Arrow Films’ New Harryhausen Doc Is A Must See For Any True Cinephile

Courtesy:  Arrow Films

Courtesy: Arrow Films

Ray Harryhausen is one of the greatest and most influential figures in Hollywood’s history.  It is thanks to his vision and his work that audiences today can enjoy classic movies such as 20 Million Miles To Earth, It Came From Beneath The Sea, Earth vs. The Flying Saucers, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, and so many other greats.  He and his movies have been the influence for countless filmmakers and special effects experts over the years with his sequences and movies being rebooted in various ways.  So it is no surprise that considering the massive footprint left by the cinematic “titan” that so many documentaries and books have been released over the years centered on him and his work.  The problem with those documentaries and books there is very little variance in the material presented in each one from one to the next.  Enter Arrow Films’ new Ray Harryhausen retrospective Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan.  This presentation is the best Harryhausen documentary to be released to date.  That is due in part to it being such a deeply comprehensive presentation.  This will be discussed shortly.  The information and material that makes up the body of the program is just as important to the documentary if not more so.  It will be discussed later.  The bonus material that is included in the documentary’s Special Edition Blu-ray rounds out the documentary’s most important elements.  It joins with the program’s story and information to make the presentation in whole one that is a must see for any true cinephile.

Arrow Films’ new Ray Haryhausen retrospective Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan is a must see for any true cinephile.  It is the best Harryhausen documentary to be released to date.  That is due in part to its story.  It is the most comprehensive look at Harryhausen’s life and impact that has yet been produced.  Unlike so many other previously released Harryhausen docs, it focuses on more than just his major movies.  Rather it follows Harryhausen’s life from his youth to his earliest work making stop motion fairy tale films all the way up to the height of his popularity and eventual retirement.  Audiences (even those that are largely familiar with his work) might find themselves in awe at the “giant” (bad pun fully intended) footprint left by the film legend even today in taking in this program.  That is due to the discussions on the standards that he created and his adaptation to the changing course of movies and its impact on his success as well as discussions on the reach of his influence on filmmakers across the film world and so much more.  The discussions include some very candid one-on-one interviews with Harryhausen himself before his passing in 2013 as well as some of the most well-known filmmakers and special effects experts in the business today.  Between those discussions and the focus on each of his feature films, the comprehensive nature of this doc proves it to be unquestionably the best presentation on the film legend to be released yet.  Its comprehensive nature is just part of what makes it such a standout documentary.  The information and material that makes up the body of the program is just as important to its presentation as its overall story.

The story at the center of Arrow Films’ new Ray Harryhausen documentary is in itself an important part of the program’s presentation.  That is because it is the most comprehensive look at the film legend’s life and career that has been released to date.  It is not the program’s only important element, though.  The information and material that makes up the body of the program is just as important to its presentation as its story if not more so.  The information and material that is presented throughout the program is just as awe-inspiring as the story itself.  One of the most interesting of the program’s revelations is that it is thanks to Harryhausens creature features—specifically The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms—that the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park move the way that they do.  It is openly stated by many of the interviewees that before that movie was created no one knew how dinosaurs moved.  And ever since then every dinosaur-centric movie that has been made has used Harryhausen’s work as a model for its own creations.  On a related note, there is a subtle yet powerful statement made by Harryhausen himself that he never made “monsters.”  Rather he made “creatures.”  It is a statement that said he didn’t want to make scary, horror style movies.  Rather he wanted to make movies with creations that the whole family could enjoy without fear of anyone having nightmares.  It is a statement that cannot be ignored.  On another related note, audiences will be just as intrigued to learn that Mr. Harryhausen was the one responsible for the term “dynamation.”  He used that term as Hollywood was transitioning from black and white movies to color films.  He reveals in his interview that many people were beginning to use the term “animation/animated” to describe his movies.  He notes that this gave an incorrect perception of his movies, so he came up with the term “dynamation” in order to maintain the perception that his movies weren’t just children’s movies.  He wanted them to be taken more seriously.  This is just some of the program’s key information.  There are also some very interesting revelations about the influence of not only his movies but the sequences that were used in his movies, too.

