This ridiculous heat wave encompassing the area kept Steve Johnson inside surrounded by ice cold beer and a truckload of Arrow Films releases. This time around he takes a look at “Ray Harryhausen Special Effects Titan.” Featuring interviews with the man himself and those he influenced, this career spanning documentary is not one to miss.
Here’s a quick synopsis before we engross ourselves in the life of a legend.
The remarkable career of the movie industry’s most admired and influential special-effects auteur, the legendary Ray Harryhausen, is the subject of “Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan.” Leaving no doubt as to Harryhausen’s seminal influence on modern-day special effects, the documentary features enlightening and entertaining interviews with the man himself, Randy Cook, Peter Jackson, Nick Park, Phil Tippet, Terry Gilliam, Dennis Muren, John Landis, Guillermo Del Toro, James Cameron, Steven Spielberg and many more. These filmmakers pay tribute to the father of Stop Motion animation and films such as “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms,” “It Came From Beneath The Sea,” “The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad,” “Mysterious Island,” “Jason And The Argonauts” and “The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad” – the films that enthralled them as children and inspired them to become filmmakers. These are the wonders of a world without words, viewed through man and nature’s own prisms of symmetry, savagery, chaos and harmony.
REVIEW: By a show of hands, who hasn’t heard of Ray Harryhausen? If you raised your hand and love science fiction or horror films, do yourself a favor and learn about the man. I was going to say slap yourself in the face, but I’m trying to turn over a new leaf. Anyway … Harryhausen is one of the most influential people to work in the motion picture business. The place to start with your education should be this documentary, “Ray Harryhausen Special Effects Titan.” After finishing, watch all of his films. Hell, do it vice versa, I don’t care. Just do it. You will not be disappointed. By the end of your marathon viewing of the documentary and his films, you will recognize his influence on some of today’s greatest directors and special effects artists.
“Ray Harryhausen Special Effect Titan” covers the entire span of Harryhausen’s career and features a bevy of behind the scenes footage and in depth interviews with the man himself. Harryhausen pulls back the curtain on the majority of his films and explains how he achieved the wonders he put to screen. Viewers are also treated to personal stories of his influence from a variety of high profile directors and special effects wizards including Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, John Landis and Rick Baker. Those are a few of the huge names who profess their love to Harryhausen throughout the documentary. I have always been aware of Harryhausen’s role in shaping cinema, but I didn’t realize how much he influenced some of my favorites in the business until I saw side-by-side comparisons. The directors and special effects artists featured in the film borrowed heavily from Harryhausen. We cinephiles owe a lot to Harryhausen. God knows what cinema would look like without his influence.
Arrow continues delivering the goods with the special features on this disc. First up, the viewer is treated to an audio commentary featuring the makers of the film. I enjoyed it quite a bit and would suggest checking it out. Following up the audio commentary is a feature entitled “Treasure Trove,” where original Harryhausen models were unboxed and filmed. What I would give to have one of the originals up on the bookshelf! Next up are interviews and outtakes with the directors and special effects artists featured in the film. Hearing these giants of cinema turned into fanboys was cool to witness. Harryhausen meant the world to these artists and it shows. The most heartfelt moment on the disc is a feature entitled “A Message to Ray.” In it, Ray Bradbury, Ken Ralston, Randall William Cook, Guillermo del Toro, James Cameron and Vanessa Harryhausen each send their love and admiration to Harryhausen. While it is short, this is the best feature on the disc and may be one of the best features I have ever seen. A couple of Q&A’s are also included featuring the makers of the film and Harryhausen himself. Rounding out the special features are deleted scenes, the original trailer and a Ray Harryhausen trailer reel.
If you are a fan of sci-fi or horror you need to pick this up. Do not hesitate. Go now. Ray Harryhausen’s influence on today’s greatest filmmakers and special effects artists cannot be denied. I consider Harryhausen nothing short of a genius and he deserves all of the praise given to him in this documentary. From the bottom of my heart, thank you Ray. I am glad you had an opportunity to shine.
About The Writer
Steve Johnson, affectionately known as “The Harmony Bad Boy,” is one of the original staff writers for Icon Vs. Icon. When he’s not doing manly things, grilling encased meats, or downing copious amounts of craft beer, Steve spends his time exploring the world of horror. His obsession with the genre began by seeing ‘The Evil Dead’ and ‘An American Werewolf in London’ at an inappropriate age. Thanks mom and dad; you created this monster.