The Feast From The East: Tales From The Cosmic Casbah

Something To Read With Relish

And Tempt The Taste Buds… 

SinbadThe dream I had, Rachid, this is all part of it somehow! We’ve been brought here by some mysterious force. Is it not written that a wise man will try to realise his dream, to follow it?” 

Rachid: “Some say it is through dreams that Allah speaks to mortal man… Captain! He who walks on fire will burn his feet…” 

The being “spontaneously generated” in a cave on a remote island, many parsecs off the Arabian coast. Seafarers discovered that stranger and brought him to Baghdad where he described in intricate detail th countless worlds to be found beyond our own, before the Caliph assured him that none of these realms could surpass the beauty of his own land and the glory of Allah.

This is the synopsis for Theologus Autodidactus, written by Ibn Al-Nafis, dating from as early as the 13th century is believed (in some quarters) to be the earliest precursor of science fiction, although its curious contents lean more towards science-fantasy. 

The notion of Middle Eastern Science Fiction seems so unlikely, compounded by the view that science and the proliferation of (new) ideas conflict with the principles of Islamic ideology. And yet there is so much more to this surprisingly burgeoning scene than it looks. The recent successful SF and Fantasy Book Festival held in Abu Dhabi highlighted what this unexpected region has to offer – most notably:

Iraq+100, a groundbreaking SF anthology that poses an intriguing challenge to contemporary Iraqi writers:

What might your home city look like in the year 2103 – exactly 100 years after the disastrous American and British-led invasion of Iraq?

And now there is the English translation of Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi. 

From the rubble-strewn streets of US-occupied Baghdad, Hadi the junk dealer collects human body parts and stitches them together in order to make the government grant them the proper burial they deserve. However, the corpse goes missing; soon, a wave of eerie murders sweeps the city, leading to reports of a horrendous-looking criminal who, though shot, cannot be killed. 

Hmm, not my cup of (cardamom) tea, this, but interesting to see how arguably the most famous classic SF/horror theme has inspired a uniquely – not to mention unlikely – Middle Eastern variation.

“Two tablets brought forth to the light, yet a third remains from sight.

“A final place must still be found, a place that lies deep below the ground…” – The Oracle Of All Knowledge. 

Once upon a time, shortly after we moved to my childhood home, my parents let out our upstairs rooms to students attending the local university. The vast majority of them hailed from the Middle East. So, fortunately, from a very young age, yours truly grasped the opportunity to savour the music, language, art, aromas, rugs and – Allah be praised! – delicacies of distant domains. 

Thus, fuelling my imagination by gawping at various awesome adventures such as The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and – ah! ‘im again – The Golden Voyage of Sinbad; and much later, stopping at nothing to acquire my own ornate antiquarian hardback edition of Tales From The Arabian Nights (translated and annotated by Richard F. Burton – the definitive rendering) (1888) – plus acquiring a degree in Near Eastern Archaeology – Brad was all set to trample all over such esteemed sites as Babylon, Nippur, Lagash and Umm Dabaghiyah (umm-what?!)… until…

Mum beseeched me not to go, fearing an escalation in tensions and violence in that region – ultimately, in sheer disbelief, yours truly witnessed/read about the vandalism and destruction of Iraqi cultural heritage (during 2003-04) from the relative quiet and safety of Bangkok instead…

To accentuate this scheherazade for the senses, there will be light sprinklings of the more exotic platters that nestle deep within the jukebox @ Brad Manor – all by the same combo who accompanied me on the streets of Manhattan, kept me occupied during those looong hours waiting at Middle Eastern airports, and inspired me to write both fiction and non-fiction during the Pre-Bradscribe Era @ a lovely seaside retreat on the Gulf of Thailand… 

“Flashing swords, leaping bandits, holy magic, bloodthirsty monsters, and sumptuous cuisine… what more do you want me to do, draw you a map? Read this thing” – Scott Lynch. 

