'The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms,' 1953


Stop-Motion Monsters

Every Sun. from Oct. 6-29
3 p.m.
Every Mon. and Tue. from Oct. 7-29
7 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Festivals, Film, Holiday

Crafted by FX pioneer Willis O’Brien, the titular character in 1933’s King Kong embodies the enduring appeal of stop-motion animation, a rudimentary but revered cinematic craft in which inanimate objects are adjusted ever-so-slightly between frames to create the illusion of movement. In utilizing the technique, director Merian C. Cooper not only populated an entire island with supersized beasts, but imbued Kong with a wide emotional range. Inspired by O’Brien, Ray Harryhausen took stop-motion methods even further, cleverly transposing his strikingly designed dinosaurs and mythological terrors into action-packed sequences, as memorably displayed in The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958). Showing that stop-motion techniques still had teeth, director Joe Dante’s Piranha (1978) even manages to make time amid the frenzied feeding of genetically modified killer fish to showcase an animated mutation, courtesy of Phil Tippett, whose adorable ugliness serves as yet another fine tribute to an indelible form of cinematic artistry.