Ray Harryhausen Tribute

"I had to learn to do everything because I couldn't find another kindred soul. Now you see eighty people listed doing the same things I was doing by myself."
Ray Harryhausen

Back in the 1980s, I invented a thing called computer generated imagery (CGI) for the movies. I had lots of money and computers to do it and it's used quite a bit now in cinema. However, I always felt inadequate, because in the room across the corridor sat a genius. As I tapped on my keyboard and rang studio bosses demanding more money, this quiet man, armed with little more than a putty knife and his imagination, and funded by loose change he found down the back of the sofa, was creating movie history. That man was special effects legend Ray Harryhausen and he died yesterday at the age of 92. Well, he may have drawn his last breath, but he breathed life into some of the greatest creatures ever seen in the movies. Let's take a look.

Talos in Jason & the Argonauts (1963)
It is a fact that not a single gram of CGI has ever made me shit my pants as much as when the bronze statue of Talos sloooooowly creaked into life and turned his black eyes upon the thieves stealing the treasure of the Gods. Run away!

Medusa in Clash of the Titans (1981)
Let's face it. Clash of the Titans is pretty shit. Not as shit as the 2010 remake. But still pretty bad. But the monsters aren't. The Kraken, the scorpions, the clockwork owl - all fabulous. And of course the fearsome Medusa, who I always thought looked like Davros, the creator of the Daleks, in drag. 

Giant Octopus in It Came From Beneath the Sea (1955)
Due to budgetary constraints, the giant octopus was tentacly challenged, sporting only 6 of them. But somehow Harryhausen managed to make this a benefit rather than a drawback. Harryhausen's imagination fuelled our own - who knew what manner of fearsome monster had managed to remove the missing tentacles? And yet the Giant Octopus had prevailed. Wow. A lovely tribute was paid in Monsters Inc. (2001), when Mike takes his girlfriend to the restaurant Harryhausen's - watch out for the octopus barman (er..bar-octopus?), who has only 6 tentacles as a homage.

The Skeletons in Jason & the Argonauts (1963)
Four and a half months of work went into creating this iconic moment of stop-motion history. Astonishingly detailed and brilliantly choreographed, this inspired a generation of filmmakers, just as King Kong (1933) had inspired Harryhausen in his youth. Of course, Jason should have just told the skeletons 'Argo fuck yourselves'. Little topical mythology humour there folks.

Kali in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973)
The multi-armed Kali isn't just a nifty fighter. Prior to tackling Sinbad with her six swords, she does a foxy little dance and she's quite the mover. Like Cheryl Cole, only blue and with 6 arms. And sexier. And prettier. And more animated. 

Cyclops v Taro stompy monster smackdown in The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)
Pursued by the Cyclops, Sinbad creates a diversion by releasing the conveniently located dragon Taro from his shackles. Unexpectedly faced by this new scaly foe, Cyclops opts for the classic headlock-with-one-arm-and-punch-with-the-other tactic. Which might work well down the boozer, but Taro having none of it. Also watch out for Cyclops' 'Oh Shit!' face when he sees the dragon.

Wonderful - just a brief recap of some of those creatures I first encountered watching TV matinees on Saturday afternoons. And that's without even mentioning the countless other dinosaurs and space monsters Harryhausen created. Or the moon cow in First Men in the Moon (1964). That's right, a moon cow. For extra reading you can check out the official Harryhausen website, this account of making Jason & the Argonauts or this comprehensive rundown of Harryhausen creatures in the movies. Or you can read one of the thousands of similar articles which have sprung up across the internet in the past day like an army of skeletons as film fans pay tribute to a man who made us believe in the fantastic. Actually, you know what we really need here? A montage of monsters! Oh! Here's one that'll do nicely.

“What we do now digitally with computers, Ray did digitally long before but without computers. Only with his digits.” 
Terry Gilliam. 

RIP Ray.

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