Today, special effects artists, especially those associated with the horror movies that are so popular around this time of year, have a lot of different tools at their disposal. And, with them, they're doing progressively better work -- technically. But there's something inspiring about the innovation required to work around low-budget and low-tech restraints.
Dick Smith, a popular make-up artist known for his work on The Exorcist, The Godfather and many other award-winning films, helped to create the standard Hollywood blood recipe: zinc oxide, red food coloring, white corn syrup and Kodak Photo-Flo, a toxic chemical used in the production of photographs. But fake blood was used long before Linda Blair played Regan, the possessed child in the 1973 horror blockbuster, and long before Dick Smith.
More than a dozen years earlier, Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, the story of a secretary who hides out in a remote motel owned by a man inspired, in print, by serial killer Ed Gein, terrified millions. (Gein also served as the inspiration for Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre series and The Silence of the Lambs' Buffalo Bill.) Without the pivotal shower scene, in which the female lead is murdered, the film might not have become the classic it is considered today. Shot over a week with 77 different camera angles, the shower scene required lots and lots of blood. Instead of using the standard Hollywood stage blood, with its thin consistency and unconvincing color, Hitchcock's make-up artist, Jack Barron, decided to use Bosco Chocolate Syrup, which looks more realistic in black-and-white films.