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Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are still on the track, and have been since 1992. But as if chasing unknown animals wasn't enough, we are involved in education, conservation, and good old-fashioned natural history! We already have three journals, the largest cryptozoological publishing house in the world, CFZtv, and the largest cryptozoological conference in the English-speaking world, but in January 2009 someone suggested that we started a daily online magazine! The CFZ bloggo is a collaborative effort by a coalition of members, friends, and supporters of the CFZ, and covers all the subjects with which we deal, with a smattering of music, high strangeness and surreal humour to make up the mix.

It is edited by CFZ Director Jon Downes, and subbed by the lovely Lizzy Bitakara'mire (formerly Clancy), scourge of improper syntax. The daily newsblog is edited by Corinna Downes, head administratrix of the CFZ, and the indexing is done by Lee Canty and Kathy Imbriani. There is regular news from the CFZ Mystery Cat study group, and regular fortean bird news from 'The Watcher of the Skies'. Regular bloggers include Dr Karl Shuker, Dale Drinnon, Richard Muirhead and Richard Freeman.The CFZ bloggo is updated daily, and there's nothing quite like it anywhere else. Come and join us...

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Wednesday, May 08, 2013

RICHARD FREEMAN: Ray Harryhausen (1920-2013)


RAY HARRYHAUSEN, THE GREATEST MONSTER-MAKER OF THEM ALL

I’ve always loved summer; I mean the real summers we used to get in the 70s. In those halcyon days the six week school holidays seemed to stretch on forever. One of the best things about them was that in the mornings the films of Ray Harryhausen were shown. It’s well known that 1970s Dr Who inspired me to become a cryptozoologist but Ray’s films were also part of the mix.

Somehow no amount of expensive CGI could capture the dynamic feel of the creatures animated by Ray’s stop motion animation. Others before him had used this technique but none did it as well as Ray. He made the method his own.

Who can forget such classics as Valley of Gwangi (dinosaurs vs gauchos in Mexico), The 7th Voyage of Sinbad or Jason and the Argonauts?

Ray’s movies fall mainly into two categories, fantasy and science fiction. Whether on the deck of the Argo or in a lunar city his world’s and creatures were always enthralling and believable. He excelled in the retelling of Greek and Middle Eastern legends, often taking huge liberties with the original stories but never the less making cinematic gold. I saw the recent remake of Clash of the Titans on a flight back from India (thank god I didn’t go to the pictures to see it). It lacked the charm and wonder of Ray’s original. People are still talking about this film 32 years after it was made. The remake had been forgotten within a week.

I had always wanted Ray to branch out into other mythologies such as Norse or Japanese. I would have loved to see him do Beowulf film. Sadly every single attempt to bring this story to the big screen has been dismal. I think Ray would have done it brilliantly.

Fortean subjects were tackled in Ray’s movies. A sea serpent runs amok in Beast from 2000 Fathoms, based on the short story Fog Horn by Ray’s old mate Ray Bradbury. Earth Vs the Flying Saucers is based on Donald Keyhoe’s book Flying Saucers from Outer Space. A more bestial alien in the form of a huge’ lizard-like predator terrorized Italy in 20 Million Miles to Earth. Surviving dinosaurs stalked through Valley of Gwangi and a giant octopus menaced San Francisco in It Came from Beneath the Sea.

Both Jon and I were lucky enough to meet Ray when he did a talk in Exeter. I asked him a question that had been bugging me for year. Was Gwangi and Allosaurus of a Tyrannosaurus rex? Ray told me he was a hybrid between the two!

Ray passed away yesterday at the age of 92 after a lifetime of achievement. I hope he is now downing some much deserved pints with Ray Bradbury in the hereafter.

Thanks Ray, thanks for all those hours of adventure. Thanks for the inspiration and the thrills. Thanks for the legacy you have left.

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