Seeing Cinema in a New Light: Criticism, Essays and Observations about Classic Cinema

1930s movies, Classic Movies, Video Clips

The Wizard of Oz – Original Tornado Test Footage

If you’ve ever been confused as to why so many older people absolutely hate CGI and prefer old school special effects, look no further than this video below from The Wizard of Oz (1939), which shows test footage of the famous tornado scene.

What’s so special about it? Not one iota of this scene is real. All of it is practical effects. The tornado is nothing more than a thirty-five foot windsock that was attached to a gantry and made to move from side to side across a sound stage.

Here is even more jaw dropping test footage, this time of the tornado engulfing a house.

Besides looking better than any CGI effect today, these practical effects are even more amazing when you realize that special effects designer Arnold Gillespie had to recreate a very realistic tornado tearing through the countryside based on memory alone, with no real life footage to use for reference. Yet he nailed the precise look of a tornado–right down to the swirling clouds of debris and the way a funnel cloud expands as it approaches you–with pinpoint accuracy. Pretty impressive when you realize that in 1939, we were decades away from storm chasers capturing tornadoes in all their terrifying glory.

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