This second part of our chat with Ian and Cliff takes a look back at the company they had together, Creature Concepts – or as Ian puts it ‘How not to run a business’.
A workshop above a newsagent in Kentish Town once hid a stash of creatures. I ache just thinking about all that cool stuff lying around that nobody would ever see or know about and which probably doesn’t exist anymore. I suspect an age-related nostalgia is creeping into my mind as I look back over things that I could have gone to see if only I had known about it.
For example, the Spitting Image show, a weekly topical satire in the ’80s which was rapidly produced to cover current issues in the news at the time was a big influence. A team had sculpted, moulded, ran foam and painted, costumed and puppeteered a successful show with very little time.
I remember seeing Spitting Image Rubberworks, a display in Covent Garden as a teenager. It was amazing to see things in the flesh I had only ever seen on TV. Check out this cool little behind the scenes video: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x3dzt7
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Ian and Cliff mentioned Blood On The Satan’s Claw (1971) and I watched it on their recommendation. It whetted my appetite, and I had to rewatch some of my favourites, The Creeping Flesh, Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter and of course The Curse Of Frankenstein.
The effects are clearly not as sophisticated as today, but then these were made at a time when the effects industry was still primitive, especially in the UK. It is easy to look at things with modern eyes and see the flaws, now that we have seen such flawless effects in today’s films. Back then though, that was cutting edge and nobody had seen anything like it.
I think I pine for those days, the idea that you could be blown away by something you saw in a film. I mean, when was the last time you were left speechless by something you saw on a screen? We are so saturated now with flawless media and effects, it is hard to imagine anything standing out and mattering the way this stuff did at the time.
By today’s standards, there are plenty of technical flaws to notice – edges and dodgy blood colour etc – but even so, it still has its charm and it didn’t need to be perfect. The design and overall look were effective, and the higher standards we have now are gained from standing on the shoulders of giants.
It also reminds me of the joys of directly applied makeup. Things like burns, or wound interiors for example have many random details which can be created in different materials. Sculpting in plastiline is the usual method for creating the forms in appliances, but some things are better created – or at least started – using other techniques.
I like creating fatty tissue, torn muscle and other organic textures with materials that dry or set slowly, so you get different effects as the material changes consistency. Things like burns for example are great to create with appliances for some areas, and then tease out and blend it with layers of paint, cap plastic sheets, Sculpt Gel, and powder giving a variety of textures. This creates qualities that are hard to generate by sculpting in plastiline alone.
You can also create things in different materials and then mould these to create elements you can integrate into the finished sculpt, remoulding that to make the finished piece. Best of both worlds.
I did a video (https://youtu.be/yxIUdWvBkSQ) called ‘Alternative Sculpting Techniques IMATS 2013 Presentation’. Also one on making wrinkles with cap plastic and clingfilm on silicone: https://youtu.be/WYux4z2Z3nA
Even with a finished appliance, there is art working and finishing which is uniquely applied on each application. So this finishing still goes on -a completed makeup isn’t completely finished ahead of time even though the technology and materials we have now allow speedier and more detailed pieces, making continuity easier etc. In years past maybe the makeup would be entirely be made up on the actor – thinking of the Jack Pierce days of Frankenstein, building up layers of cotton and collodion to create the forms of the makeup.
There were obvious limitations, but then you would film around those limitations. As challenges have been met over many years, expectations get nudged just a little bit more and artists work hard to meet the demand.
Check out this Falstaff makeup in Popular Mechanics Apr 1911
We mention a lot of things which are better seen than heard. Check out these gems:
- Hero Quest TV Commercial :https://youtu.be/wC2QJa8olUk (Us Version)
- https://youtu.be/CRynOXfqWkk (UK Version with a Brode Sode and VO by Christopher Lee)
- Rusty Goffe https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rusty_Goffe L!ve TV: Britains Bounciest Weather https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mEffBRIx2gc
- Nike – Devil commercial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=834gDrY2Hd8
- Come to Daddy Aphex Twin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZ827lkktYs
- Massive Attack – Teardrop (Official Video):https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7K72X4eo_s
- Spitting Image Rubberworks: https://youtu.be/cnB-QSLS098
- ‘Shooting at meat’ podcast episode: http://www.learnmakeupeffects.com/shooting-guns-at-meat/
- South Park Documentary ’6 Day To Air’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ytZ5DByr4w
- Todd mentioned a few cool books:
‘Masks And How to Make Them’ by Doane Powell, ‘Paint Powder And Make-Up‘ by Ivard Strauss and ‘The Invisible Art: The Legends Of Movie Matte Painting’.
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