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Billion Dollar Brain (1967) computer facility set location

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  • Billion Dollar Brain (1967) computer facility set location

    In this film a fanatical anti-Communist Texas oil millionaire (played by Ed Begley) "General" Midwinter has spent a billion dollars (US) to build a giant computer facility to plan and run the overthrow of Communism in Eastern Europe.

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    (Midwinter's military computer facility - still 01:12:46)

    Question: Where was this set located - or was it even a set?

    The general consensus seemed to be that it was that it was actually filmed at the Honeywell computer company UK facility which was a fair statement since an operational Honeywell H200 computer was the centerpiece.. And there was a certain end credit "The Producers wish to thank HONEYWELL for the use of their facilities":

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    (Honeywell thanks - still 01:42:10)

    However several sources said it was actually a Pinewood Studios stage set (but without any proof). Besides it didn't present itself like a real boring corporate computer installation - it looked more like a...Bond style movie set - which of course it was.

    While plugging the names of various people associated with this film into Google I found a website, "Web of Stories", that held the multi-page video (with transcript) recollections of Billy Williams - who was the Director of Photography:

    https://www.webofstories.com/play/billy.williams/32

    Recollection "32. Shooting Billion Dollar Brain at Pinewood with Ken Russell"

    Quoting from the attached transcript:

    "All these huge sets had been built and I remember going on to E Stage where there was this enormous set encompassing the whole of the stage, and the first shot that Ken wants is a handheld shot of Ed Begley, who's this crazy Texan millionaire, walking in a circle around the camera."

    So we have a "enormous set" that is indoors and tracking a person walking "in a circle around the camera" - that's located on E Stage at Pinewood.

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    (General Midwinter doing his circular rant - still 01:09:15)

    Only one scene matches these criteria - and it occurred in the Billion Dollar Brain computer facility.

    Therefore the answer is: E Stage Pinewood Studios.
    Last edited by lazarus6; 16th August 2017, 08:01 AM.

  • #2
    'E' Stage was the largest sound stage built at Pinewood until the 007 stage built around 1975. 'E' Stage was properly sound-proofed where the 007 stage was not.
    Fort Knox interior, for "Goldfinger", was built on 'E'.

    Comment


    • #3
      Hello

      Going "off topic" from "Billion Dollar Brain" for a minute...

      "Fort Knox interior, for "Goldfinger", was built on 'E'."

      And it is a tall stage as well which allowed a truly impressive multi-story Fort Knox interior set.

      Click image for larger version  Name:	Goldfinger Fort Knox interior.jpeg Views:	1 Size:	37.8 KB ID:	10437


      I presume then this is where they also created the following sets (which also made full use of the height):

      Dr. No (1962): nuclear reactor/missile 'toppler' control room set

      Click image for larger version  Name:	Dr. No reactor_control room.jpg Views:	1 Size:	38.2 KB ID:	10438

      The Man with the Golden Gun (1974): at least a portion of the underground solar energy plant set. I gather that part of it was only seen as a miniature since is was too big to fit? Also it was recreated in miniature for the final destruction scenes.

      Click image for larger version  Name:	TMwtGG power station_s.jpg Views:	1 Size:	22.6 KB ID:	10439
      Last edited by lazarus6; 15th August 2017, 11:59 PM.

      Comment


      • #4
        lazarus

        Thanks for the link, some very interesting material there on Billlion Dollar Brain. Just to confuse matter I did come across this sometime ago, but cannot remember where... Someone who worked at Honeywell head office in the UK remembered the crew filming there.

        "Midwinters’ Brain room was filmed on location at I worked for Honeywell when this movie was made, they used the data center machine at the Honeywell UK HQ in Brentwood, just west of London. In the opening sequences they show a close up of the control panel and you can see some of the ENTER buttons (Arrow symbols) have the arrows worn away from constant use, this WAS the H200 in Brentwood that I had used many times. Scenes involving "The Brain" were filmed in Honeywell facilities and featured a Honeywell 200 mini-computer."