The information that is revealed in the program’s interviews is enlightening to say the very least.  It is just some of the program’s most important information and material.  As the program progresses audiences will be just as interested to learn of the influence of the very sequences used in Harryhausen’s movies on so many more modern movies.  It is One of the most notable of the presented sequences is that of the creature in The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms eating its victims.  The motions are directly mirrored in a similar scene from Jurassic Park in which the T-Rex knocks over a bathroom and eats the man inside.  On another note, audiences will be just as interested to see the influence of the sword fight scene between Sinbad and Kali in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and that of Obi Wan Kenobi and one of the key light saber battles in Star Wars: Episode II.  Here are two totally different movies from two wholly different eras yet even with such a span of time and genres Harryhausen’s influence is felt just as strongly even there.  It is just one more of so many examples of the far-reaching influence of Harryhausen’s sequences presented throughout the program.  There are so many other examples presented over the course of the program.  They collectively show why the material that is presented within the program’s story is just as important to the story’s presentation as its information.  Both elements join with the program’s story to make the documentary in whole an even more interesting program.  Even as interesting as the story and its content make this program, they are not its only key elements.  The bonus material that is included in the documentary’s special edition Blu-ray is just as important to its presentation as its story and related content.

The story at the center of Arrow Films’ new Ray Harryhausen documentary and its content are both important pieces of the program’s presentation.  The story itself is the most far-reaching retrospective on the film legend that has been released to date.  The information and material that makes up the body of the program adds even more interest and enjoyment to the program.  That is because the collective mass includes some very insightful one-on-one interviews with Harryhausen as well as some equally insightful interviews with those who he influenced to work in the movie industry.  As much as the story and its content do for this documentary they are not its only key elements.  The bonus material included in its new home release is just as important to its presentation as those noted elements.  There is a feature-length audio commentary from those behind the program’s lens that offers even more insight for viewers as well as a number of outtakes that didn’t make the film’s final cut, and a pair of Q&A session with some of the interviewees just to name a few items.  One of the most notable mentions made in the bonus commentary is that of the reason for the program’s opening sequence.  It is noted that in opening with recent movie titles, younger audiences will hopefully see that those movies were influenced directly by Harryhausen’s movies.  It is a way to connect those younger viewers to the foundations of their favorite flicks.  The outtakes are each preceded with their own slates explaining in no uncertain terms why each was cut from the final product.  This in turn leaves no question as to the intentions of each outtake.  It also creates its own share of discussion among viewers as to whether or not they personally feel that the outtakes should have been outtakes.  It is another wonderful way to keep viewers entertained and engaged in the program’s overall presentation.  The live Q&A sessions with the interviewees are just as entertaining because of their light-hearted nature.  There are plenty of laughs to be shared even through the conversations and questions.  The questions and conversations include which of Harryhausen’s creations is his favorite, how did the filmmakers get the footage for the documentary (which is in itself rather eye-opening) and Harryhausen’s own thoughts on his legacy among so much more.  Between the two sessions audiences will find themselves just as engrossed in them as those that were there in attendance.  This is just scraping the top of the proverbial iceberg.  The “Treasure Trove” feature is simple.  But it is one of the most powerful of the bonuses included with the program.  It follows curators of the Harryhausen exhibit in London as they un-crate the models that the legendary filmmaker used in creating his movies.  Those models include the UFOs from Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers, the Pegasus from Clash of the Titans, the Brontosaurus from Evolution, and so many others.  The reverence shown for the models as they are removed from their crates is so moving.  It shows the understanding and respect that those removing them have for what Harryhausen created.  It shows an understanding and respect for the amount of time spent making them, too.  In essence that respect and understanding shows that there is still a very real respect for Harryhuasen’s work in general and the influence that he still has today.  It is just one more of the in-depth bonuses included in the program that makes the program’s presentation so enjoyable.  Together with those other noted bonuses, the program’s story and its content, all three elements come together to make it a must see for any true cinephile.

Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan is a must see for any true cinephile.  That is because it is the most in-depth and comprehensive presentation to be released to date about the film legend’s life and career.  That depth is exhibited directly through the program’s story and its content.  It follows Harryhausen’s  life from his childhood all the way to the height of his career and eventual retirement, touching on parts of his career that few if any previous Harryhausen documentary has touched on.  The content presented throughout the program adds to that depth as it shows the reach of his influence even to this day.  The bonus material included in the program rounds out the ways in which the program exhibits its depth.  It adds even more interest and insight through the bonus audio commentary, Q&A sessions, interview outtakes, and much more.  Each element plays its own important part in showing what makes this documentary such an impressive presentation.  All things considered they join together to make it, again, a must see for any true cinephile.  It is available now in stores and online, and can be ordered online direct via Arrow Films’ online store at http://www.arrowfilms.co.uk/?s=Ray+Harryhausen&x=0&y=0.  More information on this and other titles from Arrow Films is available online now at:

 

 

 

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20 Million Miles To Earth Is A Must See For Any Lover Of Classic Cinema And Sci-Fi

