Carlo Rambaldi was born on 15 September 1925 in Vigarano Mainarda, a farming village in the Ferrara area. his father is a bicycle mechanic, and it is by repairing the gears and chains of bikes that the very young Rambaldi understands the structure of a “machine”, albeit simple, like a bicycle. This youthful work feeds Carlo’s acumen, and makes him interested in the secrets of other machines, ever larger and more complex: curiosity and passion for mechanics are born. But as a child he tried his hand at drawing and later began to shape the clay. From 1938 to 1942, he attended middle school first and then the technical institute in Ferrara.
Early Rambaldi Paintings
At eighteen he is called to arms. after the war, he finished his studies as a surveyor and in 1947 he enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna. in the same year he presented some of his works at the Painting Exhibition on the Delta Padano, on the theme “Earth Workers”. between 1948 and 1949, together with his friend Alberto Cavallari, he produced a series of drawings for local newspapers and also posters and advertising posters. Deepens sculpture and neo-realistic painting; at the same time, it approaches electro mechanics applied to self-propelled sculptures. in 1951 he graduated from the Academy of Bologna, set design course. in 1952, in the context of the exhibition of collective painting on the flood of the Polesine, his intense picture Fuga dalla acque is noticed by critics.
In 1954 he won the first prize at the National Competition-Exhibition for the manifesto of the Torquato Tasso Celebration. In 1956, he writes and directs the short 9-minute documentary Pescatori di sturgeon, shot at the mouth of the Po. Rambaldi makes three mechanical sturgeons (created given the death of real fish).
1957 Sigfrido (1957) Dragon’s Blood
Here the producer Antonio Ferrigno is looking for who quickly realizes the dragon for Siegfried, the legend of the Nibelungs, written and directed by Giacomo Gentilomo. Rambaldi proposes a model of dragon of less than half a meter and gets the job. on a large terrace made available to him as a workshop, he made a kind of dinosaurlong sixteen meters, made entirely of wood, with metal joints, covered with rubberized canvas and animated by six operators hidden inside the monster’s body. To make the skin of the scaly dragon appear, as many as 3,000 dessert cardboard trays are used. finally, for the climax scene (when Sigfrido kills him by thrusting the sword called in the eye), to render the vitreous humor of the eyeball, Rambaldi fills a bag with abundant simmenthal flesh. Siegfried represents his debut on the “Hollywood on the Tiber” scene.
In 1959 the Emimmo Salvi producer commissioned Rambaldi a giant mannequin with the features of the titanic Goliath for the biblical film David and Goliath (1960). For Goliath and the Dragon (1960) La vendetta di Ercole, directed by the specialist Vittorio Cottafavi and interpreted by the bodybuilder Mark Forrest, together with Broderick Crawford; the artist creates an electro-mechanical Centaur, a giant Bat, a three-headed Cerberus and some mechanical snakes.
The Minotaur, the Wild Beast of Crete (1960)
The Minotaur, by the way, is awesome in exactly the same kind of way a man wearing an over-sized puppet head would be awesome, because that’s precisely what was done. The person inside the puppet head was Milo Malagoli, an Italian boxer who stood somewhere between 7 feet and infinity. He was already a giant but the massive puppet head gave him another two feet. It’s also abundantly clear that he can’t exactly see where he’s going in that head as he stumbles about and Mathias seems to move himself in front of the Minotaur when the Minotaur seems to be headed in the wrong direction. This all could have worked fairly well had the sound crew provided a sufficiently intimidating roar for the Minotaur. Alas, he sounds a bit like a dog moaning in the distance, hoping his owner finds him before dinner.
The Giants of Thessaly (1961)
Rambaldi also participates with some FX (for the scene with the Polyphemus cyclops) to the film directed by Riccardo Freda, The Giants of Thessaly (1961) I Giganti della Tessaglia – The Argonauts with Massimo Girotti.
