The Bloody-Crazy (And Bloody & Crazy) Story Of Roar

I love learning about behind-the-scenes of how films are made, I’m a real sponge when it comes to ‘making of’ stories. I want to know who came up with that line or who created that character. Whose idea was it to make the film in the first place and what inspired them. All of that kind of guff. When it comes to behind-the-scenes stories of filmmaking, I don’t think anything comes close to the making of Roar.

Released in 1981, Roar tells the story of a naturalist called Hank living on a nature preserve in Tanzania, Africa. On said preserve are several big cats, lions, tigers and such. Those big cats get a little rough when a committee arrives to review Hank’s grant to keep his nature preserve going. When Hank’s family arrive, the big cats soon become a very dangerous problem.


Basically, Roar is about a load of wild and very dangerous animals going, well… wild and becoming very dangerous. It is a film that could be seen as being made to jump on the coattails of the likes of Jaws, a good old-fashioned ‘when wild animals attack’ kind of thing. Still, even though this film was released after the success of Jaws, the idea for Roar came about before both the film or the novel of Jaws even existed. Oh man, what a story this is too.

The concept for Roar was the brainchild of married Hollywood couple, Noel Marshall and Tippi Hedren. Tippi was shooting Satan’s Harvest in Mozambique in 1969 and during a break in filming, she was taken on a tour of the area. While on the tour, Tippi saw an abandoned house in the Gorongosa National Park, which had been overrun by several big cats. As Tippi Hedren said when talking to Parade magazine in 2015:

“It was an amazing thing to see. The lions were sitting in the windows, they were going in and out of the doors, they were sitting on the verandas, they were on the top of the Portuguese house and they were in the front of the house. It was such a unique thing to see and we thought, for a movie, let us use the great cats as our stars.”


Tippi was told how the lions were becoming endangered due to poachers. After the tour had finished, she talked to her husband, Noel Marshall about the possibility of making one or more films where big cats would be the star. Noel was an agent, movie producer and one-time screenwriter actor and director. May as well mention this bit here. The one and only time that Noel was a screenwriter actor and director was on this film, Roar.

Anyway, the idea to make a big cat film was shared with Noel’s sons, Joel, John, and Jerry Marshall and Tippi’s daughter Melanie Griffith (yes, that Melanie Griffith), Tippi’s child from her previous marriage to Peter Griffith. Everyone thought it was a great idea and wanted to be a part of the film themselves. With the family onboard, the research into how just to make a film with wild big cats began.


Noel Marshall and Tippi Hedren visited several lion and tiger handlers, they toured various wild animal preserves and asked a lot of questions while making many, many notes. The idea was to shoot the film in Africa but Noel was told that would be next to impossible because tame big cats were very rare there. So, they would have to shoot most of the film in the United States as it had many more tamed and trained animals to work with. Though several establishing shots were filmed in Kenya.

With some research under their belts, Noel Marshall and Tippi Hedren began developing the film in early 1970 with an estimated shooting schedule of six months and a $3 million budget. During the spring of 1970, Noel wrote the first draft of the script, which was simply called Lions. Another draft saw the title changed to Lions, Lions and More Lions (I think he added some more lions). While the film was going to be a drama about anti-poaching and feature a serious message regarding the preservation of wildlife in Africa, just as Tippi wanted, it would have a few comedic elements too. Some of the script was written to follow a very strict direction for the big cats, there were still elements of the script left open for the animals to be more ‘natural’ and do their own thing. Even the opening of the film states the following:

“Since the choice was made to use untrained animals and since for the most part they chose to do as they wished, it’s only fair they share the writing and directing credits.”

Yup, the animals were given a writing and directing credit on the film. Now, that bit up there does say that the animals were ‘untrained’, that’s not strictly true. Under the very sensible suggestion of one of the animal trainers, Noel Marshall and Tippi Hedren obtained several young cubs and even some older cats that they had gathered from zoos and circuses, and they raised them at their home in Sherman Oaks, California for a few years. This was done so that the cats would grow up and be used to being around humans and the humans around them. They may not have been ‘trained’ to perform, but they were still raised to be used to working with humans. However, having the animals brought about the first major issue with the making of Roar.


See, the script originally called for the use of around 40 to 50 big cats and having that many animals around your house could prove to be a bit of a problem. There was another issue, keeping big cats as (basically) pets was illegal, even for major Hollywood stars. In 1972, authorities learned that Noel Marshall and Tippi Hedren had been keeping the animals and they were ordered to remove the big cats from their home. How many of the cats they had at their home at the time is not known, but it was said to be a couple of dozen at least. Anyway, Noel and Tippi purchased some land in Soledad Canyon, California and had a specially designed house built for the big cats. It was a specially reinforced multi-storey structure inspired by African architecture. That specially designed and built house eventually grew.

The entire area was transformed from a piece of open land, to a closed and fenced-off 2,000 square foot home for the animals. There was a man-made lake, African plants and foliage, a mini-film studio, an editing suite, an animal hospital, a huge freezer to hold all the meat to feed the big cats and more. It was essentially its own big cat preserve complete with a full staff. The whole thing was built using non-union workers as Noel and Tippi couldn’t afford union workers and were worried that they may have been breaking rules, so wanted to avoid any possible legalities. Bearing in mind that this was still pre-production and the estimated budget of the film was $3 million.


Long story short and the whole thing grew to become the Shambala Preserve, an actual animal sanctuary. Then in 1983, Tippi Hedren founded The Roar Foundation to keep it funded. Yup, it is still in operation today. But, I am getting way ahead of myself now, back to the making of Roar. Building that home for the big cats made the budget for the film swell. It grew from a $3 million budget to around $17 million, that’s over $70 million today. Plus, the initial six months planned for the film became several years. I mean, they did have to raise numerous big cats from cubs to adults, pay a full staff to care for the animals and the day-to-day running of the Shambala Preserve and so on.

Because the animals had changed from the original idea of just having lions, to now having various big cats, the script was rewritten. Noel Marshall even got an elephant from the Okanagan Game Preserve. As the script was adapted to fit in a wider variety of animals, the title of the film became Roar. By 1976, Noel and Tippi had amassed (deep breath)  71 lions, 26 tigers, 10 cougars, 9 black panthers, 4 leopards, 2 jaguars, and 1 tigon (tiger-lion hybrid). (Another deep breath) 7 flamingos, 6 black swans, 4 Canadian geese, 4 cranes, 2 peacocks, 2 elephants and 1 marabou stork. All of the animals were housed and cared for at their specially built Shambala Preserve. They picked up a few more big cats (why not?) and ended up with around 150 in total. That’s 150 big cats, not 150 animals.


