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The 5 Most Horrifyingly Wasteful Film Shoots
December 15, 2011 5:55 AM   Subscribe

The 5 Most Horrifyingly Wasteful Film Shoots.
posted by John Cohen (75 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Huh, I never knew where the footage for The Trooper came from.
posted by Wolfdog at 5:58 AM on December 15, 2011


I once read this cultural studies essay that made the interesting argument that B movies were actually the most environmentally conscious, because their low budgets ensured that they had to "reduce, reuse, and recycle" everything and avoid waste. As John Waters once said, "At least I've never really done anything decadent, like waste millions of dollars of other people's money, and come up with a movie as dumb as the Deep or 1941. The budgets of my movies could hardly feed the starving children of India."
posted by jonp72 at 6:12 AM on December 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


The Jacques Cousteau and Ben-Hur ones are just horrific.
posted by arcticseal at 6:20 AM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ok, good morning!
I'm officially sad now.
posted by foxhat10 at 6:26 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


The website of the guy trying to dig up DeMille's set is delightfully 1998.
posted by Copronymus at 6:34 AM on December 15, 2011


Dishonorable Mention: the cancer cluster of The Conqueror. Many people contracted cancer or developed benign tumors as a probable result of the film being shot on a former nuclear testing ground.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:34 AM on December 15, 2011 [8 favorites]


The Jacques Cousteau one permanently sullied fond childhood memories of father-daughter TV time. What's next, you're going to tell me that sweet old David Attenborough ate lion cub steak at the end of all his shoots, and Mr. Rodgers slapped around the P.A.s on set?
posted by availablelight at 6:35 AM on December 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


B. Reeves Eason, the second unit director who killed all the horses during the shooting of Ben Hur and The Charge of the Light Brigade, had one son, a child actor - who was killed at the age of seven in an accident on the set of a movie he was filming. Not one of the ones his father was involved in directing, as far as I can tell.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 6:35 AM on December 15, 2011


I was expecting the horse scene from Andrei Rublev to make this list. I guess I don't have much imagination after all.
posted by Dr Dracator at 6:36 AM on December 15, 2011


The Jacques Cousteau one is mind-boggling. I must say that Cracked.com presents some of the most interesting and amusing content on the internet. Funny that.
posted by therubettes at 6:36 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Many people contracted cancer or developed benign tumors as a probable result of the film being shot on a former nuclear testing ground.

It's nice to think that science can explain what happened in that situation, but, honestly, the truth of the matter is that god smote them because Starring John Wayne as Genghis Khan.
posted by griphus at 6:37 AM on December 15, 2011 [13 favorites]


I must say that Cracked.com presents some of the most interesting and amusing content on the internet. Funny that.

Cracked has been pretty great for a while. The only connection to the (old, cruddy) magazine is the name. Likewise, National Lampoon has done nothing good for decades, for similar reasons, except they're scampering in the opposite direction.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:40 AM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


B. Reeves Eason, the second unit director who killed all the horses during the shooting of Ben Hur and The Charge of the Light Brigade, had one son, a child actor - who was killed at the age of seven in an accident on the set of a movie he was filming.

By a horse? Cuz...
posted by villanelles at dawn at 6:41 AM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


No, by a runaway truck.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 6:43 AM on December 15, 2011


Yeah, I can picture that.
posted by Wolfdog at 6:55 AM on December 15, 2011


Wow, that's horrible. However, I believe I've read that horses were killed on many, many sets (westerns and such). I even remember reading a story in a horse magazine (80s, maybe?) where someone lent a beautiful black horse to a movie set (with promises of great care, of course), and many months later she finally got the horse back in really terrible shape - underweight, scarred and psychologically damaged. People are assholes.
posted by Glinn at 6:57 AM on December 15, 2011



The 5 Most Phantasmal Top-5 Lists
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posted by clvrmnky at 7:00 AM on December 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


I didn't feel particularly bad about torrenting movies before, and now I feel even less bad.
posted by fnerg at 7:01 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Surprised they didn't bring up Waterworld.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:03 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Surprised they didn't bring up Waterworld.

