“What an excellent day for an exorcism.”
In April 1972, Dick Smith began work on designs that would forever change the face of demon possessed horror. Regarded throughout the world as the Dean of modern make-up, Dick Smith worked closely with director William Friedkin to turn 12 year old, cherub faced Linda Blair into a believable, demon possessed child. In my opinion, its still the most frightening and believable possessed designs in cinema history.
Unlike CG where anything is truly possible (often to a fault), prosthetic make-up is an additive process applied to a living person – a delicate balance of dimensional illusion, careful lighting and coloring without making the head or body part appear fatter.
Five months before they began shooting, Dick Smith took life casts of Linda Blair and using Roma Plastilina, sculpted several different possession designs on those casts. When a few appeared promising, molds were made, foam appliances created and test applied to Linda for Friedkin’s approval. The final version included a distorted, asymmetrical look with self inflicted, infected wounds. Throw in a set of dentures, a rubber tongue and contact lenses; the Exorcist broke box office records and terrified millions.
For an extensive coverage on the making of The Exorcist, hunt down the long out of print Cinefantastique Vol. 3, Number 4 from 1974.
Click here for a pdf of Dick Smith discussing his ground breaking make-up work on the Exorcist from this issue, as interviewed by David Bartholomew on April 4, 1974.
The life casts below are from my private collection, preserving a few of the early make-up tests forever in stone.
They are NOT FOR SALE.
The Linda Blair Eyes Closed life cast
Linda Blair Dummy Head Life Cast.
She was cast with her eyes open (using special schleral lenses), dentures and lower lip prosthetics so the distortion to her jaw line is built in. This was used for the famous head spinning scene.
Cast of an early test make-up.
From what I can tell, the extensive cheeks, wide nose where not used in the final version. The now famous “demon possessed brows” appears to have made it in the final version.
Following is a gallery of make-up tests, behind the scenes shots and stills from the film.
The Max Von Sydow (Father Merrin) Prosthetic Make-up
Max Von Sydow was just 44 years old when Dick Smith turned him into the senior, demon battling Priest recruited to save Regan McNeil. His extensive prosthetic make-up included cheeks, chin, a neck “wattle” and a good dose of Dick Smith’s secret “old age stippling”.
For its shear design and flawless application, it remains as one of my all time favorite character make-ups. Early in my make-up career, I heard a story that Max’s agent had a difficult time finding the actor work after the release of the Exorcist because casting directors thought he was too old to play younger parts! Bravo Mr. Smith, BRAVO!
Life cast of Max Von Sydow of the old age prosthetic make-up design.
Life cast is NOT FOR SALE!
The complete Father Merrin (Max Von Sydow) prosthetic make-up.
When I think of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, two things come to mind: the late, GREAT Forry Ackerman and Basil Gogos. It’s hard to think of one without the other – in fact, I refuse to.
In the 1960’s, Basil Gogo’s was an illustrator for New York based publications that produced men’s adventure magazines. His assignments ran the gamut from WWII battlescenes to cheesecake portraits but his true calling, at least from a fan’s perspective, was lurking in the shadows.
Enter Warren publishing. Famous Monsters of Filmland premiered in 1958 with Forrest Ackermann (a.k.a. Ackermonster) in the role of Editor and James Warren steering the Publishing helm. Famous Monsters of Filmland was a festering potpourri of classic horror movie monsters; interviews with its creators and cheesy one liners. It was pure gold. Gogo’s first work for Famous Monsters was the cover of issue #9 in 1960, featuring an extremely colorful and impressionistic portrait of Vincent Price from the House of Usher. Like his subject matter, his paintings were anything but subtle. Hues of crimson red, oxidizing green and slashes of jaundice yellow chiseled the planes of Price’s face, capturing the spirit of its character forever. For more than two decades, Gogo’s created nearly 50 iconic covers for Famous Monsters of Filmland including covers for Warren’s other publications; Creepy and Eerie.
May not be pretty to look at but these are the actual, raw, aluminum castings for the 1981 Dragonslayer and 1980 Empire Strikes Back Tauntaun stop/go motion puppets.
In its raw state, the two heads look pretty gnarly. But aluminum is a soft metal and easily drilled, tapped and shaped with simple tools. And knowing that this came from Tippet’s world class puppet shop at ILM; I firmly believe that the final versions were nothing short of works of art. For what its worth, its still a piece of history that gets this fanboy all giddy.
The Dragonslayer skull is approximately 2″ long, 3/4″ wide and about 3/4″ tall. The Tauntaun is a little shorter, maybe 1 3/4″ long and wide and about an inch high.
The Jack Skellington skull is the size of a golfball and made of hard urethane cast around a metal core. With a simplified face, it screams emotion. Proof positive that less is more. I just LOVE this design!
Dick Tufeld is to Irwin Allen as Mel Blanc is to Warner Bros. The iconic voice of the B9 Robot from Lost in Space passed away at his Studio City home in “Lost” Angeles, California. He was 85. He will be missed.
