September 1, 2011 by The Belated Nerd
All four of Ray Harryhausen‘s stop-motion creatures to appear on film in 1961 were modeled on actual animals; living and extinct. Except for size, Harryhausen’s models for Mysterious Island were exacting reproductions of real species. In the film, Union soldiers escape from a Confederate prison camp in a hot-air balloon and end up crash landing near an island where Captain Nemo is performing growth experiments on the local fauna. One by one, the castaways encounter and battle with Nemo’s freakish test subjects.
The Giant Crab was not only modeled after, but created from, an actual crab. The crab was bought by Harryhausen in Harrods Food Hall and sent to the Natural History Museum in London to be humanely killed. The armature was then designed to fit inside the shells of the crab. It was fixed to the animation table by wire and was supported on an aerial brace with wires.
Click image to watch the scene
The Phorusrhacos is one of Harryhausen’s most endearing and goofy creations. Based on an extinct predator also known as a “terror bird” the animal was meant to appear as frightening as the other creatures in the film. The result, however, resembling a giant deranged chicken with mange, provides the film’s one moment of humor. The composer thought the scene was so funny he jokingly threatened producer Harryhausen that he would score it to “Turkey in the Straw”
Click on image to watch scene (advance to 5:30)
The Giant Bees were a lot more fearsome. Although there seemed to be three giant bees there was only one. Harryhausen used mattes to make it seem as if there were three. The set design with the giant honeycombs behind the actors did much to convince the viewer that these creatures were enormous.
Click to watch the scene (advance to 1:45)
The Giant Cephalopod resembling a prehistoric ammonite (or, depending on who you ask, an octopus in a snail-shell) was the final creature featured in Mysterious Island, although the original script also called for a giant man-eating plant.
Click on the image to watch the scene (advance to 4:00)
Category Fantasy, Film, Science Fiction | Tags: Captain Nemo,Jules Verne,Monsters,Mysterious Island,Ray Harryhausen | 2 Comments
July 30, 2011 by The Belated Nerd
I have to admit I am hesitant to post an entry about Irwin Allen’s 1961 film Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. There are millions of fans of the movie and the TV show it spawned and I can’t get away with the kind of lazy research that passes muster when writing about the plot of a 50 year old comic book that barely anybody alive remembers reading. So, this weekend, the 50th anniversary of when Voyage to the Bottom of Sea was playing in theaters, I’m merely going to post some great pictures of the concept art used in pre-production, and a few of my modest observations based on nothing more than a couple casual viewing of the film when I was a kid.
This, apparently, was the original design of the submarine Seaview. It’s missing the iconic “manta” bow of the final design and the windows are enormous! I remember thinking how impractiacal the windows on the movie and TV version were. The windows on the submarine in this picture just scream peril.
I really like this picture! It’s a lot more expressive of a sky on fire than the roiling red glow seen in the film.
I’d forgotten there was a giant squid in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. If I’d remembered that, I would have mentioned it in last week’s post about Jules Verne’s banner year in film. Surely, Voyage is only the second most famous story featuring a submarine and a giant cephalopod.
Here’s a view through the interior of the “bigger windows” Seaview, made even more frightening by a gauntlet of sea mines. Granted, windows in a submarine are worth a few points in the terror department, but I think I’d have a hard time following the story worrying that at any moment a stray mine, or (illogically) sinking chunk of ice, or stray baseball could doom the entire crew of this technological wonder.
Category Art, Film, Science Fiction | Tags: 1961,Film,Irwin Allen,Jules Verne,Movies,science fiction,Seaview,Submarines,Underwater | No Comments