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Film Studies 101
Feature
The Genius Of Carlo Rambaldi
We look back at the special effects artist's best known creations

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Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977)

As well as the 40 foot mechanical ape, Rambaldi had mechanically enhanced a series of masks created (and worn) by Rick Baker. Steven Spielberg saw the movie and was impressed by the level of articulation and contacted Rambaldi about creating the aliens that emerge from the mothership at the end of Close Encounters. Spielberg had tried numerous different techniques — chimpanzees on rollerskates, children in alien suits, Muppet-style rod puppets, marionettes — but nothing had come close to providing the level of sophistication needed to deliver his ET emissary, nicknamed 'Puck' by the director. Rambaldi constructed the character in Rome and brought the character to the US when he attended the Oscars to pick up a special award for King Kong.

By this time, Close Encounters had wrapped principal photography, and, on May 20, Spielberg reassembled Bob Balaban and Francois Truffaut on a Burbank soundstage and revealed his alien. Fashioning a skeleton out of aluminum and steel and a skull out of fiberglass, Rambaldi added mechanisms that facilitated arm, hand, head and eye movement operated by fifteen thin flexible cables that run down Puck’s body. Rambaldi added quarter-inch thick polyurethane skin but only just before shooting as it decomposed rapidly. It took a crew of seven operators to bring the ET to life, air pumping through the chest to add realistic esophagus and breathing motions. Puck performed the five hand signals perfectly and, when it came time for him to smile, Spielberg himself operated the levers to produce that beguiling grin.

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Your Comments

1 PPS...
...No mention of 'Possession'?!? More

Posted by glaive on Thursday August 16, 2012, 17:48

2 P.S...
A "man" in a Rick Baker suit!!?? It WAS Rick Baker in his own suit! Shame on you Empire!!!!! More

Posted by malestorm on Tuesday August 14, 2012, 07:53

3 You HAVE to be kidding!!??
Ok it was BIG and the hands were clever BUT the reason why it was only on screen for a few seconds was because it was shit!!!! Talk about biting off more than you can chew!! Rick Baker WAS Kong in that film, end of story and precious little credit did he get, no wonder he,s practically disowned any links withit, end of story t!! More

Posted by malestorm on Tuesday August 14, 2012, 07:50


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