Say What? A Brief History of Mock Dubbing By Mike White. "‘To my recollection, I’ve never heard of that being done before where the actors would be acting one story and saying another...
"‘To my recollection, I’ve never heard of that being done before where the actors would be acting one story and saying another.’
‘It was, actually. It was done in Gone with the Wind (1939). Not many people know that. Those were Japanese people, actually, and we dubbed in American voices.’"
–What’s Up Tiger Lily (1966)
The inclusion of synchronous sound trailed three decades behind the advent of motion pictures. Yet, the idea of manipulating the idea of sound and picture was there from its nascent days. Alfred Hitchcock’s 1929 film Blackmail begins like a typical silent film but includes scenes of synchronous dialogue where actress Anny Ondra mouthed her lines only to have Joan Barry perform the dialogue off screen. Even in this early "talkie," Hitchcock used sound both objectively and subjectively (the word "knife" in particular stabs at the ears of our heroine as she hears the word via an off-screen conversation).
The early days of sound were played for laughs in Stanley Donen’s 1952 Singin’ in the Rain where dialogue is slowed down, sound effects amplified, and lines meant for one actor played for another. This wasn’t the earliest use of sound manipulation for comic effect but it was undoubtedly the most popular.
Ten years prior to Singin’ in the Rain, Spaniards Antonio de Lara and Miguel Mihura took the 1936 German film Unsterbliche Melodien (Immortal Melodies) and replaced the soundtrack for comic effect. The result, Un bigote para dos (1940, A Mustache for Two) may be one of the first feature-length films to undergo this process. Sadly, the film is believed to be lost.
Jay Ward’s TV show, "Fractured Flickers," shared much of its talent with "Rocky and His Friends" including host Hans Conried and the voices of June Foray, Paul Frees and Bill Scott. "Fractured Flickers" was a half hour long and ran one season (1963-64). The show featured interviews and supplied films with new, outrageous dialogue.
This same tactic would be used in 1966 by Woody Allen for his feature film What’s Up, Tiger Lily? In which two Japanese films (International Secret Police: A Barrel of Gunpowder and International Secret Police: Key of Keys, both 1965) replaced their respective MacGuffins with the recipe for egg salad.
In the U.S., this practice became known as "mock dub" or "dub comedy" while the French Situationalist movement termed the same practice "détournement" (as Steve Martin would say, "Those French have a different word for everything!"). Practiced most notably by sinologist René Viénet, the films Can Dialectics Break Bricks? (1973), The Girls of Kamare (1974) and Peking Duck Soup (1977) put new, political spins on Eastern films. While railing against the unfair treatment of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie, Viénet was not above a good fart joke. Unfortunately, two other Viénet films, L’aubergine est farcie (1975, The Eggplant is Stuffed) and Une soutane n’a pas de braguette (1973, A Cassock Has No Fly) seem to be lost.1
Similar to the way Allen and Viénet would use multiple sources for their work (The Girls of Kamare, 1974 utilized Terrifying Girls’ High School: Lynch Law Classroom, 1973 and Female Yakuza Tale: Inquisition and Torture, 1973), the Firesign Theater took a wide range of Republic serials including Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941), Zombies of the Stratosphere (1952), Undersea Kingdom (1936), and Captain America for their 1979 work J-Men Forever. In addition to stitching these disparate serials together into a single narrative, new scenes of the titular J-Men have been added to bridge storylines. The group would employ the same techniques in Firesign Theater Presents ‘Hot Shorts’ (1983). Around the same time as J-Men Forever, director Francisco Lara Polop turned the 1957 Los amantes del desierto (AKA Desert Warrior) into a comic retelling of recent events in Spain in El asalto al castillo de la Moncloa (1978).