Still, to get to this point, Noel Marshall and Tippi Hedren had to sacrifice a hell of a lot. They sold their homes and any land they owned. Noel’s production company went bankrupt. They sold personal possessions and so on. Any and everything was sold off just so they could keep the animals alive and cared for and keep making the film. Speaking to The Montreal Gazette in 1977, Noel Marshall said:

“You get into anything slowly. We have been on this project now for 5 years. Everything we own, everything we have achieved, is tied up in it. Today we’re 55% complete. We’re at a point where we just have to do it.”

Now, initial filming began in October of 1976 and was planned to last just six months. However, due to the African trees and plants turning brown and losing their leaves, filming could not begin again until the next year. Even then, they could only film a handful of months at a time and when the plants were fully bloomed. Then there were other production issues, of which I will cover soon. So, that six months of filming became spread out over several months and over several years. Including pick-up shots after the main shooting, Roar took a total of 5 years to film. However, from the original idea, writing and re-writing the script, building and maintaining the Shambala Preserve, amassing the animals, raising and caring for the big cats and other animals, editing the film and so on. Roar took 11 years to make it to the screen.


Now, Roar proudly claims that no animals were harmed in the making of the film. That’s not strictly true. 14 lions and tigers did die as a result of contracting airborne illnesses though. Not really anything to do with the filming per se, it was just one of those things. There’s another story that I’ll mention later of animal deaths. Still, while the film claims that no animals were harmed during filming (a lie), around 70 cast & crew were. Now we get into the real meat of the making of Roar, the many, many, many bloody accidents and injuries.

Even before filming started, John Marshall (Noel’s son) was the first to be attacked. A lion clamped down on his head and didn’t let go for around 25 minutes. John needed 56 stitches and returned to work on the film soon after. It has been said that 48 people were injured in the first 2 years of filming and at least 70 were injured by the time filming had been finished. However, In an interview with the XFINITY movie blog in 2015, John said about the number of injuries that:

“Tippi disputes the number. I believe that number is inaccurate, I believe it’s over 100.”

Now, I’m not going to cover all 70 (or over 100) injuries, but I will offer up some ‘highlights’… if you can call them that. Just as an aside, many of the animal attacks that did occur were filmed and used in the final cut of Roar. No humans died making the film, but very few make-up effects were needed because a lot of the blood in the film was real blood from real maulings and attacks.


Noel Marshall, playing the Hank character, took a great deal of big cat attacks. He had his hand bitten and doctors initially thought that Noel may have to have his hand amputated due to the damage. He suffered multiple punctures to his legs through numerous bites. Another attack left Noel with chest and face wounds. Eventually, he was diagnosed with blood poisoning, hospitalised and even contracted gangrene. It took several years for Noel Marshall to fully recover from his many, many injuries. And yet, like everyone else on the film, whenever he was injured and after some medical attention, he’d just keep on going as the cameras rolled.


Tippi Hedren had her head bitten by a lioness when doing a promo shoot, not even while working on the film itself. The teeth of the lioness were said to have scrapped along Tippi’s skull. After a hospital visit, several stitches and a tetanus shot, Tippi was back on the film. Later, an elephant called Tembo, fractured Tippi’s ankle by picking her up with its trunk. That injury caused Tippi to have an inflammation of the vein (phlebitis) and later contracted gangrene. That same elephant bucked its trainer off its back, the trainer hit a tree and broke her shoulder. Tippi Hedren had several more injuries including being bitten on her chest by a cougar and having her arm clawed by a leopard.

Melanie Griffith (who originally dropped out of filming but later changed her mind) received one of the worst injuries of the entire production. She was severely mauled by a lioness and sustained many serious injuries. Her face needed around 50 stitches and at one point, it was thought that Melanie could lose an eye. After some facial reconstructive surgery (and lots of recovery time), she returned to the film.


Cinematographer Jan de Bont was scalped by a lioness while filming, by the same lioness who attacked Tippi Hedren during the promo shoot. A hospital visit and 220 stitches later, Jan came back to finish the film. Jan de Bont was in a hole dug into the ground and he was operating a camera to get a shot of the family running away from some attacking lions. The shot was to be filmed so that the humans and lions would run over Jan’s head as he was hiding and filming in the hole in the ground. John Marshall remembered the incident when talking to in 2017:

“Jan’s [injury] happened very quickly – and he deserved it. We’d had a specially made football helmet that we’d cut out so he could operate [the camera]. And he goes, ‘I don’t need any fucking helmet!’ All the lionesses came and jumped over him, and he’s an amazing cinematographer and doesn’t want to miss a shot, so when he has an empty frame he pans over to catch the family in the boat. Well, the lioness that jumped over him went, what was that? She bit at ‘it’ [De Bont’s head] – thus, the 200 stitches. Literally, his scalp was hanging in front [of his face] and we just threw it back to get him to the hospital.”


Assistant director Doron Kauper had one of the lions bite his throat open and also left him with scalp, chest and leg injuries. The attack was first reported as being ‘near fatal’, but Doron Kauper was later reported as being conscious and stable after surgery. There were dozens and dozens of other big cat attacks, way too many to cover here. You could always check out the Tippi Hedren co-written book Cats of Shambala for many more details on the making of Roar.

The attacks got to a point where a lot of the crew walked off, worried about their own safety. Apparently, the turnover for crew members on the film was very high for the 5 years that it took to shoot it.

Still, one of the worst incidents to happen on the film didn’t even come from an animal attack. In order to create the man-made lake that was on the Shambala Preserve where the film was shot, workers dammed off the nearby Aliso Creek. In February of 1978, there was a massive rainstorm which caused damage to the dam, which eventually burst. The whole property was hit by a 10-foot flood and caused mass destruction.


Parts of the completed film were destroyed, though the negative had already been sent to be edited. There was extensive damage to the specially built house. Several of the crew had to be saved from the flood. The water also destroyed cages and fences holding the animals. As a result, some of the panicked big cats escaped and had to be killed by the sheriff and local law enforcement. Three lions were shot dead, including the lead lion called Robbie, who was replaced with another lion for the rest of the shoot. So yeah, some animals were definitely harmed in the making of Roar. Maybe not by the filming directly, but most definitely due to the film being made.

The flood caused around $4 million in damage (still in 1970s money here). It took a year for the area to become usable again (one of the reasons this took 5 years to film). Filming equipment had to be replaced, the house/set was rebuilt, around 700 African trees and plants had to be replaced and more. All of which took around 8 months of work and a lot of money, ballooning the film’s budget. If there was ever a sign that this film should never have been made, this was it. However, Noel Marshall and Tippi Hedren had poured everything that they had into the project. They had to finish the film and see it released just so they could hope to make their money back, maybe a bit of profit too.


Eventually, the film was completed and set for a mass release. However, there was another major setback. Roar was not released in North America, the film’s biggest market. Why Roar was not released seems to vary depending on who is asked. According to Tippi Hedren, the studio that was set to release the film wanted the ‘lion’s share’ of the profits. Something that Noel Marshall and Tippi refused to agree to as they wanted the money to go to helping the Shambala Preserve and care for all the animals. I would also assume that they wanted a good chunk of the profits too as they had spent $17 million (closer to $40 million today) making the film. There has also been stories that the reason that the film was not released in the US was due to the fact that Noel Marshall hired non-union workers.

