Throwback Friday #31 Snails & Spiders (1993)


Back in the day, I wanted to work in the movies, building animatronic puppets and larger-than-life monstrosities. You can blame the likes of Rick Baker and Rob Bottin for my fascinations, the transformation from An American Werewolf In London (1981) and this physical effects tour-de-force from John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982).

Some would argue I haven’t transformed all that much myself since those days on my Art Foundation course, when I walked about the place in collarless shirts and floppy ‘curtains-style’ hair, wielding jars of latex, hot glue guns, tubs of PVA … and nylon stockings. Okay, so I’m older, greyer with a lovely bald-spot getting bigger, and I’ve dropped the collarless shirts, but I still have a real fondness for a big bug, creature or too-many-legged thing and the haptic, tangible delights of an old-school puppet.

I thought I’d lost these sketches, of two of the creatures I made during my fun, busy Foundation year. The big ‘spider woman’ was indeed very big by the time she was completed, fashioned as she was around a shop-floor mannequin I’d purloined from someplace or other. Her abdomen was fashioned from large hoops of MIG welded steel, and each of her legs made from jointed steel rods, their ends fashioned onto cruel-looking points by successive hammer blows by the heat of the workshop’s forge. She was ultimately a formidable sight, though I can’t seem to find any final images of her. I suspect they’re lurking somewhere and may one day surface again.

The other sketches are for a large snail glove puppet, his shell made from carved polysterene, the process of producing it littering my studio with extraordinary amounts of bright white beads. His eyes were controlled by wires, which, when you tugged on them, caused them to wriggle about comedically.

I suppose this is what fun looked like when you where a certain kind of nineteen year old, his head stuffed with monsters.



Solipsist (2012)


Directed by Andrew Thomas Huang, Solipsist is as arresting as it is difficult to categorise. It’s the film David Cronenberg would make if David Cronenberg was big into craft, or it’s a Frank Oz cheese dream.

What I relish about this film is the way it combines physical costumes and puppetry with green screen/cgi augmentation, which produces some wildly uncanny effects and a proper sense of ‘a happening’. For your interest, I’ve included the ‘making of’ video, which is delightful, in so much as it showcases a lot of technical wizardry – and also some reassuringly lo-fi aquatic feather boas.