Recently I have re-visited a number of old movies I saw as a child, movies that I thought were wonderful when I first saw them. While some of them are still exciting to watch, others are not. As a young lad I didn’t know how movies were made, so I didn’t give things much thought. Now I can see the shortcomings of many of them because of the technology and censorship at the time. There were science fiction and other genres that were meant to be serious, but some now produce a giggle. Today, movies look real, due to advanced technology, and censorship that allows things through that would have been on the cutting room floor years back. Now, many old films look corny because of their shortcomings.
Here are a few examples of things that didn’t ring true with movies of old. On some of the Roman epics we had people talking in different accents when they are supposed to be from the same place. Some, for example would have posh or not so posh English accents and others would have American. People spending days in the sweltering heat of the jungle would emerge as clean as a whistle, sweat free and not a hair out of place. Some science fiction films had men and women dressed in space suits with a divers helmet on. Some of these also had dire special effects and it was obvious models were being used.
In the western and other movies where a gun was used, not a drop of blood could be seen when someone was shot. Another unreal thing in the western was when chairs and tables broke so easily over someone’s head during a fight, and the person hit was unaffected. Married couples had to have separate beds due to censorship rules. By the late 1950s things became more relaxed, but even then a mild expletive and a couple in bed, even if just lying there, would be enough to give it an adults only certificate.
Some films used back projection, which in many cases was pretty obvious. Someone, for example would be sitting in a mock up car with a projected film behind them. The driver would often turn the steering wheel from left to right and if it had been a real car it would have been all over the road. Painted backdrops tended to stand out. For example a castle in the distance was obviously a model or a painting.
Today, filmmakers can make the unreal look real with blue and green screen, computer graphics and all sorts of digital wizardry. At the end of the day though, it is the story that counts. Some of the old movies may have lacked special effects and were sometimes held back by censorship, but in most cases the stories were good. It is only today when we compare them to the modern digital effects that these films look dated. Today, almost anything goes in the movies and the special effects are brilliant.