Born Brian Johncock in 1940, Johnson started work at the Cement and Concrete Research Association at Wexham Springs. After 6 months, he was desperate to get away from mixing concrete. He went into the local pub and met Les Bowie, the Canadian born special effects designer. Bowie got him a job at Anglo Scottish Pictures at Shepperton, in 1957. Johnson learned the film business by sweeping floors, loading film, and occasionally helping Bowie in his small special effects studio at the studio. For his national service (compulsory military service), Johnson spent two years in the RAF working on instrument landing systems. When he left the RAF, he met Les Bowie again and joined him as a special effects technician, working on The Day The Earth Caught Fire (1961) and Phantom Of The Opera (1962).
Johnson was contacted by Derek Meddings, who he had worked with as a matte painter when he worked at Anglo Scottish. Meddings was special effects designer at Gerry Anderson's AP Films. Johnson joined AP Films to run a special effects second unit, starting on the last episodes of Supercar, followed by Fireball XL5 and Stingray, and the second series of Thunderbirds. The second unit shot the effects for alternate episodes, so was essentially a second main unit; a third unit led by Ian Scoones did pick-up shots. He was also working with Bowie on Hammer films, including Taste The Blood Of Dracula (1969) and When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth (1969).
Johnson then joined the crew of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), working for three years on the film. He was in charge of the models, in particular on the lunar and moonbase scenes. After Mosquito Squadron (1970) he returned to Anderson to do the practical effects for The Protectors (1971-1973). In early 1973 Johnson directed the effects on Revenge Of The Pink Panther (1974) and was recruited for Space: 1999. When the project entered a hiatus in mid-1973 he went to Barbados to film The Tamarind Seed, but had returned when special effects filming began on Space: 1999 in November 1973.
Johnson also handled the effects for Anderson's Into Infinity (1975), and the Alien Attack Anderson commercial (1977). In 1976 he had been approached for Star Wars (1977), but was committed to Space: 1999 Year Two at the time.
He directed the effects for The Medusa Touch (1978), Alien (1979, for which he won an Oscar), The Empire Strikes Back (1980, and his second Oscar), and Dragonslayer (1981, and an Oscar nomination), The Pirates Of Penzance (1983), Legend (1985), The Never Ending Story (1985), Aliens (1986, early and "post-production" after L.A. Effects Group were fired), Enemy Mine (1986), Labyrinth (1986) Telepathy (1987), Slipstream (1989), The Never Ending Story II (1990), Star Truckers (1997).
While 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) won the Oscar for best special effects, it was given to director Stanley Kubrick, not the special effects crew. He won Oscars for Alien (1979), The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and was nominated for Dragonslayer (1981). He worked on Aliens (1986), which won an Oscar for visual effects, but because of contractual reasons Johnson was not on the list of 4 names nominated by Fox.
British Special Effects winners of the American Academy awards (Oscars) and British Academy awards (Baftas), with an Eagle. From left to right:
Johnson has attended several model events at RAF Cosford, Britain, the 2014 convention in Peterborough, Britain, and the 2015 Future Is Fantastic convention. He was interviewed on film in The Space: 1999 Documentary (1996). He was filmed revisiting Bray Studios in the documentary The Future Was Fantastic (1998-2004).
Allder was born in 1943, the son of a camera engineer. He worked as an assistant cameraman on commercials for 8 years before moving to effects in films. He worked on Khartoum (1966), A Man For All Seasons (1967), Submarine X-1 (1967), A Twist Of Sand (1969), The Battle Of Britain (1969), Moon Zero Two (1969), Fear Is The Key (1972). He filmed the spaceships for the Dr Who story The Space Pirates (1969), and later on the story The Invisible Enemy (1977).
Allder worked with Brian Johnson on Anderson's The Protectors, Space: 1999, Into Infinity, and the Alien Attack commercial. He also worked with Johnson on The Medusa Touch (1978), Alien (1979, winning the SFX Oscar), and The Empire Strikes Back (1980 and the second Oscar). Without Johnson he worked on Conan The Barbarian (1981), Return Of The Soldier (1982), The Keep (1983), Top Secret (1984), Legend (1985), The Princess Bride (1988), Leviathan (1989), Leon (1994), Braveheart (1995), The Fifth Element (1997, and the third Oscar), Lost In Space (1998), Underworld (2003), Hellboy (2005), Weapon (2011), Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012).
Oakes has worked on most Anderson series since Thunderbirds, including Terrahawks and Space Precinct. He also worked on the films Flash Gordon (1980), Legend (1985), Aliens (1986) and Memphis Belle (1990).
