Penn & Teller Get Killed (1989)

R | 89 mins | Comedy | 22 September 1989

Director:

Arthur Penn

Writers:

Penn Jillette, Teller

Producer:

Arthur Penn

Cinematographer:

Jan Weincke

Editor:

Jeffrey Wolf

Production Designer:

John Arnone

Production Company:

Lorimar Film Entertainment
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HISTORY

To hide the fact that Caitlin Clarke was playing two roles, both her name and the name of a nonexistent actress, “Celia McGuire,” were given star billing in opening credits.
       According to a 2 Nov 1989 Rolling Stone article, stars Penn Jillette and Teller wrote the ending of their screenplay first, and worked backwards to fill in the rest. The partners claimed the picture’s premise was “a joke about sequels.” Executives wanted them to work with a music video director, but they held out for a filmmaker with more prestigious credentials.
       A 26 Apr 1988 HR production chart announced that principal photography began 18 Apr 1988 on Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, NJ. The producers turned a nearby meatpacking plant into a studio, where sets were built for a casino, a “sleazy” hotel, and an airline terminal. Filming was also done in New York City. A 4 Dec 1988 NYT Magazine article added that the film’s budget was in the $8 - $9 million range, and principal photography was completed two days early, after nine weeks on location.
       A 2 Aug 1989 Var news item noted that the picture was invited to screen at the fourteenth annual Toronto Festival of Festivals, held 7-16 Sep 1989.
       The 2 Nov 1989 Rolling Stone reported that the movie’s release was delayed nine months when Warner Bros. purchased Lorimar Film Entertainment. A column in the 27 Oct 1989 LAHExam revealed “it's clear Warner Bros. has dumped the movie Penn & Teller Get Killed.” Penn Gillette told the newspaper, “I think Warner Bros. was just plain ashamed ... More Less

