Friday, 30 September 2011


In the late 30's three young men became lifelong friends in Los Angeles. They were future writer Ray Bradbury, collector, writer and future literary agent Forrest J. Ackerman and the young Ray Harryhausen. The three had in common a love of fantasy, science fiction, the great fantasy films - particularly the 1933 KING KONG. What was so important about that friendship was that in the years that followed these three young men dreamed wonderful dreams that few had dreamed before and whatsmore they shared these dreams with the generations that came after them. Bradbury was the man who wrote THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES, THE ILLUSTRATED MAN and FAHRENHEIT 451 and brought poetry to science fiction. Forry Ackerman inspired a generation of fans with his magazines FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND, SPACEMEN and MONSTER WORLD, instilling in kids like me a love of the fantastic cinema. It is hard to think of anybody who grew up in the Sixties and Seventies who are making horror or sci-fi (an abbreviation invented by ackerman) films today who do not regard themselves a "Children of Ackerman". Ray Harryhausen put his dreams on film with a whole series of monster, sci-fi and fantasy films such as THE SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD, JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS and CLASH OF THE TITANS in which his magic brought to life aliens, mythological monsters, Greek Gods in thrilling ways. I consider myself lucky to have seen most of these films when they were first released. In 1962 I went to work at Columbia Pictures London office and it was not long after I encountered Ray himself in one of the corridors. I, naturally took the opportunity to exchange a few words with my hero - all too briefly the moment was over. Ten years later I was asked if I could suggest a subject to interview for the French magazine L'ECRAN FANTASTIQUE and I suggested Ray would be a good subject. I rang Ray and, despite a busy schedule he was kind enough to agree. Ray suggested his London home as the venue. Need I say that it was a mind-boggling experience! After all those years of watching his wonderful films I was spending the day sitting in Ray Harryhausen's lounge with GWANGI (a tyrannosaurus if you need to ask) on the rug between us, talking about Ray's films. I count Ray Harryhausen an one of the nicest people I've ever met. To show the measure of the man, when I sent Ray the transcript of the interview he felt that his answers to my questions had not been complete or interesting enough so, although he was preparing his latest SINBAD film, he took the time to retype all his answers and elaborate on them. L'ECRAN FANTASTIQUE published the interview without paying me for it so I felt fully justified in passing it on for publication to the American fanzine publisher Gary Svehla and later in England to THE HORROR ELITE fanzine.

This wonderful 2 Disc DVD brings together Ray's early stop-motion MOTHER GOOSE STORIES, his more ambitious FAIRY TALE series (incuding an abandoned TORTOISE AND THE HARE recently completed by two of Ray's admirers). There is much, much more like animated army training films, tests and drawings for projects like MUNCHAUSEN, FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER, THE ELEMENTALS and EVOLUTION, even a couple of advertising films.

Disc 2 contains masses of interesting stuff including a reunion between Ray, Ackerman and Bradbury, tributes from other film makers and even a piece on Ray's wonderful bronze statues which include a twice lifesize depiction of explorer David Livingstone (his wife Diane's great grandfather) being attacked by a lion which now stands at the Livingstone museum near Edinburgh and several interviews and trailers. This is an important release and a wonderful one which is a fitting tribute to a great film-maker and a very nice guy. Rating *****


talos7 said...

Thank you very much for the wonderful review of "Ray Harryhausen: The Early Years Collection," which I produced for Sparkhill Entertainment in 2005. Ray and I worked long and hard for nearly two years to make the two-disc DVD the most comprehensive examination of his pre-feature film years ever done. I believe we succeeded. Your glowing review confirms my opinion.

One small, extremely small, quibble: "Gwangi" was an allosaurus, not a T-Rex.

Arnold Kunert

Cerpts said...

Wow,that sounds like a treasure trove. Somehow I wasn't aware of this dvd but I've seen some of Ray Harryhausen's early MOTHER GOOSE and FAIRY TALES shorts and they were wonderful. Of course, everything Ray does is wonderful! I'm gonna have to track this dvd down.

Weaverman said...

Thanks for posting Arnold - it means a lot to get feedback like this. My visit to Ray's house back in 1972 was one of the highlights of my film fan life. I had originally hired the DVD from Lovefilm but put in an order to Amazon before I'd finished watching the first disc - as Cerpts says "treasure trove" indeed. Please give my apologies to Gwangi if you see him.