Friday, February 10, 2012

More Universal Studios, March 1985

Welcome back to Universal Studios!

Steven Spielberg's "Jaws" made a ton of dough for Universal pictures, so it's no surprise sharks could be seen in several places around Universal Studios. This big fella made for a dramatic photo op... I assume that this is roughly how large the shark in the movie was supposed to be. I think (but am not sure) that you can still have your photo taken in front of a dead shark!

Another giant shark, this time just the head. "Jaws 3-D" (a fairly wretched sequel - but in 3-D!) had been released in 1983, and this display resembles the poster image, snaggle teeth and all.

Moving away from sharks, take a look at this picture from the backlot... I'm sure that this area was used in zillions of TV shows and movies, as it could pass for just about any inner-city location. Any idea what the metal scaffolding that runs parallel to the tops of the façades is for? Maybe it held lights, or water was pumped through for rain.

This one is a bit soft 'n fuzzy, but it's worth a look anyway. The little European town square is, I believe, one of the oldest surviving parts of the backlot (assuming that it hasn't burned down and been rebuilt multiple times). The tram tour used to say that those very buildings were seen in the original 1931 "Frankenstein" movie. It's easy to imagine a mob of angry villagers marching with torches and pitchforks and hockey sticks!

More Universal Studios stuff is on the way....


TokyoMagic! said...

I remember that shark. There was a metal rod coming out of his nose that ran into the ground to help secure him. I don't know if he's still there, but Universal Studios in Orlando had the same shark when I was there in October....although, I don't think it will be there much longer because I've heard the whole Amity area including the Jaws attraction is going to be removed. Too bad.

One of the signs in that third pic looks like it reads, "Hog Heaven".....and is that part of the town square that was used in "Back To The Future"? The bluish building on the far right looks like it could be the malt shop and that gas station looks familiar too.

Katella Gate said...

Major, I think your right, that lattice structure over the sets is probably for a rain effect. Since it's directly over the sidewalk, it drops the water where it needs to be, and not on the crew. I also can't think of many reasons to shine a light directly down on actors.

Rick West said...

The final image is Little Europe, which the Tour still takes visitors through, although it's been months since we got a trip through that section (either there are back-to-back shoots going on in that area of the Backlot, or there is some extensive rehabbing going on. Great shots, as usual!

DBenson said...

It's been eons, but I seem to remember a tram guide explaining the overhead structures were built for a film called "Streets of Fire". Pretty much the whole film took place in the streets at night, so to avoid the expense of night shooting they built those with roll-out coverings that could darken the streets on demand.

Douglas McEwan said...

I don't know about Frankenstein, but Bela Lugosi can be clearly seen driving a gypsy wagon through that big arch on the right in The Wolfman. In that movie, the storefront in the center of the shot is the store where Evelyn Ankers's character lives and works also in The Wolfman. The set (without that huge fountain) is very recognizable in The Wolfman

I have also seen a still (Probably still have it around here somewhere in a book) of Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce and Evelyn Ankers standing just outside that shop, from a Universal Sherlock Holmes movie, most-likely Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror.

I saw a cheap 1950s musical set in Paris once, but shot all at Universal (Dont' remember the title), and in it this Old Europe set was used for the French port of La Havre, with cutting used to make it look like there was a dock and a pier just across the street from this square. The set was instantly recognizable. You can see it in Ghost of Frankenstein also.

Gojira said...

Just watched a Columbo TV-movie the other night from 1989 which was about a murderous movie director and the overhead rigging was visible in several scenes. These pics are terrific! Major I enjoy your blog so much that when I first started looking at it I sat down and over the course of several nights looked at each post from day 1 to present!

TokyoMagic! said...

Well this is really weird. I just finished watching a Bionic Woman episode and that fountain was used in a scene that was supposed to be in East Germany. The buildings around it were part of the European section of the Universal backlot, but not the same buildings seen in your shot. The fountain could obviously be moved around. They also used the stone bridge that was/is near the parting of the Red Sea in the same episode. You have to love the Bionic Woman and the Six Million Dollar Man for using parts of the Studio Tour like the Collapsing Bridge and the rotating Glacier Avalanche tunnel in their episodes!

Major Pepperidge said...

TM!, I could almost swear that there was still a giant shark for photo-ops when I was at the park last year, but maybe not. I believe that the gas station is the same one seen in BTTF. And yes, that storefront does say "Hog Heaven"!

Katella - ha ha, I guess you're right!

