I’d like to watch one of my all-time favorite movies today–Jason and the Argonauts (1963), featuring two of the most extraordinary special effects scenes ever created: the skeletons’ attack, and the colossal statue of Talos coming to life. These were the work of the late Ray Harryhausen: and although most of our current special effects tools and techniques were not available to him in 1963… he didn’t need ’em!
So here is a bit of the skeletons’ attack. The whole movie’s available on YouTube, in case you want to join me in watching it. If you’ve never seen it before, you’ll be astounded by what could be done, back then, without computers.
Hey, you might even get a little bit scared, for a minute or two! But don’t worry: this kind of scare only lasts a few minutes, and then you can have a laugh about it. Really, it’s a form of sanity medicine.
Sometime between Christmas and New Year’s, I’ve got to find time to revisit one of my favorite movies–The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. When it came out in 1958, my parents wouldn’t let me see it: thought it’d be too scary for me.
But this movie provides a rare opportunity to enjoy not one but two geniuses at work. It’s got the music of Bernard Herrmann, one of the all-time greats of movie music, and the special effects of Ray Harryhausen, the greatest monster-maker ever. It took the special effects art 40 years to catch up to him.
Oh, the theme music! To say nothing of that gorgeous music we hear when the Roc flies. Bernard Herrmann said this was among his favorite movie scores, and who can argue with him?
And of course Harryhausen gave us the Cyclops, a dragon, the Roc, and an animated skeleton–what’s not to like?
It’s gonna be so great, to hear that theme again! Oh, look, here it is–
Well, maybe I need some other material. Like Sinbad and the Roc, for instance. I just love the music by Bernard Herrmann, and the stop-motion monster by Ray Harryhausen. The clip is from The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, vintage 1958. Heh-heh, this’ll fetch ’em!
The Eohippus, “Dawn Horse” (aka Hyracotherium), comes to life in one of my favorite movies, The Valley of Gwangi–another wonderful special effect by the stop-action wizard, the late great Ray Harryhausen.
James Franciscus is about to be tempted into a very great folly…
As long as we’re on the subject of statues coming to life, here is the all-time boss statue-coming-to-life scene ever, created by special effects genius Ray Harryhausen for Jason and the Argonauts (1963). My cats seem to enjoy it when I imitate Talos, although I must say it never helped me during job interviews.
One way to get your ship through the Clashing Rocks…
You do wonder about some of the things that go on in Greek mythology.
Jason and the Argonauts have to get through the Clashing Rocks that guard the Bosporus, without the ship getting cracked like a nutshell. In the Ray Harryhausen movie, this giant merman-thing (pictured above) comes up and holds the rocks apart for them. In other versions of the story, this doesn’t happen. Instead, for instance, they send a dove through the rocks and, after they move apart again after squashing the poor bird, the Argonauts are able to row real fast and get through, with only the Argo’s stern ornament bitten off.
Uh, guys… why didn’t you beach the Argo and haul it overland on rollers, as ancient sailors often did with their ships, and put it back in the water when you’d passed by the Clashing Rocks? No one seems to have thought of that. One is reminded of Laurel and Hardy in The Music Box, lugging the piano up those horribly steep stairs when they could’ve just carted it around the block to the front door. Duh…
Oddly enough, in later centuries, Greek and Roman ships routinely passed through the strait without seeing hide nor hair of the Clashing Rocks. The myth says that after Jason got through, the rocks didn’t clash together anymore. Perhaps their failure to crush the Argo made them give it up. Who knew great big rocks can get down-hearted?
Ah, well, they don’t call it mythology for nothing.