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"Only the mad know, the impossible is possible!"
February 2019
This Blog is offering a colorful kaleidoscope of movie magic for cinema aficionados.
Crispy peanuts, thin-skinned baloons and thrilling sensations on celluloid.
See offbeat goodies and magic crumbs ...weekly!
The Reality behind the Fantasy! - The Story behind the Spectacle!
No inflated endlessly long stories, but short and crisp. 
'This is Helmet time!'
Photos beat content!
Welcome to the manege of madness! - Have a pleasant trip!

Producer Dino De Laurentiis (1919–2010) pumped a lot of money into his new western film production 
'A man called Sledge', 1969.
Vic Morrow (Combat!) directed the first-class produced film on location in Almeria.
Dino brought some competent people directly from the set of his sinister 'World War I' film 'Fräulein Doktor
into the wild west of Spain.
Cinematographer Luigi Kuveiller, Production Designer Mario Chiari and Set Decorator Enzo Eusepi were all happy 
to leave the First World War with the horrifying (and excellently staged!) Gas attacks behind.
In the dust of Almeria they built some elaborate sets for 'Sledge' with a construction team of many 
local bricklayers, plasterers and carpenters.
Italian Design (Art Director Mario Scisci - Set construction on 'The Bible' & Mario Chiari) under the Spanish sun.
'Las Salinillas', 1969.
In the desert of Tabernas they built the hideout of Sledge and his gold greedy gunslingers. 
An outwardly simple, modest 'Saloon/Hotel' with no glamour - Inside it's a luxurious Bordello!
Saloon scenes were staged in the 'Mini Hollywood' Saloon, which had to be restored first. 
Additional shots were created in the Dino De Laurentiis Cinematografica Studios. 
Sledge arrives at the Saloon. 
The girls are very excited ... the harmonium crashed through the wooden floor.
Quite close to the still existing Western Town Set (Mini Hollywood / El Paso), that Carlo Simi once built for the 
Sergio Leone Western 'For a few dollars more', the financially well-equipped 'Sledge' crew built a huge Fort set.
The 'Rockville Prison' was a pretty impressive, stable building with a convincing design.
Three-dimensional, usable from all sides, even for indoor shots ready to use!
One of the biggest Western Film Set pieces ever built in Almeria, only surpassed by the colossal 'El Condor' Fortress.
The story of the fortress 'El Condor' and its architect Julio Molina de Juanes can be found here:
www.kit-west-almeria.com
The 'Rockville Prison' was rented 1971 by the 'Hannie Caulder' production for some thrilling scenes and 
shortly afterwards the Set was completely demolished.
On the former site of the 'Rockville Prison' is now the large parking lot for the 'Oasys - Mini Hollywood' amusement park.
The 'Sledge' Set construction crew built an excellent Church ruin in the small village of Polopos (Almeria) for 
the finale of the movie.
It's not as easy as you might think to build a credible ruin.
Such a project can quickly look exaggeratedly artificial.
The 'Sledge' church is pretty well done and was perfectly prepared by Set Decorator Enzo Eusepi with 
golden pulpit and many matching details.
A quite cool, tastefully decorated ruin! - Polopos, 1969.
Posing for the photographer - Laura Antonelli (1941–2015) inside the church ruin in her costume,
ready for her death scene. 
Sledge, played by James Garner (1928–2014), realizes the curse of the gold too late and loses everything in the end.
The church can also be seen in a few other films that have shot scenes in Polopos, but only briefly in the background. 
It didn't stand for long, the ruin was dismantled soon after the filming of 'Sledge'.
The guy on the stairs gives you a good idea of the size of the set.
It's the renowned production manager Robert Watts ('The Empire strikes back', 'Raiders of the lost Ark').
He was on a bumpy ride with director John Guillermin to search for locations for their Western Film 'El Condor'.
The set was able to convince the 'El Condor' tour guides, but was not used in the end.
All b/w photos are property of 
www.kit-west-almeria.com

Your comments are always welcome!
Trust me, I know what I'm doing. Sometimes.

