Rising Up Out of the Myths

It’s the year 1933.  There’s a 13-year-old kid in the front row at the movie palace.  He’s watching “King Kong,” completely transfixed.

And there, in the flickering light of the screen, in the roar of the soundtrack, a famous career is born – as a youngster named Ray, already obsessed with dinosaurs, tells himself “Wow.  I want to learn how to make creatures like that.”

Ray Harryhausen — whose “stop-motion” animation using models that appeared to move after being painstakingly filmed, frame-by-frame, as their articulated bodies were adjusted just a bit this way and then just a bit more – died today at the age of 92.

He is famously remembered for the scene in which skeletons engage in swordfights with live-action heroes (“Jason and the Argonauts,” 1963).  His film “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad,” (1958) featuring a cyclops, a dragon, and another sword-wielding skeleton, was named by the Librarian of Congress to the 2008 National Film Registry of movies deemed worthy of preservation due to their cultural, historic or aesthetic value.

Harryhausen, a friend of science-fiction giant Ray Bradbury, became synonymous with the best of fantasy and sci-fi moviemaking from the 1940s (when Harryhausen assisted on the film “Mighty Joe Young”) through the early 1980s, when Harry Hamlin met Harryhausen in “Clash of the Titans.”  (Hamlin played Perseus, and no less an actor than Sir Laurence Olivier played Zeus in this Greek mythfest.)

Then computer-assisted special effects overtook the field.  But many special-effects artists and directors whose work features these latest effects pay homage to Ray Harryhausen.

Here’s a link to a museum in England that contains much of Harryhausen’s collection.

What’s your favorite Ray Harryhausen movie?

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