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Clash of the Titans (1981)

Reviewed by Tom Ender

"An Epic Entertainment Spectacular!"

Most movies I recommend have a distinctively individualist theme or plot. That may seem less true of this movie, although in some respects it still applies. However, this movie was the last large scale production of a man who has become a legend in films: Ray Harryhausen.

During his career Harryhausen's name became synonymous with outstanding special effects and also timeless stories of adventure. This movie has both great effects and adventure. Released at a time when others who had been inspired when young by Harryhausen's movies began to make their film presence felt, it may represent a passing of the baton to them.

The classic mythological tale of Perseus and Andromeda provides the basis for the movie's story. In addition to the mortal humans, Greek deities and demigods have major roles. The story begins on a seashore where King Acrisius (Donald Houston) sets his daughter Danae (Vida Taylor) and her infant son adrift in a floating sealed “boat.”

The camera follows a seabird which flies to Mt. Olympus. Arriving, the bird transforms to Poseidon (Jack Gwillim), who informs Zeus (Laurence Olivier) that he has rescued Danae and her son. Zeus decides that King Acrisius must be punished for his action and has Poseidon send a giant sea monster - the Kraken – to destroy Acrisius and his city.

During the discussions among the gods on Olympus, we hear that Zeus has sired Danae's son Perseus. The other gods and goddesses: Hera (Claire Bloom), Thetis (Maggie Smith), Aphrodite (Ursula Andress), Athena (Susan Fleetwood) speak of Zeus and his affairs (except for the seemingly taciturn Hephaestus (Pat Roach)). As a favored son of Zeus, Perseus (Harry Hamlin) grows to adulthood living a peaceful and quiet life.  That changes with the godly invention of Thetis, who transports him while he dozes to a distant city where he wakes not knowing his surroundings.

Being a resourceful and lucky young man, Perseus meets a valuable new friend Ammon (Burgess Meredith). When Zeus discovers the mischief done to his favored offspring he commands that Perseus be outfitted with accessories suitable to his standing with Olympus. The other gods supply Perseus with a magnificent sword and shield along with a magical helmet which makes the wearer invisible. After Perseus discovers his gifts, Ammon tells him the tale of Andromeda.

The daughter of Queen Cassiopeia (Siân Phillips), Princess Andromeda (Judi Bowker) had planned to marry Calibos (Neil McCarthy) the son of Thetis. However, in his displeasure with her son, Zeus changed Calibos into a monster. Horrified by the monstrous Calibos, Andromeda would not marry him. However, suitors for the beautiful Andromeda do not have an easy time due to a curse Calibos has placed on the city. Donning his magic helmet, Perseus gains access to the palace, sees Andromeda, falls in love with her and also discovers she needs his help.

Clash of the Titans features a beautiful princess in distress, a triplet of blind and oracular witches, horrible monsters, magical beasts and a central character on a heroic quest. Those particulars form a good foundation for both showing outstanding special effects and telling a timeless adventure. This film provides good entertainment. Although many films I recommend may not appeal to the younger set, I expect that Clash of the Titans will appeal to people of all ages.   

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