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American Cinematheque to Honor Ray Harryhausen

The American Cinematheque presents a tribute to legendary visual effects artist Ray Harryhausen at the Aero Theatre.

Ray Harryhausen spent his career turning ancient myth and modern technology into a succession of wondrous creatures, including living skeletons in The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, harpies in Jason & the Argonauts and dinosaurs in One Million Years B.C.

Born in Los Angeles in 1920, Harryhausen got his first taste of movie magic when he saw King Kong as a boy, and it was that film's animator, Willis O'Brien, who gave Ray his first feature work, on Mighty Joe Young in 1949. Over the next four decades, Harryhausen's dazzling sequences were highlights of such films as The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, The Valley Of Gwangi and Clash Of The Titans.

When the legendary visual effects artist died in May, legions of moviemakers - particularly those working in the sci-fi and fantasy genres - were quick to acknowledge their debt to the master. "I had seen some other fantasy films before, but none of them had the sort of awe that the Ray Harryhausen movies had."

George Lucas said. "Ray has been a great inspiration to us all in [the] special visual [effects] industry. The art of his earlier films, which most of us grew up on, inspired us so much. Without Ray Harryhausen, there would likely have been no Star Wars."

Famed for his astounding visual imagination, along with his painstaking attention to detail (he did the lighting, camerawork, sets and animation himself for almost all his stop-motion creations), Harryhausen's work went well beyond special effects. As he once noted "20 Million Miles To Earth, The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad, The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad are all based on outlines I made, plus my drawings. Our films were not director's films in the European sense of the word - I always worked with the writer, and the producer, and sometimes the director wouldn't come in until the picture was ready to go." 

This month, Ray Harryhausen's greatest creations return to the big screen in a tribute that also includes Mysterious Island, Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers, First Men In The Moon and an afternoon of his early short films including some WWII Animation Tests made for the Frank Capra unit and work based on the work of H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, classic fairytales and Greek mythology. Several of the films are celebrating significant anniversaries this year, including Jason And The Argonauts (50th anniversary), The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (60th anniversary) and The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad (40th anniversary). 

In the lobby there will be an exhibit of Ray Harryhausen's production art from!

Film Schedule: 

All Films are at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica

Double Feature: Thursday, June 6, 2013 - 7:30 PM 

The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad 1958, Sony Repertory, 88 min, USA, Dir: Nathan Juran Director Nathan Juran's marvelous fantasy follows the adventures of Sinbad (Kerwin Matthews) as he battles a phenomenal gallery of Ray Harryhausen-created monsters, including the giant cyclops, two-headed birds, dragons and sword-fighting skeletons, all to save beautiful princess Kathryn Grant. Featuring one of composer Bernard Herrmann's most memorable scores. 40th Anniversary! The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad 1973, Sony Repertory, 105 min, USA, Dir: Gordon Hessler A rousing sequel to the classic 7th Voyage Of Sinbad, Golden Voyage follows our resourceful hero as he tries to solve the riddle of a mysterious occult map. 

Triple Feature: Friday, June 7, 2013 - 7:30 PM Mysterious Island 1961, Sony Repertory, 101 min, UK, Dir: Cy Endfield

Based on Jules Verne's sequel to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Mysterious Island follows a group of Confederate prisoners during the Civil War who escape using an enemy balloon, only to find themselves blown off-course to a remote island, populated by monstrous creatures and the enigmatic Captain Nemo (Herbert Lom) himself! Directed by Cy Endfield (Zulu, Try and Get Me) in a rare fantasy outing, with a superb score by maestro Bernard Herrmann. With Ray Harryhausen, Michael Craig, Joan Greenwood, Michael Callan, Gary Merrill.

Archival Print! One Million Years B.C. 1966, 20th Century Fox, 100 min, UK, Dir: Don Chaffey

Prehistoric goddesses Raquel Welch and Martine Beswick compete for audience attention with some of Ray Harryhausen's most realistic stop-motion dinosaurs, in this surprisingly convincing fantasy adventure. With expert cinematography by longtime Harryhausen collaborator Wilkie Cooper (7th Voyage Of Sinbad, Jason And The Argonauts, First Men In The Moon).

The Valley Of Gwangi 1969, Warner Bros., 96 min, USA, Dir: James O'Connolly One of Ray Harryhausen's most rarely screened gems, Gwangi stars James Franciscus as a brash young cowboy who stumbles across a hidden valley teaming with prehistoric life. Trouble ensues when Franciscus captures one of the lost dinosaurs and tries to exhibit it in a traveling circus. Co-starring Richard Carlson, Gila Golan, Laurence Naismith.

Double Feature: Saturday, June 8, 2013 - 7:30 PM  50th Anniversary! Jason and The Argonauts 1963, Sony Repertory, 104 min, USA, Dir: Don Chaffey

Heroic Greek warrior Jason travels to the farthest ends of the Earth in search of the legendary Golden Fleece, in this glorious adventure featuring some of Ray Harryhausen's most memorable visual effects.

