We don’t really do orbituary notices on the site but we’re going to make an exception for Italian effects maestro Carlo Rambaldi (1925 – 2012). If you know your Italian horror history then you’ll also immediately recall his work in such films as Argento’s Profondo Rosso (1975), Lucio Fulci’s A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (1971) and Mario Bava’s A Bay of Blood (1971).
The 86 year old passed away after suffering from a long illness at his home in the Calabrian town of Lamezia Terme, according to the BBC’s source. Mario Caligiuri, Calabria’s cultural affairs councillor, announced the death and paid tribute to the legendary Rambaldi: “With Rambaldi’s passing we lose a special effects wizard. He was a true genius.”
In the mid-1970s, his work began to attract attention outside of Italy and eventually he made the move to Hollywood. Audiences with a taste for US mainstream cinema will have seen his pioneering work in mechatronics (a mixture of mechanical and electronic engineering) in a variety of big budget movies. Rambaldi would win three Oscars (one of which was the lifetime achievement honorary award) for his effects and design work on such Hollywood productions as Alien (1979), King Kong (1976) and Steven Spielberg’s E.T. (1982).
Rambaldi, in the early ’70s, had to go to court and prove his effects designs for Fulci’s A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin was the work of movie magic and that they hadn’t really killed dogs, opened them up and strung their innards out like fairy lights. As the story goes, Rambaldi turned up in court and presented an impressive array of props which convinced the judge that no nefarious deeds had been done. Fulci got off and then paid his designer the ultimate back-handed compliment by suggesting that Mario Bava would have done designed the effects better.
Cinema has lost an effects legend in Carlo Rambaldi but his work, sometimes iconic and sometimes unpleasantly iconic, remain behind for us to enjoy and for new generations to discover.
Screen shot from A Bay of Blood aka Twitch of the Death Nerve (1971) featuring a corpse and an octopus.
The infamous scene in A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (1971)
Conan the Destroyer (1984)
E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
The Hand (1981)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
King Kong (1976)
Deep Red (1975)
Blood For Dracula (1974)
Flesh For Frankenstein (1973)
A Bay of Blood (1971)
A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (1971)