Sunday, August 25, 2013

Howdy Neighbour!

Another lame gag from BEHIND THE APE BALL but the pic is a good one. I think we are looking at Gemora in THE UNHOLY THREE - I believe that's Harry Earles of the Lollipop Guild and FREAKS  without the fur.
Have a super Sunday!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Western Costume Gorilla !

Hiya gang !
No, were not talking about a gorilla in a cowboy outfit, but rather a gorilla suit made and sold by the world famous Western Costume in beautiful Hollywood.
Western Costume made literally 10's of thousands of costumes of every variety throughout the course of them being in business. Everything from Sci-Fi to comedy...Horror to epic biblical films!
You get the idea.
Western also produced gorilla costumes..Now these weren't the quality of our legendary gorilla men, like Charlie Gemora, Crash Corrigan, Bob Burns, George Barrows and so on...
This didn't stop film producers from putting the Western gorilla to good use, both as a "reel" gorilla, or as the set up for a long time gag as old as gorilla movies have been around.
In a nut shell:
The movie has a "real" gorilla, played by one of our legendary Gorilla Men.
There is also in the story a "fake" gorilla. This is a human character in the script who dons a gorilla suit, usually to frighten the other characters for some reason.
The gag is that eventually the "real" gorilla shows up and is confused for the "fake" gorilla.
In most cases of this gag, comedy ensues. Well most cases...
The thing that makes this gag work, is that in order to make you buy into the idea that there is a "real" gorilla, the "fake" gorilla has to be noticeably less realistic.

This is where the Western Costume gorilla steps in.
While it's much enormously better than the crappy Halloween gorillas we find today, the Western gorilla was a poor substitute for a real Gorilla Man suit.
A very good example is the movie "Gorilla at Large".
Master Gorilla Man ,George Barrows plays the role of Goliath, the biggest, fiercest gorilla ever in captivity.
At one point in the story, Cameron Mitchell is called upon to don a gorilla suit to substitute for Goliath. You guessed it...The Western Costume Gorilla !
The difference in the suits really drives the point home, that Barrows was a "real" gorilla.
The Western Gorilla has been used as a "real" gorilla on occasion. One time that comes to mind is the classic Jungle Jim and the Lost Tribe. There is a sequence in the Lost Tribe were there are nearly a dozen gorillas on the screen at one time. The bulk of the gorillas were suits owned by Ray Corrigan, and Steve Calvert. Charlie Gemora's incredible suit from "The Monster and the Girl" also appears in this giant simian  battle against the villains in the picture.
In order to flesh out the huge contingent of gorillas, there is a Western Costume Gorilla in the mix.
The producers probably intended to use it in the background, but there a several quick shots of it that are fairly clear.
The Western Costumes Gorilla was also sold to the public, and found it's way into dozens of Magic shows, Carnival side shows, live Spook Shows and the like.

One interesting side note, back in the late 70's after the release of Dino Delaurentis"s King Kong remake, (featuring Gorilla master, Rick Baker as the King), an elderly gentleman named Carmen Nigro came forward and claimed to have played the Original King Kong in 1933 !
Carmen also claimed to have starred in movies such as "The Ape Man", Nabonga" and several others of the same era,
The sad fact is that all these film were well documented as to who played the gorillas in them. (Emil VanHorn, and Ray Corrigan, respectively.)
It is also well documented that the 1933 King Kong was not a man in a suit, but rather an 18" stop motion animation puppet.
Carmen Had photos on himself posing proudly with his "Kong" suit, and once again, it was a Western Costume gorilla.
Apparently Carmen wanted very desperately to have his moment of fame, and were it not for devotees of simian cinema, his word may have still been taken as the truth.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Beast that Lurks Inside

    In the early days of Gorilla Men, I was fortunate enough to catch the ear of writer/filmmaker Ted Newsom regarding his fantastic FILMFAX article on Steve Calvert. Ted was gracious enough to revisit his piece and expand it beyond what saw print, much to my delight. I am happy to welcome Ted back to Hollywood Gorilla Men and hope you relish his tale of revelation and ape suits as much as I did..
  Gorilla Man

