Written by Films

Ray Harryhausen and King Kong

This evening Newsnight had a lovely little report about Ray Harryhausen, the film genius behind such films as One Million Years BC, Jason and the Argonauts, and Clash of the Titans (no – not the recent one). They are the films of my childhood – regularly repeated every Bank Holiday. You’d always happily watch them.
Next week he’ll be 90 years old and he’s in London to be recognised by BAFTA.
Earlier this evening I was lucky enough to attend a screening of King Kong at BFI Southbank which Harryhausen introduced. As a boy, he’d seen the film when it came out in 1933, and he went on to discover how Willis O’Brien had produced those effects. This, he explained, was during a time when the magic and mystery surrounding film production was still maintained. Audiences simply had no idea about things like stop-motion.
King Kong is still a great film to watch. As Harryhausen points out, it’s a tight 100 minutes with no flabbiness. The story moves forward the whole time. Viewed over 75 years later, it still holds up, even if there is occassionally some unintentional humour. And Fay Wray does scream an awful lot.
But you still feel sadness and sympathy for Kong – the Eighth Wonder of the World – when he’s atop the Empire State Building being gunned down by planes.
And there’s that famous final line…
I note that there’s also a London exhibition about his work opening next week. I’ll try to get along and see it.
Anyway, it’s a privilige to have been in the same room as someone who’s had such an impact on cinema as Ray Harryhausen has done over the years.