This article is not about Ray Harryhausen, but the overlooked man behind 12 of his classic features starting with "It Came From Beneath the Sea": Producer Charles H. Schneer.
The following passage is from Ray Harryhausen An Animated Life:
Out of the blue I received a call from an old army friend, Lou Appleton, with whom I had worked on the Capra Unit. He wanted me to meet a young producer working at Columbia Studios who was interested in making a film with me. The producer had seen The Beast and had been very impressed with the visual effects and was keen to speak to me about a product of his own, involving another rampaging beast, this time an octopus. Because I had begun The Tortoise and the Hare, my prime wish was to finish it. However, the temptation of a feature was too great. I finally decided to phone the Columbia producer Charles Schneer.In conjunction with the above paragraph from Harryhausen is this quote from IMDb attributed to Charles Schneer and explains part of his interest in Ray's work:
What interested me was putting something on the screen that nobody else had on the screen, which was difficult to find. And I was interested in visuals, and locations that had not been photographed, and I was also interested in leaving California to find those locations, because every rock, every tree within 50 miles of Los Angeles, had been photographed.Charles Hirsch Schneer's story starts with his birth on May 5, 1920 in Norfolk, Virginia. His father was a jeweler and he took his family to a new home in Mount Vernon, New York during the 1930's. Attending High School young Charles would meet Shirley Sussman at a dance. The two would be married and have two daughters. Charles Schneer later attended Columbia University from which he would earn a bachelor's degree in 1940.
Charles H. Schneer first entered the motion picture industry in 1939 at Columbia Pictures owned and ruled over by "King" Harry Cohn and his brother Jack. Schneer was an "Assistant" meaning he did what ever they told him to do, but was learning the motion picture industry from the ground up. Then the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and he found himself assigned to the United States Army Signal Corps Photographic Unit. The Unit was under command of Navy Commander John Ford and also in the unit were directors John Huston and Henry Hathaway. While at the same time Ray Harryhausen was assigned to another unit under a director from Columbia Pictures. This was Major Frank Capra's United States Army Special Services Division. Both Charles Schneer and Ray Harryhausen's paths would cross Lou Appleton's while in the service and Lou would eventually be, as mentioned above, the means of their meeting at Columbia Pictures.
After the war ended Charles H. Schneer returned to Columbia Pictures where "King" Cohn assigned him to a "B" Picture unit under producer Sam Katzman. Katzman had produced movies for Monogram Pictures since 1940 which included films with Bela Lugosi, the Eastside Kids and Westerns with Tim McCoy and Bob Steele. In 1945 prior to the end of World War 2 Sam Katzman moved to Columbia Pictures. The 26 year old Schneer was now learning his craft from a man who knew how to make a movie with almost no money and within a few days. Among his Columbia work Katzman would produce both "Superman" serials. Bringing the man from Krypton to the screen for the first time. He would also oversee Columbia's second "Batman" serial and a series of 16 motion pictures starring ex-Tarzan Johnny Weissmuller as "Jungle Jim". Those quickie pictures were based upon a popular newspaper comic strip created by "Flash Gordon's" Alex Raymond.
Schneer's first screen credited work was as the screenplay writer of Katzman's produced 1948 "The Prince of Thieves" starring Jon Hall. The script had Hall playing "Robin Hood".
Charle H. Schneer's name would not appear on screen again until 1953's "The 49th Man". The motion picture was produced by Sam Katzman and the screen credits listed Charles as "Associate Producer". The picture starring John Ireland and Richard Denning was from a story by Ivan Tors. Here is a description of the picture from the IMDb website by:
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
U.S.Security Investigation Division chief Paul Reagan (Richard Denning) assigns John Williams (John Ireland) to hunt down a subversive group that has been smuggling A-bomb parts into the United States in specially designed cases. Williams traces the ring to Marseilles, France, where he meets Margo Wayne (Suzanne Dalbert) at a waterfront café and discovers she is part of the plot. When recalled by Reagan, Williams is informed that he has been engaged in a "war games" security check to test America's atomic defense, but he proves to Reagan that enemy agents are actually using the "war games" as a front to smuggle an A-bomb into the country.