The list's sort of misnamed - the stuff on the list's not wasteful in terms of money but wasteful in terms of "laying waste to _______". The sad thing is, Apocalypse Now and The Island (which this article has now ensured I will never watch, not even pirated) were probably filmed this way because it was the most cost-effective way of doing it.

If ever you needed an argument in favor of more CGI in movies, here it is.
posted by mstokes650 at 7:09 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Blues Brothers!

The most notorious destruction involved cop cars, but Chicago's mayor at the time was more enthusiastic about Daley Plaza: "They owned this city for years, so when Belushi asked me to drive a car through Daley Plaza, the only thing I could say was, 'Be my guest!'"
posted by hal incandenza at 7:12 AM on December 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


The sad thing is, Apocalypse Now and The Island (which this article has now ensured I will never watch, not even pirated) were probably filmed this way because it was the most cost-effective way of doing it.

Yeah, I remember an interview with Jackie Chan where he was talking about the difference between the way American and Chinese stunts are handled. If you have to have a guy jumping out of an exploding factory in an American movie, you have to do green screen, and build a model factory, rig it to explode, add in CGI, etc, etc, and in Hong Kong, you just film a guy jumping out of an exploding factory.
posted by empath at 7:12 AM on December 15, 2011 [15 favorites]


Disney won an Academy Award in 1958 for a "documentary" about arctic wildlife, White Wilderness. Filmed mostly in Alberta, most of the film was staged, with some sequences shot in the local zoo.

This film depicted the well-known "mass suicide" of lemmings when they migrate. Problem is, lemmings don't actually commit mass suicide, and lemmings aren't native to Alberta. To solve this, the film-makers bought some lemmings from Inuit children, rigged up a turntable to make it appear as though they had way more lemmings than they did, and then herded the poor little critters off a cliff.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 7:14 AM on December 15, 2011 [10 favorites]


The website of the guy trying to dig up DeMille's set is delightfully 1998.

I think the precedent for DeMille's decision to bury the Ten Commandments set is the abandonment of D.W. Griffith's Babylonian set for Intolerance (1916), although Griffith's set eventually burned down in a fire. In both cases, the directors didn't want to pay for the labor costs of dismantling the set, but Griffith just abandoned his set, instead of paying for bulldozers to bury it.
posted by jonp72 at 7:16 AM on December 15, 2011


Disney won an Academy Award in 1958 for a "documentary" about arctic wildlife, White Wilderness. Filmed mostly in Alberta, most of the film was staged, with some sequences shot in the local zoo.

This film depicted the well-known "mass suicide" of lemmings when they migrate. Problem is, lemmings don't actually commit mass suicide, and lemmings aren't native to Alberta. To solve this, the film-makers bought some lemmings from Inuit children, rigged up a turntable to make it appear as though they had way more lemmings than they did, and then herded the poor little critters off a cliff.


So that's what inspired Jello Biafra's spoken word piece, Mild Kingdom. Thanks!
posted by jonp72 at 7:21 AM on December 15, 2011


I didn't feel particularly bad about torrenting movies before, and now I feel even less bad.

Right, cause Coppola blowing up a forest in 1976 is really relevant to torrenting 35 Shots of Rum.
posted by nathancaswell at 7:21 AM on December 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


The Island (which this article has now ensured I will never watch, not even pirated)

They were talking about The Beach, not The Island. Not that there's any reason to watch The Island either.

The website of the guy trying to dig up DeMille's set is delightfully 1998.

Hopefully he doesn't unleash any ancient curses! (That movie was bad, BTW. Really really bad. Even worse than your typical Syfy Original Movie fare.)
posted by kmz at 7:23 AM on December 15, 2011


That is horrifying.
posted by prefpara at 7:24 AM on December 15, 2011


I didn't feel particularly bad about torrenting movies before, and now I feel even less bad.

