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Old 01-13-2019, 08:41 AM
jackdavinci jackdavinci is offline
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Most expensive punchline?

In one of the rare occasions where I wasn't daydreaming during a commercial, an ad for insurance which was part of a series of "hey we cover weird disasters!" had some sort of wet concrete delivery pipe accidentally pour all over the insured's fancy convertible. And my only thought was, gee that's an expensive punchline, there are so many more creative and humorous "odd disasters" that could have been portrayed without wasting a shiny new car.

But it got me thinking, what contenders are there for most expensive and or elaborate effort put into a minor, throwaway, or just very brief punchline?

Family Guy seems like the king of that sort of thing, but doesn't count because it costs the same to animate something ridiculously grand in scale as something simple. Maybe Orville? Using modern CGI seems close to cheating, but we will take all nominations here.

Extra points for more buck and less bang!

Last edited by jackdavinci; 01-13-2019 at 08:41 AM.
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Old 01-13-2019, 08:58 AM
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Originally Posted by jackdavinci View Post
In one of the rare occasions where I wasn't daydreaming during a commercial, an ad for insurance which was part of a series of "hey we cover weird disasters!" had some sort of wet concrete delivery pipe accidentally pour all over the insured's fancy convertible. And my only thought was, gee that's an expensive punchline, there are so many more creative and humorous "odd disasters" that could have been portrayed without wasting a shiny new car.

I haven't seen it, but I would presume that a car shaped non-functional object could be mocked up pretty inexpensively and visually be indistinguishable from a real car.
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Old 01-13-2019, 09:04 AM
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I haven't seen it, but I would presume that a car shaped non-functional object could be mocked up pretty inexpensively and visually be indistinguishable from a real car.
Yeah, it's just the inspiration, not the platonic ideal.
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Old 01-13-2019, 09:22 AM
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The last week that Conan O'Brien hosted The Tonight Show, he did a (facetious) series of skits in which he tried to get NBC to pay for the most expensive ideas he could come up with. It was several years ago, and unfortunately I don't remember specifics.
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Old 01-13-2019, 10:24 AM
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The last week that Conan O'Brien hosted The Tonight Show, he did a (facetious) series of skits in which he tried to get NBC to pay for the most expensive ideas he could come up with. It was several years ago, and unfortunately I don't remember specifics.
The Bugatti bug while the rolling stones were playing?
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Old 01-13-2019, 10:53 AM
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Clarkson era Top Gear did this a time or two, usually in the guise of "The BBC have told us to save money..." I remember one such where Clarkson took a car around the world.
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Old 01-13-2019, 11:33 AM
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In one of the rare occasions where I wasn't daydreaming during a commercial, an ad for insurance which was part of a series of "hey we cover weird disasters!" had some sort of wet concrete delivery pipe accidentally pour all over the insured's fancy convertible. And my only thought was, gee that's an expensive punchline, there are so many more creative and humorous "odd disasters" that could have been portrayed without wasting a shiny new car.
Reminds me of how Buster Keaton comically destroys a pristine Rolls Royce in his 1922 film, The Blacksmith. By all accounts, the Rolls Royce was real—it was given to him by his in-laws, with whom he didn't get along. A lot of people (myself included) didn't find the film particularly funny, so maybe this counts as one of the most expensive punchlines for the least laughs.
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Old 01-13-2019, 11:35 AM
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Please. The winner and still champion is the train gag in The General. That was an actual locomotive (Last I heard, it was still sitting in the river, rusting away). Though the actual gag is the Union commander's reaction.
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Old 01-13-2019, 11:47 AM
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For the life of me, I can't find it, but I recall a commercial featuring David Leisure like this. It would have been from the 90's because I remember, at the time, recognizing his from Empty Nest. I believe it was for a travel agency, but it could have been anything. In the commercial he imagined whatever company he was talking about sending him to all these exotic locations, to film the commercial and ended with something like 'but they'd never pay for all that'. The joke being that they did, since they filmed him in all those locations to do the bit about him imagining he was there.

Less expensive, but still funny. Back when iPads first came out, Apple sent one over to Tosh.0 to play with. Here's the result. I can't find a full clip, but when the show aired, after that clip they cut back to him joking that they never even turned it on.
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Old 01-13-2019, 11:48 AM
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Please. The winner and still champion is the train gag in The General. That was an actual locomotive (Last I heard, it was still sitting in the river, rusting away). Though the actual gag is the Union commander's reaction.
That was the scene I thought of when I read the OP. I'm not sure if it counts as a throwaway punchline, though. In its day, I gather that would have been received like the sinking at the end of Titanic; a spectacular climax worthy of any Hollywood blockbuster.