The Canadian comedy show "SCTV" included a "mock dub" segment on their March 6, 1981 episode. "One of the most unusual ‘SCTV’ episodes of all, featuring an actual episode of ‘The Cisco Kid’ (series 2 episode 20, ‘Sleeping Gas’) with dialog written and dubbed in by Martin Short, Steve Kampmann, Peter Torokvei and Don Dickinson. The sketch was actually a pilot for another series that The Second City was trying to get off the ground. This entire episode was almost entirely removed from the syndicated run."2
Likely due to the popularity of The L.A. Connection’s live dubbing events around California, the early ’80s included other feature-length mock dubs with 1982’s Ferocious Female Freedom Fighters and 1983’s What’s Up, Hideous Sun Demon?3 (not to mention The L.A. Connection’s own Reefer Madness II: The True Story in 1985).
Ferocious Female Freedom Fighters
Directed by Charles Kaufman, brother of Lloyd Kaufman, the co-founder of Troma Entertainment, Ferocious Female Freedom Fighters stemmed from Jopi Burnama’s Perempuan Bergairah (translated as "Passionate Woman"). Charles Kaufman and Straw Weisman (credited as a "Creative Consultant") penned the new dialogue.
"Creative Conultant? Fuck that," says Weisman, "I co-wrote it with Charles. We sat in his apartment over on the Upper West Side. I was a sometimes writing partner with Charles Kaufman in the mid- to late-’70s. We had written a movie called ‘The Outdoorsters’ which was later known as When Nature Calls (1985) and, around that time Lloyd made a deal with Raam Punjabi from Parkit Films and wound up with this title that we intended to do a What’s Up Tiger Lily to. Because we were writing together Charles asked if I wanted to do this one as well."
Charles Kaufman remembers, "When they asked me how I could make this film better, I told them that maybe they could release it without the soundtrack. If not that, then the visuals."
According to Lloyd Kaufman, "We felt it would be much better to have my brother [...] rewrite this entirely and make it into more of a Troma movie. We changed the Rambo-type kickboxing hero into an Elvis impersonator. We changed the lady in the film, who was a serious Indonesian heroine, into a Jewish momma-type of person. We added some excellent Troma farting and other sophisticated elements."
Charles Kaufman continues, "Straw Weisman and I wrote it in about two to three weeks. It was an interesting exercise because you had to time how long the people spoke and fit your words to that."
Weisman adds, "Doing this kind of writing is harder than writing a plain old screenplay. First, you have a visual storyline and the dialogue that was already written. The story, as written, was about a female fighter who had to fight to save her brother. It was kind of a crooked boxing movie. Our goal became to go completely against the grain; to change the story but keep all the visuals. And, having decided to change the story, we’d write dialogue to fit the story that you could fit into peoples’ lips because the better the dub, the funnier the material.
"We figured out what our story was and then we would watch a scene and figure out the new dialogue. Our new arc was that [semen] was backing up into the little brother’s brain." The new story has our heroine needing to make money to pay for her little brother’s operation, fearing he may get too excited and that his head will explode. "That was me and Charles, wacked out."
"I had gotten into the Writers Guild early and I was afraid that a couple of things would interfere so I took the Creative Consultant title." Weisman would also be listed as the same on Godzilla 1985: The Legend is Reborn (1984), which explains some of the inappropriately funny things characters say to one another in the film’s English-dubbed Japanese section and shoe-horned American sequences.
In regard to the voices for Ferocious Female Freedom Fighters, Charles Kaufman remembers "I was kind of pals with Joey Gaynor, a very funny guy, and thought immediately that he would do the voices. Straw did some, too."
None of the voice talent names appears on the release of Ferocious Female Freedom Fighters. Throughout the years, it’s filtered out that the L.A. Connection dubbed the film4 with little details of which members of the troupe participated.5
"Yeah, that was Bob Buchholz," says Connection founder Kent Skov. "I don’t know who else was with him, maybe Connie [Sue Cook – another member of the troupe]. I didn’t know it was happening at first. [The filmmakers] didn’t want to go to me because they wanted to get my cheap talent. I was making bigger deals so they kind of went around me and got Bob. I didn’t make a big deal out of it. I said, ‘Listen, if you guys can go out and make some money, go ahead and make some money.’ It wasn’t really cutting into our business. It’s hard to tell people not to make money if they can. I don’t think they got paid very much and the film never went anywhere that I know of."
