When stuntman and director Hal Needham died recently, only scant mention was made of one of his interesting contributions to film: Placing bloopers during the end credits of his films. Yes, his action movies more or less personified a certain style and time period that seemed to go out of fashion by the time the 1990s rolled around. And while the Hal Needham racing movie probably needs some kind of renaissance in tribute, his blooper reels were far more influential. You could say that he helped make bloopers ubiquitous after Dick Clark revived the concept in the early 1980s and lasted until milked dry.
If Needham can be credited with the blooper reel at the end of films, did he indirectly harm the chance of some actors getting noticed for awards? There’s an infamous story behind the 1979 film “Being There” and director Hal Ashby partaking in an end-credit blooper reel showcasing Peter Sellers. Just a year earlier, Needham used the blooper reel in “Hooper” for the first time. Ashby likely thought it was going to be a trend and jumped on the bandwagon.
Sellers thought the blooper reel ruined the tone of the movie. While he was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar that year playing Chauncey Gardiner, some people felt he lost because of that final blooper reel. Nevertheless, it’s arguably more hilarious than any end-credit blooper reel ever placed in a movie.
Is that why bloopers at the end of movies ultimately became passé? We’ve seen some tributes to the Hal Needham blooper reels in films of recent years. However, they were done as mere tributes with tongue planted in cheek rather than placed there with real purpose. We’ve even seen some fake blooper reels during end credits that were funny based on the irony of not being real.
The blooper has simply lost a lot of its punch because viewers likely started realizing they were being done on purpose rather than real mistakes. Someone blowing a line is so common anyway that there’s nothing unusual about it as it used to be. The blooper also depends on the personality of the actor and how they respond to the mistake. An actor essentially has to be an actor to make the blooper relevant again.
With Peter Sellers, he made it hilarious because the character Chauncey Gardiner was so deadpan throughout the film. Plus, seeing Sellers breaking up laughing at his own deadpan delivery is enough to give you several belly laughs. While that might seem incongruous with the rest of “Being There”, everyone tried to recreate similar blooper reel magic and ultimately couldn’t.
Needham himself would recur his bloopers through the “Cannonball Run” franchise. Those were usually funnier because of all the legendary cameos in the films, despite being overall career lulls. Even so, Needham’s bloopers looked like a private party reel rather than a real film. It makes the blooper reel the only thing worth catching in those movies.
Today, there may be the same philosophy Peter Sellers had that a blooper reel can actually ruin a performance in a movie, even a comedic one. We’ll have to wait and see if outtakes resume, especially with “Anchorman 2” soon out. Will Ferrell may be the modern equivalent of Peter Sellers where he can make the end-credit blooper reel hilarious again and save it from becoming completely irrelevant.