Monster Kid Online Magazine #7
By Curt Hardaway with Sam Calvin
In my formative monster kid years, I loved them all – Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula, the Wolf Man, the Mummy, even the Mad Ghoul.
But it was the big monsters that really got my juices flowing. THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS, TARANTULA, THEM!, THE DEADLY MANTIS, GODZILLA and yes, even THE GIANT CLAW. Of course I loved KING KONG, or the idea of him anyway, since I didn’t actually get to see the movie until I was in my twenties. (I don’t think any station in Dallas/Fort Worth ever showed it during my youth. From what I’ve read, New Yorkers got to see it every other week or so. Damn yankees.)
I remember watching TV one afternoon in 1958 when a trailer came on for a movie just hitting theaters. Being only five, I forgot the title in five seconds, but one scene really stuck with me – a giant one-eyed, horned monster lifting off the top of a cave to get to the little men inside. I wouldn’t learn the name of the movie until Famous Monsters of Filmland told me years later. It was THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD and the monster was just called...
When I finally saw the film, I couldn’t believe it. A huge fire-breathing dragon, a giant two-headed roc and its poor little chick, a dancing snake woman, a sword-wielding skeleton, and even a two-horned variation of that other cyclops. (Oddly, all the shots of that second cyclops are medium shots or longer – there are no closeups.)
However, it’s that first Cyclops I love more than any other monster in movie history. And I’m not alone. Another is Sam Calvin, editor and publisher (with Ernie Farino) of FXRH, the famous fanzine devoted to Ray Harryhausen, creator of the Cyclops and so many other great monsters.
“The Cyclops is a creature of pure fantasy with no ‘real life’ expectations to match up to, unlike King Kong and Mighty Joe Young,” Calvin says. “They are cool, but they are apes and we've seen apes before. We never saw anything like the Cyclops before.”
There are those hairy, satyr-like legs with the cloven hooves for one thing. The upper torso is that of a reptilian bodybuilder with little bumps all over. The back has pronounced spinal ridges and more bumps. The arms are muscular, ending in three-fingered claws.
But the head and face are something else altogether.
“That face, those eyes... er, that eye,” says Calvin. “He has ‘that bull look,’ as Ray says. You can practically picture him snorting steam. He has by far the most expressive face in an animation figure. Compare, for example, with his predecessor the Ymir from 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH. The Ymir's face always looks the same (unless he's wearing false teeth). The Cyclops' facial expressions run the gamut – pain, anger, surprise...
“The closeups of the Cyclops staring at the men in the cave make him look more like a living creature than any other animation in movie history. His ‘moist’ eye looks absolutely alive. With the exception of MIGHTY JOE YOUNG, no other animation figure in any other stop-motion film comes close. Every body and facial structure is dead on: the horn, the pointed ears, the wide nostrils, the bumpy spine. The Cyclops' face doesn't look ‘rubbery’ when he varies his expressions. Examine the excellent Medusa from CLASH OF THE TITANS, whose closeup facial reactions look less real.”
He's humanoid in appearance, a must for a truly memorable stop-motion character, Calvin says. Comparisons to other great Harryhausen creations are inevitable.
“The Cyclops sculpt is flawless,” Calvin says. “Fabulous design in all respects. Better than in any of Ray's pre-production drawings. The hairy lower body and goat legs are brilliant. The upper torso and head are transcendent. Compare that muscular build to the Centaur in THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD. Ray should have sculpted the torso of the Centaur more like the Cyclops. In fact, his pre-production drawing of the Centaur shows a much more muscular torso.
“The Cyclops has a perfectly proportioned body,” Calvin says. “Compare it to the proportions of Cormoran in JACK THE GIANT KILLER, who looks exactly like what he is, a puppet.” That goes double for the two-headed giant in the same movie.
The Cyclops is covered with veins and warts, with enormous body and facial detail. “And the detail isn't ‘smooth’ like on some of Ray's creatures,” Calvin says. “Compare, for instance, the triceratops in ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. (bumpy) with that of the styracosaurus in THE VALLEY OF GWANGI (smooth). Or, for that matter, the Allosaurus in ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. (bumpy) with Gwangi himself (smooth). Gwangi's skin is very detailed, but it's just not ‘bumpy’ enough. The Cyclops is plenty bumpy. It adds realism.
“The Cyclops is ferocious. He’s not a nice guy like Trog from SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER. And his roar matches his looks. The GOLDEN VOYAGE Centaur's ‘roar’ isn’t nearly as effective. He needs to bellow!"
In addition to his incredible design, Harryhausen gave the Cyclops model the power to emote, and that power is used to its maximum potential.
“He's a character, like Kong and Mighty Joe, and he gives a performance,” Calvin says . “He's not just an animal. The touches of a crude intelligence -- the cage, the spiked club – are effective and... well, cool. Ray does some great bits with his animation. For example, I've always loved it when the Cyclops gets it in the back with the spear, has to struggle to remove it, and then throws the spear down in total fury.”
Calvin thinks the two best moments with the monster are the medium closeup of him pulling the spear out of his chest in the opening beach scene (“My favorite Harryhausen shot of all time,” he adds), and his reactions to Sinbad and his men raiding the treasure – the same scene that imbedded itself into my mind so many years ago.
I would add the Cyclops licking his lips as he roasts the hapless Harufa, along with shots of him trying to crush the drunken sailors with a huge tree trunk – the weight of the trunk can actually be seen through the momentum of the Cyclops’ body language. It’s heavy.
It made my head hurt trying to think of other monsters that compare favorably to the Cyclops, and I could only come up with a few that approach that level of greatness in design, and even fewer in personality. Harryhausen’s own hydra from JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS is a great design, but it has no personality. Mighty Joe Young has tons of personality, but the design is just that of an ape.
With the advent of CGI, there have literally been hundreds of terrific designs in movies like THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, the Harry Potter series, and many others. But how many of those are as memorable as the Cyclops?
And that, in a nutshell, is why we think Harryhausen’s Cyclops is the monster to end all monsters.
photo courtesy “Ray Harryhausen - Master of the Majicks”
Harryhausen's work in THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD impacted many young fans over the years, including future monster creators like make-up effects superstar Rick Baker. Recently, while honing his skills with a 3-D computer program called ZBrush, Rick "sculpted" this amazing recreation of one of his favorite monsters, Harryhausen's Cyclops. A detailed close-up of it adorns this issue's cover. Here is a 360º turnaround of the model. A giant-sized thanks to Rick Baker for allowing us to feature his work in this issue.
Cover | Contents | Harryhausen | Filming 7th Voyage of Sinbad | Bama | The Cyclops
3-D Thrills | Dietz's Dungeon | Monster Scenes kits | Stop-Motion Mania | Reviews
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