Throne Of The Crescent Moon (first published in 2012) is a lush fantasy set in an alternate medieval Middle East. Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, the last real ghul hunter of Dhamsawatt, King of Cities, Jewel of Abassen is aching to retire – presumably to spend lazy days relaxing with copious cups of cardamom tea –  but a new threat of ghuls: zombie-like beings reanimated by evil sorcery, more fearsome than any he has ever encountered, brings him back into this rather unusual fray.

Before setting out wholeheartedly to acquire a copy, my heart sank upon recalling my persistent – almost legendary – inability to track down any potentially groovy novel that comes to my attention.

And yet!

Before you can say: “Trust in Allah, but tie up your camel,” the very tome of which we speak managed to reach my grubby mitts, for a hardback copy indeed lay in wait at my nearest library!

The book itself has received rave reviews and its author, Saladin Ahmed happens to be the very same Saladin Ahmed who contributed to the recent Star Wars Canto Bight anthology compendium and – my minions inform me – is now writing Spider-Man! So far, it is proving to be an engrossing read; like one reviewer remarks, it plays in your mind rather like a Ray Harryhausen fantasy – high praise inseed! 

And why does the premise sound so intoxicating? 

Because it seems exactly like the sort of Arabesque swashbuckling fantasy adventure that Brad would write. Come to think of it, not so long ago, he DID attempt such a saga, whilst living near the beach a few years back – inspired by my study of ancient seafaring.

Accounts by Arab writers of exotic eastern lands can be dated as far back as the mid-9th century CE. The earliest existing text: the Akhbar al-Sin wa’l-Hind (unfortunately anonymous) compiles stories from merchants who told of uncharted islands rife with pirates, troglodytes, headhunters and “beasts” more fantastic than anything Magizoologist Newt Scamander encountered! 

More crucially, this is where we first obtained those fantastical tales of Sinbad, that adventurous sailor who had to brave evil sorcerers, giant crabs and whatnot WITHOUT the comfort of cardamom tea…! 

“He’s awake and listening to us. Sly little rascal. But royalty has need of slyness. And if he’s really the Kwisatz Haderach… well… Sleep well, you sly little rascal. Tomorrow you’ll need all your faculties to meet my gom jabbar” – Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam.

Well, bless my Chicken Arabiatta!

It is difficult to discuss this material without acknowledging the HUGE impact of Frank Herbert’s Dune. 

Exuding more pertinent geopolitical resonances in the 21st century than it ever could have managed on its initial publication in 1965, Herbert drew inspiration from the Bedou way of life, to create an elaborate desert culture: the Fremen, native inhabitants of the planet Arrakis, also known as Dune. 

For possibly the first time, numerous examples of Middle Eastern terminology filterted into Western literature. In their jihad against House Harkonnen, the Fremen launch razzia raids, wear aba and bourka robes, fear a “devil” named “Shaitan” and so on.

Please click here for an expanded study of this landmark work, winner of both Hugo and Nebula Awards, and praised by Arthur C. Clarke for its “depth of characterisation and the extraordinary detail of the world it creates. I know nothing comparable to it except The Lord Of The Rings.”

“Is that the end… of all the races and civilizations, and the dreams of the world, to be able to leave a few stones buried beneath the sands, to tell the Dark that we were here?” – Niun.

Another SF series profoundly influenced by Middle Eastern themes came in the eclectic form of the Faded Sun Trilogy by C.J. Cherryh.

Set in the Alliance-Union universeKesrith, Shon’Jir and Kutath each chronicle the Mri-Wars in this coming-of-age saga of Niun, the plucky protagonist.

The first volume begins with the Regul having just concluded a forty-year war with humanity. As part of the peace, they are ceding the desert world of Kesrith to humanity. However, they have neglected to inform its inhabitants, the Mri, who have served them as mercenaries for over two thousand years. These mercenaries have been nearly exterminated in these wars, and young Niun is one of the few remaining warriors. When the Regul seek to double-cross his people, he and his sister Melein, the last of the priestly Sen caste, form an uneasy alliance with the human Sten Duncan to rescue a holy relic that may hold the key to the Mri’s survival.

