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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Ray Harryhausen On Saturday Arvo

I'm sitting in the living room watching a Saturday afternoon matinee movie. It's Sinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger. Prince Kassim has had a spell cast on him by an evil sorceress. The prince's sister (Jane Seymour) and her uncle plead with Sinbad to help. He replies,"It alchemist, a great magician, a..."- Doctor? ;-) Patrick Troughton is in it as a dotty old Greek scientist, with a long beard and hair. And come to think of it, that "key" looks somewhat like a sonic screwdriver,

There were lots of Harryhausen's stop-motion critters, starting with sort-of-skeletons like those in Jason And The Argonauts and going on to the Minoton which accompanies the villainess and the Prince as ape and ... Lots!

There's an endearing silliness about these old movies. And Saturday afternoon was the perfect time to show them. It was when kids were off school and could go. I went to a lot of them when I was a child, with my friend Denise and her sisters. We'd meet outside the Victory cinema(now the National Theatre), a grand old 1930s cinema, and buy popcorn and White Knight nougat bars and go sit in the balcony to enjoy whatever nonsense was on that day.

 The matinee was on at two in the afternoon. You got two movies, a newsreel and a cartoon- that may have been why there were only two sessions a day.  I saw such delights as Jack The Giant Killer,  which featured stop motion animation that looked like Harryhausen's but wasn't, such as the two-headed ogre, and The Magic Sword, which was actually kind of scary. I bought that one on DVD at an el cheapo shop, for only $2.00. I remembered the SFX, but discovered from a re-view that this Saturday matinee movie featured Gary Lockwood as the young hero George - Frank Poole if you're a 2001 Space Odyssey fan, or Lt Commander Gary Mitchell in the Star Trek episode "Where No Man Has Gone Before", veteran British actress Estelle Winwood as his good sorceress foster mother and veteran villain Basil Rathbone as well, the villain!

These movies often did feature unexpected treasures, long before they became cult classics. The thing is, back then you didn't think, "Ah ha, cult classic!" you thought,"Aargh, scary!"

Worth missing an afternoon's reading for!

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