To hide the fact that Caitlin Clarke was playing two roles, both her name and the name of a nonexistent actress, “Celia McGuire,” were given star billing in opening credits.
       According to a 2 Nov 1989 Rolling Stone article, stars Penn Jillette and Teller wrote the ending of their screenplay first, and worked backwards to fill in the rest. The partners claimed the picture’s premise was “a joke about sequels.” Executives wanted them to work with a music video director, but they held out for a filmmaker with more prestigious credentials.
       A 26 Apr 1988 HR production chart announced that principal photography began 18 Apr 1988 on Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, NJ. The producers turned a nearby meatpacking plant into a studio, where sets were built for a casino, a “sleazy” hotel, and an airline terminal. Filming was also done in New York City. A 4 Dec 1988 NYT Magazine article added that the film’s budget was in the $8 - $9 million range, and principal photography was completed two days early, after nine weeks on location.
       A 2 Aug 1989 Var news item noted that the picture was invited to screen at the fourteenth annual Toronto Festival of Festivals, held 7-16 Sep 1989.
       The 2 Nov 1989 Rolling Stone reported that the movie’s release was delayed nine months when Warner Bros. purchased Lorimar Film Entertainment. A column in the 27 Oct 1989 LAHExam revealed “it's clear Warner Bros. has dumped the movie Penn & Teller Get Killed.” Penn Gillette told the newspaper, “I think Warner Bros. was just plain ashamed of this movie.”
       End credits state: “‘Penn’s Wish’ video created by Greg Dougherty and Steve Stein,” and “Shot entirely on location in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and New York City.” The following acknowledgments appear in end credits: “The Producers would like to thank: The Citizens of Atlantic City & Brigantine, NJ; the Atlantic City Police Department; NYC Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting.” End credits state: “Clips provided by NBC News: ‘Penn and Teller Go Public’ courtesy of KCET Los Angeles; ‘Cruel Tricks for Dear Friends’ courtesy of Lorimar Distribution, Inc.; ‘The Search for Houdini’ courtesy of Multimedia Entertainment, Inc. & Tribune Entertainment, Inc.; ‘Penn & Teller’s Invisible Thread’ courtesy of Showtime Networks Inc.” More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Hollywood Reporter
26 Apr 1988
---
LAHExam
27 Oct 1989.
---
Los Angeles Times
21 Oct 1989
Calendar, p. 3.
New York Times
22 Sep 1989
p. 10.
New York Times Magazine
4 Dec 1988
p. 82-84.
Rolling Stone
2 Nov 1989
p. 38.
Variety
2 Aug 1989
---
Variety
13 Sep 1989
p. 36.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Lorimar Film Entertainment Presents
An Arthur Penn Film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
DGA trainee
2d 2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Co-prod
WRITERS
Wrt
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Still photog
Best boy
Key grip
Dolly grip
Best boy grip
Video op
Video coord
Cams provided by
Lighting equip provided by
Video equip by
ART DIRECTOR
Prod des
FILM EDITORS
Assoc film ed
2d asst film ed
Apprentice film ed
Negative cutting
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Key set dresser
Prop master
Asst prop master
Asst prop master
Const coord
Key set builder
Scenic artist
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward supv
Asst ward supv
Asst to cost des
MUSIC
Mus ed
Asst mus ed
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom op
Supv sd ed
Sd ed
Re-rec mixer
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Pos prod facility
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff coord
Main & end titles and opt eff by
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hair des
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Casting
Loc mgr
Prod office coord
Loc supv
Asst to Timothy Marx
Asst to Arthur Penn
Asst prod office coord
Locs coord
Atlantic City liaison
Scr supv
Transportation capt
Transportation co-capt
Extras casting
Prod auditor
Asst auditor
Pub mgr
Unit pub
Casting asst
Commander of covert activities
Prod aide
Prod aide
Prod aide
Prod aide
Prod aide
Prod aide
Prod aide
Prod aide
Prod aide
Prod aide
Catering
Billboards created by
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
COLOR PERSONNEL
SOURCES
SONGS
"Subterranean Homesick Blues," written by Bob Dylan, ©1965 Warner Bros. Inc., all rights reserved
"American Pie," written by Don McLean, © 1971 Mayday Music, Inc. and Yahweh Tunes, Inc., all rights reserved
"I Started A Joke," performed by The Bee Gees, written by Barry Gibb. Robin Gibb & Maurice Gibb,©1968 & 1975 Abigail Music Ltd. Admin. In U. S. & Canada by Casserole Music, Inc. & Unichappell Music, Inc., International Copyright Secured, all rights reserved, courtesy of Polygram Special Projects, a division of Polygram Records, Inc.
+
SONGS
"Subterranean Homesick Blues," written by Bob Dylan, ©1965 Warner Bros. Inc., all rights reserved
"American Pie," written by Don McLean, © 1971 Mayday Music, Inc. and Yahweh Tunes, Inc., all rights reserved
"I Started A Joke," performed by The Bee Gees, written by Barry Gibb. Robin Gibb & Maurice Gibb,©1968 & 1975 Abigail Music Ltd. Admin. In U. S. & Canada by Casserole Music, Inc. & Unichappell Music, Inc., International Copyright Secured, all rights reserved, courtesy of Polygram Special Projects, a division of Polygram Records, Inc.
"Femme Fatale," performed by The Velvet Underground & Nico, written by Lou Reed, by arrangement with Oakfield Avenue Music Ltd., all rights reserved, courtesy of Polygram Special Projects, a division of Polygram Records, Inc.
"Weekend Live Theme," written by John Miller, ©1989 by Lorimar Music A Corp., all rights reserved.
+
COMPOSERS
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DETAILS
Release Date:
22 September 1989
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 22 September 1989
Los Angeles opening: 20 October 1989
Production Date:
began 18 April 1988
Copyright Claimant:
Lorimar Film Entertainment Company
Copyright Date:
6 March 1990
Copyright Number:
PA460513
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo in selected theatres
Color
Lenses
Lenses and Panaflex® Camera by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
89
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
29411
SYNOPSIS

On the late night television show Weekend Live, magician-comedians Penn and Teller perform card tricks while suspended upside down. The studio audience is in on the joke, but to the home audience, the entertainers appear upright on the television screen until the cameras pull back to reveal the illusion. As Bob, the show host, begins an interview, Penn debunks psychic surgery, promotes their upcoming shows in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and announces that if someone were to try and kill him, it would bring focus to his life because he would stop obsessing over trivial things. On cue, Teller produces a switch bade, cuts Penn’s throat, and blood gushes from the wound. As the show cuts to a commercial, Bob insists that Penn let the audience know it is only another gag. Later, at their Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino show, Teller works to free himself from bondage, as a series of supersized drill bits descend, and a hooded Penn controls the power. A white scrim surrounds Teller in the remaining minutes of the trick, and is spattered in blood as the drills supposedly find their target. Penn cuts the power, questioning why the audience volunteers on stage did not do more to save Teller’s life. Penn takes a bow, wheels the apparatus off stage, and evades a reporter who wants to interview the partners. Later, as Penn dines at a Mexican restaurant with his girl friend, Carlotta, the waiter inquires in Spanish if Penn is the man who announced on television that he wanted to be killed. Carlotta tells him it is true, but worries that Penn’s proclamation will have negative consequences, whereas Penn is happy ... +


