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One of the best things about fictional environments is that we can project our dreams on them.  And kids of the 1970s universally projected dreams onto The Brady Bunch house.

We all wanted to live there.  It was grander, fancier, and more modern than our own houses.  Even that oh-so-fake backyard, with its Astroturfed lawn and false background blue sky, was very inviting in its sterility:  it felt safe.

So, one of the worst things that can happen with a beloved fictional environment is when that fantasy is punctured.  Maybe you visit the set and see it in all its blandness.  Or you see production stills of the set–lit and empty.  Or the rare photo of a studio guy pushing a broom across the set.  The fantasy is dead.

Or–two dreams collide.

May I Borrow Your Set, Please?

When I first heard that the IMF (Impossible Missions Force) from the original Mission: Impossible TV show had invaded The Brady Bunch house, I thought it was a joke.  I thought it had to be a stupid mash-up, where the IMF barges in with guns and– Cut to a shot of Cindy Brady holding a cap gun!  Not so.

Both were filmed at Paramount Studios in the late 1960s and early 1970s, so sets would have been reused.  Very Brady Blog shows us another Paramount set shared by the two shows.

In the MI episode “Double Dead,” aired on February 12, 1972, the IMF enter a house that every person of a certain age will immediately know.  Directly below, actors Linda Day George and Paul Koslo, enter The Brady Bunch house.  Readers will recognize the green divider, wide door, red tile floor, and rock wall.  Even the Chinese cabinet to the right and the little bull sculpture on the divider are the same.  Below that, we see Alice answering the door.


Brady Bunch Interior Doorway


And moving along toward the familiar Brady Bunch staircase area, we see that the staircase itself has been removed.  But we can still make out the colored glass window above the stairs and rock fireplace.

Brady Bunch House Staircase


Here is a YouTube of that clip from MI:

For most of movie history, set backdrops had been opaque (non-transparent) sheets of fabric stitched together to form larger, set-sized sheets.

In 1950, photographer M.B. Paul was profiled creating transparent set backdrops from actual photographs.  Because they were transparent, they could be lit from the back as well as the front.

Click to Enlarge to 956 x 721 px:

Transparent Manhattan Movie Backdrop 1950

Transparent Manhattan Movie Backdrop 1950

The backdrop below may be from a movie called “Beloved Over All,” later retitled, “Our Very Own.”

Backyard Movie Set Transparency Backdrop 1950

Backyard Movie Set Transparency Backdrop 1950



Source:  Popular Mechanics January 1950

Its proper name was the Mark VII Attack Teacher and it was housed in a 3 story building in New London, CT.

In an age before computers could process graphics, vehicle and nautical simulations had to be done with models.

Trainees sat in a submarine mockup on the second floor, with a periscope jutting up into the third floor.  On that third floor was a terrazzo tile floor–each square representing 1,000 yards–with remote control wired cars made up to look like little submarines.

Operators in the control room would plot enemy courses with the aid of mainframe computers.

The model was so accurate that it even duplicated the curvature of the Earth.

Click to Enlarge to 895 x 607 px:

Dry Land Submarine Trainer 1950

Dry Land Submarine Trainer 1950

Represented below is a closeup of the terrazzo floor, showing that one ship (#5) is within 2,000 yards of the periscope.  Note wires extending from ships.


Submarine Trainer Simulation Floor 1950

Submarine Trainer Simulation Floor 1950

Source:  Popular Science January 1950

Disneyland Main Street Forced Perspective

Forced perspective is one of those common photographic illusions.  Let’s say you go to the Leaning Tower of Pisa and position your spouse so that he/she is pretending to hold up the tower with their hand.  That’s forced perspective.

But another way that forced perspective is used is to give objects and buildings the illusion of height.

Our brains already know that as object recede in the distance, they get smaller.  So, what forced perspective does is pre-empt that by making those faraway objects even smaller.

Matterhorn’s Forced Perspective

Disneyland is famous for forced perspective.  At the Matterhorn, larger trees are placed lower down.  Farther up, the trees decrease in size.  Up to the “treeline” of the Matterhorn, two foot pinion trees from Arizon were planted.  This makes the 147-foot mountain look–if not 14,000 feet tall–at least something bigger than 147 feet.

Main Street Forced Perspective

On Disneyland’s Main Street, forced perspective means that each story farther up has smaller windows, smaller awnings, smaller cornices, and so on.

It’s not a complete illusion.  It never is.  But it does trick you subconscious mind at first glance.

Disneyland Main Street Drawing

One of the most prominent, yet ignored, features of Disneyland is its Main Street. Even though thousands of people walk through Main Street every day, it is vastly ignored.  Too bad, because Main Street is one of the best features of Disneyland.

