Archive for Willis H O’Brien

Hairbreadth Harry

Posted in Comics, FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 7, 2016 by dcairns


Click to enlarge — it’s worth it!

I’ve been greatly enjoying Dan Nadel’s Art Out of Time, Unknown Comics Visionaries, 1900-1969, a stupendous compilation of funnybook esoterica. Above we see an adventure of Hairbreadth Harry, a twenties newspaper strip. It’s nice to see that Winsor McCay’s GERTIE THE DINOSAUR was still remembered in 1924 (the nightmarishly expanding creature also recalls McCay’s Rarebit Fiend short THE PET). According to Rudi Blesh’s Buster Keaton biography, Gertie inspired the dinosaur scene in THE THREE AGES, with Keaton reasoning that animation and live-action could be combined in a way inspired by McCay’s short.

This got me thinking about that dinosaur again — I’ve often wondered who made it. A Google search brought me a sample of Mark F. Berry’s indispensible-sounding The Dinosaur Filmography, published the same year as Nadel’s book, in which Lou Bunin (he of the peculiar ALICE IN WONDERLAND) named the great Charley Bowers as the artist responsible. This would make a lot of sense — Willis H. O’Brien is the only other Hollywood stop-motion man I can think of from this period, but if it was him we would know, wouldn’t we? — and would be Big News — a Bowers-Keaton collaboration! I hope it’s true, but we may never know.

Here’s another bit of Maurice Ketten’s strip with another movie reference ~


Lost and Found Dept.

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 23, 2014 by dcairns


Lots of interesting feedback on yesterday’s post, which was about the not-particularly-interesting Kay Kyser movie YOU’LL FIND OUT.

Via Facebook, Jason Hyde points out, “That gorilla got around. It also pops up in the Rathbone Sherlock Holmes film The Woman in Green. It was still getting work as late as 1971’s Escape from the Planet of the Apes. Somebody should write a biography.”

I replied, “In 1972 they opened it up and found Charles Gemora, full of buckshot.”

But Randall William Cook had more information. The spooky mansion in this movie turns out to be a real treasure trove — as recounted in this DVD extra from the Peter Jackson KING KONG, video essay, several models from the 1933 original KONG can be seen as props in the villains’ lair, including various sizes of triceratops and some spiders from the famous deleted “spider pit sequence.”

We even see the odd, two-legged lizard that climbed a vine to get at Bruce Cabot.

And elsewhere in the movie, some very recognizable gargoyles (bottom of frame), last seen posing beside Charles Laughton in THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME.


I imagine there’s stuff there from SHE and maybe THE HOUNDS OF ZAROFF, and all the Egyptian doodads are probably recycled from the Wheeler & Woolsey dud MUMMY’S BOYS — though it’s doubtful they were originally created for it.

The beauty of the studio system was that all this material was on call at all times, either in the (rubber) flesh or via stock footage. I previously investigated the bizarre rubber octopus (Steve) in CITIZEN KANE, dismissed reports of pterodactyls from KONG invading KANE, but found the ship from KONG reappearing in Val Lewton’s THE GHOST SHIP, heading in the opposite direction thanks to an optical flip that rechristens it from the Venture to the erutneV. Rechristening ships is said to be bad luck, and so it proves for the unhappy crew of the erutneV.

Much has been written about the reuse of the grand staircase from THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS in various Lewton horrors.

One day, when I am bored, I will track down the ludicrous gargoyle that decorates the background of Hammer’s TWINS OF EVIL but can also be seen, with a fresh lick of paint, in THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW.

Goodnight, and good luck.

Gaijin Kaijin

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on May 22, 2014 by dcairns

GODZILLA may be in the cinemas, but only on YouTube can you see him battle THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS, courtesy of Michael Aguilar’s stop-motion home-movie epics. An authentic outsider artist in the best sense (and I mean no insult), Michael has no connection I know of to the film industry, but painstakingly produces his own private apocalypses with his own camera, his own monsters, and pleasing his own tastes. All animated a frame at a time, no 12fps compromises, hence the amazing smoothness.

Finished Kong 011

I’m not sure Kong should be orangutan colour, but then, if you’re going to shoot his further adventures in colour, it would be a shame to have him all in basic black.


Michael pays tribute to the creatures of Willis O’Brien and Ray Harryhausen, but he also converts to animation those movie monsters that were originally puppets or men in suits, thus ennobling them. Here’s THE GIANT CLAW, at long last in living colour.

cyclops and giant claw in flight 007