director Paul Davids
Director Paul Davids’ The Sci-Fi Boys is a paean to Forrest J. Ackerman and Ray Harryhausen and is endorsed and features many of the special effects and art design mavens who were deeply influenced by those two pioneers in their respective trailblazing.
Ackerman’s Famous Monsters of Filmland is one of those things that I sure wished I could have gotten my hands on more often as a kid. I read the hell out of the two issues that I ever owned, pored over the images, received contact highs. Ackerman is described as “The First Fanboy” but maybe it’s better to see him as the first sci-fi nerd. Actually, his obsessive interest in the writers, directors, effects people and the monsters is what opened the eyes of his readers to aspects of film-making that other people turned a blind eye towards. And his collection of memorabilia reminded me of Henri Langlois, just with a sci-fi bent and a cape.
As for Ray Harryhausen, I’ve written about him here many times before. He was always a favorite of mine, but truth be told, I may well have learned his name from those two issues of Ackerman’s Famous Monsters that I had. I also got to see him in person, receiving much of the same type of love an kudos heaped upon him here by many of the techie gurus who were also inspired by him.
We’ve got Peter Jackson, John Landis, Dennis Muren, Rick Baker, Stan Winston, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Frank Darabont. But we’ve also got some more obscure guys like Donald F. Glut and Paul Davids himself. Apparently, like Dennis Muren, whose own teen film Equinox (1970) was a testament to hands-on approaches of home-made movies that Harryhausen inspired, Davids and Glut made some pretty awesome Super 8 movies, though maybe they didn’t go on to win Academy Awards for their effects.
You know, this movie made me realize how much I wish I had access to a Super 8 camera when I was a kid. We had only one cheap, very poor camera in our household and so I didn’t grow up with any of that technology anywhere in any real vicinity. I can only imagine what I might have done with one in my hands. I do indeed have a distinct memory from probably around 11-12 of wishing I had a camera to shoot movies. It makes me appreciate all the more the technology and tools readily available in our present day and age.
I was inspired enough to try to get my kids to watch this movie or the other documentary about Ray Harryhausen. I’ve even encouraged other friends to check it out. Not so much because it’s so excellent or compelling in and of itself, but these are indeed guys who deserve the recognition and knowledge, not just of their first generation fans, but of fans generations to come.
Harryhausen died last year. Bradbury the year before that. Forrest J. Ackerman (“Uncle Forrey”) died in 2008. Ackerman’s legacy will doubtlessly be the more obscure among the three men. Fanzines were very 20th century, even though Famous Monsters has its web analogue now. Bradbury and Harryhausen’s works in literature and movies are, on the other hand, much more for the ages.