One of the famous “lost” films occupying the shelves of the Willis O’Brien Memorial Film Archive (you know, the one that exists in an alternate reality — a reality that we’re bound to stumble upon one day) is Ray Harryhausen’s “The Elementals”. This one dates from around 1956-57, just before Harryhausen started work on 20 Million Miles to Earth. It’s not “lost” in the sense that it was made and then misplaced, but “lost” in that it was another idea with potential that never got a green light.
Ray had developed a story idea called THE ELEMENTALS, in which alien eggs would arrive on Earth unleashing giant bat-like creatures [on]to an unsuspecting Earth. Some sketches were developed and Ray even created a stop-motion model, filming some test sequences in color [that] showed the creature attacking Ray. This footage eventually surfaced to the public on the Criterion laserdisc release of JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS but was shown in black and white. Excerpts of the color footage can be seen in the televised documentary, THE RAY HARRYHAUSEN CHRONICLES. Jack Deitz, of BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS, had been pitched the story and a screenplay was developed, but like many projects announced, this one slipped into obscurity.
Apparently the humanoid bat-like Elementals were to attack Paris, with airborne battles to take place between the creatures and fighter planes. From the following image — which is one of Harryhausen’s sketches for the film — The Elementals would have had a period setting, no doubt during the First World War.
Source: Stephen Jones, The Illustrated Dinosaur Movie Guide (Titan Books, 1993)
The Elementals is currently being re-constructed — under Bluewater Comics’ Ray Harryhausen Presents imprint — as a comic series. The first issue is scheduled for September this year.
1915 France. The Great War rages and a new breed of hero take to the skies. Part bull-terrier, part daredevil, the aces of the Royal Flying Corps’ 5th Squadron are Britain’s elite. It was an era of counter-intelligence, dogfights and drinking songs. But that was before the world changed. That was before the Elementals. When a routine mission goes awry, the 5th Squadron finds itself trapped in an unreal world called The Source. Here giant bat-like creatures dominate the world keeping the Universe, and all of its parallel realities, in a precarious balance. But despite its serene appearance, it is a violent, predatory land. Trapped along with Germany’s greatest flying ace, they all must work together to find a way back home. But the home they left is no longer the world they knew.
Source: Bluewater Productions website
Given Bluewater’s increasing interest in film production, maybe we’ll see a film version of “The Elementals” in due course. Something else to hope for.
You probably already know about this but it’s still pretty cool:
As far as I know this is the only footage of the Elementals films that was ever made. Sadly it’s only test footage.