Is the location known? I vaguely remember reading a magazine article decades ago by a guy who set out to find the locations used in The General, but that was before I even knew who Keaton was and I didn't keep it. I know it was filmed in Oregon, the western half of the state, from the looks of it. Next time I'm out that way I'd be tempted to go and look for it.
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Old 01-13-2019, 11:52 AM
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Please. The winner and still champion is the train gag in The General. That was an actual locomotive (Last I heard, it was still sitting in the river, rusting away). Though the actual gag is the Union commander's reaction.
What about The Bridge on the River Kwai?
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Old 01-13-2019, 12:07 PM
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For the life of me, I can't find it, but I recall a commercial featuring David Leisure like this. It would have been from the 90's because I remember, at the time, recognizing his from Empty Nest. I believe it was for a travel agency, but it could have been anything. In the commercial he imagined whatever company he was talking about sending him to all these exotic locations, to film the commercial and ended with something like 'but they'd never pay for all that'. The joke being that they did, since they filmed him in all those locations to do the bit about him imagining he was there.
Isuzu, possibly? Leisure was in a series of commercials for them as a pitchman telling one outrageous lie after another.
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Old 01-13-2019, 12:37 PM
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Originally Posted by jackdavinci View Post
In one of the rare occasions where I wasn't daydreaming during a commercial, an ad for insurance which was part of a series of "hey we cover weird disasters!" had some sort of wet concrete delivery pipe accidentally pour all over the insured's fancy convertible. And my only thought was, gee that's an expensive punchline, there are so many more creative and humorous "odd disasters" that could have been portrayed without wasting a shiny new car.
I'd think there would be many ways of filming such a scene without destroying a new car. Offhand I can think of the following:

- Maybe the car is a write off. It could look fine from one side, but has unseen damage that makes it unusable.

- Maybe it's not real concrete, some prop substance that washes off easily.

- Maybe it's a display model, with just the body, and none of the mechanics.

- Maybe a special effect, achieved with models or CGI
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Old 01-13-2019, 12:49 PM
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Isuzu, possibly? Leisure was in a series of commercials for them as a pitchman telling one outrageous lie after another.
I ran across those when I was looking for it. I don't want to write them off since I can't say for sure it wasn't them, but I don't recall him having that persona in it.

If it was an Isuzu commercial, it possibly would have been the last one. I only say that because part of me thinks that if it wasn't a travel commercial it was an 'end of an era' type thing and 'what are we going to do to make this last commercial really impressive'.

And FWIW, I do remember one of the things he did in the commercial was riding a horse, possibly while wearing a comfortable white linen outfit, on a beach or some other tropical/exotic location.

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Old 01-13-2019, 12:56 PM
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Is this the ad in question? Most of the "concrete" is poured onto the hood and windshield, and just a bit of splash goes into the interior. The next shot of the seats covered in concrete is obviously a model.

But even if it was real car & real concrete, it says here the aveage cost of producing a nationally broadcast TV commercial is $123,000, and some costing much more. They could probably afford to destroy a real car, especially if it's used or damaged in any way - e.g. totaled because of flood damage.
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Old 01-13-2019, 12:57 PM
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I'd think there would be many ways of filming such a scene without destroying a new car. Offhand I can think of the following:

- Maybe the car is a write off. It could look fine from one side, but has unseen damage that makes it unusable.

- Maybe it's not real concrete, some prop substance that washes off easily.

- Maybe it's a display model, with just the body, and none of the mechanics.

- Maybe a special effect, achieved with models or CGI
All good points, especially the second. Not because of cost - but because real concrete gives you only one take. And might not look like concrete on camera.

However, anyone who has been to a commercial shoot knows that the cost of a car would be trivial in the budget. Probably cheaper than renting the studio. Almost certainly cheaper than hiring people to rig up a good looking fake car. Definitely cheaper than the ad buys for a national campaign.
Maybe cheaper than the craft services bill.
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Old 01-13-2019, 12:57 PM
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The commercial in question.