Lloyd Kauffman says that "when the producer of this movie came to New York and saw the farting and the Elvis impersonator and the Jewish mother in a movie he had made as a serious kickboxing action film he was, to say the least, overcome with great emotion and told us that if, by chance, the actors from Indonesia ever came to New York and saw the Ferocious Female Freedom Fighters that we had created that they would kill us. Literally, we would be dead. We would be very dead."6
Troma would opt out of doing a comedic redub of Ferocious Female Freedom Fighters 2 (1982) which was a sequel in name only. The original film, Membakar Matahari (1983, AKA To Burn the Sun) may have come out a year prior to Perempuan Bergairah.7 The company would once again "Tromatize" a film 20 years later with the Belgian film Parts of the Family which utilized redubbing as well as some newly shot scenes to make the 2003 Léon Paul De Bruyn a palatable experience.
What’s Up, Hideous Sun Demon?
There is a dearth of information about What’s Up, Hideous Sun Demon? (1983, AKA Hideous Sun Demon: The Special Edition) Craig Mitchell (Komodo, 1999) directed the film and is listed as a co-writer along with Allen and Mark Estrin (Bare Essentials, 1991). The film begins with a framing story (that doesn’t come back at the end) with a bunch of rowdy college-aged boys grabbing some gross food and sitting down to watch the film. The sequence is notable only for the appearance of a young Mark Holton who gained infamy as Francis Buxton in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (1985).
Director Craig Mitchell came to the project after it had already begun. "I don’t know if it was [producer Greg Brown’s] idea to do a What’s Up, Tiger Lily-type redub movie, or if it was Allen and Mark Estrin who were involved in an earlier version of Sun Demon. I believe they were all just young filmmakers who wanted to make a feature, and this was a way to get a movie produced inexpensively.
"I guess Greg wasn’t satisfied with the earlier version, and he asked me to supervise a second pass. I cast Jay Leno and Susan Tyrrell. I suspect Leno wasn’t sure what he was getting himself in for, so he didn’t want his name used in promoting the film, or in the credits. I was never sure what was up with that.
"I worked with a few joke writers, and one particular ADR [Additional Dialogue Recorder] director, Richard Stern who contributed a lot to the script. He had been dubbing Mexican soap operas into English, so he knew a lot of good voice actors, who filled in the minor parts, and Richard helped out with syncing and performance.
Voice actress Barbara Goodson recalls, "I worked for Jim Terry Productions and also his right hand man, Angelo Grillo. Jim was one of the first to bring in dubbing projects (mostly foreign) to L.A. in the ’80s. Maybe even earlier.
"Jay Leno played the lead and I voiced his girlfriend. We never worked at the same time. He was pretty well known as a stand-up comic by then. Cam Clarke’s father [Robert Clarke] was the original actor and I think Cam dubbed a role in it as well."
Oddly, neither Goodson nor Mitchell knew if the film had ever been released. It came out on DVD (with Leno’s name omitted) as Revenge of the Sun Demon in 2003.
In 1982, Carl Reiner and Steve Martin (along with co-writer George Gipe) would experiment in recontextualization by placing Martin in Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982) with a narrative that played against over a dozen classic films noir from 1941-1950. Reiner’s film proved a major influence on other works that utilized existing footage to tell new stories via editing.
The L.A. Connection’s TV show, "Mad Movies" played in syndication in late night slots around the country in 1985-86. It would be picked up later for Nick at Nite (1989-1991) and become one of the network’s top shows. Meanwhile, the U.S.A Network show "Night Flight" – which had often shown J-Men Forever in its eclectic four hour format – included six episodes of Japanese TV series "Kagaku Sentai Dynaman" re-dubbed as "Dynaman." One of a long tradition of multi-colored costumed monster-fighting squads (think "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers"), the five heroes of "Dynaman" faced-off against the treacherous Bernie Tanaka and Mel Fujitsu in adventures with such catchy titles as "The Lizard of Oz," "Lucky Pierre," and "Spunky the Wonder Squid."
