Alden 405s

My quest of upgrading the non-SA (Screen Accurate) parts of my Indy gear got me to purchase a pair of Alden 405s (sized 9 ½). These shoes are not only the same type as those used in the movies, but they also have a very interesting backstory to go along with them.

Legend has it that Ford had a preference for the Alden boots because he had worn them while working as a carpenter in Los Angeles in the years before Star Wars and stardom. Ford originally purchased his boots from a local shoe store in Sherman Oaks, California. One of the original members of Indygear (Keppler) actually found and located this particular store after some really impressive detective work back in the early 80s (remember, that was when internet did not existed, and home video technology was limited). The store was named “Frederick’s Shoes”, run by a German man named Fritz. When the time came to source multiple pairs of the boots for Raiders of the Lost Ark, Ford insisted the boots be purchased from Fritz’s store and the production team honored his request. Fritz sold a number of pairs of boots to the production for use in the film (source: Indygear).

When Indygear-member Keppler found Fritz, the story started to unfold. The late Fritz was a very cautious, old world cobbler and professional shoe salesman. He kept all of his records on paper, including a precious and guarded rolodex that contained the names of all his customers, including Harrison Ford. Fritz revealed to Keppler that the boot was indeed an Alden make. Incidentally, IndyGear staff member Sergei had the privilege of seeing Ford’s customer card in Fritz’s rolodex for a brief moment and learned he wears a size 10 ½ in the now-famous Alden 405. The size of Ford’s shoes can also be confirmed from the production notes from early costume fittings for Raiders (ref: “The Complete Making of Indiana Jones” by J.W Rinzler).

Fritz died in 2002 (RIP) and the shop he spent a lifetime selling shoes out of is now closed, but many Indy fans, including a few IndyGear staff members, had the pleasure of meeting Fritz and getting fitted for their own pairs of Alden boots before his death. He was always a friendly man and a consummate professional with his customers.

And here are two pictures from a quick google-search showing the Aldens (note the different color schemes):

And for the Indy-geek, here are a couple of screen caps from the movies:

Indy gets beaten up by large shirtless german soldier on the one-winged high-tech nazi fighter plane scene.

Indy standing in the middle of that primitive suspension bridge with machete-scene from TOD

Leap of faith-scene from LC.

Now the question is, how long does it take to fully weather these shoes so they look screen-used? I guess these will be my new everyday-shoes then. From the reviews I’ve read over at Club Obi-Wan, these rank very high on the comfort-scale. And plus, knowing that Harrison Ford used these during the process of securing that role in Star Wars makes me wanna consider moving to California and start working as a carpenter.

So long folks, I can’t wait to take these shoes on and start beating up Nazis and get dragged under trucks in the desert.

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The Anger Management Hypothesis.

For those who haven’t gotten the news yet, my protocol droid project is currently set on pause as all parts have been left in Beijing awaiting further chroming work. However, in the meantime, I’ve turned my focus on miscellaneous costume projects which I haven’t completed due to either general laziness, procrastination or simply lack of time. Something which has been “on-going” since ’08 has been my Indy-project. For the premiere of ‘Crystal Skull’ back in ’08, I started working on this costume. At that time, I was running short on funds and I had to do a few short cuts to get everything done. Just like a certain infamous director, I now look back at my costume with skeptical eyes; what I did at the time was simply not good enough. Screen accurate details and general gear was simply left out and replaced with whatever I could get my hands on at the time. Now, when I have more time and funds, I will start updating and replacing things.

I have also returned back to indygear.com’s online Indy Forum, Club Obi-Wan. It’s good to be back, considering my last recorded login was from early 2009. What really surprises me about the Indy community is the dedication and the vast amount of gear and costume parts available. In contrary to the See-Threepio costume community, which only has 1 (maybe 2) prop maker(s) who can deliver the prop parts, at least 6 different companies make the Indy Jacket, over 10 companies do the hat..and it all gets very confusing. It’s like a really bad nightmare, but in the end (as with everything), it’s the size of the bank that matters. Unlike the sci-fi costuming world, most parts of the Indiana Jones-package can actually be worn in the daily life. Indy-fans on the forum use for instance the shirt, pants, shoes, hats and jacket regularly to work, for hiking and on travel. And you’ll even find tutorials on how to crack a bull whip.

Back in 2008, I ordered a lamb skin leather jacket from Wested Leather Co., whom made the original Indiana Jones leather jacket for ‘Raiders’. When I took the jacket out after all these years, I actually found the ticket for the mid-night premiere of ‘Crystal Skull’ in a hidden pocket (However, I can’t remember why the ticket didn’t cost me anything, ref. picture below).

The Wested Indy-jacket was a bit too large for me at the time, but now it magically fits me. However, what has been really bothering me was that the jacket always looked so new. It’s like an Indiana Jones being on zero adventures, it’s like Indiana ‘Rookie’ Jones..or Indy Freshman, newly graduated from the Department of Archeology. Now, I wanted the jacket to look like straight out from ‘Last Crusade’. It should look like it’s been abused, kicked and punched on by nazis. It should look like it’s been dragged behind a truck for miles (in muddy and then dusty roads), soaked in sea water and chewed on by monkeys, rats and bugs alike.