Columbia Pictures was getting into television production with a mystery anthology series called "The Web". On August 8, 1954 Charles Schneer received on screen credit for producing the episode "Matter of Degree". It was about a murderer who had three credible witnesses to the fact he was somewhere else.
This television episode was followed by the meeting above between Harryhausen and Schneer. After Ray agreed to creating the special effects and giant octopus. Schneer had to convince his boss Sam Katzman to go with the project called "It Came From Beneath the Sea". As Katzman would be "Executive Producer", because "IT CAME FROM" his "B" Unit and not the sea. Charles H. Schneer received on screen credit as the movies "Producer".
In typical Columbia Pictures style the budget set for the motion picture was $150,000 in 1955 dollars. Not much money even back then. In fact, as is known by many of his fans, Ray Harryhausen's portion of that budget for the special effects including the octopus was so low. That Harryhausen had to make what he called "the sixtopus", because he had to drop two of an octopus' tentacles. This is also why you see one giant size tentacle every so often in the film instead of the actual creature.
The motion picture has a great sequence on the Golden Gate Bridge, but the city of San Francisco refused permission to have the film shoot on it. So somebody drove over the bridge with a hand held camera to shoot scenes for rear projection. It was then up to Ray to create the bridge and design the studio sets to match up with his model.
The submarine sequences were shot also with hand held cameras on board a real submarine, because it was to costly to even make such a set and stay within budget. For the beach scenes sand was dumped on a set and a rear projection screen utilized. For each shot between Faith Domergue and Kenneth Toby the sand had to be replaced, because Toby's weight caused him to sink and end up shorter than Domergue.
When the box office receipts were in for the first collaboration between Charles H. Schneer and Ray Harryhausen. Columbia Pictures investment of $150,000 brought in $1.7 million dollars. At a time when the average adult movie admission was 49 cents Nationwide.
This unforeseen hit was immediately followed by another science fiction motion picture "Earth vs the Flying Saucers" in 1956 with Sam Katzman as executive producer and Schneer as producer.
Unidentified Flying Objects (UFO's) were supposedly being seen worldwide by people. The belief that they came from outer space became a common theme. Even as the United States Air Force investigated under "Project Blue Book" and came up with the "Weather Balloon" excuse.
The script for this picture is very interesting and needs mentioning.
It was based upon a book by Marine Corps Naval Aviator Major Donald Edward Keyhole. Who had become a UFO researcher and published several works on the subject. The screen story treatment was done by Curt Siodmak. Siodmak had written the screenplays for "The Wolfman", "Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman", "The Magnetic Monster" and "Donovan's Brain" among others. The screenplay was first drafted by George Worthing Yates. Who among other works wrote the screenplays for "THEM!", "The Amazing Colossal Man" and "Frankenstein 1970". Yates adopted Willis O'Brien's original screenplay "King Kong vs Frankenstein" into "King Kong vs Prometheus" for producer John Beck. It would be modified once again in 1962 by Toho Studios to become their motion picture "King Kong vs Godzilla". The second draft of the screenplay went to Bernard Gordon writing at the time as Raymond T. Marcus. Among Gordon's screenplays would be "55 Days at Peking", 1962's "The Day of the Triffids", John Wayne's "Circus World" and "Krakatoa, East of Java". Even though the volcanic island was located "West" of Java.
While this was all occurring Ray Harryhausen had been presented with the problem of making Flying Saucers. The special effects he created for Charles Schneer were incredible for the time. Ray also created the alien's look. Variety wrote:
This exploitation programmer does a satisfactory job of entertaining in the science-fiction class. The technical effects created by Ray Harryhausen come off excellently in the Charles H. Schneer production, adding the required out-of-this-world visual touch to the screenplay---
"Earth vs the Flying Saucers" and "The Werewolf" it's companion motion picture, an excellent overlooked and forgotten movie, on the original Columbia Pictures double bill are considered the two best films ever produced by Sam Katzman.
1957 would see Charles H. Schneer producing two motion pictures. One would be a typical "B" World War 2 submarine movie and the other would be another collaboration with Ray Harryhausen.