Dick’s career began in radio as an announcer for the American Broadcasting Company in early 1950. He was also the announcer for ABC Radio’s Space Patrol prior to moving over to television news as an anchor for “The Three Star Final,” a 15 minute newscast on KABC-TV. In the animated series world, his voice was heard in the Fantastic Four and several episodes of Thundarr the Barbarian. His Irwin Allen years included Time Tunnel and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea – but nothing comes to mind stronger than his vocalization for Allen’s Lost In Space B9 Robot in 1965 – 1968 (which he later reprised in the 1998 feature film) as the counter to his arch nemesis, Dr. Zachary Smith.
His IMDB profile:
A few voice samples of the B9 Robot:
Warning, Warning! sample 1
Danger, Danger! sample 2
That does not compute! sample 3
Danger, Danger Will Robinson! sample 4
My censors indicate an intruder is present sample 5
In 1898, H. G. Wells releases his first person narrative of an unnamed protagonist facing down an alien invasion on London. It is considered to be one of the earliest stories of a conflict between humans and an alien species. This is epic.
Fast forward to October 30, 1938. Orson Wells, a young actor at that time, unleashes a radio drama of the War of the Worlds from a small studio at the Mercury Theater over the Columbia Broadcasting Network. In this 60 minute version, the first two thirds of the broadcast are presented as a series of eye witness news bulletins, interrupting the Ramon Raquello Orchestra. The first reports were from “Richard Pierson,” a famed astronomer, reporting explosions seen coming from the surface of Mars. As the interruption frequency intensifies, we learn of a large, cylindrical meteor impacting on a farm in Grovers Mill, New Jersey. It is from this location that the large Martian Tripod emerges from its crater, incinerating all that were present – the radio transmission goes silent.
From the actual broadcast:
“Good heavens, something’s wriggling out of the shadow like a gray snake. Now it’s another one, and another. They look like tentacles to me. There, I can see the thing’s body. It’s large, large as a bear and it glistens like wet leather. But that face, it . . . Ladies and gentlemen, it’s indescribable. I can hardly force myself to keep looking at it. The eyes are black and gleam like a serpent. The mouth is V-shaped with saliva dripping from its rimless lips that seem to quiver and pulsate. The monster or whatever it is can hardly move. It seems weighed down by . . . possibly gravity or something. The thing’s raising up. The crowd falls back now. They’ve seen plenty. This is the most extraordinary experience. I can’t find words . . . I’ll pull this microphone with me as I talk. I’ll have to stop the description until I can take a new position. Hold on, will you please, I’ll be right back in a minute.”
Believing that this radio broadcast was real, genuine wide spread panic ensued, especially around Grovers Mill, NJ. Residents from neighboring towns grabbed their guns and headed into the epicenter of the alien invasion. Just behind a farm house and silhouetted against the darkened sky, stood a 60′ tall Martian Machine. The residents took aim and blasted away at it – but… it was simply a water tower.
Even though Martian Machines did not descend on the sleepy town of Grovers Mill, NJ in 1938 – the remains of the water tower, now on private property are still present. Across the street from the water tower is Van Nest Park at 222 Cranbury Rd, Princeton Junction, NJ 08550. In that park you will find the War of the Worlds monument, commemorating the 50 year anniversary of the attack that never happened.
For a complete transcript of the 1938 broadcast that sent millions into a frenzy is found here: http://
And to keep with Halloween Eve tradition, you can listen to the actual broadcast by Orson Well here: http://
John Cooper dazzled us with a fully working Voice of the Mummy board game by Milton Bradley. This battery operated game was released in the early 70’s and it still oozes with cool. The production value in this game plays like a Hollywood drama. Using sound supplied by a small, miniature record player (‘member those?) – the voice from the mummy’s tomb directs the players and the strategy of the game. Unbelievable! You can read more about it here .
For decades, James Bama’s famous rendition of Doc Savage and incredible illustrations have graced pulp book covers, making him the reigning paperback illustrator during the 1960’s and 1970’s – but his work for Aurora Model Kits on their Monster Model Kit line hold a special, monstrous place in my heart.
The last image of Mr. Hyde was not an Aurora Model kit but it was just too damn cool to leave out!
Presented below are his original paintings and as they appeared in final form on the box or cover. Click the thumbnail below for larger viewing.
Now this guy is AMAZING! I recently stumbled across Erik Gist’s Illustration site and let’s say that he had me at “Kolchak”. All of his illustrations are uniquely his own with a respectful nod to the great Basil Gogos and James Bama, specifically in layout and subject matter. My personal favorite is his high concept designed scene from Planet of the Apes.
Please visit his site at http://www.erikgist.com
In celebration of Edgar Allan Poe’s 203rd birthday, we bring you his literary classic – The Raven.
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“‘Tis some visiter,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door
Only this and nothing more.”