- Directed by Desmond Davis
- June 12, 1981 (US) / July 2, 1981 (UK)
- Loosely based on the Greek myth of Perseus
The hero Perseus must battle great beasts and mythical creatures to save Andromeda and her kingdom from the Kraken.
The original Clash of the Titans is a cinematic adventure classic. It is big and bold and just pure fun. The main draw to this I must admit are the amazing stop motion effects by the legendary Ray Harryhausen. He came from a time when effects had to be done by hand. He did not have a computer to help him out. Everything he did he had to craft and was a master of stop motion animation. This is a showcase of his great work.
Harryhausen created so many amazing creatures for this. The Pegasus. Medusa. Bubo. Charon. Dioskilos. Medusa. And most importantly the great Kraken. Just about every section of this film contains Ray Harryhausen’s trademark magic. A magic the causes a sense of childlike wonder in you.
To bring the narrative to life we have such performers as Laurence Olivier as Zeus, Judi Bowker as Andromeda, Burgess Meredith as the human poet Ammon, Maggie Smith as Thetis, Siân Phillips as Cassiopeia, Claire Bloom as Hera, and Ursula Andress as Aphrodite. Amazingly skilled performers and they just gave their all to this film.
Harry Hamlin as Perseus was the key to it all and he manages to hold his own well enough especially since many of his scenes were with the legendary Burgess Meredith. Perseus is earnest and true and a bit naïve yet also somehow worldly enough to deal with all the stuff that comes at him.
If you’ve ever watched an old adventure serial or even an old adventure film that’s what you get here. While evil is a genuine threat to the hero, evil also does evil for the sake of evil. The heroes are ultimately good. And it’s all done with a sense of fun and playfulness. It all touches the kid in us and pulls us in.
Clash of the Titans is a little over two hours, but it doesn’t feel like that. It keeps you hooked from beginning to end with a breezy story and plenty of action and cool visuals. You’re just enjoying yourself the whole time. There is a reason this got a remake and that is because it is just enjoyable. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s just the right amount of seriousness and fun.
This movie was probably my introduction to Greek mythology as it was for a great many people of a certain age. It’s a bit of a bastardization of that mythology but then again this is a movie and it’s rare there’s a one-to-one translation of anything when it comes to Hollywood. The important thing is to be true to whatever material you are handling. Otherwise it just will not work.
One thing that jumps out is the mechanical owl Bubo. That is a complete Hollywood creation that was probably one of the cooler things in the movie. Bubo is my personal favorite and as I understand is a fan favorite but also something not present in the story of Perseus.
Desmond Davis made this during a time in my opinion that was perhaps a creative highpoint in filmmaking. So many weird and odd ideas hit the big screen that Hollywood is now revisiting and repackaging in the hopes of capturing lightning in a bottle twice. This and other films were not test marketed and watered down with the thinking that it needed to appeal to a broad group of people and not offend anyone. This was made to entertain and just be enjoyed and that is why then and now it still connects with the audience.
The original Clash of the Titans is not only a great visual feast but it’s a fun and enjoyable watch as well. If you’ve never seen this then take some time out and track it down and watch it. And if you have then reacquaint yourself with it. You will not be disappointed.