Welcome to Coolasscinema.com! This is a site dedicated to the propagation of strange and exciting cinema (and television) from all over the world as well as America's own grand tradition of exploitation cinema classics. From the front (and back) seats of drive in's across the nation, to the sleaze pit theaters of New York's famed 42nd street, to the comforts of home watching fantastic cinema on the Late Show, remember those classic (and sometimes classless) films of old and even discover some new ones.
DANFORTH AND THE DINOSAURS: PAINTING A VISION OF STOP-MOTION ANIMATED LANDSCAPES
Willis O'Brien planted the seed of stop-motion animated visual effects
magic, it was Ray Harryhausen who made the garden grow. Both men were
pioneers in their field; and because of their arduous work and big
screen accomplishments, many others followed a similar trajectory (with varying degrees of success) having been inspired by those two men. This
article is a companion piece to the Harryhausen three-parter, and
highlights a few others who worked in stop-motion animation. Some of
them went on to great things while others did not; but all grew up during a time when such effects technology were made by
hand and with a great deal of ingenuity.Many stop-motion animated movies possessed a fantastic quality that the future computer generated graphics could never replicate.
Jim Danforth is among the top tier when it comes to established stop-motion animators (he was also proficient in other types of SPX trickery).
He's one of a scant few who ever aided Ray Harryhausen, who had --
prior to CLASH OF THE TITANS -- always worked alone in bringing his
creations to life. Unfortunately, Danforth never quite attained the same level of respect afforded Harryhausen; although his work rivaled, and in some cases surpassed that of the stop-motion master. Danforth
had an incredible career, though; one that was dotted with numerous
pictures that benefited from his splendid and innovative animated touch. Heralded as a discovery of Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazine, Danforth got a big break, and a great deal of experience animating the
creatures of the 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958) clone, JACK THE GIANT
KILLER (1962). The creatures were colorful and fun to watch onscreen,
but their appearance was more cartoonish than fearsome. They made for an enjoyable movie regardless. One of his more popular creations were the 'Zanti Misfits' from the same titled 1963 episode of the OUTER LIMITS television program. These were very early in Danforth's career, and he would soon encounter projects of greater value and prestige.
One of his earliest gigs was for AIP. Danforth was assigned to add
some brief moments of a stop-motion dragon to the tepid Vittorio
Cattafavi Italian muscleman movie from 1960, GOLIATH & THE
DRAGON (Italian title: THE VENGEANCE OF HERCULES). These brief shots don't match well with the prop dragon head that Mark Forest does battle with to rescue the manacled maiden towards the end of the movie.
performing stop-motion duties on THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF THE BROTHERS
GRIMM (1962) and IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD (1963), Danforth brought the Loch Ness Monster to life in the intriguing fantasy film 7 FACES OF DR. LAO (1964; see above pic). Danforth's animated
monster garnered him his first of two Oscar nominations. Not long
after, he assisted on the low budget SPX artist laden cult favorite
EQUINOX (1971). Some of Danforth's most spectacular work is on display in Hammer's WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH(1970; see insert pic). His animated dinosaurs surpass Harryhausen's in some respects,
although his experience at Hammer was not a pleasurable one. Danforth
also contributed incredible matte paintings; and his career is filled
with many credits where his painterly exuberance is in evidence.
DAVID ALLEN: BAND LEADER & UNREALIZED DREAMS David
Allen is another familiar name to fans of fantasy and science fiction
movies. In his early career, he often assisted, or collaborated with Jim
Danforth. His first work came with the aforementioned cult classic
EQUINOX -- filmed in 1967, but not getting theatrical release till a few
years later. The low budget picture ($6,500) also featured the
work of Jim Danforth and was directed by future award winning special
effects ace Dennis Muren. Allen later assisted Danforth on Hammer's
second stone-age adventure, WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH (1970). Allen's association with Hammer Films led to their interest in one of his own story ideas -- RAIDERS OF THE STONE RINGS (see photo above). Described in the pages of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine as a tale of 'vikings, zeppelins, and prehistoric monsters', this ambitious production was later promoted as an upcoming Hammer film with the title of ZEPPELIN VS. PTERODACTYLS.
When Hammer failed to secure financing, the story morphed yet again.Now known as THE PRIMEVALS, the film eventually found a home at Charles Band's production company. While Allen's pet project was never completed, he did animate a low budget Plesiosaur in THE CRATER LAKE MONSTER (1977), and big budget prehistoric creatures in the comedy CAVEMAN (1981). LASERBLAST (1978) and the troubled production THE DAY TIME ENDED (1979) were two early Charles Band productions Allen contributed to. In the near future, he would be kept quite busy under the employ of Band.
