Stan Winston died this week far too early at the age of sixty-two. If you know the name then you were probably saddened by the news but I haven't seen a lot of reaction that I expected. Stan Winston is one of the pioneers of make-up design and special effect. He's worked on some of the greatest films ever made (in fact I'm reviewing another one tomorrow) and some of the worst but if he worked on a movie then you at least knew that his make up and effects would be great. He was a man who could take twenty dollars to a supermarket and bring you back the scariest monster ever put on film. Even in this era of CGI he was a master of the practical effect; ones done on set for the camera.
What he will best be remembered for is his Creature Shop, his make up and modeling studio that designed more monsters than you can shake a stick at. And so I give you a small sampling of his work through his films that struck enough of a cord with science fiction fans to win Hugo awards:
In addition to taking the already iconic alien design to its ultimate level Winston was also the second unit director for Aliens and was directly responsible for many of its effects and model shots.
How do you create a "monster" that looks like they should removing digits from Victorian children who refuse to stop sucking their thumbs and let the actor under that make up express that it has a soul? Stan Winston knew how.
The morphing effects may have been the defining moment when CGI rose to the special effects throne but many of the memorable moments in Terminator 2 were due entirely to Stan Winston's work. This is one effect that I know for a fact that he personally did.
I have to save something to talk about tomorrow but this was both Winston's greatest popular success and perhaps even his greatest work all together. If you don't recognize this iconic moment then shame on you; I am still impressed at how well he made that iris look and function.
He also did the effects for Galaxy Quest and I just found out that my DVD drive can't read the disk for it so I'll need to do something about that before that movie comes up.
And naturally Winston's work goes far beyond the films that I tend to emphasize in this little blog. The Predator is one of his. John Carpenter's The Thing is one of Winston's earliest triumphs (the first time I saw that head effect the character on screen and I said the same thing in unison; if you've seen the film you know what I mean and if you haven't then why aren't you watching it right now?). He created the army of penguins in Batman Returns. And even the Wookies... in the Star Wars Holiday Special.
I won't hold that against him.