The war movie is entirely forgettable except for its two stars. The male lead was an actor named Ronald Reagan and the female lead was an actress by the name of Nancy Davis. "Hellcats of the Navy" was the only feature film with Mr. and Mrs. Ronald Reagan in it. It was also the first motion picture that Charles H. Schneer did without Sam Katzman's name as executive producer. Schneer and Harryhausen wanted more control over their work and together formed "Morningside Productions". "Hellcats of the Navy" was their first release using Columbia Pictures as distributor.
The real purpose of a motion picture like "Hellcats of the Navy" was to allow Ray to work on the time consuming stop motion animation of the main features the two partners had decided to make. In the case of the Reagan/Davis picture it bought time for Harryhausen to design and start work on the special effects for 1957's "20 Million Miles From Earth".
What was great about Science Fiction films, when I was 10 years old, was that we didn't know a damn about what was really out there and could care less. While the screenplay about a trip to the planet Venus might be scientifically inaccurate/ The young audience who discovered Ray Harryhausen's "Ymir" was in pure heaven. In short Charles and Ray had hit on a formula for success.
The film starred pre "Perry Mason" William Hooper the only son of Hollywood Gossip Columnist Hedda Hooper as the only survivor of a flight to Venus that crashes off of Italy. The problem is the returning space craft brought back a creature from the planet that is normally harmless, but starts to grow in the Earth's atmosphere. The climax is Rome is thrilling and includes a fight with an Elephant. All animated by Ray Harryhsausen.
The working title on the scripts for the picture was "The Giant Yimir". Hence the only reference we have to the creature's name. The motion picture was also released under the title: "The Beast from Space".
Ray Harryhausen and Charles H. Schneer originally wanted to release the movie is color, but their budget would not permit it. Harryhausen hated the "Colorization" process used by Ted Turner for his television station of such classics as the 1933 "King Kong" and swore he would never have his pictures colorized. This changed in 2007 with the technology and Ray personally oversaw the "Chrome Color" for his first three motion pictures produced by Charles H. Schneer.
It should also be noted that Ray and Charles decided on Rome, Italy for the location of the picture, because Ray wanted a vacation. The only cast member to actually accompany him was William Hooper for special shots.
For Morningside Productions next special effects motion picture Ray Harryhausen was working on a new stop motion animation process he called "Dynamation".However, in June 1958 producer Charles H. Schneer released "The Case Against Brooklyn" starring Darrin McGavin. McGavin had started his first television series "Mike Hammer" the previous June which helped with audience reception of this picture. The story was based upon the true story of an undercover investigator of corruption within the Brooklyn Police Department.
The next motion picture released November 2, 1958 from Morningside Production's was a World War 2 story "Tarawa Beachhead" which contained extensive footage of that battle. However, the Marine Corps refused cooperation with Schneer over the nature of the script. The underlining story was about a Marine Officer who had killed one of own men and the relationship between the two survivors of the unit. The picture was noted for two casting choices. It was the first picture starring the newly married acting team of Ray Danton and Julie Adams. The officer who witnesses the murder was to have been played by Ronald Reagan, but it went to actor Kerwin Mathews who was awaiting the start of shooting on the motion picture Ray Harryhausen was working upon.
Ray had been working for eleven months on the stop motion special effects for the picture first released on December 5, 1958 in West Germany not the United States. It would be until December 23, 1958 that then 12 year old Lloyd would get a chance to see "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad".
The movie starred the above mentioned Kerwin Mathews as Sinbad, Kathryn Grant as Princess Parisha, the great British character actor Torin Thatcher as Sokurah the evil magician and billed third, because of his popularity at the time, Richard Eyer as the genie Barani. For those of my readers interested in Eyer and another young actor Charles Herbert. Here is a link to my blog article on the two:
Charles Schneer and Ray Harryhauseen had a budget of $650,000 to make the picture. One of the added costs besides Ray's "Dynamation" work was the picture was being shot in Technicolor, but the two men thought this was needed. Additionally this was their first widescreen feature which added to the way the stop motion film sequences had to be set up. Along with the positioning of the actors for those scenes. Again adding to the costs that Charles had to control. When the United States and Canada receipts alone were counted. The motion picture made $3.2 million dollars on it's initial
1959 saw three non-special effects motion pictures produced by Charles H. Schnner. These were:
A western "Good Day for a Hanging" starring Fred MacMurray and an up and coming young actor named Robert Vaughn as the leader of a gang of stagecoach robbers. The year before Vaughn had starred in Roger Corman's "Teenage Cave Man". The movie also featured future star of television's "The Virginian" James Drury.