Night of the Day of the Dawn...
The early ’90s proved a heyday of "mock dub" films. The L.A. Connection’s Blobermouth (1991) kicked off the decade along with David Casci’s A Man Called... Rainbo (1990) and James Riffel’s Night of the Day of the Dawn of the Son of the Bride of the Return of the Revenge of the Terror of the Attack of the Evil, Mutant, Alien, Flesh Eating, Hellbound, Zombified Living Dead Part 2: In Shocking 2-D (1991).
Casci’s film took snippets of the 1970 Robert Allen Schnitzer film No Place to Hide (1992, AKA Rebel) which starred a young Sylvester Stallone. Casci surrounded the original bits with newly shot footage, integrating the two into a plot that plays off of Stallone’s Rambo character.
Meanwhile, with Night of the Day of the Dawn... Riffel (using the name Lowell Mason) also incorporated some new footage, albeit far less than Rainbo, with his redub of George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968). It’s more of a traditional mock dub which includes a running gag about a duck and a plot where the United States is divided into groups of over-worked zombies "who are gathering their forces to crush and devour the other section, the Normals, the people who have managed somehow not to crack under the pressure." It’s more akin to the haves and have-nots retelling of Kuang-chi Tu’s Tang shou tai quan dao (1972, AKA Crush) for Can Dialectics Break Bricks than the L.A. Connection’s reworking of the same source material for their "Mad Movies" TV show.
Though Night of the Day of the Dawn... has a "Part 2" subtitle, it’s actually the first in a four part (so far) series. What some consider the "lost" first part was a collection of shorts that James Riffel made while at NYU, including one called Dead Dudes in The House (1989). Says Riffel, "When I walked into video stores at the time there was always an endless glut of horror films (including mine) and so I just thought up the most ridiculous title I could think of. As a joke, I ended up listing the 45 word title in Variety’s ‘Films in Production’ section. It immediately received major publicity solely based on the title. Radio DJs were talking about it, it appeared in the New York Times film section, it was mentioned on MTV and someone even told me that Johnny Carson mentioned it on ‘The Tonight Show.’
"Back in the ’80s, editing space and film-to-tape transfers were very expensive, not like today. So, I put the first version aside and used George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. I did this because his film was in the public domain, it was incredibly well-known, and I could make the ‘film’ for basically nothing. I made the original version in 1991 and distributed it myself through Palmer Video – a chain of roughly 100 video stores based in New Jersey – and other ‘mom and pop’ shops across the U.S. I made 500 copies.
"The amazing part to me is that over a decade after its release, through no marketing, promotion, or pushing on my end, the film began to circulate on its own. People were making copies of copies and passing them around to friends. In the early 2000s, I started seeing copies on eBay going for $50-$100.
"The only other distribution it had was a theatrical release in New York in 2005. I had written and directed a feature film, Mass of Angels (2004), which was financed by the owner of a pharmaceutical company. He had actually heard of Night of the Day of the Dawn... and wanted to see it. He became such a fan of the film that he rented a theater in New York City, The Two Boots Pioneer Theater, for a three month theatrical run. This was a strange experience for me because I went to see the film a few times and it was always packed and people would say lines of dialogue like The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). A professor from NYU took an entire class to see the film. Someone from the New York Times called it ‘a cult masterpiece.’"
