Carlo Rambaldi, one of filmdom's greatest special effects artists, died this past weekend. He was 86.
Rambaldi worked in his native Italy for almost 20 years before producer Dino de Laurentiis brought him to Hollywood to work on the 1976 remake of King Kong. That movie netted him a Special Achievement Oscar for his work, which was soon followed by another for Best Visual Effects for the mechanical head he created for Alien (1979).
Rambaldi made his reputation largely by creating monsters and convincing-looking slit throats (along with various other bodily injuries), but he was arguably best-known for designing the title character of E. T. The Extra-Terrestrial, winning yet another Oscar in the process. In a statement released upon news of his death, Steven Spielberg (with whom he had first worked on Close Encounters Of The Third Kind), called Rambaldi “E.T.’s Geppetto.”
Rambaldi’s first foray into movie magic was whipping up a fire-breathing dragon for the 1957 Sigfrido, a take on the Siegfried myth. He then went on to do effects for a wide array of horror movies, fantasy films, and giallos, including Bloody Pit Of Horror, Mario Bava’s Bay Of Blood (A.K.A. Twitch Of The Death Nerve), Lucio Fulci’s A Woman In A Lizard’s Skin, Dario Argento’s Deep Red, and the Paul Morrissey films Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein and Andy Warhol’s Dracula.
During his Hollywood period, Rambaldi also worked on The Hand, Dune, Conan The Destroyer, Silver Bullet, and King Kong Loves, though his most notable non-E.T. work of the ’80s may be the pulsating, tentacled creature in Andrzej Zulawski’s 1981 arthouse/exploitation hybrid Possession, a movie for which the term “WTF” may well have been invented. Rambaldi finally retired after doing the effects for the 1988 Primal Rage, the directorial debut of his son, Vittorio Rambaldi.