The film industry and movie fans lost a legend this past week with the passing of Ray Harryhausen. This early special-effects master and perfector of the stop-motion animation technique died at age 92 but his undeniable mark lives on through the incredible motion picture creations he has left us with. To honor him I thought it would be good to focus this week’s Phenomenal 5 on some of his greatest creations. I grew up watching Ray Harryhausen’s creatures and they played a big part in nurturing my love for cinema. And after seeing and appreciating so much of his body of work, it would be nuts to call this the definitive list. But I can confidently say that these 5 Ray Harryhausen creations are absolutely phenomenal.
#5 – MEDUSA (“Clash of the Titans”)
“Clash of the Titans” from 1981 was Ray Harryhausen’s final full-length film and a true fantasy classic. In it Harryhausen delivered some incredible effects sequences and some of his most memorable creatures. My personal favorite from the film is the slithering Medusa residing on a remote island at the edge of the Underworld. Perseus (Harry Hamlin) and company make their way to the island to capture the head of the half woman/half serpent. Her headful of slithering snakes and her mangled face represented some of Harryhausen’s best work. With Medusa he was able to add more expression than in most of his past monsters but he still delivered a creation that creeped me out as a kid.
#4 – TALOS – (“Jason and the Argonauts”)
It’s hard to pinpoint one film featuring the work of Ray Harryhausen that I would call my favorite but it just might be “Jason and the Argonauts” from 1963. The mythological fantasy film about Jason (Todd Armstrong) and his quest to obtain the Golden Fleece may contain Harryhausen greatest collection of creations ever confined to a single picture. One my favorites is Talos, a giant bronze titan which comes to life after some forbidden treasure is stolen. Talos is amazing and its huge scale was a first for Harryhausen. To this day I still get giddy with excitement when I see Talos stand above the mountains and sink the Argo. Pure stop-motion greatness!
#3 – THE YMIR (“20 Million Miles to Earth”)
One of Harryhausen’s greatest creatures can be found in the 1957 science fiction film “20 Million Miles to Earth. The late 50’s were a great time for sci-fi and I think this film deserves to be mentioned with the best of them mainly because of Harryhausen’s fabulous special effects work. A mysterious unhatched egg originating on Venus is found by a young Sicilian boy in the wreckage of a downed spacecraft. The egg eventually hatches and rapidly grows into a creature that terrorizes Rome. Harryhausen’s stop-motion work is stunning as he takes the creature through several different stages of size. He fights a huge elephant, climbs atop the Coliseum, and causes all sorts of mayhem. And it all works thanks to Harryhausen’s brilliance.
#2 – KALI – (“The Golden Voyage of Sinbad”)
Some of my earliest movie memories center around watching Ray Harryhausen’s creatures in the Sinbad movies as a young boy. I still adore these films which are filled with a delightful assortment of creaturely concoctions. One of the most memorable Sinbad creations for me was Kali in “The Golden Voyage of Sinbad” from 1974. The wicked magician Koura brings to life the six-armed Kali idol to stop Sinbad and his crew. Kali arms itself with six swords and a cool battle begins. Harryhausen’s stop-motion technique blends in perfectly with the live actors and real world setting and I still remember being blown away when I first saw it. Classic Harryhausen.
#1 – THE SKELETON WARRIORS (“Jason and the Argonauts”)
Harryhausen has designed some amazing creations through the years and his skills at stop-motion were sometimes mind-boggling. But even with so many incredible monsters, statues, and alien creatures there is still a clear favorite for me. The battle with the skeleton warriors in “Jason and the Argonauts” is a scene that I will never grow tired of and what Harryhausen was able to accomplish is amazing. Raised from the buried teeth of the Hydra, the skeleton warriors give Jason and his two men quite a battle. The three live actors seamlessly battle Harryhausen’s stop-motion skeletons in a sequence that took him months to finish. And after all these years it still blows me away.
So there are 5 phenomenal Ray Harryhausen creations. Obviously there are so many others that could have made the list: the giant squid from “It Came from Beneath the Sea”, the beast from “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms”, the giant primate from “Mighty Joe Young”, the cyclops from “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad”, The Kraken and Bubo the owl from “Clash of the Titans”. I could go on and on about the amazing work of this special effects genius. How about you? What are some of your favorite Ray Harryhausen creations?
