Keith, a contributor to The Stub.
Apart from the above title being a great name for an indie band, it relates to some of the most famous of film lore. There are dozens of urban legends surrounding popular films. Some of us have heard of them in half whispers growing up, scared ourselves with the ghost boy in Three Men and a Baby, wondered about the family of the stunt man who died in the chariot scene in Ben Hur or spent some time looking for a suicidal munchkin in The Wizard of Oz. If you haven’t heard about them or seen them, they are definitely worth a look as they are a unique form of urban legend mixed with conspiracy theory; proof of man’s ability to take something ordinary and blow it out of the realm of possibility. For those that have seen them I’ll attempt to shed some light on the truth and shatter your illusion. (Also there’s no Santa, the Easter Bunny is dead and your parents hate you).
Three Men and a Baby Probably the most famous film urban legend around. There are many stories related to this film but the basic plot stays the same: a boy kills himself, his parents had already signed the contracts with the film company to use the apartment as a set and during some scenes you can see the ghost boy staring out from behind the curtain. A variation on the story has the boy killing himself with a shotgun which would explain the long black shadow. I remember the first time I saw this; it does look like proof of the existence of ghosts and that the set was haunted . Unfortunately the truth is much more sedate: the “ghost boy” is really just a cardboard cut out of Ted Danson. His character is an actor and has done a dog food commercial in a tux which was later cut from the film; a real loss I’m sure much worse than the missing scenes in ‘Metropolis’. A combination of the cardboard cut out being at an angle and the poor quality of vhs tape led to this. Also there were no reports of a suicide, murder or fatal accident, after which the child’s ghost decided to ruin the movie. If he did, it would have backfired as I’m sure it’s boosted dvd sales.
The Wizard of Oz One of the earlier film urban legends. The story goes that during the introduction of the tin man in the woods, a depressed munchkin who, some versions say, didn’t get the job of the mayor of the lollipop village, decided in an act of revenge, to ruin the scene by hanging himself. Another story has it that he was a producer’s son and that he was upset with his father. It’s amazing that they got anything done with all these dead people lying around the place. This is another product of poor quality vhs which obscures the already dark background. It was actually a crane; one of the many exotic birds brought in to give the place a fantasy setting. The crane was preening and stands up straight to give the effect of a small body hanging. I was told, when i first heard about it, that a black box was over the figure and only on older copies of the film could you see it…Lies-!!!. To think that one of the worlds largest studios would allow a suicide in a film so they wouldn’t have to reshoot two minutes of film is crazy. Also, the film, like most films, was shot out of order so there wasn’t any munchkins on the studio lot yet. Aficionados of The Wizard of Oz, when not syncing up the original release of Dark Side of the Moon with the classic movie, will tell you the real suicide is in the munchkin village, a depressing place if there ever was one. As the mayor says goodbye to Dorothy above the head of the coachman, a female munchkin can be seen swaying unnaturally in the background. Again, on poor quality vhs it does look quite odd. On a high quality copy, however, you realize that she, like all the other munchkins was just dancing and swaying to the music. Again there was no murder or suicide on set: the studios where powerful but not that powerful
Ben Hur Ben Hur is a perfect example of a Hollywood lavish set story with epic scope and Charleton Heston at his peek. The huge chariot scene is the climax of this particular film, apart from a yellow Volkswagen Beetle being visible in certain scenes during the chase. It’s widely believed that a stunt man died during the race. The race has many well choreographed stunts but no fatalities. The only injury was a gash on the head of stuntman Joe Cannett’s forehead, which he received when he was thrown over the chariot. The original 1926 version on the other hand has a host of macabre stories surrounding it .At least five horses where shot and people may have drowned during the naval battle. The truth, however, is shrouded in mystery.
The Crow It’s true that Brandon Lee died during the making of this film when a cartridge that was lodged in the barrel of a gun was fired with blanks, projecting the cartridge into his side. It’s a commonly held belief that the scene was left in the finished film. This is false. A scene near the end where Brandon Lee dressed as the crow is shot by a group of villains is thought to be the scene where he was fatally shot with all those guns; it would be easy to make a mistake. The scene where the accident happened was during a home invasion scene at the start of the movie. Brandon was shot through the grocery bag he was carrying and the cartridge pierced his lung leading to his death. The film was shown to the police who where investigating the death and then destroyed. A pity, as it would have made a change from the run of the mill dvd extras: blooper reel, production notes, accidental homicide. His death, along with the early death of his father Bruce Lee, has added fuel to the fire surrounding the theory that the Lee men are cursed. So fearful of the curse, Bruce Lee’s family gave him a girl’s name and even went as far as to dress him in girls clothing when he was young in a attempt to fool the evil spirits. No wonder he was such a good fighter.
Goldfinger At the time of the film’s release, and for years after, there was a story that the woman painted in gold had died. During the film, a secretary of Goldfinger’s, Jill Matherson, betrays him to Bond and in an act of revenge he had her killed by painting her gold because you breath through your skin…I though it was your lungs! During the filming of the scene the actress left a patch on her abdomen paint free in order not to suffocate. What’s really amazing is that people believed this and somehow still landed on the moon a short time later, if you believe that actually happened. It goes to show how far we’ve come in understanding even basic things. The actress who played the secretary, Shirley Easton, survived the film and continued to act, I’m sure, playing numerous secretaries and corpses along the way.