        Comment


        • lazarus6
          lazarus6 commented
          Editing a comment
          Mikey

          "Thanks for the link, some very interesting material there on Billlion Dollar Brain."

          Glad I could be of help.

          "I did come across this sometime ago, but cannot remember where... some of the ENTER buttons (Arrow symbols) have the arrows worn away from constant use..."

          And thank you for reminding me about that item - it helped greatly in clearing up some niggling questions I had.

      • #5
        Correct me if I'm wrong but I think that set from "Dr. No" was partly constructed with a matte painting added as that shot is, I recall, a dupe in the film.

        Comment


        • lazarus6
          lazarus6 commented
          Editing a comment
          Stephen

          I passed your comment on to someone who is far more knowledgeable in this area - "NZPete" - who has been running a fantastic blog called "Matte Shot - a tribute to Golden Age special fx" (http://nzpetesmatteshot.blogspot.com.au/) since June 2010. This was his response:

          "Well as far as I know, the interiors in both DR NO and GOLDFINGER were actual sets built by Ken Adam. I certainly never detected matte augmentation (which isn't to say there wasn't some enhancement, but I never spotted any). Adam tended to go for beautifully designed practical sets as often as possible. YOLT is a classic example. Mattes were used in a few Bond interiors such as the chess game in FROM RUSSIA and a key scene in MOONRAKER. Adam used mattes for exteriors in DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER to superb, invisible effect.

          Hope this is of some help."
          Last edited by lazarus6; 20th August 2017, 02:02 AM.

      • #6
        That's fine. I wasn't sure. I have been on a few Ken Adam sets ('Diamonds are Forever") and they are huge.

        Comment


        • #7
          Well I just took another look at "DR. NO", and the very wide establishing shot has enhancement, painted matte(?) (chapter 29 @ 01:39:19 following Bond's gaze behind the mask. I would say the roof section and possibly part of the upper walkway, except for where the man is walking, everything else is real.
          Soon after, Bond walks across the set and is a low shot to avoid showing the roof of which I have no doubt has an army of 225 amp 'brutes' lining the top of the set out of camera range.
          Last edited by Stephen Pickard; 21st August 2017, 11:44 PM.

          Comment


          • #8
            Of all the interiors in "Goldfinger" that I saw, only the scene with Bond on the table with the laser beam. Some shots had to go through a generation when the laser beam was activated.

            Comment


            • #9
              Hello

              I an still learning the finer details on how to post entries properly. Thus this early effort failed on several fronts especially with regard of the number of attachments allowed - 5 actually - not the 15 that I wanted to include - but it seemed to work anyway...at first!

              So PLEASE skip over this post to my revamped, expanded and fully illustrated "UNANSWERED QUESTIONS V2.0" series.

              I am leaving this initial attempt intact otherwise the comments referring to it that follow might make no sense.



              And now - back to the the topic of this thread...

              But first - I am having trouble with attachments - ie. images - yet again. So for the time being it seems that I can only show you the first 5 out of 15 included images.

              UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

              1) Where were Honeywell's UK computer facilities located?

              2) Which scenes in the movie were shot at the Honeywell facilities?

              3) What did the Honeywell physical installation look like?

              4) How many H200 computers were used?

              5) Was there an operational Honeywell H200 computer running on the Pinewood set?

              THE KEY

              Click image for larger version  Name:	br01_resj_r.jpg Views:	1 Size:	20.1 KB ID:	33522
              Image 01 - Honeywell H200 control console (Wikipedia)

              As luck would have it the key turned out to be the Honeywell H200 computer control console.

