a critiQal film review Clash of the Titans (1981)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: Full of pride, Cassiopeia (Phillips) compares her daughter's beauty to that of Thetis (Smith), patron god of the town. Angered, Thetis demands Andromeda (Bowker) be sacrificed to the legendary Kraken monster. Perseus (Hamlin), the son of Zeus (Olivier), becomes enchanted with the breathtaking beauty and is determined to save her from this fate. The young hero, armed with a magical shield, a winged stallion and a mechanical owl, discovers the only way to defeat the monster is with the head of Medusa, but obtaining the head is a perilous task all on it's own.

505 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 31s)

With the DVD release this week of the new Clash of the Titans (2010), I figured it was good time to go back and check out the original once more. Sure, it was a bit cheesy the last time I saw it – thanks to the odd animation techniques used to bring the fantastical creatures to life, but would the movie still be the same campy fun it was last time, or is the remake the only Clash worth seeing these days?

Harry Hamlin, who went on to do almost nothing else (aside from starring in the first season of “Veronica Mars” – which included a reference to Clash of the Titans in one episode), is the main star of the film. Looking to have kept his 70’s style, he blunders his way through the film so absurdly the viewer can do nothing but laugh. Thankfully, he fits right in with the film, and the viewer gets the sense his over-the-top acting is done on purpose. Sure, it’s absurd, but it’s a fun absurd, and the viewer will enjoy the outrageously bad performance.

The rest of the cast is much more subdued, although Burgess Meredith (best known as Sly Stallone’s trainer in Rocky (1976)) is able to take his character to the next level while not outshining Hamlin’s oaf. Now overly-familiar face Maggie Smith (Professor McGonagall in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) and it’s sequels), as well as famous names Laurence Olivier and Ursula Andress, among others, are sadly ill-used, barely getting any screen time as the gods of the ancient world.

The plot does a good job trying to mesh many of the ancient Greek myths into one storyline, mixing in a Herculean character (Perseus) with Andromeda, Medusa, Pegasus and the three Witches, among others. Sure, the movie seems a bit contrived, but the path the hero follows through the various obstacles is easy enough to follow and the viewers should find enough adventure to keep them contented.

The over-the-top acting done by Hamlin fits in well with the oddly animated characters around him. Animated through the use of stop-motion, the fantasy characters look rather ridiculous and cheesy by today’s standards. Never will the viewer have a hard time distinguishing the stop-motion sequences from the rest of the film, as the stop-motion technique, since perfected in films like The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) and Corpse Bride (2005), was obviously in it’s early stages, and viewers will easily pick out the glitches in the format.

Thanks to the incredibly dated effects, Clash of the Titans comes off today, nearly 30 years later, as incredibly cheesy. Yet, thanks to the over-the-top acting from Harry Hamlin and the recognizable Greek myths mixed into the script, the viewer should still be able to get a laugh or two out of the film.

If you’re looking for something action-packed with astonishing special effects, you should probably wait until you can see the new Clash of the Titans (2010). If, however, you don’t mind some cheese, the incredibly dated original Clash of the Titans should still be able to provide you with some enjoyment.

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