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The Fantastic Films of Ray Harryhausen - Blu-ray Review


5 beersWith a ceremonial crashing of cymbals, Bernard Herrmann’s thunderous score – completely without the use of strings - kicks off the drama and stop-motion wonder in Jason and the Argonauts.  Directed by Don Chaffey (of Pete’s Dragon and One Million Years B.C. fame) and full of Ray Harryhausen’s superbly rendered monsters, this 1963 fantasy feature is, time and time again, credited as being the ONE film that fired the imaginations of nearly two generations of film visionaries, from the magical minds of Tim Burton and Peter Jackson to the well-timed staging of Steven Spielberg and John Landis.

It is also one of the four films featured in Via Vision Entertainment’s collection of Harryhausen features.  Making its debut in 1963, it is probably the one that is more widely seen and appreciated by the masses; however, it merely whets the appetite for some, making this collection a must-own.  Who among us was not haunted by the image of the cyclobs take the genie's lamp in The 7th Voyage of Sinbad?  Or the wooden figurehead at the front of the ship coming to life and attacking the crew in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad?  His influence is unmeasurable.  

The other films in the collection are The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad (1958), The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad (1973), and Sinbad And The Eye Of the Tiger (1977).  Produced by Charles H. Schneer, longtime champion of Harryhausen’s work, the films – while varying in quality when it comes to the acting and storytelling – showcase Harryhausen’s skills at creating monsters and bringing Gods to life.  They are quickly paced – even by today’s standards – and are good representation of the whole Sword-and-Sandal phenomenon, as well as Harryhausen’s hard-earned efforts to earn a single release billing (and not the dreaded B-movie double feature) at movie houses across America.

Jason’s perilous journey in search of the Golden Fleece in 1963’s tale brings he and his men face-to-face with Talos, a moving bronze statue - 500 times their height - that seeks to destroy the men and their boat once they remove a piece of treasure they were warned not to disturb.  Talos, comparable only to the success of the original King Kong model, is a towering behemoth of a monster and a mighty fun sequence to repeatedly watch.  Harryhausen’s effects against the Italian location, after noting the enhanced tarnish on the bronze skin of Talos, are superbly rendered in his painstaking obedience to detail.  Even the physicality of the statue as it straddles two bluffs in order to block the men poses a realistic threat.  Using camera tricks and a healthy dose of blue screen circa 1963, the illusion of men verses clay is successfully achieved.

Full of giant mermen, sword-wielding skeletons (a four-minute sequence of awesomeness that took Harryhausen four months to complete and DEFINITELY influenced Burton), and the multi-headed Hydra that protects the glowing beauty of the Golden Fleece, the films work as a collective effort to showcase the dimensions of Harryhausen’s creations.  His films might have had miniscule budgets but his influence on the special effects department in film is simply priceless.  It is no wonder that Harryhausen is treated to releases like this.  They are perfect fantasy adventures.

There are few other visual effects artists that I know of who continually inspire filmmakers as significant to the medium than that of special effects guru Ray Harryhausen.  His name alone conjures up images of giants, sword-fighting skeletons, monsters, and, hell, Medusa herself.  He is the crowned king of Stop Motion animation.  He was always more than just another technician on a film set.  He worked alone.  He worked quickly.  He was meticulous and understood his craft.  No director EVER got in his way.  Ray Harryhausen is a true auteur and the films he worked on became HIS films.      

The Fantastic Films of Ray Harryhausen is available in a region-free import release only.


[tab title="Blu-ray Review"]

The Fantastic Films of Ray Harryhausen - Blu-ray Review


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - June 23, 2015
Screen Formats: various
: English (Dolby Digital 2.0), Unknown (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Discs: 4 50GB Blu-ray Discs
Region Encoding: A

First and foremost, these pictures – including their remastered prints beat the pants off of Columbia’s previous releases and WILL play on US blu-ray players.  The grain factor is an ebb and flow sort of occurrence (it always was), and sometimes the use of stock footage (namely from Helen of Troy) brings down the quality.  This is to be expected but any side by side comparison will show the strength that these releases have when compared to what came before.  There is a vibrancy to the picture not present in the previous releases.  They are presented in an aspect ratio of 16:9 and all boast a newly minted Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack.  Ultimately, this transfer is less splotchy and dim than previous versions and really show off Harryhausen’s work.



  • For The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, a very fine commentary by Ray Harryhausen, visual effects experts Phil Tippet and Randall William Cook, author Steven Smith, and Arnold Kuner is presented.

  • For Jason and the Argonauts, there are two commentaries included.  One by film historian Tony Dalton and another by director Peter Jackson and visual effects artist Randall William Cook.

Special Features:

I have to say that Via Vision has done fans a solid with this mega-release.  Not only do the films look appreciated and handled with care, but the supplemental items are a bonus treat in and of themselves, too.  There are a lot and all of them are worthy enough for inclusion.  The breakdown is as follows:

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad:

Remembering the 7th Voyage of Sinbad (24 min)

The Harryhausen Legacy (26 min)

The Music of Bernard Herrmann (27 min)

Ray Harryhausen – Interviewed by John Landis (12 min)

Stills Gallery (10 min)

Sinbad May Have Been Bad, But He’s Been Good To Me music video

A Look Behind the Voyage (12 min)

This is Dynamation (3 min)

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad:

Mysterious Island featurette (11 min)

3 Worlds of Gulliver Featurette (7 min)

Earth vs Flying Saucers Featurette (12 min)

Theatrical Trailer (3 min)

Sinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger:

This is Dynamation (3 min)

Theatrical Trailer (2 min)

Jason and the Argonauts:

The Harryhausen Legacy” featurette (26 min)

Ray Harryhausen interviewed by director John Landis (12 min)

The Harryhausen Chronicles documentary (narrated by Leonard Nimoy) (58 min)

Original Skeleton Fight Storyboards


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