Thursday, 11 December 2014

MAGICIANS OF THE MINIATURE




I had fully intended to have my career tribute article on matte exponents Ken Marschall and Bruce Block ready to roll for this final issue of Matte Shot for 2014, however it will be a little delayed as Ken uncovers and photographs more of his glorious matte art and old 35mm before and after clips that he feels will be of interest to me and my readers.  With that being the unavoidable case I had the option of just hanging on and waiting it out, or, being the impatient, now or never, go for broke type of fellow that I am I decided to assemble a 'fill in' article just so special effects fans won't feel 'hard done by'... and although it's somewhat off tangent, I'm fairly sure most of you will approve and enjoy the following chronology and pictorial album of the next best special effect after matte art ... the miniature.

I've been planning this retrospective on model work for a few years and wasn't sure how or when to include it.  The site's called Matte Shot for a reason as that medium has always been my lifes blood, as it were.  However, ever since I was a youngster I've been equally mesmerised by the use of the model, or miniatures if you prefer, in motion picture trick shots for as long as I can remember. I feel that miniatures - as with traditionally painted mattes - are the purest of the whole all encompassing realm of special effects with their success being to a considerable extent the result of - as much as anything else - the gut instinct and 'eye' of the miniatures exponent.

Miniature ships from NICHOLAS NICKLEBY (1947)
I vividly recall building model towns and 'sets' as a 11 year old and photographing these with a cheap Kodak Instamatic camera which had absolutely no control whatsoever over focus or aperture. A few years later when I was 13 or 14 my Dad bought me a Canon FTb SLR (still got it), and although it was still just static images, the leap forward was amazing.  I clearly recall trying to achieve maximum depth of field by 'shooting' model tanks, planes, war type set ups outdoors in bright sunlight and stopping the 35mm focal length lens down as far as I could to f22 if possible.  Then came the phase brought about upon seeing EARTHQUAKE on it's first day in 1974 (in 70mm and Sensurround!!!) where the only good miniature was one which burned, swayed, collapsed or was deluged in a torrent of water.  So came the era where my model trains and crudely constructed buildings were purposely wrecked in glorious Agfa Colour 36 exposure still photos.
 
A landmark step up came about in 1977 when high school mates and myself at Mount Roskill Grammar School got together with a Super 8mm Elmo camera and made our own amateur disaster picture.  Lots of bad miniatures made out of small Plaster of Paris 'bricks' and toy cars, fires which were always way too big for the quite small models, some improvised pyrotechnics which were hair raising to say the least - which included setting a friend on fire and pulling apart fire crackers and making newer, more lethal squibs with the contents - as well as some haphazardly backwound split screen matte shots and superimposed flames which rarely ever stayed in register.  As with most similar projects, our imaginations far exceeded our pocket money and our ability, with this epic (titled 1984 after the David Bowie song which we stole for the titles and was our notion of when the world would be destroyed by a bloody big earthquake!) - It was never finished as is so often the case with these things.  But fun it sure was!

A.Arnold 'Buddy' Gillespie in the miniatures tank for BEN HUR (1959)
So, with that misguided amateur enterprise aside, let us take a look at some of the wonderful moments of miniature magic - and the technicians who created them.  I have a lot of material so depending upon the response to this article I just may well do a follow up article in due course.
As things turn out, a high proportion of miniature effects tended to be utilised in war films over and above any other genre, so it won't be a surprise to the reader that a large number of said shots are featured here today. Some you've seen before, though many I've never seen anywhere else, so the miniature maniacs among you are in for a treat.  Some of the familiar ones I've upgraded with BluRay images and they look sensational.  I've also included some great behind the scenes photos here which are very, very rare.

One thing we should note, sadly, is the apparent demise of the motion picture miniature as a viable special effect.  Now correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems to me that it's all gone the way of glass matte art into the garbage bin as more and more (and more!) cinematic illusions are solely the domain of the MacIntosh computer.  I was horrified when I learned that WETA workshop here in NZ had mothballed it's vast model department a few years back and laid off all of those skilled model makers only to have all such work conceived as digital environments (gee I hate that term) henceforth.  My hopes were raised a little when I recently read that Richard Taylor's WETA will be making the all new THUNDERBIRDS television series and I understand actual, genuine models will be utilised!  Can't wait to see that, but they'd better not screw around with the designs and look of the original craft and vehicles or I'll get very upset.
Robert and Dennis Skotak provide jarring nuclear devastation for TERMINATOR 2 - JUDGEMENT DAY (1991)

*I'd like to take this moment to acknowledge the kind generosity of Robert Welch, who's grandfather A.Arnold Gillespie thrilled us for decades at MGM as the foremost miniature expert in Hollywood.  I am most grateful to Robert for allowing me (once again) full access to Buddy's extensive archive of photos, many of which are reproduced here.  Of course, for a full lowdown on Buddy Gillespie's extraordinary career I strongly recommend the wonderful memoir The Wizard of MGM, which is essential reading and is available from Amazon.com
*I must also make mention of David Coker, whose grandfather Filippo Guidobaldi was the highly regarded models and special processes wizard of the British film industry for many years.  His is a most fascinating story in itself and I am very grateful to David for sharing some amazing stories and terrific never before seen photographs with me from the old Gaumont Lime Grove and Rank special effects departments.

 LET'S MEET THE MINIATURISTS:

In no particular order, here is a run down of some of the key participants in this exciting field.
Early era exponents included Charles Cleon Baker who was Universal Studios' chief model maker for nearly fifty years, working on a vast array of films ranging from the 1924 LOST WORLD and James Whale's FRANKENSTEIN, all those 50's science fiction films like THIS ISLAND EARTH, THE DEADLY MANTIS and through to the particularly noteworthy work on EARTHQUAKE and the last two AIRPORT pictures.

Charlie Baker's EARTHQUAKE miniatures, supervised by Glen Robinson & shot by Clifford Stine.

John P. Fulton at Universal Studios
John P.Fulton is well known among special effects fans and readers of this blog, and while not a model maker was certainly a major force in designing, executing and photographing hundreds of miniature sequences throughout his career. An all round visual effects pro, Fulton made up in his movie illusions what he sorely lacked in interpersonal relations, with the aforementioned Charlie Baker apparently being one of his few trusted friends in the business.  Among Fulton's best work as far as models go would have to be George Pal's THE NAKED JUNGLE flood sequences and the ferocious oil well infernos in Walter Wanger's TULSA.

Art Smith and Ivyl Burks were active at Paramount Studios, with Smith providing models on classic shows such as the Oscar winning effects show SPAWN OF THE NORTH and Burks building miniatures for several DeMille pictures, WAR OF THE WORLDS and THE BRIDGES AT TOKO-RI.  Supervisors were Gordon Jennings, and following his death, John P.Fulton.  Gordon's brother Devereaux Jennings would photograph miniatures at the studio.
Filippo Guidobaldi, Britain's premier miniatures expert shown here with a set up for CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS (1949)
Guido, shown at extreme left, with special effects crew at Rank Studios.
British studios Gaumont and Rank employed Italian born maestro Filippo Guidobaldi who's expertise appeared in scores of films such as THAT LADY HAMILTON, THE MILLIONS LIKE US, THE PURPLE PLAIN, THE 39 STEPS, THE SEEKERS and many more.  Filippo, who would work side by side with Albert Whitlock and Les Bowie was, like them often unbilled, with effects department heads Henry Harris or later Bill Warrington taking screen credit, though he told his grandson that he didn't mind as it was the work that he cared about and not the spotlight.  Often 'Guido' (as he was known) was simply screen credited as "special effects by Guidobaldi" which is a bit odd I feel.  Guido's life, especially around WW2 where the Churchill government rounded up most every UK based Italian and deported them to internment camps in Canada (much akin to the American's internment of Japanese, though far more severe and tactless). Guido's transport ship, the Andorra Star out of Liverpool was torpedoed with large loss of life, though by sheer miracle Guido survived. To cut a long yet fascinating story short, once Italy capitulated to the allies, Guido returned to the UK and to what he loved doing - making movie illusions. Guido's story is genuinely riveting in full, and I may do a full article on him later.  Such an interesting, unassuming and talented man. A book could be written on Guido's event filled life - of which I'm thankful to David Coker for sharing much of it with me.  I've included a number of rare Guidobaldi effects photos throughout the body of this article.


Oscar winning miniature work: 30 SECONDS OVER TOKYO.  Sensational!
The importance of A.Arnold Gillespie and his contributions to special effects cannot be overstated.  Buddy, as he was known to friends, family and movie stars alike was one of a number of key creative forces based at MGM studios from the late 1920's on through to the early 1960's.  Together with Gillespie, people like production designer Cedric Gibbons, visual effects man James Basevi, miniaturist Donald Jahraus and matte supervisor Warren Newcombe would all play an important part in the high calibre of spectacle that the studio produced.  Buddy began as an art director and often merged into special effects assignments on as early projects as the original BEN HUR with cleverly devised hanging miniatures, and was seemingly unstoppable as his very long and productive career and a huge catalogue of titles would see Buddy's ingenuity and pragmatism the envy of the industry.  Among his many memorable films which are covered below are the jaw dropping model sequences from 30 SECONDS OVER TOKYO, the tank chase set pieces from COMRADE X and the shattering realism of the earthquake and tidal wave for GREEN DOLPHIN STREET.