              THE MISSING LINK

              Fortunately I was reminded by Mikey of a reference that I had come across and forgotten about - yet another YouTube movie excerpt titled "The Billion Dollar Brain - Honeywell H200 Computer":

              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8Rv7clC_A4

              While the video is a nice recap of the procedure Leo (Karl Malden) goes through to secretly reprogram the Brain the really important part is the first comment by YouTube member "Science-is-god" - and I quote it in full:

              "I worked for Honeywell when this movie was made, they used the data centre machine at the Honeywell UK Hq in Brentwood just west of London.
              In the opening sequences they show a close up of the control panel and you can see some of the ENTER buttons (Arrow symbols) have the arrows worn away from constant use, this WAS the H200 in Brentwood that I had used many many times.
              I have a genuine H200 control panel at my home but that one came from an H200 in the downtown Chicago Data Center in the late 70s.
              Oh happy memories. "

              Thank you. So what useful points came be made from this?

              POINTS OF INTEREST

              a) An (almost) perfect source
              - a Honeywell employee
              - technical since he used (ran programs on) the actual computer
              - who was working at THAT company facility
              - WHEN the movie people were filming there.

              b) Facility located: "UK Hq in Brentwood just west of London"

              c) Confirms the model: "this WAS the H200 in Brentwood"

              d) Implicitly states that there was only ONE H200 and that is was operational: "used THE data center machine" - not "used A data center machine".

              e) Question 2 above (partially) answered - the computer seen in the opening (and thus the closing) credits montage IS that machine: "In the opening sequences they show a close up of the control panel"

              f) finally and most important of all - uniquely identifies that singular Brentwood H200 by it's control panel: "some of the ENTER buttons (Arrow symbols) have the arrows worn away from constant use"

              QUESTION 1 - WHERE WERE HONEYWELL'S UK COMPUTER FACILITIES LOCATED?

              Mentioned previously - Points of Interest (b) Facility located: "UK Hq in Brentwood just west of London".
              As Mikey has so gently pointed out to me it was actually "Brentford".

              QUESTION 2 - WHICH SCENES IN THE MOVIE WERE SHOT AT THE HONEYWELL FACILITIES?

              1) OPENING/CLOSING CREDITS MONTAGES

              Now let's consider the opening/closing credits computer montages. The film makers are very careful and try to show only close-ups of the equipment - no wide angle views that would show any background and identify that the scene is NOT located on the extravagant "Bond" E Stage at Pinewood.

              Click image for larger version  Name:	br02_BBB spin_mag_tapes 00:05:03r.jpg Views:	1 Size:	17.4 KB ID:	33523
              Image 02 - still 00:05:03 - Honeywell data centre magnetic tape drives in opening credits montage

              There are several sequences in showing the magnetic tape drives with the spinning reels that intermittently pause - this is indicative of data being transferred with an operating computer.

              I suspect that the following scenes in the movie were also shot at Brentford:

              2) ROOM - LOCATION LEO & HARRY DISCUSSION

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              Image 03 - still 01:11:50

              A room whose main requirement in the film was privacy so Leo and Harry can discuss General Midwinter's plan.

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              Image 04 - still 01:10:51 - Leo activates the rotary magnetic tape storage unit

              At the far end it has an operational rotary magnetic tape storage unit which Leo starts up. This feature is an unnecessary embellishment which leads me to suspect this is a real location and not a Pinewood set.

              3) BRAIN ORDER PRINTOUTS

              Click image for larger version  Name:	br05_bbb_print0_01:14:23r.jpg Views:	1 Size:	13.4 KB ID:	33526
              Image 05 - still 01:14:23 - original 'brain' order printout


              Image 06 - still 01:15:20 - Leo's modified 'brain' order printout

              The close up of the scrolling printouts. These days it's easy - just plug the usb printer cable into a laptop and print anything anywhere. Fifty odd years ago it was more complicated so again I think these were shot at the Honeywell data centre.

              So much for Questions 1 and 2.

              QUESTION 3 - WHAT DID THE HONEYWELL PHYSICAL INSTALLATION LOOK LIKE?

              Currently unknown so uploads of any images taken in the actual data centre would be greatly appreciated.


