How to Build Your Own Monster

November 23, 2013 :: Posted by - admin :: Category - Filmbutiken

Your monster should be an original creative work. Your monster should be, in a word, YOU! In order to help you in your fiendish labor we have asked Mr. Ellis Burman to explain how he creates such beauties. As a make-up and prop man for movies and TV, Mr. Burman has had more experience at making mom stets than Dr. Frankenstein. Among the monsters he has worked on are the Wolf Man, the Mummy, Dracula, Phantom of the Opera, the Giant Sloth, Quasimodo (the Hunchback of Notre Dame), Frank-enstein’s Monster, and many pre-historic monsters, such as dinosaurs and pterodactyls.

According to Mr. Burman, the movie and TV monsters are divided into two categories, animated monsters and actor monsters. The animated monsters are operated by remote control and powered by hy-draulic or electronic devices. The actor monsters are simply actors made up or dressed up as monsters. What are monsters made of? The materials include rubber, fiber glass, paint, electric motors, gears, pul-leys, piano wire, and other odds and ends. All mon-sters begin on the drawing board. “If the monster suit and make-up is to be worn by an actor,” Mr. Burman says, “the monster-maker first gets the physical measurements of the actor and draws a scale picture of him. Then, the monster ‘character’ is drawn around the drawing of the actor.” The idea in creating a monster character is to make it as repulsive as possible. “When I begin to draw, I think in terms of menace, horror, abnormality and repulsiveness,” says Mr. Burman. “I try to create something that is out of this world — and should be[ he says laughingly.

In order to achieve menacing, horrifying and repulsive effects, he twists a monster’s mouth into an evil grin, either pops the eyes, disgustingly, or narrows them to a menacing slit. Warts, blemishes, scars, hairy facial bumps, wrinkles, and abnormal distortion of features are used to make a monster’s face hideous. Hands are made like claws, or have crooked fingers and swollen knuckles. Feet, arms and body are twist-ed to achieve a loathsome effect.

All these horrifying details are drawn to scale, usually about a scale of 3 inches to a foot. The next step is to make a miniature model of the monster to be shown to the producer. After his approval, the actual “monster-making” begins.

As the monster’s face is the most important part of the ‘character,” it is as carefully tailored to the actor’s own face as a tailor-made suit. “I first make a life mask of the actor’s face,” Burman explained, “by making a mold over his face with a rubber-like material similar to that used by dentists to make teeth impressions This only takes about ten minutes, and from this mold I make a plaster cast” Burman then casts a plaster model of the actor’s face on which he builds up the deformities, abnormal-ities and blemishes which characterize the monster, using air foam. From this model, he then casts a rub-ber mask.

This mask is skillfully created of both rigid and flexible rubber and fits the contours of the actor’s face exactly. “We leave the rubber flexible around the eyes and mouth,” Mr. Burman said, “so he can talk and move his eyes.”

“When we put the mask on, we fasten it with spirit gum. Sometimes we also put on grease paint or pancake makeup and apply false hair around the hair-line.”

Once the actor puts on the mask, he usually keeps it on for an entire day of shooting. This poses a few problems. If the actor has to blow his nose, it has to be done with long nose swabs. When he goes into the studio commissary for lunch, besides frightening the pretty little starlets so much they can’t eat, the monster has trouble eating himself.

His mouth may be built out or distorted in such way that he can’t chew regular food. So, the big, bad man-eating monster has to sip a liquid diet through a straw. The monster suits they wear often give actors trouble, too. There have been times, in fact, when monsters literally tried to jump out of their skins.