The Oscar nominated fx on John Wayne war picture FLYING TIGERS (1942)
 Howard and Theodore Lydecker worked for the most part at Republic Studios, though later in his career Howard would work on some British pictures such as HMS DEFIANT and also at 20th Century Fox with L.B Abbott.  The Lydeckers' work at Republic Studios was remarkable for such a small studio with limited resources.  The quality of their model construction was very good, but it was their photographic methods which always sold the finished trick as most all of their work would be shot outdoors in natural light (always a major plus factor) and even more, the Lydeckers' were masters at destruction and pyro work which, on a scaled down set is a fine art, especially in the 1940's. Among their many serials and low budget action pictures, the brothers executed superb model effects on FLYING TIGERS as well as some later pictures such as HMS DEFIANT and SINK THE BISMARK.

Donald Jahraus began his long career at RKO building models though would spend the majority of his effects career at MGM working closely with Buddy Gillespie.  Many of my all time favourite model shots were the result of Jahraus's handiwork - often in wartime pictures and many of which are described and illustrated below. Don was one of the true geniuses of his field, without question.

L.B Abbott (Lenwood Ballard 'Bill' Abbott) was an all round visual effects expert who had mastered almost all facets of the medium, from optical cinematography through to miniature set ups and camerawork.  Bill's particular area of expertise has to be in controlling, directing and shooting miniatures - of which he achieved stunning on screen results.
Working mostly for 20th Century Fox for much of his long career Bill was involved in complex model sequences in films such as THE RAINS CAME, IN OLD CHICAGO, CRASH DIVE and TORA TORA TORA.  It was common for a time to see many of Abbott's model shots recycled in other films or tv series. One of Bill's last pictures was Steven Spielberg's 1941 which to my mind had some of the best miniature work seen in years and came very close to taking home that FX Oscar in 1979.  Wonderful old school Lydecker wire gags and mayhem on a vast scale that looked great on the big screen in scope.


MOBY DICK (1954)
Britain's George Blackwell was one of the best known specialists on that side of the Atlantic, with many fine credits under his belt such as the large model of 16th Century London built for Percy Day's unit for HENRY V.  Blackwell is also well known for his DAMBUSTERS miniatures as well as the excellent maritime battle set pieces in CAPTAIN HORATIO HORNBLOWER.  Some of George's best work I felt was the really impressive model whale and whaling boats as seen in John Huston's MOBY DICK.


One of Derek Meddings' remarkably convincing miniature sets from JOURNEY TO THE FAR SIDE OF THE SUN  (1969)

Derek Meddings on a UFO series set.
As a kid growing up in the 1960's, I, and millions like me, were weaned on Gerry Anderson's tv shows such as STINGRAY and THUNDERBIRDS, thus it comes as no great surprise to you that these shows formed an integral part of my psyche (for what it's worth) regarding movie illusions, trick work and exploding models.  You simply could not get anything better on tv (or at the cinema) at that time.  The name Derek Meddings struck a chord with this impressionable young lad and has stayed with me ever since.  Derek was one of the true masters of the craft without doubt, and it was such a sad loss to the industry (and fans like me) when he passed away far too early in the mid 1990's.  Derek was my hero as far as this sort of work went, and I could never get enough of those fantastic plotlines, high adventure, wonderous flying craft and best of all for me, those bloody fantastic multi-wheeled rescue vehicles that rolled out of Thunderbird 2 to the tones of Barry Gray's magnificent, full bodied orchestral score each week.  New Zealand only had one tv channel then, and it was in glorious monochrome so I recall the excitement when the feature film THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO (1966) was released in Technicolor and scope!!! Oh my God... all my Xmas's had come at once.  I saw that film many times on double bills with things like ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS and other shows to delight kids.  Many British effects artists owe much to Derek and were heavily influenced by his work ethic.

Emilio Ruiz del Rio
On the continental side of things we absolutely must not overlook one of my all time favourite effects practitioners - the maestro himself Emilio Ruiz del Rio.  I've often written about Emilio and his astonishing career which spanned some 45 years and a reported 450 films in Spain, Italy, France and the United States. Emilio was primarily a matte painter who specialised in the latent image foreground glass shot.  Over time Emilio would become an internationally acknowledged expert in hanging miniatures and cleverly integrated foreground models which not even the keenest eye could spot.  One of the greats without question, with a body of work to prove it.

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GREAT MINIATURE MOMENTS:

Possibly the earliest example of miniature magic dating back to 1898.



John P.Fulton with the two loves of his life: miniatures and airplanes.  The film is AIRMAIL (1931)

A rare photo of the London miniature set built for THE LOST WORLD (1924)

THE LOST WORLD elaborate model set up.  Charlie Baker was one of the miniature builders before embarking on a lifelong career stint at Universal Studios.

A wonderful behind the scenes look at the vast city of the future from METROPOLIS (1925).  Model work was overseen by Edmund Zeihfuss and Willy Muller.
I think this shot is from the film THE SKY HAWK (1929) with Ralph Hammeras' effects work.

Model set up from the 1941 Hal Roach film ROAD SHOW.  Visual effects by Roy Seawright & Frank William Young
Miniature work from the excellent expressionist German film THE TESTAMENT OF DR MABUSE (1933)

The Manderley mansion from Hitchcock's REBECCA (1940).  Apparently the model was so large it occupied an entire stage at Selznick Studios.

The British war picture SHIPS WITH WINGS (1941) was a good show though arguably over ambitious in it's many model effects.  While this shot looks fine many others are hampered by obviously tiny models, bad stage lighting and an evidently tight wartime budgetary restriction.  Effects by Roy Kellino, Douglas Woolsey and Cliff Richardson - all stalwart veterans of the UK fx business.
A well publicised model of New York for the film DELUGE (1933).  Effects by Ned Mann.

Miniature set by Donald Jahraus from an unknown RKO film of the 1930's

THINGS TO COME (1936) fx by Ned Mann and Ross Jacklin.
Some excellent tank work by Byron Haskin and cinematographer Hans Koenecamp from THE SEA HAWK (1940)

In the 1940's Gordon Jennings of Paramount studios published this article on the methods employed at that studio for mobilising miniature aircraft.

A worker at Warner Bros shown constructing a large model float plane for an Errol Flynn film.

Another view of the Warner Bros workshop, circa 1940
Fred Sersen at 20th Century Fox would hold a highly regarded place among Hollywood's SFX men, with his work here in Shirley Temple's THE BLUE BIRD (1940) gaining an Oscar nomination.  A tremendous effects sequence with a vast miniature forest fire and superbly integrated actors added into the catastrophe optically - a Sersen specialty.  Very impressive indeed.
John Barrymore as SVENGALI (1931) in this dramatic uninterrupted pullback from the actors' eyes out and across the rooftops of the town.  Fred Jackman was special effects man.
A candid pic of animator Pete Peterson in between takes on a well crafted MIGHTY JOE YOUNG model set up.
Also from MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (1949)

UK miniatures pioneer Filippo Guidobaldi with one of his model sets at Gaumont-Lime Grove Studios in London.  Film unknown but may be THE GHOST TRAIN (?)

A wonderfully detailed set up from a dismal film (that could really have been great) - SON OF KONG (1933)

Another recently acquired pic from the same film.  Willis O'Brien was effects chief.
One of the best special effects films ever in my mind would be HELL'S ANGELS (1930).  Phenomenal miniature work and battle scenes by SFX man Roy Davidson and fx cameraman Harry Zech.  The models must have been of considerable size to look so good in the explosive action scenes.

Same film.. and no, your eyes aren't playing tricks, the aerial sequences really are duo tone colour.

Also from HELL'S ANGELS is this amazingly convincing miniature sequence. 
HELL'S ANGELS (1930)

Revealing stills from MGM's THE SON OF LASSIE (1946) where Buddy Gillespie and Don Jahraus have rigged up a model town against a large painted backing for a bombing raid.
One of the best effects films ever, IN OLD CHICAGO (1937) was a spectacle indeed.  Terrific miniature work, mattes and composite cinematography overseen by Fred Sersen and Charles G.Clarke

Same film... the warehouse models were around 8 feet tall which lent a high degree of credibility to the flames.

Superb model/live action composite work from IN OLD CHICAGO

Same film with a full miniature set up and people added possibly via the Williams matting technique.
One of Buddy Gillespie's early trick shot assignments was on the original BEN HUR (1925).  Shown here is a hanging foreground miniature of the arena which once properly aligned will produce a seamless effect.
The scene once lined up in camera.
Gordon Jennings was nominated for an Oscar for his effects work in the Dorothy Lamour picture TYPHOON (1940).  This same shot was recycled (along with several other fx shots) in WHEN WORLD'S COLLIDE (1951)

Warner Brothers had a large and intuitive special effects department where no job seemed too much.  Jack Cosgrove and fx cinematographer Edwin DuPar handled the many excellent shots for Humphrey Bogart's ACTION IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC (1943).  This shot is entirely miniature and works beautifully.

Same film
ACTION IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC
Willis O'Brien directed the many visual fx for THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII (1935)
Top: RKO matte artist Byron Crabbe with fx boss Willis O'Brien and a POMPEII miniature.
LAST DAYS OF POMPEII model composited with extras via the Dunning process.
KING KONG (1933) Skull Island set up involving miniature, glass painted and rear projected elements as one.
Another KONG miniature, all highly detailed with people later added in via travelling matte.
Howard and Theodore Lydecker with a wonderful 'movie' train set that any 12 year old boy would want to play with for hours on end.
The W.C Fields comedy TILLIE AND GUS (1933) featured a lot of riverboat action - all in miniature.  Art Smith would have been looking after the miniatures, with Orin Roberts supervising the effects work at that time.

