Special effects wizardry has always been a key component in creating fantasy and futuristic worlds in the cinema and one of the greatest creators in the genre was Ray Harryhausen (1920-2013). Hardcore fans know that he worked uncredited on the 1949 fantasy adventure Mighty Joe Young before establishing himself as a stop motion animation artist in such sci-fi classics as The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953), It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955), Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956) and 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957). Still, the best was yet to come in the second half of the 20th century when he created fantastical worlds of the imagination in The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), Jason and the Argonauts (1963) and Clash of the Titans (1981) to name just a few. Before all of this, however, Harryhausen learned his craft and trade by experimenting with the short film format.
When the subject of Japanese film comes up, you might assume that Akira Kurosawa is that nation’s most famous filmmaker in terms of international recognition and critical acclaim. Yet, a 2014 book by August Ragone (published by Chronicle Books), makes a good case for another filmmaker from Japan whose worldwide popularity, especially among sci-fi/fantasy fans, is probably greater than Kurosawa, Yasujiro Ozu, Kenji Mizoguchi and Kon Ichikawa combined. His name is Eiji Tsuburaya. What? The name doesn’t ring a bell? Maybe you’ve heard of Godzilla (1954) or Mothra (1961) or Destroy All Monsters (1968) or Rodan (1956) or countless other sci-fi/fantasy films from Toho Studios that featured Tsuburaya’s special effects?