Monday 24 June 2019

Moonraker, at 40

Moonraker, the eleventh James Bond film in the official EON series, opened in the UK on June 28th 1979 (following its London premiere on the 26th).  It was directed by Lewis Gilbert (his third and final Bond film), produced by Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli and written by Christopher Wood.  Ken Adam was the production designer, Derek Meddings supervised the special effects, John Barry wrote the score whilst John Glen edited the film and directed the second unit.

I've already written an in-depth retrospective blog about the film (which you can read here) but I didn't want to miss this opportunity to celebrate the fourth Roger Moore-era Bond film so here's something a little different.

Corgi, who held the licence for die-cast Bond models, made Moonraker their cover star for the 1979 catalogue and produced a nifty Shuttle and Drax helicopter in two sizes.

I really wanted one of these...
I only discovered this when I was writing the post, I'm now resisting the urge to try and find it on ebay...
The James Bond Moonraker annual was published by World & Whitman and featured articles (with plenty of pictures) on the making of the film, the cast and crew, Ian Fleming, the novels, the baddies, Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice.  I spent ages looking in shops in nearby Kettering and Corby for a copy, finally discovering one in a little general store in Rothwell.
The fact file, from the back pages of the annual

Ken Adam's sets were inspired - and huge!  The production took over three of the major studios in France.
Derek Meddings works on the plane miniature from the start of the film.  All of the space sequences were shot "in camera" with the film wound back after each take, rather than be optically composited (as those for Star Wars were).

Announcing the film in Paris (from left) - Albert R Cubby Broccoli, Roger Moore, Lois Chiles, Lewis Gilbert
Roger Moore on-set with his then-wife Luisa
Roger Moore, Blanche Ravalec and Richard Kiel share a laugh between takes

Behind the scenes on the artwork by Dan Goozee

Happy anniversary, Moonraker!

Monday 17 June 2019

The Indiana Jones Sequels - miniatures, matte paintings & make-up

Following on from the Raiders Of The Lost Ark behind-the-scenes retrospective I wrote in 2016 (which you can read here), I thought I'd take a look at the behind the scenes artistry of Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom and Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade.

Temple Of Doom was released in the UK on 15th June 1984, with The Last Crusade following five years later, released on June 30th 1989.  Happy anniversary (35 and 30 respectively) to them both.

Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom (1984)
visual effects supervised by Dennis Muren
With Richard Edlund leaving ILM to set up Boss Films, it fell to Dennis Muren to supervise the effects for Temple Of Doom (a role he’d also held for Spielberg’s ET: The Extra Terrestrial).  The effects list was large - Temple Of Doom is more effects oriented than Raiders - but ILM was ready, fresh from the challenge of Return Of The Jedi (which was released in 1983).