This picture was followed by another Fred MacMurray western "Face of a Fugitive". MacMurray is a one time outlaw turned good. He takes on another outlaw gang who is holding a town in terror to become a hero and win the girl. Playing one of the outlaw gang was James Coburn.
Charles H. Schneer returned to World War 2 a popular subject matter in 1959 with "The Battle of the Coral Sea". The movie starring Cliff Robertson is about a submarine on a mission to photograph certain Japanese installations through a periscope camera. The sub is attacked, scuttled and the crew captured and tortured. With the help of British and Australian prisoners they escape and bring back the needed information that according to the screenplay leads to the title battle. The movie ends with actual footage of the Coral Sea campaign. The movie features L.Q. Jones and Tom Laughlin.
First released in West Germany on August 19, 1960 was "I Am At The Stars". It was loosely based upon the life of German Rocket Scientist Werner von Braun portrayed by Curt Jurgens. The picture wouldn't reach the United States until October 19th when I saw it. Von Braun was with NASA at the time and had appeared in several space episodes on Walt Disney's "Disneyland" television show. The film tells von Braun's story from childhood through the Explorer space program with NASA. At least within a 107 minutes of screen time and reworked to tone down the fact he developed both the V-1 and V-2 rockets for Nazi Germany.
While Charles was producing the above motion pictures. Ray was working on another ambitious project for Morningside "The 3 Worlds of Gulliver" aka: "The Three Worlds of Gulliver". Jonathan Swift's massive 1726 novel has it's title character travel to four lands and that posed a problem for screenwriters Arthur Ross and Jack Sher. It also posed a larger question of budget to Charles H. Scheener. The decision was made to keep it to three worlds, but in reality one of the three was not one of Swift's fantasy lands. It was only Guillver's native England.
The two other lands chosen were Lilliput and Brobdingnag. The choices were also very practical from a budgetary point of view. Lilliput was a land of small people compared to Gulliver and Brobdingnag a land of Giants in comparison. So the oldest art of the split screen to make people look small was to be used by Harryhausen, but with a new twist. In his work "An Animated Life" Ray wrote:
the Rank Film Laboratories, with Vic Margutti in charge, had developed a special matte process called 'sodium backing process' or 'yellow backing process', which was a simplified matte technology. Unlike the old blue backing process we had used in 7th Voyage, which required from eight to ten different steps to produce a desired matte, the sodium method made an instantaneous matte in a split-beam camera.After the major time consuming production of animating "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad". Ray Harryhausen had only two creatures to animate. A squirrel and an alligator for "The 3 Worlds of Gulliver". As to the stop motion animation it was now called "Superdynamation", but in this motion picture it also covered the seamless matting of actors of different sizes referred to in the above quote.
At this time the partners Schneer and Harryhausen decided to move their production company permanently to the United Kingdom and film in Spain. The reason was simple economics. The labor was cheaper, the tax base was cheaper and there were many locations unseen in American productions.
Another budget problem had to be handled by Charles H. Schneer. Columbia Pictures wanted the leading role of Dr. Lemuel Gulliver to be played by Danny Kaye. Kaye had played Hans Christian Anderson in a 1952 children's musical of the same name. Which I highly recommend for parents to watch with their children Columbia next thought about a contract player they needed to find work for named Jack Lemmon. Schneer held firm for Kerwin Mathews for several reasons. Two of which was that he has played "Sinbad" and would be recognizable to the target audience and the other he would be cheaper.
The picture was first released in the U.K. on November 30, 1960 and in the United States on December 16th of that year.
The following year the team of Schneer and Harryhausen would take us to Jules Verne's "Mysterious Island". "The Mysterious Island" was first made by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1926 partly as a silent movie and then released in 1929 as a hybrid silent/sound feature starring Lionel Barrymore. You can read my article on Carl Pierson the film editor who had to combine silent sequences with sound in this Two Strip Technicolor production and edited "B" Westerns starring John Wayne at:
I could not find information on the budget, or profit this picture made. The shooting was divided between Sa Conca Bay, Castell-Platja d'Aro. Costa Brava, Catalonia, Spain and Shepperton Studios, England.
