A Cave Worthy of Plato (with added monster)

Over at The Chiseler, a personal reminiscence. Because it’s important regularly to return to the source.

And has it occurred to anyone that the cyclops, with its massive, mastiff, jutting jaw, is pretty much a caricature of Torin Thatcher (far left), the movie’s human villain?

For the sake of audience participation, let’s hear about your early movie traumas and first Ray Harryhausen encounters:


31 Responses to “A Cave Worthy of Plato (with added monster)”

  1. This was indeed my own first Harryhausen encounter and the first film I ever saw in a cinema (in a double bill with The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner movie). With the exception of the boy-genie, I still love it. Torin Thatcher running from the cave, crying, “Help! Save me!” is my first clear memory of a scene from a film (from the cinema, at least). Very happy to shake the Great Man’s hand a few years ago.

  2. My first cinema viewing of Mr H’s work was Eye of the Tiger, not his best but a damned fine film when you’re ten. Only later did I realize it was repeating a lot of his best ideas. Then I was a little old for Clash of the Titans, maybe, but that one has the superb Medusa scene, one of his best set pieces — with that sequence, he went out on a high (to enjoy maybe the longest retirement in cinema).

  3. Fiona here – I was always horrified by his creations’ death throes. It’s very clear he had the utmost sympathy for them. It wasn’t their fault they were ‘monstrous’ in our eyes, they were simply doing what creatures of their kind were supposed to do, and the final moments he crafted for them asked us to sympathise too.

  4. I’m back again (Fiona) – Another indelible memory is of being so fascinated by The Harpies in JATA, that I got as close as possible to the tv (without the image going blurry and pointillist) so I could get a good look at their faces. It drove me nuts for years! Now I know that the faces weren’t modeled in that much detail, but their magic still prevails. Our Siamese, Tasha, was entranced by them when we watched the Blu-Ray. She went right up to the screen, eyes following their movements and tail flicking back and forth with excitement. I’m convinced she thought they were real, flying things. The sound effects probably helped too, which brings me back to D’s experience with Talos. You’ve got the double whammy of RH and BH’s genius, plus those creaking, grinding noises. (Actually a triple whammy) No wonder he had to hide! I never hid. I just sat there, rigid with fear and wonderment.

  5. I was the same about the faces of the Harpies. Always wanted a closer look at them.

  6. And disappointingly, when you see the actual models, they all look like Corporal Klinger from MASH. What’s important is the illusion created onscreen, and the desire they create to see more…

  7. I have no distinct first memory of RH’s films; they seemed to play on so many childhood afternoons that it’s all something of a blur, though they somehow escaped my mother’s generally strict televisual attention.

    The first film I ever saw at the cinema was The Cat from Outer Space, and I was so traumatised that my neighbours, at whose house I was scheduled to spend the night after the film extravaganza, had to return me, crying inconsolably, to my parents the same evening. I think it was something to do with the cat speaking Without Moving His Lips.

  8. Yeah, ’cause if he was just talking aloud, that’d be quite NORMAL. But telepathy, that’s against nature!

    I remember kind of enjoying that, but it’s the sort of film I wouldn’t actually mind seeing remade. Partly because there aren’t enough positive role models for cats in cinema. Which explains our cat’s delinquent behaviour, I think.

  9. David Boxwell Says:

    Age 4: B & W broadcast of Bette Davis shouting at Errol Flynn in THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ELIZABETH AND ESSEX (39). The bleached face, the bulging eyes, the frightening forehead, the fury.

    I cried in terror. One of my very first memories of any kind.

  10. Daniel Riccuito Says:

    I was kind of embarrased to show my mom a growing collection of Hammer horror films — and confused by her smiling response. But then she explained that I had watched those films as a very young child in footsy pajamas, while the apartment filled with pot smoke (dad was a bit of a drug dealer back then — selling pills from his lunch truck). Anyhow, it suddenly became clear why these movies were resounding in me, like memories… and not. I was a half-conscious, half-baked kid absorbing trauma without realizing it. So, yeah, returning to the source…

  11. Bear in mind that I was four years old and had extended conversations with my two cats. This may explain the arrival of a sibling shortly thereafter, just before I went feral.

  12. I saw Seventh Voyage of Sinbad when it opened at the Roxy, and it wasn’t traumatic at all. Harryhausen’s creatures were nice, but Kerwin Matthews was nicer.

    After a pretty good run playing The World’s Most Beautiful Man he retired to San Francisco where he and his boyfriend ran a successful antique business.

  13. Heh!

    I recall seeing an image of Bette Davis snarling in Watcher in the Woods in a mag when I was a lad, and that still was enough to give me the heebie-jeebies. The film itself, when it eventually showed up, was OK, but nowhere near as scary as I’d imagined from her face.

    KM is very good as Sinbad — I feel like he should’ve had a more substantial career. It’s a well cast movie, considering its low budget.

  14. Now I think of it, the first Harryhausen I remember seeing was It Came From Beneath the Sea on TV one afternoon. But 7th Voyage was great for a first trip to the cinema.

  15. A classmate of mine at Comminist Martyrs High (aka. The High School of music and Art) was OBSESSED with Bernard Herrmann. This was the early 60’s and outside of the industry he wasn’t a topic of everyday conversation. Alan didn’t simply like Herrmann, he was convinced he was America’s greatest contemporary composer. And the Herrmann score that he loved the most was Seventh Voyage of Sinbad

  16. woolworthdiamond Says:

    Perhaps this is dating me a bit, but I have a very clear memory of my first real scare. When I was five, my stepfather brought home a vhs tape labelled Robocop. I have no idea what he was thinking, but we sat down and watched it together.

