Jack Kine Obituary

The Times Online has run an obituary on the late Jack Kine who died on January 14th. Kasterborous.com would also like to put its own few lines to the work of Jack Kine, responsible for outstanding effects work not just in Doctor Who but also Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Blake’s 7 and Red Dwarf and many other shows spanning almost 50 years. As a member of the worlds first television special effects department, Kine was heavily involved with the development of the Daleks, the creation of the first TARDIS prop, and oversaw much of the original series effects work. His talents are an example and inspiration for all, and particularly those involved with modern special FX in television, film and theatre. His talents will be missed, but much of his work lives on.

The Time Online article is reproduced below, with the original article available here.

Jack Kine

Special effects expert who helped to bring to life Daleks, Triffids and Marvin the paranoid android

WITH his colleague Bernard Wilkie, Jack Kine presided over the heady days of special effects at the BBC when fibreglass, dry ice, latex and homemade explosives formed the backbone of an exciting and credible science fiction series. He created monsters for the Quatermass films and Doctor Who while providing more down-to-earth effects — snow, rain, wind and fire — for comedy, drama and light entertainment in a career that spanned four decades.

Kine was born near Alexandra Palace, North London. In 1936 he was nearing the end of his apprenticeship as an architectural modelmaker when the BBC established its headquarters less than a mile from his home. He signed up to be a scenic artist there, painting backdrops for pennies. He found it enjoyably slapdash and fairly undemanding: “The whole thing was purely experimental to begin with,” he recalled. “Only three programmes were being broadcast each week.”

The war began a seven-year hiatus, but he returned to the corporation in 1947. He was welcomed back and given the role of senior scenic artist, and two years later he moved to Lime Grove in Hammersmith.

Work progressed in a rather informal way, with Kine as a designer in a small, independent unit that was run by an engineer. Proper set design was still a relatively new phenomenon at the BBC; it was arguably the arrival of Richard Levin in 1953 that really moved the TV studio away from being a form of televised theatre, with a scattering of chairs and oddments from the prop cupboard. A creative mind who had absolutely no regard for following procedure or filling out forms, Levin frequently exasperated his colleagues. He found a more effective way to do this by taking Bernard Wilkie, an engineer who was trying to find an answer to the BBC’s model-making problems by experimenting with fibreglass, and teaming him up with Kine.

This duo — with Wilkie as the practical mind and Kine as the imagination — became the world’s first television effects unit. Immediately they sparked off one another, taking a boyish joy in their work that frequently irritated their paymasters. “They accepted the usefulness of our role but objected strongly to our presence,” said Wilkie in 1990, recalling the frequent explosions that disturbed those in the surrounding studios. The pair were frequently told to behave.

They worked together on Running Wild with Morecambe and Wise in 1954, then came into their own by creating the dystopian environments of Rudolph Cartier’s 1984, starring Peter Cushing. Cartier also directed Quatermass II, a similarly unsettling drama in which, during an excavation, Martian relics are discovered which rewrite the origins of the human species.

The insectoid monster in the film’s refinery scene was a masterpiece of sealing-wax innovation. The pair used an empty tin, a toy ladder, Kine’s latex-covered hands, cocoa powder and dry ice to stunning effect. In Quatermass and the Pit (1958), bulbous Martian eyes were created by inflating a couple of condoms. Aided by the blurring effect of black-and-white broadcasting and the susceptibility of the Fifties viewer, Kine and Wilkie’s creations often thrilled and horrified their audiences to a degree that even Hollywood now finds difficult. Quatermass II was aired with a warning for anyone of a “nervous disposition”. The creature scenes were recorded as inserts in the “live” broadcast, to make the most of the remarkable £17,500 spent on the series. The first episode had about seven million viewers who swelled to 11 million as excitement grew.

Cobwebs and fire were always in demand, and these were required when they helped to create Miss Havisham’s rotting, rat-infested wedding feast for the 1959 adaptation of Great Expectations. Kine, who modelled the original Tardis, also claimed the inspiration behind Doctor Who’s arch enemies — although another artist at the department, Raymond Cusick, also claims to be parent to the idea, modelling them on a café pepperpot. “The designer of the show took us to see a performance by Russian dancers,” Kine recalled. “Women wearing huge skirts came on. They had to bend their knees so it looked as though they were gliding across the stage — they are the Daleks.”

The pair also worked on Z-Cars, Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em, Dad’s Army, It’s a Square World and Invasion. By the late 1970s the department had more than 80 employees crafting props, gadgets and aliens out of wood and plastic. Successive series of Doctor Who, Blake’s Seven, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Day of the Triffids and Red Dwarf all had specialist requirements that an increasingly canny audience demanded and computer graphics could not economically provide. Arguably, it is these setpieces, rather than the grainy creations of the black- and-white era, that most show their age today.

In recent times, Kine and Wilkie’s department created the dissected corpses for the crime programme Silent Witness, but is now being phased out. Its creations, such as the giant hands of Kenny Everett’s Brother Lee Love and Marvin the paranoid robot from Hitchhiker’s — which once guarded the department canteen — have been auctioned off. In 1979 Kine’s book Miniature Scenic Modelling, was published. In retirement he continued to paint, and to potter with models.

He is survived by his two daughters. His wife Gladys Martin predeceased him. His friend and colleague Bernard Wilkie died in 2002.

Jack Kine, special effects artist, was born on September 20, 1921. He died on January 14, 2005, aged 83.


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