A film that really should have had at least a nomination for visual effects, THE NAKED JUNGLE (1954) was a bonanza for Paramount's effects dept under John P.Fulton.  Terrific fx work all round, with Ivyl Burks' model shots being especially well done, filmed outside in natural light being a major plus.
An elaborate foreground miniature and painted backing for a scene in Korda's JUNGLE BOOK (1942).  The actual scene is shown below.
The JUNGLE BOOK perspective miniature.  The camera follows the actors and then pans around to the left of screen where further hanging miniature work is set up.
An excellent forest fire with large scale miniatures from JUNGLE BOOK.  Lawrence Butler was effects man here.
Effects veteran Lee Zavitz directing the action for a marine shot from an unknown film.
Another Lee Zavitz miniature in preparation.
Same unknown film.  I wonder whether it could be AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS ?
One of Filippo Guidobaldi's miniature set pieces of the Battle of Trafalgar from the Alexander Korda epic film THAT HAMILTON WOMAN (1941).  Guido's grandson told me about his work:  "In early 1940 he worked on a film called 'That Lady Hamilton' released in 1941. He told me used small explosive charges on the war ships to portray the destruction of the French fleet. As a young boy I'd experiment with his supply of black powder and other chemicals including electric detonators that he kept in an old cigarette packet. I was forever blowing things up in miniature, be it models I'd made, found or bought. I suppose my love of pyrotechnics had started then".
Great Guidobaldi model work from THAT HAMILTON WOMAN
Guido and his special effects staff with one of the model ships from THAT HAMILTON WOMAN (1941) "The interesting thing about that film (so I've heard) is that it was  Winston Churchill's favorite film and he allegedly watched it over 50 times in his private cinema. The irony was that Churchill in 1940 said, 'Collar the Lot', meaning round up every Italian in the UK and deport them all to Canada and that included Guido!!!"

One of the splendidly constructed aircraft used in the excellent IN WHICH WE SERVE (1942)
IN WHICH WE SERVE model work by veteran Douglas Woolsey and Bill Warrington.  Effects cameramen were Derick Williams and Stanley Grant.
Bill Warrington's climactic model explosion from THE GUNS OF NAVARONE (1961)

The Lydecker brothers at Republic studios circa 1940.
Frames from an unknown Japanese war picture.  Note the crew members atop the large backing watching the action.
Under Arnold Gillespie, key collaborator Donald Jahraus constructed an amazingly realistic mining town for MGM's VALLEY OF DECISION (1945) entirely in miniature with stunning results.  I wonder what they did with these wonderful 'toys' after they were finished with?
VALLEY OF DECISION (1945).  Live action plate of people yet to be superimposed into roadway to complete effect.

John P. Fulton received an Oscar nomination for his spectacular miniature pyrotechnics for the film TULSA (1949).  These shots and others were 'borrowed' a few years later for George Pal's WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE (1951). Outstanding work here but John lost out on the Oscar that year to the film MIGHTY JOE YOUNG which his own father was part of the key effects crew and this apparently caused a serious rift within the Fulton family!  True story.
Bill Warrington and Jimmy Snow provided miniature deserts, convoys and fortress for the British film HOTEL SAHARA (1951).
Behind the scenes with the Japanese special effects crew on THE BATTLE OF THE SEA OF JAPAN (1969)
Eiji Tsuburaya's model effects for BATTLE OF THE SEA OF JAPAN
Japan's master of miniatures Eiji Tsuburaya
Eiji Tsuburaya provided the model effects for the Frank Sinatra war picture NONE BUT THE BRAVE (1965)
Major model set piece being filmed for NONE BUT THE BRAVE
I really enjoy war pictures, especially those dealing with the various resistance movements and underground... all compelling stuff indeed.  This gem is DAY'S OF GLORY (1944), an under rated little RKO film with much excellent effects work throughout.  Outstanding miniature sequences involving trains and tanks, and so well combined with the live action.  Vernon L.Walker was effects chief with Paul Eagler as fx cameraman and Marcel Delgado on model work.
Another remarkable miniature sequence from DAYS OF GLORY with excellent wintery landscapes so well constructed and decorated, plus top notch tank model action.  The film was nominated for an effects Oscar that year.

Same film - good story, good action, great effects!
Utterly believable marine model work by the Lydecker brothers from FAIR WIND TO JAVA (1953)
Filippo Guidobaldi posing here with one of his magnificently constructed sets for A PLACE OF ONE'S OWN (1945)
Action sequences from CAPTAIN HORATIO HORNBLOWER (1951) with top flight model work and effects by George Blackwell, Harry Barndollar, Arthur Rhodes and Cliff Richardson.
John Wayne's OPERATION PACIFIC (1951).  FX by William McGann and H.F Koenecamp
Prepping an important effects sequence in the MGM tank for A GUY NAMED JOE (1943)
same film
... and that's a take... print it!
Arnold Gillespie model shot from A GUY NAMED JOE
Forest fire in miniature as seen in WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE (1951) though I think it was possibly lifted from an earlier Paramount film THE FOREST RANGERS lensed some 9 years previous.  Gordon Jennings and Ivyl Burks effects men.
A nicely executed aerial sequence all in miniature from the nerve rackingly tense British film THE NIGHT MY NUMBER CAME UP (1955).  Geoffrey Dickenson and Syd Pearson were special effects men here.  A film I'd highly recommend!
One of Paramount's biggest effects shows was the Gary Cooper-Ingrid Bergman FOR WHOM THE BELLS TOLL (1944). Loaded with mattes, models and process shots, this is one of Ivyl Burks' miniatures, photographed by Devereaux Jennings. Some of this also wound up in WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE some years later.
Cobbled together from left over models from QUO VADIS, a painted backing and a profile cut out volcano, this fanciful locale was seen in the perfectly awful George Pal show ATLANTIS-THE LOST CONTINENT (1961). 
A different view of the ATLANTIS miniature set which was overseen by Arnold Gillespie.
An intriguing shot from Carol Reed's NIGHT TRAIN TO MUNICH (1940) where I'm sure a forced perspective miniature setting has been constructed just beyond the balcony area.  As the camera dollies back there is a realistic perspective 'shift' in the scenery that one wouldn't see with simple process projection.  No effects credit.
ALL THE BROTHERS WERE VALIANT (1953) contained some impressive whaling sequences courtesy of Arnold Gillespie's miniatures.  Among other skills, Gillespie was a master at 'miniaturising' water (as was L.B Abbott over at Fox) by using rows of strategically arranged fans.
THE FORTUNES OF CAPTAIN BLOOD (1950)  No special effects credit.
Same film
If any film was ever overlooked for it's excellent trick work, it must be QUO VADIS (1950).  Superb technical work in all of the, mainly UK based visual effects, with these Don Jahraus miniature conflagration scenes, shot stateside at MGM by Arnold Gillespie and longtime fx cameraman Maximilian Fabian.
Interesting model work from the British classic DEAD OF NIGHT (1945).  FX by Cliff Richardson & Lionel Banes.
Howard and Theodore Lydecker work with their effects crew on the complex model sequences in FLYING TIGERS (1942)
FLYING TIGERS
Rigging a large scale model train for action.
The sensational finished sequence as seen on screen
20th Century Fox's THE VIRGIN QUEEN (1955) with Ray Kellogg in charge of special effects. Shot in the Sersen tank with miniature ships and foreground.  The background of Plymouth is a 2 dimensional profile along the edge of the tank.  The sky is a painted backing.
Warner Brothers' special effects department really had their work cut out for them with the substantial load of trick shots in Michael Curtiz' PASSAGE TO MARSEILLE (1944). This, and the several subsequent frames are all from one particular lengthy sequence done entirely with miniatures.  It's really something else - the car is driven by means of a slit in the road, the tractor is in motion, model cows are turning heads and moving, the parallax shifts (I'm assuming the set was probably constructed on 2 or 3 separate tables, carefully lined up with each moved somehow as camera moves along to give a very realistic almost subliminal 3D effect).
Same sequence, with animals moving, farmer driving model tractor etc.  This set appears to be in two sections, with division behind hedgerow allowing for a subtle 'shift' of background set offset against foreground set, thus lending a quite unique and believable effect.  Jack Cosgrove was SFX director, Roy Davidson and Byron Haskin were also involved while Edwin DuPar photographed the trick shots and Rex Wimpy shot the process material.
same sequence
same sequence.
Same sequence.  Note the slit in the roadway to 'drive' the model car.  The sequence has more to it that I didn't include here.  Once the car comes to a halt atop the hill the camera pans across the vista of the valley and farms and as it passes over some foreground bushes a clever transformation from miniature setting to full sized soundstage set of same locale with the actors occurs - and all in the one camera move.  Pretty bloody impressive sequence that I've watched a few dozen times and it never fails to delight me.
Also from PASSAGE TO MARSEILLES is this terrific trick shot of a miniature airfield as bombers come out of hiding in hidden hangars, with people double exposed in via density matte.  The film is packed with great trick work.
An Oscar winner for visual effects, WAR OF THE WORLDS (1953) was a big effects show for the Gordon Jennings unit at Paramount.  Here is one of Ivyl Burks' large miniature sets of Los Angeles.
WAR OF THE WORLDS
same film
thar she blows...
WAR OF THE WORLDS
A fully miniature scene as supervised by Arnold Gillespie for the Oscar winning THE PLYMOUTH ADVENTURE (1952). The mechanised oars of the foreground rowboat gave the illusion of movement to the puppets within the boat.
A rare close up picture showing the level of detail on the miniature Mayflower.  Donald Jahraus constructed the models while long time MGM fx staffers Max Fabian and Harold Lipstein photographed same.
Frames from PLYMOUTH ADVENTURE which has an outstanding storm sequence... one of the all time best in fact.
A Filippo Guidobaldi miniature street from an unidentified British film.  Guido is seen at right poking his head around the corner of the building.
unidentified
Another Buddy Gillespie Oscar nomination came along for the excellent marine model shots in STAND BY FOR ACTION (1943).  Again Donald Jahraus was the model maker and ace fx cameraman Maximilian Fabian made it all look convincing
Same film.  Note the well 'sculpted' foam and sea spray which is something Gillespie had mastered to an artform.
STAND BY FOR ACTION Gillespie effects shot.
Fox really knew how to pull out all the stops when it came to big disaster epics.  THE RAINS OF RANCHIPUR (1955) was one such big CinemaScope show with a fatally miscast Richard Burton as an Indian.  A direct remake of THE RAINS CAME the latter isn't entirely without it's merits.  The Oscar nominated effects are mostly very good - with extensive model work and optical compositing.  Ray Kellogg was in charge of the trick work with cinematographers Bill Abbott, James B.Gordon and Wally Castle shooting the mayhem.
Same film... the effects work still looks pretty good.
THE RAINS OF RANCHIPUR (1955)
Same film
Same
20th Century Fox's TITANIC (1953) had some good trick effects work, with some where you'd least expect it. The upper frames here where the sea bursts in is a miniature with the actors matted in later.  The other frames here are good examples of tank work with apparently realistic survivors in lifeboats who are nothing more than small articulated puppets where movement is supplied via the mechanical oars.
The British made their version of the same true event, with the superior A NIGHT TO REMEMBER (1958) which told the story in a more gritty documentary style.  Bill Warrington was effects boss.
Subtle yet effective model and process work for flooding of deck in NIGHT TO REMEMBER
Pinewood's effects crew set up the Titanic for A NIGHT TO REMEMBER
The rousing adventure HMS DEFIANT (1962: aka DAMN THE DEFIANT) utilised the skills of Howard Lydecker to lend a highly convincing look to the period sea battles.  Great film, a great Dirk Bogarde and with great effects.
HMS DEFIANT (1962)


