The Good Old Days 

Handmade Monsters and Movies Before Computers

KING KONG VS. GODZILLA A subtle, underrated classic of the Czech New Wave.

KING KONG VS. GODZILLA A subtle, underrated classic of the Czech New Wave.

THESE DAYS, when entire films are shot in front of green screens and motion-capture suits are the new black, it's hard to differentiate between what's real and what isn't in Hollywood. For example: Sam Worthington doesn't actually exist.

It's been a long road to a world where krakens can be released and men can lust over blue cat-ladies, and the architects of this road are the focus of Handmade Monsters: The Masters of Practical Effects, a four-film, 35mm series at the Hollywood Theatre celebrating cinema's greatest effects wizards.

First up, there's the mother of all monkey movies, 1933's King Kong (screening Fri July 5-Sun July 7), courtesy of the originator of American special effects, Willis O'Brien. O'Brien's iconic stop-motion work on Kong single-handedly created the giant-monster genre. 

Ishirô Honda is certainly indebted to O'Brien; his 1962 film King Kong vs. Godzilla (Sat July 13) came from O'Brien's failed concept of pitting his massive monkey against some kind of killer-animal-Frankenstein. Honda subbed in his own reptile deity, and Tokyo crumbled.

No tribute to special effects would be complete without a nod to Rick Baker, and no film better showcases his skills than John Landis' 1981 flick An American Werewolf in London (Fri July 19-Mon July 22), which, 32 years down the road, still boasts the greatest, goriest, and most horrifying man-wolf transformation ever.

But the series' real highlight is a tribute to Ray Harryhausen, the Grand Poobah of special effects. Harryhausen's work on 1958's The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (Fri July 12-Sun July 14) showcases not only his technical skills, but also the boundless imagination that inspired 1,000 careers—including those of James Cameron, George Lucas, and Tim Burton.

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad
Rated G · 88 min.
Director: Nathan Juran
Writer: Ken Kolb
Cast: Kerwin Mathews, Kathryn Grant, Richard Eyer and Torin Thatcher
King Kong
Rated NR · 100 min. · 2033
Director: Merian C. Cooper/Ernest B. Schoedsack
Writer: Merian C. Cooper /Edgar Wallace
Cast: Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong, Bruce Cabot, Frank Reicher and Sam Hardy
An American Werewolf in London
Rated R · 97 min. · 1981
Director: John Landis
Writer: John Landis
Producer: George Folsey Jr.
Cast: David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Griffin Dunne, John Woodvine, Lila Kaye, Joe Belcher, David Schofield, Brian Glover, Rik Mayall and Sean Baker

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