Willis O'Brien Ray Harryhausen, Andy Serkis
and Brian Johnson.
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." - Arthur C. Clarke
When you look at KING KING (1933), you can see the fur moving. You know that that's the handprints of the animator Willis O'Brien's.
Aside from looking dated, you get a feeling of how the thing was done.
Looking at more recent movie effects, like the KONG remake or AVATAR or THOR, etc., etc. you cannot tell how it was done.
But hands moving puppets or building scale models or landscapes -- all of that is tangible, real -- and all of that is the kind of special effects I grew up with.
SPACE:1999, with its mad premise (the moon is ripped out of orbit and hurtles through space, its intact moonbase occupants going along for the ride) had a lot of those old school special effects.
Here's a behind the scenes clip before the show premiered. Looking at this now: making a plaster model moonbase, shooting through a photograph matte to give the illusion of scope, cobbling together a spacecraft model out of model kits, it all seems more peaceable than the pixel pushers making motion caps of Andy Serkis in a ping pong ball jumpsuit.
1974: Behind the Scenes of SPACE: 1999:
And here's the image that sums up the past generation in special effects: from model to CGI:
Above image of George Lucas and his model STAR WARS space ships in 1983; Lucas and the green screen 22 years on; Lucas in a you're-not-wearing-the-glasses 3D haze. (The STAR WARS movies will be rereleased in 3D.) This image is all over the Web. I pulled it from the Paperblog.
Related: If you like 1970s sci-fi media, take a look at Christopher Mills' Space: 1970 blog