“That is no joke,” Mr. Burman said seriously. “Some actors get claustrophobia when they are confined too long inside a monster snit. I remember one time when an actor almost went off his rocker while playing a monster. We were on location, and it was a hot day. Right in the middle of a scene, this fellow suddenly began jumping around, yelling: ‘Get me out of here. Get me out of here.’ That was one time a monster scared the living daylights out of even the blase movie crew.” This problem doesn’t exist with the animated mon-sters. They are justbags of rubber, wire, gears, pulleys and machinery brought to life by pushing a button. Yes, there is even a push-button monster age. “You have to be an artist, make-up man, engineer, carpenter, electrician, sculptor, and general handy man to make monsters,” Mr. Burman Janghed “Ani-mated monsters are made in much the same way as the actor-monsters, except that instead of having a human inside of them, we build them over an arma-ture and make them move with machinery.” This machinery is connected to an electronic panel board where a man sits and pushes buttons to make a monster breathe fire, rear up on its hind legs, grab a beautiful girl in its daws, or perform some other hideous and monstrous action. In some cases, a combination of machinery and actors is used to operate a monster. A prehistoric monster which Mr. Burman made for a science fiction film was an example of this technique. The animal could roll its eyes, switch its tail, bite with its huge jaws, and use its antis and claws. All these actions were manipulated by a man inside using an elaborate mechanical control system. When it came time for shooting, it was decided that the man who had helped Mr. Burman do the me-chanical construction of the monster should also operate it. Right away, there was union trouble. “The actors said an actor ought to operate the monster be-cause it was an acting job,” Mr. Burman laughed. “The special effects department claimed it was a spe-cial effects job. So sting stopped while every. body went into a huddle.” He doesn’t remember how the difficulty was re• solved. “I think they formed a Monster Union,” he grinned. “Anyhow, as soon as we started shooting, the director had a brainstorm. He wanted the monster to take a fall while chasing after his victims. I told him it was too dangerous for the man inside and talked him out of it. Then, while the cameras were turning, and the monster was running along and shots were being fired at it by the other actors, it suddenly took a bad fall. “The &tea or called, ‘Cut,’ ran up and told the fellow inside, ‘What a great fall! Here’s fifty dollars. You’ll get another fifty for every fall you take’. He the money through the hole in the monster’s pushed where the operator looked out through a piece of scrim cloth. “By the time I got there, the grips had the monster on its feet. I said, ‘Are you all right? Why did you take a chance?’ He whispered back, `Shh, it was an accident. I just tripped, and the guy gave me fifty bucics.’ “Well, once he found out he could take falls, the monster was taking them all the rest of the day. He was a worse ham than the actors.”

Besides making his “monsterosities,” as he calls them, Mr. Burman also makes monster accessories. There’s usually a mad scientist with a laboratory in monster movies, and Mr. Burman has made many monster lab props. One such laboratory was the Frankenstein lab he worked on. “We made a Rube Goldberg type of thing out of electrical equipment which was supposed to make lightning,” Mr. Burman recalled. “It had electrodes, which were attached to the monster’s neck. When the switch was thrown, the lightning was supposed to activate the monster’s brain.” Mr. Burman also recalled that he even made the monster’s brain, but doesn’t remember what ma-terials he used. “Anyhow, that’s a trade secret,” the monster props he has made include a Wolf Man’s head cane, used in the Wolf Man films, and a prehistoric ice cave in which a monster was frozen. “That was real ice,” he said, referring to the cave. “We took a dummy monster to a Los Angeles ice manufacturing company and actually froze it right in the ice. I guess that is what started the term, ‘cold-blooded monsters.”

Monsters really are not cold-blooded people, though, according to Mr. Burman. “I like monsters better than some people I know,” he grinned. “My friends don’t share my enthusiasm for monsters,” be chuckled. “The neighbors don’t like them, either. Ever since I was working on a couple of monsters in the back yard, several years ago, we have been known in our neighborhood as The Horrible Burmans.’ ” Mr. Burman usually doesn’t make monsters in his back yard, however. He either creates them at the studios, or in his own “monster factory.” In the fac-tory, he even turns out monster masks for commercial sale on an assembly-line basis. He also does work for the Ice Follies, Icecapades, famous personalities like Olsen and Johnson, Spike Jones, Red Skelton, Lon Chaney, Jr., and others. His specialty, however, is making monsters, which do not come cheap, by the way. A monster can cost anywhere between $500 and $1500. So, if you want a monster for a friend or companion, or just to scare somebody, it’s cheaper to make your own.