Remembering Ray Harryhausen, The Man Who Made Monsters Breathe

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In the spring of 1933, 12-year-old Ray Harryhausen saw the movie King Kong, and cinema would never be the same. The direct inheritor of the special effects innovations that Kong co-creator Willis O’Brien brought to the screen, Harryhausen inspired the imaginations of thousands of young film fans with his ground-breaking special effects work in movies like The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953), Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956), 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957), The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), Jason and the Argonauts (1963) and many more.

Both visionary and idiosyncratic, Harryhausen’s work always displayed his vibrant personality. His last feature film was the original Clash of the Titans in 1981. The special effects revolution jump-started by pictures like Star Wars and carried out by a younger generation of special effects artists inspired by Harryhausen’s work eventually rendered his methods too slow and costly. But whatever was gained by technological advances, there was a corresponding loss in personality and the physical “realness” of Harryhausen’s charismatic creatures.

Harryhausen brought wonders to the screen at a time when others could only dream of such images. This tribute to the man, from the 2003 Wonderfest convention held in Louisville, just about says it all.

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