It Came From Beneath The Sea (Columbia, 1955) D: Robert Gordon, w/ Kenneth Tobey, Faith Domergue. Rating: NNN; DVD package: NNN
Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers (Columbia, 1956) D: Fred F. Sears, w/ Hugh Marlowe, Joan Taylor. Rating: NNN; DVD package: NNN
Ray Harryhausen inspired an entire generation of filmmakers. You can see tributes to his effects for Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers in both Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters and Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks! The current crop of fantasy epics and the careers of George Lucas, Peter Jackson and more wouldn’t have happened without him.
Harryhausen, now retired, was the king of stop-motion animation, the art of moving small-scale models one frame at a time to create the illusion of monsters. He worked alone, and from 1958’s The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad to 1977’s Sinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger, created a string of classic fantasies that still delight audiences.
Early works It Came From Beneath The Sea and Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers are clumsier than the later movies. It Came, especially, suffers from a shortage of monsters, though the scenes of the giant octopus trashing San Francisco are an effects-lover’s dream.
Flying Saucers is a fast-paced B movie with lots of action and brilliant use of stock shots. It’s also got some good dialogue courtesy of pseudonymous work by Bernard Gordon, a blacklisted writer who features in an accompanying documentary detailing the anti-Communist witch hunt and the Writers Guild’s efforts to re-establish credit for writers. It’s a fascinating bit of movie history.
Like last year’s release of 20 Million Miles To Earth, these films come in colourized or black-and-white versions, with an option for toggling between them. The outstanding colourization is done with Harryhausen’s full cooperation. On the commentaries, he’s as keen on colour as he is reluctant to reveal his trade secrets, despite prodding from wildly enthused young effects artists.
Some of the extras are repeated: both discs have the same Tim Burton conversation and look at a contemporary stop-motion artist.
EXTRAS ICFBTS disc one: Harryhausen and effects artists Randall William Cook, John Bruno, Arnold Kunert commentary. Theatrical aspect, colour and b&w. English 5.1 or mono, Spanish, Portuguese audio. English, French, Spanish, Portuguese subtitles. Disc two: Harryhausen interview, Harryhausen and Tim Burton conversation, composer Mischa Bakaleinikoff doc, galleries. Full-frame. Spanish, Portuguese subtitles.
EVTFS disc one: Harryhausen and effects artists Jeffrey Okun, Ken Ralston, Kunert commentary. Theatrical aspect, colour and b&w. English 5.1 or mono, Spanish, Portuguese audio. English, French, Spanish, Portuguese subtitles. Disc two: Harryhausen interview; Harryhausen and Burton conversation; Joan Taylor interview; Hollywood blacklist, composer Bakaleinikoff, contemporary stop-motion animation and colorization process docs; art work. Full-frame. Spanish, Portuguese subtitles.