Morpheus on… Stock Footage

In 1965, “Thunderball” came out – and changed film-making forever. It was filmed ABROAD.

Until then, even the James Bond franchise filmed almost everything at Pinewood. But after the opening scene of “Goldfinger” – where it was obvious that Sean had never been NEAR Miami’s famous Hotel Fontainebleau – it was decided to push the boat out. And thus was born the Bond Circus.

But of course, not all productions had that kind of budget. So given that in the Sixties, foreign travel was still considered “exotic” – small production companies needed something to give viewers the impression that series like “The Saint” were filmed all around the World.

Enter stock footage.

There was nothing NEW about this. Ever since film’s earliest days, stock footage had been used. The big studios recycled EVERYTHING – thus they all had a stock footage department, culled from previous productions, containing everything from The Cavalry riding over the hill to submarines breaking surface.

But foreign locations were favourite. Lew Grade sent a chap all over Europe with a 35mm camera – and he returned with stock shots of every major city (with instantly recognisable landmarks – Paris: the Eiffel Tower, Rome: The Coliseum, and so on) which were used as establishing shots on MOST of his shows.

The cameraman even filmed cars passing (from angles that obscured the driver) so that similar(ISH)-looking cars could be found back in England, filmed with Lew’s actors in them – and matched to the foreign footage.

Plus, Lew pushed a couple of MkII Jags and a Renault Dauphine over a cliff into a quarry and filmed them from many angles (including a shot from an old sacrificial camera, mounted inside one of the cars). The resulting footage was used MANY times.

In fact, the moment ANYONE got into a Dauphine or MkII Jag, in a Lew Grade series – you knew they were DOOMED! See “Morpheus on… Lew Grade” elsewhere in these chronicles. Or just hit

However today, the studio system is long gone. So film-makers have to resort to specialist companies to obtain stock footage. But this means they need to take extra CARE – have a DAMN GOOD LOOK at what they are getting.

Case in point: last year, an episode of the (contemporary) series “CHAOS” featured a stock shot of London Airport. But what the editor failed to note was it clearly showed the top of the tail of a PanAm plane – peeping over the top of a prominently-featured BOAC Jumbo!

For those too young to remember EITHER of these once-MAJOR airlines: PanAm collapsed in 1991 – and the BOAC name disappeared when that airline merged with BEA, to become The World’s Least Favourite Airline, British Airways – in 1974!

How old WAS that stock footage?!


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