This is another edition of Short Starts, where we present a weekly short film(s) from the start of a filmmaker or actor’s career.
If you’re any kind of fan of Edgar Wright‘s films, including his latest, The World’s End, you’ll have gone back and seen Spaced, the popular British TV series credited as the breakthrough for him and regular collaborators Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. But if you’re a diehard Edgar Wright fan, you’ll know all about the earliest origins of the filmmaker. About the short films he made as a teenager and the evolution of cameras and formats he shot on all the way, and how that evolution occurred.
Wright made his first short film, Rolf Harris Saves the World, with a Super 8 camera with a bunch of friends when he was only 14. Only five minutes long, it has a Die Hard-type plot in which the titular Australian TV personality (as played by a friend and dubbed by Wright) is the hero. Soon after he made a half-hour sequel, Rolf Harris 2: The Bearded One (not to be confused with Rolf Harris Saves the World Part 2, which I think is something he made in college).
His first real break came a few years later with a clever stop-motion animated short titled I Want to Get Into the Movies, which won a competition in support of Comic Relief and was shown on the BBC program Going Live! Inspired by Sesame Street animations, the three-minute silent work is about a cube-shaped creatures who can’t get into a cinema only equipped to cater to sphere-shaped patrons he wants to check out that awesome triple feature of The Sound of Music, Driving Miss Daisy and Total Recall). It’s a brilliant allegory for the issue of wheelchair accessibility, and you can watch it below along with Wright’s appearance on TV at age 17.
As we know, he didn’t go on to become the world’s best animator, yet the short makes me wish that one day he’ll give a go at a doing more animation work — maybe a stop-motion feature like Wes Anderson did with The Fantastic Mr. Fox?
One of the prizes Wright won with the Comic Relief contest, as you see in the video, was a Sony camcorder. With that, he made a few more amateur short films, including the unseen superhero movie Carbolic Soap and the 40-minute cop comedy Dead Right, which appropriately can be found on the DVD and Blu-ray of Hot Fuzz. I caught it recently and have to say it’s probably the silliest movie I’ve seen since Spaceballs. Silliest movie that I still found entertaining, that is.
It’s pretty hard to enjoy most crude early works like this, especially when they’re comprised of all kid actors (reminiscent of a play from Rushmore), but it works as a young fan’s homage to movies like Dirty Harry (which apparently originally titled “Dead Right” — I thought this had that title simply because it rhymes with Ed Wright) and Lethal Weapon while also being cleverly self-aware (and in 1993 this was not as common as the device would become in subsequent years) and just plain amusing in its bonkers Monty Python and Mel Brooks style of comedy. Wright appears as himself, as the film’s director.
If you don’t own Hot Fuzz, you can watch at least the following clip, shot in the same supermarket Wright worked in as a kid and later filmed part of Hot Fuzz.
A little before Dead Right, Wright made the similarly meta short Help!, a roughly two-minute sketch in which a guy is being terrorized and attacked by the very camera and sound equipment being used to make the short. The whole thing can be seen below as part of a showcase on the ITV show Gimme 5.
And then a year later he was back on Gimme 5 presenting a short called Infra Red Fred. Seeming to jump off from the bit at the end of Help!, this one is about a guy with a remote control that works on people (before Adam Sandler did it). Although it’s featured in a weird framing device, you can see the whole minute-long short below (unless there’s more after what’s shown here).
For more videos of young Edgar Wright on British kids’ shows and clips from his other early works, including his debut feature, A Fistful of Fingers, check out the filmmaker’s website here.