Clash of the Titans (1981) Review
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After seeing Sam Worthington as Perseus in the overdone 3D remake of Clash of the Titans, I couldn’t resist going back to watch the 1981 cult-favorite original—which, while every bit as corny as the remake, is actually much more entertaining.

This time, a dashing young Harry Hamlin stars as Perseus, the half-human son of Zeus (Laurence Olivier). When Perseus was born, his outraged grandfather—the king of Argos—banished Perseus and his beautiful unwed mother from the kingdom, leaving them to drown at sea. But Zeus saved them, bringing them to a small island before releasing the Kraken to destroy all of Argos.

As Perseus grows, however, trouble is brewing on Mount Olympus. Furious with Zeus for punishing her once-handsome son, Calibos (Neil McCarthy), and turning him into a monster, the goddess Thetis (Maggie Smith) transports Perseus to Joppa, where he battles Calibos in an attempt to win the hand of the kingdom’s beautiful princess, Andromeda (Judi Bowker).

After Perseus wins Andromeda’s hand, though, his trials are far from over. Lashing out against the vain Queen Cassiopeia (Siân Phillips), Thetis demands that Andromeda be sacrificed to the Kraken. Determined to save the life of the woman he loves, Perseus goes on a dangerous journey, in search of a way to defeat the Kraken.

Though the two versions of Clash of the Titans have surprisingly dissimilar set-ups, they still have their share of similarities. For instance, like its flashy, big-budget remake, the original Clash of the Titans is a jumbled mythological mess of rambling exposition and random moralizing from the gods. Instead of one grand, epic story, it feels like an anthology of shorter, loosely-connected films—all depicting the various and sundry (and incredibly complex) exploits of demi-god Perseus.

At the time, though, the focal point of the film wasn’t really the story; it was producer Ray Harryhausen’s collection of stop-motion creatures—from the monstrous Kraken to the comical little robotic owl, Bubo. In 1981, I’m sure they looked pretty spectacular, too—but, compared to today’s computer-generated creatures, they’re understandably cheesy (though they actually look better than the remake’s poorly-done 3D graphics).

Still, the film’s cheesiness just adds to its charm. It all feels just a bit homemade—like a well-intentioned high school production (complete with an ancient Greek civilian who’s clearly wearing black gym shorts under his toga). Paired with a surprisingly stellar cast—like Smith and Olivier, as well as Ursula Andress as Aphrodite and Burgess Meredith as Perseus’s playwright pal, Ammon—that cheesy charm makes Clash of the Titans an amusing cinematic curiosity. It’s certainly not a must-see, but if you happen to come across it on late-night cable, be sure to take a break from your channel surfing long enough to enjoy at least a few minutes of this cult-classic guilty pleasure.

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