Happy Birthday Ray HarryhausenHi, boys and girls! This is the beginning of series of posts, which have gotten off to a rocky start. Called it “Notes from a Grumpy Old Man”. Meditations on the history and connections in science fiction, fantasy, and general geekery. Who am I? Well, I’ve known our Fearless Leader Mike since he lived somewhere other than the Southeast. What are my credentials? Other than being a SF fan since before I was in school, or having seen the original Star Wars in the theaters (10 times)? Ask Mike, he accepted me.

Today I come to you to note the 91st birthday (June 29) of one of the greatest artist in science fiction and fantasy film, stop-motion master Ray Harryhausen. Even if you’ve never seen one of his films – and if you *haven’t*, I strongly urge you to remedy that – you know who he is. The fighting skeletons in “Spy Kids” is a tribute to him, as is the restaurant “Harry Hausen’s” in “Monsters Inc.”. He was a life-long friend of the late great Ray Bradbury. I was lucky enough to see him speak at a film festival event here in Seattle (he was still sharp in his 80s, and as far as I know is still sharp at 91). He spoke about the dream-like quality he liked in his films, and they certainly look like no other films. Yes, to our eyes spoiled by near-perfect CGI, it may not look quite “right” today, but there’s an undeniable charm to his films.

What you might NOT know about Harryhausen is that there is actually a connection between him and Doctor Who. Two of the Doctors (well, actors) starred in two of his best, his second and third Sinbad movies (I’m going to overlook the first Sinbad movie, confusingly called “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad”, as it is screamingly 1950s. Our title character doesn’t even have a *beard*, fergawdsake!).

In “The Golden Voyage of Sinbad”, probably (in my humble opinion) the most polished and best of Harryhausen’s films, certainly of the Sinbad films, John Philip Law (of “Barbarella”) stars as Sindad, and Bond girl Caroline Munro as the necessary curvy young woman, and its film with the most genuine Islamic bon mots, including an actual hadith. And our villain? None other than the 4th Doctor, Tom Baker, as the evil wizard Prince Koura. And boy, does he eat up *that* role, enchanting flying homunculi, a ship’s figurehead, and a six-armed statue of Kali who then sword-fights for him. I highly recommend this.

“Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger” (no bad Rocky or Survivor jokes, please) is marred by Patrick Wayne (son of John) starring as Sinbad (man, is he a bad actor). And there’s more cheesecake than previous, and a surprising amount of skin for a “G” rating, with Taryn Power (Tryone’s little girl) and a young (26) Jane Seymour. And playing the Taryn Power character’s wise-man father? The Second Doctor, Patrick Troughton. They’re all pursued by an evil sorceress, and this film has a bit more stop-motion than the previous film, and with more “natural” animals – a baboon, walrus, and sabertooth cat. Trust me, it’s a lot of fun.

Until Next Time!

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