KONG HAS THE 411 One of Allen's notable works was a King Kong Volkswagen commercial that featured the Skull Island primate climbing down from the Empire State Building with a plane in one hand and his lady friend (played by Vickie Riskin) in the other. The end of the 60 second spot has him drive off in a gigantic Volkswagen 411 a "Volkswagen big enough for everyone"; Trunk monkey not included. A then young up and coming Rick Baker built the ape arm (that he wore himself) for a few shots of Kong closing the trunk and handling the gear shift. Reportedly,
the commercial only aired a few times before being pulled for a variety
of reasons -- that it gave a false impression of the vehicle; viewers
would somehow perceive that only apes drove Volkswagen's; and that the
animated Kong overshadowed the very subject the commercial was about.
The latter seems the likelier suspect.
In the 80s, Allen's stop-motion prowess included unused werewolf footage for Joe Dante's THE HOWLING in 1981 (a few seconds of this survived in the finished film)and the giant plumed reptile in the bloody Q, THE WINGED SERPENT (1982);
the violently energetic pint-sized terrors of DOLLS (1987) and the
massive transforming robots of ROBOT JOX (1989); the latter two directed
by Stuart Gordon. Allen worked steadily for Charles Band's Full Moon
Productions performing various SPX duties. He also directed 1991s
PUPPETMASTER 2, which, in my opinion, was the best entry of that
series. His death by cancer in 1999 at age 54 was a shock to many. Allen
was nominated for an Oscar for his work on YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES in
1985. His pet project, THE PRIMEVALS, remains unfinished.
DOUG BESWICK: DINOSAURS, CYBORGS & EVIL DEAD GIRLS
Doug Beswick is another purveyor of stop-motion animation from the 1970s (he had animated Gumby in the late 60s)
who went on to enormous things in the 1980s and beyond. While others
were inspired by KING KONG (1933), Beswick found inspiration in THE 7TH
VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958). An early moment for him to shine with the art
of stop-motion came in the late 1970s with the ambitious low budget
effort PLANET OF DINOSAURS (1978). In addition to Beswick's work, others toiled on this picture such as Jim Aupperle, Steven Czerkas (see above pic -- Aupperle, Czerkas and Beswickbehind the scenes on POD) and Jim Danforth, who contributed mattes and at least one animation sequence. The
movie may have been overshadowed by STAR WARS (1977), but it did garner
attention when it became a part of a special effects exhibit at
Universal Studios where, among other things, you could see how the
visual effects were accomplished.
was not just an expert animator, he also counted sculpting,
animatronics and miniature model design among his skill set. He built the Endoskeleton (animated by the late Peter Kleinow of Fantasy II Visual Effects) from THE TERMINATOR (1984), worked on miniatures for James Cameron's ALIENS (1986), and animated the macabre dancing corpse sequence seen in Sam Raimi's EVIL DEAD 2 (1987). The spooky, darkly humorous "dance of the dead" took over a month to complete. Beswick's PLANET OF THE DINOSAURS co-animator Jim Aupperle oversaw the photography for this scene.
HOMEGROWN HORROR AND SCI-FI: DO IT YOURSELF MOVIEMAKERS OF THE LOW BUDGET UNIVERSE Stop-motion
animation continued to be a viable commodity during the close of the
70s. STAR WARS, a film that changed the cinematic landscape, utilized
the art form briefly in the famous chess sequence between C-3PO and
Chewbacca. STAR WARS fueled the use of the technique in many other productions, but it also signaled that change was coming that wouldultimately leave stop-motion looking antiquated by comparison.
Lucas's breakthrough was a big studio production, other independent
features and creature creators were on the horizon doing their own
homegrown product. Some of the stop-motion big guns were also dabbling
in smaller pictures simply for the love of their craft.
Among this new crop of independent productions was
Baltimore filmmaker Don Dohler's THE ALIEN FACTOR (1978) and THE DAY
TIME ENDED (1979) from director John 'Bud' Cardos. Although Dohler's(pictured above with his NIGHTBEAST creature)
movies were ambitious, they were undone by poor acting and low
production values. It didn't stop them from being appreciated by a small
contingent of fans who remain devoted to his movies to this day. In the
right frame of mind, his movies can be appreciated as prime examples of'Do It Yourself' moviemaking that the producers of SyFy Channel and Asylum hokum will never comprehend. Dohler's ALIEN FACTOR came at an opportune time, even though it never received a theatrical release. With STAR WARS raking in massive numbers of box office receipts, Dohler was able to sell his movie to television where it was shown nationwide.
