MacGuffins

IntroMacGuffins

First popularized by Hitchcock, Merriam-Webster defines a ‘MacGuffin’ as “an object, event, or character in a film or story that serves to set and keep the plot in motion despite usually lacking intrinsic importance.” Basically it’s the thing that makes the movie go. For example, R2-D2 is considered by George Lucas to be the MacGuffin of the Star Wars films. But what of human MacGuffins? Anyone can be a hostage or damsel in distress, so lets look at some of the less than conventional living beings that have propelled a plot.

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John Huston’s 1941 detective tale The Maltese Falcon gets credit for a lot of things. Not the least of which is the launching of both Huston’s career and the career of its star, Humphrey Bogart. It also gets credit for beginning the longstanding and successful onscreen pairing of Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet, and heck, more often than not it’s pointed to as the beginning of the entire film noir movement of the 40s. That’s a lot of acclaim for a pretty simple mystery story about a salty detective named Sam Spade trying to find the whereabouts of a statue shaped like a bird. The late 70s and early 80s were a time when genre films were king. Not only were the titans of the industry, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, tearing up the box office with huge event franchises like Star Wars and Indiana Jones, but lots of other directors were getting in on the act as well. Joe Dante hit it big with horror/comedy Gremlins, Robert Zemeckis struck gold with sci-fi/comedy Back to the Future, and even directors like Walter Hill made their names doing exploitation stuff like The Warriors. But, despite having the schlocky grit of something like The Warriors and the goofy humor of something like Gremlins, Alex Cox’s 1984 film Repo Man remains a movie remembered only by those plugged into the pulse of cult film. It’s a trivia question, an obscure pick, and not a cherished childhood memory like all the others.

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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