Atmospheric model work from the misunderstood Universal monster show THE LAND UNKNOWN (1957)
Uncredited model effects from the film THE LIST OF ADRIAN MESSENGER (1963)
Veteran Universal special visual effects man David S.Horsley rigs the saucer for landing on Metaluna for THIS ISLAND EARTH (1955)
A substantial miniature built by Donald Jahraus for Arnold Gillespie for the film THE WHITE CLIFFS OF DOVER (1944)
Arnold Gillespie won an Academy Award for the excellent effects work in GREEN DOLPHIN STREET (1947).  A lot of matte art supervised by Warren Newcombe together with outstanding miniature earthquake and tidal wave made for a well deserved win.  The film is largely set in New Zealand where most of miniatures were required.  For a major sequence the massive quake causes giant trees to uproot and tumble down onto fleeing Maori's.  The miniatures as usual were the domain of Donald Jahraus with Roy Cornish constructing the model trees and foliage which was his area of expertise.  The above still is an entirely miniature setting, with the end result shown below.
The quake sequence with trees tumbling down ranks among the best effects sequences ever, with outstanding, crisp rear projection work combining the models with the perfectly lit and staged foreground action.  Really impressive.
The big quake is followed by a big tidal wave down New  Zealand's Wanganui river.  Once again this entire view is a superbly constructed and photographed miniature.
The deluge in GREEN DOLPHIN STREET
GREEN DOLPHIN STREET miniature work.
Nicely done exploding model from Universal's BATTLE HYMN (1957).  Effects supervisor Clifford Stine.
John Fulton model shots from THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN (1942)
For Cecil B.DeMille's THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956) John P.Fulton designed the multitude of trick shots, with this city sequence being a model built by Ivyl Burks.

The finished composite with Burks' miniature matted together with 2nd unit material shot in Egypt. Additionally, a Jan Domela painted matte has also been implemented to blend the two shots together smoothly and people have been matted atop the walls of the model city.  Effects cameraman Irmin Roberts.
Project Unlimited won an Oscar for the highly variable visual effects for THE TIME MACHINE (1960). While some of the miniatures weren't too bad, the camerawork of these sequences was extremely poor.  Incorrect choice of focal length lens, little or no depth of field and awful incandescent stage lighting collectively defeated the purpose (not that the Academy minded, not even noticed). 

One of the greatest acts of heroism of the entire second world war, THE DAMBUSTERS (1954) vividly told the story as a matter of fact and with a minimum of fuss.  Bold use of miniatures and even more ambitious utilisation of complex optical rotoscoping for the actual blast (filmed itself as a considerably larger practical effect element and doubled in to the dam miniature frame by frame).  George Blackwell was primary special effects and miniatures chief, with Les Bowie also involved.  Future Star Wars D.O.P Gil Taylor was effects cinematographer, with Ronnie Wass on optical compositing.

DAMBUSTERS moment of glory:  some armchair critics poked holes in this effects sequence but I think that, for the time, it was very impressive - even more so as the camera p.o.v was from a constantly moving aerial vantage point.  I'd love to see a breakdown of the elements and models some day.
Now, this is another film which some have criticised for the model work - which I find something of a mystery as the work is top rung all the way.  IN HARM'S WAY (1965) was a good, solid war picture, with plenty of excellent miniatures and destruction by Larry Butler.  I think the heavy criticisms may have been in Kirk Douglas' memoir which I read not too long ago where he stated the producers hated the model shots and cringed when they saw the rushes (if I recall).  Maybe an earlier effects man might have been replaced by Butler (?) as the work is all good as it stands now?
IN HARM'S WAY.... now I ask you... what's wrong with these frames?  Brilliant stuff to my eye.
Same film with, I suspect, director Otto Preminger proudly posing winning the war!
The ocean battle in BEN HUR (1959) was a supremely well executed spectacle with large models, an excellent painted sky backing and good 'water wrangling' by Buddy Gillespie's fx crew.
BEN HUR
Same film... all BluRay captures for maximum viewing pleasure!
Arnold 'Buddy' Gillespie (r) with crew setting up BEN HUR's miniature galleons for a take.
Gillespie (centre) and effects cinematographer Clarence Slifer (right) in MGM's tank on Lot 3
Here's a neat model sequence from Fox's CHINA GIRL (1942) with miniature Japanese dive bomber gunned down by George Montgomery with resulting crash and fireball.  All miniature except matted in live action area at left.  Fred Sersen was effects director here.

A youthful Jim Danforth animates several characters atop the fireman's ladder at Linwood Dunn's Film Effects of Hollywood for IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD (1963)
Well integrated models and process projection serve the action in the British true account DUNKIRK (1958).  I'm not sure who did these shots though I know Les Bowie did some matte painting work on the film.
Now, no one would ever suspect it, but this entire scene is a Donald Jahraus miniature built on a stage at MGM for the Edward G.Robinson film OUR VINES HAVE TENDER GRAPES (1945).  Arnold Gillespie was special effects chief.
A close look at one of the farm building miniatures from the above film.  Remarkable care and detailing here, which in the actual film you'd never suspect for a moment.

Back to war... the big budget, multi national production BATTLE OF THE BULGE (1965) was a fairly lackluster affair, though was saved by incredibly good model work - much of it undetectable.  Henri Assola constructed the miniatures for model supervisor Francesco Prosper under the guidance of Art Director Eugene Lourie - himself a miniatures and vfx expert.  Kit West and Alex Weldon handled the many explosions and action scenes.
BATTLE OF THE BULGE tank models in action.
I'm fairly sure this is Eugene Lourie posing with one of the beautiful remote controlled tanks.
Sensational tank action
BATTLE OF THE BULGE model pyrotechnics
While on tank warfare, I simply cannot overlook the extensive model work in Clark Gable's COMRADE X (1940).  Tremendous work by Arnold Gillespie, Donald Jahraus and Max Fabian.  Gillespie's grandson still possesses one of these model tanks.
Frantic tank action in COMRADE X - all in miniature.  The tanks, for the most part, were controlled by means of a vertical rod passing down through an undetectable razor slit running along the 'dirt' on the false bottomed set, from which a cable control mechanism in a special channel would pull each tank.  For some shots, such as the tanks driving through rivers, the models were self propelled and remotely controlled by Arnold Gillespie's effects team. The settings shown here were all full miniature landscapes on the MGM backlot, with distant hills being a painted scenic cut out.  Some shots such as the bottom left frame were enhanced with Warren Newcombe matte art.  'Tanks'....  'You're welcome'!
Close up photo of the amount of extraordinary detailing which modeller Don Jahraus applied to each of these tanks. The scales ranged widely, depending upon the requirements of each tank, with some being simply 'cast' models for background stationary shots and others being considerably larger and more complex.
Several eye popping fx sequences appear in COMRADE X, such as a tank out of control demolishing a house filled with peasants, where miniature rear projection, tank model and a camera move are all combined beautifully in one continuous move.  This shot above is also a winner where Russian tank is running over trees - all in miniature and all incredibly convincing!  The under table control channels to which each tank was connected, were contoured and varied directionally left and right to allow sudden turns and very realistic action.  All model fx fans should see this film!  Should have had an Oscar!
Laurence W. Butler had an enviable pedigree in trick photography, from the early days of Hollywood spectacle where he assisted his father William Butler with optical effects shots on First National's NOAH'S ARK (1929).  Larry would work his way up through the ranks on such prestige shows such as THE THIEF OF BAGHDAD (1940) through many big effects films at Warner Bros, then on to Columbia for many years and finally setting himself up with longtime cameraman collaborator Donald Glouner as an independent visual effects house.  One of the many projects Butler-Glouner would embark upon was THE DEVIL AT 4 O'CLOCK (1961 - shown here) where volcanic eruptions were the order of the day.