So yeah, Roar was not even released in the US. It did see get into cinemas internationally though. Countries such as the United Kingdom, West Germany, Italy, Japan and Australia did see the film released in cinemas, where it made a whopping $2 million, against a $17 million budget.

Roar was a gargantuan flop and in 1982, Noel Marshall and Tippi Hedren eventually separated and divorced, the pressure (and danger) of making the film and its haemorrhaging of money was one of the main reasons.


It all worked out well for the animals though as (previously mentioned), Tippi Hedren founded the non-profit The Roar Foundation and the Shambala Preserve grew and grew. As of writing, Tippi is still very much alive, now aged 93 and is still an animal rights activist. Noel Marshall died in 2010 aged 79. Sadly, Noel never did see Roar released in the United States… because it eventually was. In 2015, Drafthouse Films purchased the rights to Roar and gave it a limited theatrical run in April 2015…

Tippi Hedren was asked to make comment of the film’s eventual American release, which she refused. It has been said that she refused to talk about the film due to how Drafthouse Films chose to promote it, with a bit of a ‘funny’ slant. See the trailer above. The lines of: “No animals were harmed in the making of this film. 70 members of the cast and crew were”, the way the actors (Tippi’s then-husband and daughter) are shown in the trailer or the false claim that Robbie the lion was unharmed, when he was shot dead due to the flood, etc. Apparently, Tippi felt Drafthouse Films were not taking the film seriously and using sensationalism to promote it. So, she refused to talk.

Roar is an absolutely crazy film and honestly, there’s a great deal I’ve not covered just to keep this article at a reasonable length. Read Tippi Hedren’s book Cats of Shambala for more details. There were so many more animal attacks and incidents that I’ve not mentioned. It really is amazing that no humans were killed. The animal attacks in the film are 100% real and whereas ‘normal’ films would use stunt doubles, specially trained animals and make-up effects to portray something like a lion attacking a human, Roar did none of that.


The film showed real animals actually attacking Noel Marshall, Tippi Hedren and their children. There were no stunt doubles or protective clothing. Fake blood was not used as that was their real blood in the film. Roar is about as close to a real ‘snuff film’ that you will probably ever see. The story behind its making is absolutely bloody insane. Roar is one of the most distributing horror films made… and it’s not even a horror film. It was meant to be a family drama with a heartfelt message about animal activism.

Tom Cruise once broke his ankle doing his own stunts on Mission Impossible, did he? Ahhhhh, didums. Melanie Griffith had her face ripped open by a lioness and her family fought off around 150 big cats, while suffering and surviving multiple maulings, and still came back to finish the film. Tom Cruise is a pussy.

A Packet Of Crisps, A Crying 3-Year-Old And How/Why I Trolled A Nation Of Gullible Idiots

This is an article that is a bit off topic for my blog, but hey, there is a damn good reason why it exists. Normal service will resume shortly.

“A clip round the ear or taking him into care so he gets some decent parenting” suggested Grant Lanario. According to RoseAnne Foy Gilchrist, it was a “prime example of a little brat not getting what he wanted”. “You need to teach that kid some resilience” advised Clare Hemmings Fox Rodney. Nikki Brammers chipped in with “Oh! My! God! You ridiculous specimen!”. Emma Flanagan’s poor grammar had her writing “your printing a story on a mardy brat who didn’t get what he wanted”. “Milo needs to man up” claimed Chris Meakz (slight spoiler, Milo is only 3 years old).

June Seabrook went with “Oh ffs! Stupid spoilt child stupid adults”. Terry Cole had the very insightful “What a w@nk£r” as his comment. Jayde Freda Greene got a tad vitriolic with “your grandson is a spoilt brat and you’re a prat of a grandad”. “the vacant look on his face looks like that of someone who has been lobotomized” added Elmo Waters. “Grandad and kid deserve a slap” said John Bickley, thinking that hitting a 3-year-old child was a good idea. Andy Thomas asked “Wonder where real dad is?”, I fail to see the relevance but you are soon to find out Andy. Cam Wellstead said “You’d think he’d be used to disappointment by now, with being called Milo”, once more that comment from someone calling themselves Cam, the irony is obviously lost on them.

Those were just a handful of the hundreds, thousands of comments from news sites that were made by supposed ‘adults’ aimed at a 3-year-old child and a granddad. It would be really worrying if they were not so pathetically hilarious. But why, why would people who are supposed to be grown-ups, who are allowed to vote, choose to throw insults and threats of violence at a 3-year-old child and his grandfather? I can only assume due to a severe IQ deficiency. Oh, a fake story about a packet of crisps may have had something to do with it too. Please, allow me to explain.

Have you ever looked on news sites and found absolutely pointless non-stories, usually involving the general public, that leave you questioning the low-level gutter press and the lack of a moral compass of the person who is involved in the story? These non-stories come in all shapes and sizes. Some wanker complaining about the wording on a ketchup bottle, a woman crying that a sandwich is ‘sexist’ because it has a male-centric name. There is a subdivision of these non-stories, the compensation face picture story. Or, the compo face story. These compo face stories really are very special as they always involve a member of the public complaining about nothing, looking to get some kind of compensation after getting their faces in the press.

The story will always be accompanied by a nice picture of the person, looking particularly grumpy in order to gain some sympathy and, of course, compensation from the company that they are complaining about. Ergo, a compo face story. These are not so much the scraping of the bottom of the barrel side of news, more like these non-stories have scraped through the bottom of the barrel and have now bore-holed their way to the Earth’s core. Just like this following ‘breaking news’ of a granddad complaining that a packet of crisps made his 3-year-old grandson cry. Feel free to click this image for the full story.

FAKE NEWS LINKFull story here

Thanks to Birmingham Live for that news story. A news story that spread over the Internet in a few days. Shared by multiple news sites and it even made national news when one of the redtop rags, The Mirror even picked up and shared it. Yup, this utter non-story made the national news. With thousands of comments left by people who have even less of a life than the person that they were trying to insult from the story itself. Just look at the comments left on Metro’s Facebook page, as an example. Over 800 there and even more in the article’s comment section itself, don’t forget Twitter. Just from Metro alone, this non-story generated over one thousand comments and over 2k ‘likes’ all from just one news si and there were several others.


The thing about a lot of these non-stories is that you have to question how genuine they are. I assume that 99% are faked in some way just so the sad-sack involved can get their 15 minutes of fame as they try to get something, anything in terms of compensation for something so mundane. But surely an experienced and professional journalist wouldn’t fall for a fake story? And surely getting a fake story in the press would be next to impossible because said professional journalist would check and double-check before publishing… right? Plus, you’d think that the general public wouldn’t be stupid enough to believe everything that they read.

