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Case Number 14745: Small Claims Court

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Ray Harryhausen Collection (Blu-Ray)

It Came From Beneath The Sea
1955 // 79 Minutes // Not Rated
Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers (Blu-Ray)
1956 // 83 Minutes // Not Rated
20 Million Miles to Earth (Blu-ray)
1957 // 82 Minutes // Not Rated
The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad (Blu-Ray)
1958 // 88 Minutes // Rated G
Released by Sony
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // October 15th, 2008

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All Rise...

Judge David Johnson lives his entire life in stop motion.

Editor's Note

Our reviews of It Came From Beneath The Sea (published February 15th, 2008) and It Came From Beneath The Sea (published June 11th, 2003) are also available.

The Charge

"If you were indeed a magician why did you not use your great power to slay the one-eyed monster?"

The Case

Four films by the legendary Ray Harryhausen, pressed to new spanking new Blu-ray discs, and submitted for the approval of anyone who still thinks stop-motion animation is 1,000 times cooler than CGI.

It Came From Beneath the Sea

What came from beneath the sea?
A gigantic, ornery green octopus.

So what's its #@$%&$#@*$ problem?
Having had an unfortunate encounter with a Navy vessel, the ill-tempered creature turns its sights to San Francisco.

Why San Francisco?
Because that's where the Golden Gate Bridge is and if you were bigass octopus, wouldn't you want to tear it down, you know, to make a forceful statement on your awesomeness?

Who will save us?
The military, of course, with their flamethrowers. And a gruff Navy Captain Pete Mathews (Kenneth Tobey) and his small-brained female counterpart.

Small-brained?
Hey, don't look at me. She was the one who said it! But Pete isn't having any of that, complimenting her for being "a new breed of woman."

What's their game plan?
Take the bastard down with a torpedo to its head, where it's most vulnerable.

Your thoughts on this hullabaloo?
Fun, in that simple nostalgic kind of way. Harryhausen's puppetry is, of course, the star here, and the stop-motion octopus is a sight to behold. The encounter with the Golden Gate Bridge is the high point. The humans are boring, except when they're belting out archaic statements about the neurological make-up of women. I would have liked a more rock'em sock'em finale, though. The octopus goes out like a punk.

Video?
As good as it gets for such dated material. The film comes in both color and black & white, and you can toggle between them during playback. The picture quality, presented in 1.85:1 widescreen, is impressive, though the enhanced clarity makes the rear-projection work look especially chees—er, charming. The colorized version is well done and is my preference.

Audio?
Dolby TrueHD 5.1 but, truthfully, you won't notice. The mix is so front-loaded the rear surrounds stay quiet the entire time. Here and there the LFE mix will kick in, filling out the sound, but this is no living room shaker.

Extras?
Decent. Commentary by Ray Harryhausen, Randall William Cook, John Bruno, and Arnold Kunert; a well-crafted retrospective featurette; a dialogue with Tim Burton and Harryhausen; an interview with David Schecter; a digital comic book; and, finally, stills and trailers.

Earth vs. the Flying Saucers

What did we ever do to the flying saucermen?
You know how it is, Earth is such a swell place that we attract all matter of intergalactic rabble.

Should we be scared?
Most definitely. These guys have death rays, force fields, rubber suits, and can explode destroyers and military installations with just a brief fusillade of proto-special effects. They are indeed a force to be reckoned with.

Great, so we're screwed?
Not so fast. Like most alien invaders, these guys have a fatal weakness.

Microbes?
Nope.

Water?
Nuh uh.

I give up.
Incredibly loud sound!

What, like the bagpipes?
Way louder. So loud it can only be produced by a giant, awkward-looking laser thing.

Did you enjoy it?
Yes. Yes, I did. Who doesn't like a fun, old-school flying saucer B-movie, expect for my mom and my wife? Harryhausen's animated flying saucers are really, really cool and the wanton destruction that goes down, when humanity finally takes the gloves off, was obviously painstakingly executed. As for the prehistoric visual effects (you'll see the same exploding saucer segment multiple times), the sheer charm of it all is more than enough to compensate.

Video?
Strong. The 1.85:1 widescreen is clean and noticeably clearer than what DVD can offer. The colorization—which gets my vote as the preferred viewing option—is a winner, though for traditionalists there is the original black and white version (which can also be toggled during playback).

Audio?
Dolby TrueHD 5.1, but, again, confined mainly to the fronts. Occasionally, the sub will kick in, but your center channel will be doing most of the work.

Extras?
Commentary by Ray Harryhausen, Jeffrey Okun, Ken Ralston, and Arnold Kunert; featurettes on the making-of, the blacklisting of writer Bernard Gordon, and the colorization process; an interview with actress Joan Taylor; still galleries; a virtual comic book; and trailers.

20 Million Miles to Earth

What's 20 million miles from Earth?
A crazy green monster that can grow at an amazing rate.

Who should be worried?
The Italians, obviously.

