Today with but a few keystrokes on a computer you can conjurer up anything that the mind could possibly imagine yet many of these modern creations pale in comparison to the practical special effects orchestrated decades earlier by a talented group of effects artists who pioneered the field of special effects, and the king of all of these is the man the legend Ray Harryhausen, a man who not only took the technique of stop-motion animation to new heights but gave life and character to these once inanimate creatures with a deft and brilliant hand that many artists today still struggle to achieve.
It’s not hyperbole to say that Ray Harryhausen is one of the most influential filmmakers in the history of cinema because even though he never sat in the director’s chair his work cast a very long shadow that such luminaries as Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Peter Jackson, George Lucas and John Landis have attributed his work as a key ingredient to their love of film, and Lucas himself has stated that “Without Ray Harryhausen, there would likely have been no Star Wars,” basically, Ray Harryhausen’s impact on the film industry was as colossal as the many titanic creatures he brought to life and below you will find my collection of reviews that chronicle the legacy of this special effects maestro, simply click on the poster or links below to journey into the fantastical worlds of this legendary filmmaker.
This giant ape movie tells a lighter story than the one found in 1933’s King Kong and it was in this film that Ray Harryhausen joined his mentor Willis O’Brien in bringing the fantastic to life.
This tale of a prehistoric reptile awakened by atomic testing directly inspired Toho’s Gojira but this film had Harryhausen’s brilliant stop-motion-animation and not a guy in a rubber suit to portray the rampaging monster.
Once again atomic testing unleashes a giant creature upon the populace – will we ever learn – but in this case, it’s a six-legged octopus driven to find new feeding grounds after we polluted his.
Capitalizing on the UFO craze of the 50s this science fiction classic pits Hugh Marlowe and Joan Taylor against invading saucer men who seem hellbent on ruining national monuments.
In this outing, Earth isn’t so much invaded from outer space as it is mankind’s stupidity that brings back from Venus a creature that wants nothing more than to be left alone.
In this first of three Sinbad films Ray Harryhausen and company plum the fertile ground of the Arabian tales of One Thousand and One Nights and bring to the cinema an amazing tale of wizards and monsters.
In this outing, the satiric writings of Jonathon Swift are given the Hollywood treatment, along with Harryhausen’s skill, to bring these three different lands to life in all their wonder.
This sequel to Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea finds a group of lost Civil War soldiers pitted against abnormally large animals and a mysterious benefactor.
In arguably the best film produced by Ray Harryhausen and Charles H. Schneer this tale of mythic Greek heroes still remains as one of the top examples of the fantasy genre being done right.
The works of legendary science fiction author H.G. Wells get a turn under the skilled hand of Harryhausen with this whimsical journey from the Earth to the Moon in a film that the people over at NASA do not want you to see.
Raquel Welch in a fur bikini is threatened by every manner of prehistoric beasts, ones that were long extinct before man walked the Earth, and we also get a giant tarantula for some reason.
In this film, from a story born from the mind of Harryhausen’s mentor Willis O’Brien, we get a group of cowboys trying to capture dinosaurs for a Wild West Show that leads to your typical result, and by that, I mean dino-carnage.
In this second of Harryhausen’s Sinbad films, we get John Philip Law’s Sinbad up against Tom Baker’s evil sorcerer in this fun and light-hearted Arabian adventure. All hail Kali!
The Sinbad trilogy is concluded with Patrick Wayne as the titular sailor but while this adventure is as equally light-hearted as the previous entries it’s more tedious than fun and Wayne makes for a piss-poor Sinbad.
For Ray Harryhausen’s last film he returned to Greek mythology simply so that we could get Sir Laurence Olivier demanding that they “Release the Kraken!” in this goofy, old-school sword-and-sandal epic.
The impact Ray Harryhausen had on the film industry can not be overstated as not only did he revolutionize and fine-tune the stop-motion animation process, becoming an actor in his own right through the characters he brought to life, but he was also the main creative force behind these pictures and his contributions often began right at the inception of story and lasted right up until the final product left the editing room, and that’s why people can easily say “That’s a Ray Harryhausen film” while with a gun to my head I doubt I could name a single director of any of these films, basically, Harryhausen was a true auteur and he sits alongside the likes of D.W. Griffith and Alfred Hitchcock when it comes to his legacy of amazing and fantastical films.
Ray Harryhausen: The Titan of Special Effects
Filmmaker's Rank - 10/10
Ray Harryhausen’s output may seem small when compared to many other filmmakers out there, but his films will live long after many of those have faded into obscurity and his work will most likely inspire many more people to challenge what can and cannot be done in the movies.