RE:View Clash of the Titans (part II)The Dark Herald
So, we see Perseus growing up under his father’s watchful eye. The various deities of Olympus are instructed by Zeus to give him gifts. A nuisance for Hera as she is never cool about these things, and they happen a LOT.
I found myself admiring Beverly Cross as a writer. She went out of her way to make sure plot holes were filled in advance. During a needed montage whose only real job was to turn Perseus from a boy to a demi-god, she plugged in a scene where he was performing riding tricks bare-back. The kid they hired to do those tricks bareback at a gallop was an impressive as hell rider, and the audience wasn’t muttering later in the movie, “so he can just tame a flying horse?” His expertise was already established in the back of the viewer’s mind.
First act concluded, time for the plot to start and that means an antagonist. And Calibos wasn’t a bad one. The Kraken was more on par with being a force of nature than an opponent for Perseus. Perseus couldn’t interact with the Kraken but he could with Calibos. Like the “gods of Olympus,” Calibos is a Shakespearian import, although this time it’s the character and not the actor. He’s clearly and obviously a Hellenized Caliban to include his oneitis for the hot chick in the story.
Again, Beverly Cross covered her bases. One of the reasons that Zeus was pissed at Calibos was for hunting and killing every one of his herd of sacred flying horses except for Pegasus. The viewer has now had it planted in his mind that Calibos will have no trouble capturing Pegasus.
Zeus beats Calibos with an ugly stick and that royally POs his mom, Thetis the goddess of the sea. Well, she can’t take it out on Zeus but she can dish it out to everyone else.
She plucks Perseus out of his beach bum existence on Serifos and dumps him an amphitheater. Calibos’ former intended bride Andromeda gets it pretty hard along with her entire city of Joppa. No man may wed her unless they answer a riddle, get the answer wrong and you get burned alive.
Wait a second. Joppa? That’s Tel Aviv! Andromeda is Jewish? Now that I think about it, she was Ethiopian in the original myth. Considering what Arabs looked like in Harryhausen’s last couple of films, it can’t matter too much. Screw it. Moving on.
Perseus wakes up and meets Ammon the poet and playwright. He’s the mentor that provides needed exposition. That part was originally supposed to be played by Sir John Gielgud. MGM shot that down and insisted on an American because they didn’t want this to look like an all Brit production. Frankly, that was all to the good because Burgess Meredith was the only big name in this movie that wasn’t completely phoning it in. The Olympus scenes were shot in eight days and the lassitude shows. The titans of the British stage clearly didn’t give a damn about anything but their paychecks.
Perseus is given some magical swag by his old man, and he heads off to Joppa to “find his destiny,” because the guy in the shield told him to go look for it there.
We are brought up to speed about the curse and the riddle. Perseus is understandably a little curious about how any girl could offset the risk/reward involved. So, he used his helm of invisibility and goes to peep on her in the middle of the night.
He finds out this chick has issues. She astrally projects at night and her “spirit” gets carted off by a gigantic vulture. Kind of a red flag so far as I’m concerned but Perseus felt he could passed it because he fell in love with her at first sight, which is a terrible contrivance but in fairness, almost all the myths agree that he did.
He needs to learn to fly. Icarus isn’t available but Pegasus is. In the original myth, it was winged sandals which are terrible for both 1980s cinematography and action figure sales, and in a post-Star Wars Hollywood, that last really mattered. So, Pegasus it was.
P&P fly off to the swamp the next time Andromeda goes for a sleepwalk without bringing her body along.
We finally see Calibos and that is one fucked up Afro.
We also see him in stop motion and I’m suddenly suspicious about something.
Yep, same model. Harryhausen reskinned the Troglodyte from his last Sinbad movie. They built the actor’s costume around a recycled stop motion model.
Regardless, I liked Calibos’ court with his decrepit and deformed courtiers. He had found some terrible, dark and decayed corner of the world where the men were so debased they almost weren’t men anymore. And gathered them to him. It was a nice touch.
He gamma whines to Andromeda about how much he loves her and then sends her off with a new riddle to burn the next Alpha that tries to put the moves on her. As she is leaving he spots sandal tracks appearing behind her.
Calibos jumps Perseus in the swamp. Perseus wins but loses a helmet that would have come in handy later in the story.
Again, Beverly Cross showed she knew how to write a tight story. The helm of invisibility was useful in the second act but would have completely broken the story in the third. It had to go.
Perseus answer Andromeda’s riddle and takes her off the market. She’s pretty cool about it but is a little freaked when he confesses, he spied on her when she was asleep. However, when women are writing the story, peeping is fine, provided the peeper is good-looking enough. It’s totally validating.
