Ray Harryhausen

THE visual effects maestro when I was growing up, his wizardry is still gorgeous today. Today’s CGI can range from laughably bad (almost any movie on the Sci-Fi – oops Syfy channel) to absolutely gorgeous (Sin City). Yes computers can do in hours what took him weeks to accomplish but his artistry is still unsurpassed. He was inspired by Willis O’Brien’s King Kong and worked with him on Mighty Joe Young. Sadly as Ray Harryhausen is neither an actor (cameos aside) nor a director, Netflix search engine isn’t helpful. Netflix has three of his films currently available on instant play.

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad

1.  The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) – “The dauntless Sinbad (Kerwin Mathews) heads to the island of Colossa, where only the egg of a giant bird can restore a pea-sized princess (Kathryn Grant) to normal size. The evil magician Sokurah (Torin Thatcher) accompanies him — with ulterior motives to retrieve a lamp and genie (Richard Eyer) he once lost. But before the group can return home, they must conquer a landscape of fantastic beasts, including a Cyclops that hungers for human flesh”

Harryhausen’s first color feature is an absolute masterpiece. This is my 2nd favorite Harryhausen movie behind only Jason and the Argonauts. The villain is nefarious, the damsel is alluring and in distress, and the hero is not as wooden as the next two Sinbads.

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad

 

2. The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974) – “John Phillip Law stars as the legendary sailor who finds a talisman and sets sail with his crew for an uncharted island. With a beautiful slave girl in tow, Sinbad takes on evil sorcerer Koura (Tom Baker), who wants Sinbad’s golden talisman to complete a spell. Once on the island, Sinbad and crew must battle a six-armed figure of Kali (courtesy of special-effects master Ray Harryhausen), an enraged Cyclops centaur and a winged griffin”

While Tom Baker (Doctor Who) is a hoot as the villain and the Kali fight is a wonderful highlight, I did not like this one as much as The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (it is still excellent though).

Clash of the Titans

3. Clash of the Titans (1981) – “This epic mythological adventure stars Harry Hamlin as Perseus, son of Zeus (Laurence Olivier), who embarks on a series of perilous quests in the hopes of rescuing Princess Andromeda (Judi Bowker) and winning the keys to the kingdom of Joppa. With winged horse Pegasus as his steed, Perseus must answer vexing riddles, capture the head of Medusa and slay a ravenous sea monster. Burgess Meredith and Ursula Andress co-star in this classic tale”

The wonderful cast also includes Maggie Smith, Claire Bloom, Sian Phillips, and Flora Robson but they seem strangely wooden compared to Harryhausen’s creations. Ironically Flora Robson played Livia in Charles Laughton’s unfinished I, Claudius (1937) while Sian Phillips played Livia in the BBC miniseries. While there are many wonderful creations on display here, Ray’s Medusa is an absolute marvel.

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