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18 Black-and-White Facts About Clerks

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In addition to introducing a cringe-worthy new definition for the word “snowball,” the raunchy independent comedy Clerks projected the anxieties of America’s downwardly mobile Generation X onto the screens of arthouse cinemas around the world. As they endured the tedium of life behind a cash register, Dante Hicks and Randal Graves pondered the lack of romantic and vocational direction in their lives. Well, Dante did. Randal just watched Return of the Jedi and mocked customers. The black-and-white indie film, released in 1994, launched the career of writer-director Kevin Smith, who was 23 years old when it was produced, and introduced his iconic characters, Jay and Silent Bob. Here are 18 things you might not know about Clerks.

1. KEVIN SMITH MET SOME OF HIS KEY COLLABORATORS DURING A VERY BRIEF FILM SCHOOL TENURE.

After seeing an ad in The Village Voice, Smith applied to an eight-month program at the Vancouver Film School. He always aimed to make an independent film, in the vein of Richard Linklater’s Slacker (1991), but he dropped out halfway through the program. “We didn’t do anything practical,” Smith told Film School Rejects. “Mostly it was teachers showing us films.”

He did meet his longtime producer Scott Mosier and cinematographer Dave Klein at the school. Afterwards, both came to New Jersey to help him make Clerks. And Smith took something else away from his time in Vancouver: According to the making-of feature of Clerks X, the 10th anniversary DVD package of the film, Smith and Mosier debated the ethics of blowing up the two Death Stars in the cafeteria of the film school, inspiring one of Clerks’ most memorable bits of dialogue.

2. SMITH WAS A CLERK AT THAT VERY QUICK STOP.

Upon graduating from high school, Smith worked a series of low-wage jobs near his hometown of Highlands, New Jersey. One of his longest stints was as a cashier at the Quick Stop in Leonardo. “I know that world because that’s all I’ve ever done,” Smith said in the Clerks X featurette. Upon returning from Vancouver, he was rehired by the Quick Stop and began working on the script for Clerks. He based Dante on himself and Randal on his friend, Bryan Johnson, who worked at RST Video next door.

3. SMITH MAXED OUT HIS CREDIT CARDS TO MAKE THE FILM.

Smith sold his comic book collection, received donations from family, and contributed a $3000 FEMA check from the loss of property in a nor’easter to make Clerks. But most of its $27,575 budget came from the 10 credit cards he maxed out. He learned about budgeting from Filmmaker Magazine; one article was particularly helpful because it included line item budgets of three independent movies.

4. THE FILM WAS ORIGINALLY A VEHICLE FOR SMITH’S HIGH SCHOOL COMEDY TROUPE.

Smith formed a comedy troupe in high school and wrote the part of Randal for himself and Dante for former troupe mate Ernest O’Donnell (even though Dante was the clerk Smith based on himself). But O’Donnell didn’t seem to take the project seriously, according to Clerks X.

Smith realized he’d exhaust himself working both as the director and one of the main characters, so he recruited actors from the local community theater scene. This is how he met Brian O’Halloran (Dante) and Marilyn Ghigliotti (Veronica). Jeff Anderson was a friend who helped Smith during auditions by reading parts opposite the actors auditioning. When Smith decided to vacate the part of Randal, he offered it to Anderson and took on the less demanding role of Silent Bob. O’Donnell was cast as a fitness-obsessed customer.

5. FRIENDS, FAMILY MEMBERS, AND CREW FILLED OUT THE SMALL PARTS.

Smith’s sister, Virginia, is the customer who discusses her job of manually inseminating chickens. His mom is the woman sorting through the jugs of milk for one with a later expiration date. His longtime friend Walt Flanagan played four different customers; Scott Mosier played two.

