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Ray Harryhausen: Master of the Majicks


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October 10, 2008

DVDs showcase FX god Harryhausen


Ray Harryhausen is a god in movie special effects.

As a 13-year-old, he saw the original King Kong and was inspired by Willis O'Brien's stop-action animation that brought the gorilla to life.

Harryhausen went on to thrill audiences with his own stop-action work, especially in the 1950s and '60s, with dazzling effects in movies such as The 7th Voyage of Sinbad.

Few can forget the Cyclops and a vanguard of skeleton soldiers.

Now we know Harryhausen inspired several generations of filmmakers and F/X experts -- among them George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Tim Burton, John Landis and dozens of craftsmen.

Their admiration borders on worship.

See for yourself why and how, in the pre-digital age, Harryhausen helped perfect techniques that were used for decades.

This week, Sony re-released restored widescreen versions of four Columbia adventure and monster movies of 1955-58 that depended on Harryhausen's wizardry.

Standing alone is the 7th Voyage of Sinbad: 50th Anniversary Edition.

While only one-disc, it boasts excellent extras, including Landis' interview with the 88-year-old Harryhausen.

And the movie, while cheeseball for its acting, still stands as a visual marvel.

The treasure chest is the Ray Harryhausen Collectible DVD Gift Set.

Each of the three movies here is a fully loaded, two-disc set: Earth Vs. the Flying Saucers, It Came From Beneath the Sea, and 20 Million Miles to Earth: 50th Anniversary Edition.

The treat here is a Harryhausen-approved Ymir reptile figurine from 20 Million Miles.

Each movie includes an optional colourized version that -- and this is amazing to purists -- is also approved by Harryhausen.

He wanted to shoot these titles in colour, as he later did with Sinbad, but lacked the budget.

That is just one of many insights in the bountiful extras offered throughout.

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