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen - The Budget Debacle.
The enormous amount of money lavished on the production had a few unforeseen and surprising consequences at the end.
British expert Richard Conway directed an unusually large team of special effects technicians at work in Rome and 
at Pinewood Studios in London.
The financial pressure required a grueling two set-ups a day timetable.
This meant that practically every effect had to work the first time. 
There was no time allowed for either rehearsal or reshooting.
The cost pressure affected the Baron's flight of the imagination. 
He ran out of fuel (funds).
Accompanied by Sally, the Baron rushes to the moon in his balloon, to find his old buddy Berthold (Eric Idle).
On the lunar surface, the two were supposed to float into a magnificent city (a detailed model miniature), 
but that idea had to be changed at short notice.
A change to the good!
As there were no funds left to built an elaborate miniature Lunar City, director Terry Gilliam came up 
with the idea to fashion out a two-dimensional city, with blown-up design cutouts of the planned model miniature 
glued on plywood panels.
The architectural concept drawings of production designer Dante Ferretti look pretty surreal as flat cutouts.
But that fits perfectly into the already bizarre scenery with all the wondrous things laying on the lunar surface.
With a three-dimensional model you would never have been able to reach this surreal atmosphere.
Sally and the Baron reach the city in their gondola (bluescreen composite).
The abstract house walls just seem to fly by.
It's a bit like a ride in a merry-go-round at the funfair. 
The whole movie is a colorful circus-like fairy tale.
The crew of Special Effects 'director' Richard Conway mounted the wooden panels with the conceptual architectural renderings 
of the Lunar City houses on tracks rigged with wire pulls.
Technicians sitting beneath the model let the houses 'fly' via the wire rigging.
Everything is moving, everything is spinning.
A brilliant, surreal sequence filmed in the Pinewood Studios.
In the trap of the moon king (Robin Williams).
See more of the fanciful Baron here:
- I am the real Baron Munchausen!
- Battle on the beach.
- Battle on the beach ...in miniature!

Actor Rossano Brazzi in the harbor of Soller (Mallorca), filming scenes for 'Krakatoa - East of Java', 1967.
The movie was leaded by Bernard L. Kowalski, a director of successful television stuff, 
but with no meaningful feature film credits.
Eugène Lourié (1903–1991) supervised the numerous trick shots of the project.
'Krakatoa' is at times visually very exciting, but on the other hand amateurishly made, 
with effect shots which are often hardly special.
Many small pieces but no cake. There is a lack of a clear good story.
The Special Effects Crew of Lourié (Alex Weldon, Basilio Cortijo, Francisco Prósper) created a few effective images. 
The technical side of the old-fashioned effects work is competently handled, but the results are often way too easy to spot.
A good effect should remain as invisible as possible.
The miniatures of Francisco Prósper and Basilio Cortijo are static but pretty well done.
The main problem is that they were not staged in the best way.
Much of the visual splendor is given away unused.
Eugène Lourié, generally able to make moody, atmospheric special effect pictures on the slimmest of budgets, 
here he is unable to do more than decorate this low-budget outing with the occasional stylistic flourish.
And they got an Academy Award nomination for this cheesecake!
Kowalski's direction is just routine and the acting of the main players is only bland.
5-6/10
Production Designer Eugène Lourié found a suitable ship in the harbor of Bilbao, the 'ENRIQUE MAYNES' (left), 
which they used as 'Batavia Queen' for the movie.
The old ship was prepared with much effort, with new masts, bowsprit and sails.
Port de Sóller, 1967.
Rossano Brazzi and Sal Mineo on board of the 'Batavia Queen' in the harbor of Soller during a break 
in filming 'Krakatoa'.
The two play father and son, Giovanni and Leoncavallo Borghese, balloonists.
The scenes with the full-size gondola and the balloon miniature are pretty convincing and 
much better than the sequences with the Batavia Queen miniature.
Eugène Lourié on the shooting of the start of the balloon flight, the live-action sequence with Brazzi and Mineo:
"The basket of the balloon was hung on a very long line from the helicopter that hovered above.
Rossano Brazzi and Sal Mineo arrived, costumed and made up.
I explained the action to them. They would have to climb into the basket, give a signal to the sailors, 
and hold tight to the basket as the helicopter lifted them up smoothly, 
the camera following their flight.
Rossano objected. 'I'm not a stunt man,' he said.
I had to explain to him that because the shot starts close, I couldn't use doubles.
To prove the action was not dangerous, I climbed into the basket, gave the signal, and went soaring up into the air. 
The helicopter deposited me gently on the exact spot of departure.
'You see,' I said, 'it's as simple as taking an elevator.'
Reluctantly Rossano agreed. 'Yes, but only one take.'
Mineo looked yellow but said nothing.
The wind from the helicopter was ferocious. Rossano almost lost his hat.
We rehearsed the timing, but Claude took his helicopter much higher and farther than in my demonstration flight. 
I saw the basket high in the sky above the ocean.
On their return I jokingly told Rossano we would have to retake the shot.
'Oh, no,' he said. 'Only one take!'.
We laughed and I offered them lunch with the crew.
The local fishermen often came to this cove with tourists and today they made us a wonderful Paella."
An excerpt out of 'My work in films', the book of Eugène Lourié.
For the slightly frightened Rossano Brazzi, this was not the only 'high-altitude flight' ...
Filming of 'Krakatoa' near Soller (Mallorca), 1967.
For another scene Brazzi and Mineo were pulled up again.
This time, they were standing on a rickety gondola and were lifted into the water from the Batavia Queen, 
to rescue children out of the sea.
Rossano Brazzi was not thrilled about that new flying adventure.
Director Bernard L. Kowalski took a flight in the 'iron basket' together with him, 
to take away his fear.
Rossano Brazzi and Sal Mineo on the Batavia Queen, ready for take off.
Both did not feel very well on the shaky flight.
Oh oh, the gondola hits the side of the Batavia Queen...
Rossano certainly did not like that.
In the end everything works ... and the children are rescued.
Latin Lover Brazzi has little interest on further adventures in dizzy heights, 
he prefers to sniff at actress Barbara Werle.
On location at Soller, 1967.
Special Effects master Eugène Lourié is capable of a better performance. 
Check out 'Crack in the World', a surprisingly compelling, well staged B-Movie, 
again with a staggering array of cool trick shots.