Outside of his films, the late directors
major accomplishment would be his Cinemagic magazine; a periodical he
created about the art of filmmaking. Starlog Magazine eventually took it
over in 1979. I had a couple of the issues from around 1981 or '82. The
extraordinary Dohler passed away in 2006 aged 60 from cancer. Don
wasn't a practitioner of the stop-motion technique (although he often performed multiple duties on his pictures), but one man on his first movie was, and went on to be very successful.
ALIEN FACTOR was Dohler's first movie. It's of interest because it was
also the first film of Emmy Award winning effects artist Ernest D.
Farino. Among other monsters in the movie, Farino designed and animated
the alien Leemoid (see pic above). In his early career, Farino contributed animation and other forms of visual effects
to THE STRANGENESS (1980), SATURDAY THE 14TH (1981), SPACEHUNTER:
ADVENTURES IN THE FORBIDDEN ZONE (1983) and the nightmarish images found in DREAMSCAPE (1984; see insert pic) among others. In addition, he's noted for animating the Pillsbury Doughboy, and also contributed main titles to a slew of motion pictures.In the last few years, Farino has been the publisher of the 'Ray Harryhausen: Master of the Majicks' three volume book series. The
aforementioned THE DAY TIME ENDED from 1979 is another beast entirely.
Its genesis began in 1977 under various titles like RACE FOR ANTARI and
STAR RACERS. After this ambitious effort found a home at Charles Band's
company, it morphed into VORTEX. Problematic from the start (inexperienced crews and difficulties with the director),
the budget grew to $600,000. Eventually, such animation luminaries like
Jim Danforth, Dave Allen and Randy Cook were on board. When it was
finally completed in 1979, the title was again changed from VORTEX to
TIMEWARP before the moniker THE DAY TIME ENDED was
decided upon. Irwin Yablans and David Wolf had handled some of Band's
films of the era and they handled this one as well. Of the three main
production participants -- Wayne Schmidt, Steve Neill and Paul Gentry,
it was Gentry who went on to the biggest career.
RANDY COOK: GOOD THINGS TO COME
Randy Cook (Randall Cook)
was another old school stop-motion animator who went on to be a
successful SPX artist in big Hollywood productions. Cook was yet another effects specialist in training
who was influenced by Harryhausen's work in THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD
(1958) as a young boy. By the late 1970s, he honed his skills on such
low budget efforts as 1977s THE CRATER LAKE MONSTER (assisting David Allen)
and the Charles Band productions LASERBLAST (1978) and THE DAY TIME
ENDED (1979). He would later animate a highly detailed stop-motion model
of Ringo Starr in CAVEMAN (1981), and also assist in the animation of the Quetzalcoatl (with David Allen) in Larry Cohen's Q, THE WINGED SERPENT (1982).
In 1982, Cook also executed a stop-motion THING from another world in John Carpenter's remake of the 1951 classic (see insert pic).
Carpenter chose not to use the footage. Some minor seconds of
stop-motion did make it into the final cut, though. GHOSTBUSTERS (1984)
was another of Cook's assignments. Mixed in with numerous big studio
pictures, Cook also parlayed his skills in motion pictures of smaller
stature, particularly those of Charles Band's Full Moon Productions. In
recent years, Cook won Oscars for the LORD OF THE RINGS series.
PHIL TIPPETT: DON'T STOP, JUST GO-MOTION The
art popularized by Willis O'Brien and Ray Harryhausen began to evolve
in the early 1980s. Inevitably, these advances heralded the end of this
magical method of bringing inanimate objects to vivid life. By the
early 1990s, the art of stop-motion photography would become a dying
form of artistic expression by some of the top names who were inspired by it.
During the time Harryhausen was designing his stop-motion magnum opus that was CLASH OF THE TITANS (1981), Phil Tippett and ILM gave life to
the Go-Motion technique, an advanced stop-motion photographic procedure
that added a new dimension of realism. By way of a motion blur, a more
seamless image is accomplished. This new innovation signaled the impending 'old hat' status stop-motion photography would soon find itself. Incidentally, Jim Danforth utilized an early form of this technique during the Rhamphoryncus sequence (see above pic) in WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH (1970).