   For some reason I didn't understand, I was always fascinated and spooked by guys in gorilla suits. Everybody has a bit of it, I think; certainly everybody who read this blog. With me it was gut-level. I never understood why, for about 30 years.
   When I was little, maybe 6 or 7, I described a scene to my mother: it's an old-fashioned circus, with the sight and scent of sawdust, a tent with daylight just beyond, and a colorful crowd. And a giant gorilla runs over and scares me. It didn't look like a "real" gorilla, not like a "real" chimp, it was a fake, a monster, a scary thing. Mom dismissed it as a dream, probably something I saw on TV.
   That made sense. Over the next five, ten years, I saw movies like the Marx Bros. AT THE CIRCUS and GORILLA AT LARGE, which had imagery similar to that vivid vision, and I accepted Mom's dream theory. No matter how un-gorilla-like the ape suit was in any given movie, I'd get creed out in an unexplainable way. The Crash Corrigan/Steve Calvert suit and face looks nothing like a gorilla, really. The George Barrows get up looks like a big fat guy in a hairy coat with a pinhead. Janos Prohaska never fooled me, even when I was little. Charlie Gemora's stuff was fun, but from the time I saw photos of real apes, even his relatively accurate suits were obvious costumes.
   Still, they creeped me out, especially the Calvert and Barrows appearances. It seemed they were scary not in spite of their unreality, but because of it. They weren't "gorillas," they were monsters. Big, hairy, snorting monsters.

   As an adult I got to know Steve Calvert well, and he was a sweet, gentle man with a subtle, observational sense of humor. Meeting him (the father of a friend of my ex-wife) and getting to know him took a tiny edge off the childhood fear I had of the monster in BRIDE OF THE GORILLA.
   Later still, I got to know Bob Burns, an equally sweet, fun man with a more impish humor. He knew how to milk the natural human reaction to a 6 foot tall, 300 pound gorilla. He told me a wonderful story about being hired by Hustle Magazine for a King Kong photo shoot which, I don't think ever was done Why? As a gag to sell the idea to then-publisher Althea Flynt, the guys asked Bob to suit up and come in.
   Having worked at Flynt Publications twice, I can say that Althea, in 1982-83, was not the most stable of women. Well, they talked to her for a couple of minutes, told her they had a great idea for a photo layout, and signalled Bob. He rumbled in, grunting madly, and poor Althea just shit. She started screaming hysterically, running into the corner. And of course Bob didn't make her life any easier, jumping up on a chair, waving his arms angrily, and staring at her. Althea turned the project down. I don't mention her to make fun of her. Her reaction was not unique.
Bob Burns and Ted Newsom making magic
   I asked Bob to do some comedy bits in a sci-fi spoof I made, originally titled "Attack of the B-Movie Monster," later "The Naked Monster." I knew Bob had excellent timing, having gotten such a kick out of the "Ghostbusters" series he did for Filmation, with Larry Storch and Forrest Tucker. Plus I had seen Bob in his eye-boggling suit at conventions. Prepping for his scenes, it was fascinating to watch him get suited up, with his wife Cathy assisting: one piece at a time, some black to give him raccoon eyes, so that his normal skin wouldn't show in the eye holes of the mask, etc.
We were setting up in an alley, our little four person crew mucking about with the tripod and Super-8 camera. I was watching them from Bob's position, standing beside him. With my head turned, I couldn't see Bob, since I was watching the guys, and when I started to turn my head, Bob saw that movement. The moment he knew he was coming into my peripheral vision, he SNORTED. Oh, God. I nearly crapped my pants.
   Flash forward several years more. I had traveled to Portland, my home town, for a wedding, a funeral, a reunion, something. After whatever it was, I ended up at my sister's house with family, nieces, nephews, at lest one sister,a brother, and my Dad and my aunt. As will happen, the elders started telling embarrassing tales about everyone else, and how cute they acted when they were little.
My dad said, "I remember once when Teddy was little, not even two, maybe eighteen months if that. Me and Bobby [his brother, my uncle] took him to an old-fashioned circus. It was one of those tent things, with sawdust and everything. We were sitting right down in the front row.
   "This guy who was dressed up like a gorilla came RUNNING over to us, scooped up Teddy out of my arms, and RAN around the circus ring. The audience just went crazy, screaming, laughing. Then he brought him back to me.
   "Like I said, he couldn't have even been two yet. Oh, he didn't yell, he didn't cry, anything. But his eyes were wide as hell, and they glowed just like the headlights on a Buick."
    And then I understood. I still love gorilla suits, but I'm no longer scared.
   Well, not usually...