So, how can you make a new jacket look like it’s been surviving decades of adventures, while it’s only been through one screening of ‘Crystal Skull’ back in ’08? Well, it’s called distressing. For those who are not familiar with the term, it’s basically the same as weathering, i.e (when we talk about costumes and props) a way of treating/making it look used and beaten-up. The examples are many, See-Threepio has been weathered using different methods to look dirty and oily, the same can be said about R2-D2. Actually, weathering, or the ‘used future‘ can be seen throughout the whole Star Wars universe. Things are supposed to look old and..weathered!

Now, one could go for natural weathering, i.e using the jacket frequently just like a normal jacket (I did consider this, but after the first couple of times I abandoned this idea. It looked really ackward wearing normal clothes with such a jacket on lectures. Remember, this was lectures in physics, math and basic mechanics…not archeology. It looked ridiculous! Either it was full costume or nothing at all). I also *gave* the jacket to Mr.Indy senior (my father) to let him wear the jacket everyday to work and in his free time, but after a few complains from him about the jacket design being too outdated and all, I had to move on to plan C, which is what I am doing now. By following tips from COW (Club Obi-Wan) I’ve started distressing the leather jacket by using steel-wire-things (steel wool) and sandpaper. I also tried wearing the jacket and abusing myself against the concrete and brick walls on the terrace, but it seems like it was a bit too much, plus…I looked like a maniac. “Less is more” is a general rule when distressing leather, I’ve come to learn. Actually, I find the whole distressing thing very amusing, it’s like anger management. In the beginning, I found it hard to take out a new jacket (which wasn’t actually cheap) and start abusing it. But now, I hit it, punch it, crunch and squeeze it a little bit everyday (with my most evil nazi-grin). A method which I’ve yet to try is to soak the jacket in cold water, and letting air-dry for a couple of days to really get the texture and wrinkles out. It sounds a bit extreme.

The original hero jacket for ‘Raiders’ was distressed by costume designer Deborah Nadoolman personally using Ford’s Swiss Army knife and a wire brush while sitting by the pool at her hotel the night before shooting was to begin at the Nazi U-Boat pier in La Rochelle, France (ref: Indygear.com)

Now, I must excuse myself. I got some abusement/anger management to take care of. It’s good work-out, I promise.

The Wested Indy Jacket after 45 mins of distressing.

Back side of the jacket with 5 minutes of scraping-against-brick-wall-action.

The Fear of the Mighty Galactic Empire

Strictly speaking, this is not C-3PO related, but still something worth to share with all fellow Star Wars geeks and geekettes.

On the 19th and the 20th of January, our local 501st Garrison (Nordic Garrison) was involved in a musical production by the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra called “Star Wars Suite by John Williams”. (It was first named “Star Wars In Concert” and three shows were set up between 18th and 20th, but due to unknown reasons (probably related to restrictions set by Lucasfilm Ltd.) the production had to be renamed, and the number of shows reduced to two.)

The conductor, Lucas Richman was very fun to work with. Always energetic and eager to entertain the audience both musically and acting-wise. However, it was natural, due to the show being an orchestra production that the main focus throughout the show was to be on the orchestra. But still, our Garrison was able to join in on two small sketches featuring Mr.Richman, and it should be noted that many of the ideas came from the conductor himself. Our main objective was to entertain the audience during the start, intermission and the end of the concert.

The most difficult part of the show (which might not have looked anything difficult at all) was the entrance of the Imperial forces during the second part of the Imperial March performance. There are two things that the Empire hate; poorly illuminated (dark side..hehe) places,…and stairs (The Star Wars Exhibition in Örnskoldsvik back in 2008 had them both!). This time however, we were presented with a little bit of a twist. We were to march down the main aisle in pairs, which barely fit two people. Things were also made difficult due to the whole area being very poorly lit. And just to top it all, we also got inside-tip from the production team that the audience *might* have put their purses in the main aisle. Stormtroopers can’t really see anything which is beneath shoulder-height, and the Tie Pilots which were originally positioned to lead our way had to swift places with two officers due to the oxygen tubes restricting their vision. We thought we were prepared from the rehearsal the day before, but we could never see this coming.

You see, it doesn’t take much to stop the mighty Galactic Empire, you just have to know their weakness(es).

(Darth Vader had of course nothing to fear because he could walk individually down the aisle and avoiding any purses barricading his way.)

Luckily, the purses were removed (by Imperial spies?) before our entrance, and no Imperial forces were hurt from this rather small incident which could’ve turned very ugly (if you’ve never seen falling Stormtroopers before in real life, it looks something like this and this.) Pictures will be posted once they are released by the Imperial Propaganda Department.

Can you give me a hand with this?

 

The hand, what a great mystery!

It should be noted that this part of the costume was very unpractical, as the material and design of the hand gave very little room for movement. From the study of behind the scenes pictures, different pictures from exibitions and clips from the movie, it seems like two versions were used in ANH.