Miniature work
Although a vintage Trimotor was filmed for the escape from Macao, shots were supplemented with a highly detailed miniature constructed by Mike Fulmer and Ira Keeler.  For the shot of it flying over the Great Wall Of China, a forced perspective model of the landmark was constructed by Dream Quest Images.  When the plane crashes, a miniature mountaintop (twenty feet square) was built on the roof of the ILM building, the snow a combination of baking soda and micro balloons (tiny glass beads), with the aircraft suspended on a wire.
How it looked in the film
As part of the Thuggee ceremony to the goddess Kali, a sacrificial victim is lowered into a pit of lava.  For this, a thirty-foot-tall pit was built over a ten-foot diameter plexi-glass tank which had almost five tons of glycerine pumped through it.  The victim puppet was thirty inches tall and mechanised so the arms and head would move realistically but initial result was too gruesome and Spielberg asked for more flames and smoke to be added to the shot to mask it.
left - Paul Huston with the "lava" tank; Joe Johnston, Phil Tippett and Ira Keeler with the victim puppet
The mineshaft chase - a hold-over from Raiders Of The Lost Ark - grew from a relatively quick sequence to one of the key set-pieces.  Although a full-sized version was built at Pinewood, it quickly became clear that wider and longer shots would have to be completed by ILM.  Muren said, in interview, “in order to build these longs sets, the size was really dependent on the camera, of all things, because [it] had to go through the tunnels. I came up with this idea of just using a Nikon still camera [which] meant that all the sets could be smaller, they only needed to be 100 feet long instead of 300 feet long.”  The camera motor was slowed down and a special magazine was built to hold fifty-feet of 35mm film.  To scale, the mine cars were ten-inches long and the cave walls were heavy-duty aluminium foil, shaped and painted.  The puppets in the cars were animated by Tom St Amand, who’d also animated the bike riders in ET.
The converted Nikon camera
Tom St Amand stop-motion animates the Indy, Willie and Short Round puppets
Paul Huston works on the miniature mine set
During the mine chase, the giant water tank (which was thirty-feet-tall in the actual set at Pinewood) is overturned, flooding the caves.  Since it would have been difficult and dangerous to film this life-size, it was turned over to the miniatures crew, under the supervision of Lorne Peterson, who built a large-scale (twenty-five-feet wide by thirty-feet long) miniature in the ILM car park.  A 1,300 gallon dump tank was built over the set and the floors and walls of the caves were supported by waterproof roofing materials, urethane and concrete.
The outdoor miniature cliff set (with the painted side piece - see below)
Once out of the tunnel, the shot was a combination of a matte painting with miniature elements - the water, carts and debris - built in the car park again.

Matte paintings
The matte department - supervised by Michael Pangrazio, with Christopher Evans, Frank Ordaz and Caroleen Green - produced twenty paintings for the film, most of which were used to represent the Maharaja’s Pankot Palace (the production wasn’t allowed to film in India).  For the sunset shot (see below), a cut-out silhouette was photographed on a hill with the sun setting behind it.  This was then combined with a matte painting to produce a hazy, backlit effect.
Michael Pangrazio's backlit palace
Indiana, Willie & Short Round at the entrance to the Pankot Palace
Clever combination of a Frank Ordaz matte painting and a foreground miniature for the "Jaws" shot
After the mine chase, our heroes find themselves on a sheer cliff face with the water close behind them.  The live action element was filmed at Pinewood, the river element was filmed at the Grand Canyon and the remainder is a matte painting by Frank Ordaz and Caroleen Green.
Both of the village sequences, at the start and end of the film, were elaborated with paintings.  For the desolate version, the matte covered up the fact that everything was green and alive (the sequence was filmed on a tea plantation in Sri Lanka).  At the end, as our heroes return with the kidnapped children, the painting extended the background plate which was filmed near ILM with stand-ins.

Modelmaker Lorne Peterson talks about the miniature work in this deleted scene from the Sense Of Scale documentary

Behind The Scenes
Harrison Ford and Ke Huy Quan on location in Sri Lanka
Steven Spielberg talks through a scene with Ke Huy Quan in Sri Lanka
Spielberg and George Lucas on the rope bridge built by Balfour Beatty Nuttal in Sri Lanka.  Lucas was apparently unfazed by the bridge, but Spielberg never made it all the way across.
Filming the mine cart sequence on the full-size version built at Elstree Studios
Spielberg, operating the camera, filming on the cliff-face set at Elstree Studios
Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade (1989)
visual effects supervised by Michael J. McAlister
Since Dennis Muren was supervising Ghostbusters 2 and helping create CGI-history with The Abyss, Michael J. McAlister took over the effects supervision role.

