Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Goodbye Ray Harryhausen

   Just learned of the passing of Ray Harryhausen, a man who was a huge part of my childhood. I can remember being fascinated as a small child seeing movies like The Mysterious Island, The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, and the Valley of Gwangi, and not knowing how the incredible monsters striding across the stage could possibly have been filmed. I mean, I KNEW they weren't men in suits.
   And the thing is, when I heard of stop motion animation and learned how the process was done, it didn't lessen the magic one bit, because I realized what time and effort would have to go into the creation of these cinematic wonders and that just made things more amazing. I quickly learned that the man behind these films was Ray Harryhausen.
   When I was a little older and caught up in the newly discovered wonders of sword & sorcery, Harryhausen's films were probably the closest thing I could find to a S&S film. In fact my favorite Harryhausen movie, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, is very much a sword & sorcery movie, with its sorcerer villain, it's monsters, its swordfights, and actress Caroline Munroe looking like a Frazetta heroine come to life. I remember seeing that one in the theater with my dad.
   Over the years I managed to see all of Harryhausen's movies, including the black & white monster films and the later, more science fiction and fantasy oriented movies. I own the majority on DVD and often pull them out for a rewatch. As I said, Golden Voyage is my favorite, but there's a warm spot in my heart for Jason and the Argonauts, with what may be Ray's masterpiece scene, the fight between the Argonauts and the skeletons.
   And now the man who made all that magic is gone. Harryhausen was a pioneer of special effects and you'll rarely see an interview with any effects man born in the last 40 years who doesn't list Ray as a major influence. We've lost one of the greats, folks. For a nice little tribute to Ray, go here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X--o7RByIDs

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