For a few difficult close-ups, adventurous constructions were often created, to implement the wishes of the director.
Here are two wild examples.
For 'Taxi for Tobruk', directed by Denys de La Patellière, and 'Catlow', directed by Sam Wanamaker, 
the crew had to come up with something to make the desired close-ups possible.
Director Denys de La Patellière and his camera crew, Cinematographer Marcel Grignon and Salvador Torres Garriga, 
are cruising through the sand dunes of Cabo de Gata (Almeria) on a converted truck.
The superstructure of the truck was removed to make room for the camera equipment.
The truck was extended with a wooden platform.
Such imaginative constructions were often nailed together by the special effects department.
To get some dynamic close-ups of the actors, a LRDG style mock-up vehicle was attached to the platform.
Lino Ventura, Charles Aznavour and Hardy Krüger are sitting in the mock-up, a Land Rover 86" series 1, 
ready for a ride.
The truck drove slowly backwards through the desert...
The resulting close-ups look absolutely realistic, as if we were riding in a Land Rover with the boys.
The Land Rover 86" (series 1) in LRDG style looks pretty good.
The sand dunes of Cabo de Gata (Almeria) were not really spread over a large area. 
Thanks to the clever camera work, we hardly notice that the soldiers are circling the same sand dunes again and again.
For 'Catlow' the special effects boys of supervisor Kit West built a carriage mock-up on a trailer.
The plywood coach had to be stably and securely mounted on the trailer, as several people 
should hang outside of the construction.
In addition, there had to be enough room on the trailer for the camera crew.
The funny 'Poker scene' in the coach.
Dan van Husen is hanging outside on the coach.
The camera crew (cam operator John Harris/DOP Edward Scaife) filmed the scenes from outside 
through the window on the other side.
You never notice, that the fast moving carriage is just a mock-up attached on a trailer.
Well done.

