Mostly forgotten to time and mixed reviews, 1994’s high-energy period murder mystery farce “Radioland Murders” boasts a rather incredible line-up of comedic greats, including Christopher Lloyd, Michael McKean, Mary Stuart Masterson, Larry Miller, Stephen Tobolowsky, Ned Beatty, Michael Lerner, Bobcat Goldthwait and more.
The film is mainly remembered now for the involvement of “Star Wars” franchise creator George Lucas. Lucas began the development of the film in the 1970s and was originally attached as director before it got stuck in development hell for over twenty years.
Then in 1993, advances in CG imagery and digital mattes allowed the film to be done for a relatively low budget of around $10 million with the help of Lucasfilm-owned ILM. The project got the green light and was filmed in Wilmington, North Carolina from October to December of 1993 with “The Tall Guy” and “Bean” director Mel Smith helming and Lucas executive producing.
From the sounds of it, the shoot was chaotic, with Lucas himself apparently getting involved at one point in the pickups and reshoots according to a fairly recent interview with McKean. Answering questions for a “Clue” documentary, McKean spoke with It Looks So Fake Productions about his experience on the film which he dubs “cinematic pickup sticks… they just spilled it out onto the carpet”. He explains just how mad things got towards the end of the shoot:
“I don’t think anybody got any sleep on that show… the last ten days on that, they shot 100 pages of inserts and reshoots. They were working 24 hour days. They were working two units, George was directing one unit, and Mel was directing the other, and they were doing them simultaneously. Sometimes on the same stage. Sometimes they’d say cut over here, and they’d say action over here.”
The film takes place in 1939 as a whodunit murder mystery unfolds against the backdrop of the launch of a radio station. The film’s frantic pacing and tone pay homage to the screwball comedy films of the era. “Radioland Murders” is currently available to rent on VOD platforms.