Well, no on all accounts. That story about the granddad, the crisps and the crying 3-year-old is utter rubbish and really stupid people in the public who left thousands of comments fell for it. I know that it is utter rubbish because, well… I faked it. There is no granddad, just me. Yup, that Steve Perrin in the story is me. And why did I fake a non-story to get it in the press? So that I could have a finale to my book where I have compiled and reviewed dozens and dozens of these non-stories from multiple sources. There was some grain of truth in the faked story though. 3-year-old Milo did exist and was actually my son, not my grandson. He didn’t cry over a packet of crisps though. Mainly because he has an awesome Dad bringing him up and teaching him how the world works. I chose to make up the fictional grandad for other reasons that are detailed in my book.


As for the comments I received, such as the abuse and insults aimed at me and my 3-year-old son that for those leaving comments, was genuine as far as they knew. I’ll be replying to you in good time and showing how ridiculously pathetic you really are. All the snide digs, laughing and threats of physical abuse aimed at a 3-year-old and a grandad when in reality, it was those commenting who were being laughed at. Family, friends and myself getting a really good giggle at just insignificant and how unbelievably stupid you are. Even more when people read my book. “He who laughs last” and all that.

Do you know what the best thing about all the negative Facebook comments that attempted to belittle a 3-year-old and a (faux) granddad is though? Very, very few of them had their profiles set to private. Loads of information to trawl through. Where they went to school, where they work, their relationship status and so much more, all right there on display for anyone to read and do anything that they like with. Just think what somebody could do with that kind of information? Then, there were all the pictures that they had publicly shared. Pictures of themselves, their kids and so on. I wonder, as an example, if somebody had written a book… a book that features a story where that author and his 3-year-old son had faced all sorts of petty abuse. I wonder just how said author could use those pictures. Perhaps the author could feature several pictures in his book and belittle the people, their children and their loved ones children in those pictures in the same way, if he was so inclined? Seems perfectly fair, right?

Now, speaking (well, typing) of being fair, the story didn’t only attract negative comments. I did have a smattering of people smart enough to question the story. A few people did ask if what the news sites were publishing was satire and some did see through my ruse. I also had people sympathising with Milo and explaining how 3-year-olds will cry at anything. These comments did give me a small ray of hope that the general public was not so stupidly gullible, for a while.

Still, no one realizes they’re being fooled because they’re too busy laughing at the fool who is fooling them. This applies tenfold for those I have chosen to feature in my book. This is the bit I’m looking forward to most of all, as I show all these halfwits up for the shallow and insignificant idiots that they are.

Still, I can’t give away everything in this article, you’ll just going to have to buy a copy of the book for all the details on how and why I did this, and to see exactly how I have handled the people who left such stupidly pathetic comments. If anyone is interested, my book can be purchased from Amazon in digital, paperback and hardback formats. Over 320 pages of pointless non-stories and ‘journalists’ reviewed. Enjoy, I know that I will. As I, and others, continue to laugh at all of those imbeciles who did choose to make their pitiful comments.


For all those negative comments made towards Milo and me, what do you think of that ‘compo face’? I call it my ‘smug, shit-eating-grin of self-satisfaction after making hundreds and thousands of members of the public look really stupid for my book’ face. 10/10. Buy my book right here and have a good laugh.

50 Years of The Way Of The Dragon

Originally released back in December of 1972 (hey, this can be my Christmas article for this year as I don’t have time to do a proper one), Bruce Lee’s The Way of the Dragon (Return of the Dragon in the US) was the best film he made. Now, this isn’t my favourite film of Lee’s, that would be Fist of Fury. I’d even say that the iconic Enter the Dragon was Bruce Lee’s most popular and most famous film too. However, I would happily argue that The Way of the Dragon was his best film.

Bruce Lee always wanted to tell stories that were deeper than your average kung-fu flick at the time. His opus would’ve been The Game of Death, which was to delve into the teachings of martial arts and Lee’s own philosophies. Alas, as you know, Bruce Lee died before he could finish work on that film and his vision died with him. The closest we would ever get to a deeper Bruce Lee film was The Way of the Dragon. For this picture, Lee didn’t just star in it. He wrote, produced and even directed the film, this gave him full creative control over the project. The end result was a film that had some great fight scenes and served as a showcase for Asian culture to the rest of the world.

Okay, sure, the plot of The Way of the Dragon isn’t exactly stellar. If anything, the plot is the weakest part of the film. Clichéd, trite and crammed with Italian caricatures and stereotypes (an Italian character actually exclaims ‘Mamma Mia!’ at one point). Basically, Bruce Lee travels from China to Italy to help protect his uncle’s friend’s restaurant from an evil mob boss who wants to take over the property by force. However, under that paper-thin story is a film with layers that many people miss. By the time 1972 came around and when The Way of the Dragon was released, Bruce Lee was a big star in China. A far cry from just a few years earlier when he was a struggling bit-part player in American TV shows. Lee changed Asian cinema forever and his influence is still felt today.


With this film, Lee got to show off his comedy chops, it wasn’t all about kicking bad guys in the face. See the opening of the film with Lee’s character, Tang Lung arriving in Rome. When Lung goes to the restaurant to get some food, he can’t speak or read Italian. So he just randomly points at the menu and ends up ordering loads of bowls of soup. It’s the type of gag that you might find in a Charlie Chaplin flick, but given a Bruce Lee twist. Unfortunately, if you watch the English dub of the film, the joke is lost as both Lee’s character and the server are speaking in English, meaning that the miscommunication gag does not work as originally, he is speaking in Cantonese and she in Italian. There’s a lot of this ‘fish out of water’ humour in the film and all of it is lost with the English dubbing. Always watch these films with the original dialogue, trust me.

One of Bruce Lee’s aims with this film was to show an Asian audience a bit of European culture. Bearing in mind that when The Way of the Dragon was being filmed, Lee was not an international superstar, yet. Enter the Dragon had not been released, or even filmed in 1972 and Bruce Lee was still very much only known in China. Asian films back then were only ever made in Asia and for an Asian audience. And so, the audience had never really seen much of the world outside of their own front door. Hence the film’s Italian setting and this is why there are a lot of establishing shots (a few too many), shots of the streets of Rome, plazas, statues, the famous Colosseum and more. These were used to help show off Rome to the audience back in China, who would never have seen anything like that before. Nora Miao’s Chen Ching-hua character taking Bruce Lee’s Tang Lung on a tour to see the sights was done more so for the Asian audience so they could see Rome, more so than for any kind of character or story point.


Lee even managed to inject some of his own philosophies into the film and especially the Tang Lung character that he plays. Lung is humble, honest, loyal and above all else, tough. He only uses his skills if absolutely necessary. If anything, this was the closest that Bruce Lee got to playing himself on screen. Lee had become a bit ‘dismayed’ by how his last two films were made. Produced by the legendary studio Golden Harvest, Lee was never allowed to be as creative as he wanted to be. The studio picked the writers, directors and actors. As great as The Big Boss and Fist of Fury (my favourite) were, they weren’t really Bruce Lee films. They were just films with Bruce Lee in them. For The Way of the Dragon, Lee teamed up with (also legendary) film producer  Raymond Chow and founded Concord Production Inc. together.

