The Wizard of Speed and Time (film)
Straeker: There are your film cans, but you can't move them.
The Wizard of Speed and Time is a 1989 low-budget feature film written, directed, and starring animator Mike Jittlov. It presents a heavily-fictionalized and very satirical version of how the original Wizard of Speed and Time short was made. It incorporates a remake of the short, as well as portions of some of his other short films (such as Time Tripper and Animato).
The tricks of movie magic are exposed; but so are the tribulations of the independent moviemaker working around the heavily-unionized Hollywood film industry.
The film tells the story of Mike, an independent filmmaker and animator looking to get a break in Hollywood and failing because of what sometimes seems like a conspiracy of unions and studios to lock out anyone who isn't already a part of the film industry. After failing yet again, he gets what seems like his lucky break: Lucky Straeker (Steve Brodie), the director of an upcoming television special about special effects, is impressed with some of Mike's demo footage and offers him a segment on the special.
However, as Mike heads off to start work, the show's producer, Harvey Bookman (Richard Kaye), doubts that he can complete a major effects assignment. Lucky leaps to Mike's defense, and the two make a bet over whether Jittlov can actually deliver.
Despite being hampered by the system, Lucky gives Mike as much help and advice he can. However, Bookman does everything in his power to sabotage Mike's project, from making it impossible for him to get money up front to pay for his expenses to hiring thugs to waylay Mike and keep him from working. However, with the help of his friends and the power of the creative spirit, Mike thwarts Bookman and gets his film to the network before the deadline. The night of the broadcast, though, a sudden Presidential address to the nation pre-empts the special...
The film was filmed in 1983 but remained on the shelf until it was released to a very small number of theaters in 1989. It was later released on VHS and laserdisc. Although there is no official DVD release yet, Jittlov's fans have (with Jittlov's knowledge and at least tacit approval) created a DVD image file, and made it available for free on peer-to-peer networks until such time as an official release is realized.
The feature film is also filled with subliminal messages, many hidden in single frames during the "Wizard Run" sequence (which was remade and expanded from the original short film), or hidden in electrical sparks generated by various happenings in the film.
In addition to those tropes from the short film which apply to its counterpart here, this film also includes:
- Adaptation Distillation: The final film which Mike gets on the air is only the "Speed" segment of the original short. The "Time" segment is seen earlier in the film as a kind of demo for Harvey and Lucky, and despite their comments and the fact that Brian and Mike (and later Cindy) are putting a huge amount of time into its creation, it's never seen anywhere again, let alone as part of the "finished" project.
- Adaptation Expansion: Twice:
- First, the expansion of the original short into this film.
- Secondly, the "Speed" segment of the short, which originally ran about a minute and thirty seconds, has been reworked into a five-minute minifilm of its own.
- The Bet: Lucky and Harvey make a wager over whether Mike can complete his short film in time to be included in the special; Harvey goes far over the top in his efforts to sabotage Mike and win the bet.
- Captain Ersatz: The Dr. Magic show at which Mike tries to get a job is a fictionalized version of the less-than-stellar 1978 Dr. Strange TV movie.
- Car Chase: And when it starts, a subtitle appears to identify it as "The Chase Scene".
- Character as Himself: Mike Jittlov is credited as being played by "The Wizard". The Wizard, subsequently, is listed as portraying himself.
- Closed Captioning: Several scenes start with helpful subtitles to identify what part of the movie they are, such as "The Chase Scene", "The Romantic Scene", etc.
- Cool Bike: Mike's bike, with its (powerful!) antitheft system and just-as-powerful but pretty much invisible motor.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Bookman, to a T.
- Credits Gag: Several:
- The film starts with a big, overblown title sequence pandering to the producers, followed by "A Film by Mike Jittlov" in tiny text.
- Mike is credited as being played "By the Wizard", and the Wizard is credited as "Himself".
- Even the trailer has some of this, such as "Read the books * Buy the toys * Eat the popcorn" along the bottom of the text at the end.
- Cult Classic: The film itself became one, with its own following that keeps circulating the tapes.
- Empathic Environment: When Mike and Brian are filming the "Time" segment in Mike's garage, all manner of things -- all the way up to an incipient earthquake -- seem to happen in response to Mike and his comments.
- Everything's Better with Sparkles: The remake of the "Speed" segment is far more liberally sprinkled with sparkles than the original, culminating in a literal explosion of them in the final seconds.
- Executive Meddling: In-Universe example when Harvey tries every underhanded tactic he can come up with to sink Mike's production.
- Forgotten Trope: One of the last instances, if not the last instance, of the "stingy Scot" stereotype in mass media appears in this film with studio accountant MacTavish.
- Film Within a Film: Footage from many of Jittlov's short films can be seen at one point or another, and of course, there is the title film itself.
- The television special for which Mike makes his film.
- Mudwrestlers From Mars and the other Grade-Z films which Bookman produced.
- The Dr. Magic TV show.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: This is Freeze-Frame Bonus: The Movie. Especially in the "Speed" segment of the film-within-a-film. And basically anywhere you see sparks or another effect, you can pause or slow-mo the film and discover things written in the sparks.
