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Some years ago, the USA cable network carried a late-night program
called "Night Flight" which featured an assortment of entertainment,
including rock videos and short films. Although I wasn't a regular
viewer, I stumbled across "Night Flight" when it aired a live-action
animated short called "The Wizard of Speed and Time." I was blown away
by the film's ingenious use of stop-motion photography and other camera
trickery as it told the story of a green-robed wizard who possesses the
ability to run around the world in just a matter of minutes.
"The Wizard of Speed and Time," it turned out, began as a short subject made in 1979 by filmmaker Mike Jittlov. Some years after making the original film, Jittlov took his idea and expanded it into a low-budget feature, also called "The Wizard of Speed and Time," which tells the story of a young filmmaker named Mike Jittlov and his struggle to make a special-effects-laden short film for a TV special despite having few resources (i.e., money) while battling the Hollywood bureaucracy.
The five minutes or so of "Wizard" material in the feature are a triumph of shoestring ingenuity. We see a one-minute "work in progress" featuring marching tripods, dancing light stands and flying film cans as well as an infectiously catchy title tune (this was part of Jittlov's original short, with new music added). The film's climax is the finished product mentioned above (a remake and elaboration of the first part of the 1979 short - I think the remake is what I saw on USA). I marvel at Jittlov's ability to visualize in advance the dazzling images he's reaching for and his skill in achieving those images through frame-by-frame animation and undercranking. And notice how the camera refuses to stand still for the animations - other stop-motion films may seem rooted to the floor one set-up at a time, but Jittlov refuses to let his camera be tied down.
I just wish I could praise the rest of the movie as highly. It's friendly, it's likable, but when the Wizard isn't conjuring up his magic, the feature turns into what is, at best, only a mildly funny takeoff on Hollywood. I was hoping the ingenuity that Jittlov displayed in the Wizard sequences would also transform the surrounding story, which supposedly is based on his real-life experiences, but what we get is pretty thin stuff.
Jittlov's love of movie-making is much in evidence; there's at least one visual homage to the Walt Disney Company, and one of Disney's original "nine old men," animator Ward Kimball, makes a brief appearance as an examiner for the "Infernal Revenue Service." That's right, "infernal," and I'm afraid that's an indicator of the general level of verbal wit in "Wizard." We also get a studio head with a supposedly comic Jewish accent.
Still, Jittlov comes across as such an engagingly eccentric fellow - an animated character in his own right - that I wanted to believe in him and his house chock full of film-related gadgets and toys. Former Miss Virginia Paige Moore makes for a charming leading lady, both in the movie and the movie-within-the-movie. Philip Michael Thomas, the biggest name in the cast, plays a cop far removed from Miami. Fans of "Get Smart" may remember Angelique Pettyjohn, who was undercover agent Charlie Watkins in the 60s TV spy spoof; fans of the original "Star Trek" series will remember her from "The Gamesters of Triskelion."
What began as a three minute student film has become a cult classic that
seems to snowball with the years. Mike Jittlov, film-maker/animator/writer/director/editor/co-producer/calligrapher/cult
figure and iconoclast, created this cultural cul-de-sac as almost a love
story to film-making. The sequence where he applies for various Union
memberships to complete his film is probably too close to the truth, and the
hyper-kinetically edited sequence near the end of the film is a wonder to
Bootleg copies of the (now long out-of-print) SGE release have been passed around fandom like pieces of the true cross, and the popularity of the film, as well as it's creator, only grows stronger.
This film should be required viewing for all film students, as well as those who want to know how to make a film on a low budget (and how there are many sharks in the waters of Hollywood, which this film so clearly points out).
Hunt down this film (copies can be had in one form or another, check the related websites), watch it, and cherish it. You may end up wearing out the pause and slow-scan buttons on your VCR trying to figure out how he did these special effects without a computer!
Bizarre and obscure little film that charms you into watching it with gusto
once a few minutes of it pass your eyes. It's an homage to struggling
independent film makers everywhere, and filled with lots of subtle bits of
humor and satire and quick-to-pass messages during the F/X. This film
like it was made for about 40 bucks but don't let that keep you from
watching it. What's more, evidently Mike Jittlov cast all his friends (a
LOT of them) and his mom in the film as well, and it appears that each and
every one of them are having the time of their lives doing this movie.
One of my favorite scenes is when Mike enters the office that Dora Belair (portrayed by Angelique Pettyjohn, sadly her last film appearance) works from, and there's a poster on the wall behind them of her Star Trek character "Shana" dressed in that aluminum foil bikini from the episode "The Gamesters Of Treskelian". It's a nice sci-fi touch... And nobody seems to notice.
Mike has a hard time trying to get his work recognized by anyone of substance (very much like real life) and it seems there's a crooked producer at every turn waiting to rip him off, and it isn't helped by his stigma about shaking hands... which is never really explained other than that he simply "...doesn't shake hands".
Throughout the film we see Mike working on film F/X in what appears to be his own garage and his own tools and props, and we get to see him actually producing the F/X that end up running in the short that he presents as his product, "The Wizard Of Speed And Time".