Friday, August 16, 2013

Gorilla in a Box

          I think my fascination with make up special effects and gorilla suits may stem from the sad fact that I have been bespectacled since a young age and could never wear a simple mask or greasepaint without my corrective lenswear spoiling the illusion. In the spirit of make-your-own-monkey here's a little item I found on Ebay. The box for the KING OF THE GORILLAS boasts the involvement of Dick Smith, 70's Makeup Artist supreme of Exorcist and Little Big Man - whether this was a paid for plug or he had actual input into the kit, I haven't he foggiest. What I have picked up on from a brief internet trawl for info, is the excitement this kit and others (check the ad below) still generates in those raised during the 70's when mags like Starlog began to celebrate the art of sci-fi, fantasy and horror cinema. I would venture the kit dates post 76' following the KING KONG remake - hence the product moniker - but it obviously acknowledges the POTA makeups.


What truly staggers the mind is this last kit (apparently highly desired by collectors today), THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN - a makeup based upon a truly disgusting film about an irradiated astronaut who begins to disintegrate rather wetly upon his return to Earth.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Chris Walas's Build-up Gorilla Bash...The FINAL chapter!!!

This has been one hell of a great run !
Hopefully we've all gained the skills and know how to, if not build a suit outright, to make pro quality modifications to your existing suit.
To give you his last word, here's Chris Walas...


It's been a fun little diversion putting this suit together out of leftovers and Craiglist finds. While I didn't wind up with a world class gorilla suit, Mogo will be great for his intended use; intimidating goofy hand puppets in a silly web series. I won't be covering the next phase, Mogo's suit of armor, as that's probably outside the realm of this site and also because I don't think I'll get to it for a while.
I did this suit using these particular techniques and approaches for two reasons: I needed a goofy gorilla suit and I didn't have the money to do it right. A quick glance back tells me that I only spent about $50 out of pocket, but that's only because I had or scrounged almost all the materials. A quick guesstimate of what you would pay if you had to buy all the materials would be around $700 more or less. If you used the materials I mention below, you can probably double that number. Still extremely cheap compared to a film quality construction where the fur alone would likely be $4,000 or more.

For anyone who's actually interested in attempting something like this, a few humble suggestions:

-Make sure you have plenty of good ventilation at all times. Glue fumes are horrible and faux fur sheds fine hairs that go down your throat.

-Have a good heavy duty vacuum on hand and use it often. I was vacuuming at least four to six times a day trying to stay ahead of the shedding fur.

-I glued a lot of this suit together, mostly due to time constraints, but sewing as much as possible is preferable. It's more time consuming but it's also less toxic, lighter and less stiff than gluing.

-Buy the very best fur you can afford. While I think the fur on this suit doesn't look as bad as it probably should, there are much, much better furs out there that will give you a far better look.

-Better padding. If your budget allows, avoid the standard upholstery polyurethane foam that I used. It's hot and tends to be stiff, which can wear you down more quickly when performing in the suit. I did it to prove a point to myself about how cheaply I could do this, but I would much rather have used open cell foam. This is a more expensive foam that can be found under names like Fast-dry Foam, Quick-Dry Foam, Dry-fast Foam, etc. It's used a lot in exterior pillows and such. As it is open cell, it allows more air to move more freely than regular polyfoam. It compresses more easily and is also lighter. Another option is regular polyfill in sewn padding, which is a technique Chris Casteel will be covering in his great "cheap suit conversion".

- Start with a unitard. They're cheap and can be had for as low as $30. The suit will fit better and be easier to do the construction on.

-If possible, use a head cast of the performer and a good duct tape dummy of the same. The more accurate the basic form, the better the suit and head will fit and work.

-Take your time. If you haven't done any build-up before you may want to do a test patch somewhere first to get a feel for it. I find build-up to be fun and relaxing and I think it works exceptionally well for certain purposes, but it does take time.

-Buy or make a chill pack vest. These are available online or you can easily make them yourself with cold-packs. They will allow you to stay in the suit a lot longer and a lot more comfortably.