6. IT WAS SHOT AT NIGHT.

The owner of the Quick Stop and RST Video gave Smith permission to film at night. Clerks was shot over 21 consecutive days in 1993, after the stores closed. (Smith wrote a plot point to explain the lack of window lighting. When Dante opens the store, he discovers a vandal has jammed gum into the locks on the shutters.) Each night Smith and his crew had to essentially disassemble the store, moving shelving and unplugging refrigerators to make room for equipment, then reassemble everything the next morning, according to Clerks X.

The cast all worked day jobs, too: O’Halloran in manufacturing, Anderson in the mailroom of AT&T, Ghigliotti as a hair stylist, Mewes as a roofer, and Smith in the very store where they filmed. All suffered from sleep deprivation. The cast and crew did get to eat from the shelves of the Quick Stop; the store is credited with “catering” in the film’s credits.

7. SMITH PLANNED AHEAD TO GET A SHOT OF A CAT DEFECATING.

In one scene, the cat that hangs around the store leaps onto the counter and defecates into a litter box in front of a customer. According to the DVD commentary track, Smith borrowed a friend’s cat for the scene. The owner hid his litter box for a day, hoping he’d rush to it as soon as it was presented on the store counter. This worked. When presenting the film at the 1994 Sundance Film Festival, Smith joked that this is why Clerks didn’t have the Humane Society’s “no animals were harmed …” seal of approval.

8. ANDERSON WAS UNCOMFORTABLE WITH ONE BIT OF DIALOGUE.

In the only scene in which Randal does any work, the clerk phones the distributor for the video store and reads off a list of colorful pornography titles in front of a small child. Knowing that his mother would see the film, Anderson asked Smith to eliminate a few of the raunchier titles; Smith made handed the list back to Anderson—with a few titles added.

9. SMITH COULDN’T AFFORD TO SHOOT ONE SCENE HE WROTE.

Dante and Randal close the stores to attend the funeral of a classmate. In the next scene, mourners pelt them with stones as they drive off. Back at the store, Dante chides Randal for knocking over the casket. This scene where this happened was scripted: When Randal gets bored at the funeral, Dante throws him the keys to his car, which land in the cleavage of the deceased. Randal tries to retrieve them and gets assaulted by the grieving father. Smith couldn’t afford to rent a funeral home, but for Clerks X, he recreated the scene in the style of the short-lived animated Clerks TV show.

10. JASON MEWES WAS SURPRISINGLY CAMERA SHY.

Smith wrote the part of Jay, the much more vocal half of the loitering pair of drug dealers, for his friend Jason Mewes, who was known for his loud, outrageous behavior. “When we did Clerks I was 18/19,” Mewes told The Skinny. “That’s how I used to act, exactly. I didn’t have any filter.” Yet Mewes was surprisingly uncomfortable in front of the camera.

“Kevin used to make fun of me because he said when he met me that someone should put me in a movie,” Mewes told The Sheaf. “But when I got on camera, man, I just froze and needed everyone out of there. I warmed up to it eventually but that wasn’t really until Mallrats.” In order to help ease his nervousness, the crew continually bought him six-packs from the corner bar. Smith also cleared the set to film the scene when Jay dances to a boom box. In the script, Jay says the line that convinces Dante to try to salvage his relationship with Veronica. (“You know, there’s a million fine-looking women in the world, dude. But they don’t all bring you lasagna at work. Most of them just cheat on you.”) Mewes didn’t think he could deliver it, so Smith stepped in. This begat a theme in Smith’s films where Silent Bob speaks up at important moments.

11. IT LED TO A MARRIAGE.

Sparks flew between Anderson and Lisa Spoonauer, who played Dante’s ill-fated ex Caitlin. Shortly after the three-week shoot, the two became engaged. Neither the marriage nor Spoonauer’s acting ambitions outlasted the 1990s though: She has only one other film credit to her name, an obscure 1997 movie called Bartender. Anderson, to whom she stayed married until 1999, says she quit acting after losing out on a part in a Nicolas Cage film. She hasn’t been interviewed since and didn’t participate in the DVD bonuses for Clerks X.

