Monday, 13 May 2013


Ray Harryhausen 1920-2013

It was a sad week with the passing of possibly the greatest legend in stop-motion animation, or as the man called it himself: "Dynamation". Ray Harryhausen influenced nearly every special effects artists working today from Steven Spielberg to Nick Park.

If like me you saw some of his films when you were young then i should hope his creations stuck with you over all that time. I can remember seeing Clash of the Titans and Jason and the Argonauts and the fantastic looking creatures from the mind of Harryhausen. The Medusa, the Kraken, the Hydra and the cool skeleton warriors. These days computers are used to create such creatures but somehow they never look as good. The best example of this is in the remake of Clash of the Titans. Not only was it bad enough that they tacked on 3D, had Sam "one character" Worthington in it, but they left out Bubo. They just had a quick shot of him. Sacrilege! Compare the Kraken in both films and i think you'll find that the original is far better. It just has a weight to it that makes it more real.

I watched the documentary Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan. It's a great look back at the films he made with interviews from big name directors such as Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg and from the special effects people behind films like Star Wars and Jurassic Park. Seeing the painstaking work that went into making his films makes you realise just how talented the man was. Not only had he to create the monsters but then he had to film them. In the documentary he explains how he shot the movie The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, which is about a monster that awakens from under the sea due to atomic tests. Can you name the series of films that stole this idea? I won't explain the process of how he shot it so you can see it for yourself but mainly because i can't remember it exactly. It's no surprise he only made 16 films in his 40 year career.

The one complaint i have with the documentary is James Cameron. I don't see how you can make a film about someone as talented as Ray Harryhausen who spent ages crafting many amazing looking creatures and giving each one a personality and then have a man who lets computers do his work for him while he farts out some basic story. It reminded me of another documentary i saw: It Might Get Loud. In it Jimmy Page and Jack White talk about their life and love of playing guitar and then The Edge comes on and you just yell at him to go away so you can see more of Jimmy Page being like a child as he listens to his vinyl records. Nobody wants to hear from The Edge or James Cameron. Both of whom have diluted their respective art with too many effects.

But we do get one great moment when Cameron says that if Harryhausen was making films today he'd definitely use computers and then we cut back to Ray and he says he wouldn't go near a computer and would stay with his stop-motion.

One of the best things about the documentary is the fact that Ray Harryhausen is in it talking us through his films. I don't think it would have been as good had it been made posthumously. We also get to see some of the models he made. The detail that went into making all the creatures is astounding. You should definitely watch this documentary and then watch his films. You owe it to the man.

"Must rupture the moon crust" she's thinking.


Now i'm sure you have watched Gentlemen Broncos. And loved it. How could you not? It's just too strange not to be awesome.
My recommendation this time is for another awesomely strange film. This time from 70's Japan:
This picture should pretty much tell you all you need to know about it.

If that doesn't pique your interest then go watch Avatar.


  1. Is that a woman's head flying out of a septic tank into a barrel?

    1. I believe it's a well she's coming out of. Also there is a dancing skeleton in this film.