Special Effects

As a kid I was, and to a certain extent still am, fascinated by movie special effects. Back then, the only thing neater to me than seeing a spaceship zoom across a movie screen was discovering exactly HOW those effects were achieved. Back in the late 70s and early 80s, it seems like every blockbuster movie that hit theaters was accompanied by a television special explaining how the special effects were achieved. I guess more people were interested in special effects back then. I can remember watching sci-fi and horror films at an early age and wondering exactly how they got some of those shots on film. Kids these days don’t wonder about those things any more. “They do it in the computer,” Mason says any time I ask how he thinks something was done in a movie. Guy in a giant rubber Godzilla costime? “They did it with the computer.”

During my mass VHS to DVD project, one of the tapes I wanted to convert was one labeled “MOVIE SPECIALS.” Every time one of those special effects-related programs would come on TV, I would record it. This tape has the following specials:

SPFX: The Empire Strikes Back: This program documented the making of The Empire Strikes Back. It aired in 1980 and was released on VHS tape in 1982. As far as I can tell it is not included in any of the extras on any of the Star Wars DVDs released in the US. There are no copies for sale on eBay.

Great Movie Stunts: Raiders of the Lost Ark: This program explained how many of the stunts were performed in the first Indiana Jones film, and also showed a lot of clips of classic stuntmen in action. I don’t know why this wasn’t included on the Indiana Jones DVD box set, but it’s not. There are copies available on eBay for less than five bucks, including shipping.

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Monsters: This TV special (which probably aired around Halloween one year) is a program that covers everything from movie monsters to “real” monsters (Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monster, etc.) I loved this special as a kid. A Google search turns up only three relevant hits (the rest are about a book with the same name). This program isn’t even listed in the IMDB. I think Mason will really enjoy this one, so I’m glad I’m still have it.

The Making of Superman: The Movie: This behind the scenes look at the first Superman movie is also included on the Superman Deluxe DVD Box Set. I don’t know that; I bought the movie before they released the box set, so no special for me … until now!

Classic Creatures: Return of the Jedi: Another awesome special effects-related program, this one focusing on the creatures in Return of the Jedi. Again, no DVD release, but I believe it was released on VHS a couple decades ago. As someone on IMDB noted, as this documentary has long sections about parts of the movie that have since been cut out of the re-releases (Sy Snoodles), it’s fairly unlikely that this will ever see a DVD release.

I’m looking forward to watching a few of these with Mason (especially the Monsters one) and seeing if he likes them as much as I did.

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