Culture Clash (Clash of the Titans, 1981)
Greek myths are some of the original action stories. Filled with god, heroes, and monsters, they still capture the imagination thousands of years after their originators have passed.
In 1981 we got one of the most memorable of the “recent” forays into Greek storytelling.
The king of Argos has locked away his daughter in fear of a prophecy that if she bore a son, that son would kill him. But Zeus falls in love with the lovely Danae and impregnates her. He has Danae and her son Perseus entombed and thrown into the sea. But Zeus is angered and has Poseidon release the remaining Titan the Kraken upon Argos, destroying it. Instead of dying, Danae and Perseus wash ashore.
Zeus watches over Perseus, causing strife with his wife Hera and Thetic, a sea goddess. This comes to a head when Zeus becomes angry with her son Calibos. He is a handsome young man destined to marry the beautiful Princess Andromeda, daughter of Queen Cassiopeia. Zeus is angered by Calibos’ cruelty and disrespect, citing his having hunted and killed all but one of the winged horses Zeus had created. He turns Calibos into a misshapen cloven-hoofed monster, left to rule in a swamp. Thetis curses Andromeda, requiring that each man who comes to pursue her must answer a riddle. If they fail, they are put to death.
Hero help Thetis set in motion a revenge plan, in which Calibos might end the life of Perseus. But Zeus provides him with special weapons that allow him to best Calibos and find the answer to the riddle. Perseus and Andromeda are to be wed, but when Cassiopeia oversteps and proclaims Andromeda more beautiful than Thetis herself, Thetis demands that Andromeda is to be given as a virgin sacrifice to the Kraken. Zeus reluctantly agrees, but Perseus is determined to save her and seeks to find something that will allow him to stop the sacrifice.
The final film to feature the stop-motion grandeur of Ray Harryhausen, Clash of the Titans is an exciting adventure. While there is no reality to them in comparison to modern model and cgi work, they have a unique and enjoyable charm to watch. There is a physicality to the visuals.
Medusa is the true highlight of the monsters in the film, her scary visage and every movement to inspire fear.
While the characterization of Zeus is a bit kinder than the actual myths, the overall pettiness of the gods is still at play. The actors also bring a regalness, from Laurence Olivier to Maggie Smith.Harry Hamlin has a chiseled from clay look (and super pouty lips) and Judi Bowker is luminous as Andromeda.
Clash of the Titans was not the last of these types of films (There were two Lou Ferrigno Hercules films), but it feels like it closes an era. But Clash of the Titans is a minor classic of fantasy films.