Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Mr. Ray Harryhausen, thank you for everything. I love you.

Many would look at this and say that these effects were as dated as the dinosaurs that Ray Harryhausen so loved to re-create. Did you know that british sensors declared that this scene was too scary and realistic for children to watch?

"The Valley of Gwangi" (1969)

I remember when I was four and my family had just immigrated from Chile to Miami Florida. I didn't know anyone, didn't speak the language and up until that point hadn't really known my father since he was in the States working most of the time I had been alive. Needless to say I was lonely and had little in the way of entertainment.  I distinctly remember one day sitting at the 13 inch black and white GoldStar TV my father had just bought and catching Jason and the Argonauts. I was spellbound by what I saw. I didn't really need to understand the language because the images were so transfixing and vividly real.  A giant parting cliffs for a ship at sea, a bronze statue came to life, the Hydra, the skeletons, the harpies! Oh, my!

This lit a fire under me. I needed to know more about these things. A lifelong passion for myth, legend and folklore sprung from that simple viewing. I became obsessed with Greek mythology and that was just the beginning. I began to wonder. Not wonder as in "Why is the sky blue?" but wonder as in how far can I possibly stretch my imagination. Ray Harryhausen tried to answer that question with his decades long career that revolutionized fantasy movie fiction.

This sense of wonder developed in my young mind. My parents, seeing that I was interested in this kind of things bought me books at the used book store in little Havana. I read spanish translations of Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs and H.P. Lovecraft. Tarzan, Conan, Cuthulu, John Carter, Kull, the Necronomicon all became part of my life and soon in my mind everything from a pill bug to a rusty old car became a story in my head.

His Dynamation works, although lacking for the most part in any real depth in writing and acting talent* had a way of sweeping us away to distant lands, inhabited by strange and mysterious creatures. Ray Harryhausen captivated the imaginations of millions.

Imaginations of people like George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Peter Jackson and Tim Burton to name a few.  Did you know that Harryhausen was the best man in Ray Bradbury's wedding? Ray met him as a teenager in the Los Angeles Science Fiction League and became fast friends. (I also loved the Martian Chronicles)

Ray, without you we would not have things like Star Wars, Indiana Jones or A Nightmare Before Christmas. Everyone described you as a kind and gentle dreamer who, when asked if he had a favorite creature said, "It would be Medusa. But don't tell the others." I imagine that your monsters were as alive to you as they were to a lonely and scared four year old boy watching them on a tiny black and white screen.  In a way, Ray you made me the geek, gamer and dreamer I am today and I owe you a debt of gratitude. 92 years of Epic win.  You will be missed. I love you.

*(except for Clash of the Titans which boasted Sir Laurence Olivier as Zeus)