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Fast, Cheap & Out of Control (1997)

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What do an elderly topiary gardener, a retired lion tamer, a man fascinated by mole rats, and a cutting-edge robotics designer have in common? Both nothing and everything in this ... See full summary »


10 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »



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Complete credited cast:
Himself (Wild Animal Trainer)
Himself (Topiary Gardener)
Raymond A. Mendez ...
Himself (Mole-Rat Specialist) (as Ray Mendez)
Himself - Robot Scientist


What do an elderly topiary gardener, a retired lion tamer, a man fascinated by mole rats, and a cutting-edge robotics designer have in common? Both nothing and everything in this unconventional documentary directed by Erroll Morris. Fast, Cheap & Out of Control (Referring to the robot specialist's strange philosophy of robot design structure, not Erroll Morris's documentary techniques!) interplays, overlaps, and interrelates these four separate and highly specialized documentary subjects in order to in truth study all of humanity, raising questions about the future of mankind. Written by Matthew F. Griffin

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Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for mild thematic elements | See all certifications »


Official Sites:



Release Date:

3 October 1997 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Ektos elenhou  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$23,665 (USA) (3 October 1997)


$832,785 (USA) (9 January 1998)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

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Did You Know?


Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider. See more »


[On creating topiary]
George Mendonca: This is all done from memory. If you know what a animal looks like, you just, well, you just start making an animal.
See more »


Features Bobby's World (1990) See more »

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User Reviews

Morris focuses
1 December 1998 | by See all my reviews

This was easily the best film of 1997.

Morris has tried it all; one camera documentary, for Gates of Heaven; Rashomon tinged storytelling, with The Thin Blue Line; and now, finally, the beautiful and moving Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control.

In the earlier films, the viewer's left with the task of sifting through lots of unedited information to put together his own story from what's been gathered, rather like Ed Wood going through rolls of archival footage to see if there's a movie there. In this one, Morris had a story to tell, and he goes after it with aplomb and purpose. His camera angles are ingenious, his use of slow motion masterful, and the story--that the personality traits that lead to success are the same, regardless of the stripe of the pursuit--comes along gently. Once the connection's been made, he overlaps the voice of one participant over the work of another, and the resonances between all of them become more and more apparent.

Watching Morris come along as a filmmaker is a little like watching a favorite cousin come of age. This movie makes you want to cheer, not only for Morris, but for the cast of misfits he's put on film who've taken their lives and made something of them. These four men are workers. They're not managers, not victims of dumb luck. They're doing these jobs because they love them, and because they love them and work without pause, they've become successful. They're not geniuses. Like Morris, they've merely managed to focus. Morris shows us what a rare thing that is. Bravo.

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