The ’90s also brought to the fore some prime examples of dubbing from Down Under. Cult television program "The Aunty Jack Show"8 (1972-1973) and its sketches "Gidget Goes Tasmanian" and "Herco the Magnificent"9 (mock dubs of Blackbeard, the Pirate, 1952 and a Hercules film respectively), influenced comedy groups Double Take and The Late Show. "The Late Show" television program ran from July 1992 until October 1993. During that time it boasted two mock dub serials along with their skits, stand-up, street interviews and more. The first, "The Olden Days," dubbed the historical drama "Rush." The new version mercilessly mocked the character of "Governor Frontbottom" and contained a bonanza of facial hair jokes. The second season of "The Late Show" included a new take on the ’70s show "Bluey" as "Bargearse" about a gruff, flatulent cop.
Double Take had been performing since 1986, doing live dubbing of films like The Astro-Zombies (1968), The Phantom Empire (1935), Dance Hall Racket (1953)10 and The Bees (1978).11 In 1989, the group began performing Hercules Returns (1993). Giorgio Capitani’s Samson and His Mighty Challenge (1964, Ercole, Sansone, Maciste e Ursus gli invincibili) was initially sent to Des Mangan via a friend: "As it is in Italian, he has no idea what the 1964 sword-and-sandal epic is really about."12 This bit of real life would become a crucial plot point in Hercules Returns.
Producer Phil Jaroslow was struck by the audience reaction to the live version of Double Take Meet Hercules. Jaraslow, an American born Melbournite, watched the end credits and began his search for the owner of the film rights. He also acquired Mangan’s script before hiring cinematographer and filmmaker David Parker to help write a story to wrap around Double Take’s routine.13
Parker recalls, "I’d seen Double Take and always been very amused and in awe of what they did. I think Des Mangan is a very clever fellow just to come up with the concept. I know it’s been done in different forms in different parts of the world, but I don’t think anyone did what Des did, which was basically take over a theatre and use the concept of re-voicing a film live, which is what they did. So I got involved in this idea of doing a film based on that concept. Des came up with the idea of having a guy who was unhappy with his lot, working for a big distribution company so he takes over his own theatre. On opening night he finds his film’s in Italian and not in English. So then you can swing into the idea that he has to rework it on the run. [...] We had to ascertain how much of the success of Double Take was due to do with the tactility of the live performance, or could that idea be transferred into film."14
The wraparound stars David Argue as Brad McBane, a film purist working at a soulless distribution company. After a colorful exit, David renovates an old movie palace with the help of his projectionist, Sprocket (Bruce Spence), and spitfire publicist, Lisa (Mary Coustas). The trio "live dubs" the film in the projection booth while David’s old boss (Michael Carman) stews in the audience. Ironically, Argue and Coustas are dubbed during the "live dubbing" scenes by Des Mangan and Sally Patience.
The film had its American premiere on January 28, 1993 at the Sundance Film Festival. The program didn’t exaggerate when it said, "David Parker makes his debut with this film, and he hits the high-camp bull’s-eye with each shot. Hercules is a delicious dingbat of a guy, and you’ll laugh at him all the way."15
Double Take continued live dubbing films for over a decade after Hercules Returns. In 2003, another group toured the East Coast of Australia doing live dubbings of the Filipino spy movie The Impossible Kid of Kung-fu (1981) which starred diminutive actor Weng Weng. Andrew Leavold (2007, The Search for Weng Weng) worked with various cohorts (mostly the stars of Leavold’s Lesbo-A-Go-Go, 2003); Eileen Surepuss, Fred Negro, and Pauline Bell). One notable performance at the Woodford Film Festival in Queensland found Leavold and Bell in "circus tent filled with ferals, stoners, yippies, yuppies and the politically correct. Pauline and I practically threw away the literal translation on our script and cracked midget jokes for 90 minutes."
For years, cineastes reveled in another Australian export to the film world, the top notch SBS (Special Broadcasting Service) TV subtitles were the de facto source for English translations of edgier world cinema. In the early ’90s, subtitlers Mary Pipes and Peter Templeton created a series of segments originally for private use but proved so popular the network allowed them to air. These are collectively known as Revenge of the Subtitle and share much with both Viénet’s Girls of Kamare in the way the clips recontextualize on-screen action, providing completely new narratives that fit with a scene (or song, in the case of a Bollywood clip). Some of the fun comes from transliterating the clips based on similarities between words and phrases ("¿Por qué?" becomes "Porky?").
