcer even says "we interrupt this film to apologise for the unwarranted attack from the supporting feature..."
Okay! Next time out actual film reviews of movies in theaters and movies out recently on DVD -so please stay tuned.