[See previous post: "Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan Dies."] Without Charles H. Schneer as producer, Ray Harryhausen created the visual effects for the 1966 camp classic One Million Years B.C. — though, admittedly, his work in that movie played second fiddle to Raquel Welch’s physical effects as a blonde-bewigged (?) cavewoman parading around Earth’s pre-history in a cleavage-enhancing fur bikini. Whereas in producer Hal Roach’s 1940 effort One Million B.C., lizards made up as dinosaurs made life difficult for Victor Mature and Carole Landis, in the creationist-style pre-history of the 1966 (sort-of) remake, Raquel Welch and fellow caveman John Richardson had to square off against Harryhausen’s stop-motion models of giant reptiles. (Photo: Raquel Welch One Million Years B.C.) [Please scroll down to check out TCM’s beautiful Ray Harryhausen tribute.]
Starring James Franciscus and featuring Earth vs. the Flying Saucers’ Richard Carlson, The Valley of Gwangi (1969) was Harryhausen’s next-to-last mid-level effort. Both The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974), with John Phillip Law, and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977), with John Wayne’s son Patrick Wayne and Tyrone Power’s daughter Taryn Power, were for all purposes minor B-movie fare.
Ray Harryhausen and Charles H. Schneer returned to more upscale filmmaking one last time with the bigger-budgeted ($15 million, or approximately $38 million today), MGM-distributed, Desmond Davis-directed Clash of the Titans, starring Harry Hamlin as Perseus, Judi Bowker as Andromeda, and about a dozen big-name (mostly British) performers in supporting roles (Laurence Olivier, Maggie Smith, Claire Bloom, Flora Robson, Freda Jackson, Sian Phillips, Donald Houston, Ursula Andress, Burgess Meredith).
Yet, despite its prestige cast and much publicity surrounding Harryhausen’s work on the film, Clash of the Titans turned out to be a mild box office disappointment in relation to the studio’s expectations. With a domestic cume of $41.09 million, approx. $117 million today, the summer-season release trailed competitors Raiders of the Lost Ark, Superman II, Arthur, The Cannonball Run, Stripes, For Your Eyes Only, and even Alan Alda’s adult-oriented comedy-drama The Four Seasons.
And in the aftermath of Stars Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and The Empire Strikes Back, at least some critics remained unimpressed with Harryhausen’s efforts. Variety, for one, complained about Clash of the Titans’ "flat, outdated special effects that are [along with its "corny" dialogue] a throwback to a bad 1950’s [sic] picture."
Clash of the Titans was Ray Harryhausen’s last movie as a visual-effects artist.
About a decade later, Steven Spielberg initially considered using stop-motion animation to create the dinosaurs found in Jurassic Park (1993), but the director ultimately opted for the infinitely more realistic computer-animated imagery. Yet, if some critics (and modern audiences) were turned off by model animation in live action films, Harryhausen himself was no fan of cgi, telling the New York Times in 1998, "I don’t think you want to make it quite real. Stop motion, to me, gives that added value of a dream world."
Ray Harryhausen’s legacy
In 1992, Tom Hanks handed Ray Harryhausen the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Gordon E. Sawyer Award for technical achievement. Curiously, no Harryhausen movies was ever nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Special Effects category.
Recent big-screen Ray Harryhausen homages include a Monsters, Inc. restaurant named after him, and shots copied from The 7th Voyage of Sinbad in George Lucas’ Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones. Additionally, Harryhausen was featured in a handful of cameos in the last three decades, including bits in Ron Underwood’s 1998 Mighty Joe Young remake starring Charlize Theron and Bill Paxton, and most recently in John Landis’ Burke and Hare.
The coffee-table book Ray Harryhausen: An Animated Life, co-written by Harryhausen and film historian Tony Dalton, came out in 2004.
Ray Harryhausen’s influence
According to various reports, the list of filmmakers "influenced" by Ray Harryhausen’s work (Willis H. O’Brien’s original "influence" apparently forgotten) include just about every director of the last three or four decades who has dabbled in movies using large-scale visual effects: Tim Burton, James Cameron, Joe Dante, Guillermo del Toro, Peter Jackson, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Joe Johnston, John Landis, John Lasseter, George Lucas, Nick Park, Sam Raimi, Steven Spielberg, and Henry Selick.
"Some people think it’s childish to do what I’ve done for a living," Harryhausen told the Toronto Sun a few years ago. "But I think it’s wrong when you grow to be an adult to discard your sense of wonder."
Raquel Welch One Million Years B.C. photo: Hammer Films.