Film Review – Clash Of The Titans (1981)

With the impending eye-candy of the new “Clash of the Titans” coming to IMAX and 3D theaters April 2nd, it seemed appropriate to do a run-down of the original 1981 version, directed by Desmond Davis.  The epic fantasy, based on Greek Mythology, is a favorite of mine.  Add to that the interesting fact that the original was released my birth year and the remake is being released on my actual birthday, and you can understand my fanboy-esque urge to squeal and jump up and down every time I see a trailer.

But we are here to talk about the original, not the remake.  The original, with all the glory of its many memorable qualities.  Qualities like its hokey (to us now) special effects, the majesty of Harry Hamlin’s hair, Bubo the Owl, and the chills I still get hearing Zeus (played by Lawrence Olivier) telling Poseidon to “Release the Kraken.”

The film was a success in its time, due to amazing special effects work of stop motion pioneer Ray Harryhausen, in his last film.  Harryhausen, who also produced the film, again saddled his horse to the writing of Beverly Cross, who he had worked with previously on “Jason and the Argonauts” (1963) and “Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger” (1977).  And their collaboration pays off, as the film, which almost hits the 2-hour mark (118 minutes to be exact), flies by with very little moments of lull.

The reason this movie works so well is its adherence to the fundamental of the Greek Myth: simplicity.  Greek mythology was always about a sequence of events, rather than an elaborate storytelling method that enriched the listener.  And this film continues that tradition by having its “action scenes” not take forever or be bogged down with the fast MTV-style jump-cuts and edits.  Instead it’s pretty cut and dry, which makes sense for the context of the source material.  Perseus sees a creature, he kills it, end of story.  There is no long drawn-out exchange of rock-montages or hard-to-grasp close-ups, there is simply the progression of Perseus as he defeats trial after trial.

Because of this, they are able to cram so much into the film, with the special effects generally being a nice break from the forward motion.  The acting of Harry Hamlin isn’t fantastic, but the supporting cast has enough credentials that they could easily do Shakespeare with their free time.  By the end of the film, you feel like you have traveled the road with Perseus, and that his victory is hard won.

I can only hope, with all my love of this movie, that the new film coming out this Friday doesn’t ruin all this by becoming the Transformers of Greek myth: flashy, unnecessary, and generally upsetting to fans of the original.