Category Archives: king kong

Ray Harryhausen 1920-2013

Possibly one of the greatest special effects artists who ever lied passed away today. Ray Harryhausen was a big part of my childhood, and a big part of my adulthood. He influenced so many people, and in turn, he was influenced by another genius, Willis O’Brien, whose work in stop motion animation made King Kong the classic film, and the classic character he is today. He learned at the master’s side and took that art even higher. Harryhausen was one of the greats.

I can’t even guess how many times I’ve seen Jason and the Argonauts. I seriously think a hundred times would be a conservative guess. There’s nothing by Harryhausen that I didn’t love (and that includes oddities like It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and the Puppetoons), but Jason is probably my favorite. I remember as a kid, channel 29 had the rights to it, and I never missed it when they aired it. The film is a beautiful piece of art, from start to finish, and it fueled my early love of the Greek myths.

I love the Sinbad films, 20 Million Miles to Earth, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, and It Came from Beneath the Sea. I watch them relentlessly when they air. Harryhausen’s involvement in Beast led to a semi-rational hatred of the Godzilla films, which he felt both ripped off and cheapened his work. His statements to that effect didn’t lessen my respect and awe for his work, but man oh man, it did hurt this Godzilla fan.

I was never really a fan of Clash of the Titans, as by then, his age, and the amount of time it took to do his Dynamation, made him begin to cut corners and it just didn’t look as good any more, to me at least. But then again, Harryhausen cutting corners was nothing new, as 1955’s It Came from Beneath the Sea featured a five-tentacled octopus.

None of that diminishes Harryhausen’s accomplishments and my love for his films. We have lost one of the living legends of Hollywood, and a master of an animation style that may never be the same again. Ray Harryhausen will be missed.

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She


This 1935 film means a lot to me and I’m really happy I finally got to see it. One of the few times my father took an interest in my writing was when he suggested I see this flick. It must have been at some point when I was watching Raiders of the Lost Ark or Star Wars, and he said, “If you really want to see a good adventure story, you should see She, the original, from when I was a kid.” At some point when I was older I picked up a collection of H. Rider Haggard novels, and I immediately devoured it. Asking my father about it however, I learned he’d never read the books, and had only seen the original film version of She.

Finding that version has been a long road. Even when I worked in video retail, it was considered a ‘lost’ film, with only sparse footage remaining. It was made in 1935 but was seen by a whole new generation in re-release, double-billed with The Last Days of Pompeii (also from ’35) in 1948. Recently restored by Ray Harryhausen, believe it or not, from a print that Buster Keaton had in his garage – it is now available on DVD. Oddly it was originally meant to be a color film but because of budget restraints done in black and white. The restored cut includes a colorized version that uses actual scenery and wardrobe orders to make the colors match the originals.

Now that I’ve seen it I know what my father was talking about. If he had ever seen Raiders of the Lost Ark he might have marveled at the special effects, but the rest of it would be old hat to him because of She. The sets are amazing, especially the hall of the kings, and the dance number/ceremony that takes place there is breathtaking if dated. Max Steiner, composer for 1933’s King Kong, scored the terrific soundtrack, one of his best. Randolph Scott, mostly known for his cowboy flicks, is our hero in the mode that would later spawn Indiana Jones among others, and the startling beauty Helen Gahagan Douglass plays the title role. It was the only film appearance for the Broadway singer who later became a Congresswoman.

She was adapted by Ruth Rose (the writer of King Kong) from the Haggard novel, and produced by the legendary Merion C. Cooper, father of Kong. The action is a step above that of the time, no simple movie serial with a budget is this. The saber tooth tiger and avalanche scenes are great. This is one of the great adventure flicks of not only its time, but, dare I say it, all time. Highly recommended.

July 2007 Movie Log

Movies I’ve watched or re-watched this month include: Relative Strangers, Beyond the Rocks, Midnight Cowboy, Finding Nemo, F*ck, Latter Days, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Shortbus, The Pumpkin Eater, Nanny McPhee, The Simpsons Movie, Silver Hawk, American Dreamz, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II, Breach, Ladies They Talk About, Rashomon, The End of Violence, Farce of the Penguins, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, Ultraman Tiga & Ultraman Dyna, Evil Dead, Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, King Kong (2005), Ice Age: The Meltdown, One Million B.C. (1940), Picture Mommy Dead, Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla, Jaani Dushman: Ek Anokhi Kahani, Knocked Up, Invasion of Astro-Monster and Ghidrah the Three-Headed Monster.

Flicks to add to the list of movies I’ll watch whenever they are on TV: King Kong (2005) and anything Godzilla. Nanny McPhee would be added to my wife’s list, I just happen to be in the room.

Among the best this month would be F*ck, The Pumpkin Eater and Silver Hawk.

More Quickies


King Kong (2005)

Peter Jackson has made a film about the movies with a love and respect for not only the movies but one in particular, the one he’s remaking, which is rare in Hollywood these last few decades. It’s an understatement to say I loved this film, the best I’ve seen in years. Peter Jackson’s Kong is as near to perfect as it gets.

Soup to Nuts (1930)

A great peek at the Three Stooges before they were on their own. In this film, before getting contracts of their own with Columbia Pictures, they were the underling sidekicks of supposed funnyman Ted Healy. The stooges are the only shining moment in this unfortunately Rube Goldberg-penned dreck. No wonder today most folks will say “Ted who?”

Vulgar (2002)

Despite Kevin Smith’s sideline involvement in this, this appropriately titled crap is unwatchable. It tries very hard to be artsy in an insultingly Richard Linklater-type vibe but fails miserably. Clown rape is not funny, no matter how it’s portrayed.