Atlas Against the Cyclops (1961)
At the end of 1960 Rambaldi is presented to the famous architect-designer Mario Chiari (the vitelloni, War and peace, The dam on the Pacific, Jovanka and the others), committed to the epic colossal religious Barabbas (1961), produced by the tycoon Dino De Laurentiis, directed by Richard Fleischer. His task is to create four mechanical mannequins depicting gladiators who must fall from a bridge in the midst of real lions and flames; for the gladiator fight scene, he must create a perfect electro-mechanical dummy of a gladiator who is imprisoned; finally another mannequin with the features of the divine Mangano for the scene of his stoning and some mechanical bears to be used in the arena shows.
After having built three models of electromechanical sturgeons, of about three meters, for the film Scano Boa (1961), Rambaldi collaborates with three other epic-mythological films.
For Fire Monsters Against the Son of Hercules (1962) Maciste contro i mostri, Rambaldi draws only the sketch of the amphibious monster that then, however, does not realize passing the project to other technicians.
After supplying a realistic five-meter propeller-driven shark (driven inside by a professional diver) for Tiko and the Shark (1962) Ti-Koyo e il suo pescecane, he built an eighteenth-century balloon – faithfully reproduced at Cinecittà complete with festoons and flags – five meters in diameter for the film by the French imperial Imperial Venus (1962) Vénus impériale
For Mars, God of War (1962) by Marcello Baldi, Rambaldi is commissioned a gigantic carnivorous plant with a total diameter of eight meters, equipped with six three-meter petals, alternated with five-meter tentacles capable of enveloping the actor M. serato; the ravenous carnivorous flower is “animated” in the De Paolis studios rented by the Galatea Film and destroyed here, due to stage requirements, with ax strokes.
For Perseus Against the Monsters (1963) Perseo l’invincibile, an epic directed by Alberto De Martino, Rambaldi builds a 3.5 meter high Medusa, equipped as a diabolical hydra with tentacles and hypnotizing snakes and the monster, which has luminescent eyes, hidden by eyelids operated at a distance, moves sinuously towards its victims. in this plethora of “sword and sandal”,
In the same year, Rambaldi produces some special effects and a medieval armor joined to the joints and laminated in gold for the hilarious comedy of Blake Edwards The Pink Panther (1963).
He took part in the historical holosphere of 20th Century Fox Cleopatra (1963). The artist’s contribution consists of a poisonous asp, hidden inside a basket of figs, various special effects and some metallic ornaments for the costumes of the Egyptians.
In 1965 Rambaldi works on five films: Juliet of the Spirits (1965) Giulietta degli Spiriti in which he realizes two skeletal horses animated with mechanisms that float on a raft;
James Tont operazione U.N.O. (1965), a parody of 007 written and directed by Bruno Corbucci and Gianni Grimaldi and interpreted by Lando Buzzanca in the fight against the Diabolo Goldsinger … here Rambaldi makes a gigantic turntable, working (more other special effects); The Wedding March (1965) Marcia Nuziale, an episodic film written and directed by Marco Ferreri, where he creates various mechanical mannequins.
For Hercules and the Princess of Troy (1965) Ercole e la principessa di Troia he built a very complex creature: an amphibious monster 14 meters long, 2.80 meters wide at the abdomen, able to move the eyes, the antennae, the jaw, the head, the chest, the abdomen and paws provided with multiple joints.
Completely electric, it is very suggestive as it is capable of moving and “acting” both on the ground (crawling on rails hidden under the sand of the Palinuro beach) and in water (with the engines closed in sealed chambers and the energy supplied by a remote generating set).
Rambaldi is also supplied the giant skeleton of an alien in the film Planet of the Vampires (1965) Terrore nello spazio of Mario Bava.
In 1965, from his touch to the special effects trick of the giant spider of Bloody Pit of Horror (1965) Il boia scarlatto; then he gives some limbs and artificial anatomical details for cuts and shots.