The story tells of Union Prisoners during the Civil War and a Confederate Balloonist who are pushed by the winds across the United States and the Pacific Ocean. The plot added two British ladies for love interest. The best segments were with Herbert Lom as Captain Nemo, but he appears almost at the complete end of the picture. We see the remains of Atlantis under the sea by the island, but that story line is not explored. The picture was released first in the U.K. in 1961 and in December in the United States.
Two years later saw a very ambitious project from Charles H. Schneer and Ray Harryhausen "Jason and the Argonauts". Schneer had a one million dollar budget to work with on the picture. Ray considers this motion picture to contain the best work of his career. For the role of Jason American actor Todd Armstrong was hired with a condition that in post production his voice would be dubbed by British actor Tim Turner. The problem was Armstrong was born in St. Louis, Missouri and had a strong Southern accent that just would not fit a Greek hero. Even if the cast were mostly British actors and actresses. Such as Honor Blackman known for Cathy Gale on "The Avengers" and Pussy Galore in "Goldfinger" as Hera, Nial MacGinnis known for Menelaus in Robert Wise's 1956 epic "Helen of Troy" and the evil Dr. Karswell in "Night of the Demon" aka: "Curse of the Demon" as Zeus, Patrick Troughton the Second "Dr. Who" played the blind Phineus and Michael Gwynn "Revenge of Frankenstein" and the original 1960 "Village of the Damned" was Hermes.
American actress Nancy Kovack was cast as Jason's love interest Medea. if anyone is familiar with the story of Jason and Media. They know that there were many versions as to what happens after this pictures story and that was to be the basis for the purposed sequel. As this movie had a planned open ending. Which left many viewers wondering why it just suddenly ended mid-story.
In the United States and Canada when the movie was released in June 1963 it grossed over two million dollars. Unlike all of their other productions Charles H. Schneer was able to book "Jason and the Argonauts" into "A" list movie theaters moving Morningside finally out of the "B" picture stigma.
The screenplay by Beverley Cross and Jan Read centers on the search for the Golden Fleece as told by the Greek Apollonius Rhodes. British actor Nigel Green played Hercules and his mistake at the monument for the Titan Talos leads to the start of his famous Labors. That story line was seen four years earlier in a dubbed Italian film "Le fatiche di Ecole (The Labors of Hercules)" known in the United States as "Hercules" starring Steve Reeves. That Italian picture was also about the search for the Golden Fleece.
Here is a look at some of the creations by Ray Harryhausen for "Jason and the Argonauts".
For those fans of Ray Harryhausen's early work. Look at the shields on the skeleton's that the crew of the Argo fight. You will find pictures of his earlier creations include the "Yimir" from "20 Million Miles to Earth".
Released in the U.K. in July 1963 and August 1963 in the United States was the Charles H. Schneer production "Siege of the Saxons". The picture starred "The Day of the Triffids" Janette Scott. Whose fame for that movie would be immortalized in Richard O'Brien's song "Science Fiction Double Feature" in his "Rocky Horror Picture Show", Also in the cast was Ronald Howard best known for playing "Sherlock Holmes" on a 1954 television series. The plot had Edward of Cornwall, Howard, having King Arthur murdered, but his daughter Katherine, Scott, escapes and is rescued by an outlaw she of course falls in love with.
Next up for producer Schneer was with Harryhausen's help to take the audience not just go to the Moon, but within it. Released in July 1964 in the U,K., September 1964 in Ireland and November 1964 was Charles H. Schneer's production of H.G. Wells' "First Men in the Moon".
For a Science Fiction motion picture Schneer could not have chosen a better person than Nigel Kneale to write the screenplay. Kneale wrote the BBC mini-series "The Quatermass Experiment" in 1953 and the screenplay for Hammer Film's 1955 version known in the United States as "The Creeping Unknown".Also in 1955 he wrote the BBC mini-series "Quatermass II" which became the 1957 Hammer film "Enemy from Space" in the United States.. Nigel Kneale additionally wrote in 1955 the mini-series "The Creature" and as with the other productions he adapted it for Hammer as "The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas" in 1957. Kneale could be called "The Dean" of British science fiction of the 1950's and would add both the screenplays for the mini-series "Quatermass and the Pitt" which became his screenplay for "Five Million Years to Earth" among a large body of work.