This is an astonishing little film that deserves much more recognition than it ever got, and it's a gem in the rough for being so matter-of-fact and innovative. It's also a must-have for any cult film or obscure cinema collector to include in their video collection. Of my all-time top 20 films, this would have to slip into the mix somewhere by its sheer tenacity and strength of will and innovation, if not for anything else. I really would have liked to have seen Mike Jittlov do something else similar to "Wizard..." but alas nothing ever came to be. I can watch this film over and over again, and with each viewing its atmosphere and flavor makes me feel like I'm 20 years back in time.
It's not for all tastes. Some people think it's absolutely wonderful, some people think it's amateurish nonsense. Some people simply won't get it at all. I got it. I liked it a lot, and the somewhat silly segments with the terribly cliche'd producer are forgivable if not perfectly allowable for the sake of comic relief, especially seeing as how that's the real producer of this film hamming it up on camera. If you *do* appreciate films like this, you'll feel refreshed after watching it and you'll feel like you'd like to meet Mike and maybe buy him a coke... just don't try to shake his hand.
Then go out and become an independent film maker yourself.
Bravo Mike, ya done good!
I first saw this movie back in 1989 with some friends of mine, we were in the habit of going to the video store and TRYING to find a movie none of us had seen. One trip brought us this rare gem. We watched it and were thoroughly amused by this story of Mike Jittlov vs. Hollywood. The stop-motion effects were simply amazing, executed with skill that would make ILM green with envy. The story was funny in a poking-fun-at-Hollywood-and-ourselves kind of way. NOTE: Our rental copy included the movies own hilarious trailer, this trailer does not seem to be included in copies available today (5 YEARS in the making! 5 DAYS in the theaters! ect). Watch it, love it, share it with your friends.
I saw this first years ago, when I was kid, around the time it came out. My
dad loved it, and we had it on tape. It was then lost in the streams of
and I totally forgot about it. About a year ago, my sister and her husband,
while i was over visiting, pulled a video out of their shelf and asked if
I'd ever seen this. It was "The Wizard of Speed and Time", and I said that
it looked familiar. From about 10 seconds in, I remembered this movie
competely, and was filled with merriment in the way people get when you see
something again that you loved as a kid, and is still as
Jittlov wrote, directed, produced, audited, gripped, funded, cranked, cameraed, composed, googled, flamboozed, and starred in this almost one-man show. He's extremely talented, in all respects. The movie is extremely cleverly written, well acted, well directed, and amusing to the point of extremes. Very clever shots are taken to many different facets of hollywood, as Mike tries to complete a movie he's making. The ending is witty, the romance is credible, and this movie is just plain fun. It even has good music! Definately high on my list of all time goodies. I did get a bit sick of it after watching it about 30 times or so, but very few movies keep my attention that long. A warning though, you really have to be a certain kind of person to enjoy this movie. Most people I tried to get to watch it didn't enjoy it. Let's face it, Mike is a nerd, getting all the chicks, and stands up for nerds everywhere. You kinda have to be a nerd to enjoy this movie. And I am a nerd. 9/10
I finally managed to track this down at a cult-film video store, and it was
worth all the effort. Do whatever you have to do to see this one! It
vaguely reminded me of the low-budget inventiveness of Weird Al's "UHF,"
only multiplied 1000 times, and the "let's make a movie while the executives
are out to lunch" zaniness of "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure."
There's a lot more to this movie (or movie-within-a-movie, or is it a movie-within-a-movie-within-a-movie?) than might appear. Subliminal messages, Hollywood major-studio politics, art vs. commerce, a startling new use for a chrome bust of Mickey Mouse, fantasy vs. reality, the horrors of dealing with unionized labor, some plugs for the Church of the Sub-genius, lots of deftly-employed stock footage, and the most terrifying "pizza with everything" you'll ever see. And there's even an intentionally-horrible musical number about the creation of the universe, which is thankfully interrupted by a ridiculous Presidential announcement.
You'll also get a fascinating look at the art of low-budget special effects production. Some of the visual treats Jittlov comes up with are astonishing, even in the post-CGI era, and particularly since he shows you how a lot of it is done.
There are some profound insights and a lot of laughs. I nearly fell on the floor laughing during the scene with the police helicopters, and why is one of the thugs Canadian? (why not?) How in the world did Jittlov film the suitcase/car chase at the end? Look for Philip Michael Thomas in a rare post-Miami Vice role. And make sure you stick around for all of the credits!
Mike Jittlov may not think of himself as a "real" actor, but he's got a lot of charm and he comes off as a genuinely likeable guy. And it was nice of him to cast his friends and family as themselves.
It might be too weird for some viewers, but if you're game, "The Wizard of Speed and Time" will put a smile on your face like few other films.
This film is magic at its best pure and simple. As such it's not for
everyone. People who don't like silliness or weirdness will probably
find it dull or worse. But anyone who believes in magic, who wants to
see wonders unfold before their eyes and who can be silly for the
duration of the film will find it an absolute treat.