The Mock Dub Heard ’Round the World
Meanwhile in France, Warner Brothers gave the film and television studio Canal+ Group carte blanche to its library. Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist, 2011) and Dominique Mézerette (Dead Weight, 2012) created collage works Ca détourne, Derrick contre Superman (1992), and La Classe américaine (1993, AKA Le Grand Détournement) very much in the Situationalist style.
Not to be outdone by the Aussies and the French, Kim Fuller and Geoff Atkinson of "Spitting Image" produced a series of mock dubs such as "The Staggering Stories of Ferdinand De Bargos" (1989), "Pallas" (1991), "The Almost Complete History of the 20th Century" (1993), "Klinik!" (1997), "Badly Dubbed Porn" (2005) and Mashup Movie (2009). These pay more heed to randy humor than to accurate lip synching.
The high point of the mock dub, which began with the L.A. Connection’s Blobermouth in 1990, would end with the L.A. Connection’s "Movie Madness Mystery" on the A&E network in 1994. A few attempts to keep this style of comedy alive came from L.A. Connection alumni Bob Buchholz and Jeff Nimoy with TV shows like "Chimp Lip Theater" (1997) and "Gotcha" (1998).
Picking up the mantle, the Jet City Improv group of Seattle, Washington has been performing "Twisted Flicks" occasionally since 1997. They’ve live-dubbed such films as The Son of Kong (1933), Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964), The Abominable Snowman (1957) and The Face of Fu Manchu (1965).16
The Peanut Gallery
It’s no coincidence that the abatement in dubbing would coincide with the rise in popularity of a similar concept, "riffing", exemplified by "Mystery Science Theater 3000" (1988-1999). Akin to what some movie hosts had been doing (most notably Rich Koz’s Svengoolie), "Mystery Science Theater 3000" added its characters into the films they lampooned via an inexpensive video effect which displayed their silhouettes as sitting in the front row of a theater in which they and the audience sat. This put viewers in the same venue as the hosts while they mocked (not mock dubbed) the films, putting the viewer in collusion with the show. More than just discussing the films and their possible shortcomings, the hosts of "Mystery Science Theater 3000" also made myriad clever references to culture both popular and classical.
Some attribute the success of "Mystery Science Theater 3000" to the home taping and tape trading of fans. As the adoption of VCRs had reached a saturation point by the late ’80s, fans could capture and share what had before been ephemeral. The producers of "MST3K" would remind viewers to "keep circulating the tapes" in the credits of the show.
After the cancellation of "Mystery Science Theater 3000," the cast split into new ventures: "Rifftrax," "The Film Crew," and "Cinematic Titanic." While "Cinematic Titanic" (2007-2013) and "The Film Crew" (2004-2008) riffed public domain films (as did "Rifftrax" for their official DVD releases), "Rifftrax" (2004-Present) got around the public domain issue by providing stand-alone audio tracks that could be synched at home to any DVD release.
Obviously, technology has changed the way in which both how films are delivered – both at home and in theaters ("Rifftrax" has done a series of theatrical live satellite simulcasts since 2009) – but it has also changed the nature of the presentations themselves.
In 2000 Neil Cicierega began creating a series of "animutations" like "Hyakugojyuuichi!!!" wherein Japanese lyrics were "transliterated" into a Dadaist English subtitles. Also in the same year, the short film Mondo Ford would provide laughs by combining historical photographs, an Italian language tutorial and English subtitles to create a "documentary." Presented as a lost film by "Ricardo Fratteli" (AKA Scott Calonico), Mondo Ford (2000) tells a wild story of a vast conspiracy involving aliens and Gerald Ford.
