Book Review: Harryhausen: The Lost Movies

An exclusive look into the never-before-seen world of Ray Harryhausen and his lost movies. 
Harryhausen

Description: An exclusive look into the never-before-seen world of Ray Harryhausen and his lost movies. Think you know it all? Think again…

 

Overview

I’ll be brutally honest. I’m rather late for this party. Especially when you consider that this book was first released back in September of 2019. But to be honest, it’s never too late or early to be a fan of Ray Harryhausen’s work.  And this book, which is written by a fan for fans is a great way to celebrate the work of one of Britain’s finest filmmakers. Especially when it comes to films set in science fiction and fantasy worlds.

For those that don’t know. Ray Harryhausen was one of the creative minds behind movies such as Jason and The Argonauts (1963), The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973), Sinbad and The Eye of The Tiger (1977), and Clash of the Titans (1981). Over the course of his career. Ray Harryhausen made 16 movies.

Working with his creative partner Charles H. Schneer. Harryhausen would revolutionize the art of stop motion animation and blaze the trail that many animators such as Nick Park (Wallace and Gromit) would follow.

Harryhausen: The Lost Movies explores many of the movie projects that Harryhausen never got to make and shows off lots of never-before-seen artwork from these lost projects. As well as models that never got used in some of the films that he did make.

 

Artwork

It goes without saying. This book is a thing of beauty. I literally heard an orchestral Ta-da as I opened this tome of goodness. Opening the pages of this book made me feel like Indiana Jones as he is about to snatch the Holy Grail. It is a true marvel.

From the green dust cover with art from various Harryhausen movies adorning it. To the pages within. The book is pure eye candy and is beautifully laid out. It also smelled good too. I love that new book smell. But it’s a true sensory experience.

 

The Book & Its Contents

Writer John Walsh breaks this book down into three categories. Firstly, he gives us the movies that Harryhausen wanted to create and had done storyboards and test footage for. Secondly is models and effects sequences that never got used in the movies that got made. And lastly, there are the movie projects that Ray Harryhausen was offered, but turned down.

 

Movies Harryhausen Did Work For, but Never got to Make

 

Some concept art from Harryhausen’s unsuccessful pitch for ‘War of The Worlds’. As you can see. His art was very close to how the Martians were described in the H.G. Wells novel.

 

As I read through this book. I was completely blown away by the many movies that Harryhausen had in the works, but never got to make due to lack of studio interest or lack of funding. One such film was an unsuccessful pitch that was made in 1949 for a ‘War of The Worlds’ movie. Ray Harryhausen was a huge fan of this H.G. Wells story and planned to bring it to life as written in the book. Alien tripods walking around London. Though the filmmaker’s ambition didn’t end there. His plan was to get acclaimed music composer Bernard Herman to score the music while he animated the alien tripods to move in time to the soundtrack. As a fan of H.G. Wells’s stories myself. I’d have loved to have seen what Harryhausen had in mind realized on the big screen.

Another project Harryhausen discontinued work on due to lack of studio interest was a film called ‘Sinbad Goes To Mars’, which was being developed in 1978. The story would see Sinbad travel to Mars through a portal device similar to what we saw much later on in Stargate and the subsequent Stargate TV shows. Work on this was discontinued because it was thought that travel portals would seem a little too farfetched to cinema audiences. It is a great shame because some of the artwork, which is featured in the book looks absolutely amazing.

 

Movie Projects Turned Down

Insofar as films that Ray Harryhausen was offered, but turned down. He was approached by Lucasfilm back in the early 80s to do some work on Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. In short, they wanted Harryhausen to animate the sequence with the imperial walkers, but the filmmaker had to decline the work due to work that he was already doing on ‘Clash of The Titans’.

Another movie project that was turned down was an early attempt to make an X-Men movie. Ray was approached by Marvel Comics Stan Lee in 1984 with a movie script for an X-Men film. The script was written by Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas. Had it gone ahead it would have included Professor X, Kitty Pryde, Cyclops, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Colossus, and Storm. This script is believed to be a first attempt at bringing the X-Men to the big screen.

An X-Men movie eventually made it to the cinema in 2000, which is when Brian Singers’ movie adaptation kicked off one of the biggest superhero franchises to ever appear on the big screen. One can only imagine what a Ray Harryhausen version would have looked like.

 

Unused Ideas From Harryhausen’s Existing Films

This last category of the book is perhaps the most interesting. For example, we learn that snakes were left out of a great many Harryhausen films because his creative partner Charles H. Schneer hated snakes. Another sequence that never made it to film is one in which we would have seen a headless skeleton warrior in ‘Jason and The Argonauts’. This was cut because it was thought that it would be too distressing for a family audience.

There are a great many instances of things like this not getting onto film because of censers or lack of budget or time. And John Walsh does a great job of collating them for this book.

 

Overall and Value For Money

If you are a fan of movies as well as a fan of Harryhausen movies. Then this book is an absolute treasure.

Having grown up in the 70s and 80s. I got to see a couple of these movies in the cinema as well as on television. Being often intrigued by the fantastic beasts that Ray created for these movies was enough reason for me to buy this book.

Harryhausen movies are a treasured part of my childhood. I’ve got a fond memory of seeing Clash of the Titans with my late father in the summer of 1981. It was the last movie that my Father and I seen together. This is what makes this book so special for me on a personal note. Learning of the films that could have been. As well as the films that were made and what was not included in them is fascinating for me. It only adds to the magic.

So, that said. I thought that I knew a fair bit about Ray Harryhausen films. At least until I opened the pages of this book. I now know a whole lot more.

To sum up. This book is a must for fans of cinema and is brilliant value for money. And it would not surprise me if a second volume comes along at some point when John Walsh finds lots more things in the archives.

If you’d like to hear more about this book and John Walsh’s other projects. Check out the latest episode of SFP-NOW on SciFiPulseRadio via the audio player, which is embedded below:

 

 

You can order your very own copy of this wonderful book here at Titan Books.

 

10
Harryhausen: The Lost Movies
  • Artwork
    10
  • Content
    10
  • Overall Presentation
    10

Ian Cullen is the founder of scifipulse.net and has been a fan of science fiction and fantasy from birth. In the past few years he has written for 'Star Trek' Magazine as well as interviewed numerous comics writers, television producers and actors for the SFP-NOW podcast at: www.scifipulseradio.com When he is not writing for scifipulse.net Ian enjoys playing his guitar, studying music, watching movies and reading his comics. Ian is both the founder and owner of scifipulse.net You can contact ian at: [email protected]
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