Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Prospero's Essential Movie Guide Special Edition: Ray Harryhausen

Ray Harryhausen and Friends
I had actually planned this post for later in the series, but the passing today of Hollywood FX legend Ray Harryhausen prompted a special post.

I may have mentioned once or twice that Merian C. Cooper's 1933 thriller King Kong is the movie that first made me fall in love with movies as a kid. Willis O'Brien's stop-motion FX were revolutionary at the time and a a young Ray Harryhausen was just as enamored of those FX as I would be, 35 years later. 

Ray soon found himself Willis' apprentice, learning the art of stop-motion from the man who practically invented it. Harryhausen eventually became the go-to guy for SMA, beginning with 1955's It Came from Beneath the Sea through 1981's Clash of the Titans. I first took note of his name the first time I saw 1963's Jason and the Argonauts*, for which he created not only a seven-headed Hydra and the giant bronze Talos, but an army of skeletal warriors borne of the Hydra's teeth. I was forever hooked:



It wouldn't be until later that I saw 20 Million Miles to Earth:

 

The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad:



Mysterious Island:



One Million Years B.C.:



My straight friends were all about Raquel in this movie, but it was John Richardson who made it a movie I HAD to see.

Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger:



Patrick Wayne - woof!

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad:



And finally, Clash of the Titans (known affectionately by my sister and I as "Clash of the Trite Ones"):



The script may have been ridiculous, but Ray's FX were just as brilliant as ever. Harryhausen eventually termed his particular brand of stop-motion animation as "Dynamation," inspiring folks like Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Stan Winston and many others. He was a good friend to the late, great Sci-Fi writer Ray Bradbury and continues to influence movie special effects well into the 21st Century. His work was a major influence on my youth and helped form my love of Fantasy and Science Fiction films. His fame among movie geeks like Uncle P far outweighs that of any "Movie Star" and his passing is mourned by more people than I think even he might have imagined. You've seen his work, even if you don't know his name. And if you don't know his name, shame on you! Ray Harryhausen was 92 years old.

More, anon.
Prospero

*I won't go into all the hotties in these movies for this post but rest assured, they're full of 'em!