You have an interesting moral calculus.
posted by benito.strauss at 7:31 AM on December 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Blues Brothers!

Ah, but that was not wasteful. Every penny was up on that screen, and it will continue to edify mankind for generations.
posted by fungible at 7:39 AM on December 15, 2011 [11 favorites]


Cracked articles have wasted 30 terawatts of electricity by being spread over more pages than necessary (i.e. one).*

* Not really. It just annoys me.
posted by knave at 7:45 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would argue that Transformers 3 not only wasted every cent spent on it, an, by proxy, every dollar associated with every person who was even minimally employed by it, but that is also destroyed uncountable numbers of brain cells and the ability of tens of thousands of people to follow even the sketchiest of plots. For shame, Michael Bay!
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:45 AM on December 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Regarding the fish census scene in Monde du Silence, you can tell that Louis Malle finds it very uncool. The shots of dead/dying fish are presented as an aesthetic condemnation of the act. Despite the really horrifying scenes mentioned, and some other uncool, but less horrible scenes (turtle ride!), the movie is really phenomenal. It's beautiful, it documents mankind's first real explorations of a new world and it's an eye-opening reminder of how many fish there used to be. It's really a shame that it isn't and perhaps will never again be, legally available.
posted by snofoam at 7:47 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think the precedent for DeMille's decision to bury the Ten Commandments set is the abandonment of D.W. Griffith's Babylonian set for Intolerance (1916), although Griffith's set eventually burned down in a fire. In both cases, the directors didn't want to pay for the labor costs of dismantling the set, but Griffith just abandoned his set, instead of paying for bulldozers to bury it.

That Intolerance set was also a death trap; why, I can't tell you how many people I had to kill in a horrible shootout in that place. It's good that it's gone.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:47 AM on December 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


I was reticently on Maya Beach, as a floppy sunburned clueless tourist, and from that perspective, it's brilliant.

It is perhaps even after the alterations one of the most spectacular places on earth. And the coral reefs/fish just offshore seem to be thriving based on nothing more than HOLY SHIT THERE'S A FUCK TON OF FISH DOWN THERE.

The Cracked article may be overstating their case for dramatic effect.

Still, fuck Leo DiCaprio.
posted by Keith Talent at 7:52 AM on December 15, 2011


They were talking about The Beach, not The Island. Not that there's any reason to watch The Island either.

Brainfart, on my end. Apparently it's too early for my brain to handle "the island where they shot The Beach" without thinking of it as "The Island". Doesn't help that I haven't seen either one, I'm sure.

If The Island was less environmentally destructive I'd still bet it's because it had more CGI, though.
posted by mstokes650 at 8:01 AM on December 15, 2011


is the abandonment of D.W. Griffith's Babylonian set for Intolerance (1916), although Griffith's set eventually burned down in a fire.

It's where Hollywood Babylon gets its name from, and is also the inspiration for the Hollywood and Highland shopping center, where the Academy Awards take place, which I will likely soon live four blocks from.

As shopping centers go, it's a fun one, if only in the sense that you're in a reconstruction of the set that inspired Kenneth Anger to compile every single nasty rumor he ever heard about Hollywood into one book.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:03 AM on December 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


That Intolerance set was also a death trap; why, I can't tell you how many people I had to kill in a horrible shootout in that place. It's good that it's gone.

Good thing they went with bulletproof set dressing, though.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:07 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


They were talking about The Beach, not The Island. Not that there's any reason to watch The Island either.

If you're talking about the Michael Caine film, you are so wrong.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:11 AM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Some of these Cracked articles could do with proof-reading. At least, I hope that's the case in this article, linked from the posted one:

For five days of filming, Hitchcock would throw live birds directly at the actress, peck, scratch and shit all over her.
posted by iotic at 8:11 AM on December 15, 2011 [10 favorites]


As shopping centers go, it's a fun one, if only in the sense that you're in a reconstruction of the set that inspired Kenneth Anger to compile every single nasty rumor he ever heard about Hollywood into one book.