What Nigel Kneale did to open the script was a gimmick. As Astronauts would not land on the Moon for another five years. Kneale has the landing happening in the first few minutes of "First Men in the Moon" with all the excitement of the real event yet to come. Then he showed the Astronauts exploring the lunar surface only to discover a British flag and a note claiming the Moon for Queen Victoria.
There are the names of three people on the paper and U.N. officials discover one Arnold Bedford, played by Edward Judd, is still alive in a nursing home. Bedford relates with modifications of the H.G. Wells story how his fiancee Katherine Callender, Martha Hyer, ends up going with Beford and scientist and inventor Professor Cavor, Lionel Jeffries, to the Moon.
On the Moon is a civilization called the "Selenites" that are ant like creatures wanting to conqueror the Earth.
Ray Harryhausen created the space craft used by the Victorian explorers, a Moon cow and of course the Selenites.
This film was followed by a period four motion pictures without Special Effects from Morningside. During the period Ray Harryhausen went to work for Hammer Films/Seven Arts on another project produced by Michael Carreras 1966's "One Million Years B.C.". Which was a remake of the 1940 Hal Roach picture "One Million B.C." with almost the exact story scene by scene. I first saw this movie when I was in the Navy visiting the island of Malta. I remember you had to be 21 years of age there to see it.
The first of the four motion pictures found Charles H. Schneer in the role of "Executive" Producer to producer/director Nathan Juran on 1964's "East of Sudan". Juran directed Schneer and Harryhausen's "20 Million Miles to Earth" and "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad". "East of Sudan" starred Anthony Quayle and Sylvia Syms and was set just after the fall of General Gordon at Khartoum.
Charles' next movie was 1965's "You Must Be Joking". This was a British comedy about a group of soldiers who are tested in a scavenger hunt set up by an army psychologist played by Terry-Thomas. The film featured American Michael Callan, who had been in "The Mysterious Island", Lionel Jeffries, Denholm Elliott and Wilfred Hyde-White.
Two years later in 1967 Schneer produced the last motion picture by American musical film director George Sidney, "Annie Get Your Gun", "Kiss Me Kate", "Bye Bye Birdie" and "Viva Las Vegas", entitled "Half a Sixpense".
The picture was set in Edwardian England and was about a draper's assistant played by Tommy Steele. Who had also been seen in Walt Disney's "The Happiest Millionaire" and the Francis Ford Coppola directed musical "Finian's Rainbow" starring Fred Astaire and Petula Clark. The film's story is about the draper's love for a chambermaid and his ups and downs to finally win her.
Charles H. Schneer's fourth production was the 1969 western "The Land Raiders" directed by Nathan Juran and starring Telly Savalas and George Maharis. It was about two brothers who have different opinions on Native Americans and hate each other. The picture was filmed in Spain and Hungary, but takes place in the American West.
As this time Ray Harryhausen had been working on the stop motion animation for the next Morningside Production "The Valley of Gwangi" a story dear to Ray's heart. The movie was based on a 1930's idea by Harryhausen's mentor Willis O'Brien, O'Brien had initially written a very slim version as a screenplay using a Hispanic nom de plume for the 1956 picture "The Beast of Hollow Mountain" starring Guy Madison and Patrica Medina. Later re-releases restored his real name. Now it was Ray Harryhausen's turn in conjunction with his partner Charles H. Schneer to do the story justice.
The basic premise of O'Brien's idea was Cowboy's versus Dinosaurs. "The Beast of Hollow Mountain" follows that theme about an American Rancher attempting to make a living in Mexico, but is up against a rich Mexican Rancher. Both of their cattle are disappearing and they blame each other, but in reality it is "The Beast", a still living Allosaurus, per O'Brien's original concept, that is killing the cattle.
