Fast, Cheap & Out of Control

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Fast, Cheap & Out of Control
Theatrical release poster
Directed byErrol Morris
Produced byErrol Morris
Music byCaleb Sampson
CinematographyRobert Richardson
Edited byShondra Merrill
Karen Schmeer
Distributed bySony Pictures Classics
Release date
Running time
82 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$878,960 (USA)

Fast, Cheap & Out of Control is a 1997 film by documentary filmmaker Errol Morris. It profiles four subjects with extraordinary careers: Dave Hoover, who is a lion tamer; George Mendonça, who created topiaries at Green Animals Topiary Garden in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, including giraffes made out of boxwood; Ray Mendez, a hairless mole-rats expert; and Rodney Brooks, an M.I.T. scientist who has designed bug-like robots.

The film's musical score is by composer Caleb Sampson, and is performed by the Alloy Orchestra. It is characterized as circus-like, sometimes frenzied or haunting, and features percussion (particularly mallets and xylophones) to give it a metallic, technological or futuristic flavor.

In Fast, Cheap & Out of Control, Morris uses a camera technique he invented which allows the interview subject to face the interviewer directly while also looking directly into the camera, seemingly making eye contact with the audience. The invention is called the Interrotron. His four subjects narrate the film in their own words. The cinematographer, Robert Richardson, uses many of the same camera techniques he used in his other films, JFK and Natural Born Killers. In addition to 35 mm cameras, he also uses Super 8 mm film. The film is extensively cut with scenes from older films and television shows.

The film also uses footage from other sources, such as movie clips, documentary footage, and cartoons. Hoover's idol Clyde Beatty appears from portions of his film Darkest Africa and a malicious robot appears in scenes from Zombies of the Stratosphere. After using the first moments in the film to establish his characters one by one, with film clips that correspond to each subject, Morris then begins to mix footage relating to one subject with the narration of another, in order to correlate the themes which the four subjects have in common.

The title of the film is a play on the old engineer's adage that out of "fast," "cheap," and "reliable," you can only produce an end consumer product that is two of those three (the classic example is a car). Rodney Brooks, the robot scientist from MIT, wrote a paper in which he speculates that it might be more effective to send one hundred one-kilogram robots into space, instead of a single hundred-kilogram robot, replacing the need for reliability with chance and sheer numbers, as systems in nature have learned to do. The advantage would be that if a single robot malfunctioned or got destroyed, there would still be plenty of other working robots to do the exploring. The paper was fully titled "Fast, Cheap and Out of Control: A Robot Invasion of the Solar System",[1] and published in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society in 1989.

The film is available on VHS, DVD; the soundtrack by Caleb Sampson is available on CD.


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