As discussed in my last post, one kind of film within film is when a scene from one movie is shown in another, on a television set or movie screen. As a viewer there is an interesting connection here because we are watching characters in a film and those characters are doing the same thing: watching characters in a film.
One really interesting example is in the 1978 Burt Reynolds film Hooper. Reynolds plays a stuntman and there is a scene where the character is watching clips of his own stunts in films and one of them happens to be Reynolds (performing his own stunt, no less) in Deliverance. (Thanks go out to David C. for reminding me of this one!)
Trivial Facts about Billy Parrott: Growing up I was obsessed with The Guinness Book of World Records. I had the mass market paperback editions from 1974 to 1979 and though I was more interested in the freakish pictures than the superhuman feats I devoured those books, practically memorizing them in their entirety. I liked to provide little tidbits of information at the dinner table and on the school playground during recess, with as much bravada a 7-year oldme, age 7 could muster, then show the photographs for effect: "No, he isn't holding a potted plant. Those are his fingernails!" "I present to you Billy Leon McCrary and Benny Lloyd McCrary, also known as the McGuire Twins, who weighed 1480 pounds. Yes, they weighed that much without the motorcycles." "You're tall, but not nearly as tall as Robert Pershing Wadlow's 8 foot 11.1 inches."
Another interest of mine during this time period was Evel Knievel and the daredevil stuntman craze of the late 70s. Hooper was a tribute to unsung world of the stuntmen and contained lots of stunts. Not gratuitous stunts, like when two people are talking and one of them says "Hold that thought!" and jumps off a building. The stunts are part of the story. It is a stunt film about making stunt films. One of the stunts in Hooper (highest freefall by a movie stuntman without a parachute: 232 feet) set a world record, so that film combined two of my interests. If only Kiss had done the soundtrack then it would have been the absolute holy trinity of my childhood! I am no longer interested in daredevils or stuntmen, but like those '70s Guinness Book of World Records and early pre-1980 Kiss, there is still a nostalgic value.
Trivial Facts about Burt Reynolds: Reynolds has appeared in over 100 films. Of those, interestingly enough, 10 are films about the filmmaking process: Fade-In (1968), Silent Movie (1976), Nickelodeon (1976), Best Friends (1982), Hooper (1978), The Player (1992), Boogie Nights (1997), The Last Producer (2000), The Hollywood Sign (2001), and A Bunch of Amateurs (2008).
Trivial Facts about Fade-In: This film was directed by Alan Smithee. Smithee's first film was 1969's Death of a Gunfighter. He was later retroactively given directing credit for Fade-In, which was released in 1968. So though Death of a Gunfighter was Smithee's directorial debut, Fade-In was, by a technicality, his first feature film. For more on Alan Smithee click here.
Other films about making films include 8 1/2 (1963), Inland Empire (2006), Taste of Cherry (1997), Sunset Boulevard (1950), Living in Oblivion (1995), Peeping Tom (1960), and Ed Wood (1994).
After a list of directors who make cameos in their own films will be a full list of films about making films.
Another kind of film within film is when clips don't appear in the background on a televisions set but are cut into the film as part of the story. The 1982 Carl Reiner and Steve Martin film Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid is a perfect example. Through a clever use of editing this film noir comedy features Martin acting along side the likes of Humphrey Bogart, Veronica Lake, Bette Davis, Burt Lancaster, James Cagney and many more with clips taken from the following films: This Gun For Hire (1942), Sorry, Wrong Number (1948), The Lost Weekend (1945), The Killers (1946), The Bribe (1949), The Big Sleep (1946), In a Lonely Place (1950), Dark Passage (1947), Suspicion (1941), Notorious (1946), The Glass Key (1942), Deception (1946), Johnny Eager (1941), The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946).
Bernardo Bertolucci's The Dreamers (2003) is another film that features material from other movies and like Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid it is a tribute to cinema. It features clips from City Lights (1931), Freaks (1932), Top Hat (1935), and Band of Outsiders (1964). With a NC-17 rating it is not for the faint of heart, but with all the references, from quick clips to dialogue quotes and scene reenactments, The Dreamers is certainly a must-see recommendation for anyone interested in film.