BBC - Mark Kermode's film blog

« Previous | Main | Next »

Recycling or Transforming?

Post categories:

Mark Kermode | 15:00 UK time, Wednesday, 20 July 2011


There's been a lot of kerfuffle recently about the fact that Michael Bay has reused shots from his film The Island in Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon. There's nothing new about this, filmmakers have been recycling footage and sound effects for decades - but is that a good thing?

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructionsIf you're reading via RSS, you'll need to visit Mark's blog to view the video.


Related Posts on Kermode Uncut
Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon - watch Mark's incredible, wordless review
Transformers 3 and the Truth About Blockbusters - can you handle the truth?

Mark's reviews on 5 live
Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon

Hear Mark Kermode review the week's new films every Friday from 2pm on BBC Radio 5 live. Kermode & Mayo's Film Review is also available as a free podcast to download and keep.



Page 1 of 2

  • Comment number 1.

    I saw this, and really don't get the fuss. It's like using stock footage that just-so-happens to have been shot by you. It's no worse than re-using sound samples, and we know that's going on. Can I have another Wilhelm Scream, please?

  • Comment number 2.

    Actually, this "scene recycling" is entirely new to me... the first time I've heard of it was in fact when I saw a video from "Transformers 3" and was quit shocked... Because the only thing that "Transformers" has to its defense are the cool action scenes... and now, they are not even completly "from" that movie...

    But actually, I really can't think of a moment, where I would really consider it "artisticly valite" to do something like that. I simply don't see the point. All the examples which Dr.K. mentioned are interessting examples of good movies or directors who used that "trick" but somehow I feel, that they really could have shot these particular scenes by themselves instead of resycling them.

  • Comment number 3.

    Is Mark a member of the Cookd & Bombd forum? This topic's been a thread there for a few weeks. I'll throw "The Limey". Footage of a young Terence Stamp from "Poor Cow" is used when the old Terence Stamp is reminiscing about his past.

  • Comment number 4.

    I think that film lifting will be the new technological aspect that derives mainstream films of quality and has cinephiles complaining aplenty. I can imagine in the future mainstream film-makers making movies by only editing existing footage and using CGI manipulating. If that director needs a shot in a, say, strip club they can simply type in strip-club into their movie-making program and get a massive selection of different shots of different-looking strip-clubs. If they need a shot of Bradley Cooper or whoever actor is popular at the time, they can go through the hundreds of thousands of stock shots of that actor and manipulate all this footage together however they want in their computers. Film lifting is certainly going to become popular when the technology can allow it and rich, talentless, and lazy directors like Michael Bay and George Lucas can simply stitch together their films completely in-studio.

  • Comment number 5.

    If I'm not mistaken the unicorn dream in Blade Runner is from Ridley Scott's Legend or a screen test for Legend, something along those lines anyway.

  • Comment number 6.

    I recall the Zulu chant being used in Gladiator at the beginning of the film by the barbarians.

  • Comment number 7.

    I imagine someone will recycle the myth about the unicorn in Blade Runner being from Legend at some point...oop, there it is! :)

    There is, however, a shot from Alien in Blade Runner. It's a circular docking graphic, yellow on black, shown early on, on a screen, as Gaff's spinner takes off with Deckard. That graphic was actually created for Alien, shown when the shuttle is de-clamping from the Nostromo, headed for the planet's surface.

  • Comment number 8.

    Artistically valid reuse - just about all of Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid.

  • Comment number 9.

    You get to the edit, you find you need a shot. The film will work better, the rhythm stronger, if you do. But shooting has wrapped. These things happen. It's fair enough...especially if it's footage you already directed yourself the first time.

    On the subject, though, here's an interesting (um, possibly) article I wrote on the use of pre-existing footage in the TV series Red Dwarf:

    (I know, Dwarf's not a movie. I apologise in advance.)

  • Comment number 10.

    Off the top of my head, I would say the use of Laurence Olivier in 'Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow' They got a whole 'performance' out of pre-recorded excerpts of him, when they could have used another actor. I don't recall why they felt the need but I think it's a valid example for this.

    It is different though to using footage after someone has died e.g. Heath Ledger in 'Imaginarium', since that footage was deliberately recorded for that film.

  • Comment number 11.

    Brad Neely's complete re-dub of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone; "Wizard People, Dear Reader", comes to mind.

  • Comment number 12.

    The silent film watched by Joe and Norma in "Sunset blvrd" is Von Stroheim's unfinished film "Queen kelly", considering it cost Gloria Swanson $2 million of her own money, she was probably glad claw back some of the cost. Staying in Hollywood "Mulholland drive" was originally shot as a tv pilot that never got picked up. The brief appearance by Robert Forster, the whole sequence with the hit man look like scenes for characters who would have featured prominently in tv series.

  • Comment number 13.

    I'm continually amazed by the HUGE amount of knowledge Mark has regarding cinema. Is there anything he doesn't know?!

    Anyway, wasn't the fact that the shot was lifted a result of a terrible accident involving a stunt woman during the shooting of Transformers 3? So it wasn't his initial intention to lift it.

  • Comment number 14.

    As much as I dislike Bay, it's not fair to criticise him for reusing the footage. A stunt woman was injured badly during filming, and the footage could not be used.

    On this count: Bay is not guilty of crimes against cinema. Other verdicts are yet to be decided.

  • Comment number 15.

