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Archive for June, 2008

A Reused Plymouth and the Undying Cheapness of Universal Studios

by on Jun.16, 2008, under Odds and Ends

If I had to guess, probably 75% of the sit-down, watch-a-whole-episode sort of television that I watch originates from Universal Studios. And why not? For much of the past half-century, Universal has been one of the most prolific producers of TV programming with scores of excellent dramas in the collected repertoire, including the terrific NBC Mystery Movie franchises. Of course it was under contract with Universal that Steven Spielberg directed one of the finest suspense films of all time, Duel.

A sometimes endearing, sometimes depressing trait of Universal is an incessant cheapness—a desire to wring every last nickel out of everything they own. The studio shoddily stitched episodes of the 1976 TV turkey Gemini Man together to make and almost incoherent (but cost efficient) feature film, Riding with Death. The clumsiness of the “movie” was gleefuly exploited to great comedic effect on Mystery Science Theater 3000. In the case of Duel, this stinginess resulted in footage being reused for an episode of The Incredible Hulk: “Never Give a Trucker an Even Break.” The spectacle was embarrassingly bad and apparently threw Spielberg into a fit of outrage.

Universal would reuse anything and everything, and here we see the 1949 Plymouth driven by elderly Alexander Lockwood and Amy Douglass (who were recycled in countless Universal productions themselves ) later appearing on an episode of Adam-12. Interestingly enough everything about the car (including the license plate) appears to be the same, but for some reason the “Plymouth” name has been blanked off the hood.

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