May 9, 2013

RIP Ray Harryhausen - June 29th, 1920 - May 7th, 2013


Good things always seemed to be book ended by bad things and vice versa, right? At around 6 pm on May 7th I was en route to the hospital... but for all the right reasons. My sister in law Kate and her husband Rich (two of my favorite people in the world) were on the way to having their first child. As we sat there, eagerly anticipating the arrival of little Richie, we had nothing but time on our hands. I sat on my tablet and surfed the Net, looking at the many websites that I peruse on a daily basis. I stumbled upon an article that brought me down instantly... Ray Harryhausen was dead at age 92. Fuck. At some a great moment of my life, a moment of pure joy for my family, all I could do was think how sad it was to lose a true talent like Harryhausen. Sure, he had lived a very full and excellent life. Sure, he has been heaped with praise both critically and from his peers for decades. These are things that should make you smile when you think about someone after they pass. But I immediately thought back to my early childhood, Clash of the Titans, and how a certain effects guy changed my life forever...

Please continue reading after the jump...



This was the model my pops had...
Back in the early 80s my pops had one of those top loading VCRs that was bigger and heavier than my current 42 inch television. This thing looked like a microwave. But it had magic in it... magic of the movies. My dad could just throw a tape in there, and any movie we wanted to watch would just begin... like magic. I was fascinated by this, especially since my Dad was priming me to be a movie buff that I would become by taking me to the cinema and exposing me to as many films as possible. It was around this time that my Dad popped in a film that would forever change my life: Clash of the Titans.


Clash was just insane. It featured a cast of luminaries (Laurence Oliver, Maggie Smith, Ursula Andress, Burgess Meredith), a buff young star in Harry Hamlin, and it had some of the coolest monsters I have ever seen before or since. Yeah, special effects are fantastic now a days and monsters look great. But there was something about all the creatures in this movie that just sucked me in. Calibos, Medusa, Bebu the owl, Diokilos the killer dog, The giant  and The Kraken are all just fantastic... fan-fucking-tastic. Pegasus was just so amazing to watch. The creations of Harryhausen were just magnificent  and looking back on them they are even more special because they shouldn't have even existed....


Why shouldn't have they existed you ask? Harryhaussen had been using his split screen 'Dyna-motion' techniques for years, on films like Mighty Joe Young, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, and the Sinbad films. They always went over gangbusters. But everything changed in 1977 with a little movie called Star Wars. Lucas would inadvertently start a technological revolution in film, one that would continue with Donner's Superman films, Ridley Scott's Alien, and many more films in the future. Harryhausen's techniques were quickly becoming the "old" way to do things... and it was clear that after years and years of doing things 'the Harryhausen way' he wasn't going to change. So Clash would become Harryhausen's last feature film that he worked on... and his tour de force if you ask me. It was like one last hurrah for Harryhausen, one that he deserved. Talk about going out on a high note....


So on this day that I welcomed my first nephew into the world, we lost a guy who truly changed my movie viewing life forever. This guy's work has stuck with me for quite a while, and always will. I have shared these films with my son, and he loves them too (in truth, he thinks the old Clash is pretty boring but loves all the creature scenes... he wanted more creature scenes!). But given the fact that Richie Jones entered this world on the day that Harryhausen went out, I feel like it is my duty to share Clash with him in the future. RIP Ray... enjoy heaven with your boy Ray Bradbury and look out for my buddy Sean Hartter while your up there. He loved your work too, and he has some crazy casting ideas for movies of the past taht you might love....


In memorial, here is a cool Youtube vid featuring the best of Ray Harryhausen's work:



And here is one of my favorite scenes of all time... RELEASE THE KRAKEN!!!!!!!




 

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