Village of the Giants
employed some of the more traditional visual effects techniques developed in the early 1960's. Director Bert I Gordon was no stranger to these techniques, using them previously in films such as
The Beginning of the End
. Below you'll find examples of several different types of special effects used in the film.
...and Over-sized Props
When dealing with a sense of scale, it becomes the responsibility of the special effects craftsmen to help pull off the illusion.
To pull off the illusion that the giant teenagers were over 30 feet tall, small sets were crafted, as well as smaller versions of normal-sized props. These ranged from a miniature doll dressed like Horsey(Johnny Crawford) for Merrie (Joy Harmon) to 'dance with, miniature (edible) chicken and Coke bottles for the giants to eat and drink from, a small bed and magazine for Merrie to enjoy as she watches Nancy(Charla Doherty) and Cora(Debi Storm), and a miniature light pole that Fred(Beau Bridges) uses in his attempt to crush Mike(Tommy Kirk).
For the regular-sized villagers, large-scale props were created for them to interact with. These included a large-scale roasted duck for the town barbecue, a large hand and part of an arm to simulate Rick(Robert Random) holding the Sheriff's scared daughter, a pair of giant prop legs to simulate Fred standing around, and a large-scale recreation of a female torso for several scenes where Horsey interacted with the 30-foot giantess, Merrie.
The above shots show red lines around the areas that were matted out in the shot. The way to tell which part of the scene was shot first is to look at the film quality of certain sections of the film. The more faded a scene is, is proof that that part of the shot was done first (one downside of film is that everytime you use it, it loses some of it's quality).
To sell the idea of giants among the citizens of Hainesville, a number of Matte shots were utilized. The camera originally shot one scene, with a part of the image blocked (aka masked) off. Another take would be done, with the masked area uncovered, and the previously unmasked area masked up this time. The two sections are then combined.
Process(Rear Projection) Photography
A number of the giants shots were done with process photography. This process puts the actor in front of a screen, as an image is projected behind them, hence the name.
The shots above, such as Elsa(Gail Gilmore) growing, was achieved by having the camera push in on Elsa. The projected image behind her was shot slowly traveling upwards, and moving in closer, helping to sell the illusion.
As Fred lumbers into the neighborhood, the camera is placed strategically, so that you cannot see his feet.
In the scene of Pete(Tim Rooney) standing next to the church with Nancy, Pete was shot with rear projection, and a piece of shrubbery in front of him, to convince the audience that of his height and position in the scene.
When Fred shrinks at the end, the process that caused Elsa to grow is flipped around, the projected image was shown pulling back and down, and the camera shooting Fred is also pulling back. Process photography works a bit better than matte shots, because there are no dark 'matte lines' around the actors.
Special Physical Effects
Physical props and wires are used to pull off a visual effects 'gag' involving a hot rod.
The use of physical effects in the film can be seen in several areas. Physical effects are often used to blur the line between props and the actors, to help with the illusion that what you are seeing is really happening.
One such illusion was utilized with wires and a specially rigged body for a hot rod, provided by
Barris' Kustom City
(more about this stunt can be found in the
section on our information page).
The image to the far left shows the wire and crane mechanism to make the hot rod's body flip off. A red line has been added to show where the wires are in the first and second images. On cue, the wire attached to the vehicle's body was pulled, causing it to fly off, simulating the gag that Horsey's plan to drag Fred with the hot rod wouldn't work, given the weight of Fred's giant body vs the power of the hot rod.
However, the audience is supposed to believe that the lasso Horsey used was what caused the body to jerk back, as the wire and pulley set-up is supposed to be invisible (but if you know what to look for, you can see the wire).
A number of other physical effects 'gags' were also used on the film. When Genius (Ron Howard) and Mike are first observing the goo expand out of the glass, we do not see the bottom of the glass. Most likely, the goo-like substance was fed up through the open bottom of the glass, possibly with a tube. This same method was used in reverse in a scene at the park, where Genius attempts to make another batch of goo, that shrinks into nothingness.
Physical Effects were also required to move around the giant torso simulating Merrie dancing while clutching Horsey to her bosom. Most likely, the torso was on a rocking platform.
Wire-work was also used for a couple other scenes. For the last two images, a red line has been drawn to show where the wires are. As Genius tries to make more goo, a strange, peach-colored thing emerges from a beaker, and descends into the nearby sink. This was achieved by having the creation slide down the wire into the sink's drain.
At the end of the film, as Fred tries to impale Mike with a metal flagpole, the over-sized prop had it's guide wire anchored into part of the ground, and elevated somewhere off-camera. On cue, the hollow pole was released down the guide wire, and given the angle and weight, caused it to impact and allow some of the Earth in the town square to react as if Fred had thrown the 'spear.'