The year is 1977 and this Hollywood studio is planning a TV extravaganza based around the broad appeal of special effects. But they need a centrepiece to the show which can be produced cheaply yet effectively, so start looking around for someone to provide that for them, and who should hear about this but Mike Jittlov (Mike Jittlov) who happens to be an expert animator and short filmmaker? He is anxious to receive his big break, so puts together a showreel to be delivered to the studio - however, certain executives are less scrupulous than they should be.
Mike Jittlov is an interesting character, not only in his sole feature film, but on the margins of Hollywood, an obviously talented fellow who never quite got the breaks he should have, and about the stage this movie was gathering a following, the business was giving up his brand of animation to rely on computers almost exclusively. Therefore you could see why his hard luck persona was ideal for this sort of biography which he mixed with fantastical elements to create a fantasia of his experiences, many of which depicted himself as a poor soul who really should have been better treated by those who could have given him work and allowed his abilities to shine.
The plot mirrored Jittlov's trials and tribulations in showbiz, but ironically applied a Hollywood gloss to them, so that here he did have a happy ending to his endeavours, and didn't wind up a minor cult figure whose fans wished more from. His love of pop culture is evident from the start, even showing a short clip of a film he made which featured himself operating the contraption which flung Rod Taylor into the future in The Time Machine, among other things (including the inevitable vintage comics). But when it came to conjuring up his own personalised slice of pop culture, he left us the ten minute ingenuity which was his alter ego, the Wizard of the title: once you've seen him racing through the world, you won't forget it.
That section began life as an Academy Award-nominated short, designed as his calling card, but all it really seemed to lead to was this expanded version, and even that did mediocre business at best when it came out in cinemas. Home video was where it found an audience, surprising the unwary who would take a chance on its gaudy video cover and if the biographical dealings were less captivating than the abundant effects, this turned into a fond memory of searching the eighties and early nineties rental store for something you hadn't seen before for many buffs. It's true that you could see the strain to lift the material into something joyous when it was getting dragged down by the simple fact Jittlov was underused then exploited, if plain to see why so many of his friends were keen to take part in his movie.
Yet aside from advertising perhaps, you could sort of see why his skills were difficult to apply in the context of other works, with even this film and its intentions to showcase them a bumpy ride. Jittlov was an engaging presence, but the way he celebrated the independent filmmaker and artist here was akin to organising your own surprise birthday party: rather hollow, in spite of everyone invited happy to show up to see what was going on. That said, when his eccentricities were harnessed here there was much to entertain, with plenty "how the hell did he do that?" material, no matter that as we saw him making the film within a film, we were shown precisely how he did it. From Jittlov thrown into a swimming pool and angrily staying under in one unbroken shot for what seems like ages, to the final effects as his Wizard rushes through streets in a combination of trick photography and animation, the appeal was definitely there, though bitterness tinged what was as much plea as celebration. Music by John Massari.