12. NO ONE SHOWED UP TO THE PREMIERE.

Smith secured a place for Clerks at the 1993 Independent Feature Film Market, an event held at New York City’s Angelika Film Center. On the Clerks X featurette, Smith said he was “crestfallen” that the Sunday night screening attracted few viewers beyond cast and crew. Fortunately, one of the moviegoers was Bob Hawk, an independent film consultant who served on the advisory selection committee of the Sundance Film Festival. Hawk touted the film to friends in the indie cinema world and helped land it a place at Sundance.

13. IN THE ORIGINAL VERSION, DANTE DIES.

In the version shown at the IFFM, a robber comes in after closing and shoots and kills Dante. “I hated that ending,” Brian O’Halloran told Rolling Stone. “I just thought it was too quick of a twist.” Smith admitted he didn’t know how to end the film. Due to the criticism of several early viewers, Smith recut the film to end at the closing of the store.

14. HARVEY WEINSTEIN DIDN’T LIKE THE MOVIE ... AT LEAST NOT AT FIRST.

A video copy of Clerks made its way to Miramax. According to Clerks X, company co-founder Harvey Weinstein watched 10 minutes and decided to pass on it. Some of his staff speculated that Weinstein, then a heavy smoker, was turned off by the gum company representative’s anti-tobacco tirade. Younger Miramax staffers, however, enjoyed it and convinced Weinstein to attend its screening at the 1994 Sundance Film Festival.

After an enthusiastic audience response, Weinstein asked Smith and Mosier to meet him at a restaurant across the street. “We sit down and he’s just like, ‘Boy, that’s a f*cking good movie. We’re going to take that movie, we’re going to put it in a f*cking multiplex, put a f*cking soundtrack on it, and f*cking kids are gonna come see it,’” Smith recounted to WIRED. “And me and Scott were just like, ‘F*ckin’ A, man.’”

15. THE SOUNDTRACK COST MORE THAN THE FILM.

Once it was picked up by Miramax, Clerks got an alt-rock soundtrack featuring Bad Religion, Stabbing Westward, and Soul Asylum. Licensing the songs cost more than producing the film.

16. ONE OF O.J. SIMPSON’S ATTORNEYS DEFENDED IT TO THE MPAA.

The Motion Picture Association of America slapped Clerks with an NC-17 rating, solely because of its crass dialogue. This would have doomed the film, as few theaters show films rated NC-17. So Miramax hired famed lawyer Alan Dershowitz to plead their case to the MPAA, which relented and gave it an R rating.

17. THE QUICK STOP IS STILL OPERATING.

You can still buy eggs, milk, and cigarettes at The Quick Stop at 58 Leonard Avenue in Leonardo, New Jersey. There is some Smith memorabilia on the walls and fans have been known to take photographs posing as Jay and Silent Bob outside. However, RST Video—like many video stores in the age of Netflix—is no more.

18. THE FILM IS CITED IN A PSYCHOLOGIST’S BOOK ON GENERATIONS.

Dr. Jean M. Twenge, an associate professor of psychology at San Diego State University, cites Clerks a few times in her pop culture-savvy 2006 book Generation Me, about the more individualistic mores of Americans born since the 1970s. She says Smith’s characters represent Generation X’s crassness and disregard for societal expectations. Twenge considers Clerks “a pretty accurate illustration of how young people talk, with about two swear words in every line.”

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10 Regional Twists on Trick-or-Treating
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Walk around any given American neighborhood on the night of October 31, and you’ll likely hear choruses of "trick-or-treat" chiming through the area. The sing-songy phrase is synonymous with Halloween in some parts of the world, but it's not the only way kids get sweets from their neighbors this time of year. From the Philippines to the American Midwest, here are some regional door-to-door traditions you may not have heard of.