Courtesy:  Mill Creek Entertainment

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

The annual countdown to Halloween is on once again. With Halloween only a few more weeks away at the time of this review, everyone’s busy looking for a way to bring some frights and fun to their yearly celebrations. Mill Creek has given audiences two more wonderful options for their Halloween parties thanks to its release of the Ray Harryhausen Creature Double Feature. This new double dose of classic monster movies includes two of Ray Harryhausen’s great sci-fi/horror classics in the form of 20 Million Miles to Earth and It Came From Beneath The Sea. The second of the features will be discussed at a later date. For now, the focus will be solely on the first in the pair. 20 Million Miles To Earth is a wonderful watch not only for those Halloween parties this year, but for anyone that is a lover of classic cinema in general. The main aspect of this classic sci-fi flick that makes it work is its script. Yes, there’s at least one minor issue with the writing. That will be noted later. But by and large, the script for this movie is a big part of why audiences will love it. Just as important to the whole are the movie’s special effects. Compared to nearly every one of today’s way-over-the-top special effects blockbusters, the effects used in this piece are outstanding. And last but most definitely not least of all worth noting is the movie’s cast. The movie’s lead actors were no strangers to their crafts. They were quite versed as a matter of fact. The importance of this aspect will also be noted later. Suffice it to say that all three of these factors together make 20 Million Miles to Earth a must see whether at this year’s Halloween get together or any other time of the year by any lover of classic cinema. And together with its companion piece It Came From Beneath The Sea, it makes Mill Creek’s recently released Ray Harryhausen Creature Double Feature an absolute must see.

Mill Creek Entertainment’s recently released Ray Harryhausen Creature Double Feature is an absolute must see by any lover of classic cinema. While not the first time that the movies in this set have seen the light of day, they are very difficult to find on DVD or Blu-ray. So taking that into consideration, anyone with any love for the golden age of cinema will appreciate this double movie presentation. Looking specifically for now at the first of the features, 20 Million Miles to Earth, this movie works so well here for a number of reasons. One reason that it works so well is its writing. The story behind this movie was nothing new for the film industry when it debuted in June 1957. It sees an ever-growing lizard creature from Venus terrorizing the Sicilian countryside after having been released by a young boy named Pepe. The end result is the hunt and eventual killing of the unnamed creature. Legendary B-movie director Roger Corman had already churned out ten sci-fi classics when this movie debuted. And It Came From Beneath The Sea, the other film featured in this collection, had already debuted two years previous. Adding in to the believability of the story, the birth of the “space race” was only months away as Russia went on in October of that year to release Sputnik, the world’s first satellite. So it goes without saying that the fascination with worlds and beings other than our own was at an all-time high when this movie made its premiere. That makes the movie’s very plot so fun.

The plot behind 20 Million Miles to Earth, when set against the other B-movies of its era, is just as enjoyable as those churned out by fellow sci-fi legend Roger Corman and by Harryhausen himself. The plot is just one minute part of what makes this script work, too. The manner in which the movie’s writing team executed the story adds to the overall enjoyment. If not for young Pepe’s greed (he even tries to extort money from the American military officers when they come to investigate the crash), none of what happened might have happened. In turn there might not have been a story. One could argue that if not a child, then an adult might have done the same thing as Pepe. That’s true, too. So taking this aspect of the movie’s writing into consideration, one can’t help but wonder if the writers were trying to make a statement about the cost and danger of human nature a la 1951’s The Day The Earth Stood Still.   In the same vein, Col. Calder (played wonderfully here by William Hopper) makes a statement regarding the creature being docile unless provoked right before provoking the creature so as to capture it. That is so subtle but so powerful a statement about human nature, too. If Calder knew the creature was docile, why not try a peaceful means to corral it? Some might argue this to be a major plot hole. A more thoughtful analysis though, reveals that it could have been another lightly veiled commentary about the contradictory nature of humans in terms of their behaviors and thought processes. It’s really something to think about. It is that writing and commentary (intended or not) that along with the script makes 20 Million Miles to Earth such a wonderful watch.

The seemingly lightly veiled commentary aside, another reason that the script’s writing works so well is that the movie’s writing team even made certain to explain how the unnamed lizard creature managed to grow so fast. As was explained by one character, the Earth’s atmospheric make up was to blame for the creature’s growth. As long as it was breathing the air on Earth, it would keep growing every day. That most important of all of the story’s aspect is answered so quickly and easily. It’s one more way in which the movie’s writing team made sure to cover all of its bases when crafting the story. It’s the final part of the movie’s writing that makes the script (and the movie in whole) so enjoyable so many years after its premiere.

