Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

RAY HARRYHAUSEN 1920 - 2013

Ray Harryhausen with one of his models
RAY HARRYHAUSEN 1920 - 2013.

Even with the advent of CGI computer effects, I was still impressed by and often prefer the stop-motion animation work of master FX man Ray Harryhausen. Harryhausen did not invent the technique, but he mastered and perfected it. He worked with Willis 0'Brien [King Kong] on Mighty Joe Young, then branched off on his own with such films as The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, It Came from Beneath the Sea, 20 Million Miles to Earth, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad in the fifties, his masterpiece Jason and the Argonauts and the wonderful Valley of Gwangi and Mysterious Island in the sixties, and such films as Clash of the Titans in later years. His work was always excellent, but he resisted making the films he worked on a little more "adult," and the "dynamation" he employed to bring monsters and creatures to life became increasingly expensive [and was always painstakingly slow]. Often his effects were the only reasons to watch the movie; One Million Years B.C. for instance is a bore except when the beautifully animated monsters appear, and some of his latter day Sinbad films were a bit disappointing. Still most of the movies he worked on remain tremendously entertaining today, with Jason and the Argonauts arguably his finest achievement and one of the best fantasy films ever made. Other Harryhausen films include First Men in the Moon, and The Three Worlds of Gulliver.

He was one of the greats, he will be missed, but his work is, thankfully, on view on DVD and will be for generations to come. The amount of joy that I and millions of others have gotten from his films is inestimable.

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