Somewhat closer to the original story finds the Wild West Show of Miss T.J. Breckenridge played by Israeli actress Gia Golan. Who like Todd Andrews also had her voice dubbed even though she spoke perfect English, but the problem was her middle eastern accent that kept coming through at times.
Enter T.J.'s ex-lover Tuck played by James Franciscus. Tuvk wants to purchase T.J.'s star horse for Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. Attempting to mediate between the two is T.J,'s manager Champ portrayed by Richard Carlson. One of the shows performers brings T.J. a tiny prehistoric horse and from there the story leads to "The Valley of Gwangi" and living dinosaurs including an Allosaurus. There is a great piece of stop motion animation as the cowboy's rope and capture "Gwangi". The name they give the dinosaur for promoting it as a new attraction for T.J.'s show. Of course, when the dinosaur is first displayed it escapes into the town. This leads to a great Ray Harryhausen scene in a Spanish church during a fire.
The problem here was Columbia Pictures was not releasing the picture, The distributor was Warner Brothers/Seven Arts and as audiences were dropping off for this type of movie. The powers that be put "The Valley of Gwangi" on the lower half of a double bill without promoting it in any way. Producer Charles H. Schneer had a Ray Harryhausen motion picture that lost money and did not even break even with his outlay.
I was still in the Navy for a few more days when I saw "Gwangi" in Jacksonville, Florida. That was the month it came out September 1969, it was on a triple bill with two Hammer/Seven Arts motion pictures from 1968, "The Vengeance of She" and "The Lost Continent". Probably an indication of Warner Brothers/Seven Arts lack of enthusiasm for "The Valley of Gwangi", but to me a great combination.
Charles H. Schneer's next feature film also from Columbia Pictures was a cold war spy thriller starring George Peppard called "The Executioner". The plot was very routine for the period. Peppard's character believes a agent friend of his is also working for the Soviets. The film was first released in Finland in May 1970 and reached the United States the following June.
At this point I have covered the one writing credit that Charles H. Schneer had and 24 of the motion pictures he had produced. There would only be three more films in his career and they were with his partner at Morningside Productions Ray Harryhausen.
Initially released in England on December 20, 1973 and in the United States on April 5, 1974. "The Golden Voyage of Sinbad" is argued by some reviewers as the best of the trilogy. Unlike "The Valley of Gwangi" it was properly promoted by Columbia Pictures.
This time the part of Sinbad was played by John Philip Law and playing the evil magician would be later in 1974 the Fourth "Doctor Who" Tom Baker. The story has Sinbad and his crew helping the Grand Vizier of a country find the fabled Fountain of Destiny, but being slowed down by Tom Baker's wizard. Who wants to find the fountain to claim "a crown on untold riches". Of course Sinbad will defeat him and give the crown to the Vazier.
The movie proved Warner Brothers/Seven Arts wrong about what the audiences wanted to see. The final budget Charles H. Schneer worked with was $982,351,000. The picture made in the United States and Canada alone $5 million dollars.
Originally Christopher Lee was considered to play the evil wizard Koura, but it went to Tom Baker. Who had stolen the epic three hour motion picture "Nicholas and Alexandra" in the role of Rasputin. Baker had been nominated for two Golden Globe Awards for the role.
In a November 2002 interview actress Caroline Munro who played Marigana talked about getting the role:
I got the part – I had been signed by Hammer, for one year, for a contract, out of which I did two films, one being Dracula AD 1972, and the second one being Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter, which, kind of, would come full-circle, to Sinbad. It was written and directed by Brian Clemens, who wrote the screenplay for The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, so, I was lucky enough to be chosen for Captain Kronos, and they were searching for somebody to do Sinbad, and they wanted a big name, somebody American, or well-known, but Brian said "No". He kept lobbying Charles Schneer [producer] and Ray Harryhausen — saying: 'I think you should come and look at the rushes, and see what you think, because I think she's right'. So, they said "No", but, eventually, Brian persuaded them to do that, and they saw the rushes, and that was how I got the partBelow is a picture of Caroline Munro with Charles H. Schneer during filming.
Four years later on June 1977 would see the third Sinbad motion picture released in the U.K. and the following August in the United States. Below is a photograph of Charles and Ray during production of "Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger". This photo is at a terrible angle especially for Ray.
