Clash of the Titans (1981)
Release Date: June 12th, 1981 MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Desmond Davis Actors: Harry Hamlin, Laurence Olivier, Ursula Andress, Judi Bowker, Maggie Smith, Claire Bloom, Susan Fleetwood, Burgess Meredith
lthough it’s not considered a classic of the genre, “Clash of the Titans” is one of the most memorable of monster movie wizard Ray Harryhausen’s works, mixing together a particularly interesting piece of Greek mythology fiction (adapting numerous popular myths) with iconic stop-motion animation. A notable cast, creative creature inhabitants, a thrilling score by composer Lawrence Rosenthal, and an epic feel combine to make this gods-and-monsters mash grand fun – complete with mediocre acting and goofy dialogue. The 2010 remake, an odd choice to reignite interest in the swords and sorcery subgenre, can only hope to improve upon the special effects. Even though Harryhausen’s art form is outdated, the realism of the technique and strikingly unique designs are rarely bested.
Unjust tyrant Acrisius of Argus casts his daughter Danae (Vida Taylor) and her infant son Perseus into the sea, entombed alive in an ornamented coffin. Unbeknownst to the ill-fated king, the mighty gods on Mount Olympus watch over his actions, and leader Zeus (Lawrence Olivier) demands revenge, namely because Perseus is, not so secretly, his son. “Let loose the Kraken!” he commands to Poseidon (Jack Gwillim), God of the Sea. Argus is destroyed and the drifting mother and son are set safely ashore far away.
Perseus (Harry Hamlin) grows up on a tropical beach, always under the watchful and omnipotent eye of Zeus. Thetis (Maggie Smith), the Goddess of Creation, also watches over her own son Calibos (Neil McCarthy), who is transformed into a disfigured beast when Zeus learns of his cruelty to his people. Although Thetis can’t overturn the decision, she relocates Perseus to an amphitheater in the city of Joppa in the kingdom of Phoenicia, where he will fulfill his destiny and cross paths with the cursed Calibos. Throughout the course of Perseus’ heroic odyssey, he must solve a riddle to earn the hand of princess Andromeda (Judi Bowker), who was originally promised to Calibos, and seek out the blind Stygian witches, the gorgon Medusa, and a way to rescue his princess from a human sacrifice to the Kraken.
Perseus is always guided with a bit of interference from Zeus, who provides him with a magic helmet, shield and sword, and later, a mechanical bird that beeps and whistles. Bubo the owl is noticeably borrowed from “Star Wars’” R2-D2 – both entities possess similar mannerisms and sound effects, provide light humor, and are understood fully by the main character alone. Also on the comedy front is Burgess Meredith, who portrays playwright and poet Ammon – a role that is hardly necessary and adds even more silliness to an extravagant story that definitely doesn’t need any help being unbelievable or ridiculous. But even with the undeniable mawkishness of the dialogue, the second-rate acting, and the unconvincing green screen technology, “Clash of the Titans” does provide an intriguing Greek mythology premise, brimming with stunning fantasy visuals, including the skeleton-like ferryman of the River Styx, the two-headed dog Dioskilos, Pegasus the winged horse, and the best movie version of the snake-haired Medusa ever filmed.
– Mike Massie