16th Mar2013

‘Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Written and Directed by Gilles Penso | Produced by Alexandre Poncet | Co-produced by Tony Dalton

Directed by Gilles Penso, Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan covers the remarkable career of the movie industry’s most admired and influential special-effects auteur. Leaving no doubt as to Harryhausen’s seminal influence on modern-day special effects, the documentary features enlightening and entertaining interviews with the man himself, along with those whom he inspired, including Peter Jackson, Nick Park, Phil Tippet, Dennis Muren, John Landis, Guillermo Del Toro, James Cameron, Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante and many more.

Filled with stories and anecdotes on the making of Harryhausen’s oeuvre, Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan is a straightforward, no-frills documentary that starts at the beginning, and Harryhausen’s work on Mighty Joe Young in 1949 and ends with his last Hollywood movie, Clash of the Titans, which was produced in 1981. Some of the stories are as fantastical as Harryhausen’s movies – such as San Francisco authorities expressing concern that wrecking the Golden Gate Bridge in It Came From Beneath The Sea, would put drivers off using the bridge; and that the giant killer crab in Mysterious Island was originally a live crab bought in Harrods!

A very dry documentary that features not much more than talking heads married with some behind the scenes sketches, storyboards and test footage, Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan is more about the films than the man himself – something I hope could be rectified in a future documentary. Sadly for this Clash of the Titans fan the film is seemingly skipped over in quick fashion – possibly a rights issue? Or just because Harryhausen himself wasn’t a fan of the finished film?

Nevertheless, this is an affectionate tribute to the father of stop-motion animation and films such as The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, It Came From Beneath The Sea, The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad, Mysterious Island, Jason And The Argonauts and The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad; charting a career that has spanned over four decades, a career that has spawned hundreds of imitators – yet no one quiet like Harryhausen…

Special features include a director/producers commentary, interview outtakes, eight deleted scenes, a featurette on Ray Harryhausen’s L.A. garage, Q&A footage and nine movie trailers.

Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan is out now on DVD and Blu-ray from Arrow Films.

** 2/5

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