Oh, he had enough nasty rumors for more than one book...

vol. 2 is kind of dominated by naked joan crawford, but is nowhere near as good as vol. 1)
posted by COBRA! at 8:12 AM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


The second book was just an excuse for him to publish his image of Brando blowing somebody.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:14 AM on December 15, 2011


Kenneth Anger would've benefited greatly if the internet had happened a few decades earlier.
posted by COBRA! at 8:17 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I dunno. That would mean that Snopes would've happened a few decades earlier and ruined most of his stories.
posted by ShutterBun at 8:21 AM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's a Wonderful Life. The main street of Bedford Falls was built by transplanting huge trees into the set. They filmed the summer scenes first, then defoliated (aka, killed) the trees and shot the winter scenes using artificial snow (for which a new formulation was created that won a technical award from the Academy) in the middle of a California summer.
posted by plinth at 8:24 AM on December 15, 2011


Don't forget about all those clones they callously dismembered during the filming of The Island. Someday, clones will have rights too.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:26 AM on December 15, 2011


There are some doubts to the veracity of the story, but it's long been said that Native American petroglyphs in Joshua Tree National Park were painted over by Disney filmmakers who felt they weren't colorful enough for filming.

The stories about this either lay the blame on a Disney television movie, or a Disney documentary called The Living Desert.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:37 AM on December 15, 2011


Don't forget about all those clones they callously dismembered during the filming of The Island.

Don't get me started on all the clone troops on the Death Star, either.

Someday, clones will have rights too.

No, the Rebellion will kill them all.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:43 AM on December 15, 2011


Cracked: Excellent content, brilliantly disguised with numbered list format, snarky writing style and annoying webpage styling (including clearly irrelevant ads disguised as article illustrations). Its everything-two-pages is one of its lesser sins compared to the pure evil of one-item-per-page (looking at you, Time.com). Did you notice these 'related' articles? 7 Movies That Put Insane Work Into Details You Didn't Notice and 5 Old-Timey Prejudices That Still Show Up in Every Movie. Still, factual content-wise, better than Forbes.
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:50 AM on December 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


If you're talking about the Michael Caine film, you are so wrong.

Nah, I was talking about the big budget unlicensed remake of a MST3K movie.
posted by kmz at 8:50 AM on December 15, 2011


availablelight, I am not sure if you want to hear this but David Attenborough did some terrible things too. Most people assume it is true that lemmings will crowd themselves off cliffs and plop into the sea but the crew just flung a bunch off. I suppose this was just to generate some drama?
posted by JayNolan at 9:00 AM on December 15, 2011


Most people assume it is true that lemmings will crowd themselves off cliffs and plop into the sea but the crew just flung a bunch off.

That was Disney.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:15 AM on December 15, 2011


It is perhaps even after the alterations one of the most spectacular places on earth.

Actually, it sounds like the alterations made the beach better. So... there's that.
posted by smackfu at 9:26 AM on December 15, 2011


You know, the thing about having excellent content is that you don't need to gussy it up or resort to chicanery. The whole thing about "5 ways to organize your desk" is that the content is inane, so the numbered list format helps make it catchy. If Cracked has good content, it's strange that they don't just present it humanely.
posted by knave at 9:27 AM on December 15, 2011


Those gorillas Attenborough sat with? Just some guys in suits.
posted by Flashman at 9:28 AM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Nothing anywhere near as serious as blowing up fish, but David Attenborough (more the BBC, really) was in the news recently over controversy that he was less than forthright about faking some scenes in Frozen Planet.
posted by dirigibleman at 9:30 AM on December 15, 2011


GenjiandProust: "I would argue that Transformers 3 not only wasted every cent spent on it, an, by proxy, every dollar associated with every person who was even minimally employed by it, but that is also destroyed uncountable numbers of brain cells and the ability of tens of thousands of people to follow even the sketchiest of plots. For shame, Michael Bay!"