Miniature work
After the Jones’ escape from the Zeppelin (which was achieved as both a matte painting and a miniature eight-foot long model) and subsequent dogfight, they steal a car and are chased into a tunnel by a German fighter plane.  Since it would be impractical and dangerous to film this full-size, ILM took it on as a miniature.  Using quarter-scale models of the car and plane, a 210 foot long tunnel was built in the ILM car park (it took up 14 spaces), broken into eight-foot hinged sections that could be opened to film through.
The tunnel sequence was shot in miniature in the ILM car park, built in sections to allow easy access
As the group make their way to the Grail temple, they come to the Canyon of the Crescent Moon.  The first view of the canyon was an ILM shot, which combined a Mark Sullivan matte painting with a miniature set created by Paul Huston.
Top - still from film
bottom - taken at the 'wrong' angle, this shows the join between the miniature canyon - built by Paul Huston - and the painted backdrop by Mark Sullivan
The Path Of God was an optical illusion - both in terms of the film itself and the behind-the-scenes solution - that is revealed when the camera moves to the right and reveals the ‘trick’.  Since it’s such a brief shot - and Elliot Scott, the production designer, wasn’t sure it could be achieved practically - the sequence was filmed as a miniature (which was 9 foot tall and 13 feet wide).  The rock face was carved from green styrofoam by Paul Huston, who also painted the bridge using the locked-down camera angle to make the blend perfect.  35mm stills were taken every hour, developed nearby and checked to make sure that the trick painting was working.  It’s a simple though extremely good effect and the artistry, both in terms of modelling and painting, is incredible.
Paul Huston paints the "leap of faith" miniature - superb artistry.
Matte Paintings
Mark Sullivan supervised the matte department whilst Yusei Uesugi was the matte artist.

To film the sequence of the tank going over the cliff, the full-size prop was filmed on a flat spot on location in Spain and kept going, without having to brake for the drop.  The edge and cliff face was created as a matte painting, whilst the tank crashing to the bottom was achieved as a miniature, shot in a quarry near to the ILM building.
Matte paintings for the Austrian castle and German airport were based on real buildings.  The castle, painted by Mark Sullivan, was based on one in West Germany and made to look larger.  The airport was based on the Treasure Island Administration Building, between San Francisco and Oakland, which had the appropriate Art Deco architecture.  The matte, painted by Yusei Uesugi, added a control tower, Nazi banners, vintage automobiles and the ‘Berlin Flughafen’ sign.

The Zeppelin - film still - the man on the tractor and the people are live action, everything else is a matte painting
Special Effects Make-up
Supervised by Stephen Dupuis

Reviving an idea from Raiders Of The Lost Ark (this would have happened when the Ark was opened but technology at the time prevented it), Spielberg only agreed to the rapid and fatal deterioration (dubbed “Donovan’s Destruction” by ILM) if it could be done in camera in one continuous shot.  Julian Glover spent three days shooting the live action scenes at Pinewood and then ILM took over for the remainder.  Using a cast of Glover, a latex head was built with motion control mechanics that sucked the cheeks in and pulled the nose back.  At its most ‘decayed’ position, a cast was taken for a second head that aged even further - the nose went completely, the eyelids shrivelled and the mouth curled.  At that stage, a third head was cast and built up over a skull.
Stephen Dupuis works on the different heads
All three heads were filmed on a motion-control-rig to control their movement.  As McAlister explained, “As Donovan disintegrated, we wanted to be able to cut from the first head to the second at the best possible point, and then from the second head to the third. By having all three heads go through the exact same motion in the frame, we could then choose any point to make the transitions between them.”  The blend between each head was achieved using morphing, a computer effect still in its infancy at the time - ILM had created it for Willow (1988).
The scene plays out over Elsa’s shoulder, so the first head was shot on a torso with Alison Doody’s double in front of it whilst the second and third heads were shot without her.  In addition, Donovan’s clothing had to deteriorate and McAlister was directed to the textile research facility at the Smithsonian Institute.  When he explained what he needed - to rapidly age clothing without using dangerous acids - his contact, Mary Baker, suggested he try “ILM, they can do anything.”  Baker was then involved in preserving the Yoda puppet for the Smithsonian travelling Star Wars exhibit and she went to ILM to train the crew in the handling and use of the acids involved.

Behind The Scenes
At ILM, George Lucas shows off some of the filming models to Harrison Ford
Filming on location in Jordan, George Lucas holds onto Sean Connery's horse
George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford are joined on set by Warwick Davis
Filming the tank battle in Spain
Steven Spielberg adjusts the Donovan puppet on the ILM stage
Look out for more miniatures, matte paintings and make-up posts to come!