Sunday, April 29, 2012

Clash of the Titans (1981)


Perseus, half-mortal son of Zeus, is unexpectedly plopped down in Joppa, where Calibos, the son of Thetis, goddess of the sea, has recently been transformed from handsome man to hideous monster.  This transformation puts a bit of a kibosh on Calibos' betrothal to the lovely princess Andromeda, who in turn develops the hots for the dashing young Perseus.  When Andromeda's mother unwisely brags that the young princess is prettier than Thetis herself, the goddess goes all Wicked Queen on Andromeda's Snow White behind, and promises to send the monstrous Kraken to destroy the village unless Andromeda is sacrificed to it.  Perseus, deeply smitten with Andromeda himself, is having none of that, and, with the assistance of an elderly poet and a mechanical owl, he sets off to consult the Stygian witches for advice on how to defeat the Kraken.  The ensuing adventures bring him face-to-face (in a manner of speaking) with the legendary Medusa and ultimately the Kraken itself.  With Calibos sabotaging his every effort, and with his own nasty habit of losing the magical gifts bestowed on him by Zeus, will Perseus be able to save Andromeda before it's too late? 

This film was the last major production from fantasy/horror legend Ray Harryhausen, and he certainly went out with a bang.  The movie is chock full of good old fashioned stop-motion effects, claymation, and all sorts of classic horror cinema techniques.  The cast is a rather motley collection of respected actors (Laurence Olivier as Zeus; a young(er) Maggie Smith as Thetis; Burgess Meredith as the poet) and . . . others, including former Bond girl Ursula Andress as Aphrodite and relative unknown Harry Hamlin as Perseus. Hamlin isn't exactly a brilliant actor, but he's good at standing there draped in a shortish toga and looking confused until it's time for him to brandish his various magical weapons--when he hasn't lost them, that is.  

There's also plenty of cheesy wonderfulness, mostly provided by the stop-motion effects and the presence of a rather random and improbably named mechanical owl called Bubo (whose vocalizations sound suspiciously like R2D2, though Harryhausen swears that the idea of Bubo predates the lovable droid).  Hamlin battles all sorts of mythological critters, from giant scorpions to a two-headed dog (I guess Cerberus was busy) to Medusa herself, who is surprisingly scary for a stop-motion monster.  Pegasus makes a fairly realistic appearance, and the Kraken is, well, Godzilla Goes to Greece. 

All in all, it's a ton of fun and I can see why it's a classic.  If you enjoy old-school B movies and haven't seen this one . . . well, first you need to repent (as I did), because you should be ashamed of yourself, and then you should go out and rent (or borrow) this movie posthaste. 

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