There are only a few narrowly focused books on the Madrid region (Colmenar Viejo) and 
it's significance as filming location for Western films.
My spanish friend Angel Caldito (died in 2018) and his compañero Javier Ramos worked a long time on their project.
Javier finished the book and is now ready to release their extensive work on the film metropole Madrid 
and the Western Cinema:
'El Cine del Oeste en la Comunidad de Madrid'.
Crowdfunding on the Spanish release has started!
I would have liked a bolder cover art, but whatever, 'Leone' sells best.
I'm looking forward to the book!
Finally something new!
A glimmer of hope in the endless loop of releases about Sergio Leone and his handful of flicks.
May more follow!
Actress Paloma Cela posing for the photographers during a break in filming 'A Town Called Hell', 
Estudios Madrid 70, summer 1970.
'El Cine del Oeste en la Comunidad de Madrid' will show you all the filming locations and has details on all the 
Spanish Players and Makers that worked on the Western film productions which were shot in Greater Madrid.
Order your copy today!

John Marley on a Studio Set of 'In Enemy Country', Universal Studios, 1967.
Enjoy a small 'Special OPS' low-budget B-Movie that never pretends to be something else.
If you don't expect too much, you may be surprised.
I like these little minimalist films.
Everything is a bit smaller here, even though Albert Whitlock (Matte supervisor) tries to fool us.
An unsuccessful attempt, but that fits into the concept.
'In Enemy Country' offers rock-solid entertainment with a few small surprises.
See Tony Franciosa and Guy Stockwell on their way to find out details about a new 
German 'Wunderwaffe', a sound-sensitive torpedo.
The eels bite again: 'In Enemy Country'.

The 'Skagway' town set, the main location of the very nicely done TV series 'Klondike'.
'Klondike' is a 17-episode half-hour American Western/Northern television series starring 
Ralph Taeger and James Coburn that aired on NBC. 
The series premiered on October 10, 1960, and ran until February 13, 1961.
The Set Decoration crew did a good job and transformed the Paramount Ranch Western Town Set into 'Skagway'.
The series was set during the early days of the Klondike Gold Rush 1897 in the town of 'Skagway' 
in the Alaskan Klondike region.
Ralph Taeger played the 'good guy' Mike Halliday and James Coburn, in best shape, portrayed the con man Jeff Durain.
Supporting roles were played by Western tough guys like L.Q. Jones, Jack Elam, George Kennedy, Claude Akins, ...
Is it true that Sam Peckinpah has staged a few scenes?
Some well done action scenes, funny moments and thrilling "let's call them historical facts".
Did you know that the only survivor of "Custer's Last Stand" was a parrot?
The snotty talking parrot, named General Custer, has some snappy slogans in its beak...
"Hang on your scalp ...hang on your scalp!"
All in all a TV show that deserves a proper digital release.
Skagway - Paramount Ranch Western Town.
Skagway main street, ready for the next take.
Goldie (Joi Lansing) is singing tonight in Durain's 'Golden Nugget'.
The vibrant little title tune of Vic Mizzy will stay in your ear for a long time.
Mizzy (1916–2009) did a groovy score for the heist flick 'The Caper of the Golden Bulls', 1967.
Comparison photo - Paramount Ranch.
Due to a major fire in November 2018, the old Paramount set was completely destroyed.
All buildings in this photo have burned down.
The only surviving structures were the 'Westworld' church and the train station.
A great set design. Quite a lot of details, even a sled. 
There are already hoses ready to water the soil properly.
It is always muddy in Skagway!

