Don’t Miss the Ray Harryhausen Movie Marathon on Comet TV Sunday, May 7th
“The gods of Greece are cruel! In time, all men shall learn to live without them.”
Sunday, May 7 marks the 4th anniversary of the legendary visual effects guru Ray Harryhausen’s death. Read what We Are Movie Geeks thinks are Harryhausen’s top ten films HERE
To celebrate this master of illusion, Comet TV (www.COMETtv.com) is running a Ray Harryhausen Marathon of movies on Sunday, May 7 beginning at 11:30am EST/8:30am PST. The complete marathon will run as follows:
11:30am EST / 10:30am CT / 8:30am PST – The 7th Voyage of Sinbad
In many ways the ultimate combination of stop motion animation, adventure, and overall production quality, 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD is still one of Harryhausen’s most popular works. It was also a turning point for Harryhausen, establishing the framework for not only his other Sinbad films, but all animated adventure films in general—the brave hero and his (mostly expendable) crew battling scary and exotic creatures in a series of awe-inspiring set pieces, with a beautiful love interest and a villainous sorcerer to help propel the plot. (This formula worked so well, in fact, that VOYAGE director Nathan Juran made essentially the same film a few years later with much of the same cast in JACK THE GIANT KILLER, though the animation was supplied by Jim Danforth and not Harryhausen.) Also with VOYAGE, Harryhausen got the involvement of a major studio—Columbia Pictures—but he would have to film in color for the first time. Harryhausen had shied away from color because of the difficulties in matching effects shots with live action; however, his fears were groundless as he gave us a giant Cyclops, a giant roc, and another of his trademark battles between creatures (this time a dragon and a Cyclops), plus one of the greatest animation scenes ever filmed, Sinbad’s swordfight with a skeleton. Though he added more skeletons to a similar sequence in JASON & THE ARGONAUTS some years later, for sheer intensity and bravado, the original fight in VOYAGE cannot be topped. Though only four minutes long, the sequence took three months to choreograph and film, with Bernard Herrmann’s wonderful score eerily evoking Sinbad’s skeletal adversary with xylophone and timpani. Finally, in order to differentiate his films from cartoon animation, Harryhausen and Schneer came up with a marketing term that would soon become synonymous with exciting adventure movies, “Dynamation.” Though that phrase was used for the first time in this movie’s ads, another term is more overused today that would truly describe 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD—a true classic.
1:30pm EST / 12:30pm CT / 10:30am PST – The Golden Voyage of Sinbad
After almost decade of animating dinosaurs for films such as ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. and THE VALLEY OF GWANGI, Ray Harryhausen returned to the realm of myth and legend for this 1973 follow-up to his 1958 fantasy classic. Ray had a top-notch cast re-acting to his movie magic. John Phillip Law (the blind winged alien/angel in BARBARELLA and the lead in DANGER: DIABOLIK) sporting a goatee and an ever-present turban brought an exotic Middle-Eastern air to the famous sailor (as opposed to the all-American Kerwin Matthews previously). Also very exotic, and sultry, was Hammer scream queen and future Bond girl (THE SPY WHO LOVED ME) Caroline Munro as Margiana, whose harem outfits must have strained that G-rating. But what’s a hero without a great villain? Former Rasputin (NICHOLAS AND ALEXANDRA) and future TV hero “Dr. Who” Tom Baker was the evil sorcerer Koura whose spells provided Harryhausen with some of his most memorable creations. There’s the homunculus, a foot-long winged gargoyle-like spy for the wizard. The towering wooden masthead of Sinbad’s ship is brought to life in order to steal a map (her lumbering steps are reminiscent of the titanic Talos in JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS). To impress the green-skinned island natives, he brings a statue of the six-armed Kali to life who performs a spirited dance. Later sharp swords spring from all six hands and she engages Sinbad and his men in a deadly duel to the death (interesting that the two statues brought to life are female!). For the big finale’ Harryhausen gave us a twist on his great giant cyclops from the 58′ film with a massive cyclops/centaur. Instead of battling with a dragon, this monster took on a huge gryphon (a lion/hawk) in a true clash of the titans! The film was a modest hit inspiring a theatrical re-issue of THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD and was adapted into a Marvel Comics mini-series. But in those pre-STAR WARS days there was little merchandising. Can you imagine the action figures and model kits that kids would snap up on the way home from the theatre? Perhaps the film’s success laid the groundwork for the fantasy epics that would fill the multiplexes in just a few years. But this gem had them all beat! This flick was presented in the wondrous miracle of “Dynarama”!
