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The remarkable career of the movie industry s most admired and influential special-effects auteur, the legendary Ray Harryhausen, is the subject of Gilles Penso's definitive documentary Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan.

 Ray Harryhausen Special Effects Titan
Leaving no doubt as to Harryhausen s seminal influence on modern-day special effects, the documentary features enlightening and entertaining interviews with the man himself, Randy Cook, Peter Jackson, Nick Park, Phil Tippet, Terry Gilliam, Dennis Muren, John Landis, Guillermo Del Toro, James Cameron, Steven Spielberg and many more. These filmmakers, who today push the boundaries of special effects movie-making, pay tribute to the father of Stop Motion animation and films such as The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms , It Came From Beneath The Sea , The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad , Mysterious Island , Jason And The Argonauts and The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad the films that enthralled them as children and inspired them to become filmmakers in their own right.

There's not really much more to outside of that official synopsis as it pretty much covers it all. What I will say is that the documentary is one of the most straight forward constructions I've watched for quite some time. Most modern documentaries take us all over the place to keep things exciting but director Gilles Penso literally takes us through a film at a time and enables us to feel the build in Harryhausen's much loved work. Each film is given the right amount of time dedicated to it and fans from the film industry are given just the right amount of screen time to get their admiration across.

I don't think I'd go as far as to say this is the definitive Harryhausen documentary as its more of a whistle stop tour through his career as opposed to anything more intricate but that doesn't stop it from being pure joy for a Harryhausen fan or even those who are vaguely aware of his work and want to get a feel for just how much he influenced the films we all love today.

 Ray Harryhausen Special Effects Titan

Video


There's a mixed bag of footage here, from new HD interviews, to shoddy video interviews from a while back. There's even stuff that goes all the way back to behind the scenes footage of Harryhausen's films and early projects. They are all tied together nicely but this documentary doesn't really do much to get excited about picture wise. All the old film clips look pretty great in the presentation and I could rattle on about textures on participants faces and colours and such but it seems a bit fruitless given this is a documentary. Generally highlights are the HD shot original models used in Harryhausen's films, those are probably worth the HD price tag alone for fans who really want to study the incredible detail involvedin this classic movie creatures.

 Ray Harryhausen Special Effects Titan

Audio


Once again, it hardly seems worth talking about the audio presentation. It's a level, clear and a sometimes crisp collection of talking head interviews inter-cut with the odd clips from the old films. There's the occasional volume hike when each film gets introduced to the documentary via a small animated splash but really this is a solid collection of interviews recorded in different environments but all perfectly adequate for the piece.

 Ray Harryhausen Special Effects Titan

Extras


Here's where the disc begins to shine. Starting with the audio commentary from Director Gilles Penso, producers Alexandre Poncet , Tony Dalton and Timothy Nicholson, this four year project gets a bit of background. There's talks of the construction of the footage and expanding on subjects and films as they come up in the film. A bit more talk about how many a film-maker have banded together to preserve Harryhausen's legacy (a lot of thanks goes out to Peter Jackson) and of course each participant on the track lets rip with their love of Harryhausen throughout.

'A Treasure Trove' (13:36 HD) has the film's creators opening boxes within the Harryhausen archives and looking at original models and their packing instructions. This one is really a fanboy's wet dream of a featurette.

There's some additional interviews with Edgar Wright, Peter Lord, Rick Baker and Simon Pegg (15:43 HD) all of which are about the love of all things Harryhausen.

 Ray Harryhausen Special Effects Titan
Interview Outakes (55:24 HD) is essentially uneditted versions of all the intreviews in the documentary and then 'Message to Ray' (02:16 HD) are special messages to Harryhausen from friends and admirers featured in the film.

Deleted Scenes (08:19 HD) is rough video footage for an original longer cut of the film and reasons behind the cuts.

'On the set of Sinbad' (02:59 HD) is silent Super 8 film footage of the classic film.

'Paris Cinematheque Q&A' (18:39 HD) and 'London Gate Cinema Q&A' (08:58 HD) are the makers of the films talking about the project as well as a few extra faces including Harryhausen himself on the London one.

Last up is the Original Trailer (02:48 HD) and a great Ray Harryhausen Trailer Reel (22:15 HD)

 Ray Harryhausen Special Effects Titan

Overall


Ray Harryhausen Special Effects Titan is just the sort of documentary that puts a smile on a fan's face. I wouldn't say I was the biggest follower of Harryhausen's work but I don't think there's many people that don't hold some sort of personal memory with his movies (mine is fond memories of being ill when I was a kid and lying on the sofa watching Sinbad movies). The disc is about average in terms of video and audio but there's a fine splattered of extras to make this more than just a documentary to watch. This is a must have for all Harryhausen fans and certainly a rental consideration for everyone else.


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