Today marks the 90th birthday of Mr. Ray Harryhausen, the legendary stop-motion animator beloved for his groundbreaking effects work in a number of Hollywood movies from the 1940s up until the 1981 film 'Clash of the Titans' (arguably his most famous work). To celebrate this almighty birthday, here are clips of some of his most admired work:
Willis O'Brien won an Academy Award for Best Special Effects in 1949, thanks in no small part to Harryhausen's work as the animator of the titular ape in 'Mighty Joe Young' (appropriate as Harryhausen fell in love with cinema and animation watching another ape, King Kong, in 1933).
'The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms' (1954) was a real landmark movie, directly inspiring Eiji Tsuburaya's work on the first Japanese 'Godzilla' movie later that same year (and by virtue of that, all of the big monster movies of the 50s and 60s).
Harryhausen provided effects for many more monster movies (such as 'It Came from Beneath the Sea' in 1955) but in the 1956 film 'Earth Versus the Flying Saucers' Harryhausen turned to animating alien invaders. As you can see from watching this clip, the animation in this film was a big influence on Tim Burton's 1996 'Mars Attacks!'.
His first work on colour, 'The 7th Voyage of Sinbad' (1958) started perhaps Harryhausen's most famous work on swashbuckling sword and sandal adventure stories which really allowed him the scope to develop lots of different creatures and action sequences. Harryhausen would work on two further Sinbad films in the 1970s: 'The Golden Voyage of Sinbad' in 1974 and 'Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger' in 1977.
The 1963 'Jason and the Argonauts' contains probably the most haunting and famous Harryhausen sequence of all: the battle with the skeleton warriors. The jerky nature of the animation gives it a visceral quality unmatched in the cleanness of modern CGI. Watch it in full below:
One that always stuck in my mind (probably because of my dinosaur fixation) was the 1966 film 'One Million Years B.C'. I have always remembered the bit where a lava flow falls on top of a woman who is running away. The film is pretty dire, but there are some great effects to be seen, including the historically impossible sight of cave men fighting an Allosaurus with their spears. But you don't go to see a Harryhausen movie for a history lesson!
As mentioned above, the most well-loved of them all is probably the original 1981 movie, 'Clash of the Titans' (like 'Mighty Joe Young', the victim of a shoddy remake). Watch the trailer below, if only to laugh when a man shouts "destroy Argos!".
Anyway, happy birthday Ray and may we be wishing you a happy century in ten years time! Thanks goes to Sam Clements of the Ritzy Picturehouse in Brixton for tweeting Ray the first birthday message and starting this whole thing off. If you're on twitter, follow Simon Pegg's example and join Sam in wishing: #HappyBirthdayRay
If you want to watch some Harryhausen films in full, the BFI Southbank had some signed DVD boxsets for sale last time I was there (last week). So snap one of those up if you are a fan of the great man!