Monster Mondays: Ray Harryhausen’s Skeleton Warriors


We were all saddened to hear that Ray Harryhausen had passed away last week, and here on the Eyeball we’d like to pay homage to some of his most famous monsters, created with the painstaking technique of stop-motion. Using real life sculpted models. Animators and monster fans, we have lost a great artist in film-making and the Eyeball would like to dedicate this Monster Monday entirely to him.

However, the great man left us many fantastic beasts to choose from. After a brief Twitter poll earlier today, and a little searching on YouTube, the top Harryhausen monster, the Eyeball has decided that the finest creation of them all are, unquestionably, the relentless animated skeleton warriors from Jason and the Argonauts (1966).

Technically outstanding even today, the only way our hero can even escape them is by throwing himself off a cliff! They dispatch Jason’s two companions with leering grins on their faces. These meatless monsters really love their job.

Why do they work so well?

  • The leering grins and mocking squint of their hollow eyes.
  • That synchronized stalking movement, like a hideously emaciated boyband.
  • Superb swordsmanship.
  • They repeatedly get knocked down by the Greek heroes, but boy do they get up again. And again. 

Also, on a meta note, the design of these frightening warriors has been borrowed in numerous films ever since.

They lurk within the gleefully evil faces of the Martians in Mars Attacks (1997).

Harryhausen, Mars Attacks, Tim Burton, fresky skulls

Mars Attacks Martian – originally these were going to be stop motion

They inspired Sam Raimi to more or less do his own stop motion version, with a ferocious Deadite army, in the sublimely silly Army of Darkness (1993).

 

The bar in Pixar’s Monsters Inc (20001) is sort of a shout-out, if by ‘shout-out’ you mean ‘foghorn announcement’.

And finally…’ wouldn’t it be cool if the 300 (2005) Spartans had faced THESE guys instead of the so-called ‘Immortals’? (Well, c’mon, wouldn’t it….? Walks off muttering about Watchmen…)

So, the skeleton warriors were highly inspirational, technically incredible, and the entire scene still holds its own today, amidst a tidal wave of flashy CGI gods and monsters and, er, remakes. They’re elegant and deadly, and that’s how the Eyeball likes its monsters.

And good gods, they’re mean little bastards.

Harryhausen skeletons, stop motion, jason and the argonauts

Harryhausen’s terrifying skeleton warriors

And so, Ray Harryhausen, we on the Haunted Eyeball salute you. You lived an amazing life, brought many crazy mythological creatures to life and inspired generations of Rest in Peace.

A superb video here featuring every one of Harryhausen’s marvelous monsters

Also, the owl was cool.

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