Showing posts with label Lamezia Terme. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lamezia Terme. Show all posts

10 August 2016

Carlo Rambaldi - master of special effects

Former commercial artist who created E.T.

Carlo Rambaldi, the special effects animator, pictured in 2010
Carlo Rambaldi, pictured in 2010
Carlo Rambaldi, the brilliant special effects artist who created Steven Spielberg's ugly-but-adorable Extra-Terrestrial known as E.T. and Ridley Scott's malevolent Alien, died on this day in 2012 in Lamezia Terme, the city in Calabria where he settled in later life.  He was a month away from his 87th birthday.

Unlike modern special effects, which consist of computer generated images, Rambaldi's creatures were typically made of steel, polyurethane and rubber and were animated by mechanically or electronically powered rods and cables.

Yet his creations were so lifelike that the Italian director of one of his early films was facing two years in prison for animal cruelty until Rambaldi brought his props to the court room to prove that the 'animals' on screen were actually models.

It was during this time that Rambaldi, a former commercial artist who had graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna, not far from his home town of Vigarano Mainarda in Emilia-Romagna, pioneered the use animatronics (puppets operated mechanically by rods or cables) and mechatronics, which combined mechanical and electronic engineering.

He mostly found employment on low-budget horror films, but would occasionally be invited to bring his expertise to something a little less grisly and it was Rambaldi's work on the Italian director Dario Argento's stylish 1975 thriller Profondo Rosso (Deep Red) that caught the eye of Dino De Laurentiis, the US-based Italian producer who was looking for a special effects artist for a remake of King Kong.

Rambaldi's creation, the Extra-Terrestrial E.T.
Rambaldi's creation, the Extra-Terrestrial E.T.
Rambaldi moved to America, where he created Spielberg's benign musical aliens in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) followed by the parasitic Alien of Scott's 1979 blockbuster before delivering his greatest triumph with E.T., which beguiled audiences with its wizened skin and cat-like eyes and was capable of 150 separate moves, even down to furrowing the brow and wrinkling the nose.

Rambaldi confessed that even he cried a little when he watched the finished movie, in which E.T., marooned on earth after the spaceship in which he arrives leaves without him, befriends a lonely boy called Elliott, who in turn helps him contact his home planet.  Spielberg based E.T. on an imaginary friend he created for himself as a boy when his parents divorced.

In 1983, E.T. surpassed Star Wars as the highest-grossing film of all-time. By the end of its run it had grossed $359 million in North America and $619 million worldwide.

E.T. won Rambaldi his third Oscar for special effects following King Kong and Alien.

The last film for which he produced the special effects was Primal Rage, released in 1988 and directed by his son, Vittorio.  He distrusted the digital technology on which so many directors now rely, claiming that emotions he was able to convey in E.T. could not be reproduced by any computer programme.

On their return to Italy, Rambaldi and his wife Bruna settled in Lamezia Terme. They had another son, Alex, and a daughter, Daniela.

The Castello Estense in Ferrara
The Castello Estense in Ferrara
Travel tip:

Vigarano Mainarda is a small town situated about 9km (6 miles) from Ferrara, the beautiful city in Emilia-Romagna that has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site for its cultural importance.  Formerly the seat of the powerful Este family, who ruled the city from 1240 to 1597, it shares with Lucca the distinction of having the best preserved Renaissance walls in Italy.  At the centre of the city is the impressive brick built Castello Estense, which dates back to 1385 and underwent extensive restoration in 1999.

Travel tip:

Lamezia Terme as a municipality has existed only since 1968, when the former communities of Nicastro, Sambiase and Sant'Eufemia Lamezia were merged.  There are Byzantine, Roman and Greek remains, including the ruins of a castle thought to have been built by Greek colonists and developed by the Normans.  There is also a well preserved watchtower, the Bastion of the Knights of Malta, built in about 1550 by the Spanish viceroy of Naples, Pedro de Toledo.