Video Reviews
Clash of the Titans
by Desmond Davis
MGM (1981)
Clash of the Titans
6 / 10
With the remake in theaters, it’s only fair to take a look at one of the most ridiculous and best movies of the 1980s. Clash of the Titans was released in 1981 and contains fantastic stop-motion effects. The plot is simple, tried, and true: boy (Perseus) sees girl (Andromeda), wants girl, but first must overcome many mythological obstacles (Kraken, Medusa, giant scorpions created from the blood of Medusa, a cursed man-beast named Callibos, Stygian witches), and save the girl’s hometown (Joppa) from certain destruction. The movie is more a warm supplier of fantasy and adventure tropes than provider of engaging plot; it’s the cinematic equivalent of comfort food.

Take, for example, the main characters in the film. Clash of the Titans features Rocky’s trainer Burgess Meredith as the exclaimer of “by the gods!” and sidekick/advisor to Perseus (Harry Hamlin). Perseus is good at sword fighting and a little impetuous. He’s a lot like that Skywalker kid, but portrayed by a worse actor. Meredith’s character Ammon is essentially Obi Wan without any particular talents, other than his aforementioned exclamatory knack and, in an apparent expository conceit, an ability to speculate quite accurately. Of course, Ammon is only remotely useful when not doing a poor job of asserting himself as a playwright with some modicum of renown. Accompanying Ammon and Perseus in their quest to save Andromeda and the town of Joppa is a mechanical owl named Bubo. Bubo is an avian R2-D2 without computer skills. Bubo’s main job, surprisingly, is not to annoy the viewer. Its main job is to speed the film along. Bubo does so by finding and freeing Pegasus (thus saving Perseus from tracking the winged horse and defeating its captors) and by fighting the Scandinavian mythological beast, the Kraken. The Kraken in Clash of the Titans is actually Cetus from Greek mythology, rather than the traditional Kraken, but that’s neither here nor there. The gods release the Kraken with much fanfare (“Release the Kraken!”) whenever they wish to punish people for real or perceived slights; this means the Kraken is immensely popular, despite a distinct lack of charm or good looks.

If anything, it's the special effects that make the movie. The stop-motion effects were primitive when the movie was filmed, but the blending of stop-motion and live action found in Clash of the Titans is pure artistry. The second fight between Callibos and Perseus, where a stop-motion Callibos whips a writhing Perseus, shows special effects guru Ray Harryhausen's commitment to detail.

The film is fun and looks a little ridiculous in the wake of Avatar, but a movie starring a too-old Laurence Olivier as the frailest Zeus to ever hurl a thunderbolt and a stop-motion Medusa with green streetlights for eyes can’t be all that bad. Plus, Clash of the Titans is infinitely watchable, if only for the Shakespeare-via-Joe Biden of Burgess Meredith.
Posted by: B. Fins

Video Reviews (March 25th, 2010)