This is the thirty-sixth in a series of examinations of legends from movies and the people who make them and whether they are true or false. Today we look at the story about the major film release that actually threw a horse off of a cliff, changing the way films used animals forever! Plus, was Satanist Anton LaVey really in Rosemary’s Baby? Also, marvel at why Spaceballs actually DIDN’T have any merchandising!
Click here to view an archive of the previous movie urban legends.
MOVIE LEGEND: A film that pushed a horse off of a cliff led to the film industry allowing the American Humane Association oversight over treatment of animals in films.
For years, the American Humane Association sought oversight over how the film industry treated animals in its films, especially westerns or war films, where horses were treated as if they were filming an actual battles.
In particular, the use of trip wires (to tangle horses and show them dropping as if shot by guns or arrows) was protested.
However, while there were films where over a dozen horses were killed via this technique (the filming of the 1939 Erroll Flynn film, The Charge of the Light Brigade…
saw over two dozen horses killed via trip wires), it was the death of a single horse that finally pushed the film industry into allowing the American Humane Association to dictate how animals were treated. You see, in a 1939 film about Jesse James….
the filmmakers THREW A HORSE OFF OF A CLIFF!!
In a dramatic scene towards the end of the film, Jesse James, Frank and Jesse James are being chased by a posse. Their only way out is to jump from a cliff into a lake with their horses.
Perspective was used to make a 70-foot drop seem taller and then a stunt man jumped off of a cliff along with a horse who was forced off via a slide mechanism.
Here is the scene…
A different angle of the shot was then replayed right after to make it look like the other James brother also jumped with his horse…
Then we cut to the brothers and their horses in the river getting away…
The fall did not actually kill the horse (as, again, the drop was not THAT steep), but the horse was so freaked out by the fall that it began thrashing wildly and ended up drowning itself.
As you might imagine, this drew great calls of anger against the filmmakers and it appeared as though the United States Congress was going to be spurred into acting. Rather than let Congress get involved, the Motion Picture Association of America agreed to allow the American Humane Association to oversee the treatment of animals in their films from that point on.
This is where the disclaimer “no animals were harmed in the making of this film” comes from.
Thanks to Mike Gillespie and his neat website about the history of the Lake of the Ozarks (where the stunt took place) for the information about how the stunt was done.
MOVIE LEGEND: Anton LaVey was the technical advisor for Rosemary’s Baby and/or he appeared in the film as the devil.
Anton LaVey was pretty much the most famous Satanist there was in the 20th Century.
Part of LaVey’s fame was self-fulfilled, though, as he was quite adept at promoting himself. By virtue of this talent, a number of the rumors, myths and legends that have sprung up about the man were fostered (if not created) by LaVey himself.
One of those legends, which he repeated on numerous occasions, was that he was not only the technical advisor on the horror film, Rosemary’s Baby but that he actually played the devil in the film!
Here’s the devil (the actor was uncredited in the film) (it is a dark scene, so you can barely make out the mask)…
No doubt wary about people spreading rumors about Satanism, a Satanism website did a thorough debunking of LaVey’s claim here:
Here’s the important quote:
[Anton Szandor LaVey (ASL)] had no involvement with Rosemary’s Baby. Polanski’s close friend Gene Gutowski (original producer of the film) stated that there was no technical advisor, nor did ASL ever even meet Polanski. Producer William Castle, who details all aspects of the film’s production in his autobiography, never mentions ASL. He does describe Polanski’s diligence in basing the film exactly on the Ira Levin novel from which it was adapted, eliminating any need for technical advice. The father of the actress who played Mia Farrow’s body-double in the Devil scene recalled that a young, very slender professional dancer played the part, dressed in a small rubber suit. In 1971 this suit was acquired by Studio One Productions in Louisville, Kentucky, for use in a low-budget horror film Asylum of Satan. Michael Aquino, technical advisor for that film, examined the suit and concluded that the 200-pound, 6-foot ASL could not possibly have worn it. [The suit was worn by a girl in the Asylum film.] Not a single member of the cast or crew of Rosemary’s Baby has ever mentioned ASL’s involvement. In 1968 a San Francisco theater did ask ASL to make an appearance at the film’s local opening as a promotional event. This appears to have been ASL’s only connection with the film that engendered the 1960s’ popular interest in Satanism.
His major source was Gene Gutowski and William Castle’s Step Right Up! I’m Gonna Scare the Pants off America, New York: Pharos Books, 1992;
That’s good enough for me!
MOVIE LEGEND: Spaceballs actually had no merchandising.
One of the most famous scenes in Mel Brooks’ Star Wars parody, Spaceballs…
was the scene where Brooks (as the Yoda parody “Yogurt”) mocks the proliferation of Star Wars merchandising by telling the other characters in the film that the real money is in merchandising!
Amazingly enough, the film Spaceballs actually did not have ANY merchandising of its own.
Why was this?
You see, when Brooks decided to make the parody, he cleared it first with George Lucas. Lucas signed a fair use agreement with Brooks that stated that Brooks’ use of the characters based on Lucas’ Star Wars characters was fair use and not copyright infringement (Brooks might have been able to prevail under a parody defense, but obviously he did not even want to deal with it).
A condition of Lucas signing the agreement, however, was that Brooks would not release any merchandise based on the film, as that obviously would be competing directly with Lucas’ Star Wars products on the market place, whether the film they were based on was a parody or not. Brooks agreed, and that is why the action figures that Dark Helmet plays with in the film…
are the only action figures of the characters you’ll ever see (unless you know people who make custom figures, of course).
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org