    One of the strangest instances of this that I have seen is in Ulli Lommel's Boogeyman II. Lommel was so angered by the idea of having to make a cash in sequel to his Halloween knock off that he decided to use 50 minutes of footage from the first film to pad out the sequel's 80 minute runtime.

  • Comment number 16.

    The oddest example I can think of is from an episode of the A-Team, something about terrorists on a plane or something, ends up using footage from the spoof film Airplane of a jumbo jet crashing through a window in the airport. It's completely out of place.

  • Comment number 17.

    For me the strangest use of recycled footage was 1994 thriller "mute witness" the story is about a mute woman who witnesses a murder during the filming of a porn movie and is chased through a factory by the killers. The ending features Alec Guinness coming on as gang boss in 1940's dress and with afleet of period cars completly out of kilter with the contemporary setting, it later emerged that this had been shot two years earlier for another film and that the director had used it without the knowledge of Sir Alec.

  • Comment number 18.

    Another one from Bladerunner, not a shot or a sound effect, but Doug Trumbull incorperated an old model of the Millenium Falcon into the cityscape.

  • Comment number 19.

    It's lazy to be honest, hes done it before. i do not see this issue as a problem as such, as it tends to be un-noticable most of the time anyway from what i can gather. Star trek had some rehashed footage i think.

    It must have been budgetary reasons for Bay!! Surely!!

  • Comment number 20.

    Disney do it all the time, but with animation:

  • Comment number 21.

    Disney's 1973 Robin Hood was notorious for re-using direct shots from earlier Disney films, such as Snow White, The Aristocats and, most notably, The Jungle Book - See the evidence here:

    However, the excellent and on-going Everything Is A Remix project showcases the best examples of re-using and re-cycling footage. This video shows the shots and themes from the Kurosawa movies that George Lucas was inspired by to write and direct Star Wars. The second half identifies everything Quentin Tarantino borrowed for his Kill Bill movies: It really is an excellent and thoroughly well researched video and well worth a look.

  • Comment number 22.

    The use of music turning up in various films is something I'm aware of. The use of Adagio for Strings in both the Elephant Man and Platoon. I have no issue with that as it a classical piece not made for either film, but I'm not keen on when an original score is recycled. The scores from Millers Crossing and State of Grace were used in other films (alas can't remember them) and possibly bits of Magnolia used in Thin Red Line. In the interests of keeping film score artists in work and producing great new scores I'd say copied used of original scores is a no no. Humorous uses of another film source is good. Already mentioned is the fab Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (wish someone would do another of these), and also some fun use of vintage film used in Airplane. Ta. Pete (Edinburgh).

  • Comment number 23.

    Hey! Come on Dr Kermode, credit where credit's due, Ben Burtt is/was the sound designer for Star Wars and it was him that had a love for The Wilhelm Scream and revived it. As I'm sure you're aware Spielberg also re-used that Godzilla sound effect in Jaws in the moments after the shark has been blown up and it sinks to the ocean floor.

    Italian B-movie maestro Bruno Mattei is well known for, uh hum, recyling footage. His 'masterpiece' Cruel Jaws uses footage from the aforementioned Speilberg classic and it's sequels.

    I think with B-movies, straight to DVD productions, etc it's not really too much of a problem to take an establishing shot of a building or an insert shot from 'the stock room'. When it's a big budget Hollywood production though it feels and looks unnecessarily cheap. I recently did a Star Trek marathon and seeing shots of The Enterprise pulling out of space dock in part II The Wrath of Khan recycling footage from The Motion Picture just reeked of studio bean counting scroungyness. When it comes to sound effects, I've never found myself getting bothered at all.

  • Comment number 24.

    I would also pick The Limey as my favourite use of previously used footage because it works with Sarah Flack's temoprally erratic editing style and helps evoke a sense of happier times in the life of the T. Stamp character. It is also a great novelty to see a true representation of a character at different ages. Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid and Zelig also make great use of old footage to create completely original films.

  • Comment number 25.

    I was going to say Disney's Robin Hood first but I see others have done it before me.

    I am not sure if it falls under the same category, but in Superman Returns, Jor-El was played by Marlon Brando and archive footage from earlier films was used, due to the fact that Marlon Brando was - well, dead by that time.

  • Comment number 26.

    The shot of the Klingon Bird of Prey exploding in Star Trek: Generations is the exact same shot from the earlier Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country.

  • Comment number 27.

    Half an hour into Avatar I really wasn't enjoying the smugness and self-congratulatory feeling it gave me, so the sampling of dinosaur cries from Jurassic Park really annoyed me. I've no problem with sound or image sampling, but the obviousness of this was what annoyed me. I heard the sounds and saw Jurassic Park, thus it didn't connect with the new creatures onscreen. That and I could just see James Cameron and Spielberg laughing together amongst piles of money.

    On a better note, I like the use of old Michael Caine footage - though I'm not sure which film it's from - in Austin Powers in Goldmember.

    It's not quite the same but there's an interesting film called Decasia which is made up of decayed silent-film footage. Some of it's enhanced to give the film a visual flow, and it's fascinating, almost as if it's an attempt to produce a film version of a sampled album, like The Avalanches or DJ Shadow.

    Also think of a number of recent trailers which all use a clip of Tom Cruise yelling "Sean!" from Minority Report. Thor, Harry Potter 7...and I'm sure a couple of others. Can't remember them.

