Movie Special Effects Before CGI

I am a sucker for both 70's disaster movies and well-crafted pre-CGI special effects.  So I enjoyed this article on the special effects techniques in The Towering Inferno.  The 70-foot high model is amazing.


  1. sean2829:

    I'm not a fan of CGI. The special effects from the late 70's and early 80's was much more realistic that the CGI from the last 15 to 20 years. Look at the Indiana Jones series. The Lost Ark was much more realistic than the Crystal Skull movie.

  2. Not Sure:

    Anymore, it appears that the special effects are decided on at the outset and movies are written around them. Too bad they don't put as much effort into the stories.

  3. Mike:

    In my opinion, the special effects, by Jack London I believe, used in American Werewolf in London (1981) are superior to today's CGI. Given the resources and technology available in 1981, he did an excellent job.

  4. Dan Wendlick:

    That's how Bond movies have been made since the late 1960s: plan 4 action sequences, pick three locations, and then work out a plot to tie them together. This has been increasing due to the importance of China as a market. Hong Kong has pretty much always made its films like this. Nobody bought tickets to see Bruce Lee in angst over whether he should sell his grandfather's farm so the hydroelectric dam that would benefit the whole village could be built; they wanted to see him take on the 27 goons from the electric company simultaneously and win.

  5. HoratiusZappa:

    Strictly speaking, special effects and visual effects (CGI, VFX) are two different things.

  6. Matthew Teague:

    Timely OJ Simpson Cameo at link!

  7. Maddog:

    Some of my favorite pre CGI films with interesting effects are:

    Metropolis -

    The Thing -

    A Trip to the Moon (Hand Painted) -

    Mark Sherman

  8. Matthew Slyfield:

    There are ways to do CGI well. One of the best mixes CGI with practical effects. For the original Jurassic Park movie, they used blank white puppets on set for the dinosaurs, then added a skin to them post production using CGI. It looks solid and real, because it's not strict CGI, but rather using CGI to add fine detail on top of a rough practical effect.

  9. Not Sure:

    It's not just Bond movies anymore.

  10. cc:

    One way you can tell gasoline or nat gas is used for movie explosions is that there is no smoke or debris, just a clean fireball. This is sort of hilarious when it is supposed to be mortar rounds landing around troops (usually not done that way except in B movies).
    My biggest annoyance with CGI is the Transformers movies. They make it all so fast that you can't focus on any detail to realize how sloppy it is. (only watched here and there when on TV--don't want my rep soiled!)