7 Weeks of Harryhausen and Toho Double Features in Detroit
Official Site: Detroit Film Theatre
Special Thanks to Kyle Byrd
Starting this Saturday at 2:00pm, the Detroit Film Theatre in Detroit, MI presents seven consecutive weekends of monster and fantasy movie matinees on the big screen. The first half of each double feature will be a restored 35mm print of one of Ray Harryhausen’s classic stop-motion animation films, followed by a bonus second movie from Toho Studios.
From the theater website:
Saturday, June 16, 2:00 PM
20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH (USA—1957—directed by Nathan Juran) An American rocket ship returns from a trip to Venus, splashing down near the coast of Sicily. Along with its sole human survivor is a very much alive Venusian monster known as an Ymir, which soon grows to mammoth proportions in Earth’s atmosphere. Hopped up on his diet of sulphur and none too pleased with being poked and prodded by scientists, the Ymir (aided by Ray Harryhausen’s splendid special effects) goes on a satisfyingly destructive rampage, tearing down what’s left of the Roman Forum and wrestling with an elephant before making his last, defiant stand at the top of the Coliseum.
PLUS: the wonderfully colorful 1967 SON OF GODZILLA (directed by Jun Fukuda), in which Japan’s favorite monster tries to teach his young son, Minya, to breathe fire just like his old man. Alas, at his age, little Minya can only blow smoke rings, but he makes his dad proud anyway. Ideal for Father’s Day! New TohoScope print, in Japanese with English subtitles! (double feature runs 167 min.)
Saturday, June 23, 2:00 PM
JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (USA—1963—directed by Don Chaffey) One of the best-loved of all of the fantasy films of effects genius Ray Harryhausen was this muscular and visually jaw-dropping (for its day) mythological epic about Jason’s quest for the Golden Fleece. Some of the most memorable of all of Ray’s creations appear here, including the huge metallic giant Talos, an attack by winged harpies, a vicious, seven headed hydra, and, perhaps most astonishing of all, a fight involving multiple spear-and-sword-carrying skeletons, many of whom appear together, fighting vigorously, within the same shots. Such a feat would be a snap in today’s world of CGI effects, but RH’s artistry lay in moving each figure one frame at a time, a laborious process that nevertheless resulted in a unique, handcrafted movie magic that has remained in the mind of every kid of the era who encountered it.
PLUS: BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE (Japan, 1959, directed by Ishiro Honda) a non-stop intergalactic slugfest in which evil aliens in laser-equipped flying saucers find themselves in an all-out fight for survival when the nations of the Earth unite! (194 min.)
Saturday, June 30, 2:00 PM
EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS (USA—1956—directed by Fred F. Sears) Legendary saucer effects by visual wizard Ray Harryhausen spice up this fast-moving tale of a fleet of desperate, soon-to-be-homeless aliens out to conquer the Earth and take up residence. Fortunately for our side, Earth is well represented by Dr. Russsel A. Marvin (sci-fi veteran Hugh Marlowe), a brilliant scientist who, together with his brand-new, beautiful scientist bride (Joan Taylor), is in no mood to give up his home planet without a fight. One of the most enjoyable sci-fi epics of its day was the blueprint for the countless invasion movies that followed, from INDEPENDENCE DAY to MARS ATTACKS! (which quite intentionally “borrowed” this movie’s saucer design).
PLUS: the original Japanese classic MOTHRA (1961, directed by Ishiro Honda), the story of a gigantic, havoc-wreaking moth, and the foot-tall twin fairies (sisters Yumi and Emi Ito) who control him telepathically while singing. (double feature runs 169 min.)
Saturday, July 7, 2:00 PM
MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (England—1961—directed by Cy Endfield) On a dark and stormy night during the Civil War, a handful of Union prisoners escape in a hot-air balloon, and thanks to the powerful winds, they drift toward an island that’s… inhabited by giant monsters! Based on a novel by Jules Verne – and including the return of Captain Nemo (Herbert Lom) from Verne’s previous 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – MYSTERIOUS ISLAND is full of wondrous and fantastic creatures designed and animated by effects master Ray Harryhausen. Big chickens, big bees and even a giant crab spring to life, as does Captain Nemo’s mysterious and amazing undersea kingdom – not to mention the smoldering volcano that lies dangerously close. Music by Bernard Herrmann.
