I just watched Golden Voyage and couldn't help but notice a few things - not sure if anyone ever pointed this out before or not, though I know I'm not the first to notice.
I wonder if Ray created Koura deliberately to be a sort of alter-ego of himself, or maybe a little ways into the script he realized the similarities and then decided to run with them. Either way, it's clear Koura's particular powers are those of an animator - pretty much all he did was to bring inanimate statues and synthetic beings to life, and each time he did it aged him further (the wear and tear each of his films put on him made manifest?)
After bringing each one to life he then 'inhabited' it - seeing through it's eyes or at least being able to command it. The cost each time was apparently several more years' worth of his vitality.
Interesting it's a villain who seems to represent the animator or Ray himself - but then it makes sense that a sorcerer would be the villain. And villains are also a lot more fun than heroes most of the time.
Then I started thinking about the prizes at stake - what was it that so strongly motivated this dark doppleganger? Not riches - but youth, invisibility, and a crown. I doubt he actually intended anything by this, but they do seem to fit in certain ways - what stopmotion animator wouldn't wish to get back the youth and vigor that's been hammered out of him by his latest production - all those endless hours closeted away in dark rooms as their hair turns grey (or evaporates a bit more). Invisibility - I think it goes without saying most of us like being invisible - we prefer working behind the scenes to being in the spotlight, though some of us doubtless are frustrated actors or wannabe stars. And the crown - well of course Ray is the king of stopmotion animators, though that crown was handed to him by O'Brien.
I'm of course not saying that Ray secreted hidden meanings in this film, I think he was mostly just having fun with it, but it is interesting to think about.
To go way out on a (doubtless flimsy) limb with it - how about Sinbad, and Koura as two part of a single psyche? Koura the Shadow, magician using his powers while Sinbad and his men attempt to destroy everything he brings to life. Or better yet (more fun and even more unlikely!) throw in the Grand Vizier as a third component.
Symbolically, there's the sundered halves of the amulet, the Vizier being in possession of one and Sinbad/Koura fighting for the other. It's only when the two halves are brought together they become whole and reveal their meaning. And they all vie for the crown - Koura wants it for himself, Sinbad takes it from him and gives it to it's rightful owner, setting everything aright and in the process vanquishing the shadow-self.
Lol ok, I know - Ray definitely didn't intend anything so literal, but it is fun to play around with these ideas.
Good point about the sorcerers being misunderstood and not totally evil. I did notice that about Koura, and also that the story could be seen from his viewpoint in such a way that he's not a villain at all. Almost. Of course there is the thing about him trying to steal the Vizier's crown and throne or whatever he's trying to do.
Hahaha!! Sokoura considered evil just because he's bald!! That could definitely be another statement by Ray - but I don't think he was 'folically challenged' at that point in his career, was he? Maybe it was already beginning though. And what does Koura look like under that turban?
I do think Ray generally bestowed a lot of sympathy on his villains - especially of course the creatures. I could definitely see him expressing some part of himself through the misunderstood sorcerers - the misunderstood geek who liked to play with dolls and gets made fun of for it.
Ah, but would you like to learn Koura's animation technique if it instantly ages you another ten years each time?
I want to watch Eye of the Tiger next - Zenobia was a bit of an animator herself, much like Koura (partly because the script was made up of bits and pieces of leftover ideas from Golden Voyage).
One thing that really stood out to me is that he very deliberately made the Homunculus appear (in the composited shots) to be exactly the same size relative to humans as the puppet actually is. Of course he did this so he could use the rubber casting as a lifeless homunculus, but the result is a shot with the 'animator' handling it that must be very reminiscent of him working with the Ymir puppet that it resembles (with Harpy wings added on). There's almost an infinite regress going on there, with him creating a film about himself creating films..
And yeah - making the princess puppet-sized in 7th Voyage! Lol! It does seem he often made his films imitate his work in certain ways.
King Aetees of Colchis is another 'villain' who really isn't - in fact he's a victim, just defending his property from a band of invaders bent on stealing the golden fleece and bringing famine and pestilence on his people. What was Jason's reason for wanting it? I don't remember - something like just a rallying point to show his heroism and draw his country together? Wow - Jason and Sinbad were terrorists!
And Aetees - was that a crazy wig he was wearing? Could it be hiding Folical Defoliation?
I think I can recall photos of Ray with the 7th Voyage puppets back in 1958 that already exhibited a degree of cranial deforestation.
Zenobia's puppet creation was the mechanical Minoton - that's her only bit of "animation" I can think of offhand. And she had a rough time too, without enough potion to completely turn her back from bird to human. But she was the least appealing of his villains, the only one who starts off by acting evil. It's also the Sinbad film I have watched the least.