Tippett utilized Go-Motion to an impressive degree in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980; as well as JEDI); and again to noticeably spectacular effect in Disney-Paramount's 18 million DRAGONSLAYER from 1981. In that film, Tippett blew viewers away with his animation of the fierce dragon, Vermithrax Pejorative (see above image and insert pic in previous paragraph). The film bombed theatrically, but it has since went on to be a favorite of 80s fantasy.
Prior to this, Tippett was an old school animator assisting David Allen (and Randy Cook)
on THE CRATER LAKE MONSTER (1977). For Joe Dante, he created a brief
scene of a stop-motion creature during a laboratory sequence in the
seminal PIRANHA from 1978 (see above pic). Tippett and ILM's
Go-Motion innovation was featured in other films like HOWARD THE DUCK
(1986), HOUSE 2: THE SECOND STORY (1987), and the ROBOCOP series. Go-Motion
was the evolution of stop-motion, but it had a relatively short
lifespan when compared to the techniques pioneered by the likes of
Willis O'Brien and Ray Harryhausen decades before. The advent of CGI
solidified the finality of this type of special effects technology.
Sadly, the increasing use of computer generated imagery (including a deluge of vastly inferior, lower level video game style graphics) infiltrating movies of all shapes and sizes has left modern audiences with little to no appreciation for these 'old-fashioned' effects accomplished by their hands on approach.
You may have noticed that all of these stop-motion creators have
often went back and forth between low and big budget pictures. It seems
that all of these men had one thing in common -- a love for their craft
that belied the amount of money being thrown around, or the lack of it. JURASSIC PARK (1993) may have devoured the now antiquated art form whole, but it's been kept alive in the mainstream via the directorship of Tim Burton -- most famously with his 1993 picture THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. Burton next delivered a stop-motion CORPSE BRIDE in 2005. The seemingly lost photographic art form was resurrected again by Burton in 2012 with a feature length version of his own 1984 short film FRANKENWEENIE.Outside of Burton, the use of stop-motion animation has become all but extinct.It's survived predominantly through the hands of the artists who brought their creatures to life; the films that captured those images, and the fans that watched them -- those fans who still hold those moving images dear in their memory.
ALL HARRYHAUSEN'S CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL "Dedication... knowledge...
skill... humility. Few people are able to master any ONE of these in a
lifetime. One man has mastered them all. Dedication from early childhood
days to become an accomplished animator. Knowledge stored from years of
experimenting, failures and successes. Skill in mastering animation a
step at a time. And after triumphant achievement as the tops in the
field of animation to remain a fine, unaffected gentleman. They add up
to one man... my friend of 40 years, Ray Harryhausen."--Photographer Walt Daugherty in relation to Ray's 55th birthday, FM issue #118 page 4
mid 1965, Mr. Harryhausen began work on ONE MILLION YEARS B.C.; a film
that would quickly become a motion picture of great notoriety -- and
arguably, not necessarily because of its dinosaurs. Prehistoric beasts
were why Ray garnered interest in the fantasy genre, so this was an
opportunity not to be wasted. Despite never relishing the idea of
remaking anyone's movie (much less one of his own), Ray felt
there were intriguing possibilities to bringing this tale of prehistory
to life via the Dynamation process. Also, Michael Carreras felt this
would be a great idea for taking his company into a different direction.
Schneer was not a part of this picture, so his Morningside Productions
loaned Harryhausen's services to Hammer. An air of familiarity would
still be present, though, as Don Chaffey, the director of JASON AND THE
ARGONAUTS (1963) was at the helm of this story of cavemen and dinosaurs.
The animation alone took eight months to complete. This lengthy amount
of time devoted to the visual effects agitated the Hammer staff, but
considering Harryhausen's clout at the time, they let him be; confident of the fact the end result would surpass expectations.
like the original movie from 1940 -- and much to Ray's later regret --
Hammer's version featured some real-life animals enlarged to appear
gigantic. These were an iguana and a spider. Aside from being cost
saving measures, it was Ray's idea, and at the time, he thought it might
accentuate the audiences response for when the animated dinosaurs made
their appearance. There were to have been other appearances by living
beasts such as an elephant dressed up as a Wooly Mammoth and a few giant
scorpions. Consequently, these additions were discarded. A Brontosaurus attack was supposed to have ended the picture, but Hammer producer Michael Carreras
felt the film had enough dinosaur sequences already, so the unfinished
finale of Tumak forcing the beast onto a rock bridge that collapses
sending it into a lava stream was rendered extinct. Ditto for a scene showcasing
a rampaging prehistoric rhinoceros. This was Hammer's 100th production
and it made a great deal of money (the company tried to quickly capitalize on its success the following year to no avail with PREHISTORIC WOMEN). It was also the first big hit Harryhausen had been a part of in some time. It led to two additional
sequels -- the equally spectacular WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH (1970)
and the dino-less CREATURES THE WORLD FORGOT (1971); the latter of
which had Don Chaffey at the helm again. PREHISTORIC WOMAN According to Harryhausen, the virtually unknown Welch was extremely professional behind the scenes, and in giving her all to her role.
