Powerhouse in the UK has now released the 2nd volume, and the best yet of the collection of Ray Harryhausen films onto Blu Ray. All three films come with great remastered picture quality and a host of superb extras.
Mysterious Island (1961)
A small, motley group of soldiers and civilians flee the 1865 siege of Richmond via a hot air balloon and end up on an isolated island crawling with over-sized crabs, birds, and bees. Even more astonishing, they discover three other humans inhabiting the island: two shipwrecked women and the illustrious, long-lost Captain Nemo.
Cracking adventure film, based on the story by Jules Verne has a great pace, a good cast and the usual assortment of giant creatures courtesy of Mr Harryhausen which replace the usual dinosaurs which were going to be included in the original draft. The film has man against the elements at first, then large creatures and finally captain Nemo, played by the great Herbert Lom, turns up with his submarine and they try to escape the island together. The stop-motion effects are first-rate and the film has stood the test of time very well. Worth note is the superb score by Bernard Hermann, one of his best.
Jason and the Argonauts (1963)
Jason, a fearless sailor and explorer, returns to the kingdom of Thessaly after a 20-year voyage to make his rightful claim to the throne. But to do so, Jason must first find the magical Golden Fleece. He selects a crew and with the help of Hera, Queen of the Gods sets sail in search of the Fleece. Jason and his crew must overcome incredible obstacles including a 100-foot bronze giant, the venomous Hydraa huge creature with the heads of seven snakes, and a battle with an army of skeletons.
The most well-known of Ray Harryhausen’s films this has it all, great cast, solid story and fantastic effects, especially the famous fight with the skeletons. An epic spectacle that does not stop for breath this is an old-fashioned childhood fantasy story this is hard to beat.
First Men on the Moon (1964)
The film begins with a team of United Nations astronauts planning an upcoming moon mission. The astronauts are both confused and intrigued by a man (Edward Judd) who claims he, his fiancée and a scientist journeyed to the moon 65 years ago and were attacked by “Selenites,” grotesque, human-like ant forms that live in immense crystal caverns. Now it’s up to the U.N. team to attempt a lunar landing that could be more horrifying than ever believed possible.
An intriguing tale based on the H.G.Wells story, First Men on the Moon is a fascinating watch, as it was made before man had actually reached the moon and was based just on scientific research at the time of things such as what the surface might look like etc. The Victorian setting is a nice touch and Lionel Jeffries is a joy to watch. The effects are more traditional but still groundbreaking for the time with the alien race and the giant caterpillar being highlights. A bit silly at times but overall great fun.
The Blu ray box set has superb 1080p remastered transfers from a 2K restoration on Mysterious Island to 4K restorations on the other two, all taken from the original camera negative. Colours are bright, black levels solid and grain intact. With all 3 releases in this set having such a clear image, it does show up the effects scenes as being much less clear, but that is to be expected because of the technology used at the time and does not spoil your enjoyment one bit. Audio is excellent with original mono options and some very good 5.1 remixes.
Here is a list of the huge amount of extras available :
– Ray Harryhausen audio commentaries on all three films
– Additional Mysterious Island audio commentary with film historians Randall William Cook, C. Courtney Joyner and Steven C. Smith
– Additional Jason and the Argonauts audio commentary with filmmaker Peter Jackson and Randall William Cook
– New interview with SFX maestro Hal Hickel on Mysterious Island
– ‘Jason and the Argonauts’ Original Skeleton Fight Storyboards
– Ray Harryhausen on ‘Mysterious Island’
– Hal Hickel on ‘Mysterious Island’ (2017): new interview with the special effects maestro
– Kim Newman on ‘Mysterious Island’ (2017): new appreciation by the author and genre-film expert
– Islands of Mystery: vintage featurette
– Randall William Cook Introduces ‘First Men in the Moon’
– Tomorrow the Moon: vintage featurette
– New and exclusive interviews with crew members, including camera assistant Ray Andrew (Mysterious Island) and production manager Ted Wallis (First Men in the Moon)
– Mysterious Island comic-book
– Archival documentaries and interviews
– Super 8 versions of Mysterious Island and Jason and the Argonauts
– Isolated scores: experience the music of Bernard Herrmann (Mysterious Island) and Laurie Johnson (First Men in the Moon)
– Original trailers, teasers, TV spots and promotional films
– John Landis trailer commentary for First Men in the Moon
– Image galleries: extensive promotional and on-set photography, poster art and archive materials
– Limited edition exclusive 80-page book with new essays by film experts Kim Newman and Tim Lucas, an in-depth oral history of all three films, and full film credits
Another fantastic box set and very much recommended.
FILMS: 8 PICTURE: 8.5 AUDIO: 8 EXTRAS: 9.5