DEVIL AT 4 O'CLOCK model matte composite.  Interestingly, Butler's own sons would follow his footsteps as cinematographers and 2nd unit action crew on projects such as TORA TORA TORA (1970).  Butler's associate Don Glouner also had a similar pedigree.  Glouner's father Martin was a cinematographer, his newhew Richard was also a cameraman and if that weren't enough, Donald's son Dennis became a special effects cameraman working for Albert Whitlock for a number of years!
Spencer Tracy has that fleeting thought:  "Now...did I return those library books?"

The large and very convincing 'volcano' constructed on Larry Butler's ranch in California.  Apparently Butler wanted to create a lake on his property so figured a good way to achieve that was to have the production company dig a huge pit in order to build Columbia's volcano on the adjacent land.
Nice model sets at 20th Century Fox for the big CinemaScope musical THE KING AND I (1956)
One of my all time favourite films, based upon one of WWII's most risky, do or die operations - the Doolittle air raids on Tokyo - THIRTY SECONDS OVER TOKYO (1944) is notable for some of the finest model and mechanical effects work to ever hit the screen.  MGM veteran A.Arnold Gillespie won a thoroughly deserved Oscar, along with long time collaborator Don Jahraus and matte supervisor Warren Newcombe, for the incredibly good effects work in the film.

A close view of Don Jahraus' very large, 60 foot long model of the USS Hornet aircraft carrier with bombers at the ready.
Now, building a nice miniature is just part of the deal... a good model must be photographed correctly if one holds any remote hope of the results being convincing.  This frame is a crystal clear demonstration of a brilliantly designed, photographed and executed fx sequence.  The bomber is running along horizontal piano wires (which we catch a quick glimpse of as it suddenly vibrates when one of the charges is detonated beneath).  The pyro charges were controlled by A.D Flowers and Jack McMaster - both of whom would be names that would feature in the sfx crews of scores of big films for years to come, with Flowers being a multiple Academy Award winner and a genius with explosives as seen in films such as 1941, APOCALYPSE NOW, THE TOWERING INFERNO and many more.
THIRTY SECONDS OVER TOKYO - Oscar winning miniature work.
Same film, with perfectly scaled explosive charges.
Same film.  I'd like to see a wider view with crew members at work to give a sense of scale, but Buddy Gillespie's grandson Robert told me there weren't any.
THIRTY SECONDS OVER TOKYO miniature inferno.

Same film.  A frame from the flyover whereby the camera literally 'flies' over the destruction precisely as one would expect to see with actual WWII documentary footage.  Astonishing doesn't even begin to describe it folks!
Spanish effects maestro Emilio Ruiz with one of his miniature sets from CUSTER OF THE WEST (1968)
L.B Abbott's volcanic eruption from OUR MAN FLINT (1966) - a great effects shot which would later reappear in several other films and tv shows over the years.
Also from OUR MAN FLINT is this breaking dam model, though it has been 'borrowed' from the earlier THE RAINS OF RANCHIPUR which L.B Abbott also worked on.  This too would be recycled in various tv shows etc over the years.
A really entertaining Japanese science fiction film, LATITUDE ZERO (1969) has a number of interesting miniature shots with people matted in very successfully.

The big Cinerama disaster epic KRAKATOA-EAST OF JAVA (1969) was a somewhat sluggish event, though the action, when it finally occurs is good solid work.  Eugene Lourie was nominated for an Oscar for his effects work.  Lourie's special effects crew included Alex Weldon on mechanical fx as well as Henri Assola and Francesco Prosper - both miniatures specialists all of whom he had worked with on the earlier BATTLE OF THE BULGE
KRAKATOA-EAST OF JAVA

same film
same film
KRAKATOA-EAST OF JAVA miniatures combined with live action.  Former Shepperton fx men John Mackey and Bob Cuff were involved in the optical processes on the film.
One of Emilio Ruiz' flawless foreground miniatures from the film PRINCESS AMINA
One of Donald Jahraus' impressive miniatures built for the MGM war film SALUTE TO THE MARINES (1943).  Arnold Gillespie supervised the effects work.
Now, before you complain that there's no god damned matte paintings in this blog, I've included (at no extra cost) this beautifully delicate pastel Newcombe matte from SALUTE TO THE MARINES which depicts the same bridge and countryside from a fresher vantage point.  Very nice matte art.
Frighteningly realistic kamakazi suicide from Universal's AWAY ALL BOATS (1956) starring the somewhat under rated Jeff Chandler.  Effects probably by Clifford Stine or David Horsley.  I think this may have been reused 20 years later for MIDWAY, which coincidentally Horsley was also involved with.
A large scale fortress blows up as a result of Peter Sellers' accident prone nature in the extremely funny THE PARTY (1968).  Howard A.Anderson jr built and blew up the miniature.  Best line:  "Birdy num nums".
Gene Warren and Wah Chang's Project Unlimited built and crashed this railway model for the Universal film THAT FUNNY FEELING (1965).  Jim Danforth painted the sky backing by the way.
Also from THAT FUNNY FEELING is one of my favourite ever 'blink and you'll miss it' trick shots - the traffic jam and reckless driver.  Real location with miniature expressway lanes matted in on right side and a whole slew of wonderfully stop motion animated cars.  Jim Danforth was one of the animators and the sequence - as brief as it is - is a gem.  Apparently the Universal executives were blown away with this one and could not figure it out (but would you really expect an executive to figure something like this out???? I think NOT)*Pics courtesy of Jim Danforth
The engaging maritime mystery thriller THE WRECK OF THE MARY DEARE (1959) has effective effects tank work courtesy of Buddy Gillespie.
Probably my favourite Ray Harryhausen film, THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1974) also has my favourite RH model set - the fountain of destiny.  I would guess that Francesco Prosper was responsible for the miniature as he worked on others in the film.
The Fountain of Destiny with flawlessly matted in actors.  Great shot... great film.
The British film THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN (1969) had all manner of great effects work, with Wally Veevers handling optical composites, Ray Caple painting mattes, Cliff Richardson carrying out the many full scale explosive scenes and Glen Robinson looking after the dogfight miniatures.  This scene is typical of the quality of the work in the film where a Stuka crash dives into an English radar installation - all in miniature.
Glen Robinson's miniatures crew at work on the above miniature set.
The miniatures from BATTLE OF BRITAIN with modeller Mick Charles shown in lower photo.
BATTLE OF BRITAIN:  model unit included Mick Charles, Roger Turner, Richard Conway, William Creighton, Nick Allder & Chris Olsen.  The legendary John P. Fulton was initially in charge of special effects on the film and had started preliminary tests on location in Spain when he died prematurely.

An Emilio Ruiz foreground miniature from the film THE FRENCH REVOLUTION (title ?)
The Star Ship Enterprise circa 1966 before the cameras at Linwood Dunn's Film Effects of Hollywood.
Dennis and Robert Skotak prepare a miniature of New York's Manhattan Island of the near future for the John Carpenter fun flick ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981).
Another view of the same model
Howard Lydecker came out of retirement to work with Bill Warrington on SINK THE BISMARK (1960).  Future Bond effects man John Stears built the models, which were then photographed by veteran Skeets Kelly.  Cliff Culley and Martin Shorthall provided subtle optical effects such as animated torpedo trails and tracer fire.
SINK THE BISMARK
same film
Tom Howard's effects department at Britain's MGM-Elstree created some explosive model effects for OPERATION CROSSBOW (1966).  This shot proved very popular and was subsequently hijacked to appear in several other war pictures and I think I even saw it turn up in DAMNATION ALLEY (1977) if my memory serves me.
All of my generation grew up with the name Derek Meddings, with Derek's name instantly associated with spectacular, larger than life destruction and explosions... and all in Super-Marionation too! One of the industry's greats without question, and a craftsman that many younger effects boys owe so much too.  Current James Bond special effects chief Steve Begg told me just how important Derek was for his career, and there are many more like Steve. The pics above show Derek with crew working on the rather good JOURNEY TO THE FAR SIDE OF THE SUN (1969) aka DOPPLEGANGER - a good little sci fi thriller packed with great miniatures and really impressive optical cinematography.
Same film - a fantastic miniature set and a well photographed one at that.
An amazing tilt up from blue screened in actors to Derek's remarkable miniature. Wow!
Same film.  I'm told that this film was submitted to the Academy for sfx consideration in 1969 though it was knocked back at the first stage.  The less than equal MAROONED won the award that year!
The aforementioned Derek Meddings learnt his trade - as did many others such as Kit West (shown above) - under the doyen of British effects men, Les Bowie.  This film is MOSQUITO SQUADRON (1969) where WWII aerial action was the order of the day.
Les Bowie operates as his team unleash the miniature Mosquito bomber down parallel piano wire in much the same way as the Lydecker brothers did for years at Republic.  The miniature unit shot all of their material in Malta to ensure decent weather and clear skies.
Another model shot from MOSQUITO SQUADRON.  Note the fx crew member peaking out behind the painted tree line.

