Ray Harryhausen: Monsters, Myths & Lore

Having written about Wonkskolaser: The Family Who Built Warner Bros,” This post is the first of a once monthly series sharing movie features starting with the works of Ray Harryhausen, American artist and visual effects creator.

Born the only child to Martha and Fred W. Harryhausen on June 6, 1920, he was the grandson of Frederick L. Harryhausen who’d migrated to San Francisco from Germany in the 1850s. Immigration papers listed Frederick’s occupation as a goldminer.

Ray’s interest in movies began at the age of 13. He’d received three complimentary tickets from Sid Grouman, then owner of Grouman’s Chinese Theater, where he watched and was inspired by King Kong (1933).

You can discover more of his work in The Art of Ray Harryhausen.”

“Looking back, I always knew in my head what I was aiming for, but alongside that was the fear I wouldn’t succeed.”

—Ray Harryhausen


20 Million Miles to Earth

In a fishing village in Sicily, men are hauling in their nets. One of them hears something passing over head. A spaceship breaks through the cloud cover and crashes into the sea nearby. At first the fisherman leave the area, but one of the crew worries there might be people trapped inside and insists on going back to investigate.

Jason and the Argonauts

After a 20 year voyage, Jason (Armstrong) returns to the Kingdom of Thessaly to claim his throne. But it’s not quite easy for this. In order to gain the throne, he must find the magical Golden Fleece, which has amazing healing powers. He selects a crew, which included Polydeuces and Hercules. Jason also gains the help of the Queen of the Gods, Hera. Jason and his crew must now reach the fleece and survive the likes of a 100 foot bronze giant, a huge venomous creature with head full of seven snakes, and a terrifying army of skeletons.

Clash of the Titans

King Acrisius of Argos locks his daughter Danaë away from mortal men to avoid a prophecy that he would die if his daughter had a son. While she is imprisoned, the god Zeus impregnates her. After discovering the pregnancy, Acrisius casts his daughter and her newborn son Perseus out to sea in a wooden coffin, hoping to kill both and avoid his fate. In retribution, Zeus orders the god of the sea, Poseidon, to release an ancient monster known as the Kraken to destroy Argos, fulfilling the prophecy. Atop Olympus, while the city is destroyed, Zeus crushes the clay figurine of Acrisius in his hand, killing the tyrant. Meanwhile, at Zeus’ request, Poseidon ensures that Danaë and Perseus drift across the Aegean Sea safely, arriving on the shores of Seriphos.

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad

While sailing, Sinbad comes across a golden tablet dropped by a mysterious flying creature. He wears the tablet as an amulet around his neck. That night, Sinbad has a strange dream in which he sees a man dressed in black, repeatedly calling Sinbad’s name, and also about a mysterious girl with an eye tattooed on her right palm. During his sleep, a mysterious storm throws his ship off course, and the next day Sinbad and his men find themselves near a coastal town in the country of Marabia.

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to also read A History of Television & Future: Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality.”

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