He died in 2012
Reed has worked on many film and television projects, making models, props and producing effects. Films include Superman and sequels (1978), Moonraker (1979), For Your Eyes Only (1981), Aliens (1986), The Living Daylights (1987), Batman (1989), Memphis Belle (1990), Mission: Impossible (1996), The Fifth Element (1997), Titanic (1997), Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), The World Is Not Enough (1999), Entrapment (1999), Gladiator (2000), Quills (2000), Enigma (2001), Tomb Raider (2001).
Born in 1952, Bower was a childhood fan of the Eagle comic, Anderson productions and 2001: A Space Odyssey. After leaving school he worked as a scenery builder before joining Scale Models International where he worked for 3 years building display models. In 1972 he left wanting more creative work, but finding no such work he had to work as a house painter. In 1974 he learnt a new Anderson series was being filmed and sent him a letter and a collection of photographs of his model spacecraft. Anderson was impressed and introduced him to Brian Johnson. He was given the script of Alpha Child and asked to design a spaceship. Bower designed and built one model and sold them another model that he had built several years earlier. He designed many of the 84 models he built, including several that were built before or inbetween the series for his own pleasure. He also built models for the Into Infinity film and the Alien Attack commercial.
Other Bower models appeared in The Tomorrow People (1975), Blakes 7 (1978), Dr Who (1978), The Tripods (1984), several commercials, and the films The Medusa Touch (1978), Alien (1979), Flash Gordon (1980), and Outland (1981). He also produces many models for display and replicas for fans. He tried to launch a science fiction series Starguard in the 1980s. He now makes models on commission for collectors.
Caple started his career in special effects with Les Bowie (like Brian Johnson and Derek Meddings). A gifted matte artist, he also did models and in the 1960s ran the Harry Saltzman owned effects company Lowndes Film Technical Services. In addition to doing the laser beams seen in almost every episode, Caple did the more elaborate matte paintings, such as the Zenno city and the interior of the Daria.
Films included The Quatermass Xperiment (1955), The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961), First Men in the Moon (1964), One Million Years BC (1966), Battle of Britain (1969), Mackenna's Gold (1969), The Land That Time Forgot (1975), The Slipper and the Rose (1976), Superman (1978), Alien (1979), Time Bandits (1981), Brazil (1985), Highlander (1986), Batman (1989), Slipstream (1989).
Sometime around 1989 Caple was seriously injured when a heavy camera mount fell on his foot, and after complications he died suddenly in the early 1990s.
Les Bowie was born in 1913 in Canada, and joined Rank Studios in the UK in 1946 as a scenic artist. Rank had artists who painted matte paintings, but they took two to three months to complete a single painting. Bowie promised to finish a matte painting in a day, and did so. He became chief of the matte department, and in 1950 left Rank to form his own company, expanding into models and practical effects, and employing and training many artists who would become the next generation of SFX technicians. Among those were Albert Whitlock, Derek Meddings, Brian Johnson and Ray Caple. He won a Academy Award for Superman (1978).
For Space: 1999, he was brought in for specific episodes to manage main unit floor effects at Pinewood. Among these would have been shooting the actors leaving the Eagle in Another Time, Another Place, the actors walking along walkways in the Ray Caple matte paintings in Mission of the Darians, and the water draining scenes in All That Glisters.
His films included David Lean's Great Expectations (1946).
He died in 1979.
David Litchfield - Focus Puller (year 1); camera operator (year 2). SFX camera operator on Alien (1979), Flash Gordon (1980), Krull (1983), Aliens (1986), Memphis Belle (1990)
Terry Schubert- Chief SFX assistant
Terry Schubert was also loaned to do live action floor effects at Pinewood. Here he is (right) sitting on the dry ice machine in Missing Link. Left and centre are director Ray Austin and lighting cameraman Frank Watts (smoking).
Year 1 SFX crew.
In front: Dick Lewis, secretary Jilly Larkin, Nick Allder, Ron Burton (standing behind), Brian Johnson (seated), Cyril Forster, Harry Oakes, Frank Drake.
Behind: (left) Alan Barnard, (right:) David Litchfield, Terry Schubert, Terry Reed
Draughtsman in year 1 predevelopment (Eagle designs). Born 1948, died 2007. Assistant art director on Star Wars Empire Strikes Back (1980), The Shining (1980), Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981), Star Wars Return Of The Jedi (1983), Aliens (1986), Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001), plus numerous Bond movies including For Your Eyes Only (1981), up to Casino Royale (2006).
Allan Bryce on the set of The Immunity Syndrome. Photo by Alan Frank, thanks to Paul.
Bryce supervised the studio effects at Pinewood- including on-set explosions, fire, and weather effects.
Dr. Strangelove (1964), Oliver! (1968), When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970), Star Maidens (1976), The New Avengers (1977), The Professionals (1978), floor effects supervisor on Alien (1979), location and mechanical effects on Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back (1980), The Keep (1983), The Killing Fields (1984), Legend (1985). Died October 2000.
Copyright Martin Willey