Thursday, August 14, 2008


August 14, 2008 marks the fifth anniversary of the 2003 blackout that affected a good portion of the northeast US, as well as the Canadian province of Ontario. The movie industry needs electricity to produce movies, but electricity itself isn't much of a plot element in the movies.

The one very obvious place where a lack of electric power shows up is in crime caper movies, where it's convenient for the power to go off just in time for the bad guys to come in under cover of darkness, steal whatever it is they're looking for, and get out before the power comes back on. One of the many examples of this plot device occurs in the original Ocean's Eleven, where we actually see two of the antiheroes on an electrity tower planting the explosive that will knock out power to the Las Vegas strip; another from the 1960s would be the original Pink Panther movie. But it's also common for the power to go out in horror movies, when the director wants to be able to increase the sense of fright by having the viewers, as well as the characters, not be able to see what's about to happen to them.

The other famous blackout, of course, is that in Britain during World War II, when people had to make certain to draw the curtains, and put heavy shades around the light fixtures so that no light would escape; the light would make it easier for the Nazis to find bombing targets. A painful example of this occurs in Noël Coward's In Which We Serve, although to be honest, it shows up in a lot of movies set in wartime Britain.

There are a few movies involving inventions in the earlier days of electricity. Thomas Edison is the obvious choice; two of the biopics about him are Young Tom Edison, in which the inventor is played by Mickey Rooney, and Edison, The Man with Spencer Tracy playing the title role. A less well-known movie about electric inventions might be 1938's White Banners, about the invention of an electric refrigerator.

Finally, the most fun use of electricity in movies might be the raw electricity itself. A portion of the climax of 711 Ocean Drive is set at the hydroelectric generating station at Hoover Dam. There's also Goldfinger, in which James Bond ingeniously uses electricity to stun poor Oddjob.

1 comment:

Michael Drake said...

This should help increase the value.