A review requested by Beef Jerky Guy with thanks for contributing to the Second Quinquennial Antagony & Ecstasy ACS Fundraiser.

God knows who thought it made sense for a biopic about the making of The Wizard of Speed and Time to find its way out into the world, but they sure went ahead and made one anyway. In 1983, four years after Jittlov's marvelous short came along to make unfortunately no real impact in the world he began shooting his only feature, also titled The Wizard of Speed and Time, presenting a fluffed up and fictional version of the story behind the best-known of his several ultra-ambitious shorts. It didn't end up coming out until 1988, and also made no real impact, though it was able to strike up the kind of cult fanbase that sometimes accrued to lucky films on VHS in the 1980s. That fanbase was enough to keep Jittlov and his films prominent enough that almost three decades later, I'm able to discuss with you these little ephemeral scraps.

If the chief appeal of the '79 short is its bottomless delight in the potential of cinema, that's pretty much the appeal of the '88 feature as well. If Jittlov's enthusiasm for his job weren't clear enough from the fact that he made these kinds of gemlike, artisanal movies on the back of his intense labor, the adoration he ladles onto the idea of Hollywood as a dream factory would certainly be enough to do it. What's particularly bizarre about how that plays out in the Wizard feature is that the story itself is one of virtually non-stop, grueling misery, and the way that the film industry devours souls. It takes place in 1977, when Jittlov (playing himself) was shopping around Animato, a compilation of the various shorts he'd made over the previous years, while producer Harvey Bookman (Richard Kaye, producer and co-writer of the feature with Jittlov and Chierighino) and director Lucky Straeker (Steve Brodie) of Hollywood Studios, are trying to assemble a TV special about the greatest special effects artists in Los Angeles. They are, sadly, attempting to do this on a shoestring budget, and so none of the greatest special effects artists in Los Angeles want anything to do with them. But Jittlov has a hunger inside him, and so he agrees to make a brand new piece for their show. What he doesn't know is that Bookman and Straeker have a bet for $25,000 as to whether he'll be able to bring in the ambitious project he's promised on-budget and in time, and Bookman is doing everything he can to sabotage the shoot, demanding all sorts of extra-ludicrous add-ons to the film.

And thus does Jittlov toil at making The Wizard of Speed and Time with only the promise of money and no clear guidance; his only help coming from cameraman Brian Lucas (Chierighino, playing a variation of himself under the name David Conrad), composer Steve Shostakovich (John Massari, playing himself under his own name), and low-grade actress Cindy Lite (Paige Moore, playing Toni Handcock from the original short despite not resembling her in any way, shape, or form). The whole edifice of Hollywood is stacked against Jittlov and friends: he can't get a straight answer from anyone, and he can't do a thing without getting permits, and he's being attacked at every turn for not being part of the unions, the damnable, horrid unions that make filmmaking impossible for a smart visionary who just wants to do everything himself.

The movie has a problem with unions. Let us not be unclear on that point. They are dismissed in a flurry of goofball comic asides with all the union reps played by Will Ryan as paper-obsessed caricatures. The whole thing, in fact, is pretty casually libertarian: besides unions, taxes (as the "Infernal Revenue Service", ha ha ha), and the basic concept of federal government (via a droning, flagrantly corrupt TV address delivered by a U.S. president who sound only vaguely like Reagan and not at all like Carter in Ryan's delivery) are all treated with a lighthearted but unforgiving mockery. And that's... a thing. It seems weird for a movie so intoxicated with a free and easy spirit of "ain't the movies great?" innocence to go all-in on political satire, though it makes perfect sense that having done so, that satire would take the form of mild "why do the rules apply to meeeee?" whining. So that's annoying, anyway.

Much, much, much more annoying: the comedy. Jittlov made the not-unreasonable decision that The Wizard of Speed of Time should take the form of a live-action cartoon, in recognition of the energetic wackiness of the director's movies and special effects work. Sometimes, like in the bouncy editing (by, get this, Mike Jittlov) that turns the whole movie into a playful montage akin a Tex Avery Nouvelle Vague picture, that impulse very much works to the film's benefit. More often, in the dialogue and performances, it does not. Seemingly every character in the film is some kind of caricature or another, and those caricatures bring with them the absolute laziest, broadest jokes you could conceive of: Californians sure do like crazy shit on their pizza! Movie executives sure are Jewish! Blondes sure are dumb! There's very little humor in the film that isn't some flavor of gigantic and dumb, and coupled with the sugar-high enthusiasm with which the cast attacks it, the result is a whole lot of grinding tedium throughout the movie.

The thing is, what works so very well in three minutes gets swamped in a 95-minute satire using the most up-to-date clichés of Hollywood that 1925 could offer. It's hard, if not impossible, to avoid being cheered by Jittlov's apparent joyfulness at getting to make a fucking movie you guys, going all-in on movie references, gestures of fantasy (movie-Jittlov is, for unclear reasons, able to perceive and manipulate the special effects in the world around him), a huge number of characters for such a small-scale film, cameos from beloved Disney animator Ward Kimball and legendary sci-fi superfan Forrest J. Ackerman, and everything else. It is, befitting its title, an enormously kinetic thing; there's not a slow bit in the 95 minutes, thankfully, and rarely do five consecutive minutes go by without some flourish of visual effects, mostly just to show off what Jittlov and his very tiny crew were able to do on 35mm and with actual money to work with.

He even remakes his own work, including virtually all of the original Wizard, with a great deal of added footage; it's in no way better than it was before, raising the question of why bother, but at least some of the new effects are pretty fun. Massari's replacement score is somehow thinner than in the short, and matches the footage less perfectly, but I don't suppose that's something I'd have noticed or cared about if I didn't have the short memorised. Still, the point remains that one can watch the short 31 times or the feature once, and the short would, I think not lose nearly enough in 31 consecutive viewings to make that a bad trade-off. It's more special, somehow; the feature still looks like it was made by invigorated actors without money in somebody's garage, but there's just enough crispness and polish, courtesy of the 35mm stock and cinematographer Russell Carpenter (who, like several people involved, would go on to have a decent career after this), for this to lose the warm handmade quality that gives the short all of its personality.

Still, I shouldn't be too hard on the feature. It is, after all, the reason that Jittlov's name and work remained remembered long enough for me to ever see any incarnation of The Wizard of Speed and Time. Besides, it's awfully joyful in its own right, though something about the concentration and brevity of the short is preferable. Jittlov makes candy, is the thing; now imagine eating candy for three versus 95 minutes, and you have approximately the sense of weariness and overstimulation that the feature carries with it. It would, beyond any shadow of a doubt, help matters if the comedy wasn't so grating. But I doubt very much that any feature could capture the pure delight of the three perfect minutes of the short, and this particular feature misses that mark by quite a lot.

This film is pretty damn easy to find online, but as of 10 January 2017, this version looks especially good.