a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


Producing lightning on Night Watch


Flying away on an aerocycle
Billy Williams Film-maker
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

The story was of Dennis Hopper who… starts off life, he's a train robber, and you start off with a train robbery that goes wrong, it gets bungled, and he decides that he's going to give up this… his bad way of life and go straight, and so he goes into this town, which was called Dime Box, which was the original title of the film — Dime Box… it's a very funny title — and when he gets there he meets all kind of rather stiff Victorian… unyielding Victorian values, and whatever he does, with the best intention, goes wrong. So he's always in trouble and the only people who really befriend him are the preacher — Preacher Bob — played by Peter Boyle, who's building an aerocycle, an early aeroplane and we had this wonderful construction of an early aeroplane, which was partly fired by a wood-burning stove and partly by a bicycle with a propeller at the front, and we had a stunt to do at the end where this thing actually flies, because he's got to get a...  make an escape and he... this thing actually is meant to fly. Well, we had a devil of a job doing this and the designer had built like a runway on the side of a hill so that this thing could launch itself out from the side of the hill and fly away. But the only way we could make the plane fly was with a helicopter with wires, and so the helicopter attached to the... there’s this mod... this plane to it and then took it off, you see, with the propeller going at the front and it looked as if it was flying except we couldn't get rid of the wires. And we did lots of coverage of this but there are inevitably one or two shots where you see the wires. But of course if they release it on DVD they can take the wires out easily, so it's one of the great advantages of modern technology.

But the whole commercial... reason for this town was a factory called the Great American Ceramic Novelty Company and it was a huge building that had been specially constructed for the movie and they make ashtrays. That's how... their entire product is making ashtrays and they're making Christmas ashtrays with pictures of Santa Claus on, and one... one ashtray would have a Confederate flag and the next one would have the Union flag, and so on, and the climax of the film is when Dennis Hopper, who's become very friendly with a group of Indians, who are trying to get their lands back, combines with these Indians and they... they rob the factory, take the payroll and get away. So it's a comedy Western but with a lot of... a lot to say about how America had developed and a kind of... a lot of the useless products, which are manufactured, which give people a living; things that people don't really need. It was a really interesting movie and it was in a lot of critics' top 10 list, top 10 pictures of the year. But very sadly it was made at a time when the hierarchy at Twentieth Century Fox were changing chairs all the time. You know, a... a head of production would come in and last a year or so, and then he'd go out and the films that he'd been responsible for were... were kind of pushed aside and the new guy that came in wanted to promote something different, and... and it was that period so the picture fe... fell between two kind of movements of management, and it didn't get any release but it was a good picture. And I showed it to students a couple of times and... and then the only print that was around in this country seemed to disappear so... but I've got a video of it fortunately. It was a good picture.

Billy Williams, London-born cinematographer Billy Williams gained his first two Oscar nominations for the acclaimed “Women in Love” and “On Golden Pond”. His third nomination, which was successful, was for the epic “Gandhi”. He was President of the British Society of Cinematographers, and was awarded the Camera Image Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000.

Listeners: Neil Binney

Neil Binney began working as a 'clapper boy' in 1946 on spin-off films from steam radio such as "Dick Barton". Between 1948-1950 he served as a Royal Air Force photographer. From 1950 he was a Technicolor assistant technician working on films such as John Ford's "Mogambo" (photographed by Freddie Young), Hitchcock's "The Man Who Knew Too Much" (Bob Burke), and Visconti's "Senso" (G.R. Aldo/B. Cracker). As a camera assistant he worked on "Mind Benders", "Billy Liar" and "This Sporting Life". Niel Binney became a camera operator in 1963 and worked with, among others, Jack Cardiff, Fred Tammes and Billy Williams. He was elected associate member of the British Society of Cinematographers in 1981 and his most recent credits include "A Fish Called Wanda" and "Fierce Creatures".

Duration: 4 minutes, 17 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008