Sunday, March 9, 2014


  Just as they were beginning to break into the arcade's pinball machines to steal money for gas, car club hoods, The Pharaohs, are caught off guard by the sudden presence of the proprietor.  Not wanting to create trouble, Curt (Richard Dreyfuss) covers for the three hoods, by telling the proprietor that they’re his friends.

Back in 1972, when George Lucas was directing American Graffiti with a very limited budget, (approx. $750,000) nobody could guess that one day some Graffiti fans would dissect each image of the movie to point out the smallest goofs and anachronisms. But they do. And we have. In today’s entry of Kip’s American Graffiti Blog contributing writer, Charlie Lecach helps enlighten us on one of the anachronisms in the films: The pinball machines! 

And as you read, remember you can click on any of the  fascinating photos on this page to enlarge them, so as to appreciate their beauty & detail.  And, its all free at no extra cost to you, the dedicated & loyal Kip's American Graffiti Blog reader! 
Director, George Lucas on-location at the miniature golf & arcade in Pinole, CA  circa 1972
There were no sets used in American Graffiti.  Since a major portion of the film’s budget was going towards securing the rights to old rock and roll records, there wasn’t a lot of money to be spent on things such as designing sets.  Filming in real locations was much less expensive. This is one of the reasons every scene had planned to be shot on-location in the San Francisco bay area.  

So, when the crew needed to shoot scene # 48, with Curt and the Pharaohs robbing an arcade, Graffiti’s location manager, Nancy Giebink found a nearby small miniature golf course and arcade (referred to as the "Hole-In-One” in the shooting script) located in the town of Pinole on San Pablo Road.  

As it happens, most of the games in the arcade were typical modern machines found in most arcades at the time.  None of the pinball machines were made before the 1962 time period set in the film. The earliest model game in the arcade was made in 1965. It would have been ridiculous to lose time and money searching for period correct pinball machines, so Lucas chose to shoot the hilarious scene at the location exactly as it was, probably hoping that most film-goers would not notice how new the machines were.

Click to enlarge, or by accident. Whatever works.

With an establishing interior shot of the small arcade, viewers could see the following pinball machines, from left to right (with each brand and year of manufacture):  Wild Wild West (Gottlieb 1969), Royal Guard (Gottlieb 1968), Skyrocket (Bally 1971), Vampire (Bally 1971), Buckaroo (Gottlieb 1965), and Ball Park (Williams 1968).  Below are original brochure and trade-ad art work for the games seen in the film.

Royal Guard (Gottlieb 1968)
Wild Wild West (Gottlieb 1969)

Skyrocket (Bally 1971)
Vampire (Bally 1971)
Buckaroo (Gottlieb 1965)

Ball Park (Williams 1968) 

Much bigger in size, Ball Park wasn’t really a pinball but rather a bat game with a mechanical back-box animation. Baseball before electronics. Of course, car club hoods, the Pharaohs didn’t mind which kind of arcade game they’d rob, period correct or not. As long as they could “take along a little piece of this place” as proprietor, Hank told Curt before saying goodbye…

~ FINE ~