Rick, I saw the Little Europe area recently - it needs some TLC for sure. And "little" is apt... it seems so tiny! I can almost swear that I read that that area was going to be razed for a new housing development on the hill... hope that is wrong.

DBenson, you may be right, although it seems hard to believe that they could block out all sunlight convincingly enough to mimic nighttime. However, it is called "movie magic"...!

Doug, I might be mixing up my Frankenstein movies, but I am almost positive that there is a scene with angry villagers walking through that arch. Maybe it was "Young Frankenstein"!

Gojira, I do love being able to spot familiar parts of the backlot in old TV shows and movies. Sort of like all of those Disney movies shot around the studio soundstages.

TM!, I think it's funny that you watched a Bionic Woman episode!! A recent review of the Six Million Dollar Man cracked me up, saying that a lot of the show was just Steve Austin walking. And walking. And walking! I can almost swear I remember seeing the Mexican village (where the flash flood occurs) in a TV show a while back.

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, I'm watching the whole series.....please don't laugh! I'm on season two right now and the "Doomsday" episodes. Lindsay Wagner rules!

Gojira said...

Major there is a 2 part episode of the Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries from 1977 -- called the Mystery of the Hollywood Phantom, which has a lot of the back lot in it -- and Shaun Cassidy just about gets swept away in a golf cart from the fake flood!
TokyoMagic! -- I loved that show -- especially the episodes with BIGFOOT! Played by Andre the Giant!

Major Pepperidge said...

TM!, I'm not laughing at you, I'm laughing towards you. Lindsay Wagner does rule!

Gojira, I forgot to give you kudos for going through all 2000+ posts... I'm not sure I could do it! I never watched the Hardy Boys (or Nancy Drew), I was much too cool by then! ;-)

And I totally remember bigfoot running through the spinning tunnel!

Nancy said...

I took the same picture of that courtyard in 2001 ... it was so cool to know that movies i have seen were actually filmed HERE, actors I love to watch walked HERE....hope to get back again one day :-)

Jaws is pretty awesome, tho that first pic is not too flattering :(
...the one in Orlando is the more traditional pose so to speak ;)

Captain Jack said...


The "dead shark" on display is actually made from the original mold used for Bruce, the many mechanical sharks used in the original Jaws film.

I believe it was the last shark cast from that mold.

The "dead shark" on display in Orlando was more plastic and had a very different, very fake look.

This holds true for the shark used in the attraction/studio tour as well. The shark used in the now extinct Orlando Jaws was more plastic in nature while Hollywood Jaws has that more rubberized texture seen in the film and what appears to be more mouth and body movement. The Orlando Jaws had great propulsion, but not mouth movement or body movement.

Major Pepperidge said...

Captain Jack, thank you for the info! I like the pose of the Florida shark, much more threatening. But you're right, it does look like plastic.

Until recently, I did not know that the Florida "Jaws" attraction was boat ride a lá The Jungle Cruise. Sounds like it was a lot of fun.

Rick West said...

Major, the last thing I heard was that the whole selling off of a huge chunk of the Back lot is off on on indefinite hold. When they open Transformers, followed by Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the park is going to have MASSIVE over-crowding issues. They're going to need as much space as possible to suck people up; shortening the Studio Tour would be detrimental, so I think that we are not going to have to see any of that sold off for quite some time; if ever.

Major Pepperidge said...

That is good news, Rick. Thanks for letting me know! When I lived in Encino, I received a fairly lavish press release (presumably sent to everyone in the area) all about the upcoming condos (or whatever they were), which sounded awful. You can build condos anywhere, but there is only one Universal Studios. Ok, maybe three or four, but still, you know what I mean!

Douglas McEwan said...

There is certainly a shot in Frankenstein of torchbearing villagers passing under an arch, but there is no evidence that it is definitely THIS arch. Whereas, in The Wolfman the entire square is totally recognizable, and there is no doubt that it is this arch.

As for Young Frankenstein, that was shot at 20th Century Fox, and uses no Universal sets at all.

Yes, that fountain is mobile. I've been in this square many times, but I've never seen that fountain.

Rémi said...

The third picture is a photo of the "Courthouse Square" set from Hill Valley, the city from "Back to the Future". At the moment where this photo was taken. The production staff of the film transformed "Hill Valley 1955" to "Hill Valley 1985". The bluish building on the far is the "Lou's Cafe" from 1955 but the pink store on its left is a businness from 1985. The gas station is the Texaco Service Station from 1955 and was not tranformed to its "1985 version" yet.