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STOP-MOTION MOVIE UNDERDOGS, Part III

At last, let’s complete our look at classic sci-fi and fantasy films that prominently feature stop-motion animation.

We have been listing films from the Ray Harryhausen era (roughly 1950-1980) but excluding films from Harryhausen himself.

In the first installment we listed films through the 1950s (nine films).

In the second installment, we listed films from the 1960s (seven films).

For our third and final installment, let’s list films from the 1970s (eight films this time).

WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH (1970)

Here I must write a few words of heresy.  I think that Jim Danforth’s dinosaur effects are as good as Harryhausen’s.  I won’t say “better” but I will say “as good.”

Go see for yourself: the triceratops, the elasmosaurus, the giant crabs.  You can’t imagine them any better, could you?  The stop-motion scenes are good and long, and the whole movie is very fun.

You can find the regular version easily, but if you’re willing to shell out $100 you can purchase the accidentally-released and now-out-of-print uncut version featuring Victoria Vetri nude!

FLESH GORDON (1974)

During the filmmaking, there was some conflict between the stop-motion animators (Dave Allen, Jim Danforth, and others) and everyone else; the animators wanted a cool sci-fi adventure, while everyone else wanted a naked sex comedy.

If you can handle both things at once, by all means check it out, because Flash’s fight with the insect-man is almost as exciting as Sinbad’s fight with the skeleton in Harryhausen’s 7th Voyage of Sinbad.

Oh yeah, and there’s a giant stop-motion “penisaurus” too.

The trailer is NSFW.

THE CRATER LAKE MONSTER (1977)

Much of the movie is a dumb hillbilly comedy, but the “creature” itself is shockingly well animated.

It’s a powerful elasmosaurus that menaces vacationers at a Northwestern mountain lake.

The animators, Dave Allen and Jim Danforth, had worked together several times before.

THE ALIEN FACTOR (1978)

A stop-motion alien lizard-worm appears briefly toward the end of the little-seen Alien Factor, so I wanted to include it on the list for completeness.

An alien insect-man and an alien yeti also appear, but played by actors in suits.

It sounds pretty dumb, watching three random aliens menacing a small town in Maryland.  But this is one of those sincere low-budget B-movies from the 70s that many fans have come to love.  Animator Ernest D. Farino later worked on The Terminator.

LASERBLAST (1978)

Most famous as one of the first productions from Charles Band (probably the most prolific B-movie and exploitation producer of the 1990s), Laserblast is also known for some fine, if brief, stop-motion aliens that resemble intelligent upright turtles.

Again it sounds dumb but looks good.  The aliens misplaced a super laser rifle that gets picked up by a teenage loser.  Can the aliens get their gun back before the teen blows up the whole town?

The animators are Dave Allen and Jim Danforth once again.

PLANET OF DINOSAURS (1978)

A space crew lands on a distant planet inhabited by dinosaurs, including everybody’s favorites: stegosaurus, apatosaurus, and T-rex.

All are lovingly animated by Doug Beswick who had worked with Dave Allen on Flesh Gordon and later worked on The Terminator and Evil Dead II.  I like this movie very much.

THE DAY TIME ENDED (1979)

This strange and dreamy Close Encounters imitator depicts a California family getting abducted by mysterious aliens.

Several stop-motion alien monsters, such as the fighting lizard creatures who appear around 49:00, move surprisingly smoothly and realistically.

Dave Allen and Jim Danforth collaborated on the effects once again, assisted by Lyle Conway who later worked on The Dark Crystal and Where the Wild Things Are.

STARCRASH (1979)

Remember Harryhausen’s iron giant from Jason and the Argonauts?  Ever wonder what would happen if someone re-imagined the giant as a female robot with breasts controlled by evil Amazons?

Wonder no more, because Starcrash has it.  The robot appears at approximately 6:30 into the highlight reel linked below.  The Italian animators go mostly uncredited. Starcrash is a personal favorite of mine.

Is that it?

Well, you’ll still find notable stop-motion in the post-Harryhausen 80s, most famously in Q (1982) and The Terminator (1984).  But times were changing.  With Tron (1982) and The Last Starfighter (1984), CGI was well on its way.

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