-Have fun. Really. Just have fun. Build-up is very forgiving if you make mistakes. Just cut away what you don't like and try again. You'll love it.

So ends my Gorilla build-up suit series. I hope some of you enjoyed it and I hope that maybe one or two of you out there might actually find it helpful in building your own suits.
Here's a few shots of Mogo in the back yard this morning;

Oh, and one more thing. I can't remember if I mentioned it earlier or not, but amidst Mogo's construction I got so "gorilla mad" with all the great conversation on the FaceBook Ape Suit Cinema page and emails between Chris Casteel and myself I decided to do a quick sculpted gorilla mask as a sort of more regular head for the Mogo suit. It's inspired by my gorilla man hero, Charlie Gemora, and while it's not a copy of any specific Gemora head, I was definitely going for some of the great feel he had in his designs.

And while the suit doesn't really fit with the head all that much, I think it still looks just fine and I'm amazed at how decent this really bad fur can look!

I hope you enjoyed this series as much as I did and thanks for tagging along.

On behalf of Gorilla Man and myself (Bongo), Thank you so much for your amazing work Chris !
As a member of our Hollywood Gorilla Men family, your amazing simian exploits will be followed intently on this humble blog...Thanks again my awesome gorilla brother!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Chris Walas's Build-Up Gorilla Bash !!! ...part 11...The almost Final Chapter !...sort of...

Hiya gang, old Bongo here !
I've got to tell you, this has been an incredible honor having Chris Walas as a part of the HGM gorilla family. Chris has graciously documented this build up exclusively for the readers of Hollywood Gorilla Men, and with the help and support of our gorilla brothers at the Facebook Ape Suit Cinema group.
Before we start this "final chapter" let me first say that this will continue in the next segment with closing thoughts and an incredible alternate head Chris sculpted ! So don't miss out !
No lets get this madness started !....Back to the great Chris Walas !!!
Finally we're at the last construction phase of our monster gorilla build-up suit. I'm not going to show you the process for combining two suits into one. It was just too darn confusing and difficult. Not worth it. I did it as a personal challenge, but if you ever build a suit, just go out and buy yardage faux fur. It's sooooo much easier!
One of the suits wound up covering the lower half of the suit quite nicely;

The top, on the other hand, was a bit of a nightmare and I struggled for a while to find a way to wrap the second suit around all that foam. I couldn't quite cover everything, but I got close. Only the lower upper arms weren't covered;
Being a less than joyful seamster, I decided to simply glue the missing lower sections on so that I could sew the main fur section to it later.
Once the top and bottom main sections were sewn together with heavy duty thread and a heavy duty zipper sewn in the back (I cut through the foam of the back to match the zipper line just before attaching the zipper), it was time for a test fit to see if it was really working at all. Remember that feet, hands and chest have not been painted yet.

The suit fit well and moved well, but I found that working on an old, beat up duct-tape dummy is not the most accurate base. The right shoulder had an odd angle to it and the shoulders were too square across for my taste, so I added more foam there to give it more shape and that seemed to take the curse off that issue. Here it is after additional foam and painting the feet, hands, chest as well as more paint on the face;
This looks very much like what I was after; a big, hulking, intimidating but still comic gorilla. Now that all the parts seemed to fit, it was time to attach the fur suit to the foam suit. It's not necessary to do so and there are numerous approaches to how to build a suit like this, but I opted for the quickest and easiest suit to get on and off, so I decided to glue the two suits together. But I don't glue every square inch of foam or fur. Glue adds stiffness and weight and I wanted this to be as light and movable as possible… considering the construction. In order to allow for as much movement as possible, the fur suit is glued down only where it really needs to be; the base of the legs, over main sections of muscles and along the zipper. I started at the base of the legs.
This process is tricky and critical. Mistakes throw everything out of whack, so I proceeded with great care and attention. So much so that I forgot to take pictures. Sorry. I first rolled the pant legs up to the knee to glue the lower foam muscles, then I rolled the entire suit down and worked my way up from there. Here's the thigh getting glued. It's older foam so I glued the entire outer surface for a little more strength.
Here's where I stopped taking pictures. Anyway, once the entire suit was carefully glued, I found I needed to add some length to the elbows. I added an inch to the forearms and cut a section out for the inner elbow to move;
Then I added a cupped section to the main suit outer elbow so that it would close up any gap that might form;

When all seemed right, it was time for an overall finishing pass. I went over seams and edges to make sure everything was where it should be. Any edges that hadn't been properly glued (I have raced through this, you know) received a dab of glue to hold it down. I make sure the glue catches enough of the fur itself to cover any of that horrid white base thread like you see here;

I had planned to do some paint work on the fur to enhance it a little, but this fur is so thin and flimsy that paint just makes it worse. Which is OK with me as I think Mogo looks better and meaner as an all black gorilla.

