There are many ways to convey atmosphere on film. You can use sound effects: you can use mood lighting, you can use dry ice, you can use a narrator to tell you what atmosphere you should be experiencing or you can use sweat.
Yes, sweat – perspiration, transpiration, even diaphoresis. If you want to portray anxiety, heat or the euphoria of a good workout, then the body’s thermoregulatory function paints the perfect picture with but a few moist drops on the canvas of a grey cotton t-shirt. Here are some of the finest sweaty moments:
(Image: All Star)
Back when the Mission: Impossible franchise was only faintly ridiculous, Tom Cruise, dangling like a poorly-strung marionette over a super-sensitively-alarmed floor in the CIA headquarters, experienced one of the most sweat-focused moments in cinema history. Wishing he’d worn a John McEnroe-style headband, a single bead of Cruise juice (for some reason twice) rolls along his specs and heads perilously towards the ground. Will he catch it in time? That’s rhetorical – no email, please.
Cool Hand Luke
We’re not even going to pretend with this one. Yes, there is a great deal of sweat on Paul Newman and his chain gang chums, but that’s not the moisture that’s going to draw anyone’s eye. Oh no. That honour belongs to the soapy suds dampening the curvaceous Sixties form of Joy Harmon as she unwittingly (as if) drives the sticky convicts to a state of near combustion. A reminder of how casual perving was done in more innocent times.
“Hmgrrna do wa ma brn frrg lo manana.” “Doofaan ormy unnel pigo yo han.” Who can forget some of Al Pacino’s sparkling dialogue in Scarface? He really did put the ‘nrrmnmr’ into ‘diction’. But who needs oral clarity when you have the kind of buttock-tightening tension provided by a chainsaw-wielding psychopath, a bathroom, a pair of extremely inattentive pals acting as your back-up, and the threat of losing a lot more than just your little friend.
More mumble, this time in the jungle, as Marlon Barndoor, sorry, Brando’s Colonel Kurtz flits between light and shadow, words and humming sounds. Somehow, his bald pate remains as dry as a freshly-powdered baby, while Martin Sheen makes like a leaky showerhead.
More jungle, but less mumble; what is it about jungles and mumbling when it comes to sweat? Again, rhetorical, especially as the jungle bit is fairly obvious. A dripping Mac (Bill Dukes) and his strangely bulbous noggin talks to his dead best friend, Blaine, when he should probably be concentrating on avoiding the invisible alien that killed him.
Statistics show that 87.3 per cent of the Rocky hexalogy involved sweat. So much sweat, in fact, that it was bottled and sold as fake tears to politicians who’d been caught cheating on their wives. Our favourite Rocky moment of perspiration /and/ inspiration /and/ titillation is the training montage with Apollo Creed in Rocky 3, in which the sweat actually seems to shrink their clothes until they begin to look like backing dancers for Lady Gaga.
Aaron (Albert Brooks) may have always wanted to be a news anchor, but his sudoriferous glands were clearly camera-shy. That’s why, when Aaron finally gets his shot at being anchor they go all diaphoretic on him, causing him to look like an agitated bottle of fizzy pop whose top has been ever so slightly opened, causing its contents to dribble over in a most inconvenient manner. In real life, news presenters don’t sweat because they are sealed with creosote.
Thought we'd forgotten the ultimate? No chance sunshine. No chance...
And finally, although cruelly we can't find it on YouTube, the incredible moment in which Ted Striker sweats buckets full in Airplane! [Pictured top].