An unbadged sports car, with no visible interior that isn't plastic. The reverse shot is easily faked, and the splat could be anything. Not CGI, but not that expensive, either. The cement rig probably cost more than the car did.
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Old 01-13-2019, 01:06 PM
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Clarkson era Top Gear did this a time or two, usually in the guise of "The BBC have told us to save money..." I remember one such where Clarkson took a car around the world.
Not to mention all the cars they've destroyed and even doubled down when people complain.
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Old 01-13-2019, 01:09 PM
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The commercial in question.

An unbadged sports car, with no visible interior that isn't plastic. The reverse shot is easily faked, and the splat could be anything. Not CGI, but not that expensive, either. The cement rig probably cost more than the car did.
No badging, but the car is a Chrysler Crossfire, so it's at least ten years old. I just did a web search and they're in the $5,000 - $8,000 range.
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Old 01-13-2019, 01:39 PM
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TV pioneer Ernie Kovacs supposedly spent twelve grand on this seconds long gag in 1955.
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Old 01-13-2019, 01:51 PM
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No badging, but the car is a Chrysler Crossfire, so it's at least ten years old. I just did a web search and they're in the $5,000 - $8,000 range.
It's also possible they got a cheap car that was totaled from engine/drive train failure but had a good body, like one that was started after a flood submerging. Being an insurance company they likely have a ready database of ones in any condition you car to name.
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Old 01-13-2019, 02:36 PM
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Not exactly a punchline, but Dodge had years of commercials where they dropped trucks from a height to show how "Ram tough" they were.

I doubt that the trucks they dropped were put up for sale. Still, I swore I'd never buy a Dodge because I didn't want to get one.
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Old 01-13-2019, 02:50 PM
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Gerald Ratner's punchline wiped about about £500M off his company.

And this was back in 1991, when £500M was a lot of money.
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Old 01-13-2019, 03:07 PM
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What about The Bridge on the River Kwai?
That's a payoff, not a punchline. The entire movie builds to that scene.

In The General, it's just a throwaway gag.
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Old 01-13-2019, 04:04 PM
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Forget the commercial folks. It's just the example that inspired the question. If you have a good example, please share. If you hate the first example and want to debunk it, to the pit. Geesh! While you are at it, you can debate the realism of elementary math word problems.

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Old 01-13-2019, 04:23 PM
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First thing that occurs to me is the Shelby Cobra that gets smashed in the first Iron Man.
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Old 01-13-2019, 07:33 PM
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Is this the ad in question? Most of the "concrete" is poured onto the hood and windshield, and just a bit of splash goes into the interior. The next shot of the seats covered in concrete is obviously a model.

But even if it was real car & real concrete, it says here the average cost of producing a nationally broadcast TV commercial is $123,000, and some costing much more. They could probably afford to destroy a real car, especially if it's used or damaged in any way - e.g. totaled because of flood damage.
In the mid-1990's, I was the Steadicam Operator on a Mercedes-Benz commercial. No clue which model. We shot with me mounted facing backwards on a vehicle, with the rig hard-mounted. I had a stunt driver racing along behind me. All about safety first, I had a heart-to-heart with the stunt driver regarding loss of control on either side. If he had a problem, he said he didn't care about the car- he'd swerve away. If I had a problem and was feeling as though the rig might fly off and hit the car/windshield, my move was to tilt my head up to the sky and he'd peel way. I felt good about this.

That car was...wicked close to me. The lens was on level with the emblem. I thought about the frame, and my knees. We shot in the canyons of lower Manhattan, around Wall Street. All went well.

Then, I took the Steadicam off of the A.T.V. I had it mounted to and stood off to the side as they shot longer-lens footage of some of the sexier stunts. ( Skidding, sliding into turns around the corner, etc. ) Here's what a Steadicam on an A.T.V. looks like. NOT me, not my rig. But a good representation.

The driver was approaching from the right, and turning right- away from me. So I stood at the safe corner to watch. That same stunt driver who I worked with an hour before took that turn a bit too "hot". He skidded fast in the turn and the car's left wheels slammed into the (typically) high curb. So hard that the car rocked up on those two tires, about 30º, and slammed back down.

He hit so hard he broke the trans-axle. Totaled a brand new car. I was stunned. The guys from Mercedes who were standing near me watching started cursing. They had one spare car. And, all of the cars were on loan from a dealer across the river in N.J.- and they were now on the hook for replacement cost.

Driver got out. Looked at things. Walked away. Waited for the spare to be brought in. Could have cared less.

