Combustible Celluloid
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With: Laurence Olivier, Claire Bloom, Maggie Smith, Ursula Andress, Jack Gwillim, Susan Fleetwood, Pat Roach, Harry Hamlin, Judi Bowker, Burgess Meredith, Sian Phillips, Flora Robson, Anna Manahan, Freda Jackson, Tim Pigott-Smith
Written by: Beverley Cross
Directed by: Desmond Davis
MPAA Rating: PG
Running Time: 118
Date: 06/12/1981

Clash of the Titans (1981)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

'Clash' in the Pan

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Perseus (Harry Hamlin), the moral son of Zeus, goes on a quest designed and directed by Zeus (Laurence Olivier). The angry goddess Thetis (Maggie Smith) tries to hinder his path. He must solve a riddle and win the hand of the beautiful Andromeda (Judi Bowker) and defeat her former betrothed Calibos, who has been turned into a monster. With the help of the poet Ammon (Burgess Meredith) and a robot owl, Perseus must also catch and tame the winged horse Pegasus, overcome some giant scorpions, and behead the evil Medusa, all in an attempt to stop his new bride from being sacrificed to the giant creature known as the Kraken.

Though Clash of the Titans can hardly be called a good movie, it has a certain quality -- a combination of camp and nostalgia -- that makes it appealing. Ray Harryhausen's visual effects were, and still are, the high point. His old-fashioned stop-motion animation reached a new complexity here, though some of it obviously works better than the rest. A "cute" little robot owl is all too clearly an attempt to copy Star Wars. But the Medusa sequence, especially, is a delightful standout.

And certainly the original mythology is interesting as well. But Desmond Davis' direction lies somewhere between wooden and leaden, the young cast is pretty and vacant, and the veterans, including Laurence Olivier, Maggie Smith, and Claire Bloom, look bewildered and bored. It all goes on far too long, but the underlying themes of the original story are intact and leave some food for thought, even today.

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