Now a co-founder of his own film production company, Bruce Lee would be the creative driving force and Raymond Chow would be the head of the admin. Long story short and after Lee’s death, Linda Lee sold her husband’s shares in the company to Chow and Concord Production went bust by 1976. The studio only had two completed films too, The Way of the Dragon and Enter the Dragon (co-produced and distributed by Warner Bros.). Okay, so Concord also owned the original, unfinished footage from The Game of Death and produced a documentary called Bruce Lee: the Man and the Legend following his death. And I’ve gone off on a bit of a tangent here. The point is that Bruce Lee had full creative control with The Way of the Dragon, something that he didn’t have with his previous films.


As a director, Lee’s first film is far from perfect. There are scenes where characters literally line up to deliver their dialogue (you can even see them look at the floor for their marks) and it feels a bit over-practised and more than a tad ‘stage play-ish’. Very unnatural. But, Lee does use some great camerawork and includes some very interesting shots and angles. Taking a few ideas that he picked up while working in America and blending them with more traditional Asian filming techniques. The Way of the Dragon was a real coming together of cultures and styles.

The Way of the Dragon was a low-budget flick too. Remember, this was the first film for a new production studio. Both Bruce Lee and Raymond Chow had to put up their own money to found Concord Production Inc. and pay for this film themselves. Originally, Lee wanted to set the film in the United States, but the budget wasn’t there to cover the cost and Italy was cheaper. That low-budget does show a few times throughout the film. Another reason that there are plenty of establishing and lingering shots of Italy and Italian fountains, etc (other than to show an Asian audience some European culture) was due to those budget constraints. A lot of the time, Lee didn’t have filming permits or permission to film on location. So, he would often linger on a statue (as an example) just to get as much on film as possible before anyone came asking for a filming permit. He had to use what he could and as much of it as possible, for free.


As previously mentioned, Bruce Lee chose to use a bit of comedy for the film. The scene where Tang Lung inadvertently picks up a (I’m not sure if she was or not) prostitute. They go back to her place and she disappears for a few moments, while we get a brief sample of Tang Lung’s kung-fu skills. The (maybe?) prostitute reappears and is now (almost) butt-naked. Lee’s comic timing here is wonderful as he makes a swift exit out of embarrassment. This more light-hearted tone is vastly different to the mostly humourless The Big Boss and Fist of Fury. The comedy also sets up Lee’s character well and lets you know that he is a likeable guy under the fact that he could kick your bum-cheeks with ease.

Also, to help give the film a wider appeal, Lee hired several non-Asian martial artists. Bob Wall (later to appear in Enter the Dragon) was one such casting choice. Then, of course, there was the casting of the living legend that is Carlos Ray ‘Chuck’ Norris. Norris was (at the time) multiple All-American Karate Champion and very much respected within the martial arts world. He and Lee first met at a karate competition while Lee was in America working on The Green Hornet in the late 60s. They struck up a friendship, worked out and trained together. When Bruce Lee became a co-owner of a film production studio and began working on The Way of the Dragon, he knew that he wanted his friend Chuck Norris as the big bad guy for the film’s climactic fight. Also, having such a well-known and respected American martial artist in his film, Bruce Lee knew that would help gain some international praise and help sell the film outside of China.


There was another angle to using American fighters in this film. It gave Brue Lee an opportunity to express one of his many philosophies:

“Using no way as a way, having no limitation as limitation.”

Having the bigger and more brute-like, heavier fighters go up against the smaller but sleeker, more fluid fighting style of Lee was a way for him to show that there were no limits. No matter how small you are, you can overcome even the biggest opponents Or, to use Lee’s much better and more poetic example of this:

“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash.

Be water, my friend.”


Let’s get into the action now and look at how Bruce Lee shot the fights themselves. Again, using a mix of classic Asian and American filming styles, Lee created something very unique for the time. A double nunchaku fight is all well and good. But you need good choreography and a keen eye for what makes a great shot to make it look impressive on film. With his previous flicks, Lee couldn’t even do his own fight choreography. It was Han Ying Chieh who did the fight choreography on The Big Boss and Fists of Fury. Though Lee did get to make ‘suggestions’ with Fists of Fury and did influence several of the scenes. But with The Way of the Dragon, Bruce Lee was in full control.

You can really tell too as there is a real step up in quality when it comes to the action here. This may have been Bruce Lee’s first (and only completed) film as a director. But, when you look at the fight scenes from his previous films and compare it to The Way of the Dragon, there’s a real feeling that Lee wanted to push what made a good action scene. Take a look at the climatic fight at the Colosseum. Now, while establishing shots of the Colosseum were genuine the interior was not. You don’t need to be an expert to tell that the end fight took place on a set and not in the actual Colosseum itself. A rather poor-looking set, if I am being honest. Again, this goes back to the fact that the film was low-budget and that they didn’t have filming permits. It was cheaper (and safer) to shoot the scene in a controlled set than pay to film a lengthy action scene in the Colosseum itself.


Now, some The Way of the Dragon fans would probably point out to me that there are some brief shots inside the Colosseum itself. Yup, there are. But, they were filmed illegally. Bruce Lee and his crew had to sneak cameras in, pretending to be tourists and they shot what little they could without being caught. When you watch the film these days, with a good HD transfer, you can really tell the set and matte-painted backgrounds from the real Colosseum footage.

Anyway, the fight itself. It has been suggested that Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris had a ‘real’ fight. Real as in that they actually hit each other but it was still choreographed, not that they had a falling out and decided to punch each other in the face. The two were good friends and trained together in the 60s, so there must’ve been a lot of trust between the two. Some of the hits do look like they connect (several, not so much), it is possible that some of the final fight was really a vigorous sparring session with some camerawork and editing to make it look more real than it was. Or, it could’ve been a real fight, of course. Chuck Norris has been asked about the fight and he said that:

“I enjoyed working with Bruce Lee in the film. It was a lot of fun, the fight scene is considered the classic martial arts fight scene of all time. So, it’s nice to be involved in a fight scene that everyone loves.”

Honestly, nobody knows if they did really fight and the only person who can answer that (Norris) never fully answers the question when asked. He just says it was great to work on it. I kind of like that though, it’s a nice little movie mythology.


The big fight took up almost a quarter of the shooting script because Bruce Lee put so much detail into the choreography. It has been said that the climatic fight took around a collective 45 hours to shoot too, as Lee wanted it to be as perfect as it could be and did multiple takes until he was 100% satisfied. That’s a lot of punching and kicking each other in the face… if they did fight for real. Arguably, it is the best Bruce Lee fight on film and lasts over 10 minutes of screen time. All of that work that he put in really does pay off.

