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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Horror > Fantasy > Ray Harryhausen Collection (Sony Blu-ray Set with 7th Voyage Of Sinbad/20 Million Miles To Earth/Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers/It Came From Beneath The Sea)

Ray Harryhausen Collection (Sony Blu-ray Set with 7th Voyage Of Sinbad/20 Million Miles To Earth/Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers/It Came From Beneath The Sea)

 

Picture: B (D colorized)     Sound: B     Extras: B     Films: B-

 

 

As Sony issues The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad (1958) on DVD, they are issuing it and the three previous deluxe edition DVD titles we have previously covered featuring the amazing stop motion animation work of Ray Harryhausen (dubbed Dynamation) and issued it on Blu-ray.  For starters, here is our coverage of the previous three titles as follows with links:

 

Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers (1956) /It Came From Beneath The Sea (1955)

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/6546/Earth+Vs.+The+Flying+Saucers/It

 

20 Million Miles To Earth (1957)

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/5766/20+Million+Miles+To+Earth

 

 

That leaves us looking at The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad (1958), the first and best of the three Columbia Pictures-produced films, with Kerwin Mathews in the title role, Kathryn Grant, Richard Eyer and Torin Thatcher.  Mathews is up there with Douglas Fairbank’s Jr., Lon Chaney Jr., Guy Williams and John Phillip Law as the most successful actors in the role, though none of them ever returned to the reprise the role and maybe ethnicity is a factor, but that is another story.

 

For memorable moments and overall impact, the film remains the most kinetic, lively and entertaining incarnation, ever after a half-century of new attempts.  In a nutshell, an evil magician has demonic possession of a princess and Sinbad must fight deadly creatures of all kinds to save her and the world at large from evil.  The Kenneth Kolb/Ray Harryhausen screenplay has great sequence after great sequence and just when the film starts to go astray, another great sequence kicks in and before you know it, you are really enjoying yourself.

 

This was Harryhausen’s first full color feature film and his use of color turns out to be as creative and ingenious as the animation that accompanies it.  Before the Lucas and Spielberg films upped the ante for visual effects with stop & go animation, Harryhausen’s work was stare of the art and seeing it on Blu-ray for the first time is like nothing since seeing the 35mm 1970s Sinbad film sequels Columbia issued because unlike the decent but limited, recent DVD editions.  Hen watching ion 35mm or on Blu-ray, you can see the full range of detail, personality and character Harryhausen was able to put into his work, the designs, their movement and on the screen and after all of the usually awful, soulless digital character work we have suffered through, seeing this work again in restored copies is a revelation and a breath of fresh air that reminds us why special effects were once special to begin with.

 

In the case of 20 Million Miles To Earth (1957), the rendering of the Ymir is far superior to the new DVD because the Blu-ray can show shadow detail, depth and nuance DVD never could and you can not just see, but fully experience why the create has had the international impact in the fantasy genre it has had for half a century.  Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers (1956) is amazing in its impressive model work from the saucers (you can sometimes see the strings, but even they have bizarre character from the stop motion process) and the footage in Washington, D.C. as effective as similar excellent work in films like Independence Day (1996) but has Harryhausen’s touch to boot.  It Came From Beneath The Sea (1955) may be the oldest film here, but it manages to create it own world of water and waterbound terror as the giant radioactive octopus pulls itself up to land to attack.

 

Best of all, the heart and soul that goes into all four films (along with the money that they did have to spend) makes these more than B-movie classics, but all-time genre classics in Fantasy, Horror, Science Fiction and Adventure.  We hope Sony pulls out more of these films for Blu-ray soon.

 

 

The 1080p 1.66 X 1 image on Sinbad often looks impressive, but more than a few shots can be grainy and soft, but the film was originally issued in three-strip dye-transfer Technicolor prints and many of the better shots look just like that and can even reach demo quality.  The film was shot by the great Wilkie Cooper, B.S.C, who continued to shoot many of the Technicolor Columbia/Harryhausen films including The Three Worlds of Gulliver, Mysterious Island, Jason & The Argonauts and First Men In The Moon, with a distinct character that when crossed with Harryhausen’s landmark animation, created some of the most important moments in world genre filmmaking history.  It is a highly unsung combination, but this Blu-ray will begin to change that.

 

Unfortunately, the 1080p 1.85 X 1 colorized versions of the earlier three films are some of the ugliest, lamest footage I have ever seen in any HD or video format in my life, proving how horrid the practice is.  Mr. Harryhausen has said he was happy with it, but the plastering of the dark, powdery pseudo-color actually wrecks havoc with the detail and realism of his work and I could have done a better job with a box of Crayola crayons, so it is fortunate that the far superior black and white 1080p 1.85 X 1 original image for the films has been included (you get the choice once you hit the play button on the menu) and despite some grain here and there, the Video Black is so good, you too will despise colorization now that you have a format that can finally play “glorious black & white” with range and proper fidelity.  That is the only reason I am glad the colorized versions are here so everyone can see how dumb they are.

 

The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mixes are not bad in all four cases, trying to spread the original theatrical monophonic sound around.  Benefiting from this especially are the music scores.  Various composer/conductors worked on the black & white films, while no less than Barnard Herrmann scores Sinbad, but the other music turned out to be iconic for genre filmmaking and a supplement on Sea does a great job of explaining the details.  The mono mixes are also here in Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono of purists, but they should know that the sound steams were not overly tampered with for the TrueHD mixes.

 

Other extras include audio commentary tracks with Harryhausen, fans and experts on all four films, BD Live functions on all four Blu-rays, new comic books for the black & white classics and stills on all four releases.  The Blu-rays of the black & white retain all the extras from the DVD sets already reviewed, leaving Sinbad, which also offers a Remembering The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad featurette, Harryhausen Legacy featurette, The Music of Bernard Herrmann featurette, This is Dynamation special effects featurette, A Look Behind The Voyage featurette, vintage John Landis interview with Harryhausen and even an odd Music Video.  These extras are as impressive as the predecessor releases and we can only hope for more rich extras in the next Harryhausen reissue.

 

There are shots where you get grain because of optical processing and matte work, which was the way it was at the time and would remain for such work all the way to Phil Tippett and his work on Robocop 2 (1990) with its battle scenes before digital took over and often fort the worse.  I would love to see restoration teams see if in any cases, they could find al the film materials to redo the matte work with new optical printing methods and show the same footage with better fidelity and layering.  In the case of dye-transfer films like Sinbad, this would only be feasible if Technicolor revived their classic process, but like Tippett, the work of Harryhausen is exceptional and brings back an excitement in genre filmmaking that has been lost for too long.  This Ray Harryhausen Collection Blu-ray set is instantly one of the hottest back catalog releases in the format!

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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