Mash Ups and Beyond
Both of the aforementioned works found their greatest audience via the quickly evolving internet which provided a platform for distribution as tools for the creation and manipulation of materials became more affordable. This lead to the evolution of the "mash-up;" the combining of existing materials into new forms. Mash-ups had their roots in collages, found footage films (like Bruce Connor’s A Movie or Craig Baldwin’s Tribulation 99: Alien Anomalies under America), cut-in albums (such as Dickie Goodman’s "Mr. Jaws"), etc. Musically, The Kleptones exemplified this style with their album "A Night at the Hip-Hopera" which blended Queen and several other artists. Visually, mash-ups included things videos such as the Gymkata Mentos commercial or the rx mix of George Bush singing U2’s "Sunday Bloody Sunday."
In 1996, an episode of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" used footage from the original "Star Trek" series, placing contemporary characters into the prior episode. Similarly, comedian Steve Oedekerk embraced technology to remove the main character from actor/director "Jimmy" Wang Yu’s 1976 Hu hao shuang xing (AKA The Savage Killers AKA Tiger and Crane Fist), placing himself into the action. Oedekerk also shot a great deal of original footage, badly dubbing both the new and old. The result, Kung Pow: Enter the Fist (2002), was consistently savaged by critics upon release.
Jonathan Foreman of the New York Post called the film "[a]n inept, tedious spoof of ’70s kung-fu picture [that] contains almost enough chuckles for a three-minute sketch, and no more."17 Eddie Cockrell at Variety described the film as an "unwatchable embarrassment" though he did correctly predict that the "consistently silly and intermittently laugh-out-loud funny spoof will be consigned primarily to genre fan."18 Indeed, the film has found a limited and faithful audience over the years.
Though an accomplished writer, producer and director, Oedekerk may have been best known at the time for his "Thumbmation" where he would add facial features (and goofy voices) to thumbs, parodying popular films such as Star Wars, The Godfather and The Blair Witch Project. Oedekerk utilized this in Kung Pow with the recurring joke of having a face on his character’s tongue. It’s a technique that would later be copied by Dane Boedigheimer for the Annoying Orange web character. The tongue gag and a poorly animated fight with a cow may not be successful but Kung Pow still works as an interesting experiment in the editing and integration of extant and new footage.
Since the release of Kung Pow: Enter the Fist there has been a dearth of mainstream mock dubs released theatrically. All forms of the mock dub, from redubbed dialogue to détourned subtitles to riffing, could be found on the internet where the supposed democratization of content allowed anyone to create video or audio projects.
From their days at inner-city grindhouse theaters, kung-fu films have played a role in hip hop culture. The 1971 Shaw Brothers film Duel of the Iron Fist (AKA Da jue dou) would be the basis for Peter Bavaro’s Iron Fist Pillage (2001) starring Cappadonna (née Darryl Hill) of the Wu-Tang Clan. The same aesthetic of hip hop and kung-fu fueled the web series "Kung Faux" (2003-2007) where artists such as De La Soul and Queen Latifah loosely dubbed visually stylized clips from classic chopsocky flicks, peppering the proceedings with a "gangsta" patois and endless "chronic" references.
The popular Spike TV show "MXC: Most Extreme Elimination Challenge" (2003-2007) took an already funny show, "Takeshi’s Castle" (1986-1990), and included a new soundtrack of bad puns and sexual double entendres. Removing the comedy, the show would be re-created as "Wipeout" for ABC in 2011.
On the more political end of the mock dub spectrum, neo-Situationalist works such as Doug Miles’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would discuss gays in the military and the political climate of 2002 via dubbing W. Lee Wilder’s Killer’s from Space. The St01en Collective’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring of Free Trade (2002) and The Lord of the Rings: The Twin Towers (2004) rework Peter Jackson’s films as treatises on the World Trade Organization via editing and new subtitles. Similarly, 2011’s Guerre des étoiles existentielles (AKA Existential Star Wars) takes a French dub of George Lucas’s film and "translates" it back via subtitles that paint a very bleak, Sartre-esque picture.
