From the teeth of the hydra come the children of the damned:
I don’t think it’s any huge secret I grew up watching reels and reels of old-school b-movies and creature features from the ’50s and ’60s. I remember a lot of really cheesy movies best left for after dark (or MST3k), but two names in specific are evocative of my misspent youth. Godzilla. And Ray Harryhausen.
I think it was Harryhausen who gave me a lifelong interest in science fiction, fantasy, horror, the fantastic in all of its guises. (Well, along with another Ray, last name of Bradbury.) I don’t think I’d have read as many Greek classics without seeing Jason and the Argonauts for the umpteenth billion time as a kid, nor would I have a fascination with swashbuckling Middle Eastern fantasy if I hadn’t watched and re-watched the Sinbad movies every time I got the flu. I first knew of Verne after watching Mysterious Island, which influenced me into reading the books. I soaked up a lot of stop-motion Harryhausen during my formative years, thanks to the power of the VCR.
It’s a bit quaint by modern standards—the distance between where the actors are stabbing and where the creatures stand, the haze and difference in lighting between the real-world and stop-motion film—yet I’m still impressed by this ancient craft even in the digital age; a lot of it stands the test of time rather well, considering. Ray Harryhausen created plenty of visually amazing sequences. The battle with Kali? Impressive. Centaur versus griffin? Pure awesome. Medusa? Those eyes! Valley of Gwangi? You got your cowboys in my dinosaurs, and I kinda liked it. The skeleton fight scene at the end of Argonauts? Solid fucking gold. These are mythical monsters with character; aliens and dinosaurs with semi-realistic movements and expressions. And it’s all painstakingly created frame by frame out of clay, along with limitless patience and a fine eye for detail.
Even though he hasn’t made a new movie since—well, in my lifetime… it’s still sad to say goodbye. Goodbye, Ray. You touched the lives and minds of many people, including the same visionaries who are making movie SFX at Weta and ILM. You won’t be forgotten.
A few memorial posts:
- ComingSoon.net: RIP Ray Harryhausen: 1920 – 2013
- E.W.com: R.I.P. Ray Harryhausen: Ten great movie monsters created by the late special effects wizard
- New York Times: Ray Harryhausen, Effects Innovator Behind Jason and Sinbad, Dies at 92
- Black Gate: Remembering Ray Harryhausen Through Ten Great Visual Effects Scenes