Review: The Wonderful Worlds of Ray Harryhausen, Volume 1: 1955-60

Blu-ray: The Wonderful Worlds of Ray Harryhausen, Volume 1: 1955-60

Surely Ray Harryhausen needs no introduction!? A pioneering special effects maestro, he is responsible for some of my fondest early movie watching memories…I still shudder whenever I see Talos slowly turn his head. But more of that particular memory when I review Volume 2 in this collection very soon.

As always with Powerhouse Films and their Indicator series of releases, everything about this set is exemplary, from the packaging to the superb picture quality and excellent special features. When you add in 3 great movies too, then you have a boxset that you should already have bought or at the very least clicking buy on the link below as soon as you finish reading this.

So, onto the movies:

It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955)

A giant radioactive octopus attacks San Francisco. There…what more do you need to know other than that to want to watch it!?

There’s a strange love triangle going on between Naval Commander Pete Mathews (Kenneth Tobey), Professor Lesley Joyce (Faith Domergue) and Dr. John Carter (Donald Curtis) which regularly threw out lines of dialogue and situations that had me chuckling to myself.

The real star of the movie though is the always amazing work of Harryhausen. It Came from Beneath the Sea takes a while to get to the big payoff scene, but when it gets there it is certainly worth the wait. Make sure to watch out for something specific about the octopus too. I won’t say anymore, but see if you can spot something during its scenes.

20 Million Miles to Earth (1957)

America finally lands a spaceship on Venus, but on its return it crash lands off the coast of Sicily. Onboard is a small lizard-like creature which soon grows to gigantic proportions and proceeds to attack Rome.

You can’t help but feel empathetic towards the creature (called a Ymir in the movie) as it is attacked by all manner of soldiers and animals…including a fight with an elephant. The ageless beauty of Harryhausen’s work is that he infuses a ‘soul’ into all of the creatures that he creates and animates. Whether they be good or evil, their actions are always the consequence of a thought process that you can see by their expressions and movement. This is still something that a lot of CGI animators struggle with, despite using thousands of £ worth of software and equipment. Yet here was Harryhausen all those years ago creating creatures that you actually cared about and could totally believe that they were truly alive.

As with It Came from Beneath the Sea, there is a climatic battle sequence that is worth the purchase price alone.

The 3 Worlds of Gulliver (1960)

Based loosely on the 18th century novel Gulliver’s Travels, this is a colourful swashbuckling adventure movie where the action never seems to stop for too long.

Of the 3 movies in this set, The 3 Worlds of Gulliver features the least of Harryhausen’s work, but having said that, the work that he does do in this is always up to his usual high standards. A must own for all Harryhausen completists.

The Wonderful Worlds of Ray Harryhausen, Volume 1: 1955-60 is an absolutely wonderful boxset in every way imaginable and not only is an essential purchase for all Harryhausen fans, it is also highly recommended for anyone wanting to start their collection and/or introduce their children to the amazing work of a man who ignited a love for movies into so many peoples hearts…mine included.

• HD restorations of It Came from Beneath the Sea and 20 Million Miles to Earth
• 4K restoration from the original camera negative of The 3 Worlds of Gulliver
• Original black and white and alternative, authorised colourised versions of It Came from Beneath the Sea and 20 Million Miles to Earth
• Mono and 5.1 surround sound audio options
It Came from Beneath the Sea and 20 Million Miles to Earth audio commentaries with Ray Harryhausen
• New interview with filmmaker Joe Dante
• New interview with SFX maestro Dennis Muren
• New interviews with Aardman Animation’s David Sproxton, Peter Lord and Dave Alex Riddett
• Archival documentaries, interviews and featurettes
• Original trailers and promotional films
• Isolated score on The 3 Worlds of Gulliver by Bernard Herrmann
• Promotional and on-set photography, poster art and archive materials
• Box set exclusive 80-page book with new essays by Kim Newman, Dan Whitehead and Charlie Brigden, and film credits
• UK premieres on Blu-ray
• Limited edition box set of 6,000 copies

Also, if you have any interest at all in the work and life of Ray Harryhausen, then I suggest that you subscribe to the fantastic Ray Harryhausen podcast immediately and also follow them on Twitter: @Ray_Harryhausen

You can buy The Wonderful Worlds of Ray Harryhausen, Volume 1: 1955-60 by clicking HERE. ALL money raised by purchasing from Amazon via our website is given back to our listeners and followers in upcoming competition prizes. The more people buy, the bigger our prizes!

Review by Dave (host of 60 Minutes with) from discs kindly supplied by Powerhouse Films.