same film
While we're talking about Les Bowie, here's an interesting shot from Hammer's FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL (1973). Bowie and long time associate Ray Caple constructed the small village in miniature and extended the setting with an elaborate painted backing.
Terrific high definition screen captures of Howard Anderson jr's excellent miniature battle sequence from the Rock Hudson war picture TOBRUK (1966).
More top quality Anderson model work from TOBRUK.  Mechanical effects by Fred Knoth and Herman Townsley.
I saw this as a kid (at the very nice Mayfair theatre in Auckland) and loved it.  We'd spend whole weekends playing these war pursuits in the dense bush behind our house.  You mention that to kids today and it's "huh... you did what?"  Bloody Playstations and X-Box .... they've ruined childhood as we knew it!

same film
I love the small of napalm in the morning air....
Howard A. Anderson jnr shown at right detailing a set.
Detail from the TOBRUK Panzer tank model.
TOBRUK was nominated for best visual effects, but lost out to the unbelievably feeble DOCTOR DOOLITTLE !
Oscar winning Fred Sersen miniatures from CRASH DIVE (1943).  Notable for the often favoured Sersen technique of superimposing actors into models, often while the miniature is moving as was the case with THE BLACK SWAN and other films. 
One of the best war pictures and one that I never tire of watching is TORA TORA TORA (1970).  Monumental effects work by L.B Abbott and A.D Flowers which won them a well deserved Oscar. 

Battleship Row from the point of view of a Japanese Zero pilot.  A large miniature set constructed in the Sersen tank at the Fox Ranch.
TORA TORA TORA ... in BluRay
L.B Abbott's visual effects crew film the onslaught.  Irmin Roberts was one of the sfx cinematographers.
Another of L.B Abbott's many recognisable achievements was the tv series and feature VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA - another 1960's show I was weaned on and always loved that little mini sub thing that would burst out of the ocean and take flight.
A nice flood sequence in miniature from the film THE WAYWARD BUS (1957)

I've mentioned the legendary Derek Meddings often, and here's the show that inspired millions of kids the world over - THUNDERBIRDS (1966).  Fantastic design work by Derek and the show's various art directors such as Mike Trim and others, with iconic vehicles, craft, machinery and even Lady Penelope's STILL cool pink car!!  Damn, woman.. you got it all - though between you and me I thought Tin-Tin was a real fox!
Ahhhh, yes... there it is, Thunderbird 2.  Probably most kids favourite of the whole lot.  Just such a fantastic chunk of rescue equipment.  I've been talking with Brian Johnson, who worked on these shows and have been planning to interview him but haven't gotten around to it just yet.  He's a man with many a great story.
One of the foreground hanging miniatures built by Emilio Ruiz for a film whose title escapes me.

A film that shook me up, so to speak, back in '74 and really switched on the special effects vibe.  EARTHQUAKE was one hell of an experience back then, in Sensurround and 70mm 6 track surround at the sadly now demolished great Cinerama theatre in Queen street, Auckland - the showcase venue for all the really BIG films.  God, it's all bloody awful multi-plex shoe boxes now with no class, no sense of something special and definitely no showmanship.  Anyway, the model work in EQ was and still is really good.  Glen Robinson was miniatures coordinator with Charlie Baker heading construction.  Jack McMaster - an old Buddy Gillespie veteran - was in charge of special rigging for collapse.  Effects cinematographer Clifford Stine made the correct choice right from word 'go' to shoot them all out in natural light, and sometimes with genuine local scenery visible beyond - which was the case with this sequence where real time LA neighbourhoods are deliberately visible behind the models.
EQ miniatures crew at work.  Note the special rostrum with two cameras set up.  I expect one was Ross Hoffman's camera as the sequence does include a split screen with matted in foreground.

Also from EARTHQUAKE is this excellent, often overlooked miniature sequence with collapsing houses.

This is Glen Robinson (left) with his effects crew prepping the models.
Same film... I always loved this scene.
Same film - miniature collapsing Hollywood dam matted into plate by Ross Hoffman with fleeing people.
EQ - collapsing dam miniature being photographed with some nine high speed cameras.  Cliff Stine is manning this camera.
The split screen matte where Cliff Stine's miniature footage has been matted with foreground soundstage set and falling stunt people.
The other big film of the day - and an excellent one - was THE TOWERING INFERNO (1974).  Outstanding visual effects all round with L.B Abbott handling all of the photographic effects and models while A.D Flowers looked after the explosions, infernos and mechanical fx... superbly.
The two skyscraper miniatures were considerable in size.  The fx were shot on the Fox Ranch in Malibu.  This is still a damned good film that I enjoy watching.  Great cast too, with a perfectly cast Steve McQueen up against an equally perfect Paul Newman (but boy, did they argue over the 'billing'!).
Derek Meddings again - with this being a barely detectable full miniature set from the 007 film MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (1974).
Climactic mayhem from the same film that is only marred by the big visible seam running across the large painted backing in the tank at Pinewood.

Some Derek Meddings magic from a film or tv show called BANZAI - about which I know nothing.
The maestro of trick photography, Emilio Ruiz is shown here setting up one of the many elaborate miniature sequences for Enzo Castallari's THE INGLORIOUS BASTARDS (1978) - which is not to be confused with Quentin Tarantino's exceedingly dull talk-fest of the same name.  Miniatures by Antonio Margheriti who, if I recall, did some great model shots for various Italian flicks I used to see on 'B' grade double bills years ago such as KILLER FISH and CAR CRASH (a sort of a spaghetti Cannonball Run thing with all the motor stunts and action done with models...  it didn't all work out but it was a heap of fun).
More great stuff from Castallari's INGLORIOUS BASTARDS (1978).  The show's got models, elaborate matte shots, Fred Williamson and a river filled with naked machine gun toting Nazi femmes... what's not to like?
Same film... different explosion.  Interestingly, the models were set up forced perspective with the real train yard and railway etc merged perfectly in the background for authenticity.
..."all aboard... next stop, Cinecitta, Rome".

Harrison Ford made a misjudged decision to appear in FORCE 10 FROM NAVARONE" (1978), though it did have a decent sabotaged dam and washed away bridge.  Effects supervised by Robin Browne who worked on mostly optical fx on many Bond films and was involved in effects as far back as HMS DEFIANT.
Same film
Speaking of 007, probably the best Bond show of them all was THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (1977) - a film that hit all the right bases, right from the dynamite pre-title free fall to the fantastic Carly Simon song and Binder titles through to a fascinating arch villain, a heavy with bad teeth and fantastic miniature work by Derek Meddings... oh, and did I mention Barbara Bach?.
The super tanker Liparis takes a turn for the worst.  Superb Meddings mayhem on a grand scale.  The model was around 40 feet long as I recall.

THE SPY WHO LOVED ME miniature climax.  Gee this blew me away back in '77 at the exquisite Edwardian era St James theatre.. a glorious old movie house that bastard property developers would love to demolish!  Don't get me started!!
Stromberg's world is no more...
The mildly interesting MEDUSA TOUCH (1977) had a whammy of a jumbo jet crash, courtesy of Brian Johnson.
SUPERMAN -THE MOVIE (1978) was terrific, and is still a great flick.  Derek Meddings was contracted to supply the miniatures - well, most of them as he had to move onto the new Bond film before this one was complete, with the disparity between Meddings' fine work and some awful "additional miniatures" work which to this day makes director Richard Donner grumble!
Detail of Meddings' Golden Gate Bridge miniature set.
The large Hoover Dam miniature on the Pinewood backlot.
Derek's long time associate, cameraman Paul Wilson prepares for a take.
Yet another dam breaks in NZPete's last blog post for 2014
SUPERMAN and SUPERMAN 2 (1980) were shot back to back, with the Meddings miniatures in part two even surpassing what was it the first entry.  The phenomenal battle of Metropolis literally blew my mind back in the day - I'd never seen anything like it!  It's still a wonder to behold with miniature cars being blasted down streets and all manner of damage being done... and it all looked so good on screen.  Excellent camerawork, sound fx editing and process projection which placed the trio of villains in the action.  Totally memorable.

