Is it St. Lucia's Day yet? Whadda ya mean, I gotta wait three more days???
Sunday, December 10, 2017
Saturday, December 9, 2017
Al Nozaki's design for the Fighting Machines in 1953's War of the Worlds.
Nozaki had worked with producer George Pal on When Worlds Collide, so it was no surprise that he would turn to Nozaki again. Pal initially wanted the Fighting Machines to walk, as they did in the book. Nozaki came up with a few designs, one of which was chosen by Pal. But test footage proved that this effect looked clunky and stilted on film. Nozaki then came up with the iconic "manta ray" design full-blown off the top of his head while doodling at home one Sunday afternoon. Nozaki based the head (really, the heat ray) on the head of a spitting cobra. (Not a lamp he had on his desk, as is commonly reported). Originally, the cobra-head heat ray came out the rear of the machine, curving over the front like a scorpion's tail. It was later moved to the top of the machine.
Gordon Jennings, head of the special effects team, brought the design to life. Ivyl Burks, head of the prop department, oversaw their actual manufacture. The builders were Paul Lerpae, Wallace Kelly, Jan Domela, and Irmin Roberts.
Three Fighting Machines were made. Each was 42 inches across, and the cobra necks turned and could flex downward. The body of each machine was made of copper, and a red paint applied to tinge the copper red (like the planet Mars). The heat ray of each machine consisted of a red plastic shield for the eye. Inside the head was a light and a small, slowly turning fan. As the blades moved in front of the light, the heat ray seemed to pulsate eerily.
Each Fighting Machine was suspended from an overhead track by 15 wires. The wires not only allowed the props to "fly" but also conveyed the electricity needed to power the prop's interior lighting.
Pal still wanted to simulate the effect of legs, so he asked the special effects team if "legs of electricity" could be rigged below each Fighting Machine. The effects and prop department rigged nearly invisible wires to reach from the bottom of each machine to a slot in the set. More than 1 million volts of electricity were generated by each wire, and a fan blew the sparks down the wire to the "ground". Tests went well, but the danger of fire was so great that the effect was dropped.
For the heat ray, Jennings held a wire in front of a blowtorch, and a fan blew the sparks outward. The effect was filmed and superimposed coming out of the cobra-head as the heat ray.
Glass domes, on which lights were flashed, were used to simluate the force field around the Fighting Machines. The effect was superimposed on the Fighting Machine footage.
The "skeletizing ray" which emitted from each Fighting Machine's wing-tip were matte paintings. Nearly a thousand of these were made, essentially acting like cel animation, to make the green energy emissions.
During the "Battle of Los Angles" scene when the Martians die, film cameras rolled at four times normal speed to make the explosions look realistic. The guide-wires of the Fighting Machines were visible when the machines crashed, so the machines were depicted crashing into telephone poles and lines to hide the guide-wires.
The film cost $2 million to make. $1.4 million was spent on special effects.