Archive for Bad Taste

Floppy Dummies

Posted in FILM with tags , , on November 18, 2015 by dcairns


Why is it that, in old movies, when people fall to their deaths, they transform into floppy dummies? I know they couldn’t have actual people fall to their deaths, no matter what childish theories Lewis Gilbert may have entertained, but were realistically jointed dummies really beyond the limits of technology back in the sixties?

I love the floppy dummies in Monty Python — but it’s amazing to me that a TV show was presenting as intrinsically ridiculous something that big budget movies expected us to take seriously.

What’s the movie — it’s a guys-on-a-mission film,I think a western — where some team leader makes the point while training his men that if you’re going to fall to your death, please do it silently, as otherwise you could be giving away the presence of your compadres. Subsequently in the film, two men fall silently to their deaths, their floppy dummies tumbling loose-limbed to their dooms in eerie scream-less silence. Without screaming to at least attempt to sell the illusion, the floppy dummies seem even more bathetic and amateurish. I used to be convinced this happened in ULZANA’S RAID but I seem to be wrong.

Perhaps filmmakers knew these shots were unconvincing but didn’t want to alarm the public with anything more real. But that can’t explain this one ~

Hahaha — his arm blatantly comes off, then reattaches in the next shot so he can be played by a human.

Peter Jackson, in his gory juvenilia phase, actually engineered the best falling dummy stuff I ever saw, for a scene where his own character is topped from a precipice. First, he used a rigid dummy, its joints bent as if midway to a foetal curl-up, with flexibility in the torso rather than the limbs.

(The fall is right at the end of this long, gory clip.)

But he still wasn’t satisfied. So he played in the edit and found that adding six frames of his face dropping backwards from extreme closeup to small-and-vanishing-from-frame (wide-angle lens), to the very start of the sequence, was enough to convince us that it was him falling all the way down.