Amblin’ (1968)


Two free-spirited vagabonds (Richard Levin and Pamela McMyler) unexpectedly meet on a deserted road and decide to unite forces to hitch a ride to the California coast. The long road trip is filled with funny adventures and surprising revelations.

Reaction & Thoughts:

“Ambling = walk or move at a slow, relaxed pace.”

Amblin’ was legendary filmmaker Steven Spielberg’s letter of presentation to Hollywood. While the 26-minute short doesn’t look like much today, based on the strength of the movie, Universal Pictures executives offered the young college student a standard seven-year contract (Spielberg, of course, accepted the offer and quit college).

Overloaded with contagious energy and youthful joy, Amblin’ is a bit self-indulgent, but one has to take into consideration Spielberg’s age and inexperience. It’s exactly what it looks like: a movie made by a film student desperate for attention — I could immediately see why Universal decided to take a chance on this college kid.

Amblin’ is essentially a Valentine to the hippie era, and as such it is dated in a charming way. The movie has no dialogue, which makes it look self-consciously hip and a little pretentious. I don’t know if this is just a coincidence, but the film’s soundtrack and schizophrenic editing reminded me of Mike Nichols’s The Graduate.

Amblin’ contains Spielberg’s trademark tricks. The long takes, the over-the-shoulder shots, predilection for reaction shots, the emotional manipulation, etc., all the things that we love (or hate) about the director are here on full display. Dozens of films and endless accolades later, Spielberg hasn’t changed one bit as a filmmaker. Hmm… Is this a good or a bad thing? Well, it may depend on whom you ask.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

It’s a little upsetting to know that this film is not readily available on home video. Perhaps Spielberg himself is to blame for the movie’s unavailability. “I can’t look at it now… Amblin’ is the slick by-product of a kid immersed up to his nose in film,” the director said during an interview (Steven Spielberg: A Biography, by Joseph McBride). Personally, I think that Amblin’ is a sweet little film and I recommended it to fans of the director, or people who are just curious to see where the name of Spielberg’s film company came from. YouTube has a (substandard) copy. Color, 26 minutes, Not Rated.

5 responses to “Amblin’ (1968)

  1. Hahah “I can’t look at it now… Amblin’ is the slick by-product of a kid immersed up to his nose in film,”
    Funny that he has to be reminded of it with his logo every time he makes a movie. LOL

    I had seen this one some years back. Used to love short films like this. But yeah they do have a tendency to be a little pretentious. Remember I liked it but can’t remember if anything actual happened hehe.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’d already found that link for the film, and was interested in watching it for the very reason you described…is it possible to spot any of Spielberg’s filmmaking trademarks at so young an age? I still have to give the thing a look, but good to know it’s worth a watch (which I was debating doing).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a decent copy of the short. It has been remastered (I took the good-looking screenshots from HBO’s documentary “Spielberg”), so I don’t understand why the short hasn’t been offered as an extra in a Spielberg DVD/Blu-ray set.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s