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Ray Harryhausen and friend

“I prefer to work alone and do everything alone, even today… That’s why I never became a director. I never had patience with people.” – Ray Harryhausen

Ray Harryhausen, king of the stop motion monsters, has died. Has the last thread of Hollywood’s golden age died with him?

Not the art of stop motion itself, of course. Despite the CGI watershed of Jurassic Park, the medium remains healthy thanks to the likes of Henry Selick, Aardman and others. I mean the lone craftsman, able to stamp his name and personality on even the biggest studio blockbuster.

He didn’t direct a single one of the 15 titles for which he produced the visual effects and yet they’re all still known as ‘Harryhausen movies’, from Mighty Joe Young (1949) to Clash of the Titans (1981). It’s not surprising – it’s his personality that’s stamped most visibly over all of them.

My first exposure was via a scratchy VHS copy of Clash of the Titans, which I watched on hard rotation as a child. Talking statues, giant scorpions, evil curses, the Stygian witches, mechanical owls (yes, yes I know…) This film had everything. But Medusa was the star. Despite appearing in only one scene and having no lines, she’s the film’s pivotal character and most arresting presence. It helps that she’s also damn scary.

That’s the key to Harryhausen films. The monsters were the stars and Harryhausen was the monsters. Every scale and follicle, every twitch and snarl; planned, designed and animated by one man.

We will never see his like again.

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