The main elevations for Main Street were drawn up by a former art director at 20th Century Fox named Marvin Davis. In 1953, Davis produced drawings for the Main Street buildings that would eventually become the core of Disneyland. Most of these buildings are either two or three stories with mansard roofs and false fronts.  This is the architecture of many small towns from the turn of the 20th century.

Sources of Inspiration for Disneyland Main Street

Disneyland Main Street Drawing

It is often said that the Main Street of Disneyland, and perhaps the entire concept of hearkening back to some nostalgic idea of the past, is based on Walt Disney’s memories of growing up in Marceline, Missouri. While this may be true, it is worth noting that much of the inspiration came from other artists and art directors.

One of the Disney art directors, Harper Goff, contributed additional pencil drawings that expanded Main Street’s size and looked remarkably like the downtown of Ft. Collins, Colorado, where Goff had been raised. At the time that Disneyland opened in 1955, a 40-year-old adult bringing his or her child to the park would have been born in 1915. This grown-up visitor would have remembered this style from the town of his or her childhood. If not that, the visitor’s thoughts were imbued with this culture through films of the day, most notably Meet Me in St. Louis.

What is the Fate of Disney’s Main Street?

It is a style that is no longer part of contemporary visitors’ memories or their parents or possibly even grandparents. Yet it is such an integral part of Disneyland that it would be difficult for Disney to tear this out replace it with something else.

The true face of the James Bond series, at least throughout the Sixties and Seventies, isn’t Sean Connery.  It’s a German-born set designer named Ken Adam.

Ken Adam

Born in Berlin in 1921, trained as an architect in London, Adam’s hand has influenced film style through movies such as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Ipcress File, Goldfinger, Dr. Strangelove, and countless others.  But his greatest, or at least his most costly, achievement was the volcano redoubt in the 5th offering of the Bond series:  You Only Live Twice.

From Fleming’s Pen to Pinewood

In the movie version, James Bond infiltrates evil villain Blofeld’s secret hideaway located inside of a hollowed-out volcano in Japan.  Complete with a sliding door on top.

You Only Live Twice Cover

Published in 1964, Ian Fleming’s novel had nothing of the sort.  It wasn’t a volcano, and it wasn’t Blofeld’s.  It was a castle that belonged to a Doctor Shatterhand.  In the novel, Bond views the castle:

…the soaring black-and-gold pile reared monstrously over him, and the diminishing curved roofs of the storeys were like vast bat-wings against the stars.

Clearly, Adam and film director Lewis Gilbert had to come up with something that would better appeal to late-Sixties sensibilities.  Something bigger.  Something more contemporary.

You Only Live Twice Volcano

The Volcano Rises

Even though exterior shots show a real volcano, Pinewood Studios, about 20 miles from London, became the location for building the interiors of Blofeld’s volcano.  Cost was projected at $1 million.

The volcano could be seen from miles around the Pinewood studios.  It rose 120 feet and consisted of a movable helicopter platform, a working monorail system, a rocket launching complete with a full-scale rocket.

It is estimated that 700 tons of structural steel and 200 miles of tubular steel were used.  But it wasn’t a permanent structure.  They also used a quarter million square yards of canvas and 200 tons of plaster.

You Only Live Twice Volcano

The Volcano’s Legacy

The volcano set wasn’t by any means the first grandiose Bond set.  The Ft. Knox set in Goldfinger rivalled it–but it was certainly the biggest.  It opened the way for an era of large-volume sets such as Adam’s supertanker set in The Spy Who Loved Me.

Short Video…

See a short video about the volcano hideout from You Only Live Twice.

Fake White House in Maryland

In an April 5, 1982 TIME magazine article, it was mentioned that a fake White House and Blair House (the little auxiliary house across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House) were going to be built in Beltsville, Maryland:

Thomas Jefferson, the architect President, designed parts of the White House. Now with Ronald Reagan, the thespian President, there are plans to build a movie-set White House in the Maryland suburbs. The Secret Service plans to put up the mock White House (and a false-front Blair House, the nearby VIP guest quarters) so that its burgeoning presidential security force can properly learn the particulars of the presidential mansion. With 3,000 recruits being trained this year, maneuvers are difficult to conduct around 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Explains Special Agent Mary Ann Gordon: “It’s better if you know the lay of the land.”

The new project at the Secret Service’s training center in Beltsville, Md., may not be finished for years. Nor will a full-scale chimera come cheap. The Hollywood White House is budgeted at $381,000—just about as much as it cost to build the original 182 years ago.

Pulling up a map on Microsoft’s Bing search engine, I find this Secret Service training area–it’s very clear.  But the White House part of it is not clear.  I have to guess that the photograph at the top is of the White House, due to the general shape of the building and the circular driveway.  If so, that’s a pretty unconvincing White House.

Secret Service Training Facility, Beltsville, Maryland