CineSavant Column

Tuesday August 13, 2019


An attempt at a different kind of feature today… looking for odd anomalies in the margins of movies. If you’re anything like me, your family has remarked that they don’t understand how you can pick details out of the clutter of movie shots, finding mike booms and cable shadows in shots, etc. The answer is of course that they would too, if they concentrated on such irrelevancies. My colleagues and friends aren’t so impressed, and instead remark that I don’t seem capable of operating the most simple video remote.

I first thought of this when reader Mike Siegel wrote to ask why I didn’t notice the entire film crew exposed in a shot from last week’s Lust for Vampire, but we’ll overlook that. Watching the new transfer of Quatermass 2 allows us to see more detail, and what a reader picked up on inspired me to do this little exercise, taking crude frame-grabs from several pictures that came to mind. The first little anomaly was pointed out to me by Craig Reardon, and the other three I found myself. I’m sure that plenty of sharp-eyed viewers have noted these many times before, but they certainly surprised me. My low-res images do enlarge quite a bit, if you open them in new windows.



Craig Reardon showed me this one several years ago. It got past me even after at least seven or eight big-screen VistaVision viewings of this western classic by John Ford. My eyes always gravitated to the horses rushing through the freezing water — we all think, how’d they ever get horses to do that?  But up in the high background is something almost ridiculously anachronistic, in full view. Apparently there’s a highway up there, and we can see a truck traveling left to right, stopping during the shot. It’s the little white spot, to the left of the building with the chimney smoke, right in the gap between two clusters of trees. The white spot is actually the side of the truck. (remember to enlarge.)

Amazing!  With just one ‘woke’ viewing, your awareness of interstate truck traffic circa 1868 will be forevermore enhanced.



This second example is from another western classic, this one by Sam Peckinpah. I can’t account for why I only noticed it after thirty years and at least forty viewings. Maybe my excuse is that many of the theatrical screenings I saw were likely on screens that routinely shaved off the left and right extremes of the Panavision frame. I had to watch this scene at 1/8th speed to finally see the anomaly in question.

We’re watching more exciting, non-ASPCA-approved horse action again — an escaping bandit has already been shot off his horse, and now the horse is shot too. But in plain view at the extreme right of the frame, a cowboy-wrangler with a long rope is helping with the stunt. His heels dig into the dirt as he pulls that horse’s head into a pretzel configuration. I think the rope gag was used because the horse is riderless, and stunt horses normally require riders to cue their trick-falls. These days, the CGI pixel police would simply erase the wrangler with a digital clean-up. Back when movies were movies, a director could rely on strong compositions to direct our attention within the frame.



This isn’t a goof like in a particular Harryhausen movie, where I was shown a crew member in plain sight on Sinbad’s boat deck. The crew person on view here is in full costume and so blends into the scene. But he isn’t actually part of the scene. The figure on the left of this shot from a fairy-tale horror movie is the dance choreographer Tutte Lemkow, beating out dance time with a stick. It is the finale of a vampires’ ball, when the assembled vampire dancers promenade toward the tell-tale mirror that allows the three principals (including Sharon Tate) to discover that they are the only dancers that cast a reflection.

Note that there must be an entire second ballroom set on the other side of the mirror, with a trio of doubles. Tutte Lemkow is easy to spot because we already know his face: he took frequent supporting bit parts in many pictures, including Anastasia, Bonjour Tristesse and The Guns of Navarone, often in a dancing context. A behind-the-scenes still from this sequence exists showing Lemkow sitting with the frustrated, exhausted director-actor Roman Polanski.



And finally, here’s the ‘maybe’ discovery from the new Quatermass disc. The scene is the riot that breaks out at the gate of the top-secret Winnderden Plant. The web gives us several behind-the-scenes shots of director Val Guest setting the scene and talking to actor Brian Donlevy, which a reader has studied carefully — he thinks that a figure in the back of the mob is Guest, egging on his extras. Maybe-Guest even waves a stick, but not at all like a hooligan.

I’m not sure that it’s really the director… the hairline is similar but he looks a little too tall for me. In a cut just previous, the maybe-Guest can be seen closer to the fence, perhaps speaking into a walkie-talkie. Is the ‘stick’ actually the antenna of the walkie-talkie?  Could he be one of the assistant directors?

However, the man at the bottom of the inset frame, wearing a pair of very non-Winnerden Flats sunglasses, looks to me a lot like Michael Carreras, doing his bit to fill out the crowd. Any chance either of these ‘extras’ are really above-the-line participants?


Gary Teetzel has already weighed in on this pressing mystery… he thinks that, quote:

“Sunglasses guy in Q2 does look like Michael Carreras, but as he looked in the 1970s. Back in the ’50s, he looked more like this.” ( ← picture, left.) “So the answer is obvious: Michael Carreras built a time machine in the 1970s and went back in time to warn himself not to make Prehistoric Women. But he got the decade wrong and ended up at the Q2 location.” — Gary

Anybody have additional suggestions for crazy things showing up in the margins of movies?  Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson