TRON – tape 1126

The tape opens with the end of a Daffy Duck cartoon.

then, the Disney Premiere of Tron, a film that was at once revolutionary and disappointing.

In many ways, it’s a miracle it got made at all. The state of the art of computer graphics in 1981 was very rudimentary, and although only certain elements of the movie were actually CGI, rendering each frame took so long that at some points it seemed like it would be impossible to render all the scenes in the time available.

A Recogniser

The scenes with live action characters inside the computer were shot on high-contrast black and white film. Their costumes had the circuitry drawn on in black, so when the film was shot, each frame was printed as an animation cel, and the highlights had to be drawn by hand, effectively making it a hand-drawn animated film. The resulting cels were rephotographed through different colour filters to get the resulting look.

CLU

I think a lot of Tron’s lasting appeal actually stems from Jeff Bridges. His Flynn is cool and cocky, with charm and charisma to burn. With a less interesting actor at its core, I wonder if Tron, for all its visual splendour, would have such a lasting appeal. (TRON Legacy I’m looking at you).

You see it particularly in the opening, real world segment. His Flynn is an arrested adolescent, always ready to crack a joke, much to the dismay of his sensible friends Alan (Bruce Boxleitner) and Lora (Cindy Morgan).

The villain of the piece is the wonderful David Warner as Ed Dillinger, the man who stole all of Flynn’s games and passed them off as his own, thus securing the fast track to CEO. But he’s clearly no slouch, because he did (apparently) create the Master Control Program (MCP) that runs the whole computer system and, in the computer world, keeps all the programs enslaved.

David Warner in Tron

Warner also plays his program alter ego Sark, and is the voice of the MCP. The MCP is ruthlessly persecuting programs who believe in the ‘users’ giving the story an interesting religious perspective. I even know of one person, back in the day, who would show it to his christian youth groups as a Christian allegory. I thought that was a bit strange at the time, but it absolutely fits.

I believe that MCP was a play on CP/M, the dominant operating system on computers at the time. And TRON itself is a command found in some versions of BASIC. It turns on tracing, and is therefore used to find problems in the computer, so thematically it even fits. If only the film had an evil doppelganger of TRON called TROFF.

Bruce Boxleitner as Tron

Tron (and Alan) are played by Bruce Boxleitner, more recently known for Babylon 5, and there’s another B5 alumnus in the film – Peter Jurasik plays an accounting program who doesn’t last long in the games grid.

Peter Jurasik in Tron

I love the slightly shonky ‘techno’ dialog that they occasionally use. “Come on you scuzzy data, be in there” “Somewhere in one of these memories is the evidence”

But for some reason, my favourite line in the whole film comes during this scene:

Now That is a Big Door

“Now that is a big door.”

I don’t know why that line in particular stuck with me, but it has. Along with “It’s all in ze wrists”

If I’m honest, the midsection of the movie is a bit of a boring runaround, with few chances for Bridges to crack jokes, although I do like “Did we make it?” “Yes” “Hurray for our side” when they evade the recognisers in the sail ship.

I do love that way that, when the MCP os finally defeated, he changes from the weird spinning CGI face thing to an old man, and when he fades out, you can hear the sound of a teletype. It’s a very subtle hint at the old origins of the program.

I can’t help thinking that the ‘evidence’ that gets printed out when Flynn returns to the real world is just a little bit too sparse for actually getting Dillinger ousted, and even if that happened, would the Encom board really appoint Flynn as CEO in his place?

The Evidence

But this is a fairy tale, and at the end, the peasant becomes the King, so I’ll let that one go.

I should also mention the music was written by Wendy Carlos, the pioneer of synth music, most famous for her album Switched On Bach. And there were also a couple of songs contributed by Journey, who had enough clout to insist that their credit was rendered in their trademark logotype.

Journey Credit

Also, it was shot in Super Panavision 70 – suck on that, Tarantino.

After the movie, there’s an ITN news bulletin and Thames News, including a short piece on the Reduced Shakespeare Company.

Then there’s an episode of The Young Doctors, the Australian soap.

Then, some Children’s ITV with Jan and Scally (I think)

Jan and Scally

On CITV there’s Bugs Bunny, Hot Dog, and a bizarre looking comedy show called Mike & Angelo.

the tape finishes before that programme does.

Adverts:

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2 comments

  1. I think as far as the themes of Tron go, it’s defiantly anti-communist, which slots neatly into the Reagan era it arose from. Hence all the pro-religious business, and Warner’s totalitarian alter-ego. I also think it’s a better film to just look at and drink in the lovingly-crafted visuals than it is to follow the plot and wrestle with those clunky themes.

    It seemed so exciting to me in 1982, so it’s weird that it was a flop, some say potential punters preferred to spend their coins at the arcades instead.

  2. I saw it at a drive-in along with “Condorman” of all things. Personally, as far as computer-created heroes with David Warner as a villain go I’d stick with “Freakazoid!”

    The thing I like best about the movie is how the Asian animators were credited with actual Asian lettering, although since the recording here was from ITV that bit was probably de-rezzed.

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