Raymond Frederick Harryhausen was an American artist, designer, visual effects creator, writer and producer who created a form of stop motion model animation known as “Dynamation”
The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)
Key Animation: Cyclops, Serpent Woman, Roc Hatchling, Roc, Skeleton, Dragon
Our final two entries are the two for which Ray Harryhausen is, probably, best remembered. That’s not to discount any of the other films on this list; these two are simply regarded as his most memorable. In Harryhausen’s first Sinbad adventure, “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad,” Kerwin Matthews sets sail as the sword-wielding hero. A mysterious magician named Sokurah (character actor Torin Thatcher) places a spell on Sinbad’s bride to be (the stunning Kathryn Grant), one that can only be broken by returning the sorcerer to his castle on the Isle of the Cyclops.
Sinbad and his crew, with the help from a boyish genie, face-off against some of Ray’s most iconic creations: the Roc, a massive, two-headed bird; a reanimated skeleton, a fire-breathing dragon; and one of Harryhausen’s greatest: the man-eating Cyclops. Elevated by an incredible score from Bernard Herrmann (the first of four collaborations), “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad” is a fantastic fantasy adventure with great re-watch value. Ray’s seventh film is a must watch for his impressive skeleton sword fight choreography and the battle between the Cyclops and the dragon. Fun fact: this is the first film that Harryhausen used his coined term Dynamation to describe his process.
1. Jason and the Argonauts (1963)
Key Animation: Talos, Harpies, Hydra, Skeletons
Ray Harryhausen opens his Greek epic sandbox with “Jason and the Argonauts,” his eleventh and, arguably, most thrilling motion picture. In this adventure, we follow Jason and his team of intrepid mercenaries on a treacherous quest to find the legendary Golden Fleece. Of course they are forced to face many challenges. Ray reaches the pinnacle of his skills, here, to create some truly awe-inspiring visuals accompanied by an equally exhilarating soundtrack from Bernard Herrmann. This is their final collaboration.
The giant, metallic Talos, whose scale matches that of previous Harryhausen giants like the Cyclops, Ymir, and the Rhedosaur, proves a worthy adversary. Its movements lay the groundwork for the Minoton, the Figurehead, and Kali. The flying harpies must be related to the Homonicus from “The Golden Voyage of Sinbad” and their attack on our heroes is more impressive than Hitchcock’s “The Birds,” released that same year. The terrifying Hydra guards the Golden Fleece with its venomous, multiplying heads. Animating such a multitude of elements is no simple task but one Ray truly excels at in this film, with the Kali in “Golden Voyage” and Medusa’s head in “Clash of the Titans.” The teeth of the mighty Hydra spawn an army of skeletons. Somehow, Ray manages to improve on the choreography he created with one skeleton in “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad.” A must see.