  • Comment number 28.

    I think a great example of this is the underrated Steve Martin flick "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid", where Steve Martin stars along with Edward Arnold, Ingrid Bergman, Humphrey Bogart, Wally Brown, James Cagney, William Conrad, Jeff Corey, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Brian Donlevy, Kirk Douglas, Ava Gardner, Cary Grant, Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, Burt Lancaster, Charles Laughton, Charles McGraw, Fred MacMurray, John Miljan, Ray Milland, Edmund O'Brien, Vincent Price, Barbara Stanwyck, Lana Turner and Norma Varden in a spoof the film noir genre where most of is scenes from others films.

  • Comment number 29.

    The most obvious culprits of reusing sound over and over again have to be in the advertising business. If I hear Lux Aeterna one more time I might need some heroin to calm myself down.

    I suppose a good example of this in films is Cannibal Holocaust in the "Last Road To Hell" section, where the director thought it would be entirely appropriate to include stock footage of actual executions. Because lets face it, that film wasn't anywhere near down beat enough.

  • Comment number 30.

    Great site for recyling in films

    My favorite from this site is in the scene on Titanic in Time Bandits uses slowed-down and recoloured footage from A Night To Remember.

  • Comment number 31.

    BTW Spielberg used the same roar sound again at the end of Jaws

  • Comment number 32.

    Off the top of my head the first film that comes to mind is Once Upon a Time in The West, the definitive Western, which takes most of it's script and characters from a whole range of Hollywood westerns and other movies from Shane to Warlock, one quote in particular 'How can you trust a man who wears both a belt and suspenders? The man can't even trust his own pants' taken from Ace in the Hole is brilliant. Sir Christopher Frayling details them all in his book 'Once Upon a Time in Italy'. And of course Leone was a great influence on the king of intelligent plagiarism Mr. Tarantino himself x

  • Comment number 33.

    Disappointed Dr K. No mention of Tarantino who has made a career out of stealing scenes from old movies (that invariably weren’t that good in the first place) not forgetting his repeated use of old film scores instead of getting anything new composed for his awful ‘films’.

    Other examples? What about Back to the Future, the sequel reuses scenes from the first & integrates new footage (including replacement cast members). It also features a clip from A Fistful of Dollars which is referenced in the finale of BTTF3, which also homages Jill McBain's arrival at the train station from Once Upon a Time in the West by copying exactly the camera shot. & of course as has been mentioned Once Upon A Time In The West references many westerns, High Noon & Shane in the opening scenes to name but 2. Although I guess referencing other movies is slightly different to repeating the exact same scene etc.

  • Comment number 34.

    My favourite reuse is that giant rubber crocodile in the the Jonny Weissmuller Tarzan movies, i loved em as a kid, Jane was sexy to!!! mmmmmmm

  • Comment number 35.

    Hi Mark,

    do you remember the famous shower scene in „Schindler's List“? Well, Spielberg snitched it too, shot by shot, from „Zastihla me noc“ („The Night Overtake Me“), a partly autobiographical movie made by the Czechoslovak director Juraj Herz eight years earlier. Spielberg must have seen it – it was sent to him from the archives of Majdanek Concentration Camp where Herz shot it. Herz even considered sueing him, but coudn't afford it.

    Speaking of Juraj Herz, you definately should check out his masterpiece – decidedly the best Czech horror movie ever made – „The Cremator“ (it already came out on DVD in the UK). It also deals with Holocaust, but has none of that mawkish Spielbergian sentimentality. This is a true macabre nightmare from the surrealist branch of the Czechoslovak New Wave.

    All best

    Your fan from the Czech Republic

  • Comment number 36.

    i have 2 entries. first from nick park, who use's the animation of wallace falling through the ceiling trapdoor in his later work as a way to save on animation time. (we eill allow this, because your a genius) and the 2nd entry from the delightfully bonkers Ed Wood. who, rather than let the death of an actor (Bela Lugosi) get in the way, simply reuses the same scene over and over in one film, getting a typically (Ed Wood poor) stand in to play the close up work. i give you Plan 9 from outer space.

  • Comment number 37.

    I remember an episode of Diagnosis Murder using the street explosion scene from Die Hard with a Vengeance.

  • Comment number 38.

    Some years ago, I was watching a TV Movie one night which if memory serves was called "Rangers" (although I may be mistaken) and this film had the entire climactic bus chase sequence from the Walter Hill film Red Heat, also as it's final set piece. The only difference was that it edited out the shots of Arnie, James Belushi and Ed O'Ross driving said buses and presumably intercut them with the cast of Rangers.

    It was a pretty rubbish film, but always stuck in my head because half of it was Red Heat, and I would always go on to wonder if this was allowed. I guess if the director/studio give permission for shots to be used from other films, then they can be?

    I certainly hope my memory isn't failing me!!!!

  • Comment number 39.

    Strangely enough, the first filmmaker who came to mind was Ed Wood. In "Glen or Glenda", he uses bizarre stock footage of a bison stampede mixed with an insane Bela Lugosi shouting "Pull the string!". In "Plan 9", he includes the last known footage he had of Lugosi before his death, but cuts to a different actor who bares no resemblance to Lugosi.

    The Toho "Godzilla" series also made habit of using their own previous footage from other film installments and including them.

  • Comment number 40.

    The sound mixer of Raging Bull made a point to scrap his entire library at the end of every film and start from scratch.

