Creature Features is back and we’re forgoing the BBQ to celebrate the 90s’ classic that would not go quietly into the night- Today we celebrate INDEPENDENCE DAY.
Man, I’ll never forget the hype for this movie. I was fourteen years old and was basically the talk of the Summer. The “Fresh Prince” himself Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum and aliens? WE’RE ALL IN ALREADY.
The film originally titled Doomsday, but was sealed with a chef’s kiss to what we now know as Independence Day thanks to Bill Pullman’s pumped up ‘MURICA speech in the film, was indeed a visual spectacular for audiences in 1996. And of course, a big round of applause for practical effects as it wins again- this time even an Oscar!
As we all understand, something like this takes a massive team to pull off. However, Volker Engel, Patrick Tatopoulos, Douglas Smith, Clay Pinney, Mike Joyce, and Joe Viskocil were some of the most notable faces of the special effects mastery. Unlike the films’ latter sequel, the movie relied heavily on old school tricks like miniature models for some of the more complicated scenes; like you know blowing up the White House which was actually measured at 15-feet wide and 5-feet high. In fact, 95 percent of the film was shot using miniatures with motion-control cameras.
As cool as that is, what really tickles my nostalgic tits is the movie magic aliens. Grant it this was supposed to be a family affair with it being a holiday Summer Blockbuster and all. But we all damn well know when President Whitmore went face to glass with one of these suckers’ at Area 51, you got the goddamn chills in that scene. Don’t you deny it.
Engal (seen below in the video) states he wanted to do something familiar yet new when it came to designing the creatures. The shots for the creatures were mostly dudes in fantastic costumes with effects coordinators controlling the limbs mechanically. So once again, puppeteering wins this round for monster magic.
Halloween 2020 for many, is looking different this year. Some will go about their own business, and celebrate as per usual. Some will opt to stay home for a family-fun night of horror flicks instead; of which both are perfectly ok mind you! However this year, I have one fantastic selection to add to the typical go-to movies such asHalloweenand Trick ‘R’ Treat. A film so perfect that it almost supersedes the novella it was derived from. Piss on Rob Zombie’s Halloween! Piss on theNightmare on Elm Street remake! This Halloween that coincides with a rare Blue Full Moon- I invite you to hunt up a little private justice with Stephen King’s Silver Bullet!
It’s been a while since we’ve done any Creature Features pieces celebrating our favorite monsters and glorious practical effects; and we’re LONG OVERDUE for a Silver Bullet article. Of which none has been done on this website and being the huge fan I am of this film in particular and this month marks the 35th anniversary of its release, I better get my ass in gear before my Tarker’s Mills card is revoked.
When I say I’m a fan, there’s my commitment status. I don’t fuck around like a virgin on prom night.
Anyway, let’s start with the obvious. I understand a lot of people disregard the Reverend Werewolf final reveal look; comparing it to something that of a dog-bear, (and honestly you aren’t wrong about that). However, it is meant as an insult rather than a critique and I think a lot of these people have An American Werewolf on London on the brain. I will argue till the day I die that THIS look, (not transformation but LOOK) in particular, is far more scary and that is my personal, and firm opinion on the matter.
And I will fucking die on that hill.
Special effects master Carlo Rambaldi, whose notable works include creating the works behind King Kong (1976), Alien, and E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, was tasked as the special and make-up effects head to complete the werewolf looks in Stephen King’s novella turned featured film. The realistic style suit was one piece that was topped with a mask that was operated by a variety of mechanics operated by the crew. Twelve levers to be exact, like that of a bicycle, that could manipulate the wolf’s facial expressions. For long-distance shots, there was a more simple mask that didn’t require all the fancy, tech wires.
However, Rambaldi was only given five executive weeks to pull of this sorcery. Hey, if the master of Queen Alien could do it, anyone can! Still, shooting had commenced even before the final suit and mask were ready. So those little snips of the werewolf leading up to the big reveal, were done with another purpose behind it.
“Ultimately, it looked like a bear,” confesses Attias. “The werewolf was very late in being designed, and Carlo (Rambaldi) was given very little time or money to work on it. In fact, it was so late that we had already started filming before we had the suit, so we starting shooting scenes without it. I tried to make sure the audience would see it as little as possible. – Excerpt from interview with the The Master Cylinder.
Everett McGill wore the suit for most of shooting, who spent a considerable amount of time figuring out the perfect walk for something that was neither man, nor beast. But a man that has been trapped inside an animal who eventually accepted his fate and embraced this dark shadow within him. Resulting in the werewolf quenching his thirst for blood on the “sinners” of the town- as McGill puts it speaking to the Shadow Nation podcast. However, he wasn’t even the first choice! Attias had hired a dancer to wear the suit, but apparently it didn’t work out, resulting McGill to go hairy balls deep in the role playing both the wolf and his not-so-holy counterpart. More demanding stunts in the costume, required a double; which was taken on by Julius Le Flore, the stunt coordinator for the film.
Now. We certainly can’t talk about the effects without mentioning the greatest scene in the movie that brought together a record FORTY werewolves on screen together; the most in any film to date. In lieu of Rambaldi, makeup artist Michael McCracken, Jr. was in charge of the dream sequence that involved a few actors already in the film, and the rest were made of up of Julius Le Flore’s friends of gymnasts and dancers. Clearly distinguishing themselves as different from Lowe’s wolf persona, but were taught the “werewolf walk” McGill had been practicing by the good ol’ Reverend himself.
The congregation of wolves were broken down into three groups. One group had radio transmitting facial features providing movement in the ears, forehead, and mouth. The second bunch had a “tongue device”; allowing the performing to snarl with simply moving the device around with well, their tongue. The third had no special effects at all other than makeup and served as the background werewolves.
And since it’s such a wonderful sequence, let’s give it a watch.
In conclusion, there was a lot of pain-staking elements involved in the productions of these creatures. And while some may mock Rambaldi’s werewolf concept, including that of Producer Dino De Laurentiis, it was the only one that gave me nightmares when I was a kid. That has to account for something!