Monday, June 10, 2013

Dispatch #8 Why Ray Harryhausen
Matters to Me

by Lupe Fernandez

"From the Land Beyond, Beyond/From the World pass Hope and Fear..." thus are the secret words to summon the genie of the lamp in the 1958 film 7th Voyage of Sinbad.

When I was in the fifth grade, my brothers introduced me to a book called Film Fantasy Scrapbook by Ray Harryhausen, courtesy of the Hayward Public Library.

Mr. Harryhausen was "stop-motion animator." He brought to life a giant gorilla (no not King Kong, that was Harryhausen's mentor Willis O'Brien), a Rhedosaurus, a giant octopus, flying saucers, the Ymir from Venus, a one-eyed cyclops, a sword-wielding skeleton, a giant crab, a bronze giant, a pteranodon, a tyrannosaurus rex, a statue of Kali, a saber-tooth tiger and the Kraken.

Earth vs. The Flying Saucers 1956
I couldn't stop looking at the photos of movies I'd never seen, but dreamed out. In the good old days, there was no internet, no video stores. I had to wait until his films appearing on UHF Channels 44 or 36, until Saturday's Creature Features with host Bob Wilkins.

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad 1958
But it was the orange, one-eyed cyclops from 7th Voyage of Sinbad that sealed the deal for me. This table-top model creature of foam latex and metal armature burst out of a cave with an angry growl and hooves stomping and claws clutching at hapless sailors, accompanied to the thunderous strains of film composer Bernard Hermann's music.

I bought magazines and books celebrating Mr. Harryhausen's work.


But don't take my word for it.

Mysterious Island 1961
“Without Ray Harryhausen’s influence, Lord of the Rings would never have been made, not by me at least.” – Peter Jackson

“Without Ray Harryhausen, there would likely have been no STAR WARS” - George Lucas.

"If not for Ray’s contribution to the collective dreamscape, we wouldn’t be who we are." - James Cameron
Patrick Wayne (Sinbad & Eye of the Tiger 1977)
is about as Arabic as I am.

If I sing his praises to highly, I am aware that some of his films often lacked brilliant acting, that his plots were derivative, that his mattes lines bled, that his last animated film suffered from poor background plates, that no Mexicans appeared in any of his films.

And yet without Harryhausen's films, I wouldn't have the imagination to write Children's Literature.

King Kong 1933
Harryhausen's Inspiration
RH 
RIP
1920-2013

14 comments:

  1. I didn't know his name, but I sure knew his movies. Here's to the imagineers who dream beyond what can be done.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Sue.
      Sincerely,
      Foreign Correspondent

      Delete
  2. Likewise, Susan, I wouldn't have recognized his name. But some of those old "real life" animated classics sure planted a lot of seeds in a fertile field. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome Bill.
      Sincerely,
      Foreign Correspondent

      Delete
  3. Hi Lupe, I fondly remember the "7th voyage of Sinbad." Some movies nowadays are too scary, but that "Star Wars," "Lord of the Rings," and "The Terminator" movies owe a debt to Harryhausen, is good to know. Thanks for sharing this legacy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I keep my 9th century Arabic sword sharp in case of skeleton attacks.
      Sincerely,
      Foreign Correspondent

      Delete
  4. I remember those movies on the Saturday Afternoon matinees. The theater was packed and everyone was throwing popcorn, yelling and the boys were always booing something. lol I wrote a book about those crazy afternoons with less than great acting and special affects of Gargantua creatures, but I'm told by publishers that kids would not be interested in what went on in the movies in the fifties. So maybe a self publish someday.:) Thanks for taking me down memory lane.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Susan, glad I could steer you down the lane.
      Sincerely,
      Foreign Correspondent

      Delete
  5. Agreed Lupe. I always thought the scene in Pixar's Monsters Inc was a nice little tribute to him, when Mike and Celia go to the posh restaurant, Harry Hausen's!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I caught that reference, too.
      Sincerely,
      Foreign Correspondent

      Delete
  6. Those movies were a lot of fun Sue . I remember the Sinbad
    movies as a kid I thought they were very cool . :)
    KC

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Way cool.
      Sincerely,
      Foreign Correspondent

      Delete
  7. He's probably the reason I write about visual effects now (as a sideline to writing books.. or is it the other way around!?).... I still have my "Film Fantasy Scrapbook" (somewhere) that I asked for one long-ago Xmas...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have my Film Fantasy Scrapbook on my book shelf.
      Sincerely,
      Foreign Correspondent

      Delete

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