A sobering education in stunts.

All said, damage/ destruction of a car is frequently factored into the cost of shooting a car commercial. On the OTHER hand, I've watched that commercial a dozen times. It's a real car, it is not real cement. Folks, it's 2019,, not 1995. C.G.I. is so advanced, that digitally creating that mess of random cement gushing down onto the car is child's play. Literally.

One could sit down at the Wacom Tablet, start making choices, and turn that cement iridescent blue. Or give it harsh texturing. Or make it deep flat black as though liquid velvet were pouring onto the car.

Easy peasey.

That car remains untouched, from what I can see. Digitizing the bird crap is an amusing touch.
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Old 01-13-2019, 08:00 PM
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The last week that Conan O'Brien hosted The Tonight Show, he did a (facetious) series of skits in which he tried to get NBC to pay for the most expensive ideas he could come up with. It was several years ago, and unfortunately I don't remember specifics.
In one, they rented a supposedly-real skeleton of a giant ground sloth from the Smithsonian Natural History Museum and connected to it a hose that sprayed out Dom Perignon champagne.
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Old 01-13-2019, 09:29 PM
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Blues Brothers movie wrecked a ton of cars . There is one scene late in the movie where a bunch of cop cars all crash and some even go on top of each others there are so many .
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Old 01-13-2019, 10:20 PM
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No badging, but the car is a Chrysler Crossfire, so it's at least ten years old. I just did a web search and they're in the $5,000 - $8,000 range.
BTW, I've never owned a Chrysler, but I thought that and the Pontiac sister car were pretty nice looking cars. It was a shame when the models were dropped as a result of the financial crisis.
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Old 01-14-2019, 12:58 AM
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I haven't seen it, but I would presume that a car shaped non-functional object could be mocked up pretty inexpensively and visually be indistinguishable from a real car.
No - it's a Crossfire convertible. Enthusiasts are outraged:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YGLk_ou3jo
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Old 01-14-2019, 01:05 AM
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Please. The winner and still champion is the train gag in The General. That was an actual locomotive (Last I heard, it was still sitting in the river, rusting away). Though the actual gag is the Union commander's reaction.
The General was filmed in 1927. That loco wasn't worth any more then scrap value at the time.

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Old 01-14-2019, 03:44 AM
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I believe there was a Simpsons episode where they licensed a song to use in a scene as a joke but the scene was deleted for time, but they had already purchased the rights to the song so it was all a complete waste of money for a 10 second joke that didn't happen.
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Old 01-14-2019, 09:01 AM
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Stanley Kubrick spent almost half a million pounds IIRC on a huge plastic pyramid as the alien artifact for 2001: A Space Odyssey, and hated it the moment he saw the finished object. They went with a polished black wooden monolith instead.
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Old 01-14-2019, 01:15 PM
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We Just Wasted 2 Million Bucks
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Old 01-14-2019, 01:59 PM
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Please. The winner and still champion is the train gag in The General. That was an actual locomotive (Last I heard, it was still sitting in the river, rusting away). Though the actual gag is the Union commander's reaction.
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Is the location known? I vaguely remember reading a magazine article decades ago by a guy who set out to find the locations used in The General, but that was before I even knew who Keaton was and I didn't keep it. I know it was filmed in Oregon, the western half of the state, from the looks of it. Next time I'm out that way I'd be tempted to go and look for it.
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On July 23, Keaton shot the climactic train wreck scene in the conifer forest near Cottage Grove. The town declared a local holiday so that everyone could watch the spectacle. Between three and four thousand local residents showed up,[10] including 500 extras from the Oregon National Guard. They all dressed up in Union uniforms and were filmed going left-to-right before changing into Confederate uniforms and being filmed going right-to-left. Keaton used six cameras for the scene, which began four hours late and required several lengthy trial runs. The shot cost $42,000, which is the most expensive single shot in silent film history.[11] The production company left the wreckage of The Texas in the river bed after the scene was filmed. The wrecked locomotive became a minor tourist attraction for nearly twenty years, until it was salvaged in 1944–45 for scrap during World War II.[12]
Emphasis mine.

