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Exclusive: “The Mechanics of Monsters: From Carlo Rambaldi to Makinarium”

“Three years ago, when I was here for King Kong,” humbly said Carlo Rambaldi at the 1980 Academy Awards, “I don’t know English, and I said ‘Thank you’. Now I learn very well English, and I say, ‘Thank you very much!'”. Carlo Rambaldi (September 15, 1925 – August 10, 2012) was an Italian special effects artist, and in many ways, a pioneer of the craft. In his 30-year-long career, Rambaldi collaborated on a great many films, some more well-known and others more obscure, with directors such as Mario Bava, Federico Fellini, Dario Argento, Ridley Scott, and Steven Spielberg.

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Tribute to Carlo Rambaldi at the 2017 Romics

At this April’s Romics Comic Con — held as usual in Fiera di Roma — I had the great chance to attend a tribute gallery to Carlo Rambaldi, organized by his children. The exhibition was focused on Carlo’s most well known special effects work — E.T: The Extraterrestrial, Alien, and the 1976 King Kong — and featured a painted E.T. sculpture and a replica of King Kong’s hand (mechanized to grab people!), as well as several prints of photographs of Carlo’s work on said films, and of magazine pages with articles on them.
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StarBeast — Alien


THE ALIEN, THIRD (MATURE) PHASE: Having left its victim, the Alien promptly grows to man-size, whereupon it is terrifically dangerous. It is very mobile, strong, and capable of tearing a man to pieces. It feeds on human flesh. This creature should be a profane abomination. Our producers have suggested that something resembling an over-sized, deformed baby might be sufficiently loathsome. In any event, we wish you to feel free to create your own design.

-Dan O’Bannon, original letter to H.R. Giger

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StarBeast — Alien, the Egg and the Facehugger


When Hans Ruedi Giger was finally hired as a designer for Alien, he was assigned the task to conceive all the otheworldly aspects of the film — the planetoid, the Derelict and its Pilot, and the Alien itself in all of the stages of its life cycle. Obviously unable to also construct all the needed creature effects within the tight schedule of the production, Giger was aided by special effects veterans attached to the project. First hired was Carlo Rambaldi, in the wake of his special effects work on John Guillermin’s King Kong. Though enthusiastic about the project, Rambaldi’s availability was limited, due to having already committed to other projects (such as Nightwing). Also hired was sculptor and model maker Roger Dicken, who had collaborated with associate producer Ivor Powell during the production of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Dicken also provided some of the sound effects for the Alien, in collaboration with Percy Edwards.

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Monster Gallery: Dune (1984)

Sandworms of Arrakis


Static electricity is IGNITING in the air and the sand is swirling around the harvester. Then they see it. A wide hole emerges from the sand, glistening spokes within it. The hole is twice the size of the harvester. Suddenly the machine turns and slides into the hole, parts of it EXPLODING. The SOUND is deafening.

This is what Paul Atreides witnesses in his first ‘close encounter’ with a Sandworm, in David Lynch’s final script for the 1984 film adaptation of Dune. In the universe of Frank Herbert’s eponymous novel series, the Sandworms are the titanic inhabitants of the desert planet Arrakis. Their name among the Fremen is Shai-Hulud, a term actually derived from Arabic, and literally translatable as ‘eternal thing’. In the Fremen language, however, the term can have different meaning, depending on the size of the worm itself. ‘Old Man of the Desert’, ‘Grandfather of the Desert’ and ‘Old Father Eternity’ are among the known translations. The term also alludes to the Fremen belief that the Sandworms and their actions are embodiments of God.

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Monster Gallery: Alien (1979)