Happy Birthday Ray Harryhausen

Many happy returns to Ray Harryhausen, who turns 90 today.

I’m a massive fan of his.  I remember that as a child I used to sit with my dad on the floor and watch Sinbad movies in which all manner of monsters came to life.  CGI was already establishing itself at the time, with Jurassic Park and the like hitting the cinemas, so Harryhausen’s stuff already had an antique sense to it that made it all the more special.  There’s something enchanting about the movement of stop motion animation.  It’s slightly too jerky to be real, and I think it’s that characteristic that’s meant it’s aged so well.  In other words, it’s art.  It’s the painstaking frame-by-frame repositioning of puppets.  It’s even, in a way, a bit like writing, in that it involves a huge amount of patience and stage-by-stage detail that you hope will end up looking seamless and spontaneous and fluid.

This clip from The 7th Voyage of Sinbad always creeped me out when I was little (and still does).  When you catch a glimpse of the dancer’s face it’s simultaenously aghast and grotesque.  This clip has been edited a bit because in the original there are some close-ups of the dancer’s face, performed just for those shots by an actress.  This clip has also been chopped short: notice how at the end the dancer’s tail gropes up towards her throat…