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The General was filmed in 1927. That loco wasn't worth any more then scrap value at the time.
Hardly. The two that weren't destroyed were still in use on the Oregon railroad where the filming took place, and although the article doesn't say anything about the age or provenance of the "hero" engine, it was clearly a working unit, and not just a worthless pile of junk. It may not have been the latest model, but it probably could have continued working for decades. Steam engines of all vintages were widely used right up into the 1950s, when diesel took over.
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Old 01-14-2019, 04:14 PM
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All good points, especially the second. Not because of cost - but because real concrete gives you only one take. And might not look like concrete on camera.

However, anyone who has been to a commercial shoot knows that the cost of a car would be trivial in the budget. Probably cheaper than renting the studio. Almost certainly cheaper than hiring people to rig up a good looking fake car. Definitely cheaper than the ad buys for a national campaign.
Maybe cheaper than the craft services bill.
You can get a good-looking sports car with failed mechanicals for less than it costs to hire a concrete-pumper for a day.
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Old 01-14-2019, 04:44 PM
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They didn't need a concrete pumper. As I remember, all we saw was the last few feet of the pipe. All they needed was that and some way to fill it with the fake concrete.
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Old 01-14-2019, 04:48 PM
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They didn't need a concrete pumper. As I remember, all we saw was the last few feet of the pipe. All they needed was that and some way to fill it with the fake concrete.
No, it's very clearly a concrete bucket being held by a cable attached to a crane. Whether it was filled with concrete is unknown.
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Old 01-14-2019, 04:53 PM
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I'll throw in the "house over the cliff" gag at the end of Spielberg's "1941" - that must have been a lot to spend for a single joke.
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Old 01-14-2019, 05:04 PM
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speaking of train wrecks, you can see the train that wrecked into the bus in the Fugitive (with Tommy Lee Jones). The train is still sitting next to the Tuckaseegee river near Dillsboro NC
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Old 01-14-2019, 05:47 PM
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I'll throw in the "house over the cliff" gag at the end of Spielberg's "1941" - that must have been a lot to spend for a single joke.
That wasn't a "single" joke. All in all, that set-up took double-digit minutes, what with the cannon, the rotations, the firing and what-all. Nailing the wreath to the door was just the capstone.
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Old 01-14-2019, 05:56 PM
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First thing that occurs to me is the Shelby Cobra that gets smashed in the first Iron Man.
They mentioned this in the behind-the-scenes bit on the DVD--it's a fake Shelby Cobra, but a fully functional one, so it's still worth, like, $70,000. Just not a collector's item, like Tony's would have been. The guy who had to pull the trigger was distressed at having to trash such a nice car.
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Old 01-14-2019, 07:23 PM
mbh mbh is offline
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I nominate Buster Keaton' famous falling-house scene from Steamboat Bill, Jr.. Not because of financial expense, but because of the potential expense of injury or death.
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Old 01-14-2019, 08:17 PM
Stephe96 Stephe96 is offline
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Originally Posted by silenus View Post
That wasn't a "single" joke. All in all, that set-up took double-digit minutes, what with the cannon, the rotations, the firing and what-all. Nailing the wreath to the door was just the capstone.
You're right, of course. I should have "punchline," not "joke."
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Old 01-14-2019, 09:35 PM
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commasense commasense is online now
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Originally Posted by mbh View Post
I nominate Buster Keaton' famous falling-house scene from Steamboat Bill, Jr.. Not because of financial expense, but because of the potential expense of injury or death.
Keaton did lots of things that could have killed him. The famous sequence in The General where he's picking up the ties that have been placed on the rail could have ended in disaster: he could have been caught under the engine, or if he hadn't picked them up correctly the train could have derailed. It's astounding the stunts he pulled off throughout his silent career.
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Old 01-14-2019, 11:01 PM
Sternvogel Sternvogel is offline
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BTW, I've never owned a Chrysler, but I thought that and the Pontiac sister car were pretty nice looking cars.
Pontiac was made by GM. Did you mean Plymouth sister car?
  #48  
Old 01-15-2019, 12:51 PM
xizor xizor is offline
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For those not wanting to click blind links, this goes to a Super Bowl ad from the early 2000s where it just shows a monkey clapping for 30 seconds, followed by a graphic saying "We just wasted 2 million bucks".
  #49  
Old 01-15-2019, 02:41 PM
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Not to mention all the cars they've destroyed and even doubled down when people complain.
The piano probably cost more than the car.
  #50  
Old 01-15-2019, 03:10 PM
gaffa gaffa is offline
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Maybe the KLF burning a million pounds?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9K4WxzT84vs
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