  • Comment number 41.

    Speaking of screams, RKO recycled dying men's screams for the simultaneous brilliant productions of The Most Dangerous Game and King Kong. They also used the same jungle sets in both pictures.

    Another I can think of is footage shot for the climax of Ghost of Frankenstein being utilised for the Monster's fate at the end of House of Dracula.

    Both cases can probabaly be put down to economical factors. With Michael Bay, just boils down to lazyitis.

  • Comment number 42.

    Dear Marky
    This is my first time posting on your blog and I don't unserstand why you keep talking about Transformers 3, I thought this blog was about films.
    - Zooopey

  • Comment number 43.

    I think the best recycling incident I ever heard of was Star Trek for Halloween!

    Yup - as we now know well; they needed a scary face for Mike Myers in halloween and they ended up using a piece of Star Trek merchandise to create the face of a movie monster legend.

    I always felt William Shatner was a scary individual and the genius John Carpenter showed me why!

    I think the recycling that you've mentioned (bar the Michael Bay stuff) is all valid and I think it's a REFLEXIVE testament to the medium of film itself - a comment on the process of how all of us filmmakers are just re-using and copying and re-incarnating what we've seen before but adding that little bit extra of ourselves - apart from Michael Bay who's celluloid should go in the black wheeley bin not the green/blue one!

  • Comment number 44.

    A couple more examples from old Hollywood. John Wayne's last film, The Shootist, used a montage of previous John Wayne films to show the gunfighter's career.
    In Superman II, Marlon Brando's entire performance was from footage shot for the original film.
    And while it's not exactly film recycling, for the burning of Atlanta scene in Gone with the Wind, Selznick burned down sets from old movies (such as The Garden of Allah) and had stand-ins drive around in front of the burning buildings. Now that's recycling.

  • Comment number 45.

    The A-Team uses footage from Airplane! in one episode, a clip of a plane smashing through an airport terminal window.

  • Comment number 46.

    I remember Cannon Films used to repeat music or film set for their films. I remember The theme music for Invasion USA was used in the four other their films Assassination, Death Wish 4 and Missing in Action 3.

  • Comment number 47.

    The scenes filmed to show the attack on Pearl Harbour in Tora! Tora! Tora! were reused for the film Midway and it works very well given the nature of the two films and the way the material has been used. A truly bad example I can think of in which material was reused in a way that lacked any artistic merit and resulted in something that was not enjoyable to watch is the 1955 film Storm Over the Nile which reused the same screenplay, music and a large amount of footage from Zoltan Korda's 1939 adaptation of the Four Feathers, there's paying homage to an older film and then there blatant plagiarism.

  • Comment number 48.

    I have the Wilhelm scream as my mobile message alert tone. I feel that it shows I'm a true film fan. At least I hope it does. Is a bit scary when it goes off at 3am though.

  • Comment number 49.

    George Lucas used footage of spitfires and dogfights in rough cuts of the original Star Wars ......this is something that Spielberg also did, his very first film featured aerial battles from world war 2 cut together with footage of school friends in ww2 planes

  • Comment number 50.

    Blade Runner has been mentioned a lot and is probably a prime example of movie recycling. Besides the aforementioned footage from The Shining, Alien and Legend; Scott's FX team also used props from films that they had previously worked on. Props from Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Star Wars are visible as part of the futuristic architecture (including the Millennium Falcon).

    If you want strictly film recycling there were two examples I immediately thought of. One was from the film Hitman (the 2007 film based on the video game and starring Timothy Olyphant). There were several instances in the film where footage from Jim Cameron's Sci fi series Dark Angel were used. Both film and TV series had protagonists that were raised as warrior/assassins and had a bar code tattooed on the nape of their necks. The footage used were flashback shots of children being trained. I was a regular viewer of Dark Angel so this took me right out of the movie. I still liked the movie to some small degree, but was disappointed by the use of the footage. Just seemed to 'cheapen' the movie... On the other hand.

    My favorite example of film re-usage is in the original Sam Raimi Spider-Man film. I think it was only ONE FRAME, possibly two, but after Peter Parker is bitten by the genetically altered spider and begins to mutate (in a state of delirium), he has a vivid nightmare. I believe it was not Raimi, but an editor who probably needed a shot of a spider, who used one of the spiders from Fulci's The Beyond. It's the POV shot where the paralyzed victim had the spider directly over his eyeball and is instantly recognizable to any true horror fan (which I am). I remember chuckling that Sam Raimi was trying to give a nod to his low budget horror roots or influence, but later learned it was the editor (if I remember right).

  • Comment number 51.

    The 1978 Martin Scorsese documentary American Boy: A Profile of Steven Prince has had scenes 'borrowed' and 'recycled'

    Richard Linklater takes this scene and rotoscopes it for his 'A Scanner Darkly' warm up film 'Waking Life'

    and a more famous scene in modern cinema has also been 'recycled' from this film.

  • Comment number 52.

    Jean-Luc Godard recently said something along the lines that film making is dead, the future is for mash-up recycling. Turkish film makers were way ahead of everyone else, pioneering mash-ups 30 years ago.

    The 1982 film Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam (The Man Who Saves the World, but commonly known as "Turkish Star Wars") uses lots of footage from Lucas' Star Wars, despite the fact that one film is is shot with an anamorphic lens and the other isn't. The resulting effect is that the lifted footage is squeezed, with planets having the shape of rugby balls.

