#2. Casablanca: The Marseillaise Scene
Casablanca is one of those movies that you watch and think about how awesome it would be if it hadn't become cliche 60 years ago. It sits at No. 2 on the AFI's greatest films list, and just about every scene holds some significance in pop culture. Even if you haven't seen it, you can probably piece the story together through the oft-repeated catchphrases.
Girl walks in to gin joint, kid gets looked at, beautiful friendship begins, Sam plays it, roll credits.
Rick (Humphrey Bogart) is upstairs chatting with Laszlo, notorious resistance leader and husband to Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman). Some German patrons begin to annoy the other customers by rudely singing "Die Wacht am Rhein" (loose translation: "Stab the French with Our Rock-Hard German Penises"). To this point, Rick had stayed pretty neutral on the whole "Nazi" issue. But in this pivotal scene, Rick lends a single nod of support Laszlo's way. Laszlo and the other bar patrons find the courage to drown out the Nazis with their own patriotic verse of "La Marseillaise" (loose translation: "The Marseillaise"), and the Nazis, thoroughly out-Glee-ed, leave in a huff.
The patrons celebrate their small victory, some clearly moved to tears. The thing is, nothing in the script actually called for crying. Unlike most of the entries on this list, this one has less to do with a sociopathic director and more to do with the time and place the film was made.
See, this was a World War II movie ... that was being filmed in the middle of World War goddamned II.
That wasn't even a prop gun.
It's easy to forget that part, now that hundreds of movies (and seemingly thousands of video games) have been based on the war in the decades since it ended. Casablanca was shot in 1941 during the German occupation of France, at a point where many questioned whether or not the United States would ever step in to help, and when nobody knew how the whole thing was going to turn out.
And the scene included actors who, in real life, had a lot at stake. To shoot Casablanca as a believable port town, producers brought together one of the most ethnically diverse casts in film history, and a lot of these extras turned out to be Europeans who had fled to America to escape the Nazis -- that is, they were basically real-life refugees. They had left homes, friends and families behind, and at this point really didn't know if things could ever return to normal. Which makes us wonder if the director didn't stage the whole war just to get that scene.
"No, they have to be real Nazis."
#1. The Blair Witch Project (The Entire Movie)
The Blair Witch Project tells a very simple story: Three college students head out into the woods to make a documentary about witches. They argue and bitch at each other for 89 minutes, until mercifully they finally die. Some unspecified amount of time later, a major film company finds their footage and exploits the tragic snuff film for millions of dollars.
"I'm so glad we didn't share any of this with their stupid families!"
That's the story we're intended to believe, anyway, and it's not hard to see why early audiences were sucked in (the entire viral ad campaign was based around people believing in the "found footage" nature of the film). The directors perfectly captured the feel of a documentary being made by a bunch of cold, hungry amateurs. They did it by giving some amateurs a camcorder and leaving them in the woods for a week.
The Blair Witch Project was radically innovative, in the way that duct taping a camera to a toddler would also be an innovation. It did away with needless conventions like a "script" or "acting" and opted instead to make sure every scare was a surprise for the actors. The only written lines were given to the creepy townspeople in the film's opening -- the main characters were instructed to do random interviews, and the directors sneaked in these real, actual actors to mess with them.
And we thought this was just a normal 20-year-old dressed like an 80-year-old hanging out with a 60-year-old.
Everything else was contained to a 35-page outline with various info on the myth and a vague rundown of the plot and scenes. And that was it. Most of the filming took place over an eight-day camping trip. The directors would meet with the trio to give them supplies, a basic outline for the day's shooting and directions to where they would meet up next. They then left them to improvise and essentially film their hike to the next rendezvous. Quite a few of the scenes were of the three literally getting lost.
Sometimes the directors would stay back and stalk the kids, breaking sticks or throwing rocks just out of sight. The cast got more and more exhausted, cold and sleep deprived, and the crew would sneak onto their campsite in the middle of the night to play clips of children's laughter and violently shake the tents. On top of this, they would give the three actors less food every day to gradually make them angrier and more ragged.
"No way, guys, this does not count as a urinal.
The more you read about it, the more The Blair Witch Project seems like a cruel, eight-day-long joke that somebody decided to splice into a movie. They were never able to obtain funding for their next project, Surprised Shoppers at the Mall Getting Hit in the Nuts With a Baseball Bat.
For more scenes brought about by torment, check out 12 Classic Movie Moments Made Possible by Abuse and Murder. Or learn about some other directors to steer clear of in 9 Awesome Directors Who Temporarily Lost Their Mind.
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