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Tom Jones: The eating scene and ways of working


Tom Jones: The hunt scene and working with animals
Walter Lassally Film-maker
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Well one of the scenes in Tom Jones that has caused the most comment is the hunt scene. And there again, there was very careful preparation and the hunt scene falls into two parts. There's the hunt meet, which is the preparation for the hunt, where they all gather together and have a stirrup-cup, I believe it's called, and then there's the hunt itself. Now, the hunt meet, we decided to stage as an event and to cover it with three cameras, some of which would be hand-held. I think nearly all of them were hand-held. Because, at that time, hand-holding was still a choice to make against synch-shooting, you couldn't have both, Tony decided, which the sound man was very upset about that, but Tony managed to persuade him that, in this case, it would be okay. The sound man, by the way, was Peter Handford. He became a very good friend, who is a train enthusiast... that's another story. So we decided to cover the hunt meet with three hand-held cameras and then they take lots of sound, and it was done in the cutting room, you know. You just... you don't see people speaking sound-synch, but you hear, like what's going on next door. So it's perfectly okay. It worked out perfectly well. Then the hunt itself is also very interesting. That was a combination of very low-angle shots on a Mini-moke, on a truck version of the famous Mini, van or... no truck. It's a low truck where you can get the camera to about 2ft or 2ft 6 off the ground, which is very good. And, the scene, for instance, where the horse bolts under Susannah York and he rescues her, that was filmed with one fixed camera, fixed on the back of this little truck and I was crouched in the front compartment, in the passenger's seat, with another Arriflex with a long lens, with a 75, I think. And it shakes an awful lot, but that's fine for the scene. It goes with the scene. Then the moment he jumps on and they both fall to the ground, it becomes steady again, tripod, blimp, tripod, dialogue. At that moment it changes. Like the moment when it begins is the moment when the horse bolts. Up to that moment it isn't hand-held. And... so the hunt itself is a mixture of that low truck, little truck, and helicopter work. And sometimes it's so cleverly inter-cut, that sometimes you think you're running along the ground, then suddenly you're jumping along... over the bushes and rising into the air. So that was very effective. It was a very, very effective technique, and it's caused a lot of comment afterwards. People are always asking: how did you do that? We were very lucky with the weather. Like I always say, luck is an essential ingredient in any movie enterprise. That was shot midsummer, July, August, I can't remember. We'd just finished when the weather turned, and there were days and days of rain, and that particular area, where Susannah York is rescued, turned into a mud bath. So it could never have been done again. Only a week later it would've been impossible without changing the location and having a whole rethink. So luck plays a part. But... the scenery is terribly nice there and we used it, I think, extremely well.

Also, we were accompanied throughout the film with a menagerie of animals, that we used at various times; the horses, donkeys, sheep, Afghan hounds, which I knew something about because we had Afghan hounds at home for years. Sometimes the shooting was actually interrupted because they'd kennelled these Afghan hounds, of which there was a dozen or so, and they'd kennelled them something like three miles away, but we had to stop the shooting because they were howling. You see, you could hear them three miles away.

Born in Germany, cinematographer Walter Lassally (1926-2017) was best known for his Oscar-winning work on 'Zorba the Greek'. He was greatly respected in the film industry for his ability to take the best of his work in one area and apply it to another, from mainstream to international art films to documentary. He was associated with the Free Cinema movement in the 1950s, and the British New Wave in the early 1960s. In 1987 he published his autobiography called 'Itinerant Cameraman'.

Listeners: Peter Bowen

Peter Bowen is a Canadian who came to Europe to study and never got round to heading back home. He did his undergraduate work at Carleton University (in Biology) in Ottawa, and then did graduate work at the University of Western Ontario (in Zoology). After completing his doctorate at Oxford (in the Department of Zoology), followed with a year of postdoc at the University of London, he moved to the University's newly-established Audio-Visual Centre (under the direction of Michael Clarke) where he spent four years in production (of primarily science programs) and began to teach film. In 1974 Bowden became Director of the new Audio-Visual Centre at the University of Warwick, which was then in the process of introducing film studies into the curriculum and where his interest in the academic study of film was promoted and encouraged by scholars such as Victor Perkins, Robin Wood, and Richard Dyer. In 1983, his partner and he moved to Greece, and the following year he began to teach for the University of Maryland (European Division), for which he has taught (and continues to teach) biology and film courses in Crete, Bosnia, and the Middle East.

Tags: Tony Richardson

Duration: 4 minutes, 13 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008