Sci-fi and fantasy flicks come alive at London Film Museum

Ray Harryhausen looks at his original models from the 1963 film ‘Jason And The Argonauts’ at the The Myths And Legends Exhibition at The London Film Museum in June, 2010. Source: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images Europe Source: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images Europe

When a movie critic friend of mine recently popped over to London for the Queen’s Jubilee, he also managed to make time to view one of the newer and more intriguing showcases for movie-lovers: the London Film Museum. Film buff that I am, I was pea green with envy and bursting with questions about the exhibits upon his return! To help quell my insatiable curiosity, he graciously agreed to pen a brief review about his visit, which I have shared below. Much thanks, Cameron!


Medusa lives! Pinhead spotted in England!

by Cameron Meier

Pinhead from Clive Barker’s ‘Hellraiser’ at the London Film Museum. © 2012 Cameron Meier / London Film Museum

No, these aren’t the latest bad horror/sci-fi mash-ups. They are real observations from my trip earlier this month to London. I traveled there for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee but was also pleased to find a sort of diamond in the rough – two of the capital’s best-kept secrets: the London Film Museums.

Both museums can be viewed together in a single afternoon, and they are relatively close to one another, just a short Tube jaunt or cab ride away. I tackled the Covent Garden one first. It’s the smaller and newer of the two, so inconspicuous that I had trouble finding it.

Housed snugly in the same block as the famed London Transport Museum, the displays are nevertheless impressive and particularly fascinating for fans of the early days of film and photography. From old movie cameras to insight into the technology that birthed the medium, the cinema enthusiast will find many treats. Chief among them are projections of some of George Méliès’s fantastical works and the Lumière Brothers’ short films that launched cinema. No, today’s museum-goers don’t shriek at the locomotive in Train Arriving in the Station, as members of the original 1895 Paris audience did, but the film still holds a certain power, evidenced by the popularity of Martin Scorsese’s Hugo.

Original costume from 1968’s ‘Planet of the Apes.’ © 2012 Cameron Meier / London Film Museum

The main attraction is “Magnum on Set,” which tells the stories of several great films, including Charlie Chaplin’s Limelight, Orson Welles’ The Trial and Nicholas Ray’s Rebel Without a Cause, through the on-set photographs of the legendary agency Magnum Photos. Interspersed throughout the photographic displays are other artifacts, including a drool-worthy trinket for sci-fi buffs: costumes from the first Planet of the Apes.

If the Covent Garden branch is the brains of the Film Museums, the South Bank one is its heart – and offers the real treat for lovers of sci-fi, horror and fantasy. Opened in 2008 as the Movieum and located next to the giant London Eye Ferris wheel, inside the County Hall building (across the river from the Houses of Parliament), this museum can, surprisingly, be a tad tough to find as well. But after locating the entrance and paying the admission – yes, this one charges, unfortunately – you’ll be surprised at the exhibits’ size and sprawl.

Ray Harryhausen poses with a model of Medusa from his 1981 film ‘Clash Of The Titans’ at the The Myths and Legends Exhibition at The London Film Museum in 2010. Source: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images Europe

Pegasus and Bubo models from the 1963 film ‘Jason And The Argonauts’ © 2012 Cameron Meier / London Film Museum

“Charlie Chaplin: The Great Londoner” is well worth your time, but the real treat is “Ray Harryhausen: Myths and Legends,” an exceedingly cool homage to the master of stop-motion animation, including original props and some great insights into the history of the art form, from the groundbreaking days of Edwin S. Porter to Harryhausen’s last film, Clash of the Titans, in 1981. Also don’t miss the sci-fi and horror rooms, especially the Harry Potter props and costumes, and the disgustingly realistic creations from Hellraiser and other assorted gore fests.

John Huston once said, “The directing of a picture involves coming out of your individual loneliness and taking a controlling part in putting together a small world.” The London Film Museums allow you to step briefly into that world.


Cameron Meier is a freelance movie, art and theatre critic, and former editor-in-chief of Sunshine Artist Magazine. His reviews have appeared in The Orlando Weekly and on, among other sites. His previous articles and movie ratings can be found at


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