Despite being shortlisted for the Nebula Award in 1978 and the Hugo Award in 1979, this – and its two successors – are among the most elusive SF series to track down in print!

Time to set sail – for “every voyage has its own flavour”further east, beyond the Pillars of Hercules, across the azure Maha Thalassa towards the enchanted shores of what Persian seafarers called: “Al-Hind”…

“Mighty Kali. Mightier than thou am I. Make obeisance to me…! Dance. Dance for me!” – Khoura. 

 

“One of the five best SF novels ever written” – George R. R. Martin.

Why shouldn’t India have its own panoply of science fiction tales?

Delve into the wondrous textures of Hindu mythology and it will not take you long to discover bizarre accounts of gods striking out of glistening cities in the clouds, charging across the sky in “celestial chariots” firing bolts of lightning against inhuman enemies…

So it comes as no surprise that Roger Zelazny drew extensively upon such myths to produce one of the SF greats: Lord of Light. 

A distant world where gods walk as men, but wield vast and hidden powers. Are they truly immortal? Who are these gods? Their names include Brahma, Kali, Krishna and also he who was called Buddha, the Lord of Light, but who now prefers to be known simply as Sam. 

Although it has not ascended to Dune-like heights of literary adulation and popularity, Zelazny’s masterpiece is richly-conceived and plotted, and still widely-regarded by those who know as a richly-crafted work, its curious yet compelling non-linear narrative lauded by other top contemporary SF authors.

Your foreign correspondent here will endeavour to surge through this classic right now (for the unpteenth time) aided by a set of lamb biryani, with a bowl of naan chips, baked with cumin, coriander and kalonji seeds, (seasoned with Kashmiri spices and coconut – the way Brad likes ’em!) – and a cup of cardamom tea, of course

Love, light and peace.

 

“There is that about them which repels… The trident of Shiva cuts a path through everything. But no matter how much he destroys, we raise up more against him. So he stands like a statue, uncreating storms we will not let end” – Tree Of Green Fire. 

“You pace the deck like a caged beast; for one who enjoys the hashish you should be more at peace…” – Sinbad.

 

Kong: Skull Island: The Bradscribe Review

Let’s Get Down To Monkey Business…

“My Kong is more of a god. He represents the unknown in the world. I wanted to make a movie that was as much about the big moments of Kong punching a helicopter out of the sky as the small lyrical moments” – Jordan Vogt-Roberts.

“Skull Island… shit…

“I’m still only on Skull Island…”

Scientist John Goodman wants to explore an uncharted island in the Pacific and ends up discovering an Eden just too primal to handle. Enter Tom Hiddleston’s ex-SAS survival expert: Captain Conrad (nice nod to Joseph Conrad, author of Heart of Darkness), who curiously knows all the dangers that will confront them on the island…

The essential military escort is provided by Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) and his hapless – and characterless – band of monkey snacks. Also tagging along is Brie Larson’s war photographer and Tian Jing as a scientist to help sell this movie to China… 

Personally, another Kong movie was the last thing on my wishlist; the 2005 remake was so insipid, and the 1933 original is one of my most beloved movie faves, so this outing was never going to top that…

…or was it? 

“I don’t know that there was an alpha male pecking order. Although I did mess with the young guys. If they started up, I would go: ‘What’s your number on the cast list?'” –  Samuel L. Jackson. 

Notice how the ‘King’ epithet is excluded from the title – his eminence is subdued here by the other – let’s face it, poorly-conceived – prehistoric beasties. The much-touted helicopter-destruction scene came and went with barely a flutter on the Bradmonitor. Apart from ripping out the tongue of that… that – whatever it was – there is very little here to remind you why Kong became such a big screen icon in the first place. And, hey, what’s the point of character development if most of the ensemble are not going to make it out alive? Sheesh! Some snappy dialogue should have been on order – notice how no cool quotes were available at the time of going to Publish…

Must admit the opening sequence with Marlow crashing on the island back in ’44 looked like a neat set-up; considering how this character – played by the usually quite dependable John C. Reilly – could have been the one to bring in some much-needed comedy moments; alas, his performance became a tad too goofy for my liking. 

