Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


CLASH OF THE TITANS (1981). Director: Desmond Davis. 

"I was partial to tragedy before experience taught me that life was quite tragic enough without my having to write about it." -- Ammon [Burgess Meredith]. 
When the lovely princess Andromeda (Judi Bowker) is told by the angry goddess Thetis (Maggie Smith) that she must be sacrificed to the Kraken or her entire kingdom and everyone in it will be destroyed -- because Andromeda's mother dared suggest her daughter was more beautiful than Thetis -- the smitten Perseus (Harry Hamlin) sets out to capture the head of the gorgon Medusa, to use to destroy the Kraken. (Both the Kraken and Medusa are "titans," hence the title.) The deliberate pace of the film -- it does take a while to get going -- turned off the critics at the time of its release, but it's actually a fine fantasy film with excellent Ray Harryhausen stop motion FX (although it is not quite in the league of Harryhausen's masterpiece Jason and the Argonauts). The scene when Perseus and his pals invade the temple of Medusa to slay her is outstanding, and there are also some fine scuttling giant scorpions, the winged horse Pegasus, and the hideous Kraken who shows up for his sacrifice -- and supper. The scene when Thetis condemns Andromeda is handled with dramatic flair (as opposed to a similar sequence in the recent remake). Hamlin is fine as Perseus; Meredith is excellent as his friend, the writer Ammon; Bowker and Tim Pigott-Smith memorable as Andromeda and the warrior Thallo. Laurence Olivier, merely flexing his acting muscles, is superb in his portrayal of Zeus, King of the Gods, and he gets wonderful support from Smith and Claire Bloom. Laurence Rosenthal's score and the art direction are assets. Bubo, the mechanical owl that is a gift from the Gods, is slightly irritating, but he grows on you. The scene with Perseus confronting the three blind witches (Flora Robson, among them) is also notable. 

Verdict: Not Harryhausen's best, perhaps, but still quite entertaining. ***.

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