Part of the model appearance comes from the time lapse effect on water; it
lends the sped-up look of small bodies of water (seen in older sea movie
model shots - when they made Das Boot in '81 they shot the models at high
speed and slowed the film down so that the water splashing over a 1/3 scale
U-Boat seemed to move with the mass of the real thing).
Then the apparently artificially done sharp focus at center with softer
focus all around gives the look of the lack of depth of field seen in
poorly made model railroad shots. Almost doing it backwards - neat!
I watched a couple of old movies recently which had some nice model
work in them. "The Greatest Show On Earth" has several shots of a circus
train running through the countryside which appear to be models. I
wonder about the scale that was used because the locomotive is belching
out a goodly amount of smoke. Makes me wonder if they were using large
live steam models. The collision, where the first section of the train
is stopped and the second section plows into the rear, is also rather
amazing with the shattered pieces of the caboose flying around and the
cars ahead of that telescoping. Yet it does not appear to be full size
equipment used in the shot, and this movie was made in the early 1950s.
The other movie was "The Spanish Main" which has many shots of model
sailing ships. The opening scene of a ship in a storm crashing onto some
rocks was impressive. In another battle scene masts and rigging get
blown away as pirates attack a galleon. And in another port scene you
see the oars on a longboat row as it heads toward the ship. These all
appear to be models, and again I wonder about the scale used to be able
to implement the animations seen in these scenes. This movie was from
the mid-1940s and shows great talent in the model builders.
OTOH, there was "Bram Stoker's Dracula", starring Gary Oldman and
Winona Ryder. There were a couple of shots of a model steam train going
through the mountains of Transylvania which were very badly done. I had
to wonder, considering when the movie was produced and the technology
available, why they couldn't have come up with far more realistic shots.
On Wed, 03 Mar 2010 09:06:59 -0600, Rick Jones wrote:
I recall that one from when I saw it when it was first released - I was
nine - and I too recall being impressed by the model shot. Compare that
to the atrocious model shots in the John Wayne naval potboiler "In Harm's
Way"and the afore-mentioned great work in "Das Boot".
I was especially interested in the train wreck because the year before I'd
walked the seven or eight blocks up from my house to see them unload the
circus train - parked on an Illinois Central spur, I believe - and saw
the elephants pull wagons several blocks east to a field north of the old
Decatur Connies stadium (a mini 'green monster'), and hte riggers and
roustabouts erecting poles and pounding in stakes with multiple mallet
crews. Not sure, but I think t was Ringling Bros.
The train wreck scene from Harrison Ford's "The Fugitive" was pretty
well done too, and was filmed right down the canyon from my home by a
life-long special effects modeler named Jack Sessums. Walking through
his barn -where he stored the models that were left-over from previous
film shoots- was an amazing experience!
Imagine a batch of 6' long Sherman tanks that were completely
fuctional and were each controlled by a driver who sat hunched inside
beneath the turret, or a 25' Fletcher-Class destroyer that was piloted
by a single guy who reclined beneath the superstructure in a hull that
wasn't much wider than he was!
Jack's back yard also featured about a mile of 15" gauge track on
which he ran his completely scratch-built live steam two-trucked shay.
It stands about 3' high at the cab.
For anyone interested in professional movie and TV special effects
modelers, here's a short bio:
Jack was very *very* good, and I miss him a lot.
I'm sorry, Steve. I'm certain that I must have asked him and he must
have told me, but that was circa 10 years ago and I no longer
Jack's "barn" was a paradise for large-scale modelers: there was all
this incredible stuff packed together into one room, and every single
item was a *working* model of one sort or another. It always put me in
mind of Jack Nicholson's line as the Joker in the original "Batman"
movie: "Where does he get those *wonderful* toys?"
Of course, the answer in Jack Sessums' case was that he'd built every
one of them himself.
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