Ray Harryhausen died today at the age of 92.
I can’t stress enough how much a part of my life he and his work were. I remember being ticked at Lyndon Johnson for preempting Earth vs. the Flying Saucers in order to sign the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Using … numerous pens. About half a letter per pen, then put that pen aside, pick up another, and write another half-letter… meanwhile my movie was playing on WPIX, New York. In those pre-videotape days, if you missed a film in the theaters during its first run, you might catch it in a second-run theater a year or two later. If you missed it then you had to wait for it to come on TV. And if you missed it on TV it might be years before it came around again. If ever. (I did eventually get to see it, when I was in college.)
Every Sunday the New York Times had a TV section listing for the following week: Channels 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, and 13. Channels 9 (WOR) and 11 (WPIX) had the Creature Features. 13 was PBS. 2, 4, and 7 were WCBS, WNBC, and WABC. Channel 5 was WNEW. I’d take the listing, and circle in red pencil the shows I wanted to watch. WOR and WPIX had most of them. Any time a Harryhausen film film was listed, it got circled.
(Channel 5 had Soupy Sales in the afternoon, which was the only thing worth watching if there weren’t any decent movies showing. Channel 11 had Ivanhoe, starring a very young Roger Moore.)
I remember seeing It Came From Beneath the Sea on a black-and-white TV that my father built. It Came From Beneath the Sea featured the giant octopus (which only had six arms if you got around to counting them) attacking San Francisco.
One of the disappointments of my youth was going to The Bedford Playhouse (in Bedford, New York, years before it was cut up into a two-screen theater, when movies were a dollar, and, on Wednesdays, when the show changed, they’d have a double feature for that same dollar) one Saturday afternoon, because they had a hand-lettered sign out front promising The Mysterious Island. Alas, the film that actual showed was some Brit invasion-from-outer-space/bodysnatchers-ripoff film.
On my wedding day my new bride and I, after the ceremony, went to a double-feature of Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger and Warlords of Atlantis (along with many members of the wedding party).