Not that Transformers 3 is any good (it is not), but it doesn't hold a candle to the unbearable awfulness of Transformers 2, which was the single worst film-going experience of my life.
posted by brundlefly at 9:59 AM on December 15, 2011


During the film, Cousteau decides to do a complete census of the local marine life in a coral reef, which is exactly the sort of educational study we'd expect from our genial explorer. What we don't expect is for him to do it by killing everything in sight with explosives.

In undergraduate I had a friend in biology who always went on and on about how much she loved animals. She got into a study on Eastern Hellbenders and was so excited to get to study and spend time with these animals. This study involved studying the diets of the hellbenders by killing them and cutting them open to examine their stomachs.

When I was studying abroad in Norway our unit on biology often consisted of going out to the various ecosystems and collecting specimens. It was really fun collecting the crabs along the fjord until our professor--who was always SO EXCITED to teach us about the animals--told us that all of the crabs we'd caught were going to be killed and preserved. I let all of them go but one. It was ridiculous how disappointed he was that there was only one crab to kill.

I know many, many people in the biological sciences who do similar things, and have read about how common it is. I understand it on some level and I do understand the benefit of SCIENCE!, but there's some huge cognitive dissonance there for me. I love animals too, and I'm interested in learning about them, but I can't be enthusiastic about blowing them up to do so.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 10:02 AM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was thinking about Costeau in the same sense as Audubon. All of these gorgeous illustrations of scientific curiosity coming on the back of some pretty keen deaths.
posted by PinkMoose at 10:06 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Times change.

Cracked 2111: Top 5 crazy facts about the previous century

1) We've all seen domesticated cows in nature preserves but did you ever wonder where they came from? As little as 50 years ago people used to use animals for FOOD. (concentrate on this link for more)

2) Once upon a time all the roles in movies were played by humans.

3) something about aliens

4) something else

5) sports
posted by Bonzai at 10:08 AM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


If Cracked has good content, it's strange that they don't just present it humanely.

Yes, how inhumane of them to draw attention to an important topic by presenting it in an attention-getting and entertaining way.
posted by John Cohen at 11:22 AM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


This film depicted the well-known "mass suicide" of lemmings when they migrate. Problem is, lemmings don't actually commit mass suicide, and lemmings aren't native to Alberta. To solve this, the film-makers bought some lemmings from Inuit children, rigged up a turntable to make it appear as though they had way more lemmings than they did, and then herded the poor little critters off a cliff.

Can anyone explain why they did this? It's one thing to import animals to your filming location, but where did they get the idea that they would make them do a mass suicide? It almost sounds like the precursor to trolling.
posted by ymgve at 12:18 PM on December 15, 2011


The idea that lemmings commit mass suicide didn't start with the Disney film. They probably genuinely thought that they did it and when it didn't happen naturally, they staged it.
posted by empath at 12:23 PM on December 15, 2011


Yeah, something like there were several year population cycles with the lemmings almost dying off, and for some reason suicide was the accepted reason. Which seems odd looking back.
posted by smackfu at 12:35 PM on December 15, 2011


Wikipedia explains the origins of the idea of lemming mass suicide:

Lemmings became the subject of a popular misconception that they commit mass suicide when they migrate. Actually, it is not a mass suicide but the result of their migratory behavior. Driven by strong biological urges, some species of lemmings may migrate in large groups when population density becomes too great. Lemmings can swim and may choose to cross a body of water in search of a new habitat. In such cases, many may drown if the body of water is so wide as to stretch their physical capability to the limit. This fact combined with the unexplained fluctuations in the population of Norwegian lemmings gave rise to the misconception.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:35 PM on December 15, 2011


About the lemming thing:

""What people see is essentially mass dispersal," said zoologist Gordon Jarrell, an expert in small mammals with the University of Alaska Fairbanks. "Sometimes it's pretty directional. The classic example is in the Scandinavian mountains, where (lemmings) have been dramatically observed. They will come to a body of water and be temporarily stopped, and eventually they'll build up along the shore so dense and they will swim across. If they get wet to the skin, they 're essentially dead."

