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
So what's its #@$%&$#@*$ problem?
Having had an unfortunate
encounter with a Navy vessel, the ill-tempered creature turns its sights to San
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
A Dolby TrueHD 5.1 that flirts occasionally with
spreading the mix to the surround channels, but (like the others) is centralized
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
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.
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.