Yes, that is a photo of me with special effects wizard and creator of dreams, Ray Harryhausen. I met him at a signing in 2004 at the (now gone) Lazer Blazer DVD store in Los Angeles. He signed my copy of An Animated Life, which was a gift from none other than John C. Hocking.
For the last few years, the idea squirmed around unpleasantly in my mind that I might soon hear the news of Ray Harryhausen’s death. Like his long-time friend Ray Bradbury, a fellow L.A.-area geek who also ended up becoming a legend in the worlds he loved, Harryhausen was a man of great longevity. But he was in his nineties and it was impossible not to imagine the day I would wake up to the headline: “VFX Pioneer Ray Harryhausen (1920–201?).” Still, I wasn’t prepared for it when it finally happened — today. The news struck like a bolt from Olympus, and then the ground split open and the Styx beckoned.
I have no need to explain Ray Harryhausen’s life to Black Gate’s readers. You know him. You love him as much as I do. Seeing Clash of the Titans in second grade changed my life: not only did it take a kid who loved dinosaurs and made him into someone who loved all monsters, but it opened that kid’s mind to Greek Mythology and consequently all history, so one day a History Degree would hang from his wall. Through Ray Harryhausen, I first began to love the techniques of filmmaking. Through Ray Harryhausen, I discovered film composer Bernard Herrmann and became an obsessive movie music lover. Through Ray Harryhausen, I found heroic fantasy. The whole damn thing is his fault. I told him this when I met him, and he laughed because I’m certain I was only the nine-millionth person to use that same line on him.
Instead of giving the Great Wizard a standard obituary, I want to remember him through ten sequences from his films that do the best job of showcasing what made him an artist of visual effects, a Rembrandt of film magic. These are simply my ten favorite moments, yours may differ, although there’s a few on this list that I guarantee (Medusa) that (Medusa) we’ll (Medusa) all (Medusa) agree (skeletons) on (Medusa).
On with the magic…