For many genre fans, part of the fascination with the cinematic worlds of sci-fi, fantasy and horror is the magic of the special effects wizards. And so, very soon as well as knowing all the names of all monstrous screen creatures great and small, a young fan will learn the names of the talented folk who bring these illusions to the screen. Indeed many a fan has sought out obscure slashers like Eyes of A Stranger just see make-up effects courtesy of Tom Savini or endured the likes of Track of the Moonbeast just because Rick Baker did the creature work. And a point often misunderstood about the horror genre in particular is the joy in seeing a make-up master's works - it's not the graphicness of the gore and ugliness we are applauding, it's the expert execution of an illusion. Just as audiences are thrilled rather than repulsed by a magician sawing a woman in half, cinematic make up effects offer the delight of seeing the impossible made flesh. And it's this craft behind the grand guinol that we admire, not the alleged vicarious sadism or revelling in grotesqueness.
Dick Smith at work
Now one of the great masters of this art is Dick Smith, a truly ground breaking talent whose work is the very foundation of modern day special make-up effects work. Besides the famous illusions he created for The Exorcist and The Godfather, and training many of today's masters of the craft like Rick Baker, Smith has always understood the fascination fans have had for his work. In the '60s, he published Dick Smith's Do-It-Yourself Monster Make-up Handbook in Famous Monster of Filmland, and later in the '70s created this hobby kit for the budding make-up artist...
... a veritable box of delights which had my teenage self slathering family and friends with his 'flex flesh' and staining countless garments with fake blood. And today, although now retired from movie work, Dick is still passing on the techniques of his craft via a correspondence course.
Now thankfully for those of use too cack-handed to master such arts but still entranced by the craft, there is an excellent blog being written by a talented soul who has enrolled. At britzombiegirlartblog, you can follow Zoe's progress as she gets to grips with the master's teachings. And absolutely fascinating it is too!
Now we've all seen assorted making up featurettes over the years, but this blog gives you far more detail than the usual DVD fillers. And Zoe (aka @Britzombiegirl on the Twitters) is an excellent guide to this secret world of movie magic, with a knack of being very entertaining while explaining very complex technicalities in a clear and interesting way. If you've ever wondered how they create all those pores in skin textures or how prosthetics are designed, then this is the site for for you. Packing with intriguing detail and lavishly illustrated of the work in progress, britzombiegirlartblog is a must for all effect lovers. I for one can't wait to see how her Mr Hyde design turns out...
JIM MOON, 12th July 2011