1. PANGANGALULUWA // THE PHILIPPINES

Rice cakes wrapped in leaves.
Suman

The earliest form of trick-or-treating on Halloween can be traced back to Europe in the Middle Ages. Kids would don costumes and go door-to-door offering prayers for dead relatives in exchange for snacks called "soul cakes." When the cake was eaten, tradition held that a soul was ferried from purgatory into heaven. Souling has disappeared from Ireland and the UK, but a version of it lives on halfway across the world in the Philippines. During All Saints Day on November 1, Filipino children taking part in Pangangaluluwa will visit local houses and sing hymns for alms. The songs often relate to souls in purgatory, and carolers will play the part of the souls by asking for prayers. Kids are sometimes given rice cakes called suman, a callback to the soul cakes from centuries past.

2. PÃO-POR-DEUS // PORTUGAL

Raw dough.
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Instead of trick-or-treating, kids in Portugal go door-to-door saying pão-por-deus ("bread for god") in exchange for goodies on All Saints Day. Some homeowners give out money or candy, while others offer actual baked goods.

3. HALLOWEEN APPLES // WESTERN CANADA

Kids trick-or-treating.
iStock

If they're not calling out "trick-or-treat" on their neighbors’ doorsteps on Halloween night, you may hear children in western Canada saying "Halloween apples!" The phrase is left over from a time when apples were a common Halloween treat and giving out loose items on the holiday wasn't considered taboo.

4. ST. MARTIN'S DAY // THE NETHERLANDS

The Dutch wait several days after Halloween to do their own take on trick-or-treating. On the night of November 11, St. Martin's Day, children in the Netherlands take to the streets with their homemade lanterns in hand. These lanterns were traditionally carved from beets or turnips, but today they’re most commonly made from paper. And the kids who partake don’t get away with shouting a few words at each home they visit—they’re expected to sing songs to receive their sugary rewards.

5. A PENNY FOR THE GUY // THE UK

Guy Fawkes Night celebration.

Peter Trimming, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

Guy Fawkes Night is seen by some as the English Protestants’ answer to the Catholic holidays associated with Halloween, so it makes sense that it has its own spin on trick-or-treating. November 5 marks the day of Guy Fawkes’s failed assassination attempt on King James as part of the Gunpowder Plot. To celebrate the occasion, children will tour the neighborhood asking for "a penny for the guy." Sometimes they’ll carry pictures of the would-be-assassin which are burned in the bonfires lit later at night.

6. TRICKS FOR TREATS // ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI

Kids knocking on a door in costume.
iStock

If kids in the St. Louis area hope to go home with a full bag of candy on Halloween, they must be willing to tickle some funny bones. Saying "tricks-for-treats" followed by a joke replaces the classic trick-or-treat mantra in this Midwestern city. There’s no criteria for the quality or the subject of the joke, but spooky material (What’s a skeleton’s favorite instrument? The trombone!) earns brownie points.

7. ME DA PARA MI CALAVERITA // MEXICO

Sugar skulls with decoration.
iStock

While Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is completely separate from Halloween, the two holidays share a few things in common. Mexicans celebrate the day by dressing up, eating sweet treats, and in some parts of the country, going house-to-house. Children knocking on doors will say "me da para mi calaverita" or "give me money for my little skull," a reference to the decorated sugar skulls sold in markets at this time of year.

8. HALLOWEEN! // QUEBEC, CANADA

Kids dressed up for Halloween.
iStock

Trick-or-treaters like to keep things simple in the Canadian province of Quebec. In place of the alliterative exclamation, they shout “Halloween!” at each home they visit. Adults local to the area might remember saying "la charité s’il-vous-plaît "(French for “charity, please”) when going door-to-door on Halloween, but this saying has largely fallen out of fashion.

9. SWEET OR SOUR // GERMANY

Little girl trick-or-treating.
iStock

Halloween is only just beginning to gain popularity in Germany. Where it is celebrated, the holiday looks a lot like it does in America, but Germans have managed to inject some local character into their version of trick-or-treat. In exchange for candy, kids sometimes sing out "süß oder saures"—or "sweet and sour" in English.