But in later years, she has shown nothing but contempt for the picture.
Some of her comments invoke the notion she never wanted to do the movie
in the first place. What's perplexing is that while she dislikes having
been in the dinosaur movie, she shows more favor towards having been in
the awful MYRA BRECKINRIDGE (1970) -- a bad movie if there ever was
one. ONE MILLION B.C. is arguably the single film she'll be forever
identified with -- and not because of her acting ability, but her sex
appeal in that fur bikini. This tale of sex, cavemen and dinosaurs has
led to much debate as to where its success derives
-- the many stop-motion animated creatures, or the living special
effect of Raquel Welch. Whichever was truly the case, the film remains
influential for both its sex appeal and its dinosaurs.
ONE MILLION B.C. (1966) being a dinosaurian box office success, Hammer
wanted Harryhausen for a sequel. He declined as he was already involved
in bringing a story to life that originally began under the aegis of his
mentor, Willis O'Brien. Dinosaurs were once more the subject, but for
this go round, instead of the dawn of time, the setting was the turn of
the century. THE BEST OF RAY'S BEASTS #9 The attempted capture of Gwangi by lasso slinging cowboys is undoubtedly the most complex stop-motion sequence found 1969s THE VALLEY OF GWANGI. The way it was accomplished, and the fact that the finished scene
is a seamless blend of live action and Harryhausen's patented brand of
painstaking attention to detail is a testament to the man's brilliance.
This approximately 4 minute scene took five months to bring alive. The
cowboys originally roped a big pole attached to a jeep. A resisting, and
gnashing Gwangi was added later with wires assimilating ropes extended
from his neck to match with the lassos used in the live-action footage. The two blended together to make one amazing showcase of Harryhausen's skills.
With O'Brien's long stagnant 'Gwangi' script re-structured, and working under the title of 'The Valley Where Time Stood Still',
this new ambitious project was designed with backing from Ray and
Schneer's old stomping ground at Columbia Pictures. Unfortunately, the
studio decided to pass on the picture. Thankfully, O'Brien's unrealized
script would evolve into a streamlined tale of cowboys vs. dinosaurs at
Warner Brothers. THE
VALLEY OF GWANGI (1969) was blessed with many things -- a fine script;
likable leading performances; a robust musical score; an antagonist with
a massive amount of personality and the most stop-motion screen time
afforded Harryhausen's career up to that point (Ray toiled nearly an entire year on the effects).
The finale inside the church is among the best such conclusions in any
fantasy film. Not only is it an exciting finish, but it provides a
correlation between good and evil -- Gwangi is a devil of sorts, and the
beast meets its end inside an immense cathedral. It's also yet another
spectacular finish for one of Ray's fascinatingly pitiable creations.
There's even a shot of a boy shedding tears for the creatures death
moments before the ending title card. Sadly,
this endearing blend of fantasy and western failed to capture the
public's imagination. A lack of faith and publicity by the studio (which was then under new management)
was a contributing factor as well. Still, THE VALLEY OF GWANGI has
outlasted its poor theatrical showing to be one of the stop-motion
specialists finest achievements.
