Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan DVD REVIEW

Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan DVD review.


Release Date: 4 March 2013
2012 | PG | 95 minutes | £17.99 (DVD)/£19.99 (Blu-ray)
Distributor: Arrow Films
Director: Gilles Penso
Interviewees: Ray Harryhausen, James Cameron, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro, Nick Park

When he was working on Mighty Joe Young, Ray Harryhausen ate celery and carrots to get into a gorilla mood; when he wrecked the Golden Gate Bridge in It Came From Beneath The Sea, local authorities expressed concern that it’d worry drivers who used it; the angry crab in Mysterious Island was originally bought from Harrods. Just three of the anecdotes in a documentary that’s full of them, a doc fans of the great man will presumably lap up.

It’s done in a straightforward, no-frills fashion, taking each of the films Harryhausen worked on in turn, from Mighty Joe Young in ’49 to Clash Of The Titans in ’81. (1956’s The Animal World gets a mention, and this thought-to-be long-lost film is now said to exist in the Warner archives – come on, Warners, let’s have it out on DVD!) It very much focuses on the man’s work, not the man, and the presentation is so perfunctory it’s surprising it got a cinema release. One possible reason it did is the parade of the most important genre directors in the world today (besides the above, you also get Terry Gilliam, Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante, Henry Selick, John Landis and Tim Burton) singing Harryhausen’s praises – although some perhaps go too far. One criticises CGI for putting a barrier between the action and the audience – what, more so than stopmotion did?! And maybe there’s a little too much yakking and not enough action – Clash Of The Titans for instance, isn’t represented by a single scrap of footage; perhaps there were rights issues.

Peter Jackson says that Harryhausen’s work required patience and endurance. He’s not wrong – descriptions of how Harryhausen worked are truly painful, with days of labour leading to seconds of footage. After Clash Of The Titans, techniques were moving on, so he retired, like a typewriter salesman admitting defeat. Now we have The Ray And Diana Harryhausen Foundation to protect his legacy. And we have this film, which, while not spectacular or amazing, is an affectionate and satisfying tribute.

Extras:

Lots, including a director/producers commentary, interview outtakes (53 minutes), eight deleted scenes, a featurette on the treasure trove of Ray’s LA garage (14 minutes), Q&A footage, and nine classic trailers.

Russell Lewin

Watch the Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan trailer.
For an alternate perspective, read our Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan review from the theatrical release.
Read more of our DVD reviews.