One in a series of posts examining George Lucas’s Student Films
Lucas’s second film at USC, co-directed with frequent early-days collaborator Paul Golding, from 1965 (often erroneously reported as 1966). It's remarkable mainly because it's the first time Lucas married his old love of cars with his newfound love of cinema. Golding, who had been inspired by Lucas's Look at Life for his own Wipeout short, and Lucas cooperated on Herbie for a Film Aesthetics class instructed by Woody Omens, under whom the students worked in pairs. Says Golding:
“So George and I paired up. Since I was in charge of the stockroom, I was able to get us the Arriflex because we only had one. We went down to Figueroa and the first thing we saw were these reflections on these highly polished chrome parts of this Volkswagen. So we shot 100 feet of film on that; we took turns finding shots and then taking them. And when we showed it the next week, everybody went crazy. So Woody said why don’t I give you another 100 feet of film and you can make a movie. So we went back to Figueroa. The Volkswagen wasn’t there, but another car was. I edited it to a piece of music from a Miles Davis album that Herbie Hancock was a piano soloist on.” 1
At about 3 minutes, it's a kind of pre-cusor to the chrome-at-night aestheticism of American Graffiti. Credited as ‘Moments of reflection brought to you by Paul Golding and George Lucas‘, it's a meditative music video almost, in tune and time to Herbie Hancock's light-footed jazz score. Yes, the film derives its name from said same musician, not from the love bug which it predates. Streaks and flashes of light reflect off of the body, chrome trimmings and hub caps of a stationary car, creating an abstract world of blurry black and white shapes.
It's a nice piece of aestheticism, though beyond that it's largely unremarkable in the larger picture of Lucas's work, except of course for it being the first time Lucas married his love of cars and cinema. A marriage which would go on to become a trademark of his, manifesting in full for the first time in 1:42:08 (1966), then in THX 1138 (1971) and of course in American Graffiti (1973), until it finally got transposed into space in the shape of landspeeders and X-wings.
Golding, Paul (May 10, 2014). Interview on Video Junkie.