The Spanish production company Ízaro Films gives credit to Ray Caple and Emilio Ruiz for the 'efectos especiales'.
This was the first and only time that I heard that the British matte painter Ray Caple has been working for 
'Antony and Cleopatra'.
Curious, but why not?
Ray had little to do in the 1970s and he knew the film's production designer, Maurice Pelling, very well.
The physical effects work for 'Antony and Cleopatra' was handled by Pablo Pérez ('La legione dei dannati').
'Antony and Cleopatra' trick shot staged in the harbor of Roquetas de Mar (Almeria, Spain).
Filmed from the roof of the only high building in the town at that time, 1971.
The tower on the left looks like a classic Emilio Ruiz foreground painting, but the ships in the background 
on the right have the typical glass shot flair (of Ray Caple?).
The massive breakwater is real, although the black dots on it are for sure painted.
They probably wanted to make it look more interesting.
May be the whole thing is a glass shot and not a cut-out foreground miniature trick?
The black dots on the breakwater, the ships in the background, the towers, everything just painted. 
It is a glass shot and without problems made by the British expert Ray Caple.
Production Designer Maurice Pelling and Ray Caple both have been in Roquetas de Mar before.
Maurice Pelling was the Art Director on 'Play Dirty' and Ray staged a fantastic glass shot 
for 'Play Dirty' in this little marina.
Assistant Director Carlos Gil was also active on both films, 'Play Dirty' and 'Antony and Cleopatra'.
Roquetas de Mar - Breakwater - 'Play Dirty', 1968.
The glass shot of Ray Caple was prepared with enormous effort.
Hundreds of old oil barrels were put into position, wrong chimneys prepared, etc.
Learn more about this elaborate glass shot here: Diesel smoke and vanilla ice cream!
And try this: Play Dirty!
Ray Caple (1938–1993) in Roquetas de Mar, 1968, for 'Play Dirty'.
He was part of the team which did the visual effects work for 'Battle of Britain'.
Here is a story on the physical effects of 'Battle of Britain': Eagle Day - Making of.
Another glass shot in 'Antony and Cleopatra'. 
The so-called ships (Viking longships?) look as if a fly had shit on the lens. 
A damned poor job!
Wow, the painful glass shot was good enough for a second mission.
But a bad picture is not getting any better just because you make a mirror image of it.
After all, this is the correct view of the Playa de Monsul (Almeria, Spain).
One of the better trick shots in 'Antony and Cleopatra'. Emilio Ruiz or Ray Caple?
Probably another glass shot, slightly better and more alive than than the other, but far away from beeing good.
Only the perfectly staged 'foreground' trick shot of Emilio Ruiz can really convince.
He transformed the CSIC building in Madrid into the palace of Marc Antony.
Must see: The Stories behind the scenes of 'Antony and Cleopatra'.
Screenshot from 'Antony and Cleopatra'. Charlton Heston arrives at his ship.
This short scene is unused stock footage from 'Cleopatra', Mark Antony (Richard Burton) arrives at his battle ship.
The scene was filmed at the island of Ischia.
The bustling Producer Peter Snell was always looking for cost effective options to bring
production values on the screen.
Peter Snell in 'Great Film Epics' (Mike Munn):
"We simply structured it very carefully with stock footage from 'Cleopatra' and 'Ben Hur'.
We looked at the costumes in those films and designed our costumes to match and then structured 
very tight action sequences with Heston fighting sixteen people and then cutting to stock footage 
where we suddenly had thousands of people fighting".
Simple and ingenious.
Mark Antony (Richard Burton) is lifted onto his ship.
A scene from 'Cleopatra', which was not used in 'Antony and Cleopatra'.
Learn more about the ships of 'Cleopatra' and the Peter Snell production here: The Golden Barge.
Screenshot of 'Cleopatra'.
The Moorish fortress, the Alcazaba of Almeria, the main location of 'Antony and Cleopatra', 
also appears in 'Cleopatra'.
Screenshot from 'Antony and Cleopatra' ...and again it is stock footage of 'Cleopatra'.
The clever editing of the newly filmed material and the merging with the stock footage is often close to perfect.
Darryl Zanuck and Director Joseph L. Mankiewicz on Set in Cabo de Gata (Almeria) for 'Cleopatra'.
All the magnificent scenes in Cabo de Gata were filmed for 'Cleopatra' (photo) and masterly complemented 
with a few new matching 'Antony and Cleopatra' scenes.
A first-class editing work. Error-free continuity.
Anyone who does not know 'Cleopatra' will not notice it at all!
Producer Peter Snell is a pretty resourceful wizard!
For a deep view into the production of 'Antony and Cleopatra' you should check out my full-length Story.
The Making of 'Antony and Cleopatra' - Part 1
The Story Behind the Spectacle! - The Reality Behind the Fantasy!
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