Monday, February 08, 2016

The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film

Mukkelis makkelis / Mukkelismakkelis / Liebenswerte Leckerbissen. GB 1959. PC: Peter Sellers Productions. P: Peter Sellers. "Directed by: Dick Lester. Devised by: Peter Sellers. Thoughts by: Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, Mari Fabrizi, Dick Lester." (from the credits). DP: Richard Lester - shot in b&w - prints tinted sepia - shot on 16 mm - blown up to 35 mm. M: Richard Lester. ED: Richard Lester, Peter Sellers. C: Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, Richard Lester, Mario Fabrizi, Bruce Lacey, David Lodge, Leo McKern, Norman Rossington, Graham Stark. Release date: November 1959. 11 min
    There is no dialogue in the film.
    Finnish classification: 4 Oct 1961 (Suomi-Filmi) - VET 58928 - 315 m
    A KAVI vintage print viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (History of the Cinema: the New Wave in Britain), 8 Feb 2016

"The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film is a short (eleven-minute) film directed by Richard Lester and Peter Sellers, in collaboration with Bruce Lacey. The film was released in 1959. It was filmed over two Sundays in 1959, at a cost of around £70 (including £5 for the rental of a field). It was nominated for an Academy Award, but did not win. It was a favourite of The Beatles, which led to Lester being hired to direct A Hard Day's Night and then Help!, in which Lacey makes a guest appearance as George Harrison's gardener in the opening sequence. The short film has been made available as a special feature on several home video releases of A Hard Day's Night. It is also featured in The Unknown Peter Sellers and a BFI released collection of rarely-seen films from Bruce Lacey's career entitled The Lacey Rituals." - Frame enlargement, credits and introduction from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

AA: There is little to add to John Oliver's exhaustive summary and remarks beyond the jump break. The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film is a loony romp on a field, with zany anachronisms, no dialogue, a contribution to British crazy comedy on its way from The Goon Show to Monty Python, valuable to know in the development of Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, and Richard Lester, already sporting the irreverent farce style of The Beatles.

The print is used but ok.



A man in a top hat looks through a telescope and sees an old woman on her hands and knees scrubbing a field. A hiker arrives and erects a tent. A photographer cautiously approaches, sets up his camera and fires a gun. When the hiker looks out of the tent, his photograph is taken.

The photographer begins to wash his film in a stream. A hunter, carrying a gun and dressed in tweed, a snorkel and flippers, approaches and takes hold of the film. The photographer stands up and hands over his business card. The hunter tears it up and continues on his way.

The photographer hears music. A man is playing the violin while looking through a telescope. He stops playing, gets on a bicycle, cycles over to a music stand, turns over the sheet music, cycles back to his original position, and recommences playing. He looks through the telescope and sees five men approaching carrying a box kite adorned with Union Jacks. After their photograph is taken, one of the men stands in the centre of the kite, while the other four run away while holding a guy rope. When it becomes taught the kite falls apart.

The four men run past a sportsman doing exercises. An artist, accompanied by a model in a crinoline dress and lace bonnet, sets up his easel in front of the sportsman. As the latter performs press-ups, the model sits on his back and the artist begins to paint her.

The hunter walks past the artist and continues towards a man leaning on a fence. The man pulls out a gramophone record and places it on a tree stump. While holding a gramophone horn/stylus mechanism on the record, the man runs around the tree stump to produce music from the disc.

A man and a veiled woman are being positioned near the hiker's tent by the photographer, the latter using the woman and her veil as if looking through a camera. Having positioned the man so he is looking away, the photographer begins to kiss the woman. The man begins to chase the photographer; others join the pursuit.

The sportsman throws a ball and chain, which the hunter shoots. The two begin to argue. The gramophone man arrives and hands the sportsman a large curved dagger. The sportsman and the hunter walk away from each other as if to fight a duel. The hunter fires and the gramophone man falls to the ground.

A man is visible on the horizon. A hand appears in the foreground and beckons him to approach. The figure slowly approaches, encouraged by further gestures. It is the kite man, who on reaching the camera is punched by a gloved hand. The boxing glove is worn by the man in the top hat. He goes through a door into a room, lies on a bed and switches off a bedside lamp.


Director Richard Lester first worked with Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan on three television series, The Idiot Weekly Price 2d, A Show Called Fred and Son of Fred (all ITV, 1956), each of them an early attempt to transfer the surreal humour of radio's The Goon Show to a visual medium.

Although these series were largely live and studio bound, both A Show Called Fred and its successor included a number of filmed inserts, predominantly shot in a field. The Running, Jumping and Standing Still Film, itself entirely shot in a field, can be viewed as an extension of these inserts. Lester later acknowledged that even some of the sketches were variations on those filmed for the television series.

Following some earlier shooting by Sellers and Milligan, the majority of the film was shot over one or two Sundays (accounts vary) using Sellers' own 16 mm camera, and edited by Lester and Sellers in the latter's bedroom. The sound effects and music score were added by Lester shortly afterwards.

While the style of comedy may be very much of its time, the film's employment of visual humour clearly owes a significant debt to silent cinema, with the sepia tint serving to reinforce the sense of homage (although sepia is a property of early photography, not cinema). This deliberate archaism is underpinned by the preponderance of late-Victorian/Edwardian clothing and props: top hats, plus fours, deerstalkers, a gramophone and a plate camera.

The film was not originally intended as a commercial proposition, but following screenings in 1959 at film festivals in San Francisco (where it won the award for best fiction short) and Edinburgh, it was picked up for distribution by British Lion in 1960. It was even nominated for an Academy Award as best short live action film - quite an achievement for a film shot on an amateur basis on such a quick schedule.

The film's lasting legacy, however, was its influence (as part of Milligan's overall body of work) on British comedy in general, and on Monty Python's Flying Circus (BBC, 1969-74) in particular. This is evident not only in its surreal humour, but in the way that elements of one routine are threaded through subsequent scenes, transcending the stand-alone sketch form - a tactic subsequently favoured by the Python team.

John Oliver (BFI Screenonline)

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