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Clash of the Titans [1981]

   

Clash of the Titans (1981) starring Harry Hamlin, Laurence Olivier, Maggie Smith, Burgess Meredith

Clash of the Titans is Ray Harryhausen’s telling of the classic Greek myth of Perseus. Complete with Pegasus, Calibos, Medusa, the Kraken …

A very good, enjoyable film. Clash of the Titans is (somewhat) faithful to Greek mythology. One interesting thing is how the film cuts back and forth between the Greek pantheon on Mount Olympus, and Earth. Where their interference helps, and hurts, various people.

In a real sense, Ray Harryhausen’s beautiful animation is the real star of the film. Although the various actors turn in excellent performances that keep the audience interested. Special effects, by themselves, do not make a good movie. And Clash of the Titans is a good movie.

Highlights

  • The animation of Pegasus is simply beautiful.
  • The scene with the hunting of Medusa is well done, creepy, and wonderful.

Cast

Laurence Olivier (The Boys from Brazil, Rebecca) as Zeus.

Lawrence Olivier as Zeus, Perseus' father, in "Clash of the Titans"

King of the gods, who hurts his suffering wife Hera by his repeated adultery. Powerful, and not prone to changing his mind. He aids his half-human son repeatedly, giving him advantages, without which Pursues would have had no chance.

Claire Bloom (Limelight, Shadowlands) as Hera.

Claire Bloom as Hera in "Clash of the Titans"

Zeus’ suffering wife. She provides Perseus with his magical shield.

Maggie Smith (Keeping Mum) as Thetis

Thetis, in Clash of the Titans

The mother of Calibos. When she asks Zeus to show him mercy, he refuses. And, curses Calibos with a monstrous form. Zeus is clearly capricious. Although, Calibos is not repentant at all. She takes the opportunity of Cassiopea’s unintentional insult to doom Andromeda. Or, the city. Courtesy of the Kraken.

Ursula Andress (She, The Blue Max) as Aphrodite

Ursula Andress as Aphrodite

The goddess of love and beauty. She provides Perseus with his magical sword. Years before, when Medusa and Poseidon defiled her temple, she cursed Medusa with a monstrous form.

Jack Gwillim (The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb) as Poseidon

Although Zeus’ brother, he has very little screen time. Primarily, he unleashes the Kraken. Off-screen, years before, he and the then-beautiful Medusa defiled Aphrodite’s temple by … being intimate there. Seriously.

Susan Fleetwood (Young Sherlock Holmes) … Athena

She provides Perseus with the helmet of invisibility. Once it’s lost, Zeus commands her to give her beloved owl to Perseus as a replacement. But she refuses – kind of. She has Hephaestus create a mechanical version of her beloved owl, which she gives to Perseus instead. The mechanical Bubo is both helpful, and comedy relief.

Pat Roach (Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark) … Hephaestus

Craftman of the Greek pantheon.

Harry Hamlin (Movie Movie) as Perseus

Harry Hamlin as Perseus in "Clash of the Titans"

The protagonist, half-human son of Zeus. Gifted with three weapons: a shield (Medusa), sword, helmet of invisibility. Ironically, he has a bad habit of losing these incredibly powerful items once they’ve been used! Despite his demigod status, he doesn’t seem to have any abilities greater than normal, unlike Hercules. One possible “power” is the ability to understand Athena’s mechanical owl, Bubo.

Judi Bowker (Count Dracula 1977) … Andromeda

Andromeda, the beautiful princess in "Clash of the Titans"

Originally betrothed to Calibos. Young and beautiful, once betrothed to Calibos. As part of his revenge, she’s condemned to be a human sacrifice to the Kraken. She’s rescued repeatedly by Perseus. Though she clearly has a mind of her own – “You are not my lord and master … yet.”

Burgess Meredith (Advise and Consent, The Twilight Zone) as Ammon

Ammon, Perseus' friend and mentor in "Clash of the Titans"

A great actor, playing the close friend and advisor to Perseus. Probably my favorite character. He tells Perseus where to find Pegasus. And, the Stygian witches. And …. A faithful friend, and mentor, to Perseus. Though it does make one wonder how a poet and playwright manages to know all of the things that Ammon knows.

Siân Phillips (Dune, Goodbye Mr. Chips) as Queen Cassiopeia

Siân Phillips as Queen Cassiopeia

The mother of Andromeda. She makes the foolish mistake of saying that her daughter is more beautiful than Thetis. Leading Thetis to demand Andromeda as a sacrifice to the Kraken, in 30 days, or it will destroy the city.

Stygian witches

After from unfriendly persuasion from Perseus, they reveal that the only way to stop the Kraken is with …. the head of Medusa.

Tim Pigott-Smith (V for Vendetta) … Thallo

One of the queen’s soldiers, who becomes Bubo’s carrier. :). He also provides the money to Perseus for Charon, boatman over the river Styx. A faithful companion, he’s eventually killed by Calibos, after the battle with the giant scorpions.

Neil McCarthy (Where Eagles Dare) … Calibos

Calibos

A cruel man, who killed both men and Zeus’ herd of flying horses, with only Pegasus escaping. He’s cursed by Zeus, turned into a monster. He kidnaps Andromeda nightly, as she dreams. He is behind the nightly questions for her would-be suitors. Which always end in their fiery deaths. Frankly, his makeup is so well done, that they should have foresworn Harryhausen’s animation for this character.

After his defeat by Perseus — and losing a hand in the process — he asks for the Kraken to destroy the city. He then kidnaps Pegasus. And continues to be a thorn in Perseus’ side, until he’s killed in a final confrontation.

Donald Houston (A Study in Terror) … Acrisius

Vida TaylorDanae

Perseus’ mother. She, and her child (born out of wedlock) are exiled by her father at the beginning of the film. Thrown into the sea, they survive by the intervention of the Greek pantheon.

Editorial review of Clash of the Titans courtesy of Amazon.com

You have a classic tale full of drama, passion, and adventure. A tale of universal archetypes that speak to everyone. A tale that has remained unfailingly popular for thousands of years. Why not spice it up with a wacky mechanical owl? Such was the thinking behind Clash of the Titans. Maggie Smith, Laurence Olivier, and Harry Hamlin (one of these things is not like the others…) star in a toga-ripper about a valiant hero, capricious immortals, and lots and lots of giant stop-action monsters.

Perseus (Hamlin) is the favored son of the god Zeus (Olivier), but he has unwittingly ticked off the sea goddess Thetis (Smith). Just to make things worse, Perseus falls in love with the lovely Princess Andromeda, who used to be engaged to Thetis’s son. Soon Perseus is off on one quest after another, with Zeus helping, Thetis hindering, and lots of innocent bystanders getting stabbed, drowned, and squished.

Of course, the whole thing is just an excuse to show as much of Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion animation as possible, and good thing too. It’s an old technique, but it still looks pretty darn cool, and it means the cast can just relax and do a bunch of reaction shots. Don’t use this one to study for that big classical mythology exam, but if you just turn your brain off and enjoy the Kraken, it’s pretty good fun. –Ali Davis

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