Friday, 19 March 2010

Not Dead Yet: Ray Harryhausen

I watched Jason And The Argonauts for the babillionth time the other day, the film that starred box office dynamite Todd "Who?" Armstrong and Nancy "Why?" Kovack. Remember them? Of course you don't. That's because they were completely surplus to requirements in a movie which is all about The RayMan.

Ray Harryhausen is obviously a genius beyond description but rather than babbling incoherently about him for yonks, I thought a brief appraisal of his contribution to Jason And The Argonauts might be in order, complete with obligatory novelty scoring system for each creation. So here goes:

From the moment he turns his creepy, creaky head towards Hercules and Hylas after they've stolen his sewing kit, Talos owns this film. Harryhausen's genius lies in the way Talos moves exactly like a rusty old statue would, and in the way that, during his pursuit of the Argonauts, his expression never changes but you can tell what he's thinking by his posture. You even get a sense of his fear and panic when Jason exsanguinates him by pulling the plug out of his heel and spilling his ichor all over the beach. Astonishing.

On the Krakenometer, Talos scores:

The Harpies
The Harpies are a pair of super-annoying winged bitches who pester an old blind man, steal his food and clothes and generally drive him potty. While The RayMan does a reasonable job with them, they succeed more because of the sound effects - their unbearable screeching and their claws on the stone columns make them convincing enough to politely overlook the fact that they're clearly suspended on cables.

On the Krakenometer, The Harpies score:

The Hydra
The 7-Headed Hydra is a magnificent beastie, and although it doesn't do a right lot before Jason pokes it to death with his sword, it's a mind-boggling feat of stop-motion animation while it's alive. Harryhausen said he wished he'd built it with fewer heads because it took so long to animate each frame, and you can see why. Like Talos, the Hydra is at its best in its death throes, wildly flailing about in agony before collapsing with a final death rattle of its tail.

On the Krakenometer, the Hydra scores:

The Skeleton Army

These bony buggers are another unfathomably amazing creation. The way they pop out of the ground and just stand there looking like seven Victoria Beckhams is terrifying enough, but when they attack they properly give the Argonauts the willies. Every subtle movement they make is so convincingly lifelike you can't help but see them as fearless, undeadly warriors. They're funny fellas, too; in the uncut version one of them, having recently been relieved of his skull, blindly gropes around for it on the floor.

On the Krakenometer, The Skeleton Army scores:

So that was Jason And The Argonauts. Sadly the version of Clash Of The Titans that Harryhausen worked on was woeful, but with a remake on the horizon, will pixels beat puppets? Doubt it.

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1 comment :

  1. Yes R H was a genius. I love all the stop frame productions on youtube with blockbuster movies reduced to a few minutes of Lego animation. Adobe Photoshop Cook is most inventive.