Outstanding Effect Shots, part 8 of 24

Welcome to the Single-Minded Movie Blog advent calendar. Between the 1st and the 24th of December every day will bring you a short post about a classic or not so classic shot from the golden era of visual effects.

Speak with the Devil
- in The Golden Child (1987)

We already know that Charles Dance (I refuse to use that juvenile character name) is pure evil in The Golden Child, but we still get a bit of a shock when he sits down to converse with the devil himself, in this elaborate shot.

The shot begins with Dance in profile against a brick wall. The bricks fall away, the camera begins to dolly around him and the background is revealed to be a hellish inferno. The camera then tracks back and goes on and on to reveal the full scope of the enormous cave.

The cave was 16 feet deep and 24 feet wide. It was constructed out of styrofoam and aluminum foil, dressed with small sticks of wood - discarded bits from a place that sells firewood. The whole thing was painted and sprayed with glue. Charles Dance was shot separately, placed on a rotating platform in front of a blue screen. A burst of fire hides a cut from the real Dance to a photo cutout placed on miniature rock in the miniature cave. Images of fire were shot separately and inserted into the cave, which itself was shot in several different passes.

The simple description above does no justice to the mind boggling complexity of the shot, which encountered numerous problems along the way. The miniature cave practically melted under the light, the shot had to be redone at the last minute, and the alignment of all the elements were near impossible.

Running 1512 frames, and taking 84 hours to assemble on the optical printer, this was (at the time) the longest non-outer space shot produced at ILM. It may have been hell to create, but it's heaven to watch. Pure movie magic.

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