Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan

From this movie, I learned that I had seen every single one of Ray Harryhausen’s films. My personal favorite was JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS, which I’ve seen to date at least fifty times. However, all of them were immensely entertaining and they satisfied my need for high-quality monster movies. If there was a story there, too, all the better. This documentary traces the professional accomplishments of Harryhausen, in chronological order, beginning with snippets of his earliest experiments as a teenager with stop-motion animation and ending with the opening of a foundation aimed at preserving the artifacts of his art. The film is loaded with interview footage with current highly accomplished film directors and effects artists, describing the profound impact his work had on them, and lots of face time with the man himself, as he reveals his earliest influences — primarily KING KONG — and retraces his career. There are lots of behind-the-scenes stuff, explaining how the effects were accomplished, and through it all, you grow to appreciate the magnitude of his dedication. The most remarkable quality of his character is that, through it all, he is man of true humility, who seems to be only remotely aware of the epic influence he’s born on modern fantasy and sci-fi filmmakers. The fact is, if you’re watching a sci-fi or fantasy film, you’re watching the work of someone who’d been influenced by Harryhausen. Yet Harryhausen remains humble, and talks about his accomplishments in an understated way. If you love sci-fi and fantasy movies, this is a documentary you’re sure to enjoy, as this man is the grandfather of them all. It closes with comments about the aforementioned foundation and his 91st birthday, but his passing wasn’t mentioned and the film includes no epitaph. IMDb has his death listed as the 7th of May, 2013. What a life. Thank you, Mr. Harryhausen, for the hours of enjoyment you’ve brought me.