One of the things that I adore about the final fight is how they don’t just face each other and get into it right away. There’s a slow build-up, from Bruce Lee running around the Colosseum, looking for Chuck Norris. To, when they finally meet, face-to-face, then there’s the disrobing and warming up as these two giants, or gladiators of martial arts, ready themselves for battle. It’s a fantastic build up of tension that Bruce Lee uses here. At the time, with most Asian kung-fu flicks, the good guy just goes in fists flying and takes the bad guy out. Even Lee’s previous, films were guilty of this. Here, we the viewer are teased, tormented and made to wait for the big showdown. Before a single blow is landed, you know that you are in for something special because Lee builds the excitement and anticipation.


This climatic fight is where Bruce Lee’s direction is at its finest. He may have been a bit stiff with some of the dialogue scenes earlier in the film and directed his actors as if they were in a stage play. But here with this fight, the martial arts master showed us how to shoot a great fight scene. There are a few times when Lee’s direction does slip back into typical Asian kung-fu fare. The snap-zoom, where the camera suddenly zooms in on an actor’s face, is a staple of Asian cinema at the time and Bruce Lee does use it quite a bit too. But then he also does things that were unheard of at the time.

There’s a decent portion of the fight that is shown in full slow-motion and with a good medium-distance camera, keeping both men in frame, so we can see these two titans actually fight. If you think about modern cinema now, that is never really used. Most of the time with fights these days, it’s all fast, frantic and close-up camera work. This is done to hide any possible imperfections and (usually) the fact that the actors are not fighters. Throw in a load of jump cuts and you have pretty much any modern-day fight scene. Here though, Lee wanted you to see everything, to see him and Chuck Norris display actual martial arts skills and in slo-mo too. Lee had confidence in both himself and Norris to deliver a fight that looked like a fight.

There’s also a great touch in this fight where Lee’s Tang Lung character is seemingly losing. Or, at least, struggling to win. This is because he starts the fight using a fixed martial art, Chinese boxing. After realising that this style is not working against the man-mountain that is Colt (Norris), he switches to a more fluid style of fighting. He starts bouncing around on his toes and becomes more ‘Bruce Lee-like’ and then, the fight begins to change. This (again) was Lee using his philosophy of adapting, using no way as way… being water, my friend. It even gets to the point where Colt tries to adapt to a more ‘relaxed’ form of martial arts, you see him bounce around on his toes a bit too as he tries to match his opponent. Of course, it does him no good because, well, he’s not Bruce Lee, is he?


In the end, Colt’s face is blooded, his bones get broken and yet, he still tries to fight. That is when Tang Lung realises that this fight isn’t going to end in a knockout, this was to be a fight to the death. He even does a little shake of the head, a warning to Colt to not do this… yet he does. Left with no choice, Tang Lung breaks Colt’s neck. The camera zooms in on his face and there’s a look of disbelief and regret. A great bit of subtle acting from Bruce Lee that says a lot without a word of dialogue. Still, it’s a very fitting end that a fight to the death was held in the historic Colosseum (or a set of it). This fight really was very brutal for the time. It also felt realistic in terms of kung-fu cinema of the 1970s. Yeah, it’s a bit hokey now, a tad silly in places. But for 1972 this fight was truly ground-breaking and remains one of the best fight scenes caught on film.


Now, 50 years later as I write this article and reflecting on The Way of the Dragon, only now does the massive loss of talent that was Bruce Lee hit me. This film was far from perfect but it does showcase that the man could write and direct a film, outside of the punching and kicking that he was famed for. As I said at the start of this, Fist of Fury is my favourite Bruce Lee picture and Enter the Dragon is, by far, his most popular. But The Way of the Dragon was his best. The melding of American and Asian film-making, the use of humour and Lee’s foresight to use the sights of Rome and respected martial artists to be his opponents was a stroke of genius. Then, let’s not forget his subtle use of his philosophies.


It’s a damn shame that he died when he did, that we will never get to see Bruce Lee’s vision for The Game of Death as he wanted it to be. His opus that would’ve delved even deeper into his own philosophies and love for marital arts. I think that Lee would’ve gone on to have had a great filmmaking career if he had lived. Just imagine all of those 80s and 90s action films written and directed by Bruce Lee and starring Brandon Lee that we will never get to see. We will just have to take solace in his only completed film as a director, The Way of the Dragon. Bruce Lee’s flawed masterpiece.

Well, that is almost it from me for this year. I have one more article I’ll be publishing between Christmas and New Year, my now annual Indie Game Round Up 2022. But until then, I hope you have a good Christmas

It’s A Hell Of A Thing, Killin’ A Man: Unforgiven At 30.

The Western genre was huge decades ago. It really all began in the 1950s. Oh, I know that there were Westerns before the 1950s and the genre dates back to the early 1900s with The Great Train Robbery from 1903 being one of the first (there were even some Westerns from around 1895). However, it was in the 1950s and when John Wayne was one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, that the Western genre really began to gain popularity.


By the 1960s, the genre had plateaued and began to fall out of favour as tastes changed… at least in America. In Europe, the Western was still a major draw and so the subgenre of the Spaghetti Western was born. These were a mix of various production companies over Europe working together to make classic Westerns with a more modern and European edge. I really should write a more detailed look at the Spaghetti Western subgenre one day. Anyway, Italian director Sergio Leone was one of the big Spaghetti Western filmmakers working in Europe in the 60s. Meanwhile, in America, a young bit-part actor by the name of Clint Eastwood, was struggling to find roles. At the time, Eastwood was appearing in the TV show Rawhide but could not break into movies. Long story short and Eastwood was suggested to play the lead in a new Spaghetti Western that Sergio Leone was making in Europe. That film was Per un pugno di dollari or, A Fistful of Dollars.

An even longer story short and Clint Eastwood stayed in Europe, did a few more Spaghetti Westerns and when they were eventually released in America a few years later, Eastwood became a major Hollywood star and the Western was reborn. From then, there was no stopping him as Eastwood ruled the box office for decades. Taking on iconic role after iconic role. I mean, Dirty Harry anyone? It was in the 70s when Eastwood also turned his hand to directing for the first time with the 1971 psychological thriller, Play Misty for Me. It turned out that not only was Eastwood a great actor, he was a damn fine director too. He began directing more and more films and his latest film as a director, Cry Macho, was released in 2021 when Eastwood was 91 years old. That’s a directing career of 50 years and more than thirty films. Not bad for a guy who couldn’t land a lead role in America in the 1960s.

Still, if I were to pick just one film that showcases Clint Eastwood’s talent as an actor and director, that film would have to be Unforgiven. Not only Eastwood’s best film but perhaps one of the greatest Western to ever be made too. Released back in 1992, Unforgiven is now 30 years old and I’m writing this article to celebrate its genius and take a look at just why it is so damn good.