Clash Of The Titans 1981, Warner Bros., 118 min, USA, Dir: Desmond Davis The last feature with effects by the great Ray Harryhausen, CLASH OF THE TITANS follows the epic trials and tribulations of young Perseus (Harry Hamlin) as he battles giant scorpions, two-headed dogs, the ferocious Calibos and the giant Kraken, with a little help from the gods and a magical, winged horse named Pegasus. Co-starring Laurence Olivier, Maggie Smith, Ursula Andress, Burgess Meredith.

Double Feature: Sunday, June 9, 2013 - 5:00 PM Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers 1956, Sony Repertory, 83 min, USA, Dir: Fred F. Sears Classic 1950s drive-in stuff: Earth's scientists can't figure out why all the rockets they shoot into space are disappearing ... until a fleet of flying saucers appears over the White House! Husband-and-wife scientist team Hugh Marlowe and Joan Taylor form a vanguard of defense against the invaders. FX man Ray Harryhausen collaborated on the original story for the film with famed sci-fi writer Curt Siodmak (The Wolf Man).

First Men In The Moon 1964, Sony Repertory, 103 min, UK, Dir: Nathan Juran In director Nathan Juran's extremely entertaining adaptation of H.G. Wells' novel, turn-of-the-century British inventor Lionel Jeffries enlists Edward Judd and fiancée Martha Hyer in his scheme to reach the moon. Once the trio hits the lunar landscape, they're captured by a weird subterranean insect race, and we're treated to some of Ray Harryhausen's most enjoyable special effects. Double Feature: Monday, June 10 - 7:30 PM The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms  1953, Warner Bros., 80 min, USA, Dir: Eugene Lourie

A giant prehistoric creature called a rhedosaurus is awakened from his icy slumber by nuclear testing and travels to New York City, where he takes out his bad temper on the stunned population. Based on a short story by longtime Ray Harryhausen pal Ray Bradbury (they met years earlier as members of the Los Angeles Science Fiction Society, along with Forrest Ackerman!). Starring Paul Christian, Paula Raymond, Kenneth Tobey.

Mighty Joe Young  1949, Warner Bros., 94 min, USA, Dir: Ernest B. SchoedsackInspired as a boy by the pioneering stop-motion work of Willis O'Brien on King Kong, Ray Harryhausen got the chance to work with his hero years later - along with King Kong co-director Ernest B. Schoedsack - on this marvelous adventure/fantasy story about a beautiful young woman (Terry Moore) and her best friend, a giant, kindhearted gorilla named Joe. In the end, Harryhausen wound up handling the majority of the visual effects for the film, including spectacular scenes of Joe destroying a nightclub. Academy Award winner for Best Visual Effects.

Saturday, June 15, 2013 - 4:00 PMEarly Ray Harryhausen Shorts (80 min.) This screening is presented in collaboration with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

As he was building a name for himself in features, Ray Harryhausen made a number of 16mm shorts to show off his skills and the possibilities of stop-motion animation.

  • "How To Bridge A Gorge" (1941, 5 min.) A demonstration of the use of animation in wartime training films.
  • "WWII Animation Tests For Frank Capra Unit" (1944, 3 min.)
  • "Guadalcanal" (1943, 10 min.) A morale booster made while Harryhausen was working for the U.S. Army Signal Corp.
  • "Lucky Strikes Ad" (1945, 2 min.) A cigarette commercial made to promote animation in advertising.
  • "Lakewood Community Ads" (1946, 4 min.) Three TV commercials made for a real estate company.
  • "Mother Goose Stories" (1946, 10 min.) A collection of nursery rhymes featuring Little Miss Muffet, Old Mother Hubbard, The Queen of Hearts and Humpty Dumpty.
  • "The Story Of Little Red Riding Hood" (1950, 9 min.)
  • "The Story Of Hansel And Gretel" (1951, 10 min.)
  • "The Story Of Rapunzel" (1952, 11 min.)
  • "The Story Of King Midas" (1953, 10 min.)
  • "Evolution Show Reel" (1940, 2 min.) These battling dinosaurs served as a calling card for the young animator.
  • "War Of The Worlds Test" (1949, 2 min.) Martians emerge from their ship in this sequence for an unrealized film of the H.G. Wells classic.
  • "Baron Munchausen - Giant's Head Rear Projection Test" (1950, 1 min.) Footage for an unmade Munchausen film, decades before Terry Gilliam got to the character.
  • "The Elementals" (1952, 2 min.) Footage for an unmade film about bat-like creatures terrorizing Paris.

Source: American Cinematheque

Jennifer Wolfe's picture

Jennifer Wolfe is Director of News & Content at Animation World Network.