Nether Regions 11.09.10: The Wizard of Speed and Time
Posted by Chad Webb on 11.09.2010
This is not a time travel movie where we go back to the future, and this wizard is not from Oz. This is a story about Mike Jittlov, and his race to get a job in Hollywood...as long as he becomes a union member.
Nether Regions started as a segment of the Big Screen Bulletin that meant to showcase films that have been discontinued on DVD, are out of print in the United States, are only available in certain regions outside the United States, or are generally hard to find. Now it is a column all its own! You might ask "Why should I care about a film I have no access to?" My goal is to keep these films relevant because some of them genuinely deserve to be recognized. Every time I review a new film I will have a list of those I covered below so you can see if they have been announced for DVD release, or are still out of print.
THE WIZARD OF SPEED AND TIME
Starring: Mike Jittlov, Richard Kaye, and Paige Moore Directed By: Mike Jittlov Written By: Mike Jittlov Running Time: 92 minutes Release Date: September 1989 Missing Since: 1997 Existing Formats:VHS Netflix Status: Not Available Availability: Fans want a DVD, but it hasn't happened yet.
The Wizard of Speed and Time was the labor of love project from special effects mastermind Mike Jittlov. His career began when Disney noticed some of his impressive short films and that led to him creating the first stop-motion Mickey Mouse in their special called Mickey's 50th. The Wizard of Speed and Time was originally a short film concocted for Disney's Major Effects TV showcase. From there, Jittlov evidently fell in love with the character, and did everything he could to expand that popular short into a feature length effort. Obviously he did, but it took him 5 years, beginning in 1977, and when it was done in 1983 it was not given any release for many years later.
The Wizard carrying Cindy... across California somewhere?
Jittlov's resume is extremely brief, concluding with his special effects work in the movie Ghost. Nowadays he lays pretty low, but appears at science-fiction conventions, and has a website up that people have said lies dormant most of the time. The period where he made that first short film for a studio is the focus of the full-length version of The Wizard of Speed and Time. In the film he plays himself. He is an independent filmmaker playing an independent filmmaker, but to go farther, there is a producer that plays a producer and an actress that plays an actress. Jittlov distinguishes himself as someone who always wears a green jacket (as the directorial title in the opening credits informs us) and who also has an aversion to shaking hands.
In our story, Mike is asked to submit a short film for a television series about special effects, but there is a time limit of a few days. If he misses the deadline, all the hard work goes to waste. The fact that he has to whip together a live-action film with stop-motion animation doesn't help since that type of animation is one of the hardest films to make. Just ask the Aardman workers. If that wasn't enough, two battling producers have made a $25,000 bet on whether or not he can deliver the product on time. To make matters worse, Mike has to use his own money, of which he has little. The villainous producer, Harvey Bookman (Richard Kaye), promises to reimburse him after it's all completed. Mike is also not a union guild member, which makes obtaining equipment, permits, and sound stages near impossible. Still, he charges on with the dream of making a feature film someday, and along for the ride he gets plenty of help from friends.
Jittlov's room is among the opening scenes of the film, and it has newspaper cutouts, gadgets, gizmos, and toys galore. Initially, I thought I was entering "Doc" Emmett Brown's lab from Back to the Future. Jittlov's demeanor and hair point to that as well, but once viewers get settled in we can tell that's just how he acts. It's hard to gauge his performance since much of the script is taken from real life; he plays himself, and this is his one and only feature film. Jittlov is a quirky individual, but certainly someone who could provide an interesting conversation. His character is friendly and ambitious, not unlike many who have dreams of making it big. As unbalanced as his acting is, we want to see him succeed. He represents the undiscovered talent overcoming adversity, proving that anyone with a camera, a thought, and the will to move forward can achieve their dream.
The symbol of the Wizard.
Of course The Wizard of Speed and Time is incredibly dated. Jittlov apparently still appears in that green jacket to this day and basically looks the same save for getting older and having gray hair, but the fashions and hairstyles in this picture are overwhelmingly 80's. Richard Kaye is that producer who plays the producer, the evil one I might add, Harvey Bookman. He hires two street thugs and gives them disguises and a vehicle to act as police officers that attempt to shut down Jittlov's shooting. Wacky hijinks ensue. This special effects series is Bookman's final opportunity for a hit. Since most of his shows end up tanking in the ratings, the studio chief is giving him one last chance. Kaye lets it all hang out as Bookman, and seems to be having a blast getting drunk, sabotaging sets, and avoiding phone calls. Steve Brodie is fine as Lucky Straeker, the genial producer that wants Jittlov to triumph.