10. TRIQUI, TRIQUI HALLOWEEN // COLOMBIA

Kids dressed up for Halloween.
Rubí Flórez, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Kids in Colombia anticipate dressing up and prowling the streets on Halloween just as much as kids do in the States. There are a few significant variations on the annual tradition: Instead of visiting private residencies, they're more likely to ask for candy from store owners and the security guards of apartment buildings. And instead of saying trick-or-treat, they recite this Spanish rhyme:

Triqui triqui Halloween
Quiero dulces para mí
Si no hay dulces para mí
Se le crece la naríz

In short, it means that if the grownups don't give the kids the candy they're asking for, their noses will grow. Tricky, tricky indeed

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11 Thrilling Facts About Dial M for Murder
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In 1953 Alfred Hitchcock was looking for a new project after a film he’d been developing fell through. Sensing a need to go back to his safe space of murderous thrillers, he opted to adapt a stage play that had already proved to be a hit on British television. Though he had no particular attachment to the project, Dial M for Murder would ultimately become one of Hitchcock’s best-known—and best-loved—classics.

From the film’s use of 3D to the debut of Grace Kelly in Hitchcock’s filmography to a pivotal murder sequence that made the director lose weight from stress, here are 11 facts about Dial M for Murder.

1. IT’S BASED ON A STAGE PLAY.

Dial M for Murder is, in terms of locations and number of characters, a relatively sparse film that barely leaves its primary set. This is because it was based on a stage play by Frederick Knott, which premiered as a BBC TV special in 1952 and later opened at London’s Westminster Theater and, eventually, Broadway. After seeing the BBC production, producer Sir Alexander Korda purchased the rights to make the film version, and later sold them to Warner Bros. for $75,000.

2. ALFRED HITCHCOCK THOUGHT HE WAS “COASTING” WHEN HE MADE THE FILM.

By 1953, when Dial M for Murder arrived at Warner Bros., Hitchcock was developing a project called The Bramble Bush, the story of a man who steals another man’s passport, only to find out that the original owner is wanted for murder. Hitchcock wrestled with the story for a while, but was never satisfied with it. When Dial M for Murder landed at the studio, Hitchcock knew the play had been a hit, and opted to direct it. As he later told fellow director François Truffaut, he found the film to be “coasting, playing it safe,” as he was already known as a thriller filmmaker.

3. IT’S HITCHCOCK’S ONLY 3D FILM.

In the early 1950s, the 3D movie craze was raging, and Warner Bros. was eager to pair it with the fame of Hitchcock. So, the director was ordered to use the process on Dial M for Murder. This meant Hitchcock had to work with the giant cameras necessary for the process, but there was also a trade-off that makes the film fascinating—even in 2D. In order to make the film look appropriately interesting in 3D, Hitchcock added a pit into the floor of the set, so the camera could move at lower angles and captures objects like lamps in the foreground. As a result, the film looks like no other Hitchcock ever shot, particularly for the infamous scissors murder that’s the film's thrilling centerpiece. Unfortunately, by the time Dial M for Murder was released in 1954, the 3D fad was dying out, so the film was shown in 2D at most screenings.

4. IT WAS HITCHCOCK’S FIRST FILM WITH GRACE KELLY.

Of all of the iconic blonde stars Hitchcock cast in his films, the most famous is almost undoubtedly Grace Kelly, the actress-turned-princess who first joined him for this film. Hitchcock once described Kelly as a "rare thing in movies ... fit for any leading-lady part,” and it was said he had the easiest working relationship with her of any star. They worked so well together that they went on to make two more films, Rear Window in 1954 and To Catch a Thief in 1955.