PLUS: GODZILLA VS. MEGAGUIRUS (2000, directed by Masaaki Tezuka), a relatively recent epic in which no-more-Mr.-Nice-Guy Godzilla returns to once again stomp on Japan, only to be confronted by terrifying, newly-hatched Meganeurons! Don’t worry – it’ll all make sense in the end. In Japanese with English subtitles. (double feature runs 200 min.)
Saturday, July 14, 2:00 PM
IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA (USA—1955—directed by Robert Gordon) A gigantic octopus is on the loose in San Francisco Bay, thanks to that monster-unleashing staple of fifties sci-fi, atomic testing. The huge beast makes straight for as many landmarks as possible, including The Embarcadero, the Ferry Building, and, of course, the Golden Gate Bridge. Effects master Ray Harryhausen achieved great fluidity of motion in the giant creature despite an incredibly small budget – a budget so low that he was forced to give the big octopus just six tentacles instead of eight! (Viewers can’t tell the difference, however, thanks to that sleight-of-hand miracle known as film editing.) Kenneth Tobey (THE THING) and Faith Domergue (THIS ISLAND EARTH) are the gruff sub commander and the beautiful scientist who team up to save the city from certain destruction.
PLUS: GODZILLA (Gojira, 1954, directed by Ishiro Honda), the original uncut Japanese masterpiece about the granddaddy of all Japanese monsters, awakened by atomic testing and determined to lay waste to Tokyo. In Japanese with English subtitles. (double feature runs 176 min.)
Saturday, July 21, 2:00 PM
THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (USA—1958—directed by Nathan Juran) Special effects meister Ray Harryhausen’s first commercial smash was this colorful, lavishly designed and technologically state-of-the-art (for 1958) fantasy about Sinbad the Sailor’s quest to rescue his beloved (and miniaturized) princess from the clutches of an evil sorcerer. Fortunately for kids everywhere, Sinbad had to face and fight a veritable torrent of monsters, all of which were given personality to spare through Harryhausen’s elegant stop-motion artistry. Highlights include the huge, orange, angry Cyclops (which likes to dine on people), Sinbad’s high-energy swordfight with a terrifyingly lithe skeleton (perhaps the most memorable sequence in an adventure film overflowing with them), and of course the rousing musical score by the great Bernard Herrmann (CITIZEN KANE, VERTIGO).
PLUS: GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER (1966, directed by Jun Fukuda), in which The Big Guy tangles with gangsters, international terrorists, and a giant lobster named Ebirah. We dare you to pass this up! In Japanese with English subtitles. (double feature runs 171 min.)
Saturday, July 28, 2:00 PM
FIRST MEN IN THE MOON (England—1964—directed by Nathan Juran) And you thought Neil Armstrong was first. No way! As this playful, exciting, lushly mounted H.G. Wells science-fiction fantasy would have it, an offbeat inventor (the wonderfully comedic Lionel Jeffries) and some friends found a way – in 1899, no less – to fly from their peaceful British Victorian homes all the way to the moon, where they discover a vast, underground lunar civilization, complete with an insect-like supreme ruler who has severe misgivings about his terrestrial visitors. Ray Harryhausen’s elegant special effects shine in this witty and briskly paced adventure, which is unusually faithful to Wells’ original story.
PLUS: GODZILLA VS. KING GHIDORAH (Japan, 1991, directed by Kazuki Omori), in which time travelers from the 23rd century return to 1992 Japan to present a way to rid Earth of the mutated Godzilla. Much to everyone’s dismay, the plan instead results in the creation of a new monster, the fearsome three-headed King Ghidorah! (double feature runs 206 min.)
The Detroit Film Theatre is located at 5200 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48202-4008. Ticket prices for the double features are: Regular Admission $7.50, Students and Seniors $5.00, Members $5.00. The theater also has a Discount Pass Card (5 admissions) for $30.00. Tickets may be reserved by phone by calling (313) 833-3237.