Official Nominations: Cleopatra. The Birds.
Two entirely different films with two entirely different approaches to effects were nominated this year. Cleopatra’s epic scope in every facet of film-making means that Special Effects were also considered, with Emil Kosa Junior picking up the official win for some terrific matte work. Aside from these shots which show things like Cleopatra’s arrival in Alexandria and breath life into the epic, there actually isn’t a lot else to speak of. The Birds also has a number of famous matte shots, but a number of nice transitions that you wouldn’t normally notice during watching because they are so smooth. I can mention a number of scenes from the movie, such as the birds arranging on the climbing frame which are a mixture of effects and expert animal handling. Shots like the birds hovering above such scenes as the gas station explosion, the swooping attack on the school kids, and Tippi’s attack in the attic were a mixture of animatronics, trained birds, rotoscoping, and matte work – all superb from Albert Whitlock and Ub Iwerks.
My Winner: The Birds.
My Nominations: The Birds. From Russia With Love. The Great Escape. Jason And The Argonauts. X: The Man With The XRay Eyes.
Only The Birds makes it over to my nominations, but it is joined with a couple of true innovators, and a couple of action movie classics. Both The Great Escape and From Russia With Love feature a wide array of action set pieces which required both potent stunt work and detailed special effects, with explosions and chases galore. Corman’s X was on made on a shoestring but is an inventive little thriller with some wonderful effects – from the seedy see-through clothes vision to Milland’s ‘eyes’ to the Spectarama colours and blurring, it’s a treat for effects purists. My clear winner though is Ray Harryhausen for his glorious work on Jason And The Argonauts. His assorted creations are given breath as they stalk the characters and terrify the audience, blending seamlessly in to the real life scenery. The first time you see Talos emerge, and the first time you experience the skeleton warrior attack are moments which will stay with you forever.
My Winner: Jason And The Argonauts.
Let us know your pick for the best Special Effects of 1963 in the comments!