Albert (Berti) Lamorisse came to helicopters through his photography. He also came to the American Helicopter Society, which he joined in 1960, through his need to research means to provide a stable camera platform for a helicopter. Of his work, to quote the New York Times: "Critics found it 'utterly charming' or 'artful and beautiful' and prize juries found it irresistible. 'The Red Balloon' won a 1956 Cannes Grand Prix, an Academy Award Oscar, and at least six other prizes in Tokyo, Mexico, London and elsewhere." After the "Red Balloon," Berti decided to make a film of a voyage over France in a balloon, supposedly capable of being directionally controllable. The necessary tool for much of the filming was a helicopter and he purchased an Alouette and attached a balloon basket to it in which to simulate the flight of the balloon.
Berti then felt the need of and developed a process called "Helevision" which steadied the camera and combined it with zoom lenses to create unusual effects, samples of which were screened for our Society at its Forums several years ago. Everyone who saw them remember the close-ups taken from aloft, of galloping horses and water skiers with perfect definition and absent vibration.
These tools, Helevision, and the helicopter, enabled Berti to make four later films all of which were extraordinary. The first of these was the story of a voyage over France, called here "Stowaway in the Sky" and the next two were "A Paris Never Seen" and "Versailles." In these he descended into city squares and swung his camera around them, visited figures in the fountains at close range and even swept up the majestic stairs of the Chateau, using his new tools uniquely and with telling artistic effect.
It was in his last film that he met his death in a helicopter accident. The Shah of Iran about two years ago engaged Berti to make a film to honor and grace the Coronation. Berti chose the Wind as its protagonist and followed an artificially generated wind about Iran, through cities new and ancient, over rug strewn hills, snowy peaks and even into the window of the Shah's palace. The wind was created by an Iranian helicopter and Berti and his crew worked from his Alouette. The film was shown and hailed as an aesthetic triumph.
Berti had planned to come to the United States in July but at the Shah's request went back to do some extra scenes to add to the Coronation picture. He did not have his own helicopter and used an Iranian military one. While sweeping across a lake west of Tehran, the helicopter struck power lines and all aboard were lost. Thus, on June 2, 1970, we lost this creative genius. Mr. Lamorisse was 48.
Obituary (pg-23): Vertiflite September 1970