Why is that?
That's where the monster lands, square in Italy. This sets up a kickass finale where the monster ransacks Rome and makes his last stand at the Coliseum.

What's this I hear about an elephant fight?
My nomination for the film's highlight: While on the run from his human captors, the monster busts through the local zoo and promptly mixes it up with an elephant, in a knock-down, drag-out bout that tears up the Roman street. Fantastic!

So I'm guessing you approve?
Of a huge green creature beating the @#$% out of Rome? Sure! The film is very Kong-like, in its narrative structure: a group of guys chase a crazy animal through the countryside, manage to capture it, shackle it down, chase it again once it escapes capture and trashes civilization, and finally shoot it to death, while it's perched on a recognizable man made structure. The human characters are uninteresting, though, and there's no emotional core, but whatever.

Video?
Another solid outing, with the slicked-up 1.85:1 widescreen (color and black & white) offering a visible upgrade in picture quality. The expertly animated creature looks especially great—the crafted details on the puppet really jump out.

Audio?
A Dolby TrueHD 5.1 that flirts occasionally with spreading the mix to the surround channels, but (like the others) is centralized up front.

Extras?
Commentary with Harryhausen, Kunert, and visual effects guys Dennis Muren and Phil Tippett; a retrospective on the film; familiar interviews with Joan Taylor, Tim Burton, and David Schecter; another virtual comic book; and some ad artwork.

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad

What's so special about the seventh voyage?
Lots of stuff. The legendary adventurer departs for the magical island of Colossa to attempt to find a cure for her beloved princess, who was bewitched by a sorcerer and shrunk down to a fun size version. Distraught over the prospect of some incredibly awkward lovemaking, Sinbad heads out and, along the way, battles a Cyclops, a dragon, a two-headed bird thing, and a sword-wielding skeleton.

Sounds pretty cool.
Oh, it is. Easily my favorite film of the set and an experience that wowed me back in the day, when I first watched it as a young lad. Harryhausen's creations are all amazing, imaginative, exceedingly well crafted and manipulated, and just so much damn fun to watch. Yeah, Sinbad looks about as Arabic as I do, but ignore the faux-tan and revel in the wonder of the mighty Cyclops squashing sailors with a tree trunk.

You're right. Sinbad rules.
You betcha and the Blu-ray treatment is a treat. The 1.66:1 high-def transfer brings the creature effects to active life. The exquisite detailing of the puppets leap to the forefront and the rich colors of the production design pop more than in any other version you may have seen. TrueHD 5.1 mixes for the sound (English and French) offer some play in the surrounds, but like its brethren, Sinbad projects its audio primarily through the fronts.

Extras?
Commentary by Harryhausen, Phil Tippett, Randall William Cook, Steven Smith, and Arnold Kunert; another solid retrospective of the film; featurettes on the Harryhausen legacy, the music of Bernard Herrmann, the making-of the film, and "Dynamation" special effects; a Ray Harryhausen interview; a photo gallery; and trailers.

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Genres

• Adventure
• Animation
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• Fantasy

Scales of Justice, It Came From Beneath The Sea

Judgment: 85

Perp Profile, It Came From Beneath The Sea

Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p Widescreen)
Audio Formats:
• TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
Subtitles:
• English
• Arabic
• French
• Hindi
• Japanese
• Korean
• Portuguese
• Spanish
Running Time: 79 Minutes
Release Year: 1955
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, It Came From Beneath The Sea

• Commentary
• Featurettes
• Interviews
• Comic Book
• Photo Gallery

Scales of Justice, Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers (Blu-Ray)

Judgment: 85

Perp Profile, Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers (Blu-Ray)

Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p Widescreen)
Audio Formats:
• TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (French)
Subtitles:
• English
• Arabic
• French
• Hindi
• Japanese
• Portuguese
• Spanish
Running Time: 83 Minutes
Release Year: 1956
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers (Blu-Ray)

• Commentary
• Featurettes
• Interviews
• Comic Book
• Photo Gallery

Scales of Justice, 20 Million Miles to Earth (Blu-ray)

Judgment: 85

Perp Profile, 20 Million Miles to Earth (Blu-ray)

Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p Widescreen)
Audio Formats:
• TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Spanish)
Subtitles:
• English
• Chinese
• French
• Korean
• Spanish
• Thai
Running Time: 82 Minutes
Release Year: 1957
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, 20 Million Miles to Earth (Blu-ray)

• Commentary
• Featurettes
• Interviews
• Comic Book
• Photo Gallery

Scales of Justice, The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad (Blu-Ray)

Judgment: 95

Perp Profile, The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad (Blu-Ray)

Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
• 1.66:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p Widescreen)
Audio Formats:
• TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
• TrueHD 5.1 Surround (French)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Thai)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English
• Chinese
• French
• Indonesian
• Korean
• Spanish
• Thai
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 1958
MPAA Rating: Rated G

Distinguishing Marks, The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad (Blu-Ray)

• Commentary
• Featurettes
• Interviews
• Comic Book
• Photo Gallery








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