Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan (2011) Review

Ray HarryhausenThe influence of special effects magician Ray Harryhausen, who very sadly passed away this week aged 92,  is immeasurable however the list of directors interviewed for the definitive documentary Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan will give you a small idea of his impact on modern movie making.

Featuring interviews with Peter Jackson, James Cameron, John Landis, Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam, Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante, Guillermo del Toro, John Lasseter, Vincenzo Natali and Nick Park, Ray Harryhausen’s creatures from the 15 feature films he made during his career have not only shaped popular Hollywood special effects but also kid’s films, animation, fantasy, Sci-Fi and horror since he first started making monsters in the 1940’s.

Ray Harryhausen

Known for his brand of stop-motion model animation, also known as Dynamation, Harryhausen not only animated all the creatures himself on all the feature films and shorts he made but also came up with the design and look for them from scratch and even built them, playing a major role in the films he worked on from start to finish both behind the scenes and on set.

Ray Harryhausen

Director Gilles Penso’s in-depth doc is formed from interviews from the man himself as Harryhausen takes us through his career film by film from his first movie The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms in 1953 which inspired Godzilla right up to his final film Clash of the Titans in 1981 when he decided to retire from the business due to the leaps and bounds taking place in special effects.

Although now computer generated effects have taken over all the directors and special effects wizards interviewed discuss the giant influence of Harryhausen’s movies and monsters on them and the homage’s they have paid to his work in their many features from Jackson’s King Kong to Spielberg’s Jurassic Park to del Toro’s Hellboy.

Packed full of clips not only from the films but also of Harryhausen’s animation tests and behind the scenes footage the documentary lays out many of his techniques showing how he achieved his amazing effects such as the classic skeleton fight in Jason and the Argonauts or the realistic dinosaurs in Hammer’s One Million Years B.C.

A remarkable man with a remarkable career it is fascinating to hear Harryhausen’s story in his words and although the films themselves where not the best acted or scripted his effects still stand out as an amazing achievement making them more Ray Harryhausen films than anything else.

Ray Harryhausen

Ray Harryhausen

As mentioned by many big names in the movie there was something about his animation that is not only more alive than modern day computer generated effects but more engaging and real and the personality and character he painstakingly gave each creature he created is evident in every frame of film he made.

A must have for science fiction, fantasy and monster movie fans the DVD and Blu-ray release is full of extra features including audio commentary with Gilles Penso, Alexandre Poncet, Tony Dalton and Tim Nicholson, Q&A’s including one from the UK premiere, a chat with Edgar Wright, Peter Lord, Rick Baker and Simon Pegg plus bonus interview’s, deleted scenes and a brilliant trailer collection featuring Mighty Joe Young, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, It Came from Beneath the Sea, 20 Million Miles to Earth, Earth Vs The Flying Saucers, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, The 3 Worlds of Gulliver, Mysterious Island & Jason and the Argonauts.

Ray Harryhausen

A fascinating documentary about a brilliant movie maker and a true artist there is no doubt that Hollywood owes Ray Harryhausen an immense amount of gratitude and respect as the forefather of modern monster movies as we know them.

Movie Rating: ★

★ ★ ☆ ☆ 



Alex Humphrey

Alex studied film at the University of Kent and went on to work for Universal Pictures in their Post Room gaining an inside look at the movie industry from the very bottom. Constantly writing reviews in everything from local magazines to Hip Hop sites Alex honed his critical skills even spending a brief period as a restaurant critic. Read more

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