Thursday, October 01, 2009

Harryhausen the Magus

I've talked a lot about Jack Kirby on this blog, but haven't done much on Ray Harryhausen, who wasn't quite as ubiquitous in my life but had almost as much impact, if not more. We'll go into into it further when I finish my new book, but it was the great pioneer of stop-motion animation who may well have planted the seeds of my all-encompassing obsession with mythology*, and The Golden Voyage of Sinbad played no small part in this process.

It's one thing to read these stories, and another entirely to see them on the silver screen, particularly when you're young and impressionable. It was Golden Voyage and my beloved Jason and the Argonauts that subconsciously instilled in me an expectation of magic and miracle as a matter of course.

Golden Voyage in its entirety here. There are all sorts of interesting occultic touches throughout the film that reward your attention.

Bonus factoid: Tom Baker (aka the only Doctor Who who really matters) plays the bad guy here.

*Being a bit precocious, the voluptous Caroline Munro probably contributed to that obsession, as did my beloved Jane Seymour in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger.


  1. In my books, Harryhausen was one of the great artists of the twentieth century. This may be a crusty attitude of mine, but I don't think cgi has ever come close to capturing the sheer imaginative joy of Harryhausen's stop-motion creations. (I would also take Caroline Munroe over Megan Fox any day of the week.) The Kali sequence in Golden Voyage is outstanding!

  2. Clash of the Titans.

    Truly epic movie

  3. The only reason i always look forward to Christmas is the Ray Harryhausen movies. There is always one or two on tv around that time.
    These movies have a way of sending me back to my happy childhood.


  4. Right on- I knew a lot of you guys would have my back on this. I guess in comparison to Lord of the Rings and all it doesnt mean much today, but back then those movies were nothing short of revelations to me. My Jason and the Argonauts megapost is still a'brewin' in the old noggin- that movie was the most profound religious experience in my life, next to seeing the Clash.

  5. Another extraordinary Magus of stop-motion animation & more, IMHO, is/was the sadly little known Czech visionary filmmaker, Karel Zeman, sequenced segments from his prescient Steampunk classic, "The Fabulous World of Jules Verne" (1958) viewable here. Thanks, Chris, for your unflagging genius & prolific literary muse ~ (•8-D}

  6. A friend from NYU film school found a 35-mm print (I think) of MYSTERIOUS ISLAND. There was one lone frame showing a little tripod arm (used to measure the movement on the tabletop). He spliced out the lone frame, and actually showed it to Mr Harihousen at a conference.

    Mr. Harihousen's response was a rather grumpy: "Where did you get that?"

    Also - this film has the finest steamed crab sequence in the history of cinema.

  7. OK, I think this is the final straw for me. So I just pull the latest edition of Rolling Stone out of the mailbox and what is on the cover?


  8. PS-- Holy shit! You saw The Clash live? You need to do a post on it!

  9. When you look at the photos of U2's latest concert/spectacle, it makes you wonder who they're putting the show on for... who's their true audience?

  10. I had the pleasure of meeting the man a few years ago. He seemed embittered by Hollywood, but still delivered a lively and illuminating talk about his body of work. Harryhausen's biography/artbook mentions The Divine Comedy as a project he'd always wanted to do, but never got around to for budgetary and other studio reasons (if I recall correctly). Just imagine!

    Bluewater comics had a line of titles based on his films last year, but last I heard Harryhausen was cutting ties with them. Hopefully he won't be too burned by the experience to try it again elsewhere.

  11. Hey - I saw the CLASH live too.

    But the grand live music religious experience for me was seeing Booker T. and the MG's with Eddie FLoyd at the Lone Stare Cafe in the late 80's.

    I cried.

  12. Thanks Chris, I think the real question is, which artist haven't been influenced by Harryhausen. He seems to have had a profound impact for so many visual effects artists and artist in general. Great memories, I remember seeing this film with my Dad at a drive in in 1974. I still have vivid memories of going to see "Clash" in 1981 within it's first week. The real zenith for these kind of genres, from a technical standpoint, was between 1981 and 1983, after which, effects films went downhill. Me thinks.

  13. 2 people who saw the Clash live-- you're killin' me! How about filling us in!