This Spring, Arc Cinema’s regular Cult of Arc program presents double features showcasing the works of ‘analogue’ special effects technicians Ray Harryhausen and Stan Winston.
Ray Harryhausen was born in 1920 and passed away earlier this year. On 19 October we’ll be screening perhaps his best known work Jason and the Argonauts (1963). This film, of course, features the sword fight scene between three actors and seven ‘live’ skeletons. Although it appears on screen for mere minutes, the scene took Harryhausen four months to complete. This effort has not been equalled since, although it has been paid tribute to in many films, most notably Sam Raimi’s Army of Darkness (1992), although Raimi split his final fight scene between stop motion, full size puppets and a number of extras suffering in uncomfortable suits.
Harryhausen wasn’t the pioneer of stop motion (or model animation, as it was previously referred to). That mantle belongs to Willis O’Brien, whose work on King Kong (1933) inspired Harryhausen. O’Brien became a mentor for Harryhausen, and the two had a lifelong working relationship. The Valley of Gwangi (1969), which will screen with Jason and the Argonauts at Arc Cinema on 19 October, was a project they worked on together. Sadly, O’Brien passed away before the film could be completed, but Harryhausen worked to ensure that it was finished to honour his friend and mentor. In that film, you’ll see nods to their respective works in King Kong and Mighty Joe Young. It goes without saying that you would see influences of this film in the Jurassic Park franchise – see later in this blog.