Harry Hamlin brought the right looks to the party. He wasn’t that great of an actor but he stayed clear of roles where that was an issue. And he was obviously a better choice than Ahunuld. And Hamlin could carry a love scene back in the day, the Terminator never could.
Judi Bowker was a superb Andromeda. She was adolescent crush-worthy and had the perfect eyes for this part. Bright, shiny and looked great when filled with tears. She was a great “little wounded bird.”
Calibos calls his Mom to complain about the bully who cut off his hand. And interestingly she doesn’t lay waste to Joppa at his say-so. The gods of Olympus have until this point been just as petty and selfish as the ones in mythology. This was one of the few indications that Thetis was interested in justice. Or else she thought it was going to be a tough sell to Poseidon who can’t be all that cool about his surprise stepson. One of those anyway.
Perseus and Andromeda’s wedding is interrupted when Cassiopeia makes some unfortunate comparisons in Thetis’ own temple. Wedding is off because the bride has to be a virgin when she gets eaten.
When Perseus and his buddies are about to head out, Andromeda joins them. And shows she has a bit of backbone doing it. Her husband-to-be is not going without her and that’s all there is to it. Strong but feminine.
We next meet Bubo the R2-D2 stand-in… I mean the mechanical owl. I was about to say you could have easily lifted Bubo out of the movie and never missed him but he did perform the all-important task of rescuing Pegasus when the time came.
After chatting with some sweet old cannibals Perseus sets off to do battle with the ultimate bad hair day.
I’ve got to say, the fight with Medusa holds up. It’s much more about suspense and tension than it is about action. The sickly green lighting combined with the deep shadow is still oily and spidery.
Perseus losses a couple of first-rate henchmen but still manages to come out… “Ahead”
So, he and what is left of his troop head back to Joppa. Andromeda had to go back early because she had a date she couldn’t miss but would really like to.
They get jumped by Calibos and the last of the extras, plus Perseus’ designated new best friend are killed. Calibos is whacked out but this fight has taken too much out of Perseus. He collapses and begs his robot-owl to find Pegasus and bring him back.
The gods watch him fall and Thetis tells Zeus it is time. He reluctantly orders the release of the Kraken once more. But he slips his son some Olympus Energy Drink when no one is looking and Perseus is ready for action.
We get to see Judi Bowker’s body-double’s butt and then she’s off to get chained to a rock.
The Kraken arrives and I just realized that was the closest Ray Harryhausen came to fulfilling his big dream of animating King Kong. Sure there are differences like the tentacle arms but overall both the Kraken model and the scene it is used in are both pretty close. I’m glad Harryhausen got to have that as his last major motion picture moment. It was indeed memorable.
Perseus arrives in the nick of time. Screws around a bit and gets himself and his horse knocked into the drink. In most of the original myths, Perseus defeats “Cetus” with his magic sword, despite the fact that all of the myths agree that he had a perfectly good, second-hand Gorgon’s head with him at the time.
This version of Perseus spares himself a pointless workout and just zaps the giant monkey-octopus with what is left of Medusa.
There is a brief denouement, where Zeus wraps up a few loose ends and then puts Perseus and company into the stars as constellations. Possibly fulfilling the educational portion of the flick that allowed them to get away with non-sexual nudity.
So, does it hold up?
There are two different films that I can compare this one to. The 2010 version of Clash of the Titans and Jason and the Argonauts.
The 2010 version had modern special effects, modern lighting tricks, and contemporary high speed action scenes. However, it also had a malignantly atheist meta-context, Hades is the bad guy (despite being the only god that never shirked his duties), a Calibos-Acrisius combination that simply did not work. Perseus was an annoying anti-hero and he got the wrong girl because Andromeda was white. Liam Neeson’s “release the Kraken” was nowhere near as good as Olivier’s. The computer effects had no charm whatsoever. The music wasn’t half as good and I would rather be dragged over five miles of coarse sandpaper and be sprayed with lemon juice rather than watch it again.
Yeah. It. Sucked.
Jason and the Argonauts is more in Clash’s league. It is a Ray Harryhausen movie for a start and that means it has charm. It has the same sentimental affection from the same generations of men who were once boys. Harryhausen’s effects weren’t quite as big or refined. However, the actors were actually trying to earn their paychecks. The music was just as good and the dialog was better.
Secret Evil King: When your father’s kingdom fell, no man fought harder than I.
In some ways, Jason scores over the newer work but in the end, you are likely to feel the same sentiment for both movies if you are the right age. Both speak of Saturday afternoons in front of a CRT television that wasn’t high res enough to shackle the imagination with a bag of Fritos at your side and a limitless world in front of you.
If you are of the right age, then, yes. It holds up.