Next up will be some finished shot as well as a second head I did while working through all this!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Chris Walas's Build-Up Gorilla Bash !!! Part 10.....Body Building !

Now that we've got a foot in the door, next we'll work up our best Arnold Schwarzenegger imitation, and tackle a little "Body Building."

Back to Chris Walas !....

Now that we have a head, a pair of hands and a pair of feet, all we need is a body to attach them to. I should make it quite clear here that I would not normally make a suit of any kind in this manner. I'm doing it this way as an illustration and a personal exercise. I've challenged myself to use was much of the Craigslist foam as I can and I committed to making use of the two cheap Halloween gorilla suits I found. Even if I was to do this as a build-up again, I wouldn't use polyfoam or pre-existing suits. I would use open cell foam and buy higher quality faux fur by the yard. The open cell foam (known as Quick-dry, Dry-Fast, Fast-Dry, etc.) is used in upholstery for outdoor cushions and such. It's lighter and stronger than polyfoam and lets much more air move through it. It's harder to shape and cut, but it's worth it.
Also, normally the suit would be carefully planned out and I would be working off of patterns to match side-to-side, etc. But I'm racing through this thing as I'm under the gun on other things, so I'm really just winging my way through it all!
Let's forge ahead with the body-building!

Here I've sewn the t-shirt to the sweatpants and sliced the T-shirt down the back. I was planning on putting two zippers on this suit: one on the T-shirt and one on the fur. But I decided that one strong zipper on the fur should be enough and make the suit easier to get in and out of. We'll see.

For now, I'm just pinning the back closed until I glue foam over it to hold it solidly.

I'm starting with a 2" thick former seat cushion as the chest piece. I've cut darts to shape it before gluing it in place.

Next, I added a belly piece lower down with open vents to help take up movement after the fur is applied. The mid section of foam between the top and bottom pieces is only 1" thick and glued to the outer edges of the other pieces. Hopefully this will also allow a little more movement. A simple collar ring was added as well.

In this next photo you can see that I've added another section to the belly to build it out further. I have to be careful as I have a limited amount of usable fur, so I can't make this guy too huge! I've added pectoral muscles, sliced a gap for movement under them and added shoulders. The shoulders work like epaulets and are only attached along the top of the shoulder, again to allow as much movement as possible.

After that, I blocked in the upper arms and upper legs. The foam on the thighs extends just beyond the knee. Hopefully, combined with the lower belly, this will help suggest shorter legs.

Once I felt comfortable with the front, I blocked in the back. I would have built this out thicker, but again, I'm concerned about being able to cover it with the fur I have. Note that I have attempted to leave open sections uncovered by foam between areas wherever possible. Foam gets noticeably stiffer after it's been glued to cloth and fur, so any option for increasing movement should be taken.

I'm stopping the foam work at this point because it is the end of the day and I want to do the finish work on the chest so that the latex has time to dry overnight.
The top of the belly foam had an edge that I couldn't quite trim down enough with scissors, so I wound up having to sand it smoother. Yes, foam can be sanded, but it's not easy. Use very rough sandpaper and light strokes.

When it looked like it was good enough, I went ahead and added the batting/latex work.

Note that this covers the gap I cut between pecs and belly. In effect, this skin is loose over an open gap and should flex and fold a little when worn.

This morning I finished up the foam work, adding lower legs, more rear end and making sure that edges were glued down.

The black line up the back shows where the back will be sliced open and where the zipper will go. I'll probably fiddle with the foam a little here and there a bit more, but this is where we'll stop for now. Next time, we move on to my greatest fear on this whole project: making those crummy costumes fit this much larger form!