The tales of inept wannabe super heroes and a mysterious girl named Samantha Darko. Wow what a different set of films- but they landed in the brief for this little travelogue, so sit back and enjoy a scenic and hopefully entertaining trip.
Mystery Men, a big screen rendition of the Dark Horse Comic book of the same name- Delightfully insane with a comic all-star cast including:
- Geoffrey Rush
- William H Macy
- Hank Azaria
- Jeaneane Garofalo
- Ben Stiller
- Paul Reubens
- Greg Kinnear
- Lena Olin
- Eddie Izzard
- Claire Forlani
- Tom Waits and many others….. see for yourself here
The comic potential of this film was vast, and with the very witty direction of Kinka Usher, (who created the famous milk commercials in the late 1990’s) he was certainly a man of sharp wit- we also had the fantastic picture editing skills of Conrad Buff, who is a legend on his own. the Sound Team for Mystery Men was headed by Academy Award winner Stephen Hunter Flick and Fred Judkins who managed the dialog and ADR side of the house… The editorial crew included almost everyone at Creative Cafe, including Bill Jacobs, Peter Brown, Patricio Libenson, Evan Chen (now at EA LA) and a young guy named Addison Teague who was one of the lead sound editors / designers on that little film called “AVATAR”. So with a great crew we set about making this crazy world real. The premise of the film is the heroes are a bunch of guys who fancy themselves great fighters of crime- though impotent, they put their backs into the endeavor and get thrashed pretty well in the process. As illustrated by the opening sequence of the film:
The heroes nemesis is the real super hero “Captain Amazing” who has actually managed to destroy the criminal world of Champion City, a sort of place combining Blade Runner and Hello Kitty, truly a bizarre little fishbowl of a setting.
Our core heros, The Blue Rajah, The Shoveler and Mister Furious go about battling crime in their spare time and evenings and after the setup in the opening sequence come to the conclusion that they simply need to make a bigger group to be able to compete with Captain Amazing in the world of crime fighting, so the film then adds Reubens (the Spleen), Garofalo (The bowler) and Kel Mitchell (the Invisble Boy) with Les Studi playing the mysterious “Sphinx” who actually does have legitimate superhero credentials. You can watch film for more on all this because I just don’t feel like doing a full recap of it -though I do love it a lot-
The challenges that were brought to my door for the film were making believable sounds for the Bowler, The Blue Rajah, who used forks as his weapon of choice, The Shoveler and the device known as the “Psycho-Defraculator” a machine which could lay waste to cities in bizarre ways.
The sounds for the Rajah’s forks were pretty easy- basically finding nice resonant silverware which was scaped in order to create a shing-like sound… the forks and knives I used were from the late 18th century, and were actually silver utensils… a big part of the sound though was also the whooshes for when they were thrown which was great fun as well. Creative Cafe was in a process of construction at the time, so we had many great resources of junk and flexible conduit to experiment with. these also were a great help for creating punch sweeteners.
The Bowler was a much more challenging project, here are two segments of that work which show the sort of approach we followed:
For the Bowlers ball I treated it as if it were a sort of evil Warner Brothers cartoon. I have always (since I was about 8) a huge fan of the old WB Cartoons with Bugs Bunny and his crew, and I have to say it was sometime later when Treg Brown made it onto my radar, but I became a disciple of his philosophies such as NEVER using an appropriate sound for an effect, the bowlers sequences shows how the comic sounds of ricochets, metal bends and WW2 Fighter planes can make a silly scene really sing. There were other effects which were probably more “rational” which were added to the mix, but those homage sounds and the spooky Didgeridoo which defines the soul of Carmine the Bowler just seemed to really work well conceptually.
For the shoveler, a visit to a friends metal shop got me all the plate steel I needed to record a flexible library of metal impacts for the Shovelers’ weapon. Quite simply- it was an easy sound- once the right sound was found. The last set piece was the DeFraculator. I actually described this in an article on Worldizing I wrote a few years ago for the Motion Picture Editors Guild magazine. Perhaps we can bring that forward sometime soon.
All in, the film had to be bold, but moreover funny, like in 1941, or Blues Brothers sort of funny, every scene had great comic elements, and exploiting those was just a blast. The film nowadays is seen as a bit of a cult item, but if the cast appeals to you, I highly recommend it.
The curious case of S. Darko…
S, Darko was a sequel to the cult fave, Donnie Darko and shares much of its flavor and strangeness. As such an iconic film Anarchy Post’s Eric Lalicata and Dan Snow wanted to be consistent to the iconic quality of the original, especially the various visual devices which both films shared, the water worm effect especially. Both films also shared iconic sound tracks so it was important to compliment the great music that was used in the film.
The biggest challenge was the worm hole effects and water worm which I first carefully studied the original for, clues as to how to go about making something consistent with it, the biggest challenge seemed to be to figure out a way to realistic change the sound approximating its movements, after experimenting with watery textures using the samplers Structure, and Kontakt (and rejecting the outcomes) I dusted off a cheap little device that used to be made by Alesis called the “AirFX”, a sensor based processor which allows you to modify the incoming source audio via a 3 dimension optical sensor which you can wave your hand over, like the Theremin or the D-Sensor’s on some Roland products. Using this with a flanged EQ setting yielded very nice results which I was able to cut into the track with little further work.
Beyond that, there were meteor showers, car crashes and other sorts of mayhem which is funny and interesting to cut, but the construction of the film itself led to some neat sonic milestones, and was great fun to explore different sound approaches for desolation.
It was a fun low budget film to work on, and the team at Anarchy were top rate in every way shape and form. You can visit them at: http://www.anarchypost.net
Drop by and say hello…
Written by Charles Maynes for Designing Sound