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Book Review

Book Cover

Harryhausen: The Lost Movies (Hardback)


Author: John Walsh
Publisher: Titan Books
176 pages
RRP: £29.99, US $39.95, Cdn $53.95
ISBN: 978 1 78909 110 6
Publication Date: 10 September 2019

Titan Books publishes Harryhausen: The Lost Movies, by BAFTA nominated filmmaker John Walsh. It is an attractive full-colour hardback covering the unmade film projects connected to the brilliant stop-motion effects artist Ray Harryhausen, whose impressive career spanned more than 60 years. He was an assistant to King Kong’s Willis O’Brien on the ape movie Mighty Joe Young (1949), and during his lifetime designed, created and crafted such timeless classics as Jason and the Argonauts (1963), Clash of the Titans (1981), The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973), Earth Vs the Flying Saucers (1956), The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953), It Came From Beneath the Sea (1955), 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957), and many more.

This book – separated into batches of years – offers a brief story behind each unrealised film, punctuated by stunning sketches, artwork, models and photographs. There is a Foreword with comments from Directors John Landis (An American Werewolf in London), John Boorman (Deliverance), Nicholas Meyer (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan), and the brilliant Guillermo Del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth).

John Walsh was a fresh-faced, 18-year old new starter at film school when he first met Ray Harryhausen, the master of bringing inanimate objects to life. They struck-up a friendship which spanned the years. Walsh made a documentary film about the life and work of the man, and Harryhausen made Walsh a trustee of the Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation. When the legend died in 2013 (aged 93) Walsh was offered exclusive access to the great man’s archive. The first revelation that struck me when opening this delightful book was the sheer number of prospective films Harryhausen has been involved in which never saw the light of day. Shocking.

The film titles are headed with the category ‘Unused Idea’, ‘Turned Down By Ray’, or ‘On The Cutting Room Floor’. ‘Unused Ideas’ started with Creation (1930) and ended with The Eighth Voyage of Sinbad: Return to Colossa (2007). There were so many of these that didn’t get the green light, and you kind of wonder what magic Ray Harryhausen would have weaved on such titles as Dante’s Inferno (1941), War of the Worlds (1949), Conan (1969), When the Earth Cracked Open (1971), and Sinbad and the Seven Wonders of the World (1981). It is testament to Harryhausen’s status and tight scheduling that he could pick and choose his work, and turned down such momentous films as Moby Dick (1956), Night of the Demon (1957), The Land That Time Forgot (1974), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), The Princess Bride (1982), X-Men (1984), Dune (1984), and The League of Gentleman’s Apocalypse (2005).

‘On The Cutting Room Floor’ showcases many of his classic movies wherein certain scenes were cut, either at the script stage or in pre-production, due to budgetary, time or technical restrictions. These are accompanied by many never seen before photos of Ray working with his models. These include The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), Mysterious Island (1961), First Men in the Moon (1964), One Million Years B.C. (1966), The Valley of Gwangi (1969), Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977), as well as those mentioned at the top of this review. The concept artwork accompanying all of these projects is simply amazing, and proves just how much work goes into a film which might not even be made.

Any fan of Ray Harryhausen and/or monster and fantasy movies – particularly of the 1950s – is going to love this book. It has been designed to comfortably dip in and out of, but you’ll probably find yourself reading through it from the beginning to get more of a feel for the timeline and what was possible when. That is after you’ve revisited his classics. Harryhausen is one of those people who occasionally pop up in history to achieve the right thing at the right time, and that we’ll never see the like of again. Celebrate his momentous career with this fantastic, eye-opening book. You won’t be sorry.


Ty Power

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