But honestly, what is with Tom Hiddleston, here?! He looks like how Brad feels: vacant, bored, wishing he was someplace else…

How apt that The Animals’ We Gotta Get Out Of This Place played on the trailer – that was going through the minds of the other twenty cinema-goers, all unaffected by what had just flooded over their retinas. So, watched the post-credits sequence all by me lonesome… 

And am strangely less-than-enthralled by the prospect of a Kong vs. Godzilla clobberfest lined up for 2020…

“Jordan told me he wanted to sneak an indie film into a blockbuster… [Conrad is] a hard, capable man who knows his way around a sharp object” – Tom Hiddleston.

Never a skull moment? 

Upon viewing the first few stills from the movie, was amazed to see the crew armed with ol’ Armalite rifles; oho, methinks – going for a a retro feel here? Only later did news break that Kong: Skull Island is actually set in 1973; does Tom Hiddleston have a phobia of flares and sideburns?! Absolutely no effort to immerse himself in the period! This setting, however, presents the opp to go for a groovy soundtrack: The Stooges! Black Sabbath! Vera frickin’ Lynn?! And of course, three of the most beautiful words in the English language: Creedence Clearwater Revival, with which we are treated to snatches of TWO of their awesome classics. Nice to have Bowie included as well, but all these tracks can be enjoyed in my own time anyway!

Ho-hum, roll out the old monster-movie cliches: (un)naturally, there is yet another attempt to freak out any arachnophobes in the audience; the token pansyass official nerk who is inevitably consigned to meet a grisly end, and other fillers too numerous to mention. Gone are the sacrificial brides, but also woefully absent is – thanks to the CGI, here as abundant as the “lush” vegetation – any sense of terror or menace. 

Or excitement, while we’re at it.

If only Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ direction had been as gung-ho as Samuel L.s “performance.”

By the time Kong engaged in his climactic tussle, my yawns just would not let up. Not even the shenanigans aboard the jolly ship USS Junkpile could salvage my flagging interest…

After a hard week, rather than allowing me to escape into the realms of movie magic, this lame viewing experience felt like being stranded on an inhospitable island for twenty eight years… and eleven months…

and meh…

“John C. Reilly’s Marlow makes you feel like you’re watching a version of Apocalypse Now where Dennis Hopper’s been replaced by Fozzie Bear” – Larushka Ivan-Zadeh.

BRADSCRIBE VERDICT: Uff, monkey nuts…

The Land That 20th Century Fox Forgot: The Uncanny X-Men In The Savage Land!

At The Bottom Of The World. The Coldest And Most Remote Place On Earth.

Yet There Is A Hot Prehistoric Jungle. Where Time Stopped Tens Of Millions Of Years Ago.

Where The Dinosaurs Still Roam…

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“STOP! Release my friend: Karl Lykos, costumed one, or face the wrath of Ka-Zar, Lord of the Savage Land!” – Ka-Zar.

“This guy owes me, Blondie… but since he’s your buddy, I’ll be glad to take on you an’ your pussycat, too” – Wolverine. 

Although X-Men: Apocalypse sadly failed to deliver the goods for me as hoped, nevertheless my penchant for Prof Xavier’s team remains undimmed– so another mutant Post had to be done.  

My introduction to Prof Xavier’s team stems back to 1987/88, when Classic X-Men reprinted stories that originally appeared in 1978, added extra pages of art, and included new bonus stories illustrated by the incomparable John Bolton! 

What an introduction! 

The X-Men’s adventures in the Savage Land – a spellbinding land that would look absolutely sensational if it ever reached the big screen – became an instant, mesmerising hit with me.

Writer Chris Claremont and artist John Byrne swiftly became my fave creative duo, delivering all the amazing mutant thrill-power one could eat. In fact, their awesome partnership made me seek out some of their other works. 

