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Film / Quicker'n a Wink

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A drop of milk in a bucket

Quicker'n a Wink is a 1940 short film (10 minutes) directed by George Sidney.

It is one of the many short films Pete Smith produced for MGM from the 1930s to the 1950s. In this plotless short, Pete Smith's crew journeys to MIT to see the lab of engineer Harold Edgerton. Edgerton demonstrates his stroboscope, a device which can flash light on and off at very high speeds. Smith's cameras demonstrate how the timing of a stroboscope can make a rapidly rotating object, such as a rotary fan, appear to slow down or even stop.note 

That established, the short gets down to the business of breaking things in slow-motion by the use of stroboscopic photography. A smoke machine aimed at a fan demonstrates that fans make little vortexes in the air that look like tiny, tiny hurricanes. A camera takes a crystal-clear picture of a football deforming as a man kicks it. (With the slow speed of a regular flash, the picture is blurred.) A soap bubble doesn't break until a needle is nearly 3/4 of the way through it, a kitten is shown to lap up milk with the underside of its tongue...this and more in effects that few in a viewing audience in 1940 would have ever seen.


  • Born in the Theatre: At one point Smith snarks "Now see how smart you get when you go to the movies?"
  • Documentary: A study of ultra-high speed photography and how it can illustrate things that happen too fast for the naked eye to see. (A drop of milk dripping will always pull a second, smaller drop after it.)
  • Hit Stop: The stroboscopic camera captures the exact moment that the side of a football caves in as a man's shoe kicks it.
  • Ms. Fanservice: A mild version, but the soap-bubble scene is introduced by a very good-looking woman (MGM musical actress June Preisser) holding the bubble wand. Smith's jokey narration says "Here's something interesting! Now, now, break it up fellas, I'm referring to the soap bubble!"
  • Overcrank: Pretty much the whole point of the film. Popping a soap bubble looks pretty cool when the camera is shooting 1500 frames per second.
  • Shout-Out: In a little corporate synergy, as the dentist's drill penetrates the tooth, Smith says "This looks like a scene from Boom Town!" (A 1940 feature about wildcat oil drillers.)
  • The Tooth Hurts: The concluding sequence where the camera captures a dentist's drill is introduced by an actor playing a terrified patient as he watches the dentist come at his teeth with a whirring drill.