On the late night television show Weekend Live, magician-comedians Penn and Teller perform card tricks while suspended upside down. The studio audience is in on the joke, but to the home audience, the entertainers appear upright on the television screen until the cameras pull back to reveal the illusion. As Bob, the show host, begins an interview, Penn debunks psychic surgery, promotes their upcoming shows in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and announces that if someone were to try and kill him, it would bring focus to his life because he would stop obsessing over trivial things. On cue, Teller produces a switch bade, cuts Penn’s throat, and blood gushes from the wound. As the show cuts to a commercial, Bob insists that Penn let the audience know it is only another gag. Later, at their Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino show, Teller works to free himself from bondage, as a series of supersized drill bits descend, and a hooded Penn controls the power. A white scrim surrounds Teller in the remaining minutes of the trick, and is spattered in blood as the drills supposedly find their target. Penn cuts the power, questioning why the audience volunteers on stage did not do more to save Teller’s life. Penn takes a bow, wheels the apparatus off stage, and evades a reporter who wants to interview the partners. Later, as Penn dines at a Mexican restaurant with his girl friend, Carlotta, the waiter inquires in Spanish if Penn is the man who announced on television that he wanted to be killed. Carlotta tells him it is true, but worries that Penn’s proclamation will have negative consequences, whereas Penn is happy to be gaining popularity with Spanish audiences. While chatting, Carlotta mentions that her wealthy uncle, Ernesto, plans to fly to the Philippines to undergo a psychic surgery to remove his stomach tumor. Penn persuades her to talk her uncle into having his psychic surgery at home. Ernesto is invited to watch as Teller impersonates a psychic doctor operating on Penn. Ernesto believes the surgery is real until the partners show him a hollow rubber finger filled with bloody chicken parts. When an angry Ernesto cancels his psychic surgery, the surgeon sends thugs to abduct Penn and Teller, take them to a warehouse, and strap them to gurneys. The psychic surgeon appears, and announces that he will prove his work is real. However, just before inserting his scalpel into Penn’s neck, he reveals that he is Uncle Ernesto, his assistant is Carlotta, and Teller arranged the whole thing as a joke on Penn. The next night, as Penn, Teller, and Carlotta walk to dinner, a sniper shoots Penn in the arm. Carlotta rushes Penn to the hospital, while Teller chases the shooter’s red station wagon. Although he loses him, Teller gets a good look at the man’s face and notices that he has one red-painted fingernail. Returning from the hospital, Penn berates Teller for playing another sick joke. During his rant, he narrowly misses two booby-traps, and realizes that Teller is not responsible. They decide to hide out in a cheap hotel. Penn records his memoirs on paper, while Teller dons a ninja uniform and practices self-defense. A policewoman, Officer McNamara, is sent to provide them with protection. As they walk to her unmarked car, she fends off the driver of the red station wagon, who fires shots as he drives by. She hides Penn and Teller at her houseboat, where Penn begins having romantic notions about the attractive officer. To leave them alone together, Teller goes to the movies, but sees the driver of the red station wagon following him. Teller buys a pistol at a pawnshop for protection. The next day, Officer McNamara announces that the driver of the red station wagon has been caught. The suspect is a Penn & Teller fan with an apartment full of souvenirs from their shows. A visit to his place reveals a collection of videotaped Penn & Teller performances, in which the suspect has inserted himself as an additional performer. Penn is so impressed, he asks if the attempted murder charges can be dropped, so that they can hire him. McNamara responds that the deranged fan will probably have to serve time for a lesser charge. As they leave, Teller throws his gun into a wastebasket. Out on the street, a stranger knifes Penn in the stomach and runs off. Penn claims the stranger is their fan on the tape. At the hospital, Penn notices the red station wagon, and orders Teller to follow it. The driver stops, takes a motor scooter and helmet from his trunk, and leaves it for Teller to continue the chase. Teller follows the fan back to his apartment, where he has set up a camera to recreate the upside down trick. Cornering Teller, he suspends him from a bar to continue the routine. However, Officer McNamara suddenly arrives and orders the fan to leave. She explains that she is behind the assassination attempts. She hates Penn for his blatant disregard for life, and wants to teach him and his partner a lesson. While she talks, Teller retrieves his loaded gun from the wastebasket. However, Penn appears and startles Teller, who accidentally shoots him. Meanwhile, Officer McNamara removes her disguise and confesses that she is really Penn’s girl friend, Carlotta. She checks Penn’s heartbeat and is shocked to find that he is finally dead. Upon learning the news, Teller commits suicide. Reeling from the shock, Carlotta leaps out the window to her death. As the fan returns to his apartment, he explains to a friend how he just finished the best acting job he ever had, as a hired killer for Penn & Teller. He trips over Penn’s dead body, and realizes that he will be charged with murder because everything in the apartment can be traced to him. Before the friend can calm him, the fan panics and kills himself with Teller’s gun. The friend does the same. Two real policemen arrive at the apartment after responding to a call. One officer, who would rather be doing paperwork, has a visceral reaction to the carnage and kills himself. The second officer, who never recovered from his first partner’s death, is close to retirement, but his wife has left him, and he is estranged from his children. He, too, kills himself. As an aerial view of the apartment comes into focus, Penn’s voice remarks that it was no joke. The suicides happened, and a sequel is now out of the question. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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