This Day in Death

5.7.13: Special Effects Wizard Ray Harryhausen – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 9:38 am May 13, 2013

imageHarryhausen also pulled in supplemental income by designing football mascots in his spare time. The kids at Poughkeepsie Junior High weren’t crazy about being known as the Godless Abominations at first, but that sweet 6-9 record speaks for itself.


So apparently Ray Harryhausen, who spent decades creating amazingly convincing low-tech special effects for films, died in London on Tuesday. I say “apparently” because it’s possible he just faked his death using clay mockups and forced perspective. That would be funnier if you already knew who he was, stop making me do your legwork.

Harryhausen’s trademark “Dynamation” brought bizarre monsters and fantastical worlds to life using practical effects long before the advent of CGI. As a testament to his skills, in the mid-80s Harryhausen created a fiberglass model so lifelike that movie studios proceeded to give it starring roles in over 40 Hollywood films under the name Mickey Rourke. It’s a modern Pinocchio story!

To make “The Three Worlds of Gulliver” (1959), which required combining footage of giant and tiny live actors in the same shot, Mr. Harryhausen went to Britain to take advantage of the “traveling matte” system developed by the Rank Organization, and he then decided to live and work there permanently.

Along with the mythical adventures, more gigantic prehistoric animals were to come in “Mysterious Island,” “One Million Years B.C.” and “The Valley of Gwangi,” a dinosaurs-in-the-Old-West fantasy that Willis O’Brien had started to develop in the 1940s and that Mr. Harryhausen brought to fruition in 1969, seven years after Mr. O’Brien’s death. He also turned to outer space with “First Men in the Moon” in 1964.

Those names are great. I miss the days when movie titles would explicitly telling you what you were getting. When you watched The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms you could rest assured you weren’t gonna have to sit through some metaphorical bullshit about how geopolitical tension is the real beast. You were gonna see some pissed off water monster beasting shit up like a champ. Nowadays that kind of forwardness is pretty much only seen in porno. Butthole Divas 7 tells me way more about what I’m getting than The Iron Lady‘s title does. It tells me there are six other movies I need to watch first, for instance.


Source: The New York Times

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