CLASH OF THE TITANS (director: Desmond Davis; screenwriter: Beverley Cross; cinematographer: Ted Moore; editor: Timothy Gee; music: Laurence Rosenthal; cast: Laurence Olivier (Zeus), Claire Bloom (Hera), Maggie Smith (Thetis), Ursula Andress (Aphrodite), Burgess Meredith (Ammon), Jack Gwillim (Poseidon), Harry Hamlin (Perseus), Judi Bowker (Andromeda), Neil McCarthy (Calibos), Sian Phillips (Cassiopeia), Susan Fleetwood (Athena), Tim Piggott-Smith (Thallo), Flora Robson (Stygian Witch), Freda Jackson (Stygian Witch), Donald Houston (King Acrisius), Vida Taylor (Danae); Runtime: 118; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Ray Harryhausen/Charles H. Schneer; MGM; 1981-UK/USA)
“Though star-packed the film is sleep inducing.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Ray Harryhausen, the master of stop-motion animation and the father of special effects, called it a career after this film. His ground-breaking animation served as a transition for the upcoming CGI (computer graphics) that were soon to dominate films. The team of Harryhausen, screenwriter Beverley Cross (he was married at the time to Maggie Smith) and producer Charles H. Schneer, who all worked together on films such as Jason and the Argonauts (1963) and The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974), received their biggest budget yet from MGM and delivered for the most part a handsome old-fashioned romantic adventure pic that did well at the box office. They spent most of their dough getting a top-flight mostly Shakespearean cast that includes the great Sir Laurence Olivier and asked them to play second fiddle to Harryhausen’s stop-motion creations such as Pegasus in flight, Medusa the Gorgon with those mysteriously lit eyes, Kraken the sea monster and the mechanical owl Bubo. It’s basically a kidpic with director Desmond Davis (“Girl with Green Eyes”) delivering the Greek mythology, which is sometimes more Harryhausen than actually Greek myth, as it plays out as a kitschy telling of the tale of Perseus (Harry Hamlin), the mortal son of Zeus (Laurence Olivier), and his quest to gain the hand of the fair mortal Andromeda (Judi Bowker). It excites only due to a few of the special effects but should please those with a strong sense of nostalgia for the monster-and-mythology pic. Otherwise it’s saddled with banal dialogue, outdated special effects, lackluster performances from one and all, dreary photography and a murky method of storytelling. Though star-packed the film is sleep inducing.
It opens with Perseus, the illegitimate son of Zeus, washed ashore in a trunk with his beautiful mom Danae. While on Mount Olympus clad in his toga the imperious Zeus orders that the city that banished his son be destroyed and for the immortals to rescue his son and allow him to live in peace on the island of Seriphos. Hera (Claire Bloom) is Zeus’s obedient wife and she’s chewing the fat with the other goddesses in the throne room such as Aphrodite (Ursula Andress), Athena (Susan Fleetwood) and her hubby’s arch rival Thetis (Maggie Smith), who is furious that Zeus saves his mortal son but banishes and deforms her mortal son Calibos (Neil McCarthy) for some minor discretion. The once handsome Calibos was set to marry the fair Andromeda, but she rejects him after taking a look at her would-be lover’s new kisser. Thetis seeks revenge by putting a curse on whichever suitor the virgin Andromeda chooses by forcing them to answer a riddle and if wrong they are slain. A now young adult Perseus magically finds himself in Joppa, the homeland of Andromeda, where he’s befriended and mentored by the elderly Ammon (Burgess Meredith), a cunning playwright and poet. Under Zeus’s command the immortals send Perseus a magical sword, helmet and shield to protect himself, and the lad vows to marry Andromeda believing that’s his true destiny. To do this Perseus must overcome Calibos in battle in his swampland turf and learn the secret of the deadly riddle, meet with the three flesh-eating witches of Stygian, get the head of Medusa and face off with the last obstacle to his success the scaly monster Kraken. Perseus aims to defeat the unbeatable Kraken by turning him into stone when he looks at Medusa (as the curse goes, the monster will get Andromeda unless within a month Perseus can overcome it). The handsome hero and pretty heroine are as dull as they are lovely to look at, and so is the pic.
REVIEWED ON 4/22/2006 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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