Special Effects (F/X) -
Milestones in Film
|Film Title/Year and Description of Visual-Special Effects|
It was the first film to be released in a multichannel stereo sound format called Fantasound - decades ahead of its time - requiring a special system devised for playback, although it was rarely shown that way due to the expense (and the fact that only 6 theaters were equipped to play Fantasound).
Thousands of gallons of water rushed into the cabin through the windows of the plane. Passengers struggled for air and tried to escape as the aircraft filled with water, and some survivors made it out to the wing.
The Thief of Bagdad (1940, UK)
The Academy Award for Best Special Effects (photographic and sound) was awarded to this film. There were 14 nominees for the honor, including Boom Town, Dr. Cyclops, Foreign Correspondent, The Invisible Man Returns, One Million B.C., Rebecca, The Sea Hawk, Typhoon, and Swiss Family Robinson.
Associate producer William Cameron Menzies designed some of the rich special effects for this imaginative Arabian Nights fantasy film produced by Alexander Korda, a loose remake of the original Douglas Fairbanks silent classic of 1924.
The effects included a flying magic carpet, a six-armed mechanical assassin, a toy horse that could fly, poor Bagdad thief Abu's (15 year-old Sabu) battle with a giant spider in its huge web, and the sight of 50 foot tall genie or Djinni (Rex Ingram) released from a tiny bottle.
This highly-rated classic masterpiece from director-star-producer Orson Welles brought together many cinematic and narrative techniques and experimental innovations (in photography, editing, and sound) to reconstruct the title character like building a jigsaw puzzle.
The innovative, bold film is still an acknowledged milestone in the development of cinematic technique, although it 'shared' some of its techniques from many earlier films. It showed a whole new way of film-making.
However, it was not among the nominees for the Academy Award for Best Special Effects, won this year by the little-known aviation drama I Wanted Wings (1941). Other nominees included: Flight Command, The Invisible Woman, The Sea Wolf, That Hamilton Woman, Topper Returns, A Yank in the R.A.F., and Aloma of the South Seas.
Its components brought together the following aspects:
strange camera angles
high contrast lighting
using optical printer
"Xanadu miniature" with dissolves, fades, superimpositions
low angle with view of ceiling
"in-camera matte shot"
with deep focus
Munchhausen (1943, Ger.)
This colorful (Agfacolor), visually creative and extravagant film by director Josef von Báky, adapted from the story by R.E. Raspe and based on the fabulous baron nobleman of the title who was known for telling tall tales, featured marvelous special effects, including:
The film was commissioned by the Nazi Third Reichs Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Germany's UFA Studios.
Director Terry Gilliam's remake The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988) featured the same fantastic adventures and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.
Blue Skies (1946)
This Technicolored Paramount production about a love triangle featured Fred Astaire's (as radio broadcaster Jed Potter) famous virtuoso and witty rendition of Puttin' on the Ritz, with his only prop being his cane (that he used in synchronized conjunction with his rat-a-tat tapping).
In one segment of the performance, he danced in counterpoint with a chorus line of ten miniature Astaires. This was achieved by filming three separate takes of Astaire (in the lead foreground and two background performances), and reproducing them.
A Matter of Life and Death/Stairway
to Heaven (1946, UK)
UK directors Michael Powell's and Emeric Pressburger's film was a technical marvel with Jack Cardiff's exquisite cinematography. It included:
Mighty Joe Young (1949)
It seamlessly and smoothly composited stop-motion animation with live action and rear-projection (a lion in a cage in one shot).
The legendary stop-motion master genius Willis O'Brien of The Lost World (1925) and King Kong (1933) fame supervised the special effects.
One of the effects technicians was a young Ray Harryhausen, who was working on his first full-length feature film and assisting Willis O'Brien.
Film Milestones in Visual/Special Effects (F/X)
(chronological order by film title)
Introduction | 1880s-1890s | 1900-1905 | 1906-1920 | 1921-1929 | 1930-1939 | 1940-1949 | 1950-1959
1960-1969 | 1970-1974 | 1975-1979 | 1980-1982 | 1983-1985 | 1986-1988 | 1989-1991 | 1992-1994
1995-1996 | 1997-1998 | 1999-2000 | 2001-2002 | 2003-2005 | 2006-2007 | 2008-2009 | 2010-Present