losing interest in bringing CONAN to life on the big screen, the
aborting of Hammer's WHEN THE EARTH CRACKED OPEN, and a reluctance to
remake KING KONG (also for Hammer), the next effort by Harryhausen and Schneer was a reunion of sorts -- and a return to financially assured territory. THE BEST OF RAY'S BEASTS #10 The
duel with Sinbad and his men versus the six-armed Kali is another fine
piece of cinematic excellence duly placed in the canon of special
effects spectacles. Again Harryhausen experiments with past
breakthroughs -- first it was the skeleton duel in 7TH VOYAGE; then the
battle with seven skeletons in ARGONAUTS. Here, it's but a single enemy,
but one with multiple appendages. The sequence proved to be almost as
difficult to pull off as the one from ARGONAUTS. To give the illusion
swords were growing from Kali's hands, cardboard swords were trimmed one
frame at a time till they were totally gone, then photographed in
reverse. To choreograph the duel, three stuntmen were strapped together
to simulate Kali for the sword fight. It's an unusual set piece even for
a Sinbad movie. This films multi-cultural devices are part of its
appeal. The second tale of Sinbad from Schneer and Ray ('Sinbad's 8th Voyage' as it was initially devised) began its slow gestation as early as 1964 via some of Harryhausen's striking artwork. By 1971, what was then known as 'Sinbad in India'
was steadily becoming a reality prior to shooting. Harryhausen already
had a number of visually stunning sequences in mind. These included two
that were eventually dropped from the picture -- the 'Valley of the Vipers' that featured scores of giant and regular sized serpents
and an opening scene that shows us what happens to the Vizier as
opposed to only hearing about it from him later. Both scenes were
eliminated after being deemed too frightening.
shooting in India proved to be a possibly risky affair, the safer, more
assured climbs of Spain were decided upon. By the time GOLDEN VOYAGE OF
SINBAD (1974) saw release, it had been 16 years between it and THE 7TH
VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958). Both films have diametrically opposing tones
and atmosphere, as well as color palettes. However, if some of the
locations look familiar to you, that's because some of them were used in
the first Sinbad adventure.
all was said and done, the movie was completed for just under a million
dollars. The results paid off handsomely as THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD
was a critical and financial success worldwide. It was my first
exposure to the Sinbad movies having caught it on television one
Saturday afternoon. For me, this second film truly captured the essence
of the Arabian Nights tales in a way the other two pictures didn't do.
creatures all had an earthy, organic look and feel to them that lent
the fantasy an element of reality. The accents authenticated the
settings and John Phillip Law was perfect as Sinbad, at least in my
eyes. Tom Baker (who will be best remembered for his incarnation ofDR. WHO)
was venomous as the evil sorcerer Koura. The score by Miklos Rozsa is
superb and captures the romanticism and adventure the films script
offers. This pictures success would guarantee another Sinbad film, but it would be a production that was more of a step backward than forward for the series.
RAY HARRYHAUSEN'S COLLEGIATE VOYAGE
In anticipation of 1974s THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD -- as well as being part of an animation course at New York's New School University -- Leonard Maltin oversaw a screening of THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958) among other Harryhausen related cinema. It was just one instance of filmdom's most celebrated stop-motion animator garnering attention and respect for his cinematic accomplishments. THE BEST OF RAY'S BEASTS #11
The saber-toothed tiger that Zenobia inhabits during the finale battling
the troglodyte and Sinbad is virtually a repeat of the
Centaur/Gryphon/Sinbad battle from GOLDEN. However, the ferocious feline
is a unique creation with its muscular physiology
and those intimidating chompers. The duel with the trog is of further
interest in that the humanoid, horn-headed man-beast utilizes some
wrestling style maneuvers in his arsenal that set themselves apart from
the typical clobbering and biting Harryhausen's monsters partake in. Work on what started out as 'Sinbad in Hyperborea' and 'Sinbad Beyond the North Wind'
began almost immediately after GOLDEN VOYAGE wrapped. Some of the plot
points dropped from the previous movie made their way into this one.