- "I Am" Song: A different "I Am The Wizard of Speed and Time" song is used in the remake of the short, probably because of rights issues.
- Imagine Spot: Several, most of them recycling footage from Jittlov's earlier short films.
- Incredibly Lame Pun: From the trailer: at the end of a list of the features in the film (including dancing and romancing) with appropriate clips comes "fencing" -- as we see footage of Mike climbing a chain-link security gate.
- Invisible President: A speech by the President preempts the TV special on which Mike's film is going to appear. Instead of the President at his podium, the screen only shows the Presidential Seal for the duration of the speech. The President's voice, however, makes it clear he's Ronald Reagan.
- It's a Long Story: Said word-for-word by Mike one of the times he refuses to shake hands, in lieu of an explanation.
- Magic Realism: Film Magic Realism, even.
- Meaningful Name: Two characters are given names related to cigarettes: Lucky Straeker, Bookman's director, and Dora Belair, an assistant to a competing show's producer. According to Mike Jittlov, "Everyone in Hollywood gets burned."
- Memetic Outfit: Mike Jittlov is dressed throughout the film in his trademark green jacket and sneakers.
- Montage: After the Wizard bypasses the mob of girls looking for a lift and before he hits the Banana Peel, there is a rapid sequence of still photos of landscapes into which the camera zooms, one after another. Each frame of this montage is loaded with subliminal messages.
- The completion of the "Time" segment with Cindy's help is shown in a Creation Sequence.
- Painting the Medium: Mike's apparent ability to use special effects in the real world to do things no one else can do.
- Self-Deprecation: Jittlov as the judge who gives the Wizard the 9.7 score -- and then gets beaten about the head and shoulder by the other judges.
- Also, in the opening credits, Mike's credit as director appears in tiny type after monstrously huge text giving the producers and the title.
- Show Their Work: Watching this film, you will learn a surprising amount about film-making and animation without realizing it.
- Small Name, Big Ego: Harvey Bookman, whose resume is a catalogue of grade-Z flops, but who acts like the biggest of big shots.
- Truth in Television: Richard Kaye, who played Bookman and was the actual producer of the film. Compare the size of his credits at the opening of the film to Jittlov's.
- Special Effects Failure: Seen throughout as examples of the work of pretty much anyone other than Jittlov. Especially the films of Harvey Bookman.
- Oddly both expressed and averted by the entire film itself. According to Jittlov, the film as released was an incomplete work print, with several effects sequences essentially demos or half-done. (One such "incomplete" effect was the run down Lombard Street in San Francisco, but you'd be hard-pressed to tell that it was the first-pass, proof-of-concept try at the effect.) Also, some scenes are noticeably of a lower image quality than others, and may be interpolations of footage from dailies where final footage did not exist.
- Stop Motion/Pixilation: Explored as well as utilized -- the Creation Sequences we see reveal just how much work really goes into the kind of films Mike makes.
- Tagline: "His Life Is A Special Effect".
- Take That: In-universe: Among the discarded film cans Mike and Brian have to "steal" are several with the names of Harvey Bookman films on them.
- On the meta-level, a lot of this film is a "take that" at a well-disguised Disney and at the Hollywood system in general.
- Tempting Fate: While filming in Mike's garage during an improbable monsoon:
Jittlov: It could be worse: we could be trying to film this in an earthquake.
- Truth in Television: Richard Kaye did not only play a producer in the film, he was the producer of the film, and when it was complete, he fled the country with every dollar he could extract from the production, and every physical object of value that wasn't nailed down. The contract Jittlov had with him turned out to leave him with practically nothing.
- The scenes of Mike adding effects to his footage are shot at his actual workbench.
- And yes, he does write in that near-microscopic script shown in the trailer.
- Under the Truck: Mike does this with a motorized suitcase.
- Unreadably Fast Text: Dozens of examples:
- Every bit of electrical sparking actually spells out words.
- The "acceleration sequence" at the end of the Wizard's run has entire paragraphs of text written into every frame.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The movie is a heavily disguised account of Jittlov's experiences making the original short for Disney.
- Weird Trade Union: The various unions Jittlov attempts to join range from the simply bizarre to the surreal and Kafka-esque, and they all have Catch-22-style rules that make it impossible for anyone not already part of the film industry to become part of the film industry.
- What Happened to the Film?: Several times we see Mike and Brian working on the "Time" sequence, in which the Wizard brings a movie studio to life while singing, including an extended Creation Sequence when Cindy is helping them. And what's strongly implied to be an incomplete version is shown to Bookman and Straeker as demo of what Mike is creating, and they make several comments about its impact on their special. But the final broadcast doesn't include it at all. What happened? Did they just decide to focus on the "Speed" part and toss it out?
- You Just Ruined the Shot: Played with when an attempt to steal Mike's footage spills over onto a scene being filmed at the studio where Lucky and Harvey work. The camera keeps running until the action moves elsewhere, at which point the director emits a very lethargic "Cut."