The concept of a lost world in Antarctica looked especially intriguing; as a kid, one of my fave fantasy films was The Land That Time Forgot (1974), starring the irrepressible Doug McClure, in which a First World War U-Boat inadvertently surfaces in Caprona, a primordial land located deep within – yes! – Antarctica. Although the indigenous name for the “Savage Land” is never given in the comics, part of me will always fondly accept this as Caprona.

Classic X-Men #21 was sheer class, and – by the wonders of the worldwide web – here is the cover:

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“Mortal, in attacking me, you have sown the wind. Now shall you reap the whirlwind! I am the personification of forces that were ancient before your race was born! I have seen death and suffering enough to make God himself despair” – Garokk. 

The Savage Land has played a vital, recurring role in the X-Men comics universe. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, it made its first appearance way back in X-Men #10, March 1965.

My introduction to this land that time forgot came with Classic X-Men #20. Having escaped the Antarctic lair of their arch-foe: Magneto, the tired and weary X-Men – mistakenly believing that Jean Grey and Hank McCoy are dead – seek sanctuary in this secret paradise. There they have to do battle with the evil Pterosaur-Man: Sauron. 

Classic X-Men #21, (a reprint of The Uncanny X-Men #115 (Nov 1978), was essentially an intriguing ecological sci-fantasy fable. Sauron, defeated, reverts to his human persona: Karl Lykoswho relates the tale of discovering the Savage Land. No sooner had he “become one with the land,” he stumbled upon a temple wherein the High Priestess: Zaladane was initiating a ritual to secure the resurrection of the Petrified Man – the living embodiment of Garokk, the Sun God. This powerful ancient being, craved control over this primordial enclave, and through slave labour, constructed a fabulous metropolis for himself.

“Somehow though, the city upset the delicate ecological balance that, throughout the aeons, had kept the Antarctic icecap at bay. Now, for the first time, the Savage Land knows Winter.”

Having met Ka-Zar – the Savage Land’s version of Tarzan – they unite the tribes of the Savage Land in a desperate struggle to oppose the oppression of  Garokk – the Petrified Man. 

Cue magnificent aerial combat: Garokk’s Slave Army riding on Pterosaurs, while Ka-Zar and Karl lead the attack on the city atop their flying sharks.

…Flying sharks?!

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“This place reminds me of my home in Africa…” – Storm. 

Considering what a major fixture the Savage Land is, it only seems logical that a future X-Men big screen outing should feature this magical location. Will this green jungle ever emanate from a green screen?  

Come on: mutant superheroes and dinosaurs in the same movie(!) — now there’s a blockbuster worth watching! Who WOULDN’T pay to watch an X-Men/Jurassic World mash-up?! 

So, what are the chances of an X-Men movie like that being produced?

First of all, it would have to be determined whether either Fox or Marvel actually “own” the Savage Land, and then, in separate interviews, X-Men insiders have, annoyingly, been decidedly cagey about how much – if anything – they can reveal.

Garokk in particular would present a fantastic opportunity for Andy Serkis: Motion Capture King to weave his special magic… 

Interestingly, the bonus story of Classic X-Men #21: First Love told how Colossus found the love of his life: a member of the hunter-gathering Fall People named Nereel by saving her from a rampaging T Rex.

This stunning artwork by John Bolton (below) just had to be added here:

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“Back home, even at the height of our Siberian summers, I never sweated as much as this… All this greenery. So unlike the Rodina, my Motherland” – Colossus. 

Strangely enough, not just the X-Men have had adventures in the Savage Land. 

Even Spider-Man got tangled up in this jungle, going in search of Gwen Stacey who had been kidnapped by Kraven The Hunter. 

In The New Avengers, it was suggested that S.H.I.E.L.D. operated in the Savage Land mining vibranium, utilising various tribes as slave labour. Naturally this is classified information, of course; the mine was obliterated by a missile-strike from the Avengers’ Helicarrier. The Avengers survived by a force field energised by Iron Man. 

And in The Avengers vs. X-Men (Yes folks! There IS such a storyline!) Gambit fought Captain America in the Savage Land.

