Narrated by actor Leonard Nimoy and featuring appearances by George Lucas and Ray Bradbury, this film documents Ray Harryhausen's remarkable visual effects work, including his hand in ...
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Narrated by actor Leonard Nimoy and featuring appearances by George Lucas and Ray Bradbury, this film documents Ray Harryhausen's remarkable visual effects work, including his hand in Mighty Joe Young, 20 Million Miles to Earth and Clash of the Titans.
"...but I say 'Jason and the Argonauts.'" sayeth Tom Hanks at a special ceremony by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.
No truer words were spoken, even if mister Hanks said it with tongue in cheek. For this film, perhaps appropriately narrated by mister Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy, gives us Harryhausen himself as he comments on the narrative of this film that is essentially an overview of his life's work.
The reason this film is so spectacular is because for those of who grew up with the science fiction and fantasy leavings of Hollywood from the silent era up through the 40s, 50s, and 60s, and even grew up with newer offerings in the 70s and 80s, we saw Harryhausen's works, and reveled in them. While others were watching films like "Citizen Kane" or "Casa Blanca", or some other film regarding the egos and passions of ordinary people who thought themselves extraordinary, the select few of us were watching the likes of "Jason and the Argonauts" or "Mysterious Island". This film honors the man who brought those films to us, and also honors those of us who enjoyed them and were inspired by them.
How can a films about love in modern times, social upheavals and rifts among normal contemporary people compare to tales of a mad Victorian scientist and huckster visiting the moon and spelunking its populated interior, or voyaging with Sinbad to confront mythological creatures and a black hearted wizard? When characters of other films talk about manipulating markets or unveiling hidden loves and hatreds and how that will effect family fortunes and stock markets, the characters in Harryhausen's films are beheading Medusa, talking with Captain Nemo, battling titanic undersea cephalopods, or gunning down creatures from Roman ruins, winning the girl in the end, and no restraining legalities that seem to pulsate in "normal" films.
Heroes, villains, monsters, myths and legends old and new are what Harryhausen's films are all about. The effects of stop motion weren't convincing in terms of realism, but conveyed to us a story of places fantastic and far away. Yes, we knew that the stop motion was stop motion and, unlike my film instructors at the local JC, were not absolutely convincing (sorry Dick and Joe), but it didn't matter, because the story itself required suspension of disbelief, and if you could do that for the story, then it was par for the course that you do that for the film.
Harryhausen comments on stop motion, and makes the observation that you, meaning the audience and the film makers both, don't want the effects to look too real because it ruins the fantasy. I'm still debating that in my head, but his words aren't lost. I think what Harryhausen is saying is that if you make a fantasy film, or a film whose emphasis is fantasy, then you want to retain the spectacle of fantasy, no matter what the effects look like.
I remember those days all those years ago watching the spectacles of ?Harryhausen's craftsmanship, and loving every minute of them. They weren't just films with special effects, but they were well edited, and sometimes even well acted in spite of budgetary constraints. These are films that, in spite of modern special effects, actually last because of the pacing and amount of artistry that was put into them. The story and overall production keep you engaged, even if you don't like the material.
Space creatures, the gods of ancient Greece, monsters of folk lore, legendary sailors of classic and medieval eras, and more are what Harryhausen's body of work are all about. Classic tales brought to life through his artistry and, let's face it, wizardry.
If you've seen Harryhausen's films, then see this film.
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