Disturbing, looking at these films years later, to see that anything the "heroes" do is automatically ok because they are the heroes, and their opponents are automatically villains because, well, if Sinbad doesn't like them, they must be. (I should probably refrain from drawing any parallels with foreign policy.)
The creatures, of course, need not be villains at all. The Ymir is an innocent victim, really, like Mighty Joe Young and aspects of Kong. In 7th Voyage and Jason, it's a mixture. Nothing evil about Talos, or a mother Roc defending her nest, or the duenna transformed as an entertaining magic trick. In other films, Trog and the baboon prince are entirely sympathetic animated characters, too. The Cyclops was a classic monster with politically incorrect dietary preferences, but the one creature I couldn't get enough of in that film, because he was given touches of personality. The skeletons in both films are not designed to evoke sympathy, or the statues in Golden Voyage (figurehead and Kali) who all have a certain remoteness so you don't really identify with them. So the puppet characters in his films actually fill a variety of roles, they aren't all there for the same purpose, or invite the audience into their psyche to the same degree.
I feel the same way about Zenobia Nick, well I guess everybody does because what you said is just true. She is the most evil 'villain' Ray created I suppose, and plays the part to the hilt, with as I recall a lot of very unpleasant screeching. And it's also my least-watched of his films - well, of the ones I do tend to watch. Actually I still haven't seen his flying saucers film all the way through and I finally bought Gulliver a year or so ago and have watched it once plus a couple of the scenes again.
Zenobia's trick seems to be not so much animating things as enlarging them (which is another of Ray's tricks). I'm underwhelmed by most of the creatures - entirely too many of them are just ordinary animals made bigger, though it's still nice to see them moving in that magical way that only stopmotion can impart. But still - a walrus? really?
I guess the reason I thought of her as being somehow similar to Koura was because of the bird foot (I had actually forgotten that's what it was - just remembered that she somehow suffered physically for her magic). Or - did she not also suffer some kind of aging each time she cast a spell? I need to watch it again.
Yes - many of the animated creatures are just going about their own lives innocently until pesky humans come along and mess with them. Or are nothing more than pawns to their human masters (puppets?)
One thing that struck me on watching Golden Voyage was when Sinbad told Caroline Munro that she's a free woman and nobody's slave - after she was already on the ship well out to sea!! Might have been nice to tell her that before setting sail in case she didn't want to go along..
So, who would Ray have identified with in Gwangi, aside from the titular character (and all the other animated ones)? The bald scientist? And who were the real good guys and bad guys - let's see, an American hero-type (but extremely self-centered and rather amoral) and a - British(?) scientist in Mexico invading the sacred land and exploiting the rare endangered wildlife..
Man, I miss the old days when half a dozen people would join in on a conversation like this and it would have been on page 3 by now... (Thanks for playing a part David!)
Oh, looking back I see you said Eye of the Tiger was your least-watched Sinbad film - not Harryhausen film! Oops! Same here (and I also don't think I've seen the Sextopus movie all the way through).
Here's an interesting question - how many of Ray's creatures were still alive at the end of their movie? It seems most of them had to die at the hands of the humans (or in titanic struggle against another creature), but I don't think they all did, did they? Got to put on my thinking cap for that one..
The Eohippus made it through Gwangi alive, didn't it? Or did it? What was it's fate - did it run away into the valley and disappear as I seem to recall?
Oh, and the fight between the Ceratosaurus and Triceratops in front of the cave in 1 Million Years - we saw the Ceratosaurus die as it's chest slowly stopped pumping, but did the triceratops die as well? I don't remember - I'm always too busy marveling at the amazing atmosphere of the scene - one of my favorites in all Harryhausendom. I love the way the hides of the two dinosaurs seem to match the stark rugged terrain so perfectly.
I don't seem to remember anybody killing the vulture in Clash either. And I imagine some of the critters in Gulliver were left living (like I said, I've only watched it once).
Oh! The harpies were left imprisoned but alive.
Funny I cant watch that flick anymore with out thinking about Koura being Tom Baker as the Doctor lol.
Wow thats crazy, what movie did he play that character?
I can just about picture Tom Baker playing both Ivan the Terrible and Harpo. In fact I had to check to make sure that was the real Harpo.
"Then I started thinking about the prizes at stake - what was it that so strongly motivated this dark doppleganger? Not riches - but youth, invisibility, and a crown."
" A Crown of untold riches", so he was after the big bucks as well.