Old School F/X: Bubo the Mechanical Owl was BAE

I am in love with Ray Harryhausen. Okay that may be a little creepy considering the man’s been dead for a few years. I will revise to say that I am in love with what Ray Harryhausen left behind. The body of work he left behind. Stop being a creeper. (I looked it up—he died in 2013 at the age of 92. Dude hung around for a good long time.) He is probably my favorite filmmaker ever. If you’re not familiar with him, I direct you to some of his better known features, including three Sinbad movies (the “Arabic” sailor,  not that ridiculous comedian,) 1963’s Jason and the Argonauts, and one of my all time favorite movies from childhood, Clash of the Titans (the original 1981 version with dreamy Harry Hamlin, not that crap-fest of a remake.) Clash of the Titans is second only to Star Wars as my favorite film of all time from before I was an adult.

Ray Harryhausen is a master of special effects. He taught George Lucas everything he knows. Lucas made up the rest. We have Industrial Light and Magic because of Lucas, but we have Lucas’ Tauntauns and AT-ATs moving through a snowy landscape in The Empire Strikes Back because Harryhausen came up with that stop-motion photography technique. Modern CGI effects may look sleek and sexy but I personally love the jerky animation of the old school effects. Harryhausen’s films always managed to balance just the right amount of classic Greek epic and modern sci-fi weirdness to fit my particular tastes.

Bubo the owl is basically my favorite non-humanoid character in a film ever. He totally got the shaft in the Clash of the Titans remake. Although he appeared briefly, he was mocked and tossed in a scrap-heap by the film’s protagonist, making me hate everything else about the reboot. Harry Hamlin had the decency to treat him as a friend and trust his owly mechanical judgment even if he was too heavy for the branch. Kids these days don’t know what’s important. Mechanical owls. That’s what.

In addition to Bubo, Clash of the Titans featured the creepiest villain ever to scare my pre-teen self: Calibos. I love that I remembered his name just now without having to Google it. Man oh man was he a creepy dude. The scene where his hand gets chopped off in the swamp lives in my memory as one of the scariest PG-13 scenes ever. And that pitchfork replacement he gets…*shiver*… I do go on.

In summation, Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion homunculus is way better than any motion capture Gollum and you should go watch the documentary of his life that’s on Netflix right now.