The title refers to a production issue in 12 Monkeys (1995), where a hamster in a hamster exercise wheel was used as part of the set decoration. When the hamster refused to perform at the appropriate time, production was halted, causing a relatively simple scene (less than 10 seconds of screen time) to take almost an entire day to film. See more »
very good making-of doc, though I prefer Lost in La Mancha a little more
It's always a treat for me to see how a really fantastic film got put together, either through a book or through a documentary in the whole process. Sometimes they're pretty boring, particularly when everyone pats themselves on the back for doing such a good job, or when it's just put together in a haphazard way that doesn't really cover what you'd want it to. The Hamster Factor is different and engaging in that it actually covers the little things, the drama along with the joy, the frustration, the creativity and compromises that are struck up. And that it's also covering a Terry Gilliam making-of makes it all the more wild and funny. It's the first doc by the same directors of Lost in La Mancha, and I could tell a very similar style going on with how they pieced together footage, cut things up into segments, and even included little animations (detailing Brazil and Baron Munchausen's follies). It's almost like a test run for what they would later do with La Mancha, as here they're just trying to keep up with what everyone else is doing on the set.
It's interesting too to see Gilliam with a lot of uncertainties with the picture, because when I first saw 12 Monkeys- and when I see it today- I'm struck by how accomplished and finely tuned and daring so much of it is, as it leaves you questioning yourself even, not just the movie itself. The doc is a little rough around the edges sometimes, and it doesn't have the full-on rush and unexpectedness of La Mancha. But there were some scenes here that I liked just as much as the best scenes in the other documentary, if not more so. The whole section regarding the test screening was the main one for me (and I've been to test screenings before), as the directors show a focus group, talking about a work of art like it was a toothpaste bottle or a buffalo; all the more ironic because Gilliam HAD final cut, but this was used really as leverage for the studio to add some fuel to their 'what the hell is this movie' fire. But to see overall the creative process at such a high volume here is quite entertaining, with the interviews with everyone- not just Gilliam- adding some light on 12 Monkeys, which I've seen many times, and given it just a little more context. Above average for a special-feature on a DVD, I'd say.
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