"There's no question that at times they will build up to huge numbers," Jarrell added. "One description from Barrow does talk about them drowning and piling up on the shore.""
posted by merelyglib at 12:37 PM on December 15, 2011


Gah. 's what I get for not previewing. Mine has a link though.
posted by merelyglib at 12:39 PM on December 15, 2011


Cracked has been pretty great for a while. The only connection to the (old, cruddy) magazine is the name.

I was actually flummoxed for quite a while when I kept getting directed to cracked.com, and found actual funny, interesting stuff there, because of my vivid memories of how terrible the magazine was when I was a youth -- a third-rate Mad Magazine ripoff, the kind of thing your mom would bring home from the store by mistake because she couldn't tell the difference. Now it's actually good. For me it's like picking up a copy of Highlights in the doctor's office and finding a 40-page essay by David Foster Wallace inside.
posted by Fnarf at 12:40 PM on December 15, 2011 [8 favorites]


six-or-six-thirty: "During the film, Cousteau decides to do a complete census of the local marine life in a coral reef, which is exactly the sort of educational study we'd expect from our genial explorer. What we don't expect is for him to do it by killing everything in sight with explosives.

Kind of like the guy who cut down the oldest tree on earth to study its rings.

posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 12:43 PM on December 15, 2011


For me it's like picking up a copy of Highlights in the doctor's office and finding a 40-page essay by David Foster Wallace inside.



Goofus* complains that dinner isn't ready. Gallant helps his mother set the table**.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
*It is perhaps fruitless to meditate on what sort of parent would call their child Goofus, a strange portmanteau of the rather demotic 'goof' and the faux latinate ending "-us". A professor of the Classics, with some sort of cruel streak? Not in the least surprising that this cruelly named child would rebel — against everything.

** In downstate Illinois all families ate dinner together at the table, at least when I was a child. Sometimes it was the happy, unifying experience that it is commonly held to be, but sometimes it was the locus for the enacting of the cruelest unkindnesses imaginable, taking place under the thinnest veneer of politeness and propriety. I'm certain my agoraphobic tendencies have their roots in this American ritual.


posted by benito.strauss at 1:08 PM on December 15, 2011 [16 favorites]


Kind of like the guy who cut down the oldest tree on earth to study its rings.

In his case, it was an accident, and it sounds like he never got over the guilt of it. On Radiolab, they told a story of a man who was talking to him and recognized his name, mentioned the tree, and he just turned around and ran away in shame.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:25 PM on December 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


It takes a lot of dissecting animals to learn about them to develop the techniques you need to study them WITHOUT killing them.
posted by maryr at 9:21 PM on December 15, 2011


a third-rate Mad Magazine ripoff

What?! I'll have you know they were a SECOND-rate Mad Magazine ripoff.
posted by empath at 10:35 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


The production was so massive that the studio threatened to pull the plug on the whole film if he didn't tone it down, but DeMille presumably stared them in the eye while ordering 5,000 animals and more than 2,500 extras to top it all off

"Azhural raised his staff. "It's fifteen hundred miles to Ankh-Morpork," he said. "We've got three hundred and sixty-three elephants, fifty carts of forage, the monsoon's about to break and we're wearing... we're wearing... sort of things, like glass, only dark... dark glass things on our eyes..."'
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:29 PM on December 15, 2011


a third-rate Mad Magazine ripoff

I prefer to think about the old Cracked as the Magazine Most Likely to Be Confiscated by Elementary School Principals.
posted by jonp72 at 9:37 AM on December 16, 2011


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