    As was common with Turkish films at the time, the soundtrack was completely lifted from existing scores, most notably Raiders of the Lost Ark, with bits of Moonraker, Ben-Hur, Flash Gordon, Battlestar Galactica, Planet of the Apes, Silent Running and The Black Hole thrown in.

  • Comment number 53.

    Very interesting point! It put me in mind of a news article I saw a few years back which noted recycled pieces of animation from several famous Disney movies. The basic character animation from the Jungle Book was used time and again, but with a new colour palatte, or background applied to it. Conseuqently, it was harder to spot, but is still recycling. The example they supplied illustrated how a shot of Mowgli walking along a log in the jungle, was used again in Winnie the Pooh. It also occurred with scenes from Robin Hood and Snow White.

    Another fine uncut blog. Keep up the good fight.

  • Comment number 54.

    Troma recycles the car flip from kabukiman in as much films as posible. Not just to save money but also as an inside joke.

  • Comment number 55.

    It's no big deal. Especially with sound. Track 1 on CD 1 of the BBC's sound effects library is a car screeching to a halt, which I've heard on countless TV shows. As for film footage - if it's a choice between a massively expensive re-shoot or pick-up shoot, or getting something out the bin that will do the job, then it's a no brainer.

  • Comment number 56.

    In Jackie Chan's The Spy Next Door, the opening credits are a montage from previous films to create a backstory for his spy's character.

    Personally no problem at all with the practise of recycling - TV uses stock footage, so why not films? Ditto music - sampling anyone?

    Classic music example is Doves There Goes The Fear video - 6 minutes long, and the entire video is based on other videos - there is not one original shot in the video (though lots of creative & original edits)

  • Comment number 57.

    Also, with the Duel / Jaws thing, as I'm sure everyone knows, Speilberg intended for the reuse of the noise to demonstrate a kinship (thematically at least) between the truck & the shark.

  • Comment number 58.

    This was truly interesting for a piece of education.

    But I think you missed one from Transformers (2007) there is a shot that is taken from Pearl Harbor of an aircraft carrier.

  • Comment number 59.

    It's just tricks of the trade. So much of any film is made in the edit, and if you need a shot you don't have, or if you need to save money on making a shot you know already exists, you'll do it. Certainly you will be more aware of it being done by the lower budget film makers. I think Michael Powell gives a couple of examples in his bio when discussing the days of the quota-quickies, a period of British film analogous to the budget part of the Corman aesthetic, without the same lurid taste.

    Then there's Welles F For Fake, which uses footage shot for a documentary about an art forger, Welles then hiring the documentary director to do the cinematography on his own additional footage, a montage about Howard Hughes uses archival footage of Don Ameche, etc. But of course all film is about fakery, so the point is moot.

    But then again, we're all posting our opinions, and alleged footage stories on the internet, the biggest steaming pile of execrable lies in human history conveniently at our finger tips. I got the Don Ameche factoid from wikipedia, it's been more than 10 years since I last saw F for Fake, and more than 25 years since I saw it in a film class, I don't remember sufficiently to know whether it's true. But it looked true enough when I saw it written down.

  • Comment number 60.

    Well what do aspect from Bay he recycles everything else!
    i remember watching superman III and discover that the scenes of the storm in Colombia the footage is from the 79 movie Hurricane with Mia Farrow

  • Comment number 61.

    Michael Bay is a rank amateur in the recycling stakes compared to James Horner. Themes from "Krull" and "Battle Beyond The Stars" reappear in "Star Trek - The Wrath Of Khan" which has theme which reappear in "Aliens". Compare music from "Bicentennial Man" with "Deep Impact", "Willow" with "Avatar" and "The Rocketeer". But it's not just his own themes. He's produced stuff er "inspired" by Dvorák's New World Symphony, Prokofiev's "Ivan The Terrible" for "Glory", Khachaturian for "Aliens" and perhaps most famously, Raymond Scott's "Power House" for "Honey, I Shrunk The Kids".

  • Comment number 62.

    Why stop at just recycling old footage or sound effects? Most of Hollywood is built on recycling films and stories. How many remakes or sequels are done every year? Even individual scenes in "new" films are recycled from old ones. Star Wars is an excellent example of this, which lifted heavily from the old Flash Gordon serials (opening title design and the scene transitions/soft wipes), and Akira Kurosawa (the Mos Eisley fight scene where the alien's arm is chopped off as an example, or the scene in the Death Star where Han and the rest of them hide under the floorboards of the Millenium Falcon). Lucas also plundered old Westerns (The Searchers; The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly) and War films (e.g. The Dam Busters) for scenes. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, Lucas does storyboards for his films using scenes from other films as templates. People moaning about Bay obviously have no idea about how the film industry works. They're just likely moaning because his films are rubbish (which they are), and are trying to pick on everything they can find.

  • Comment number 63.

    Its not a big deal. Happens all the time. Only geeks like us notice.

  • Comment number 64.

    The god awful 'Suck' edits in footage from 'O Lucky Man' for Malcolm McDowell's flashbacks...

    How about some prop recycling? Towards the end of John Carpenter's 'They Live' the TV station security are using the PKE meter from 'Ghostbusters' as communication devices...

    Then there's 'Battle Beyond The Stars' which was later edited into about 6 other films...

  • Comment number 65.