In 2005, James Riffel released two more entries in his Night of the Day of the Dawn of the Son of the Bride of the Return of the Revenge of the Terror of the Attack of the Evil, Mutant, Alien, Flesh Eating, Hellbound, Zombified Living Dead series. Both were made for less than $100 in answer to the inflated budgets of Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds (2005) and Peter Jackson’s King Kong (2005). Riffel would provide another entry in 2011 with a shorter work that updated classic television shows with more ribald modern dialogue to exemplify the digression in mores in popular culture.
Something much closer to the L.A. Connection style of mock dubbing done recently is the series of YouTube videos on the Bad Lip Reading. Begun in 2011, the source behind BLR remains anonymous.19 Taking on everything from music videos to film scenes to politicians, the new words dubbed into these bits of pop culture effluvia are surreal translates along the lines of Rebecca Black singing "Gang fight, gang fight, have I brought enough chicken for us to thaw?" to the refrain of the song "Friday."
The potential illegalities of these works that play fast and loose with intellectual property (some are protected parodies, others are closer to theft), coupled with the ephemeral nature of the internet often makes for a "blink and you’ll miss it" bit of entertainment rather than a cultural artifact. Likewise, as copyright laws morph and copyright holders are bought out and/or transferred, many of the works mentioned here run the risk of being ensnared by legalities or laziness, only to become lost works.
This article will appear in Mike White’s book Mad Movies with the L.A. Connection from BearManor Media.
- "Movie Rip-Offs: A User’s Guide – Détournement and Dub Parodies" by Sean Welsh, The Physical Impossibility of Rad in the Mind of Someone Bogus blog, May 21, 2011 http://physicalimpossibility.wordpress.com/2011/05/22/movie-rip-offs-a-users-guide-detournement-and-dub-parodies
- The SCTV Guide www.sctvguide.ca/episodes/sctv_s3.htm#Show_25
- All evidence seems to point to What’s Up Hideous Sun Demon having a 1983 release date, not 1989 as reported by Michael R. Pitts in Horror Film Stars (McFarland & Company, 2002). However, other signs point to a later date such as the report in the November 22, 1990 edition of The Deseret News that "Jay Leno will provide the voice of the title character in the redubbed, camped-up version of the ’50s B-film" ("Outtakes – Old Creatures, New Features).
- The Encyclopedia of Martial Arts Movies by Bill Palmer, Scarecrow Press, 1995.
- The Encyclopedia of Martial Arts Movies by Bill Palmer, Karen Palmer & Richard Meyers, Scarecrow Press, 1995.
- All quotes from Lloyd Kaufman from the Troma VHS release of Ferocious Female Freedom Fighters
- Sources put the release date for Membakar Matahari anywhere from 1981 to 1984.
- And, perhaps, Kent Skov’s multiple appearances on the popular "The Midday Show" in Australia.
- "Herco the Magnificent" appeared on Season 1 episode 6. "Gidget Goes Tasmanian" on Season 2 episode 4.
- "Double Take turns corn into laughs" Author Unknown, The Age, February 3, 1989.
- "Killer Bee Movie" by Dominic Cavendish, The Independent, December 8, 1993
- Trio makes awful movies fun" by Anne Howell, The Sydney Morning Herald, October 12, 1989.
- "Making of: Hercules Returns" by Andrew L. Urban, Urban Cinefile, www.urbancinefile.com.au
- "David Parker" by Peter Malone, Peter Malone’s website, September 10, 1998, http://petermalone.misacor.org.au
- Hercules Returns program notes, http://history.sundance.org/films/1490/hercules_returns
- "Chop Phooey! No Art in Painful, Brainless Martial Arts Spoof" by Jonathan Foreman, New York Post, January 26, 2002.
- "Review: ‘Kung Pow Enter the Fist’" by Eddie Cockrell, Variety, January 26, 2002.
- "Bad Lip Reading: behind the viral videos everyone’s talking about" by Melissa Bell, The Washington Post, October 18, 2011.
Back to Issue 18