You gotta love his old school special effects. Great at the time, perfectly campy today. If only more stuff was made like that these days..Great list, Keith!
I agree. I LOVE Harryhausen’s work and the craft involved in these creations is just stunning. They were such huge films during my childhood.
I remember watching those films as a kid. Perfect list filled with perfect creations. 🙂
Awesome! I love hearing the appreciation for the work of RH. He was a true genius!
There is a Buzzfeed post to a whole bunch of GIF links, you might enjoy it. Harryhausen made the movies I loved most as a kid. There was a nice documentary about his career from a couple of years ago that everyone who loved his work should seek out. I love the skeleton army from Jason and the Argonauts as well.
I will look for those. Thanks for the heads up. There are also some really good books on his life and work that are amazing.
Nice one Keith, great post. Gotta agree with the skeletons, that’s what instantly pops into my mind when I think of Harryhausen.
Thanks man. The skeleton warriors scene is such a classic. An amazing achievement!
Nice post. I completely agree with the picks although haven’t seen 20 million miles to earth. I remember being really scared by the Medusa when I was a kid!
It was tough to narrow it down to five. I mean the guy was such a genius and his creativity was amazing.
Great picks and great tribute. I always remember that skeleton scene in Jason and the Argonauts.
Thanks man! I’m with ya on the skeleton scene.
We’re both fans. Nice post! RIP Mr. Harryhausen.
Thanks Cindy. I’ll always have a love for Harryhausen’s work.
If you find the time, I’d love your thoughts regarding my latest post about rating directors. 🙂
You got it Cindy!
Great list Keith! RIP Mr Harryhausen. I think his creation in Clash of the Titans is still more entertaining than the remake version with all that CGI. I’m curious to see Jason and the Argonauts now.
Btw, I reddited: http://www.reddit.com/r/moviecritic/comments/1e8v2t/5_phenomenal_ray_harryhausen_creations/ 😀
Thanks for the comments and big thanks for the Reddit! I appreciate you!
I’m with you on Clash of the Titans. While I’m one of only two people who really liked it, it doesn’t hold a candle to the original. I love the original Clash, Harry Hamlin’s hair and all! 😉
Awesome picks here although you really couldn’t go wrong with any of his creations. Great stuff!
Thanks man and I agree 100%. His work is phenomenal and it will always have a special place in my movie watching.
Just seeing the pictures brings me back…me with my PJ’s on and a bowl of popcorn ready to be entertained! Great stuff Keith!
Thanks man! These movies will always be special to me! Harryhausen was such a treasure!
I grew up with Harryhausen films as well. Great time to be a young kid, the giddy excitement when I knew one of his films was coming on the TV for the fiftieth time! I think sometimes, the build up is almost as good as seeing the monster or monsters go wild.
The skeleton scene in particular, when the teeth are being scattered onto the ground, followed by each skeleton emerging from the earth one by one. I think Bernard Herrmann’s “Hydra’s Teeth” soundtrack really makes this scene as well.
Great mention about the score. You’re exactly right, it really adds to the scene. Glad to hear that you know the feeling I’m talking about. I was just like you when my mom would read from the TV Guide that Sinbad was on on Saturday afternoon. I was there!
Awesome post! I had loved all of his films from when I was very young and to this day. I hold him and his work in such high regard. I own so many of his films. Good job, bro! A very cool post. I’ll be sure to spread it around. Thanks! 🙂
Thanks my friend! I love seeing such enthusiasm over Harryhousen’s work. I can honestly say that it will always stick with me.
Great idea and nice tribute Keith.
Thanks man! Appreciate it.
Great tribute, Keith. I haven’t seen most of these since childhood, but the images conjured up by Harryhausen still stick in my memory even when the plots don’t.
Thanks a lot! I appreciate it. This was an easy tribute for me to do. There are so many great creations from Harryhausen that I simply love.
The man had talent and those Skeletons where great 😀
I’m with ya!
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I love his Medusa. The stop motion work I think added much to her menace because of the way it affected how she looked when she moved.
That would be my #1. Great list.
Medusa was tremendous. She was such a brilliant creature.
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