    No mention yet of "Trail of the Pink Panther"? Blake Edwards should be ashamed of himself for this abomination, featuring recycled footage of a long-dead Peter Sellers in an effort to continue the Pink Panther series. Shocking.

  • Comment number 66.

    Recycling is another form of homage, it would appear to me that its a part of the great movie game, which we all play, the more subtle the reference, the greater the cinephile
    My two favourite uses of recycling:

    Dr Strangelove:
    Kubrick includes a stock shot ( or possibly even a recreation) During the reportage sequence of the capture of the airbase; there is a shot of an American soldier using a German built sub-machine gun, for a perfectionist like Kubrick there is little chance he would allow such an obvious error, ( his B-52 interiors were so accurate that the US air force wanted to know how he got inside one of their nuclear bombers, he hadnt, instead used manuals to recreate the look) I think he made use of the stock war footage.

    In the opening sequence in Germania, as the Germanians rally to defy the Roman Army, just before the Roman envoy returns minus his head, there is a sound of cheering and roaring by the barbarians, the sound is taken from the end saluting sequence of Zulu, when the Zulu warriors sing their praises of the bravery of the British soldiers, the very first time I watched Gladiator I picked up on it, sadly there is no reference made to it during the Directors commentary soundtrack, but I am sure that Ridley Scott, like me, loves his 'boys own' adventure cinema

    Its all a part of the 'Great Game' and we must embrace it

  • Comment number 67.

    It all just seems like a natural progression in the tradition of the Hollywood blockbuster. How many times has the great film machine reused the same plot, dialogue and characters over and over? Hell, Quentin Tarantino has made a career out of it. All this Transformers sequence gives us is visual proof that directors and writers are getting increasingly lazy.

    However, as with remakes, some things that lift details from other films succeed in ways the original could not, others don't fare so well. But as with remakes, a filmmaker who has vision and talent will always appear sincere in their reuse of existing film material, rather than other lazy filmmakers who just seem to be cutting corners and trying to save money (on a 9 figure budget).

    If there is something of artistic merit in copying and reusing then sure, it is okay, and that is the sincerity I speak of. If a low budget film is cutting corners to save money so that the film can be completed, that's fine too. What isn't okay is corporate fat cats chuckling over cigars with a hack director, counting $100 bills and spitting from their 70th floor office onto the poor punters who have made the decision to see the latest blockbuster.

  • Comment number 68.

    It doesn't just happen in film - music composers have been doing it for centuries. The Mass in B-minor (one of JS Bach's greatest works) was mostly pieced together from his previous compositions. Good enough for Bach, good enough for me :)

  • Comment number 69.

    Is Dr. K growing a beard?, seems to be going around as Mark Radcliffe is sporting a massive facial shrub of late. All kinds of hotness sez I. ;-)

  • Comment number 70.

    The "Flying" section of The Beatles' "Magical Mystery Tour" features recycled footage from "Dr Strangelove" apparently.

    & the mask of The Green Goblin in Sam Raimi's "Spiderman" looks suspiciously like the Deadite who flies off with the Princess in "Army Of Darkness"

  • Comment number 71.

    An artistically valid use of recycled footage: shots from Ken Loach's "Poor Cow" being used within Steven Soderbergh's "The Limey" to flesh out a backstory for the main character played by Terence Stamp...

  • Comment number 72.

    I tend to think of reusing footage as something from the realms of low budget filmaking and TV.

    The sci-fi film The Earth Dies Screaming using footage of a plane crash that was shot a couple of years earlier for Village of the Damned.

    There's an episode of McGyver which uses huge chunks of the Mini chase scene from The Italian Job. They even have shots of football supporters goading them on, even though it has nothing to do with the story.

    My favourite bit of recycling, though, is of the Jaguar that goes off a cliff in just about every ITC film series of the Sixties and early Seventies, like The Saint, The Baron, The Champions, Department S, The Persuaders and Jason King.

  • Comment number 73.

    The film "The Night of the Day of the Dawn of the Son of the Bride of the Return of the Terror" -- which is possibly the longest title in cinema history -- consists entirely of reused footage, namely Romero's Night of the Living Dead, whose soundtrack was wiped and redubbed for comedic effect.

  • Comment number 74.

    I think that this reusing sounds and scenery should be viewed in the same way that sampling music is viewed.
    The sample can be recognisable and used in a new way that adds to the original or is a new twist/version of the original, or the use is so subtle the viewer will either not notice the reuse or at least not be distracted from the cinematic experience.
    Can this be achieved? Yes. Is it easy to achieve? No.

  • Comment number 75.

    The 'flying' shot of clouds from the start of Terry Gilliam's Brazil (missing from the original UK cut) was actually unused footage from The Neverending Story.

  • Comment number 76.

    Never mind spotting the recycling - when is it actually better second time round. After all is it better in transformers than it was in the Island

  • Comment number 77.

    Gus Van Sant’s Psycho, practically a shot for shot remake of the original as well as the score which is predominantly a re-recorded version of Bernard Hermann’s original.

    & the Tarzan yell has been recycled a few times. Clint Eastwood did it in Every Which Way But Loose. Sir Roger Moore did it in Octopussy (not sure if this was before or after he told a snake to “hiss off!”) Even Chewbacca did it in Return of the Jedi!

  • Comment number 78.