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“Be proud, mutant! Your power will make Sauron invincible!” – Sauron. 

Mostly, 1988 was quite a crap year (pop music turned awful; nothing worth watching at the cinema the whole year(!); and school sucked big time), so the discovery of Classic X-Men could not have come at a better time. 

The work of Claremont and Byrne provided quality fantasy fare in which to escape; those were difficult times which made me wish that something could teleport me away to the Savage Land. 

Let me have fought dinosaurs instead of those teenage problems any day. 

Surviving in the jungle dressed in that classic pulp way: a pair of sturdy boots, some clean undies and a utility belt, armed with an impressive array of primitive weapons, Brad would be in his element.

Why, my pulsating pecs alone should ward off even the most curious raptor…

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“Eventually, I reached the Savage Land. In a strange way, I felt like I had come home. Over the months that followed, my wounds – physical and mental – healed…” – Karl Lykos.  

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Ray Harryhausen: Maestro Of Stop-Motion Animation

Ray Harryhausen Was Born This Day 95 Years Ago

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“…You must remember that my type of film is very distinctive from the average special-effects picture… but they really belong in a separate category, which I don’t think many people realize” – Ray Harryhausen.

“It all started with King Kong, of course,” Raymond Frederick “Ray” Harryhausen recalled in one interview. His aunt took the then 13 year old schoolboy to watch the movie in 1933. “I knew it was a ‘gorilla picture,’ but didn’t know anything much about it… I saw that at Grauman’s Chinese [Theater, Hollywood Boulevard] and I haven’t been the same since.” 

Like most seven-year-old kids, yours truly – back in the day – lived and breathed dinosaurs, Ancient History and sci-fi. So to find someone like Ray Harryhausen who had not only followed those exact same interests, but lovingly crafted them into his work, was a sheer delight. Some of my most cherished childhood moments involved some of Harryhausen’s most thrilling screen moments. 

When he passed away in May 2013, notes for an Obituary were hastily prepared; unfortunately, none were published anywhere.

What better time, what better place, to put them to good use?  

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 ^ The Master At Work, plus some of his impressive conceptual artwork

“Ray Harryhausen was a legend, a genius, an artist, a filmmaker, a magician, but more than that he was an inspiration. He showed us the way. He showed us that a grown man could play with monsters and get away with it. How cool is that?” – Rick Baker.

From 1949 – when Willis O’Brien hired him as an assistant on Mighty Joe Young (1949), a poor imitation of King Kong – to 1981 (and since), his menagerie of monsters has thrilled generations. For one thing, the sheer diversity of his work is of particular merit. From his original Ymir: the Venusian alien from 20 Million Miles To Earth (1957) which grows to Kong-like proportions and runs rampant through Rome, to the intricate designs of the alien vessels in Earth vs The Flying Saucers (1956) and the bizarre Selenites in First Men In The Moon (1964) Harryhausen produced some of the most striking science fiction and fantasy films.

His unique creative process is even more remarkable when you consider how paltry the budgets of those movies really were... Even the giant octopus from It Came From Beneath The Sea (1953) destroyed the Golden Gate Bridge with only six tentacles. “We couldn’t afford to make the other two,” was Harryhausen’s amusing excuse.

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One Million Years BC (1966) (above); The Valley of Gwangi (1969) (below)

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“We both loved King Kong with all of our hearts… I said: I wanna be a writer some day. He said: well maybe some day you’ll write a screenplay for me and I’ll do dinosaurs for you…” – Ray Bradbury.  

Ray Harryhausen’s first cinematic foray into prehistoric monsters – and also his first solo screen credit – came in 1953 with The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, based on a Saturday Evening Post short story by Ray Bradbury. Here, Harryhausen developed his celebrated Dynamation process; his monster: a Rhedosaurus makes for a truly awesome spectacle and the film became a success.

The Hammer remake: One Million Years BC (1966) was a showcase for Harryhausen at the height of his stop-motion prowess. The scenes of the Allosaur attacking Raquel Welch’s tribe, the duel between the Tyrannosaur and the Triceratops and the encounter with the giant turtle on the beach were particularly memorable. 