A broad view of the Metropolis set prior to the complex destruction which will occur.
Cameraman Paul Wilson takes a light reading while Derek adjusts a prop telephone pole for an important scene in SUPERMAN 2 (1980)
Zod blasts an army chopper out of the sky with a puff of (bad?) breath.... great stuff folks.
We're still looking at Derek Meddings' work and here are a great couple of shots from MOONRAKER (1979). Everything apart from the soldiers is a miniature in the upper photo.
For the 007 film OCTOPUSSY (1983) John Richardson created a very realistic hangar explosion in miniature.
The wonderful little World War 1 picture ACES HIGH (1976) a number of nicely done model effects were seen.  Derek Meddings was effects supervisor.
The Sean Connery fable FIRST KNIGHT (1995) had plenty of trick shots with mattes and models sharing equal screen time.  Here is one of Magic Camera Company's Camelot models which was matted into some sequences with approaching riders etc. The night time model fx of Camelot all lit up with candles and torches are just sublime.
Introvision's William Mesa and Richard Kilroy apply the finishing touches to a wintery estate that nobody ever spotted in the film DRIVING MISS DAISY (1989)
Industrial Light & Magic's model department built and operated several large scale Jumbo Jets for the exciting Bruce Willis show DIE HARD 2 (1991)
Leigh Took's effects company Mattes & Miniatures created a splendid model Cathedral for an inexcusably lousy film: THE DA VINCI CODE (2006). 
Finishing touches on a fine model for an unbelievably dreadful film.  And Ron Howard used to be so reliable!
Miniatures D.O.P Denys Ayling lights the set for Ridley Scott's still chilling ALIEN (1979)
The Nostromo ship and refinery - ALIENStill sensational after all these years.
Steve Begg on the principal miniature set for James Cameron's ALIENS (1986)
ILM crew shooting a dramatic model sequence for ALWAYS (1989)
Dennis Lowe's motion control camera with US bomber miniature from the film RIDERS OF THE STORM (1986)
Derek Meddings on the set of his final film - GOLDENEYE (1995)
GOLDENEYE miniatures are toys every kid (and a few adults) would love to play with!
...and to conclude, here is that superb miniature which plays a dramatic part in CASINO ROYALE (2006)
Visual effects supervisor Steve Begg shown here in foreground.

Well friends, that's enough for tonight.  I know I've missed out some key participants and films but maybe I'll do another Miniatures post some other time.

Merry Xmas to all...

Peter















60 comments:

  1. Great Post as usual.

    Here's an interview with Derek Meddings where he talks about The Spy Who Loved Me and the tanker https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=la7iktqCub4

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    Replies
    1. Hi Ross

      thanks for that... I'll take a look at that for sure. Incidentally, when the movie came out there was a multi-part tv documentary on all aspects of the production which I remember seeing on Sunday night television here back in '77. I recall seeing footage of Derek blowing things up and Roger Moore talking about Derek's skills. The show was something like 5 or 6 episodes in all - maybe an hour each? Wonder where it is now.

      Peter

      Delete
    2. Peter, I think this might be what you're looking for...

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

      Delete
  2. Hi there! My name is Jose, I´m a 37 years old film editor from Madrid, Spain.
    Since I was a kid I really love classic visual effects, miniatures and matte paintings.
    Of course I am a huge fan of Emilio Ruiz´s awesome work.
    You have two "unidentified" pictures from Emlio´s work. One in from "La Revolución Francesa" directed by Robert Enrico & Richard Heffron.
    And the other one I think is from "55 days in Pekin", shot near Madrid in the 60´s.
    Just in case: check this documentary about Emilio. It´s a wonderful and respectful work: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1314885/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
    Thanks for your dedication and your blog.
    Best regards.
    Jose

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    Replies
    1. Hi Jose

      Yes, I share your enthusiasm for Emilio's extraordinary work. The effects were always so 'pure' as they were filmed live on set with the actors. A true visionary.
      Thanks for the info about the titles. I do have a full length Ruiz doco (I guess the same one) though not all of the film clips are identified. The doco is in Spanish though a friend in Spain made a special subtitled copy for me.

      Peter

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  3. Replies
    1. Hi Marshall

      I'm so glad this article has been appreciated. You never know with these things!

      Peter

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  4. Thank you. This was amazing. Made me feel like a kid again.

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    1. Hi Lee

      I know the feeling! That 'feeling' is NOT shared when bombarded with this CGI stuff which just gives me a headache.

      Peter

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  5. Thanks for an amazing entire evenings worth of entertainment and precious memories, that was fantastic! And yes please, more, more, more!!! :)

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    1. Thanks for that firm seal of approval! It's fun not to mention vital to share this precious stuff with people who appreciate it. I even missed the latest episode of the brilliant HOMELAND while busy stitching this gargantuan blog together (unforgivable!) so my life is 'incomplete'.

      Pete

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  6. Totally awesome stuff as ever, Pete, thank you! I've emailed you separately about a few things so as not to bore other readers...

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    1. Good to hear from you Roger... it's been too long! I figured the smell of the salt water from those ocean going WWII miniatures might draw you in.

      Pete

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  7. Hi Peter,

    Enjoyed this immensely thanks!

    I worked on the LIPARUS tanker exterior and interior at SPACE MODELS.

    More info on my website at www.satkinsonacreativearts.com

    Cheers!

    Simon Atkinson

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  8. Hi Peter,

    Enjoyed this immensely thanks! Superb collection and descriptions.

    I worked on the LIPARUS tanker exterior and interior at SPACE MODELS.

    More info on my website at www.satkinsonacreativearts.com

    Cheers!

    Simon Atkinson

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    1. Hi Simon

      Glad you liked it. I'll take a look right now at your site.... sounds most interesting.

      Peter

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  9. As someone who is obsessed with miniatures this is probably my favorite article on the site, and it always warms my heart whenever miniature effects turn up in modern movies.

    I'd love to see a sequel to this article in the future.

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    1. Hi Ryan

      I appreciated your 'glowing comment' pertaining to this post on the Cinefex site. It seems that fx fans really enjoy this one, as no one has written me complaining "It's too bloody long".

      I'll endeavour to do a follow up in 2015 as I have much more material, and fellows like Mark Stetson, Greg Jein and Steve Gawley need to have a bit of space.

      Pete

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    2. This article could never be "too bloody long."

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    3. Ryan

      It might have been if I hadn't curtailed the article when I did as I had a heap more great photos and things all lined up to go in. Certainly a sequel will be forthcoming, as well as a couple of one off individual bloggings on a couple of specific films such as Speilberg's 1941 (tons of stuff on that) and the excellent, under-appreciated 1962 MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY (some terrific stuff on that amazing film too!)

      Pete

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  10. After reading this latest installment, I am seriously thinking about getting out my camera after all these years and tinkering with some model effects shots! Wow! What memories of a long-gone youth doing filmic experimentation and the fun I had! I think there must be a lot of us out here who grew up with a camera in one hand and some models and clay dinosaurs in the other! Excellent installment. Are there any works out there detailing how the studios built their miniatures? How did they make building fronts? Plaster casts? Wood? And how do you build a vintage miniature airplane? From original plans? I didn't realize that the studios had such well-developed model shops with skilled craftsmen, and I would have liked to have learned their secrets. I have always admired the Toho model builders of the old Godzilla movies and how their miniature buildings crumbled so realistically. They actually looked like they fell apart brick by brick. Do we know how they did that? Anyway, great job! I look forward to each of your installments. Your site is a wealth of special effects know-how, and how you come up with such amazing material and behind-the-scenes photos amazes me!

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    1. Hi there Foxman

      So glad it made such an indelible impression upon you - and other like minded folk. You can batter me senseless with all the CG in the world, but NOTHING is as good as a traditional oils on glass matte or a hand crafted miniature my friend!

      Yes, so many of these old and largely forgotten films contain a wealth of talent in the fx side, and I actively seek out these old shows as often as possible. Recently, the RKO DAYS OF GLORY war flick just blew my socks off with it's phenomenal model work - and RKO was never a big player in miniatures as MGM, Fox or Warners. Glorious work!

      Not sure about the construction methods - probably varied from studio to studio. Usually pre-scored model buildings with release wires and gags would bring 'em down. I've seen some other behind the scenes pics of the Glen Robinson EQ models where we can see pulleys and cable arrangements secured in the back of buildings.

      Maybe one of the recent generation of model guys can explain these methods.

      Peter

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  11. *** CORRECTION:

    As sometimes happens when I crank these things out in a 2 day mad flurry of hyper-active "don't disturb me, or else" craziness, I messed up at least one title. The pic of London with flying machines I labelled as THE SKY HAWK is in fact from the 1929 British film HIGH TREASON.
    Apologies.....

    Pete

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  12. Phenomenal blog! Great to see these images!

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    1. Hey Ken

      I still have many more and by the looks of it I'll really have to do a 'sequel' in 2015.... so watch this space.... and tell your friends!

      Pete

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  13. Wow. I didn't know so many scenes used miniatures and in a such interesting way. What baffles me is the scale of them. Why are they so big? Did it cost less doing them bigger or was it some king of technological/crafts problem?

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    1. Hi Kraan

      Depending upon the requirement, the models can vary considerably in size. Typically an 'action' miniature requires a bigger scale than a mere 'static' model. Anything where the camera needs to move in close is usually of a reasonable to often quite large size to allow proper "depth of field" and pin sharp focus, which is more difficult on a small model. It's vital to be able to keep the entire model/set in focus as it would if it were a real life size scene. Often a giveaway when parts of a model set are obvious due to focus drifting out nearest to the camera.

      The old Warner Bros and Rank fx used to sometimes employ a 'plane' of painted art on glass midway between the lens and the models which allowed a more even focus to the whole shot.

      Of course anything involving water or sea absolutely requires a larger to huge miniature, due principally to the fact that you can't miniaturise water easily. Those droplets and splashes will always be too big and give the game away. The same goes for fire and 'collapsing' miniatures etc, where the physics and 'weight' of the object have to be of a believable scale just to make it all look believable on screen.