The picture had a budget of $3.5 million dollars and every cent was on the screen. The only problem here was what the picture was up against at the movie theaters. The month "Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger" opened in the U.K. was May 1977. The same month a little motion picture from George Lucas called "Star Wars" also opened. Schneer and Harryhausen's film was doomed from the start.
The cast wasn't bad at all. You had John Wayne's son Patrick Wayne as Sinbad. There was Tyrone Powers daughter Taryn Power as the daughter of the scientist Melanthius. Charles had cast Jane Seymour as Farah the sister of the future king who was turned into a baboon and Sinbad's love interest, Margaret Whiting plays the evil Zenobia very menacingly, but in my opinion is almost a female version of Tom Bakers Koura from the previous film. The last lead was Patrick Troughton as Melanthius.
For the trivia buff take a look at the giant doors leading to the shrine of Arimasipi in the arctic and think of the wooden doors on Skull Island in the 1933 "King Kong". Once within the doors the shrine reminds one of the Temple of Kor in 1935's "She". Almost to the last detail. Of course these were designed by Harryhausen and both films referenced were from Merian C. Cooper and worked on by Ray's mentor Willis O'Brien. Who also designed the sets. Perhaps a subtle tribute?
The decision was made to get away from mythological creatures and pull some ideas from prehistoric history. Ray Harryhausen worked on the stop motion animation from October 1975 to March 1977. Just completing it two months from the film's release date.
On June 12, 1981 the team of Charles H. Schneer and Ray Harryhausen would prove Warner Brothers/Seven Arts wrong once more. This would be the final motion picture for the two men, It's title was "Clash of the Titans" and it returned to the Greek mythology seen in 1963's "Jason and the Argonauts". Even bringing back a variation of the chess game between Zeus, Lord Lawrence Olivier, and his wife Hera, Claire Bloom. The film was the closest thing the two men did to that proposed sequel to the other picture.
The basic story tells of Perseus, Harry Hamlin, and his love for Andromeda, Judi Bowker. She has been put under a spell by the evil Calibos, Neil MacCarthy in facial close ups, The now deformed son of the Goddess Thetis, Maggie Smith. Before Zeus deformed Calibos he was to have married Andromeda, but he committed crimes against the King of the Gods and was punished.
So as in "Jason and the Argonauts" the audience watches the Greek Gods play with the lives of mortal man. To free Andromeda from death caused by her vain mother Queen Cassiopeia, Sian Phillips. Perseus must get the head of Medusa to turn the Kraken to stone. The film is full of wonderful Harryhausen creations. You have Medusa recreated from the snake women in "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad" and you have Calibos recreated from the Troglodyte from "Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger". You have the flying horse Pegasus and the great Scorpions grown gigantic from the blood of Medusa, the Kraken and then you have Bubo the Mechanical Owl and the R2D2 controversy.
Ray Harryhausen claimed the Owl that seemed to be a copy of R2D2 was created before "Star Wars". That would mean he was possibly planned for "Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger" and never used, or was a conceptional drawing. I will take Ray at his word.
The British Board of Film Classifications in 1981 deciding on a rating for this picture. Determined that Ray Harryhausen's effects were very well done and would be of interest to all age groups. However, they added they were "Old Hat" comparing them to what George Lucas was specifically doing with his "Star Wars" films. In 2010 Warner Brothers, of all studios, remade the picture in CGI. I believe something of the magic of the 1981 production was lost by technology.
The budget that Charles H. Schneer worked with was $15 million dollars. Part of it went to Harryhausen and part of it went to get that marvelous cast of British and American actors. The reminder was used very wisely. The BBFC might have called Ray Harryhausen's stop motion and other effects "Old Hat", but the filmed grossed in just the United States and Canada on it's initial release $41 million dollars.
The purpose of this article was to give the recognition sometimes overlooked to Producer Charles H, Schneer by the work of his friend Ray Harryhausen. In his career, as noted above, he produced a total of 27 feature films which are considered by many classic's of Science Fiction and Fantasy. He passed away in Boca Raton, Florida on January 21, 2009. His friend and partner for so many years Ray Harryhausen passed away in London, England on May 7, 2013.
They may be gone in body, but their films live on.