In 1969, along came The Valley of Gwangi – in which cowboys had to fend off dinosaurs in the Forbidden Valley. A rare critical and commercial failure for Harryhausen, it marked the end of his personal association with animated dinosaurs. Harryhausen remarked that “Hollywood is noted for glamourizing the actors, and I tried to glamourize the dinosaur as well.” 

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“This master craftsman gave unforgettable shape to figures drawn from those depths where the creatures of myth, legend and dream reside in all of us. They have beguiled children for half a century, haunted their memories as grown-ups and influenced generations of special effects artists” – Leonard Nimoy.

Harryhausen is said to have chosen Jason and the Argonauts (1963) as his personal favourite endeavour. Todd Armstrong (apparently dubbed throughout by another actor) had to contend with various mythical creatures, including the Harpies and the Hydra.

Most fans cite the climactic battle with the army of skeletons as the animator’s most accomplished sequence. Yes, its terror lies in its flawless and intricate execution, enhanced dramatically by thumping music from Bernard Hermann. But for me, the moment when Talos suddenly creaks his head around to stare down at Hercules, cuing another fabulous Bernard Hermann score, never fails to induce the goosebumps!

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^ The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad (1958)

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^ The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973)

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^ Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977)

“Seventh Voyage was the first Harryhausen feature to be filmed in Technicolor and Dynamation… Golden Voyage… carries a sense of mystery and wonder quite unlike that of any other fantasy film… The Eye of the Tiger was not the film it might have been…” – Phil Edwards. 

A fascinating factor of the Harryhausen portfolio was the trilogy of Sinbad adventures. In 1958, the The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad set the box office alight with its enticing blend of eastern adventure and sensational animated figures: the dragon, the two-headed roc, but it was that horned cyclops that stole every scene. The sensational duel with the skeleton was deemed so frightening, the British Film Censor deleted the scene(!) in order to grant the film a ‘U’ Certificate.

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973) did well to recapture Seventh’s exotic charm. It had an excellent cast and wondrous location photography alongside startling effects. The highlight almost certainly was the battle with the six-armed goddess Kali, one of Harryhausen’s more exciting accomplishments.

Although it had strange bug-eyed bipeds, a troglodyte, even a baboon, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977) could not compete with its forebears, critically or commercially. No matter. For me, it was still Harryhausen – i.e. it still held the power to amaze.

“Sinbad was a breakaway from the mad monsters and dinosaurs-on-the-loose…” Harryhausen explained. “That type of inexpensive exploitation picture was very popular in those days… We had to include a lot of destruction and fast movement, or we couldn’t sell the idea to the studio.”  

Incidentally, at one point, a “Sinbad on Mars” was mooted. Whatever happened to that? 

“It’s in limbo,” the Master sighed.

Scorpions10

ray-medusaTHE KRAKEN CLASH OF THE TITANS (1981)

“He’s great, he’s funny… First, Ray talks you through it. Then he will tell you… how you are going to fight the creature. Then Ray comes in with a big cardboard cutout. He says: ‘This is how big the monster is. This is where the monster is going to go'” – Harry Hamlin.   

Clash of the Titans (1981) turned out to be his final – but most ambitious – movie. Incidentally, it would have the largest budget of them all. As Perseus, Harry Hamlin had to contend with top British actors as well as some of Harryhausen’s most fiendish monstrosities: Calibos, giant scorpions, the Kraken and my all-time fave: the genuinely terrifying Medusa. Out of all that wondrous Dynamated gold that could be uploaded on this Post, it’s the Gorgon that gets it (see below).

He expressed joy at having received “many fan letters from young people; our films influenced their lives… George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Mr. Cameron – James Cameron – all say that our pictures when they grew up affected their wanting to get into the film business. 

“So, the snowball rolls on. It really started with Willis O’Brien, who was the father of it all. Then, it got bigger with me. And it continues to grow. Who knows where it will go next?”

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