by David Christopher Bell
No, we’re not just talking about old movies seen within newer movies here; this is extreme stock footage – using the old to create a new narrative, something for fun, or even for the sake of story.
And in the interest of avoiding every film that ever used stock footage – this is the select few that did so in much more creative ways than simply sticking it the background or in a cutaway like some Ed Wood film.
This is stock footage with a twist.
7. Superman Returns Resurrects Marlon Brando
It takes serious balls to resurrect a dead actor for your movie, and Bryan Singer’s balls are so serious they once played Hamlet at the Old Vic. For the scenes where the crystals are accessed at Superman’s Fortress Of Solitude, they needed Jor-El to show up with brand new dialogue while still looking like the same (now dead) actor in the original Donner films.
It was rather easy, apparently – as they got full permission from Brando’s people before being allowed hundreds of hours worth of footage from the previous films. From there they digitally mixed and matched his dialogue to selected facial performances augmented with CGI. It probably would have been fine to just use a new actor, but whatever.
6. Kung Pow: Enter The Fist CGIs Steve Oedekerk Into Old Kung Fu Films
It follows the footsteps of very few before it (we’ll get to that later), but is a total rarity in utilizing the modern effects techniques with old footage – using the power of the green screen to bring us the kind of cult following you’d expect from a man obsessed with talking appendages.
If you happen to pick up the DVD of this film for $4.99 at Target or in a dead relatives house, do check out the un-dubbed version – which is a special feature on the disk. It features the original dialogue as the actors said it, and while the original film footage is in another language – the newly shot footage has some pretty amazing dialogue by actors who knew they would be eventually dubbed over.
5. The Shootist Uses John Wayne’s Entire Career
No better person to star in a film about a cowboy legend with cancer than a cowboy legend with cancer. The Shootist was John Wayne’s last film before he died – and a fitting one at that.
The Ron Howard-narrated opening sequence (yes, Opie is in it) is a montage of the character’s early exploits as a western hero – and what better way to get such exploits than simply using old John Wayne films? Red River, Hondo, Rio Bravo, and El Dorado all show up in this opening scene – now rather bittersweet to watch.
4. What’s Up Tiger Lily? Redubs A Spy Film
Originally made by Woody Allen as a 60-minute-long television show, the movie was padded to 80 thanks to the producers, as well as some additional footage and the terrible band “The Lovin’ Spoonful.” This tinkering explains exactly why the movie is a combination of hilarity and tedium, some points noticeably more drawn out than others.
For a film released in the 60s, this is probably the first instance of a comedic re-dubbing (though I’m not historian of the matter), but it’s certainly not the best. It is, however, the strangest.
3. Hercules Returns Works A Funny Redub Into Its Plotline
Now this is probably the best comedic re-dubbing of a film there is. Not only is the humor like MST3K crossed with Monty Python, but also the timing and subtlety (what subtlety there is) is spot on. And oddly enough, the film actually has an explanation for itself – the plot follows three theater employees who have to redub a film on the spot on opening night due to accidentally getting an Italian film.
It’s a pretty brilliant explanation, made even better with an amazing execution. It’s a mix of funny inflection, unique dialogue, and amazingly placed monosyllabic responses – all dubbed over the ridiculous Italian film Samson and His Mighty Challenge.
2. Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid Edits Steve Martin In Old Film Noir
It’s the OG Kung Pow. A Carl Reiner-directed Steve Martin stumbles in and out of various film noir classics like The Big Sleep, Dark Passage, and The Postman Always Rings Twice – plus like 20 others – all edited together by Bud Molin.
Probably my favorite moment has to be when Steve Martin shares a tense cookie with what is actually Alan Ladd in This Gun For Hire. That, and of course his famous cup of java, as well as Rachel Ward’s amazing bullet removal abilities.
1. Mystery Science Theater 3000 Brought Back Countless Old Movies
Mystery Science Theater 3000 has done more for old films than TCM and AMC combined. It also way outperforms both stations in terms of abbreviation awesomeness.
A movie like say, Space Mutiny, would have never come into our lives had it not been for these guys and their tenacity toward sitting around and watching shitty films while building a new experience around them. And similarly, new terrible movies like Batman & Robin would have long died out in value had it not been for the show’s successor Rifftrax. While everything else on this list has breathed new life into a single piece of movie footage, MST3K has done the same with over 1000 and counting.
By the way, if you haven’t seen the MST3K version of Space Mutiny. You can now.