The Wizard of Speed and Time (1988) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

The Wizard of Speed and Time (1988)

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Danny LIKE"Filmed around the world in a special process that is technically unexplainable!" proclaims the trailer for The Wizard of Speed and Time. "It's the kind of movie you'd make if you had nothing better to do!"

Truer words have rarely been spoken. The Wizard of Speed and Time is a lighthearted, silly, and corny foray into the problems of making your own movie your own way. In a somewhat inspired take, it's a movie about the problems of making itself.

Let me step back before I get into that, though. Back in the mid 1970's, director and special effects guru Mike Jittlov made a series of short films that eventually got him noticed by Disney. For one of their television showcases, Jittlov created an original short, also called The Wizard of Speed and Time. The title character spends half of the two minute short performing super speed feats and the other half singing a strangely hypnotic song with dancing tripods and graceful film canisters whirling about. Because I'm sure none of you reading this believe me, here's the original short:

Yeah, not the best quality here, but I hope you can tell how spectacular some of that work in the second half is.

Jittlov fell in love with the wizard persona and became determined to make a feature length movie. The movie became a weirdly circular product; it joked about many of the problems Jittlov had encountered making his shorts which, unsurprisingly, soon began to manifest during the making of his feature film.

The film is spiritually akin to Weird Al's UHF (1989), with both films dealing with an unsuccessful weirdo given the keys to their dreams by a reluctant and downright hostile enabler. The plots are similar in a few other ways, as well, though Jittlov (playing a character named Mike Jittlov) gets the girl a little easier.

The Wizard of Speed and Time is the story of a special effects technician hired to do a short film. The scummy producer, however, immediately bets his director friend that Jittlov won't get it finished and immediately sets about sabotaging the short. On top of the subterfuge, Jittlov has to deal with scrounging together money, fighting the unions, and the actual filming itself, all of which are strung together with a gaggle of silly gags. One memorable scene involves real cops chasing fake cops chasing Jittlov on an automotive suitcase. I want that suitcase.

It's all dumb fun, tied together by glimpses of Jittlov's impressive short films. We also get to watch as filming for many of the effects for the Wizard short are recreated with a demented bent. Then, in the film's climax, we finally get to see the retooled Wizard sequence, which blows the original out of the water. Though it does lack the singing. Uh, sadly.

The movie is a labor of love and joy, and it's infectious watching this talented man and his friends retell their own story. It's corny and sweet, and lacks a sense of detached irony that you expect from most 'Hollywood eating itself' stories.

The movie was filmed in '83, but a variety of reasons kept it from theater screens until 1988 where it floundered and died. It managed to gain an audience on VHS, and when I was much younger I managed to see it that way. The final wizard short has always stuck with me; it's such a joyful, giddy expression of one man's mad vision that it's damn near irresistible to enjoy and cherish.

Unfortunately this movie is not currently available on DVD. There are, however, ways to see it.

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The Wizard of Speed and Time (1988)

Trailer | IMDB
Directed by Mike Jittlov
Written by Mike Jittlov
Starring Mike Jittlov

Posted by Danny

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