    One use of recycling I noticed was when watching any Film or TV show from the which has a hospital scene in it, is the background tannoy anouncements when they walk down the hallways. The same Doctor is paged over the speakers.

    Also of note are the spaceships used in 'Battle Beyond the Stars' always find their way into low bugdet SC-FI movies along with the laser sound effects from the original Battlestar Movie.

    I also remember seeing in some 80's film about Ice Pirates. The crew of a spaceship watching Rollerball on the TV screens while relaxing.

  • Comment number 79.

    I'm surprised knowing Kermode's admiration for the Jonny Greenwood score for "There Will Be Blood" that he hasn't metioned this. The lifting of a song from his previous work on Bodysong is the technicality that caused him to be disqualified from the "Best Original Score" at the Oscars, which for me was the biggest travesty of that year and prevented it from getting the recognition it should deserve, considering it was still his own work that he was using. Also considering "The Social Network" won the award despite the fact it has "Creep" from Radiohead on it, just sung by a choir, which doesn't make it entirely original in and of itself.

    Maybe the Academy should just change it to "Best Film Score"

  • Comment number 80.

    Talking of Duel, The Incredible Hulk TV series always used footage from films most notably an episode tailored to fit the Spielberg terror flick. This prompted Spielberg to never again allow his movie footage to become 'stock'.

    but the two films that spring to mind are Forrest Gump and JFK on both films you could not tell where 'stock footage' was used and where original material was added.

  • Comment number 81.

    Another fantastic video. I know what the Dr. means, however in this moment I have nothing to offer other than this. Now I like Michael Bay just as much as the next admirer of narrative, however this did make me laugh.

  • Comment number 82.

    The mention of Duel reminded me of the scene in Speilberg's War of the Worlds where *spoiler alert* Tom Cruisde hacks Tim Robbins to death. During this scene Tom Cruise blindfolds his daughter played by Dakota Fanning and gets her to sing the song hushabye moutain, presumably to take the mind of the fact that her dad has gone a bit nuts. It's interesting though as Speilberg or the screenwriter has deliberately chosen this song famously sung by Dick Van Dyke in Chitty Chiity Bang Bang-a fun jolly musical and juxtaposed it with this very dark scene to unsettling effect.

    Or atleast that seemed to be the intent, I personally found the whole thing too ridiculous to be actually scary. Can anyone else think of other films where a sound or shot or element synonymous with a film and the connations associated with that film has been deliberately used for dramatic effect.

  • Comment number 83.

    Just heard that Jennifer Aniston is on Simon's show today, I sincerely hope there's gonna be a live interview. Would love to hear you Mark tell Aniston that she has a face for television but not for the big screen :)

  • Comment number 84.

    When I was a teen, my friend and I, both Sword and Sorcery obsessed youths scoured video shops for as much of the genre as we could find. We ended up at the bottom of the barrel quite quickly, renting 'The Warrior and the Sorceress (1984)' starring David Carradine. We also picked up another title, which may have been 'Wizards of the Lost Kingdom (1985) ', although I'm not certain. Either way, both films we rented were set in the exact same location, and used the same props, the warring factions had distinctive swords. Watching both on the same night was rather bad luck. Checking out the latter film on IMDB, it borrowed footage from Deathstalker 1, 2 & 3, ... and footage from these is re-used in other films too, 'Wizards of the Lost Kingdom II' (also starring Carradine!), and that also borrows from 'Barbarian Queen'. I guess these were low budget, straight to VHS schlock and unless you are a geek on a mission, like we were, aren't likely to see them all, to join up the dots.

  • Comment number 85.

    The rather splendid 'Enterprise Clears Moorings' sequence in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (or, more properly, Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan - they added the 'II' later) was actually a reuse of the same sequence from the previous film, Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

    Further, the sequence featuring the Admiral-Kirk-carrying travel-pod docking with the Enterprise in the second film is also a reuse of a similar sequence from The Motion Picture.

    I haven't heard of this Transformers: Dark of the Moon 'outcry', but given the quality of both Transformers and The Island, I can't imagine it matters.

  • Comment number 86.

    In the Incredible Hulk TV series from the 80's, a 1978 episode called 'Never Give a Trucker an Even Break' used pretty much all of Spielbergs 'Duel' as a spine for that weeks story. Entire streches of the actual film were re-used, then simply intercut with new footage featuring Bill Bixby et al. (If memory serves me well, the engine overheating while going uphill scene made Bill Bixby pretty angry. And you wouldn't like him when he's angry.)

    Apparently Spielberg was furious, but as both were owned by Universal, he was powerless to take legal action. It did, however, result in him including a clause in all future contracts that protected his material.

    Embrace the deja vu here..

  • Comment number 87.

    Oops. And apologies to keyser_sozes_ghost for not seeing his post earlier, but Ive included a little more detail hopefully.

  • Comment number 88.

    Does Shogun Assassin count? That was basically two films cut together.

    Also, I find it a bit odd when scores are reused, especially fairly iconic ones (Lux Aeterna for example). A recent example would be the scene in Kick-Ass which uses part of John Murphy's score for Sunshine, although in that case it worked really well.

  • Comment number 89.

    The sound effect that jumps out at me whenever I hear it, especially when re-used, is Steve McQueen's gear change from the Bullitt car chase. So distinct was the gear change, and supposedly attempted by many other drivers, that Warner Bros. actually confessed to using it in other films and TV shows. Off the top of my head - an episode of The Fall Guy, The Rockford Files, and most distinctly The scene in John Carpenter's Assault On Precinct 13, where the father chases down the scum who killed his daughter.

