Ray Harryhausen’s Monsters Return to the Big Screen

The king of stop-motion gets a big-screen revival

Today we’re used to seeing rampaging 3D aliens and entire cities destroyed but back in the day stop-motion monsters, dinosaurs, and giant sword-fighting skeletons were the height of cinematic wizardry. Behind those scaly, two-headed birds and one-eyed cyclops was one man: special effects maestro Ray Harryhausen. Starting in the 1950s and continuing through the ’80s, he worked on more than twenty movies, including gloriously cheesy epics like Jason and the ArgonautsThe Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, and the original 1981 version of Clash of the Titans. Without Harryhausen, we probably wouldn’t have Star Wars.

To celebrate his legacy, the American Cinematheque and the Visual Effects Society will screen Harryhausen’s most memorable films at the Aero Theatre. The mini-festival, which kicked off last night, runs through June 15th.

The lineup includes the films mentioned above as well as Earth vs. the Flying Saucers and a 60th anniversary screening of The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms. One of the first monster movies, it’s based on a Ray Bradbury short story in which an atomic bomb test in the Arctic awakens a hibernating carnivorous dinosaur that wreaks havoc on New York. It spawned films such as Them! and the Godzilla franchise.

Although the idea of atomically created giant ants terrorizing a town is now more apt to produce laughter, this event provides viewers the opportunity to appreciate Harryhausen’s vintage special effects.