1975 it was announced SINBAD AT THE WORLD'S END was soon to go before
the cameras. Ideas written in early treatments and drafts were varied
and potentially spectacular if they'd not been excised. These included a
giant elephant encased in ice; the construction of the Minoton by
Zenobia's zombie-like creatures; the troglodyte battling both a giant
snake and also the iron Minoton monster; a dwarf assistant to Zenobia;
and the 'Valley of Vipers' sequence that never made it into
GOLDEN VOYAGE. As it turned out, it never made it into this last Sinbad
movie, either. An attack on Sinbad's vessel by a giant worm monster let
loose by Zenobia's ghouls (the first stop-motion creatures we see) was likewise cast overboard. Contrary to the DVD liner notes, Harryhausen states in his book, 'The Art of Animation' that John Phillip Law was not considered (neither by him, Schneer or the studio) to reprise his role as Sinbad. He seemingly was pleased with Law's work as he also remarks he's unsure as to WHY they didn't contemplate bringing him back. Apparently they wanted a new actor each time to avoid feeling like a sequel. Still, it's a shame the Law didn't return
as Patrick Wayne fails to suitably make the role his own; which is a
shame as he made a far greater impression as Major Ben McBride in AIP's
lost world adventure, THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT (1977). Actors considered for the role of Sinbad this third go round
included Robert Conrad, Terence Hill, Franco Nero, Jan Michael Vincent
and Michael Douglas. Considering some of the choices, Wayne wasn't such a
bad choice after all. Nonetheless, the film was largely missing the
Arabian flavor the second picture captured so well. If Michael Douglas
as Sinbad isn't enough to make your jaw drop, try Bette Davis as the
witch Zenobia. Her asking fee was too high for Columbia. Margaret
Whiting got the role and her performance is one of the films few bright
three years in the making and a $3.5 million budget, SINBAD &
THE EYE OF THE TIGER was unleashed on North American theater screens in
May of 1977. While it, too was a financial success, it didn't equal the
take of the previous movie. At nearly two hours, the movie could've used
some trimming. The rousing Roy Budd score is a highlight adding some punch to the picture. Considering how popular JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS turned out to be upon it's re-release in 1978 (it was not a hit when first released in 1963), both Harryhausen and Schneer thought a return to Greek mythology was in order. THE BEST OF RAY'S BEASTS #12
Hands down the most terrifyingly suspenseful scene ever to appear in a fantasy movie is the Medusa sequence from
CLASH OF THE TITANS (1981). Everything from the editing, to the
lighting, to the music, and especially Harryhausen's exemplar animation
makes this truly scary segment a highlight of cinema regardless of
genre. The intensity and violence this scene exudes was one of the
reasons the PG-13 rating was implemented just a few years later. The
2010 remake shamefully re-creates this sequence as a fast-paced action
scene dotted with ill-conceived comical touches. When folks think of
CLASH, Medusa is often what springs to mind first, as well as being the
most talked about among fans. After Columbia and others passed on it, PERSEUS & THE GORGON'S HEAD (which Harryhausen had been tinkering with since the late 1950s)
finally found a home at MGM who heaped far more money on it than either
Ray or Schneer had imagined. With $16 million at their disposal, the
budget alone was bigger than all of the duos past pictures put together.
The film became a reality in early 1978 with principal photography
starting the following year. For
the first time in his professional career, Ray Harryhausen had to hire
assistants to aid him in the stop-motion animation. Having always
preferred, and enjoyed working alone, the exhausting breadth of effects
required for this massive production meant it was virtually impossible
he'd be able to complete it all without any help. Both Jim Danforth and
Steve Archer were brought on board to aid in the daunting task of
bringing to life some of the best examples of stop-motion animation ever
lead up to, and including the Medusa sequence had some alterations made
for violence and practicality. The encounter with the two headed
guardian Dioskilos was far more gory and ended differently than in the
finished product. Originally, Perseus severs one of the devil dogs
heads, although losing one of its heads does not stop the canine beast.
Apparently, this footage was actually shot, but discarded. The
decapitation of Medusa was also different. Originally, Perseus was to
have thrown his shield (which had serrated edges) Flying Guillotine style removing the Gorgon's head from her body. After
18 months preparation, 16 months of working on the animation, and Ray
injuring his hand, this fantasy spectacle was nearing completion and its
eventual release in the Summer of 1981. I got to see the result in the
theater. I was six at the time, and I loved ever waking minute of the
movie. Even those sappy moments with love and romance and stuff didn't
cause my mind to wander one iota. CLASH OF THE TITANS (1981) was about
as close to perfect as you could get for fantasy films. It was also a
suitable endeavor for Ray Harryhausen to bid farewell to moviemaking. Some of the scathing reviews and notices about the alleged "outdated special effects" contributed to the man's sadness and displeasure with the fate of fantasy filmmaking.It also caused him to contemplate his career, and re-assess
his place as a visual effects creator. Little did he know just how much
his passion had infused others to make their own dreams a reality in
the fantasy realm.
Even though no follow up materialized despite its success, the film was influential, and a favorite of audiences who relived it all over again on television. At one time, CLASH OF THE TITANS was the second most requested movie on the Turner Broadcasting Network.The
spirit of the film was also apparent in former Famous Monsters
correspondent turned filmmaker Luigi Cozzi's two goofy HERCULES films;
the second even went so far as to flimsily re-create the Medusa
concept of metal made beings] goes back to Greek mythology. Talos was a
robot in a sense. Of course, in the Arabian Nights tales you find many
robots. It was not a 20th Century concept at all. Bubo was a device used to make a story point. I think it worked out quite nicely."--Ray Harryhausen, Famous Monsters #182 April 1982 pp37-38 I think I should mention the inclusion of the mechanical owl, Bubo, since this gift by the Gods became the source of frequent negative scrutiny.
