Friday, March 5, 2010

One month. Trylon Microcinema. Seven Harryhausen films.

(Check it. Limited edition posters by local artist Joe Midthun. Very nice!)

Starting this weekend the Trylon Microcinema embarks on "Titans. Will. Clash. The FX Magic of Ray Harryhausen." For the month of March, the Trylon offers seven films, spanning from 1955 to 1964, that defined Ray Harryhausen as an artist and an special effects innovator. Three will be screened from 35mm prints and four from recently released Blu-Ray discs, giving everyone a great opportunity to see just how good Blu-Ray can look in a small theater setting.

Although I am a 39-year-old going on 25, watching Harryhausen's animation makes me feel even younger: when my imagination was not so jaded and when I first saw Harryhausen's films on TV. Vivid images of Harryhausen's work litter the recesses of my brain–an army of skeletons poking their heads from the earth, a stoic minotaur rowing a boat, or the nasty tentacles of an octopus reaching up for Golden Gate Bridge—all of which breath more tactile life, even today, than any 21st century special effect. As a kid my sympathies often fell with the creatures, perhaps exactly where Harryhausen put them. Invigorated by films like The Lost World (1925) and King Kong (1933), Harryhausen started creating creatures at a young age. He was a self taught artist who learned by hands-on experience, shooting his first experimental film with a borrowed 16mm camera and uses models with wood armatures. His animation was an art driven by passion, working for nothing but creating some of the most life-like creatures of the time. If you put Harryhausen's rhedosaurus from The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1952) next to Eiji Tsuburaya's lumbering Godzilla (1954), there is simply no comparison.

On the eve of the Clash of the Titans remake, the series is a reminder of how some things have not gotten better with time. (And if you are wondering why the iconic 1981 original isn't in the Trylon's program, ask Warner.)

Titans. Will. Clash. The FX Magic of Ray Harryhausen

Jason and the Argonauts (1963)
Directed by Don Chaffey

Friday and Saturday, March 5 and 6, 7 and 9pm
The classic Greek myth of Jason’s quest for the Golden Fleece comes to life under Ray Harryhausen’s creative guise. The iconic skeleton battle scene, topping out at three minutes, took four months to produce. His first “A” list film, it was regarded by Harryhausen as his best film. 35mm

Earth vs the Flying Saucers (1956)
Directed by Fred F. Sears

Sunday, March 7, 5:20 and 7:00pm
It’s all out war when a U.S. space mission rashly fires upon a mysterious alien spacecraft. Part classic sci-fi in the vein of War of the Worlds and part low-budget fun similar to Plan 9 From Outer Space, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers relegated Harryhausen’s talents to the less animated, but no less fantastical, effects of flying saucers destroying national monuments. HD

Mysterious Island (1961)
Directed by Cy Endfield

Friday and Saturday, March 12 and 13, 7 and 9pm
Although many film adaptations exist of Jules Verne’s novel, this version was by far the most popular. A small group of Union soldiers escape from a Confederate prison camp via hot air balloon only to find themselves stranded on a volcanic island inhabited with mammoth crabs, birds and bees. Presented in “superdynamation!” 35mm

It Came From Beneath the Sea (1955)
Directed by Robert Gordon

Sunday, March 14, 5:20 and 7pm
Driven from its natural habitat by hydrogen bomb testing, a giant octopus sets its monstrous sights on San Francisco, and the military is forced to pull out all its nuclear age gizmos to defend the west coast from ruin! Harryhausen did his best to disguise the fact that there was only enough money in the budget to construct six legs for the octopus that he jokingly referred to as the “hextapus.” HD

First Men in the Moon (1964)
Directed by Nathan Juran

Friday and Saturday, March 19 and 20, 7 an 9pm
Three intrepid turn-of-the-century voyagers are jettisoned to the moon via hair-brained science and DIY space travel. Not only do they discover a strange race of large bipedal insect aliens known as Selenites, but they also uncover their evil plan to conquer the earth! Harryhausen, a fan of the H.G. Wells novel, was personally responsible for persuading Columbia to fund this unique adaptation. 35mm

20 Million Miles to Earth (1957)
Directed by Nathan Juran

Sunday, March 21, 5:20 and 7pm
Humans unwittingly unleash the rage in the Ymir, a giant sulfur-loving reptile brought back from Venus and one of Harryhausen’s most iconic creatures. Shot on location in Italy—because Harryhausen wanted to vacation there—the film’s finale features the most unique death match the Roman Coliseum has ever seen. HD

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)
Directed by Nathan Juran

Friday and Saturday, March 26 and 27, 7 and 8:45pm, and Sunday, March 28, 5:20 and 7pm
Often regarded (with Argonauts) as Harryhausen's masterpiece, The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad proved so popular it spawned two sequels. This one features battles with a Cyclops, a roc (the two-headed eagle), a fighting skeleton, and a dancing, four-armed cobra-woman, Harryhausen's favorite creature. HD

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