      In the old days, film was much 'slower' (especially colour stock) and huge amounts of light - both natural and stage lighting were needed - so unless the miniature was large it would look like a small toy (as the TIME MACHINE models did).

      Hope this is of some help.

      Peter

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  14. Please, please get around to that Brian Johnson interview! Thanks for another fantastic post. For some reason, back in the 70s, we got Captain Scarlet reruns before being exposed to Thunderbirds etc. I'll take Cloudbase over some pixel S.H.E.I.L.D Heli-carrier any day. Happy Holidays!

    Tim in Orlando

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  15. Absolutely brilliant!!!. Many thanks for sharing all this material, specially the never seen before photos as the Guidobaldi´s or the making of Atlantis the lost continent. Pure treasure for fans like me. I hope to see more miniature articles like that one on your Blog.

    To clarify some of Emilio Ruiz del Rio doubt’s: He worked 65 years on films, from 1942 to 2007. I have a filmography of 587 identifiable films, and I have seen on his personal archives pictures of movies I cannot confirm on this list, so he must be close to 600 films.
    The first picture you are showing with Emilio into a street miniature is from the film OPERACION OGRO- OPERATION OGRE (1979, Gilo Pontecorvo) The second one is correctly titled as CUSTER OF THE WEST (1967, Robert Siodmak) The third one is from an Italian TV mini serie IL DESERTO DI FUOCO- THE DESERT OF FIRE (1997, Enzo Castellari) The fourth miniature is from French TV series LA RÉVOLUTION FRANÇAISE- THE FRENCH REVOLUTION (1989, Robert Enrico, Richard T. Heffron) The fifth is from EL EMBRUJO DE SHANGAI -THE SHANGHAI SPELL (2002, Fernando Trueba) The last one is correct, INGLORIOUS BASTARDS - QUEL MALEDETTO TRENO BLINDATO (1978, Enzo Castellari)
    BTW you are right about the miniature of the fountain of Destiny, from THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD was made by Francisco Prosper with art director Fernando Gonzalez supervising the miniature sets.

    Best regards.

    Domingo

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    1. Hi there Domingo

      It's always great to hear from you my friend. You are THE definitive source on European mattes and miniatures and I thank you for your vast knowledge.

      ***Readers should be aware of Domingo's amazing site:

      http://bigerboat.com/indexfx/

      This is a wonderful resourse for special effects history.

      Peter

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  16. BEST _FRIGGIN"_POST_YOU_EVER_DID and there's more to come? You have the best blog on the planet. THANK YOU ENORMOUSLY

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    1. You're friggen welcome! So glad so many people have enjoyed this one.

      Pete

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  17. Yepper, parroting the posts above - this blog is one of my internet highlights and I'm always overjoyed when an update comes along. As another person who is fascinated with the traditional FX approaches and techniques, I welcome this deviation from the blogs traditional subject matter into some previously unexplored territory.

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  18. Great post, as always. Informative and just plain fun to look at. Makes me want to break out my old train set and build some models!

    Mike

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  19. this is amazing, needs to be a book or a similar docu like the incredible sense of scale [ here's the trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w33AKHpqdJE]
    Im a big fan of fx and used to love cinefex before it just became all computer graphics don't get me wrong im not bashing the hard working cgi artist just that the industry rarely tries some thing interesting any more or any other method. imagine if art has got to bas relief and went ok that's it no new or old techniques just that forever.

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  20. What a spectacular collection. Thank you!

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  21. Considering most SFX are CGI today, it amazes me that they're still using miniature effects in movies. I guess CGI hasn't completely demolished the old style VFX. Awesome!

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  22. The trailer for "Banzai," complete with the jumbo jet "landing" on the aircraft carrier, can be seen here:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KeR1BRgLxQQ

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  23. Brilliant stuff! Well done!

    Many years ago I had a summer job working for Richard Conway (one of Derek Meddings' former acolytes) and, although the film I worked on didn't become a classic - Superman IV, the one where Milton Keynes stood in for Metropolis - I still take a certain amount of pride in pointing out parts of the satellite in the opening scene and telling my kids "I made those".
    I was also given the task of dismantling Audrey 2 from Little Shops of Horrors, boxing up then shipping off Tic-Toc from Return to Oz, and making endless cups of tea...

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  24. Superb post, as ever, very nice work.

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  25. Your blog is such a huge inspiration. Thank you for this wonderful post.

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    1. A huge thanks to all these readers who have so kindly responded in the affirmative to this miniatures post (though, as usual the post itself is anything but miniature in size). The number of hits at this writing is quite phenomenal - some 12'750 (!!!) - so there must be more than a handful of closeted away miniatures 'trainspotters' out there.

      More model stuff to come within the next few months, so stay tuned.

      Peter

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  26. Do you know if the train that blows up in TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA (1969) is a miniature or full scale?

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    1. Hi Mike

      I'm led to believe from director Don Siegel's autobiography that it was a miniature. Don Siegel brought Al Whitlock out to the location as a vfx consultant (uncredited) and asked Al for his advice. Whitlock recommended Don use a miniature and told Siegel that the Mexican fx technicians could do a better and cheaper job on the sequence than Universal's guys could. I'll take another close look at the sequence and make screen caps for a future blog post.
      Great movie and probably Morricone's best ever score too. Fantastic and one of a kind.

      Pete

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    2. Mike... I just took another look at the DVD and it sure is an utterly believable train wreck. Nothing to give the game away as a miniature, though if it had of been a real train I'm sure they'd get more production 'mileage' out of it by using multiple cameras and actors up close with wreck after the fact. Very impressive shot as it stands.

      Pete

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  27. Thanks Pete! Don't know if you remember me from the old stopmotionanimation.com site. You sent me a copy of Fantascene with the Jack Rabin/Irving Block interviews. Glad to see you still unravelling the mysteries of old school effects.

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    1. Hi Mike
      Yes I certainly do remember you from those days of in depth discussions and opinions on all things 'painted'. I even recall you having tech issues years back with making screen grabs on your PC too (yet I can't recall what the hell I had for dinner last night.... go figure!)

      Pete

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    2. Hi Pete,

      I am getting forgetful too these days but I still love reading about old "analog" effects such as miniatures and glass matte paintings. I find I usually see only 3-4 movies a year in theaters because digital effects just aren't that interesting anymore. Everything the same, done the same way, same plug-ins, same effects. I did see INTERSTELLAR and found it quite stunning in IMAX. I think they used some miniatures on that one. I do miss the old stopmotionanimation site. Sad that conversations I had with Jim Danforth and others are gone now. Wish I'd printed all that stuff out.

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  28. Wow! The sheer love and magnitude of effort you put into this site is ever so appreciated! Love it, I've only had the pleasure *and the time* to scroll through completely just a few posts here *because I couldn't stop because each photo lead me to the next one below it* and already I love Matte Shot. It is a tribute to be sure to the Golden Era of Special Effects not to mention a little of all areas of Filmmaking such as Cinematography, Matte Painting, stop-motion animation model (puppets), etc. So glad I found this page because I have a fondness for models and miniatures as well as all areas of practical special effects. As Bob Hope's theme went, NZPete thanks for the memories.

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    1. Hey there Thomas

      So glad to get so many great responses to these 'old fashioned' surveys of film making the way it used to be.

      Peter

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  29. Very nice to see this article.....

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  30. This is a beautifully comprehensive look at practical effects. Thank you so much for creating this!!

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  31. I really appreciate the work and research you did to put this page together. The images are truly awesome and a great tribute to practical miniature effects.

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    1. Hi George

      Getting feedback like yours is always gratifying as I sometimes wonder if anybody other than myself cares about this old stuff. Glad you enjoyed it.

      Watch this space for a sequel 'Miniatures' blog!

      Peter

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  32. Absolutely stellar. I cannot thank you enough for this amazing and in depth post.

    I hope you write a book about all this.

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  33. Hi Pete! Corking stuff as ever. Above, around a quarter of the way down the page, you have a group of six photos of a miniature ship blowing up in a studio tank - the image is captioned:

    "Frames from an unknown Japanese war picture. Note the crew members atop the large backing watching the action."

    I can tell you that the film is 'Rengo Kantai' (Imperial Navy), a Japanese war epic from 1981. The vessel in question is the giant battleship Yamato meeting her fate in miniature. The images you show are from a DVD extra showing behind-the-scenes work, hence the film crew and the top of the sky backing being visible.

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  34. Hello

    I was really intrigued by the model of the 6 engined seaplane shown in the image near the beginning of this page with the caption "Guido, shown at extreme left, with special effects crew at Rank Studios.".

    The plane seemed vaguely familiar and then double checking realised that it had a major part in the 1937 movie "Non-Stop to New York":
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-Stop_New_York).

    Wikipedia even includes an image of the "Lisbon Clipper" with the matching id number near the tail:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Libson_Clipper.jpg

    The film was made by Gaumont-British Picture Corporation which was bought along with its sister company Gainsborough Pictures in 1941 by the Rank Organisation. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaumont_British)

    By the way "Non-Stop to New York" can be found at:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=unTh7tU1Nrw

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  35. Correction: The movie was "Non-Stop New York" - not "Non-Stop to New York".

    Also in 1943 it was reissued as the "Lisbon Clipper Mystery".

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