Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Rhedosaurian Observations

Lee Kaplan says...

Are there any animal shapes, real or man-made, more graceful than that of
mighty Rhedosaurus, especially when he's silhouetted against the night sky?
Behold that rounded, almost dwarf-equine profile with its huge jaw & massive
neck; the perfect ebb & flow of the mane-like nuchal crest imperiously
crowning the front of the skull, the spines receding down the length of the
long neck & then flaring at their most dramatic along the spine. (Compare
with a later imitator, Willis O'Brien's lovely [though less fully-realized,
& probably more hastily-executed] Paleosaurus, aka THE GIANT BEHEMOTH.)
Happy accident, Rhedo's silhouette might be said to image exactly the
archetypal 'Water Horse,' that imaginary Celtic animal sometimes invoked in
folkloric studies of the Loch Ness monster. (Maybe the Loch Lomond one too,
but we don¹t wanna go there.)

Unhelpfully, Ray H himself always chalks up the visual lineage of Rhedo to
"T Rex + a dose of imagination," but the realized sculpt speaks more
eloquently for itself. James Bingham's great Saturday Evening Post
illustration for Ray Bradbury's short story Beast from 20,000 Fathoms aka
The Fog Horn may have reinforced, if not outright inspired, the notion of
knife-edge spines that Ray seemed to be sketching early on anyway, but that
was as far as it went. (If anything, Bingham¹s slender, long-bodied sea
monster must have been known to Eugene Lourie, who perhaps thought to guide
Obie¹s Behemoth in that direction six years later.) To begin with, Rhedo's
splayed toes, belly plates & horny, segmented tail are true crocodilian
touches. But notice how truly iguana the Rhedo head is -- small, elaborately
decorated eyes set forward on a compact skull, well-defined nostrils, rich &
variegated scaling, bulbous jowl, nuchal/caudal/dorsal spines, & to cap it
off, the very lizardian splayed rear legs & sloping posture. Just google
"iguana" & you¹ll see a hundred real-life guys who look like they might¹ve
posed for Ray back in 1952.

All that notwithstanding, I think it¹s true that the sculpt does betray a
certain klutzy bearing. Maybe it derives partly from Ray's anatomical choice
of low-slung lizard carriage rather than erect, big-shouldered,
pillar-legged dino (the latter being just how O'Brien styled his Paleosaurus
to great effect). It may be that the massive head & neck seem too top heavy
for that iguana torso. Maybe all this represents unresolved changes &
compromises that arose when Ray worked & re-worked his sculpt to please
himself, Hal Chester, Jack Dietz, & the rest of the Rhedo Bosses. It
probably reflects, also, the work of a 32 year-old, still-evolving artist
feverishly enmeshed in his first solo feature. Not least, we should remember
that he fabricated Rhedo using the difficult build-up method of applying the
sculpt, literally, as an outer latex skin covering a separate internal
musculature of cotton & sponge rubber, rather than a single, self-contained
layer of poured foam latex. (Ray was being faithful, after all, to the
techniques used by Marcel Delgado to create his hero & inspiration, Kong.)
The intrinsic hand-made nature of this technique makes it occasionally
imperfect, lumpy & pinched, but those random imperfections also give it the
authority of live tissue, especially when the lovingly sculpted outer
details capture light & shadow in perfect relief, well-sustained even in
closeup shots.

P.S. That Ray¹s sculptural technique has deepened with age can be readily
affirmed if you take a look at the subtle but noticeable refinements of his
beautiful, latter-day Rhedo bronze, as pictured in An Animated Life, p. 50.
Please can we see some affordable vinyl castings of that puppy for sale one
of these days, Ray?


  1. Great blog!
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  2. Thank you Gilles! And thanks for that link. I will try and post a link to it here.

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