Thursday, 16 June 2011

Satrgate helmets

One film which has had a massive influence on me is the original Stargate movie. Released back in 1994 it was one of the first of the 'new wave' of sci-fi films which persists to this day. Before it (and the Star Trek film released around the same time), the genre was not seen as being commercially bankable cinema fodder but the success of these two movies helped to change this perception. That said, I am quite willing to admit that Stargate is not a work of staggering genius (like, say, 2001: A Space Odyssey is). However, despite some god-awful acting and a predictable plot it does boast some stunning and well-thought-out production design by Patrick Tatopoulos (who I have mentioned before).

The premise of the movie is that earth was visited thousands of years ago by an alien race who influenced the Egyptians. Hence, the Egyptian aesthetic style is derived from that of the invading extraterrestrial culture. These aliens, led by the disturbingly androgynous Ra, pose as gods in order to manipulate primitive races. To this end they sport mechanized zoomorphic headdresses which are responsible for the Egyptian myths about animal-headed deities. Tatopoulos rationalized all this and produced some of cinema's most beautiful props and costumes. He has done a wonderful job of twisting real Egyptian motifs into alien designs and the use of oiled metals and verdigris finishes is stunning.

The images below were grabbed from an American site which sold some of the original props recently. Alas, they went for tens of thousands of dollars each. Both Horizon and MPC produced more affordable model kits the the alien protagonists. Although both series are now out of production, they do pop up on ebay and I think garage versions of the former are kicking about. The Stargate movie spawned a long-running TV show which I hate with a passion because they bastardized Tatopoulos' designs beyond recognition. Honestly, google "stargate jaffa" and you'll see what a fucking travesty of a costume the actors who played the aliens had to paraded around in.

Patrick Tatopoulos has gone on to do stunning work on many films, but sadly his website has been 'under construction' for well over a year now.


  1. Finally, someone besides me who hates that terrible show. :)

    Those were some lovely helmets, though. So many excellent props were produced for as many one-off movies. There must be some Raiders-style super-warehouse out there full of old boxed up props, like buried treasure from another age.

  2. Hey #2501 - yes, to find that warehouse would be the gold at the end of the prop-workshop rainbow! I do believe a company made wearable 1:1 rubber replicas of these masks at the time of the film's release. I have only ever seen them once online though. :-(