Despite (or perhaps because of) the aftermath of the Second World War, 1946 was one of the strongest years in film history, featuring an enviable group of classics from America and Western Europe. Throughout the summer and fall, I’ll be a reviewing films from this banner year, starting in January of ’46 and moving forward chronologically. To get a more complete view, I’m going to watch b-movies and obscurities as well as canonical classics.
Abilene Town (January 11)
Terror By Night (February 1)
Gilda (February 14)
Crisis (February 25)
Shoeshine (April 27)
The Postman Always Rings Twice (May 2)
Bedlam (May 10)
A Night in Casablanca (May 10)
Dressed to Kill (June 17)
Anna and the King of Siam (June 20)
The Stranger (July 2)
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (July 24)
The Big Sleep (August 23)
When Ray Harryhausen passed away in 2013, a generation of genre filmmakers – Tim Burton, James Cameron, Peter Jackson, George Lucas, Nick Park, Steven Spielberg – paid tribute to him and reflected on how he inspired their careers. (Director and former Monty Python member Terry Gilliam went so far as to compare Ray’s work to “God creating Adam.”) Most notably, Guillermo del Toro dedicated his very Harryhausen-esque creature feature Pacific Rim (2013) to the memories of Ray and longtime Godzilla director Ishiro Honda; the folks at Pixar had already named a restaurant in Monsters, Inc. (2001) “Harryhausen’s.” The undisputed master of stop-motion animation, Harryhausen’s legacy means that he might be the most important special effects creator in film history. Just as importantly, all of Ray’s friends and acolytes praised him for being one of the industry’s true gentlemen.
I can support that last point, as I met Ray a few years back at a screening/book signing at Grauman’s Egyptian Theater. He was a gracious old man, an eighty-something who still had that child-like gleam in his eyes. During my teenage years, I spent hours reading and re-reading his autobiography, fascinated with the step-by-step accounts of how he brought his fantastic creatures to life. (The book, entitled Ray Harryhausen: an Animated Life, gets a strong recommendation from me.) In fact, Ray has to be one of the main reasons why I’m a classic film fan: I’m not sure that this blog would exist if he hadn’t blown my young mind with skeletons and dragons.
Because of this, I’m beginning a retrospective that will cover the first ten films he made as special effects artist. (The tail end of his career really falls outside of the “mid-century” era.) In doing this, I’m going to both revisit some old favorites and explore the films that inspired the last few decades of fantasy and science fiction cinema. So, please join me on this voyage to the world of Ray Harryhausen: here be aliens, dinosaurs, and mythical creatures.
It Came From Beneath the Sea (1955)
Earth vs. The Flying Saucers (1956)