While Unforgiven was released in 1992, it dates back a little further than that. David Webb Peoples was a film editor in the 70s as his main job, but he loved to write. In his spare time between editing jobs, he would sit down and pen screenplays. He got his first big job as a writer when Ridley Scott hired him to write Blade Runner in 1982. Still, back in the 70s when David Webb Peoples was working as an editor and writing in his spare time, he penned a Western film script with a harder edge than was being made at the time and that script had two working titles, The Cut-Whore Killings and The William Munny Killings. The script eventually found its way to Clint Eastwood in the 80s. However, he didn’t read it.

Instead, long-time associate of Eastwood, Sonia Chernus (she worked on Rawhide and The Outlaw Josey Wales with Eastwood) read the script and hated it. The script was overly violent and bloody with not much of a plot. Chernus told Eastwood that:

“We would have been far better off not to have accepted trash like this piece of inferior work. I can’t think of one good thing to say about it. Except maybe, get rid of it fast.”

Clint Eastwood trusted his associate’s judgement and didn’t read the script himself but, he didn’t follow her advice to ‘get rid of it fast’. Instead, he just put it to one side. A while later and when looking for a new project to work on, Eastwood picked up David Webb Peoples’ The Cut-Whore Killings/The William Munny Killings script and liked it. He recognised that it was rough and still need a lot of work, but he liked it. In fact, Clint Eastwood liked it so much that he felt not only should he play the lead but that he should direct it too. It was about 1986 and while Eastwood loved the script, he felt he was a bit too young to take it on. He decided to leave it for a few years and in that time, the script could be reworked and polished. Eventually, it became the shooting script for Unforgiven. From that rough script, Unforgiven went on to win four Oscars. Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Gene Hackman) and Best Film Editing. Not bad for a flick that was once deemed so bad that it should be thrown away.


Unforgiven really is a wonderful piece of cinema that turned the Western genre on its head. Going back to classic films of the genre, the plots were always pretty basic. You had a good guy and a bad guy storyline and the Sheriff was always the good guy. With Unforgiven, Gene Hackman’s Sheriff ‘Little’ Bill Daggett was the bad guy, a really nasty bad guy too who was responsible for some of the most evil acts in the film. Daggett is even more violent than the cowboys that are responsible for kick-starting the plot of the film. Then, Clint Eastwood’s William Munny wasn’t exactly the hero in the white hat either. He had a history, a pretty bleak history. The film makes it clear that Munny is not or has not been a nice person and can never be redeemed for his past actions. The opening text crawl tells you that he is a known thief and murderer. William Munny will never be Unforgiven and there was this blurring of the line between being a good or bad guy in a Western.

Outside of the main two characters, Unforgiven is crammed with some amazing characters and performances. Richard Harris as English Bob, the legendary and ageing gunslinger is only in a few scenes, but those scenes stick with you. With Bob being followed around by Saul Rubinek’s W.W. Beauchamp, a very nervous writer wanting to capture the story of English Bob on the page. The whores that kick-start the story and their lust for revenge is so well crafted for such a simple plot. The Schofield Kid, played by Jaimz Woolvett is a wonderfully realised character that has all the bluster and front of a hardened killer, only for the exact opposite to be true. Of course, you can’t talk about the cast and characters of Unforgiven without mentioning Morgan Freeman as Ned Logan. One of William Munny’s oldest and best friends and an ex-outlaw with his own questionable past.


One of the great things about Unforgiven is how it handles the violence. There is no doubt that this is a violent flick, but it doesn’t necessarily take glory in that fact. If anything, it questions violence. Just going back to The Schofield Kid character and when he finally admits to having never killed anyone before and the whole ‘It’s a hell of a thing, killin’ a man. Take away all he’s got and all he’s ever gonna have’ speech. It’s a very powerful scene and I don’t think a film had ever brought up killing in such a way before, especially in the Western genre. Even before that iconic scene and before the ‘heroes’ are about to kill one of the cowboys who cut up Delilah Fitzgerald at the start of the film. You have the Ned Logan character tell William Munny that he can’t kill anyone. There’s a morality here and several times through the film, violence is questioned as characters try to make sense of what they are doing. The film almost feels anti-violence even when it is at its most violent.


All through that violence, we are rooting for a bad guy. Clint Eastwood’s William Munny was a horrible character with many flaws. As mentioned, the opening text crawl tells you that he was a murderer. Then, at the end of the film, we learn so much more as Munny even admits as much himself.

“I’ve killed women and children. I’ve killed everything that walks or crawls at one time or another.” 

He’s a child killer and we, the viewer, are on his side. He’s not a nice person, or at least he wasn’t. A retired outlaw turned pig farmer, trying to look after his two children since his wife died. Yet, he can’t escape his old life. We, the viewer, are caught in a trap with William Munny. We want him to go back to his farm and take care of his children. But, we also want to see him get bloody revenge. We know that he’s been responsible for some despicable acts in the past and yet, we can’t help but support him. It takes some impressive writing to get the viewer on side with a self-confessed child killer. But it works because (as I said before) the supposed good guy, Sheriff Bill Daggett is evil. Really, there are no ‘good guys’ in Unforgiven, just different levels of bad guys and it gives us one of the most honest depictions of the Wild West on film.


Then there is the pacing. Unforgiven comes in at over 2 hours and there are scenes that are slow, plodding. Very talky to help build characters. There are even times when the main plot just stops, as we learn more about William Munny. See the scene when he is talking to the cut-up whore, Delilah Fitzgerald and turning down her offer of a ‘free one’. For a good while, the main plot ceases to exist as Munny’s life and history become the focus. There are several scenes like this, where everything is slowed down and yet, the film never feels boring. It is constantly moving forwards, there is always something going on and the 2-hour runtime flies by, even when the film applies the breaks. You can really tell why this film won the Best Film Editing Oscar. Unforgiven has many a slow scene, but the film itself never feels slow and every single scene in the film deserves to be in the film. There’s not one wasted frame here.


You can’t talk about Unforgiven and not mention the cinematography. A lot of Westerns look good, purely based on the fact of their setting. With Unforgiven, you get that times a thousand. I mean, just look at the opening shot above. The scenery used and how it is shot is stunning all through the film. We get shots of beautiful scenery, sunsets and vistas that seem to go on forever. Scenes of people riding horses and talking, while awe-inspiring visuals engulf your eyes. But, there’s a wonderful juxtaposition going on as those beautiful shots are intercut with scenes from the film’s town setting of Big Whiskey. You can go from a prepossessing mountain range to the horseshit-filled streets of Big Whiskey. No more does this become apparent than in the film’s finale, shot at night and in the pouring rain. The use of light and shadow to show the good and bad sides of William Munny. The cinematography is astonishing.