    What haunted me for years afterwards was the scene where one of the minor henchmen drives his truck into the toxic waste, partially melts and then explodes over a windshield. This is plenty to scar a child, but at the time, I didn’t understand the causal relation between the toxic waste and the melting/exploding. For years, I thought that could just happen to people, walkin down the street and I lived in mortal terror of just such a thing happening to me.

    Later that year I saw my second R rated movie late at night at a friend’s who had HBO and an working mother, Demolition Man, and was absolutely fine. Loved it, even. Demolition Man, an R rated movie made for five year olds.

  17. Dating you a bit? I saw that movie on cinema release as a 20-something!

    Yeah, Demolition Man is harmless, but Robocop plays for keeps. I was pretty disturbed by it as an adult.

  18. Randy Cook Says:

    I saw “7th Voyage of Sinbad” at the Vine in Livermore, Calif., Christmas week 1958. Didn’t scare me at all, just thrilled me. I’d never seen anything like it (few had, as there really WASN’T anything like it). The coming attractions for “The Blob”, though, had an announcer intoning “Coming SOON to THIS THEATER!” over footage of the Blob squeezing into a movie house auditorium, through the projection room windows. All I could think was “Uh-UH! They’re not getting me into THAT theater!!” Probably the only time I was frightened in a movie, until I grew up.

  19. My best friend at secondary school was taken to see Bambi as a kid, and the trailers beforehand were for Tommy (Roger Daltrey crawling with snakes) and Cronenberg’s Shivers. I don’t know how that happened, but he didn’t go back to the cinema until he was a teenager.

  20. Randy Cook Says:

    Just watched the “Blob” trailer for the first time in 53 years, and found my memory to be insufficiently lurid. The actual copy: “Every one of you, watching this screen : LOOK OUT! Because soon, VERY SOON, the most horrifying monster man has ever conceived will be OOZING INTO THIS THEATRE”

    Of COURSE I was scared!

    Pretty nice ballyhoo.

  21. I know I got the creeps from seeing The H-Man on TV one Saturday afternoon when a kid. I didn’t have a lot of scares. We had one TV in the house until I was 9, and my father ruled it with an iron fist when he was home. So I “got” to see far too many Westerns and big MGM musicals when they showed up (Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald were my father’s particular faves). Not much horror to be had there. Not the regular kind, anyway. When I had my own TV, I was watching silents and whatever ’30s comedies I could find. Sometimes I’d watch Hammer horror films, but never could get scared over them. I just thought they were fun. By the time of Carrie and Jaws, very little on the screen could scare me. just make me jump now and then. Sometimes, like when the gym teacher got it in Carrie, I approved.

  22. First scare in a movie? The trailer for CURSE OF THE FACELESS MAN, age 5. I think we were seeing SAYONARA, which bored me to tears. But at age 9, CALTIKI THE IMMORTAL MONSTER had me white-knuckled the whole time, gripping the armrest and a handful of change in my fist. I could see movies alone at the Air Force base theater, admission 15 cents. Wasn’t allowed to see stuff with a sexual connotation – -that left out horror pics like BRIDES OF DRACULA — but colossal blobs engulfing screaming victims was hunky-dory. When I got home from CALTIKI, I put down the loose change and saw that my hand was dripping with brown stuff. THAT’S when I screamed. I was convinced that Caltiki was eating me alive, and had to be told that it was my perspiration reacting with the brown pennies. That made sense, case closed. True story, God’s truth.

    I’ve only felt a sense of panic at THE BIRDS (age 11) and for some reason, at NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD for a couple of seconds, (age 19). That was a kind of social effect, in a theater full of equally nervous people.

  23. I’m a big scaredy-cat. Got scared by The Woman in Black even with Anne Billson helpfully explaining that it’s not scary. It was just BOO! moments strung together, but I was scared about when the next one would come. That’s very different from The Innocents, when it’s the actual sense of the uncanny that creeps me out. Lynch frequently terrifies me, same reason. The irrational.

  24. Somehow, I saw the trailer for Videodrome before either ET or Return of the Jedi (probably ET). Did freak me out somewhat.

  25. I can see how it might. I don’t recall the circumstances under which I saw the trailer for Goodbye Emmanuelle as a kid, but I do recall that it was just shots of beaches, and the VO “Emmanuelle says goodbye to the island she has loved… THE ONLY WAY SHE KNOWS HOW!” (By shagging it, presumably.) And then an announcement that they couldn’t show us any more scenes because of the sensitive nature of the material, which drew a huge “Awww” from the dads.

  26. Goodbye Emmanuelle was directed by the star of Un condamne a mort s’est echappe

    Now THAT’S scary!

  27. A Condemned Man Escapes and Directs Skinflick.

  28. Ro-ManXP47 Says:

    The brotherly resemblance between Thatcher and the cyclops has indeed occurred to me, and in fact occurred to me the first time I saw the film as a child in ’58. Your giving expression to is is very astute, however. It’s one of those odd , likely inadvertent things that contribute to overall effect of the movie.

  29. Given that the cyclops resembles the ymir and the kraken facially, it could well be that the design came first and Thatcher was cast in part because of his resemblance.

    Apparently inadvertent things are rarely inadvertent — everybody on a movie has too much time to think about this stuff.

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