Carlo Rambaldi (1925–2012) is the master of special effects, the game-changer who transformed their very role in the cinema from prop to protagonist. His much-loved and universally recognised creations – E.T., King Kong, Alien and many more – are identified today with the films themselves, but even before that Rambaldi was already one of the greatest special effects men in all kinds of films. He gave us the alien soldiers in Roger Vadim’s cult movie Barbarella, with a young Jane Fonda, and Pinocchio in Luigi Comencini’s eponymous movie, using mechantronic technology for the remote control of puppets, an absolute innovation for the period.
After working with Italy’s leading directors – Lucio Fulci, Lamberto Bava, Pupi Avati and Dario Argento – he moved stateside in the mid-70s to work with such Hollywood giants as Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, Oliver Stone, Andrzej Zulawki and David Linch, winning fully three Oscars during his time in America.
The Italian artisan tradition coupled with a peerless command of technology ensured that Carlo Rambaldi was to become the greatest exponent of mechanotronics in the field of special effects cinema, his distinguishing feature being his unparalleled technical skill in breathing life into any kind of character. With him, special effects went from being smart trick to part and parcel of the story being told on screen...