Prosthetics is the technique of adding to the face a ‘second’ skin, It was used to great effect in the 1920’s with the actor Lon Chaney who transformed himself into classic characters such as: The Phantom of the Opera and The Wolfman, Jack Pierce became famous for creating such memorable characters as The Mummy & Frankenstein with Boris Karloff.
In the late 1930’s Jack Dawn designed and created the characters for The Wizard Of Oz , one of the landmark prosthetics films, not only did he transform all the lead actors into those famous characters but also the sheer size of the project was a first!
In the late 60’s John Chambers created the classic Planet of the Apes characters which he received a special Academy Award for outstanding achievement in makeup.
Around the same time Dick Smith was creating and advancing the art of prosthetics to a new level of quality and complexity. In 1973 the term, Special Make Up Effects was used to change Linda Blair in the demonic character for The Exorcist. Not only did Linda go through hours of complex prosthetics but also mechanical dummies where built of her, Bladders where used to stretch and deform her face and Max Von Sydow (who was only 42 at the time) had to look like he was in his 70’s.
In the 80’s this became known as the boom time for Special Make Up Effects and artists such as Rick Baker, Rob Bottin, Stan Winston, Tom Savini became the stars of make up effects. Rick Baker lead the way with American Werewolf In London in 1981 for which he won the first annual academy award for Make Up.
Even now after over 30 years films like The Thing, The Terminator, Videodrome, Gremlins, The Howling, Legend, Robocop to name but a few still amaze audiences because what you see on screen hasn’t been created by a computer, its been created by prosthetics artists, sculptors, designers and filmed live on set, that is what is so magical about the world of Prosthetics and Special Make Up Effects.
And like every good artist, you have to start at the beginning…