I recently blogged about the two specially made monsters that appeared on the front covers of TV Century 21 promoting a new Thunderbirds strip story which began in issue 90 (October, 1968) continued until issue 98.
The photo covers were taken by Century 21 stills photographer Doug Luke, and the monsters, created using a simple wire frame and plasticine, were built by sculptor and creature effect designer, Roger Dicken.
Stills of one of the monsters also appeared on a couple of the colour Somporex bubble gum cards, as well as an appearance in the 1968 TV21 annual.
Roger’s monster making skills had previously been seen in the 1966 feature film, Thunderbirds Are Go, when he built the Martian Rock Snakes, based on Derek Medding’s designs.
Stanley Kubrick, who was making 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) during this time, was keen to get hold of some of the Thunderbirds effects people and managed to hire Roger for around a year, employing him to create a model lunar landscape and some humanoid looking aliens that were planned, but ultimately dropped, to appear at the end of the film.
Roger also worked for legendary low budget horror and sexploitation producer Tony Tenser, of Tigon Films. Roger created the grisly special effects for the controversial , Witchfinder General (1968), which starred Vincent Price as the merciless witch hunter, Matthew Hopkins, and also The Blood Beast Terror (1967), which starred Peter Cushing, and featured Wanda Ventham of UFO fame as a blood sucking moth.
Roger shared a special effects credit with, amongst others, Brian Johnson on Hammer’s, When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970), which used a lot of stop-motion photography by the special visual effects director, Jim Danforth.
The Land That Time Forgot (1975) was one of two Amicus fantasy/adventure films that Roger worked on, providing the smaller dinosaur miniatures. The people at Amicus didn’t have the budget for stop-motion so Roger suggested simple rod and line puppets, which was accepted, although the film’s effects crew, with Derek Meddings in charge of special effects, operating them, themselves, much to Roger’s annoyance.
This annoyance led to Roger turning down any work on the sequel, The People That Time Forgot, and the similar, At The Earth’s Core. In spite of the low budget effects, these films did prove popular with the kids, and a further one was planned, Warlords of Atlantis.
Roger did return to Amicus for Warlords of Atlantis (1978), credited with providing the monsters, although the larger ones that would interact with the actors, were created by the special effects supervisor, John Richardson.
During this time Roger was working on the film that most people would recognize his name from, and it could be argued that this was the pinnacle of his career. Warlords of Atlantis had a budget of $2 million; this next film would have a budget of up to $11 million. This film was Alien (1979), and Roger was hired to create the ‘Facehugger’ and the ‘Chestburster’!
It wasn’t an easy ride for Roger. The original chestburster designs from H.R. Giger looked like a stuffed turkey with teeth, which Roger faithfully built, however director, Ridley Scott felt it looked too comical. The final attempt, which was operated by Roger, ended up very streamlined and quite organic.
Roger did do work on a full size alien design, but after endless meetings with producers and committees, withdrew from that project, leaving it to Carlo Rambaldi , who came up with that scary looking alien jaw mechanism, and his team to complete things.
Roger went on to work as a model maker on the fantasy-horror film, Q – The Winged Serpent in 1982, and is credited with the monkey effects in British erotic horror film, The Hunger in 1983.
Sadly, I don’t have too much information about Roger Dicken, after that, apart from a book he’s published called ‘The Amazing 50’s Wild Youth’, which is full of articles he’s collected dealing with 50’s culture.