  • Comment number 90.

    What's always a tricky slope for a movie to navigate is when it decides to employ intertextuality by having its characters watch a different movie within a scene. A good example is HOT FUZZ, where Nick Frost's love of trashy action films - including those by Michael Bay, coincidentally - is used as a springboard for several great gags and, indeed, his character's coming-of-age into a capable hero. But then you have something like I AM LEGEND, where Will Smith walks in on a child watching SHREK and starts reciting dialogue along with the characters in that film. What should be a moment that demonstrates the character's despairing search for warmth and humanity in a world gone cold is made inadvertently silly and awkward, and only makes you wish you were watching that film instead of this one.

  • Comment number 91.

    I saw a film called The Last Voyage (1960), which is about a cruise liner that sinks after a boiler explosion. When the ship finally sinks, they bizarrely us the shot when the Pequod sinks in Moby Dick (1956).

    In a positive piece of recycling, which I sure most people on here know, for the burning of Atlanta scene in Gone with the Wind they burned down the giant gates and wall used in the original King Kong.

  • Comment number 92.

    ...also, I'm sure many actors can be accused of recycling performances over and over again.

  • Comment number 93.

    Speaking of recycling performers how can we forget Robbie the Robot. A prop used countless times.

    Also worthy of mention is how Fall Guy Lee Majors took credit for all the greatest movie stunts.

  • Comment number 94.

    Doug Trumbull apparently shot a load of FX footage involving Saturn for Kubrick's masterpiece 2001 but a last-minute script change moved the action to Jupiter. Trumbull had the bright idea to hang on to the footage and use it in Silent Running.

    In TV land, nearly all of the shots of the USS Enterprise in Star Trek:The Next Generation were originally shot as as library of footage for the pilot movie. Over the seven years of the series, they were used dozens of times.

    Staying with Trek, the kilingon Bird of Prey that explodes in Star Trek:Generations, is the same shot from Star Trek:The Undiscovered Country. I suppose it saves the cost of blowing up another miniature.

    Thunderbirds: Ever wondered how often Thurderbird craft lift-off sequences look the same?.

    Blade Runner: It's perhaps a myth, but I heard years ago that the end flying sequences were lifted from Kubrick's The Shining.

  • Comment number 95.

    A couple of examples stick out starting with the Hanging sequence taken from Cat Ballou a great film and Stock footage depicting the landslide from One Million Years B.C. as Alex Delarge Vidies such lovely pictures in A Clockwork Orange.

    The Killer John Woo's masterpiece uses James Horner's score frm Walter Hill's Red Heat and I think its used to better effect in The Killer.

  • Comment number 96.

    I was shocked when I saw that Michael Bay had reused footage; just felt like he made Transformers more terrible by being lazy. Once I thought about it, don't Disney recycle frames? e.g - The dancing scene from Sleeping Beauty is the same as Belle and the Beast dancing in Beauty and the Beast? Robin Hood used frames from Jungle Book too.

  • Comment number 97.

    In A Clockwork Orange Malcolm McDowell has a daydream about a Bride Being hanged and cavemen being crushed by boulders. The footage used here is borrowed from Cat Ballou (Elliot Silverstein, 1965) and Creatures the World Forgot (Don Chaffey, 1971).

    Also, on the subject of Blade Runner, the daydream (or memory) that Deckard has of the galloping unicorn in the later versions uses an outtake from Ridley Scott's own Legend.

  • Comment number 98.

    I'm an undergrad doing creative writing and I recently finished a study on creative plagiarism in literature. It's really great to see this dialogue happening in cinema.

    Joseph Cornell did all sorts of work with found image. His film 'Rose Hobart' is up on Ubuweb, which has this blurb attached to it:

    'Rose Hobart consists almost entirely of footage taken from East of Borneo, a 1931 jungle B-film starring the nearly forgotten actress Rose Hobart. Cornell condensed the 77-minute feature into a 20-minute short, removing virtually every shot that didn't feature Hobart, as well as all of the action sequences. In so doing, he utterly transforms the images, stripping away the awkward construction and stilted drama of the original to reveal the wonderful sense of mystery that saturates the greatest early genre films.'

    Here's the link to the film:


  • Comment number 99.

    I'd like to see a film that was never finished be taken and (with a few weeks of additional shooting) be made into something else that could be sold and distributed - a sort of reincarnation where the film is actually better for it!

  • Comment number 100.

    I love this subject. I wrote an essay about it at university. A shot from Bay's The Rock (1996) was reused in the Steven Seagal film Half Past Dead (2002) and the director refers to it on his commentary. During the late 90s and 00s there was a trend of B-movies recycling whole action scenes from classic (and in some cases fairly contemporary) movies. Directors Jim Wynorski and Fred Olen Ray have done this a lot and it makes their movies more entertaining in my opinion. Recently I encountered an extreme example of recycling when writing a retrospective on the films of action star Franco Columbu. I watched his 1995 film Taken Alive and followed this up straight away with his next film Doublecross on Costa's Island (1997). I was amazed to discover the latter to be a re-edit with new scenes added to change the story. I love this kind of thing. Almost as much as I love spotting ripped-off scenes in Bollywood movies.


Page 1 of 2

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.