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Happy Birthday Ray Harryhausen!

Jason Jondee here at Mysterious Island,

Ray Harryhausen, photo by the author, San Diego Comic Con, 2000.

Happy Birthday Ray Harryhausen! Ray was inspired by King Kong (1933) and worked with stop motion pioneer from that film, Willis O’Brien, on Mighty Joe Young (1949). He worked on his own technique called Dynamation which integrated live action with his stop motion work in The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953). The story was based on Ray Bradbury’s “The Fog Horn” and they had a life long friendship.  Ray began a long time partnership with producer Charles H. Schneer with It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955). Then, he realized a vision of alien invasion in Earth vs, the Flying Saucers (1956). Ray ventured into the realms of fantasy and “the land beyond beyond” in The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958). He made creatures like the cyclops and the dragon into living, breathing animals. Kerwin Matthews faces them all. It stands as my favorite Harryhausen film.

The Ymir arrived from Venus, fully formed from Harryhausen’s hands, in 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957). The Three Worlds of Gulliver (1960) was a fantastic vision of Jonathan Swift’s work with the giant Brobdingnagans and the tiny Lilliputians. It is the return of Kerwin Matthews as Gulliver Another favorite Harryhausen movie was Mysterious Island (1961) which had a group of Civil War soldiers stranded on an island filled with a giant crab and giant bees. A fan favorite of Harryhausen’s films is Jason and the Argonauts (1963). The skeleton fight at the end is one of the best special effects sequences. First Men in the Moon (1964) was a fun adaptation of the H.G. Wells novel. One Million Years B.C. (1966) is a classic for Raquel Welch’s fur bikini alone with cavemen battling dinosaurs. Cowboys took on dinosaurs in The Valley of Gwangi (1969).

Another Sinbad movie, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973) had Caroline Munro and the villain played by Tom Baker against a multi-armed statue, a centaur, and a griffon. Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977) was the last Sinbad film had Jane Seymour menaced by the bronze Minoton and a sabertooth tiger. Harryhausen’s final film was Clash of the Titans (1981). Superior to the CG remake, it has the beauty of the Pegasus and a terrifying Medusa, I saw at a Harryhausen exhibit that the model has tiny threads of red hair which I didn’t see on film! Ray Harryhausen appeared with the actress from his Mighty Joe Young, Terry Moore in the 1988 remake.  He received the George E. Sawyer Award at the 1992 Academy Awards.  Harryhausen wrote about his films in the Film Fantasy Scrapbook (1972) He also wrote Ray Harryhausen: An Animated Life (2010) and The Art of Ray Harryhausen (2006). We lost Ray in 2013, but his work continues with the Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation, his films, and museum exhibits. Happy Birthday Ray!


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