Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan Definitive for Fans of SFX

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Ray Harryhausen SFX Titan Blu-ray

“Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan” from Arrow Films is a documentary directed by Gilles Penso on the storied career of undoubtedly the greatest special effects icon the world of motion pictures has ever known, and perhaps ever will know.

The video is chock full of memories and interviews with not only Ray (all the way up to his 90th birthday!) but a veritable “Who’s Who” of great modern movie magic creators, all of whom have the same central theme running through their interview: Ray was not only instrumental in fostering their love of special effects; he was for many their initial spark, and to this day they consider what he did to be in many ways better than anything being done today.

There are many today who have might not have seen a Harryhausen movie and who, if they did today, might turn a blind eye to it because it is not CGI smooth with over the top bombastically detailed realism. And that would be a shame too because none of those CGI movies ever looks tangible. No matter how much they try to make it look three-dimensional, they never really are and as such are just movie effects. But a Ray Harryhausen special effect is tangible, and in many ways more enjoyable and more nightmare producing. I can’t think of any modern day monster more terrifying--and by terrifying I mean capable of inducing nightmares--than the Children of the Hydra’s Teeth from “Jason and the Argonauts.” Not the “Alien”, not the “Predator”, not “T-Rex”, Orc, dragon or any incarnation of Vampire or Lycan, or anything else you can name.

And that is what is so special about the interviewees we see in this video, with the likes of Peter Jackson, James Cameron, Steven Spielberg, Randy Cook, Terry Gilliam, Guillermo Del Toro, Phil Tippet, Nick Park, Dennis Muren, John Landis and others. I mean, take a look at that list of names, and if you don’t know the movies they made take some time and do a Google search. To hear these titans essentially bowing to Ray as the master is just, well, wonderful.



In today’s world of special effects, there could be 90 to 100 people or more working on a CGI special effect. Ray did it all himself, with the help of just someone to click the camera lens. It literally took weeks for Ray to shoot some scenes that might only last a couple of minutes. For those not familiar with stop-motion photography, that is where a model is moved ever so slightly, then a frame is shot, the model moved again and another frame shot. Then consider that it takes 32 frames to shoot a second of film!

I also liked how the director mixes in interviews with Ray, views of his workshop (which was a room in his house where he made his creations), and his models. Seeing these outside of the movie for the first time gave me the sense that they weren’t real!

There is also mention of the Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation, which was established to preserve many of Ray’s creations for the world to have forever. Just think, if someone had done this for Willis O’Brien we might have the original King Kong today. Peter Jackson himself is involved and is having many of his models digitized. This sort of involvement from the modern masters is an homage in the truest sense of the word, and Ray Harryhausen deserves it more than any other. All of his movies are on my list of my favorite movies of all time--not because of the storylines or the actors, but because of the special effects. “Mighty Joe Young,”, “20 Million Miles to Earth”, “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms.” And is there any more definitive one-eyed monster than the Cyclops? We get to see snippets of each of them here. Just typing them makes me want to watch them again!

That is why I say this DVD is definitive for the fan. It shows who Ray was, what he did, who he inspired, the respect he garners from today’s best, and the lasting memories we will all have preserved for every generation.

I could go on for pages and pages talking about Ray Harryhausen, such was the profound effect he had on my love for sci-fi. But I will end instead simply agreeing with what James Cameron says in the video. Why didn’t he make more? Where are the first six voyages of Sinbad?!

If you love sci-fi and Ray Harryhausen, this is a must. The special features on this DVD are also chock full of nuggets to and are:

  • Play Feature With Audio Commentary

  • A Treasure Trove: Boxes being opened at the Foundation and the goodies within be rediscovered.

  • Interviews

  • Interview Outtakes

  • Message To Ray
  • Deleted Scenes

  • Paris Cinematheque Q+A-Panel discussion

  • London Gate Cinema Q+A: 11/9/12 with Ray

  • Original Trailer

  • Ray Harryhausen Trailer Reel

5.0 / 5.0