Hollywood Blvd. Cinema, Bar & Eatery is having a mini-Ray Harryhausen movie festival on Saturday, July 26, 2014 with Jason and the Argonauts (1963) at 12:00 p.m. and Clash of the Titans (1981) at 2:00 p.m. Advance tickets are $4 per ticket per film, but after Sunday, July 13, 2014, tickets will be regular price ($8 per ticket per film).
Ray Harryhausen (1920-2013) did not just design and develop special-effects for movie directors. Most of the films to which he contributed special-effects sprang from his mind and screenwriters tailored the scripts around scenes that showcased stop-motion animation. His puppets have appeared in museums.
Harryhausen’s work with models and puppets led first to him serving in a U.S. Army-training film unit during World War II and then to working for George Pal on a series of stop-motion animated short films called Puppetoons. This, in turn, led him to work with his mentor, Willis O’Brien (1886-1962), on the film Mighty Joe Young (1949).
Merion C. Cooper (1893-1973), who had developed the concept for King Kong (1933) and co-produced the film, produced Mighty Joe Young, with O’Brien, who had supplied the stop-motion animation of King Kong and the dinosaurs. O’Brien became so involved in the production side of making Mighty Joe Young that Harryhausen did most of the animation, which garnered O’Brien an Oscar.
In the 1950s, Harryhausen invented Dynamation, which was cheaper technique of stop-motion animation. His first film to employ it was The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953), which he based on his friend Ray Bradbury’s “The Fog Horn.”
Harryhausen’s first dinosaur film, the movie tells the story of a creature effectively in suspended animation, trapped in ice until a nuclear weapon test frees and revives it. The dinosaur destroys ships and a lighthouse (an allusion to the source material) before making its way to New York City, where it wreaks havoc. Bruce Eder wrote, “That last third of the film remains one of the most spectacular ever seen in movies, Harryhausen's model work and Willis Cooper's miniature sets resulting in stunningly realistic, spellbinding depictions of the gigantic beast and the destruction of the city.”
As Eder and others have recounted, Toho Company remade The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms as Gojira (1954). Toho made twenty-seven sequels, released between 1955 and 2004.
Behemoth, the Sea Monster (1959), an Anglo-American co-production later renamed The Giant Behemoth was also a re-make of The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, as was the British film Gorgo (1961).
Jewell Enterprises, Inc. re-edited Gojira and added footage with Raymond Burr (1917-1993) as a reporter under the title Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1956). King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962) and Godzilla 1985 (1985) were Japanese-American co-productions along the lines of Godzilla, King of the Monsters.
Godzilla (1998) and Godzilla (2002) were American remakes of Gojira. J.J. Abrams acknowledged he made Cloverfield (2008) as an American version of Godzilla.
After The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, Harryhausen made It Came From Beneath the Sea (1955), Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956), 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957), and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958). Eder wrote the latter was a “fantasy along the lines of the 1940 Alexander Korda-produced Thief of Bagdad. The difference would be that his would show all of the wonders of the ancient-world fantasy onscreen using stop-motion photography… The opening of Harryhausen's great cycle of fantasy films, the movie was a huge box-office hit and a critical favorite.”
His films that came next were The Three Worlds of Gulliver (1959), Mysterious Island (1961), Jason and the Argonauts (1963), The First Men in the Moon (1964), The Valley of Gwangi (1969), The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973), Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977), and Clash of the Titans (1981). Charles H. Schneer (1920-2009) produced Harryhausen’s films from It Came From Beneath the Sea (1955) to Clash of the Titans (1981), mostly for Columbia Pictures.
Harryhausen took a break from his work with Schneer to make the dinosaurs for One Million Years B.C. (1966) for Hammer Films, a remake of One Million B.C. (1940). The first of Hammer’s “cave-girl” films, it was a smash success at least as much because it featured a scantily-clad Raquel Welch as the Fair One as because of Harryhausen’s stop-motion animated dinosaurs that menaced her and other cavemen. We see her poster in Shawshank Redemption (1994).
Harryhausen’s last film with dinosaurs was The Valley of the Gwangi (1969). It was a personal film for him because he based it on ideas O’Brien had for a movie in the 1930s that was never produced.
Eder wrote, “Harryhausen's movies of the 1970s were no less dazzling… By 1981, Harryhausen and Schneer had reached the top of their game in terms of casting -- Burgess Meredith, Dame Maggie Smith, and Sir Laurence Olivier were all in Clash of the Titans. But Columbia had gone through several management shifts over the years and declined to produce that movie, which ended up in the hands of MGM. It was also the first movie in which Harryhausen had to rely on the work of assistants to help him. He was unable to get further films produced, however, as the generational change in the movie industry, combined with his good taste, his advancing age (as well as his corresponding desire not to be divided from his family for months at a time), and his unwillingness to utilize CGI technology, left Harryhausen seeming out of step with the business.”
With Tony Dalton, he wrote Ray Harryhausen: An Animated Life, published in 2004. Bradbury wrote the introduction.
Harryhausen was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2005. Nick Park, maker of the BAFTA-and-Oscar-winning Wallace & Gromit stop-motion animated short films cited Harryhausen as an inspiration.
The Deadite army in Army of Darkness (1992) was acknowledged as an homage to the skeleton war band in Jason and the Argonauts. The attack of the wights on Bran Stark, Hodor, and the Reed siblings in “The Children,” the fourth season finale of Game of Thrones certainly felt like another homage to the skeleton army in Jason and the Argonauts.
Hollywood Blvd. Cinema Bar & Eatery is a combination movie theater/restaurant/bar in the Woodgrove Festival shopping mall at the southwest corner of 75th Street and Lemont Road in Woodridge.
The theater is instantly recognizable because of its location at the southwest corner of the mall means the mall’s clock tower anchors the theater’s façade. A replica of the Blues Mobile from The Blues Brothers (1980), complimented by a sculpture of a dancing figure of Elwood Blues is on the roof facing the clock tower.
After one purchases tickets (or picks up pre-purchased tickets) at the box office, one enters a lobby with two bars where one can buy an alcoholic beverage or coffee or a snack while waiting until the staff is ready to begin seating the audience for a particular screening in one of the auditoriums. The auditoriums have terraced seating with leather chairs. Waiters and waitresses bring full meals, snacks, desserts, or just drinks out to the audience.
The owners opened a second location in Illinois a few years ago. Hollywood Palms Cinema, Bar & Eatery is located in Westridge Court Shopping Center at the northeast corner of Route 59 and New York Street/Aurora Avenue in western Naperville.
The Robert Nudelman Hollywood Museum features props and plaster castings of the faces of several movie stars, including Cagney, Bogart, Audrey Hepburn, Sandra Bullock, John Travolta, and Julia Roberts that studios made to test make up, wardrobe, hair pieces, and special effects. It also has multiple display cases of items from Hollywood Blvd.’s successful effort to obtain a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for the Munchkins from the Wizard of Oz (1938) in 2007. The museum has permanent and revolving displays of items from Gone with the Wind, It's a Wonderful Life, Kill Bill, Cast Away, Chicago, Reservoir Dogs, John Wayne’s The Alamo, as well as television shows Desperate Housewives and Hannah Montana.
The address is 1001 West 75th Street, Woodridge, Illinois 60517. The phone number is (630) 427-1880.