              Image 07 - IBM 360 data centre

              Meanwhile I will work on the assumption that it is similar to the example image above; that is to say like any other real commercial computer facility of the period:
              - yet another anonymous windowless (for security and insulation) office building level
              - raised false floor (to run the multitude of power/data/control cables between the cabinets and peripherals)
              - large uninterruptible power supply
              - massive air conditioning cooling plant
              - good physical access needed for transferring large heavy cabinets and peripherals.

              QUESTION 4 - HOW MANY H200 COMPUTERS WERE USED?

              As mentioned before the film makers were very careful during the Brentford shoot to not show the background. In fact they only slipped up several times but hoped that the viewer wouldn't notice.

              YET AGAIN - THE CONTROL CONSOLE

              Here is the Brentwood H200 control panel as seen in the opening credits montage:


              Image 08 - still 00:05:21 - Brentford control console - left hand end

              Note:
              - rows blue backgrounds
              - arrow keys - blue symbols
              - bottom 'HONEYWELL 200' in blue lettering
              - added film makers "agent selection" peel off labels "CHARACTER", "INTEGRITY", "CAPACITY", and "REFLEXES"


              Image 09 - still 00:05:29 - Brentford control console - right hand end

              Note the following:
              - faded arrows keys - as stated by "Science-is-god"
              - colour of the arrow keys (blue)
              - colour of the surround edges (blue)
              - added film makers "agent selection" peel off labels "REFLEXES" and "VERSATILITY"

              Now compare that to the E Stage H200 control console:


              Image 10 - still 01:14:04 - E Stage control console - left hand end

              Note:
              - rows white backgrounds
              - arrow keys - black symbols
              - bottom 'HONEYWELL 200' in white lettering
              - the 2nd. row "ADDRESS" label replaced by yet another "HONEYWELL" product placement
              - NO added film makers "agent selection" peel off labels


              Image 11 - still 01:14:10 - E Stage control console - right hand end

              Note:
              - arrow keys intact
              - colour keys (black)
              - colour of surround edges (white)
              - NO added film makers "agent selection" peel off labels

              So there were two different control consoles which implies two computers.

              SHIFTING MAGNETIC TAPE DRIVE UNITS LOCATION


              Image 12 - still 00:04:38 - Brentford highlighted row of magnetic tape drive units in front of H200 computer.

              At the Honeywell data centre there is a row of free standing magnetic tape drive units in FRONT of the computer. Also note the colour of the highlighted read/write head covers are silver.


              Image 13_ - still 01:17:13 - E Stage H200 computer from behind

              On the Pinewood E Stage set the immediate area in front of the H200 is bare.


              ^^[magnetic tape drive]_____________________________________________ ^^^^^^^ [H200 computer] ^^^^^^^
              Image 14 - E Stage pan montage 01:15:24 - 01:15:27

              However there is a row of magnetic tape drive units BEHIND the H200.


              Image 15 - still 01:14:33 - E Stage row of highlighted magnetic tape drive units

              Another view looking behind the Pinewood H200 unit. Note that the highlighted covers of the tape read/write heads are black rather than silver.

              This is a different set of different magnetic tape drive units.

              Ergo not only were there two H200 computers but also two different installations.

              QUESTION 5 - WAS THERE AN OPERATIONAL HONEYWELL H200 COMPUTER RUNNING ON THE PINEWOOD SET?

              I think that the short answer has to be "NO" - the E Stage H200 'brain' was a non-operational facade.

              In my next post on this topic I intend to show how Pinewood got away with it!
              Last edited by lazarus6; 10th September 2017, 11:38 AM.

              Comment


              • #10
                None of the pictures are being displayed in the above post. Honeywell used to have a large, copper-coloured, building in Bracknell when I was working for ICL in the mid-80s.

                Nick

                Comment


                • lazarus6
                  lazarus6 commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Nick

                  Thanks - hopefully rectified now.

              • #11
                Just a few are now showing - Images 1 to 5 inclusive. All the rest are still appearing as question marks.