This live action adaptation of Jonathan Swift’s 18th century novel — featuring special effects by Ray Harryhausen — is an enjoyably innocuous children’s fantasy with just enough subtle satirical humor to appeal to adults. With that said, Harryhausen fans expecting to see ample use of stop-motion animation will be disappointed, given that there are only two short sequences involving his famed technique; instead, the primary visual appeal of the film lies in the remarkably effective scaled cinematography, which allows Gulliver to appear either over-sized or minuscule in comparison with his island neighbors. While the intricacies of Swift’s highly specific satire of British government are inevitably lost (particularly since the last two sections of the novel are left out altogether), screenwriters Arthur Ross and Jack Sher manage to poke more generic fun at both the petty nature of wars (the kings of Lilliput and Blefescu are locked in mortal combat over the correct way to crack eggs!) and the frighteningly absurd motivations behind witch hunts (which were often simply a convenient way to get rid of enemies). Bernard Herrmann wrote the score, which isn’t quite as distinctive as one might expect — but evidence of his musical genius comes through in certain sections, and adds an appropriately jaunty backdrop to Gulliver’s escapades.
6:00pm EST / 5:00pm CT / 3pm PST – Jason and the Argonauts
When Tom Hanks awarded Ray Harryhausen a special Oscar in 1992, he remarked, “Some people say CASABLANCA or CITIZEN KANE. I say JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS is the greatest film ever made.” JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS is usually cited as the high-water mark of Ray Harryhausen’s career and there is so much to justify that call. The climactic skeleton battle is the most celebrated sequence, but for sheer awe, there’s nothing like the encounter with the 200-foot-tall bronze colossus Talos. After landing on the island of Bronze, the goddess Hera, in masthead form, instructs Jason (played by St. Louis native Todd Armstrong) to have his men collect food and water and nothing else. Naturally, when Hercules and Hylas take one souvenir from a giant trove of gold treasures, they wake the colossal bronze statue who’s been perched on his pedestal for thousands of years guarding it. From the dramatic moment it slowly turns to look down at Hercules to Jason’s discovery of its literal Achilles’ heel, the battle with the titan Talos is one of Harryhausen’s finest moments. His facial expression barely changes but his cold blank stare is chilling and he walks with a rusty, arthritic gait that highlights Harryhausen’s amazing ability to instill in all his animated creations a sense of personality that is lacking in much of today’s computer-generated sludge. Clearly inspired by the legendary ‘Colossus of Rhodes’, Talos truly feels like one of the Seven Wonders of the World come to life. Of all of Ray Harryhausen’s movies, JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS is closest to his personal interests. He found mythological fantasies more exciting than science fiction monsters, and wanted very much to tell the story of the Golden Fleece in classic terms. Unfortunately Columbia’s publicity machine couldn’t distinguish Jason in the movie marketplace from the plethora of Italian Hercules-inspired fantasy product in 1963, and the film failed initially to find an audience. One of those rare films with real appeal for viewers of all ages,JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS is a thrilling adventure ride that rarely slackens its pace. It rewards repeat viewing and those fearsome skeletons will thrill you again and again.
The Ray Harryhausen Marathon will air on COMET TV (click here for stations), as well as on the new COMET TV App on Roku and Apple TV and online at www.COMETtv.com. Comet TV is a partnership between Sinclair and MGM, is the first-ever 24/7 science fiction digital broadcast network and features more than 1,500 hours of premium MGM content. Currently the network is carried in over 100 markets, reaching over 80 million homes.