Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Remembering Ray Harryhausen


It was only last year that we lost an iconic Ray of popular culture: writer Ray Bradbury. Yesterday another Ray passed on, Ray Harryhausen, genius of stop-motion animation. The tribute reel from Turner Classic Movies, above, features just a glimpse of the man's remarkable talent.

Some of the fondest memories of my childhood were made possible by Harryhausen's work. The movie theatre in Leaf Rapids - for reasons unknown to me, but for which I'm profoundly grateful - often ran classic films instead of current releases. This eccentric choice exposed me to classic genre fare such as Jason and the Argonauts, Mysterious Island, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, 20 Million Miles to Earth, One Million Years B.C. and It Came From Beneath the Sea. Harryhausen's films transported audiences to worlds of wonder, usually set in the age of myth and fantasy. He brought the cyclops to life, Pegasus, Medusa, a mighty bronze colossus, and my favourite: living, sword-fighting skeletons. Harryhausen's adventures were thrilling, old-fashioned escapism with a charm that modern fantasy and SF have yet to match - and it's very possible they never will. Harryhausen changed cinema and popular culture for the better, and he brought joy to millions. I can't imagine a finer legacy for any artist.

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