5. IT TAKES PLACE ALMOST ENTIRELY INDOORS.

Because Dial M for Murder is based on a stage play, the original script had very little in the way of outdoor set pieces. Hitchcock wanted to keep it that way, as he later explained to Truffaut:

“I’ve got a theory on the way they make pictures based on stage plays; they did it with silent pictures, too. Many filmmakers would take a stage play and say, ‘I’m going to make this into a film.’ Then they would begin to ‘open it up.’ In other words, on the stage it was all confined to one set, and the idea was to do something that would take it away from the confined stage setting.”

Hitchcock wanted to keep the confinement intact, so almost all of the action in the film takes place indoors, largely in the Wendices' apartment. This adds to the intimacy and tension.

6. HITCHCOCK PERSONALLY CHOSE EVERY PROP.

Hitchcock was always known as a meticulous director obsessed with detail, but on Dial M for Murder he was particularly detail-oriented, in part because the 3D cameras were going to capture objects in a way his other films hadn’t. As a result, he selected all of the objects in the Wendice apartment himself, and even had a giant false telephone dial made for the famous “M” close-up in the title sequence.

7. KELLY’S WARDROBE GROWS DARKER ON PURPOSE.

Grace Kelly in 'Dial M for Murder' (1954)
Warner Home Video

Hitchcock’s exacting eye also led to an elaborate “color experiment” to portray the psychological condition of Kelly’s character. As the film begins, the colors she wears are all very bright, suggesting a happy life in which she doesn’t suspect anything is wrong. As the film grows darker for her, to the point that she’s framed for murder, the wardrobe grows darker and “more somber,” as Hitchcock put it.

8. KELLY WON A PARTICULAR WARDROBE ARGUMENT.

For the scene in which Swann (Anthony Dawson) attempts to murder Margot (Kelly) by strangling her (until she manages to stab him with a pair of scissors), Hitchcock had another exacting wardrobe request. He had an elegant velvet robe made for Kelly, hoping to create interesting textural effects as the lights and shadows played off the fabric while she fought for her life. Kelly reasoned that, since Margot was alone in the apartment (as far as she knew) and was only getting out of bed to answer the phone, she wouldn’t bother to put on a robe.

“I said I wouldn't put on anything at all, that I'd just get up and go to the phone in my nightgown. And [Hitchcock] admitted that was better, and that's the way it was done,” Kelly later recalled.

9. HITCHCOCK WAS SO NERVOUS ABOUT THE PIVOTAL SCENE THAT HE LOST WEIGHT.

Dial M for Murder was shot in just 36 days, but the director took special care with one scene in particular: the murder sequence in which Margot stabs Swann with the scissors. Not only was it a key scene in the film, but it was also a moment that required particular care to make the 3D effects work. Hitchcock agonized over the scene to such a degree that he apparently lost 20 pounds during filming.

"This is nicely done but there wasn't enough gleam to the scissors, and a murder without gleaming scissors is like asparagus without the hollandaise sauce—tasteless,” he reportedly said after one take.

10. HITCHCOCK MAKES HIS CAMEO IN A PHOTOGRAPH.

Hitchcock became known throughout his career for making cameos in his films, ranging from the very subtle (you can see his silhouette in neon outside the window in Rope) to the more elaborate (missing the bus in the opening sequence of North by Northwest). In Dial M for Murder, his cameo falls somewhere in between. He appears in a class reunion photo in the Wendice apartment, seated at a banquet table among other men.

11. IT’S BEEN REMADE FOUR TIMES.

Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow in 'A Perfect Murder' (1998)
Warner Bros.

Dial M for Murder was a film adaptation of a stage play that had also already been adapted for television in Britain, and it proved popular enough that four more adaptations followed. In 1958, NBC broadcast a Hallmark Hall of Fame production, in which both Anthony Dawson and John Williams returned to play Swann and Chief Inspector Hubbard, respectively. A 1967 ABC television production of the play co-starred Laurence Harvey and Diane Cilento. A television movie starring Angie Dickinson and Christopher Plummer was produced in 1981, and in 1998 the play served as the inspiration for the film A Perfect Murder, starring Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow.

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