Clash of the Titans (1981) A Harryhausen step too far? Dynamation deflation? At the time, being a devotee of Jason and the Argonauts and lured by the cash-in mini/movie-adaption ads from Smiths Crisps – I was a DC Thompson comics reader; they appeared, it seems, in Warlord, although it could as easily have been Buddy or Victor – I was as eager to see this as any right-minded kid was the next Star Wars. And Ray had evidently considered the zeitgeist (hence Bubo). But not enough. I know many swear by Clash of the Titans, but too much of it is stale or ineffectual – regardless of the occasional splash of
Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977) Generally, this seems to be the Ray Harryhausen Sinbad outing that gets the short straw in the appreciation stakes. Which is rather unfair. True, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger lacks Tom Baker and his rich brown voice personifying evil incarnate – although Margaret Whiting more than holds her own in the wickedness stakes – and the structure follows the Harryhausen template perhaps over scrupulously (Beverly Cross previously collaborated with the stop-motion auteur on Jason and the Argonauts, and would again subsequently with Clash of the Titans). But the storytelling is swift and sprightly,
The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973) Ray Harryhausen returns to the kind of unadulterated fantasy material that made Jason and the Argonauts such a success – swords & stop motion, if you like. In between, there were a couple of less successful efforts, HG Wells adaptation First Men in the Moon and The Valley of the Gwangi (which I considered the best thing ever as a kid: dinosaur walks into a cowboy movie). Harryhausen’s special-effects supremacy – in a for-hire capacity – had also been consummately eclipsed by Raquel Welch’s fur bikini in One Million Years B.C. The Golden Voyage of Sinbad follows the expected Dynamation template –
First Men in the Moon (1964) Ray Harryhausen swaps fantasy for science fiction and stumbles somewhat. The problem with his adaptation of popular eugenicist HG Wells’ 1901 novel isn’t so much that it opts for a quirky storytelling approach over an overtly dramatic one, but that it’s insufficiently dedicated to pursuing that choice. Which means First Men in the Moon, despite a Nigel Kneale screenplay, rather squanders its potential. It does have Lionel Jeffries, though. It was Kneale’s bright idea to bookend the main 1899 narrative with the UN’s 1964 landing on the Moon (will you just look at the supra-national approach!
Jason and the Argonauts (1963) I dare say post-Star Wars generations tend to see Ray Harryhausen and his ilk as a hoary old joke. But even as one who was the right age to be fully on board with the shiny new cinema of Lucas and Spielberg, the period before any of their fare reached television, when it was populated by all sorts of movies – 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Valley of the Gwangi, The Land that Time Forgot, Doc Savage: Man of Bronze – that would now generally be regarded as less salutatory fodder, was in fact a kindling of the imagination.