A "Truman Show" precursor

By Donald Liebenson
Updated July 10, 1998 at 04:00 AM EDT
  • Movie

Makers of last August’s New Twilight Zone episode “Secret Service,” about a guy who discovers that his life is being broadcast on TV, aren’t the only ones who might have found Jim Carrey’s Truman Show a tad familiar. For an earlier inspiration, check out PAUL BARTEL’S THE SECRET CINEMA (1967, Rhino, unrated, $19.95), the 29-minute short that launched Eating Raoul director Bartel’s career and also features a character whose life is one big Candid Camera episode. Made for $5,000 on weekends, Cinema stars Amy Vane as an oblivious plain Jane who suffers indignities staged and filmed by her boyfriend, colleagues, and shrink.

Bartel, who also made the cult fave Death Race 2000, says he’s flattered by the imitation (if that’s what it was; Truman director Peter Weir was unavailable for comment). “I hope that my film inspired their film. That’s how art works.” Nevertheless, Bartel isn’t shy about saying he finds Cinema’s premise more compelling than its modern-day equivalent: “In my film, the people making the secret film are trying to drive Jane insane, which is more interesting to me. As I was watching Truman, I thought, Why would anyone tune in to watch a normal, middle-class life?”

The Truman Show

  • Movie
  • PG
  • Peter Weir