Ray Harryhausen and the World

Hello good people of the world. I have been on hiatus from my blog for the last couple of weeks because I wanted it to become more spur of the moment and less about a regimented schedule. I like writing off the cuff more, I think it is more natural to do so.

May 7th saw the sad departure of one of the world’s great geniuses. Mr Ray Harryhausen. At the grand old age of 92, Harryhausen breathed his last breath and left a whole that will be extremely difficult to fill. I am going to discuss my relationship with Ray Harryhausen’s work  and his influence on the film world.

My first sighting of anything Harryhausen had done, was when I was about 9 or 10. My granddad, who was obsessed with historical battle films such as: Zulu and Spartacus put the television on to watch his weekend snorefest, as I liked to call them. I heard him excaim that the film that was about to grace my eyes was a magnificent and “bord zabudas” speaking urdu with his cough filled asian voice bellowing at me. So, whilst I casually battered the buttons of my Gameboy, I peered over the screen to see what looked like another one of my granddad’s long line of tumultuous and long winded fights against all evil. He was already asleep at this point, as he usually does when watching films. What I saw next would change my life and my imagination forever. Watching Jason and his two men fight off  the sinister movements of several robotic like skeletons marching, ominously towards the hero whilst wielding swords. My candle was lit in my heart for fantasy monsters and the world of this strange animation.

For the next few years I would actively seek out a film that my Granddad would likely be interested in watching or snoring at. I looked through pages and pages of the TV guide but all I got was the story of Jesus, which was only shown during Easter time.  I sat down one night to watch Film 200-whatever year it was, as I used to do when Jonathan Ross hosted it. All of a sudden I saw the image of the skeletons and Jonathan Ross announced his special interview with Way Hawwyhausen. There he was, this old man, somewhat looking brittle but extremely enthusiastic about his work and how much it has influenced so many people. I was joyed by the fact that he was so joyed by what his imagination had done for him and created. He seemed like a kid in a sweet shop when referring to how he thought up such demonstrative beasts and had a gleeful tone his voice.

I sat down to watch my next edition of wild beasts of Harryhausen’s mind in the form of Clash of the Titans. When I saw the Kraken come on screen, I was aghast. I couldn’t believe that someone could visualise the type of monsters I had dreamed about for years. The type of monsters I would imagine were my toys, instead of the tacky plastic they were. The type of monsters that I would create stories and surroundings for when I would write stories as a child. It was almost as if he had an insight into my brain and projected it onto a screen some 20/30 years earlier. It would be fair to say that Medusa and the Kraken featured in my dreams regularly for a couple of years afterwards.

Nothing could compare to that stop motion. I started to lookout for stop motion wherever I could and found his influence in the strangest of places. Beetlejuice. When the sand monster takes in Beetlejuice at the end, I almost sniggered at the fact that Tim Burton had made a nod to world of Ray Harryhausen and his incredible deluge of demonic creatures. Hellraiser. The way that Frank becomes a horrific half man/half corpse saw me chuckle in my head because I saw Harryhausen’s smile due to the furthering of his imagination. Terminator. This will seem like a weird one to a lot of people but it is probably the most direct reference to Harryhausen’s work than in any other film. The way the Terminator looks when it’s exoskeleton is depleted and the way it moves strikes a resounding resemblance to those skeletons that forced Jason to the edge of the cliff. Jagged, direct but also a figure of awe, the Terminator moves like any dark dream a child would have and I imagine Ray Harryhausen would have made reality and did. These influences have filtered through to many a film and more importantly, have given people the notion to think that their fantastical imaginations could become a reality in a way that they never thought could happen before.

So barring that awful song by The Hoosiers, Ray Harryhausen has inspired a whole generation of imaginations to create exactly what they see in their minds and put it out into the big wide world. And, I now know why my Granddad sleeps during films like Clash of the Titans, he is dreaming of his own battle against huge monsters and demons and saving the world.

Thank you Ray. Rest easy knowing you did so much for imagination. Rest easy.

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