                Nick

                Comment


                • lazarus6
                  lazarus6 commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Nick

                  "Just a few are now showing - Images 1 to 5 inclusive. All the rest are still appearing as question marks."

                  Now I am embarrassed. So let me start at the beginning.

                  When I set up my "UNANSWERED QUESTIONS" entry with it's 15 attached images the first time I tried to POST it I got the following error:

                  "Maximum number of attachments exceeded. The number of attachments is limited to 5 per post."

                  So I thought about for a while - wondering how I was going to get under the limit and hoping the first response was an aberration - tried to POST it again - and this time it was accepted.

                  To make sure everything was okay I logged out and checked the post as a 'visitor' - all images appeared.

                  Naturally when I checked later your first "no images" message got my attention - but didn't really surprise me since this has happened before when I only had one image posts. So I went into edit on that entry and sure enough it was the same old problem - instead of an image there were two little "box" icons next to each other for the first 5 attachments. I deleted them and re-attached the image for the first 5 again. And then saved the entry - with NO error warning about exceeding the attachments limit. Yet again I logged out and rechecked the entry as a 'visitor' - all 15 images showed up. Finally I felt safe in sending you a message saying that NOW it was hopefully fixed...

                  And then I made a mistake - I logged on again this morning before I had breakfast and saw your latest message, Checking my entry I saw that the first 5 images were still there but the last 10 were not. So I went into "edit" mode again - had a quick look around - the other images were still there and then tried to save it...yup - THAT error message was back:

                  "Maximum number of attachments exceeded. The number of attachments is limited to 5 per post."

                  So now I AM going off to have a good breakfast and think about how I am going to split my mega-entry up.
                  Last edited by lazarus6; 8th September 2017, 10:36 PM.

              • #12
                This is an interesting post lazarus

                I think I have some answers

                1) Where were Honeywell's UK computer facilities located?

                Honeywell House, on Great West Road, Brentford, in the London borough of Hounslow. High-rise premises on the junction of Great West Road/Boston Manor Road.

                2) Which scenes in the movie were shot at the Honeywell facilities?

                I go along with your reasoning and evidence here that Karl Malden and Michael Caine were on location in Brentwood, for scene containing the reels of magnetic tape.

                3) What did the Honeywell physical installation look like?



                4) How many H200 computers were used?

                One on location and one incorporated into the set at Pinewood Studios, which according to Getty Images was worth £150,000 at the time. This is the wording that is on the Getty website: 16th March 1967: English film star Michael Caine plays the cockney spy Harry Palmer in Harry Saltzman's film 'Billion Dollar Brain'. A Honeywell computer worth £150,000 is the basis of a huge film set at Pinewood Studios. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

                5) Was there an operational Honeywell H200 computer running on the Pinewood set?

                From a film makers point of view the Honeywell computer on the set did not have to work. I think when filming director Ken Russell would have gone for the visual aspects, such as the tape drives turning and the automated card reader working and as you say the printer.

                Comment


                • #13
                  Originally posted by Stephen Pickard View Post
                  Well I just took another look at "DR. NO", and the very wide establishing shot has enhancement, painted matte(?) (chapter 29 @ 01:39:19 following Bond's gaze behind the mask. I would say the roof section and possibly part of the upper walkway, except for where the man is walking, everything else is real.
                  Soon after, Bond walks across the set and is a low shot to avoid showing the roof of which I have no doubt has an army of 225 amp 'brutes' lining the top of the set out of camera range.
                  Stephen

                  Sorry to change subject, but do you have any idea which stages at Pinewood were used for the filming of You Only Live Twice?

                  I know that the Volcano base interior was constructed on the North Lot.

                  Would love to hear any memories you have regarding the filming of this Bond movie.

                  Comment


                  • #14
                    Guys, I'm as interested in the production of early Bonds as anyone but how about a new thread for it rather than using this one?

                    Comment


                    • #15
                      lazarus

                      Just a quick one. I have responded to your message, sorry to take so long.

                      Comment

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