The rest of the supporting cast is relatively unremarkable. Paige Moore is the requisite love interest as Cindy, the happy-go-lucky blonde that is instantly attracted to Jittlov after she witnesses him admonishing a litter bug on the road. Yes folks, it was love at first sight. Her portrayal is probably the worst, but she was tolerable. Deven Chierighino is Brian Lucas, Jittlov's buddy from a camera/film store that acts as his business manager, primary cameraman, and chief crew member. He rocks a standard 80's mustache and partial mullet, while the composer, Steve Shostakovich, depicted by John Massari, the actual composer for the film, sports a longer mullet and the same stache. Research has proven that they might have shaved the facial hair since 1989.
The Wizard of Speed and Time is lighthearted, silly, and fun with an overabundance of corny cheese. In many ways it is stupid, and the special effects, which I'm sure Jittlov prides (or prided) himself on, look sub-par today, but The Wizard is still a kooky and bizarrely mesmerizing persona, and the running gag with Jittlov's theft-proof bicycle is consistently humorous. It's a bike with tassels, flashing lights, and other doohickeys that would have made Pee-Wee Herman smile.
And just for your enjoyment, here is the original short:
What makes The Wizard of Speed and Time so intriguing is how comically educational it is on the trials and tribulations of making your own film. It acts as a near brilliant spoof of the industry from unions, studios, and producers to scavenging for money, unearthing supplies, dealing with weather, and escaping authorities. One of the best sequences has Jittlov entering the union building and trying to become a member. He goes to the main desk, but once he mentions animation, he is told to go to the animation department, and every time he gets to a new desk, that employee sends him to another department until finally he gives up. Not being unionized is a big problem for him because he can't take studio props from the lot because they need to be loaded on a union approved truck. When he tries to rent a sound stage, the landlord demands multiple electricians from the studio to supervise, not to mention almost $5,000 per day to use it. His personal garage ends up working fine.
Another piece of poster artwork by Kelly Freas.
The film is packed to the rafters of dialogue and gags that jab at the complexities of Hollywood, while Jittlov wonders why people can't just get together and film. If only it were that easy Mike. Another superb scene, labeled "The Chase Scene", has real cops chasing fake cops while Jittlov races down the road in an automotive suitcase. He did all of his stunts from what I've read. The Wizard of Speed and Time is infused with a sweetness and energy that more movies should possess. There have been lots of films satirizing Hollywood (The Player, S.O.B.), or providing the audience with a glimpse of how the whole process works, but this one has a distinct purity to it and a lack of irony or arrogance that makes it difficult to dislike just a tiny bit. It is similar to UHF and yes Pee Wee's Big Adventure. Jittlov even sings at one point.
I stumbled across this obscure title during one of the 411mania movie-zone podcasts. Hopefully some of you still remember those days. We had been saluting unsung hero Allan Graf, who commonly plays an uncredited brute or bodyguard of some variation on TV and in movies. He pops up at the end of this film. You might recognize his face from other material. He's the bodyguard at the pool scene with a few minor lines. Anyway, while we were perusing his resume, we spotted the odd title of The Wizard of Speed and Time, and when I discovered it was out of print, I needed to see what it was all about. Luckily that $4 was well spent. You'll find yourself wanting many of the gadgets Jittlov puts on display, yet happy that you don't have to be known for an ugly green jacket.
The Wizard of Speed and Time couldn't come from the heart any more than it does. Jittlov has assumed almost every role in the making of his short films, and here, he has a handful as well. You also have an appearance by Phillip Michael Thomas from Miami Vice in case that suits your fancy. It's a ridiculous semi-autobiographical venture that is both dumb and infectious at the same time. Despite Jittlov's rather insane stare downs at the camera, I was won over by the idiosyncrasies of this unpretentious and boisterous B-movie, and consider myself a little wiser on filmmaking overall. Thanks Mike Jittlov.
- Just recently watched the music video for Brandon Flowers' "Crossfire." Charlize Theron beating the crap out of ninjas in a tank top = awesome.
- So I've been catching up on my comics lately. They were building up over a series of months. I finally got around to reading Death Ship: The Last Voyage of the Demeter, Superman: The Last Family of Krypton, Nemesis, and many more that are ongoing. I generally avoid the major superheroes, but the three-issue Superman series I got tells what would have happened if Kal-El's parents came to Earth, had children, etc. It's neat, but Millar & McNiven's Nemesis is seriously off the f'n' chain. I also starting reading Alan Moore's Necronomicon, and made the mistake of reading it on a train, only to see that it is filled with hardcore nudity, orgies, and graphic violence.
- Of the shows I've been watching, Modern Family and How I Met Your Mother are always good for laughs, but the BBC contemporary version of Sherlock is outstanding thus far. The Glee tribute episode to The Rocky Horror Picture Show was ok. It was about what I expected. The best part was John Stamos singing, proving those Jesse and the Rippers days are still with him. He needs to be in a mainstream musical. I am also loving The Walking Dead. I highly urge you to see it, even if you don't care for zombies.