A Century of Practical Magic

July 31st, 2023

July 31st, 2023

While writing about Marshall Julius’s sale of his Simpsons memorabilia, we realised we hadn’t posted our review of his Rondo Award-winning book Masters of Make-up Effects – A Century of Practical Magic that he co-authored with legendary SFX artist Howard Berger.  This week we rectify that oversight.

Authors Howard Berger and Marshall Julius with their book

Marshall and Howard with their book

Their book is a lively, affectionate and candid oral history of iconic make-up effects, from the artists who create and apply them, to the actors who bring them to life. It is a glorious gathering of behind-the-scenes stories and incredible, candid photos, many of which have never been published before. A century of practical magic.

Written during the pandemic lockdowns – having talked about doing it for years before that – Oscar-winning make-up effects artist Howard Berger and veteran film journalist Marshall Julius usher you onto the sets of cult classics (An American Werewolf in London, The Thing), award winners (Darkest Hour, The Shape of Water) and fan-favourite film and TV franchises (Star Wars, Dr Who, Star Trek, Harry Potter), then into the make-up trailers of scores of industry legends as they regale with thrilling tales and share their histories, insights and inspirations.

With a foreword from visionary filmmaker Guillermo del Toro and an afterword by Seth MacFarlane, this is a revealing celebration of a century of iconic make-up magic, covering 175 cult and iconic film and TV shows. It features work by the biggest names from the world of make-up effects including Rick Baker, Greg Cannom, Kazu Hiro, Eryn Krueger Mekash, Margaret Prentice, Kevin Yagher and Steve Wang. Masters of Make-up EffectsA century of practical magic.

The book is a deep dive into the industry, and sixty MUAs, actors and directors share their personal insights and stories, along with over 500 images, some of the behind the scenes photographs have never been seen before.

Broken up into fifteen chapters, this is a photo heavy tribute to the artists who have created special effects makeup for a century, from 1922’s Nosferatu to 2022’s Evil Dead Rise. Their all-star list of contributing filmmakers sing the praises of makeup artists and fondly recall which films and artists launched their own passion for special effects makeup.

Tom Savini (Dawn of the Dead) remembers Man of a Thousand Faces changing his life and being “horribly, horribly sticky” while himself playing a vampire in From Dusk Til Dawn. Rick Baker (American Werewolf in London) relives working as Dick Smith’s assistant on The Exorcist. Tami Lane (The Hobbit) notes getting hooked on Fangoria magazine at age four; and Nick Dudman recalls creating the prosthetics for Jack Nicholson’s Joker in Batman. Christopher Tucker recollects creating (with Stuart Freeborn) the creatures in Star Wars where director George Lucas “was the epitome of vagueness. He just didn’t know what he wanted.”

It’s not all fun and games though. The last two chapters – War Stories and Lessons Learned – talk about when things go wrong, and share useful advice for any aspiring sfx artists wanting to break into the industry.   It also shows that, despite the increase in CGI within the industry, there is still a need for MUAs to physically transform actors and create creatures.

This amazing love letter to a century of horror and sci-fi makeup is a must read for film fans and any SFX professional, student or enthusiast.

Available to buy from amazon and all good bookshops.


About the authors

Special Make-up Effects Artist Howard Berger has over 800 feature film and television credits including Dances With Wolves, Hitchcock, Kill Bill 1 & 2, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, The Orville and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Make-up as well as a British Academy Award for Best Achievement in Make-up.

Marshall Julius is a film critic, blogger, broadcaster and author, whose previous books include Vintage Geek and Action! The Action Movie A-Z.

Masters of Make-up Effects

Exclusive contributions and unseen photographs from: 

Guillermo del Toro • Seth MacFarlane • Gino Acevedo • Rick Baker • Vivian Baker • Howard Berger • Doug Bradley • Lois Burwell • Norman Cabrera • John Caglione Jr • Bruce Campbell • Greg Cannom • Blair Clark • Bill Corso • Mark Coulier • John Criswell • Ken Diaz • Nick Dudman • Leonard Engelman • Robert Englund • Mike Fields • Ben Foster • Rob Freitas • Carl Fullerton • Toni G • Mick Garris • Alec Gillis • Pamela Goldammer • Neill Gorton • Barrie Gower • David Grasso • Kevin Haney • Joel Harlow • Mike Hill • Kazu Hiro • Garrett Immel • Carey Jones • Doug Jones • Paul Katte • Jamie Kelman • Eryn Krueger Mekash • John Landis • Tami Lane • Love Larson • Mike Marino • David Martí • James McAvoy • Mike McCracken Jr • Todd McIntosh • Greg Nelson • Greg Nicotero • Margaret Prentice • Stephen Prouty • Fred Raskin • Montse Ribé • Mikey Rotella • Sarah Rubano • Tom Savini • Mike Smithson • Richard Taylor • Christopher Tucker • Vincent Van Dyke • Eva Von Bahr • Steve Wang • David White • Matt Winston • Jeremy Woodhead • Kevin Yagher • Louie Zakarian

Masters of Make-up Effects

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