Just watching ‘The Great St Trinian’s Train Robbery’, one thing that I notice about old Ealing comedies and Carry on films is how much of them was under-cranked, so that people run around unnaturally fast.
Of course, under-cranking reached its apotheosis with the “Benny Hill Show” so that anyone attempting it nowadays is described as ‘doing a Benny Hill’. This is hardly fair, as Benny Hill was the Johnny Come Lately of under-cranking.
But it really does look unnatural nowadays and I am bound to say that under-cranking was a cover for under-acting to some extent, or perhaps the lazy director’s short-cut.
The trouble is, when you are making a film, people never move fast enough. What looks fine on paper looks desperately dull on the screen. When you’re trying to get through several takes of a shot where people are running around, after the fourth or fifth take, your actors are likely to collapse, unless they are very very fit. Getting them to saunter around the set and under-crank their movements was probably the best that could be done within a tight budget. But would you believe that big budget films like James Bond blockbusters either use under-cranking or the post production equivalent to heighten the excitement? It is fairly obvious in ‘Thunderball’ during the final fight sequence. Nowadays, it has probably been replaced by CGI re pacing.
There are lots of times of other times when it probably went unnoticed – before Benny Hill, at least.