And about that finale. Everything has been building to this for the last hour and 50 minutes. It’s been a slow but engrossing journey and we get to see William Munny as he was before he became a pig farmer. Cold, calculated and an unashamed killer. The last 10 minutes or so of Unforgiven are some of the greatest that you will find in any film. It’s dark, it’s moody and yet, there is still room for some light humour… before the slaughter of Sheriff Bill Daggett and his men. Brutal and brilliantly shot. then we get the closing shot, a mirror of the opening shot and Munny is back home on his farm and looking after his children.


This ladies and gentlemen, this is why Unforgiven is the greatest Western film ever made. Even now, 30 years later, it is still a powerful and emotive picture.

What Was The First Released Film To Use CGI?

What was the first released film to use CGI? That was a question I asked a while back and got some ‘interesting’ answers. 1993’s Jurassic Park was one of the answers. A good call as it did feature some early CGI work, but not the first. Someone mentioned the owl in the intro to Labyrinth from 1986 too. Yup, that was CGI, not the first though. The stained glass window scene in Young Sherlock Holmes from 1985 is another one often mentioned, and still not the first.


So then, what was the first released film to use CGI? Well, before I get to that (and other notable flicks), I just want to get my feelings on CGI down. Today, people seem to be quick to dismiss CGI work as being ‘easy’ or ‘lazy’ when compared to practical effects. ‘It looks fake’ is one comment I see popping up a lot in regards to CGI. Well yeah, it does look fake… because it’s fake. Practical effects are fake too, that is why they are called effects. CGI is far from easy or lazy and, more often than not, actually takes up a great many more man hours to produce than practical effects work.

Yes, some CGI can look pretty poor. Some practical effects can look dire too. That is because it is not the medium of the effects being used that is the issue. It is the time, money and talent that work on it. You can have really great CGI work, just as you can have really great practical effects. You can also have some truly awful CGI and practical effects work. It all depends on what went on behind the scenes. Some of my favourite effects work is practical. The werewolf transformation in An American Werewolf in London is one example, there’s a reason Rick Baker won an Oscar for it. Just as CGI work is also some of my favourites. I still think the T-1000 effects from Terminator 2: Judgment Day is impressive now.

T2 T-1000

In short, I’m not one of those ‘CGI sucks’ people. I don’t think that one is ‘better’ than the other and it all depends on what the effects are being used for. I don’t think there is such a thing as an overuse of CGI in a film, depending on what the film is, CGI is often the only viable option. Just going back to Jurassic Park for a second. I don’t expect the film-makers to invent time travel and go back to when dinosaurs ruled the Earth to capture real footage. So, in cases like that, CGI is a must. Yes, they use practical effects too and there had been examples of such effects in previous films with dinosaurs. Still, as much as I adore and respect Ray Harryhausen, growing up watching his work. Jurassic Park’s CGI looked better than anything he ever did on a practical level.


Anyway, I’m going off on a bit of a tangent now. I’m here to look at the history of CGI in films. So then, where did it all start and what was the first film to use CGI? We know it wasn’t the 90s, many people think the first film to use CGI came from the 80s. Possible, there were some great examples of CGI in 80s flicks. Tron, Flight of the Navigator? How about the 70s? Sounds a bit far-fetched to younger readers who didn’t even know that computers existed in the 70s. But yeah, there was CGI in films in the 70s. The awesome and classic Westworld from 1973 used CGI. For those not in the know or have only seen the recent TV show. Westworld was a film about a futuristic theme park going wrong when the attractions kill the visitors. Think Jurassic Park but with androids. Well, they were both written by Michael Crichton.


So yeah, CGI existed in the 70s. Westworld used computers to depict the vision of Yul Brynner’s gunslinging android. If you do a Google search for ‘first CGI in film’, then Westworld is the answer you will get. Many places have written articles similar to this one and credit Westworld as being the first too. Here’s one from Empire, one from Insider and YouTube is full of people making videos stating that 1973’s Westworld was the first film to use CGI. So, there you go, CGI in film dates back to the early 70s, many sites and even Google are happy to tell you that too. Except for one tiny problem, they’re all wrong. CGI in film dates back before 1973 and before Westworld was released. I’m not talking about a few days or weeks before Westworld either.

What if I told you that the first film to use CGI was pre-70s? What if I told you it was pre-60s? Yup, you’ll have to go back to the 1950s to find the first film that used CGI. 1958, in fact. The Alfred Hitchcock directed Vertigo used CGI first. John Whitney was the man who came up with the effect too. He used a World War II targeting computer (yes younger readers, computers existed back then) to create the film’s opening titles. Working with Saul Bass, the opening featured various spirals and they were all created using that WW II targeting computer.

There you go folks, the first use of CGI in a film. One could get pedantic and say that the CGI is not ‘in’ the film but just used for the title sequence. Still, the first film to use CGI was 1958’s Vertigo. Kind-of-CGI dates back even further though. There were few proto-computer animated short films that used oscilloscopes to create visuals. Titles like Around is Around (1951) Eneri (1953) and Abstronic (1954, which I couldn’t find a good video for) all used an oscilloscope. I think these three earlier examples really boil down to if one thinks that a short animation is a ‘film’ or even if an oscilloscope is a computer. Those last three may be debatable but one can not deny that Vertigo was the first to use CGI in a feature film.

What was the first fully CGI animated film? Pixar’s Toy Story, right? Again, debatable. If we were to say the first fully CGI animated ‘feature’ film, then Toy Story seems to be the rightful claimant. However, there were animated CGI short films way before Pixar even got into the game. As far as I can tell, Catalog (1961) seems to be the first fully CGI animated (short) film. It looks more like a basic screensaver by today’s standards but back in 1961, this was groundbreaking and made of very early and simple computers.


I don’t know if this counts but also from 1961 was Rendering of a Planned Highway. Again, not a feature film. This was actually a computer generated animation to show what a proposed new highway in Sweden would look like and was created by the Swedish Royal Institute of Technology. It was the world’s first fully digitally created ‘real’ environment. So impressive was it, at the time, that it was even broadcast on Swedish national TV on the 9th of November 1961. So ‘technically’ it was publicly released.

There’s actually a slew of released CGI created short films in the 60s. I’m not going to name them all here, but here are a few. Hypercube (1965) was the first stereoscopic 3D computer animation. Computer Ballet (1965) had the first ever CGI human animation. Mr. Computer Image (1968) had the first voiced CGI character. Even the 70s, before Westworld, had some impressive CGI shorts. Computer Animated Hand (1972) was the first film to feature polygonal 3D animation and shading. As a side note, the creator of this animation, Edwin Catmull, went on to co-found Pixar. So technically, this was the first ever Pixar film. Then we get into 1973 and Westworld.


Of course, those examples were all short films. Still, my initial question was: What was the first released film to use CGI? I never said feature film. In terms of CGI in released films, there were a lot before Westworld was released through the 60s and 70s. Around 25 or so short animated CGI films before Westworld reached the cinemas, in fact. In terms of feature films, then Hitchcock’s Vertigo definitely predates Westworld though and Google need correcting.