Many felt it was out of place in the film, but Harryhausen repeatedly
defended the addition to the cast of creatures. Others found it silly
and too kid friendly. The owl prop also made an appearance in the soulless2010 remake as an in-joke. It should be said that for those artists like Harryhausen who devoted months of their time to create movie magic, a certain attachment to the whimsy and innocence of childhood was an important factor in bringing those creations to life. Even though other fantasy films were to follow, CLASH OF THE TITANS was truly the end of an era. AFTERWORD & REQUIEM SINBAD GOES TO MARS and SINBAD AND THE SEVEN WONDERS OF THE WORLD were among the projects in various planning stages after CLASH OF THE TITANS release.
However, the CLASH production had been so grueling, Schneer considered
that their next collaboration should have fewer stop-motion effects and
possibly even a lower budget. Other projects Ray was offered, or
attached to post CLASH included a Michael Winner purchased
property entitled PEOPLE OF THE MIST and a version of THE PRINCESS
from producer Milton Subotsky that later became a reality in 1987 under
the direction of Rob Reiner. When the Sinbad adventure failed to materialize, as did the aborted, and hugely ambitious FORCE OF THE TROJANS movie (see insert photo),
CLASH OF THE TITANS proved to be the final big screen alliance between
Schneer and Harryhausen. It would also prove to be the last movie either
man would contribute to in their respective fields. By this time,
modern audiences had seemingly lost interest in fantasy style heroes;
which meant little faith in big studios backing such pictures. Fantasy
films continued to be made, but they were fewer and far between and
seldom did big business. Looking back, Harryhausen had an incredible
body of work to be proud of, and an increasingly growing legion of
followers who were influenced by him and his cinematic legacy.
For years, the Motion Picture Academy (and even the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror)
notoriously ignored the films of Ray Harryhausen for awards
consideration. But in 1992, the revered visual effects master finally
received long overdue notice. This Honorary Oscar was presented to him
by his childhood friend, Ray Bradbury. Tom Hanks, the Master of
Ceremonies, had some kind remarks for the humble award winner as well.
To quote an oft used phrase in many a SciFi movie trailer, this award
was "years in the making".
also worth noting that the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and
Horror gave him the Life Career Award in 1982. Post 1992, Harryhausen
began accruing more recognition both on and off screen for his efforts.
Now he could finally reap the benefits of his labors and know that his
work was appreciated on a greater scale than he likely ever realized up
to that time. Thankfully, he was able to take those accolades with him
when he left this world a week ago. On
May 7th, 2013 master animator-filmmaker Ray Harryhausen passed away in
London at Hammersmith Hospital. Having been there for a week prior to
his passing, no cause of death has
been released as of this writing, but it was said he went peacefully.
His entire library of collectibles was donated to Bradford's National
Media Museum in the United Kingdom in 2010. While
the widespread use of stop-motion animation may have died out, the
memories of the artisans who gave life to their imaginations lives on in
the minds of many who grew up on these films; and especially those that
featured the visual magic and majesty of Ray Harryhausen.
As a fan, much of my childhood and the memories of those years involved
many of Ray's creations. Seeing all those monster and fantasy movies on
television (and a few in theaters), fueled my imagination to be creative in my own hobbies. In some small way, had it not been for those carefree and innocent days of being held in astonishment at the Ymir, the cyclops, Kali, Gwangi, Medusa and the mighty Kraken, I might have turned out a completely different person. For that, I thank Mr. Harryhausen for those times, and those memories his work has given me.
Ray Harryhausen had an imagination as expansive and enigmatic as any of the snarling creatures he -- with his bare hands --
meticulously gave life to give us -- the viewers, the fans, the
dreamers -- magical entertainment that no keyboard, or computer graphic
can ever reproduce.
RAY HARRYHAUSEN (June 29th, 1920 -- May 7th, 2013)
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I've been a huge movie buff since childhood catching old horror and monster flicks on Shock Theater and kung fu movies at the drive-in during the late 70's and early 80's. I've had a long time fascination with, and appreciate all genres of fantastic cinema, good and bad. One fans cheese is another fans juicy steak. I like both equally and seldom find a film I truly dislike as I will find something of interest in just about anything. The bulk of the films or tv series' seen here are mostly from my childhood, or films I own in what has become an Amazing Colossal DVD collection.