On show - Ray Harryhausen’s magical monster ‘movie stars’

The Kraken, from Clash of the Titans.
The Kraken, from Clash of the Titans.

The 1958 movie Jason and the Argonauts still has the power to captivate youngsters more used to a cinematic diet of superheroes and CGI.

Put beside increasingly routine modern computer-spun epics it is an antique, but one which will never lose its lustre as a film classic.

The Medusa - the stuff of nightmares.

The Medusa - the stuff of nightmares.

The reason for its enduring mystique, echoed in many other comparable films of the 50’s to 70’s, is Ray Harryhausen (1920 - 2013), the genius of film animation who “brought things to life”.

He somehow managed to imbue his creations with a special magic some argue is utterly missing in today’s more prosaic and easily-generated monsters.

Everyone (of a certain age, perhaps) has his or her favourite - but the multi-armed goddess in the Sindbad film, the horrifying Medusa in Clash of the Titans, and the sword-fighting skeletons in Jason are among Ray’s most famous creations.

Far from being “unrealistic” there is something in the jerky action of the skeletal “children of the Hydra” that is truly chilling. It’s a motif that has been copied many times over in movies ever since.

Two of the original "Children of the Hydra".

Two of the original "Children of the Hydra".

Now, in the Scottish Museum of Modern Art in Edinburgh, there’s a chance to view first hand all those “stars” some of us have probably seen at least 100 times at the cinema or on TV.

Harryhausen’s work is rightly being seen as a collection of masterpieces of modern art, spanning five decades of work and appearances in celluloid epics that have more than stood the test of time.

The creatures that terrified children, although not in a bad way, are seldom more than a foot high and are made of latex.

Film maker Guillermo del Toro Gómez (Pan’s Labyrinth and The Shape of Water) says of Ray Harryhausen’s work: “‘No one will ever compare to Ray Harryhausen. He was a true pioneer, a man who took the mantle of stop-motion and elevated it to an art form.

Kali, from The Golden Voyage of Sindbad.

Kali, from The Golden Voyage of Sindbad.

“Like all great monster makers, he worked almost single-handed.

“He was designer, technician, sculptor, painter and cinematographer all at once.

“To my generation, and to every generation of monster lovers to come, he will stand above all, forever.

“His monsters made millions of lonely children smile and hope for a better world- a world populated by Cyclops and griffons.

Ray pictured "at work" in the late 1950's.

Ray pictured "at work" in the late 1950's.

“His knowledge, faith and dedication shaped generation after generation of filmmakers”.

Harryhausen was inspired by the 1933 movie King Kong at the age of 13, and basically never looked back - but probably never guessed his art would ultimately inspire so many famous people.

Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Peter Jackson, Sam Raimi and Tim Burton have all cited Harryhausen as a formative influence or even as the reason they became film-makers in the first place.

The Edinburgh exhibition showcase his collection in its entirety, and will be the largest display of his work ever seen - also including newly-restored and previously unseen material from his archive.

Just remember not to look the Medusa in the eye.

Ray in later life, pictured with Bubo the mechanical owl in Clash of the Titans.

Ray in later life, pictured with Bubo the mechanical owl in Clash of the Titans.