The writing that went into 20 Million Miles to Earth is a big reason for the movie’s success nearly sixty years after it debuted. That should be obvious by now. Another reason that the movie continues to be so beloved to this day is its special effects. Special effects have evolved so much throughout the history of the movie industry. While the special effects used in movies such as this might be considered simplistic by some, it is that simplicity that makes them so wonderful. The special effects of today’s major name blockbusters have completely jumped the shark for lack of better wording. They are almost entirely created via computer. Ray Harryhausen’s stop motion special effects in this movie (and others that he worked on) were done entirely by hand. Sure there was some movie magic incorporated along the way to help. But again in comparison to so many of today’s special effects extravaganzas, those effects are a product of their time. They are used as a part of the overall story rather than as the star of the film. Today’s action blockbusters are the polar opposite. That factor alone makes 20 Million Miles to Earth worth the watch. Together with its outstanding writing, the movie’s special effects make this movie even more of a must see for any lover of classic cinema and sci-fi.

The writing and the special effects that went into 20 Million Miles to Earth both play their own important role in the movie’s overall enjoyment and success. As important as both factors are to the whole presentation, there is still one more aspect worth noting in examining the movie. That final aspect is the movie’s lead cast. Anyone with any love of classic movies and television will appreciate the history lesson presented through just the movie’s cast. William Hopper leads the movie’s cast as Col. Robert Calder. Hopper is best known for his role of Private Detective Paul Drake in the classic courtroom drama Perry Mason. Drake was a major character in that series as he helped Mason solve a number of cases throughout the show’s run. Perry Mason, by the way, can still be seen today on Me-TV. He also starred opposite film legend James Dean in the 1955 hit drama Rebel Without A Cause. He starred alongside a then young Natalie Wood as the father to her Judy. On a side note, Jim Backus (Mr. Magoo, Gilligan’s Island) also starred in that movie. Adding to Hopper’s resume, 20 Million Miles to Earth wasn’t Hopper’s first creature feature. He starred in another well-known creature feature that premiered only months before this one. That movie, released by Universal Pictures, is called The Deadly Mantis. For those that haven’t seen that movie, imagine Godzilla with a giant, radioactive praying mantis in place of the giant, radioactive lizard. Yeah. And instead of taking place in Japan, the giant mantis thaws out in the North Pole and comes to America to cause all kinds of havoc. It’s still a great watch, regardless. These are just some of the pieces in which Hopper starred. It goes without saying that Hopper’s experience in both action and drama roles proved him to be a good choice for his role. His wasn’t the only good choice, either. Hopper’s co-stars Joan Taylor, Thomas Browne Henry, and John Zaremba starred together in another of Ray Harryhausen’s hits Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers in 1956. So they were both just as natural for their roles in this film, too. It was probably Zaremba’s work on these sci-fi favorites that led to his casting in the cult hit sci-fi series Time Tunnel. That series ran for only one year from 1966 – 1967. It is still a fan favorite to this day, though. The movie’s other cast members each starred in some of the movie industry’s biggest names, too. Arthur Space played the supporting role of Dr. Sharman in 20 Million Miles to Earth. Only months before, he starred alongside famed actor James Stewart in The Spirit of St. Louis as Donald Hall, the chief engineer of Ray Airlines. There are plenty of other actors whose resumes add plenty of credit to 20 Million Miles to Earth. But it would take far too long to note each one and their resume. Needless to say, one should have quite the clear picture by now of just how important the cast of 20 Million Miles to Earth was to the movie’s success. The cast’s collective experience shines through from start to finish here making it entirely clear once more just why this movie is still one of the greatest sci-fi/horror films in modern film history and why this movie was a wise addition to Mill Creek’s newly released Ray Harryhausen Creature Double Feature.

20 Million Miles to Earth is one of the greatest sci-fi flicks in modern movie history. So much went into the movie in such a small span of time. Its writing was simple yet so in-depth. The special effects headed up by screen legend Ray Harryhausen are so much better than those presented in today’s major blockbusters. Harryhausen’s special effects are part of the story rather than the star. They do so much to help advance the story. And last but not least of all is the movie’s cast. The cast—both the lead and supporting cast—came into the movie with quite the collective resume. That vast amount of experience shared between the movie’s cast shines through here from start to finish. It is the last touch in a movie that any lover of classic cinema and of sci-fi in whole must see at least once. Now that Halloween’s on its way again, that’s one more reason to pick up this new release from Mill Creek Entertainment. It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered online direct from Mill Creek Entertainment at http://www.millcreekent.com/20-million-miles-to-earth-it-came-from-beneath-the-sea-ray-harryhausen-double-feature.html. More information on this and other titles from Mill Creek Entertainment is available online at:

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