Falstaff (Chimes at Midnight) (1965) by and with Orson Welles, for which he builds fifty hard rubber armor and patinated metal-like, one of which, the one for Welles (here at his last direction), with a diameter of two meters.
Seven Golden Men (1965) 7 uomini d’oro written and directed by Marcus the Vicar, in which he signs some self-propelled mechanical spiders on the body of the Rossana actress Podestà, two models of submarines two and a half meters long and a huge quantity of ingots ‘gold (reproducing part of the 7,000 tons of gold stolen in the film).
Created the casts of a head and limbs, for the documentary film Africa Blood and Guts (1966) Africa Addio and creator of some FX for The Witch (1966) La strega in amore.
It is again thanks to Dino De Laurentiis that Rambaldi succeeds in expressing himself to the full, with a much more sustained budget, for the film shot at Dinocittà: The Bible: In the Beginning… (1966); he is hired to coordinate and prepare four of the key scenes of the imposing work directed by John Huston The Creation of the Universe, The Creation of Adam, Sodom and Gomorrah and The Universal Flood.
The first scene is solved with innovative optical and mechanical solutions; for the creation of Adam, Rambaldi must perform a cast of the actor in the position of “awakening”; from the negatives of the same cast draws five copies which are retouched and progressively reduced to the “shapeless” form of the first phase; the two pre-final casts are also equipped with some mechanisms that simulate the twitching movement of the chest; in the last phase the fifth and final cast is replaced with the actor who completes the scene; subsequently, during assembly, all the phases are joined together thanks to a delicate optical process. As for the third episode, Rambaldi was commissioned to conceive the golden calf of Sodom and Gomorrah: he made a beautiful sculpture five meters high with polyester resin.
From the technical point of view, the episode of the Flood Universal presents interesting aspects of mechanics and engineering applied to spectacular cinema. it is about moving the Noah’s Ark, built in four versions: a sixty-meter long one, like the one described in the Bible, which can be used by all the real actors and animals present on the set, and another three on a reduced scale, from two, four and six meters, used in rotation for the scene of difficult navigation under the Deluge. The moving Ark follows obligatory paths because in reality it is pulled by an articulated trolley that runs on a monorail; at the same time, it is fixed to the same trolley with joints that allow it to “naturally” sway on the tumultuous sea of water. Rambaldi, for this complex scene, deals with coordinating all the atmospheric effects of the Deluge obtained with wind machines, rain-controlled systems and “false” clouds and flashes. the swirling motion of the waves is caused by some electrical vibration systems, placed under the surface of the water, which regulate their power and amplitude. The artist also builds 20 mechanical men who run on the rocks and ask for mercy to break out of the sudden fatal rain and some ferocious beasts controlled electronically, camouflaged among the real ones.
Modesty Blaise (1966) by Joseph Losey, in whom he builds a Falk dummy, a removable backrest prosthesis containing the pieces of a two-way radio and a mini-balloon type seagull.
1967 he completed three other works: for Terence Young’s The Rover (1967) L’avventuriero, he made two very flexible mechanical poplars, which acted as human catapults, and a light and articulated mannequin;
For the Don Giovanni in Sicilia (1967), from the novel by vitaliano Brancati, he created for the Messina set, a mechanical mannequin made from the actress of the actress Elizabeth Wu, endowed in particular with movements for the eyes and for the smile;
The Glass Sphinx (1967) La sfinge d’oro by Luigi scattini realizes an Egyptian sphinx 1.80 meters long and 80 centimeters high, modeled in clay, cast in transparent plastic sheet with a thickness of three millimeters and filled with water to give the impression of the crystal.
In 1968, the producer Dino De Laurentiis commissioned to Rambaldi the mask and costume of the genius of the crime Diabolik for the film of the same name Danger: Diabolik (1968) based on the comic strips of the Giussani sisters, brought on the big screen by the director Mario Bava.
