Watch Boy and Bicycle: Ridley Scott’s Very First Film (1965)

AlienBlade Run­nerGlad­i­a­torPrometheus, the Apple Mac­in­tosh 1984 Super Bowl ad, the upcom­ing Bib­li­cal­ly-based (and Bib­li­cal­ly-sized) Exo­dus: if you want a thor­ough­ly through-and-through vision, exe­cut­ed at full scale and tint­ed with more than a touch of dystopi­an grim­ness, you go to Rid­ley Scott. But no direc­tor com­mences his career mak­ing pic­tures like these; most of them have to begin in hum­bler places, pulling togeth­er what­ev­er grant mon­ey, film-school resources, and help­ful acquain­tances they can to real­ize, and in the process often com­pro­mise, their long-incu­bat­ed cin­e­mat­ic dreams. So it went with Scott him­self, who made the short film above, 1965’s Boy and Bicy­cle, while a stu­dent at Lon­don’s Roy­al Col­lege of Art. But even this com­par­a­tive­ly tiny project, with its rich 16-mil­lime­ter images, adept cam­era move­ment, and utter­ly hope­less set­ting, shows signs of what sort of film­mak­er the twen­tysome­thing Scott would become a decade or two lat­er.

Though he received his pho­to­graph­ic edu­ca­tion in Lon­don, Scott took his cam­era out for the Boy and Bicy­cle shoot to West Hartle­pool, where he’d attend­ed art school sev­er­al years ear­li­er. That bit of the soon-to-be-dein­dus­tri­al­ized north of Eng­land pro­vid­ed, espe­cial­ly in the British Steel North Works cool­ing tow­er and blast fur­nace, just the sort of back­ground we’d expect to see in the mature direc­tor’s work. And through this bleak land­scape (which reminds me of noth­ing so much as the inhos­pitable Osa­ka he would por­tray more than twen­ty years lat­er in Black Rain) we have the tit­u­lar boy on the tit­u­lar bicy­cle, played by — clas­sic first-time film­mak­er’s strat­e­gy — the direc­tor’s younger broth­er. In this case, that broth­er would grow up to become Tony Scott, a cel­e­brat­ed if aes­thet­i­cal­ly polar­iz­ing direc­tor (Top GunTrue RomanceDomi­no) in his own right. Not one to waste a res­o­nant image, Rid­ley Scott would a decade lat­er revis­it Boy and Bicy­cle in the beloved adver­tise­ment for Hov­is bread just above.

Oth­er ear­ly short films by great direc­tors can be found below, and in our col­lec­tion of 635 Free Movies Online.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Mar­tin Scorsese’s Very First Films: Three Imag­i­na­tive Short Works

Stan­ley Kubrick’s Very First Films: Three Short Doc­u­men­taries

Andrei Tarkovsky’s Very First Films: Three Stu­dent Films, 1956–1960

The Hearts of Age: Orson Welles’ Sur­re­al­ist First Film (1934)

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, Asia, film, lit­er­a­ture, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on his brand new Face­book page.

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