Type 1, probably being the one used for the-pick-up-comlink-scene in ANH (see embedded video later on in this post) with separate fiberglass(?) fingers and hand plate over a glove. This type of glove is also seen in the pre-ANH prototype versions as featured in the Star Wars Visual Dictionary.

Type 2 being cast as one piece in some kind of urethane or rubber, and is used extensively throughout other parts of the film. The type 2 hands are also seen to be used for ROTS. The distinguished characteristic of the type 2 hands is its ability to hold its shape, which makes them easy to spot in the movie.

Filming the pick-up scene in ANH proved to be especially hard, as it was simply impossible for AD to hold on and grab things due to the way the hands were made. See 10:47 in the video below:

The picture below is from Steve Sansweet’s book “Star Wars from Concept to Screen to Collectable”, and shows the hand in detail. However, it seems to be type 2, and not the type 1 version.

The picture below shows the newest type (ROTS?) of glove, which is of the type 2 version, and made in some kind of flexible urethane material. My guess is that the hand is made in one mold, with the gold parts spray painted on with chrome spray similar to Spectrachrome (which is flexible).

Original C-3PO Hands of unknown origin. Post-ROTJ? (Type 3?) From the way the fingers are made. Please note how the fingers are connected to each other as “one-piece”.

Video below is from the Muppet show (@0:34) and shows that the type 2 hand is indeed flexible enough to be able to hold on to things such as a piece of paper.

Westercon 1980 at Hyatt International Hotel

The year is 1980. 3 years have passed since the initial release of “Star Wars. West Coast Science Fantasy Conference (Westercon) is held for the 33th time. This time at the Hyatt International Hotel in LA (source).

Costuming has always been the core of any cosplay/science fiction-fantasy convention since its early introduction in the late 30s. Dedicated fans have always loved to dress up in scratch-built costumes (movie licensed replica-costumes availability was limited at the time), and due to the lack of visual references made costume-making especially hard. A lot of artistic improvisations had to be made. The basis of any costume project is visual references. In the early 80s, unlike now, the only way of seeing a movie was to experience it in the movie theatre. The first home video release of Star Wars on VHS was in the mid-80s (Laserdisc in ’82). The rest of the needed visual references of the most common characters could be taken from various magazines, but this still represented a limited amount of information. Today, we have the blessing of both BluRay and other visual sources. By using any video player, one can freely screen capture any frame where needed costume details are wanted. This was unheard of in the early days of costuming.

Anyways, here’s an interesting picture I found from a scratch built (?) See-Threepio (Probably the first real See-Threepio builder) from Westercon (1980). The amount of details on the costume is quite impressive considering how little costume information one could obtain at the time, and the chrome surface looks to have been vacuum metallized. Even today, its chromed finish looks impressive compared to some of the Threepio-costumes made now. So kudos to this guy, however he is.

The arm pistons area all there, as well as the head antenna, neck bolt, arm details etc. However the basic head geometry, chest geometry and shoulder bell shape are a bit ackward, which makes me think it’s home made. Anyways, it looks awesome and must have been very impressive at the time (considering the other costumes at the same convention were like this, this and this (no offense made)).

The good, the bad and the..

Bad news: All right, just got off the plane from Beijing with rather disappointing news. Although I spent almost 3 weeks in Beijing, a lot of time has been spent in bed due to sickness. Then came dinners with family, relative and friends. The reminding bits of time I had left, I used on calling around and visiting local factories together with local 501st Garrison members. However, due to time constrains, I did not have time to send all the parts to chroming before I left, and thus all protocol parts have been left in Beijing for the future. I am planning my next visit in June to finish the protocol project.

However, I’ve done quite a lot of research work during my stay. Firstly, I came to learn that most vacuum metallizing/chrome plating factories in China are located in the south, and not in Beijing. Finding a factory which does this kind of work has been hard. However, I’ve obtained a great deal of experience with both understanding the technique, and knowing the situation as it is in Beijing. I have found two very good candidates which one of them I will continue to work with when I am in town this summer. One factory is about 1,5 hours drive from Beijing (In Hebei Province), which does vacuum metallizing. The second factory is located within Beijing (which is a big plus), which uses the chrome spraying technique very similar to Spectrachrome. Spray chroming is by far superior to vacuum metallizing due to its ability to withstand wear and friction, it also flexes with the material, minimizing the risk of the gold plating cracking and falling off. While vacuum metallizing is used for toys and home applicances, spray chroming is more commonly used for cars and arts decoration. The only downside with spray chroming is that of expense. The cost of spray chroming is roughly 2-3 times that of VM. The spray chrome is also applied as a thicker coat than the VM surface.

Surprisingly enough, the price for chrome spraying given by the factory in Beijing was almost the same as the VM factory. And with the Beijing factory being closer to home, it is by far the best candidate.

Good news: An ABS shoe shell, resin greeblie and fiberglass helmet have been sent in to the vacuum metallizing factory in Hebei for test chroming. Once it is finished, I will ask ES from China 501st Mainland Outpost to take some pictures for me.

The project will thus be put into temporary hibernation until I get myself to Beijing..in about 5-6 months. However in the meantime, we can wait for pictures of the test chromed Threepio helmet, and I will keep continuing to post updates about everything See-Threepio.