The Wizard, Mike Jittlov, whisks us into his fantasy world almost immediately and it's a roller-coaster of cheesy but fun jokes and truly astounding and heart-felt FX that speak to the child in each of us.
The sheer kinetic ENERGY of this thing makes you feel like you could fly (or run on air anyway)! Rumors are that Sam Raimi/Bruce Campbell actually asked Mike Jittlov to visit them to preview a little film they'd thrown together called "Evil Dead" because they wanted someone who they respected to give the thumbs up to their movie before it debuted! Dreamers rejoice in the chaotic joy that is "The Wizard of Speed and Time!"
Jittlov has more talent in his little finger than about 3/4ths of the
film directing "talent" of Hollywood combined. The three little film
bits he did for Disney during the 1980s was the BEST thing that came
out of the Disney studio for that entire decade (AND the decade
before), but Disney otherwise rejected his pitches for a feature film
Jittlov's WIZARD OF SPEED AND TIME feature film is a wonderful romp of a film, in spite of the fact that he was not allowed to finish the film's special effects and sound effects in many places. (As legend has it, the film's co-producer, Richard Kaye, allegedly made off with the film's completion money before the film was done.) Jittlov considers the film to be only about 75 % completed, which accounts for the less than stellar rating from some viewers who don't know of this behind-the-scenes back-story, and who just don't "get" what Jittlov was trying to do with this film.
It boggles the mind to think of how even MORE nifty the film would be is some financial angel would come along and give him the $ to complete it, creating a "director's cut" for release on DVD, with ALL his equally great short films available on the DVD, as well as other extras that Jittlov could add to the DVD also.
Alas, no one has been forthcoming, and Jittlov has suffered financially and emotionally for almost two decades. When will Hollywood learn to NOT destroy the creativity of such filmic geniuses as Jittlov, Orson Welles, Buster Keaton, etc., etc., etc., etc. Join with me: Pound on the sand on the beach and shout, "Damn them all to hell !" for not RUSHING to Jittlov's aid.
Jittlov can do with 5 million dollars what other filmmakers do with 50 million, and with all the poorly conceived, ineptly produced drek coming out on DVD and on TV, the world NEEDS filmmaker's with the talent, vision(s), and attitude of Jittlov more desperately now than it ever did.
And on top of all that, he treats his fans like gold. Returning phone calls (I believe he's still in the L.A. phone book.) and answering e-mails. Even his web sites are more magnificent than most also. (Google can find them for you.) Gawd ! Is there NO justice???? Are ALL the studios in Hollywood so consistently and perpetually STUPID that they don't recognize his OBVIOUS talent? Has the world gone MAD ??? SOMEBODY with money, CALL HIM !!!!!!
The truth is, eye came across this movie in a video store and thought it
looked like the most stupid thing ever.
Im 17 & interested in film-making & so like to watch total low-budget crap
and laugh at how poor some low budget movies are!
But not this. The wizard of speed & time is literally more than a movie. I feel like Mike J is a movie & magic pioneer in the industry showing that Creativity and magic are still very much alive:)
The film is just so magical & feel-good. There are odd sequences cut & pasted together & look so different. There are 3 unicorn references (I love unicorns) and the fact Mike J basically MADE THIS MOVIE HIMSELF is a testament to how much passion he put into this project. The Prince of the movie industry! The sequence with Mike going to all the unions is a clever & witty dig at the ugly crapiness of hollywood. This movie is a reminder of all the guys & girls sitting in their rooms making the most magical stories,pictures & music that only they will hear. I just wish that Mike J had been sucessful and given us more movies like this. Well, at least the movie lives on.....
Peace Nyrone (uk)
This film is an effective, touching work that is mostly autobiographical, yet exaggerated to provide laughs and insight on the difficulties of show business. Yes, it's one of those "little guy vs. big business tyrant" films, but it's also very different, because in this case, it's about a special-effects/animation geek, a character which, if it has ever been portrayed in film, would still be nothing close to this because the man playing the part is a real special-effects designer, animator and editor. Usually, this genre of film is reserved for struggling actors or writers. This is about the man behind the scenes, a person who, unlike a director or actor, even more so than a writer, is rarely, if ever, on the set of an actual film. In watching this film, you are constantly reminded that the man responsible for it (Mike Jittlov) is someone who truly enjoys what he does and that he's not in it for the money. It's based on and around actual shorts he made, called "demo reels" that a special-effects designer/animator/editor/writer such as he would take to various film studios to showcase his talents, including the classic "The Wizard of Speed and Time," how difficult it is to make them, and how much harder still it is to get someone to see it. Jittlov did basically everything in the film: he starred in it, did his own stunts, wrote it, directed it, edited it, did all the special effects and animation, wrote the title song, financed it and a host of other jobs. This is someone who knows what he's doing and knows how to do it well. I can't say enough wonderful things about this film, so I'll stop now. Though it may be a bit difficult to find this film, if you do, you should take the opportunity. You'll see the genius of a man who deeply loves his craft and does not take it lightly.
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