The next experience, entirely shot at Dinocittà, is Barbarella (1968), one of the first high-budget European science fiction films, taken from the comics of Jean-Claude Forest. super-production packed in style by Dino De Laurentiis, directed by Roger Vadim. Before the shooting of the film, the French technicians had already built a pair of mechanical wings with real gold pens for Pygar, the blond, blind and rather androgynous angel recently played by the 30-year-old Law. Rambaldi, called 72 hours before shooting the sequences with the angel, reconstructs the wings: not only do they open and beat vigorously in flight, but they close at rest. For this film the artist also signs some terrible-looking dolls that walk mechanically and are synchronized with their mandibular movement, and make the costume of the sexy spatial heroine Barbarella, a kind of transparent armor, obtained from the complete cast of the body of the Fonda.
After the brief interlude of Faustina (1968), by Luigi Magni for which he performs a mummy of a woman contained in a sarcophagus, Rambaldi deals with another production Dino De Laurentiis
L’Odissea (1968) The adventures of Ulysses excellent scripted TV show in eight episodes for the RAI, directed by Franco Rossi. Creates FX for the sequence that sees Ulysses, played by B. Fehmiu, to face the giant monocle Polyphemus, “episode” full of effects and directed by Mario Bava (assisted in the direction by his son Lamberto); Rambaldi creates for the Cyclops, “enlarged” thanks to the “Blue Backing” optical system, a mask with eye and eyelid that can be operated remotely, and a large arm with a huge hand articulated in all its phalanges.
In 1969, Rambaldi worked with three other productions: Candy (1968) for which he made some dolls one meter high; Check to the Queen (1969) Scacco alla regina, in which he signs a horse capable of flexing his neck, moving his head and tail, and of course galloping. 1969 Alive or Preferably Dead (1969) Sundance and the Kid for the scene of the train derailment. 1969 Femina Ridens (1969) for various special effects and for the make-up of the characters.
Carlo Rambaldi 60’s Filmography
1957 Sigfrido (1957) Dragon’s Blood
1960 Teseo contro il Minotauro (1960) 1960 The Minotaur, the Wild Beast of Crete (1960)
1960 Goliath and the Dragon (1960) La vendetta di Ercole / Vengeance of Hercules (1960)
1961 Atlas Against the Cyclops (1961) / Maciste nella terra dei ciclopi (1961)
1961 The Giants of Thessaly (1961) I Giganti della Tessaglia (1961) The Giants of Thessaly (1960)
1962 Mars, God of War (1962) Venus Against the Son of Hercules
1962 Fire Monsters Against the Son of Hercules (1962) Maciste contro i mostri
1962 Tiko and the Shark (1962) Ti-Koyo e il suo pescecane
1963 Perseus Against the Monsters (1963) Perseo l’invincibile / Medusa vs. the Son of Hercules
1965 Planet of the Vampires (1965) Terrore nello spazio (1965) Planet of the Vampires (USA)
1965 Hercules and the Princess of Troy (1965) Ercole e la principessa di Troia 1965
1965 Juliet of the Spirits (1965) Giulietta degli Spiriti
1965 James Tont operazione U.N.O. (1965)
1965 Bloody Pit of Horror (1965) Il boia scarlatto
1965 The Wedding March (1965) Marcia Nuziale
1965 Seven Golden Men (1965) 7 uomini d’oro (1965)
1966 The Witch (1966) La strega in amore (1966) The Witch
1966 The Bible In the Beginning (1966) La bibbia
1966 Africa Blood and Guts (1966) Africa Addio
1966 Modesty Blaise (1966)
1967 The Glass Sphinx (1967) La sfinge d’oro
1967 The Rover (1967) L’avventuriero
1967 Don Giovanni in Sicilia (1967)
1968 L’Odissea (1968)
1968 Danger: Diabolik (1968)
1969 The Laughing Woman (1969) Femina Ridens
1969 Check to the Queen (1969) Scacco alla regina
1969 Alive or Preferably Dead (1969)