Friday, May 10, 2013

End-of-Week Harryhausen! (5/10/13)

Today my end-of-week post is dedicated to the late Ray Harryhausen, at the suggestion of R.J. at Gamers & Grognards. So, in honor of Ray on this impromptu Appreciation Day for him, here goes:
Probably not long before I got into D&D, I saw those cool movies that were staples of Saturday afternoon TV. You know the ones I'm talking about. They starred such mythic figures as Sinbad, Jason and the Argonauts, Perseus, and others. They featured fantastic voyages, heroes roguish or virtuous, vile villains, sword fights, hammy acting, and...the monsters! Oh, the monsters!
When you're a kid, you don't care about the names of the people that appear on the screen at the beginning of films. You want the adventure to start, and the monsters to come forth! So I didn't know who Ray Harryhausen was as a kid on those long-ago, dream-like Saturday afternoons, that magical time when there's nothing to do but let loose your imagination, and once the movie is over you're going to run out of your house and play until dinnertime.
I didn't know who Ray was, but I worshipped his work. I also didn't know that I would someday be sitting around a table pretending to fight the skeletons, dragons, animated statues, and the other creatures he brought to life. But when the time did come for me to face down those terrors, just like the heroes on TV, I knew that I'd come home, so to speak. I'd found my hobby!
You know, these days everybody's trying to use CGI to make film monsters look more and more real. BUT, to me, the "fake-ness" (for lack of a better term) and "jerky-ness" of the stop-motion creatures Ray created only added to their fantastical nature. I'm not sure if that's just the imagination of the kid I was when I saw his stuff for the first time, filling in the "warts" that come with stop-motion.
But the very "limitations" of the special effects actually created a wonderful strangeness and, at least for me, helped with suspension of disbelief. These were mythological creatures, and they looked/moved like it. The nature of the medium lent an air of the magical to the monsters.

Well, Ray, I just want to say thanks for being one of the inspirations behind my love for the fantastic! Rest in peace, rest well, and thanks again for the magic.
P.S. Does anyone else find it strange that his last big film was Clash of the Titans in '81?!

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