Review: “Clash of the Titans (1981)”

As a kid there are many films we fall in love with so much that coming back to them years later you’re either left impressed at how well it held up, or devastated at how bad it was. For me “Clash of the Titans” was the big adventure movie I fell in love with as a young boy.

“Conan”, “Sinbad” even “Jason and the Argonauts” I thought were fine films but never endeared themselves to me the way ‘Clash’ did. In my pre-high school days I had a huge thing for Greek and Egyptian mythology, and the Perseus tale was one of my favourites – combine that with a decent knowledge of the gods and legends in a film filled with exposition that’s discernible only to those familiar with the subject, and you had an adventure carved perfectly for European historical fantasy loving young boys like me.

Now all grown up and looking back, ‘Clash’ is a very dated movie that’s full of too many holes to count, and yet there’s still some admirable stuff here of both a serious and (very) camp nature. Harry Hamlin’s no thespian (his nipples get more screen time than his face in this), but he’s got the look and charm to him that meat-headed clones like The Rock can’t even begin to approach. Bowker holds up well as the babe-a-licious princess with a bit of fire behind her, and Burgess Meredith lends welcome support.

There’s all this talk that a remake of this will omit the Mount Olympus scenes which is a real shame as they’re one of the highlights. A collection of stunning actors as the Greek Gods range from the overbearing Zeus (Laurence Olivier whooping it up) to the radiant Aphrodite (Ursula Andress) and the always delightful Maggie Smith as the scheming Thetis. The clay statue voodoo-esque theme still works quite well and it’ll be a shame to see this go if the remake happens.

Other segments hold up quite well. To this day the seven-minute Medusa sequence remains a fantastic suspense sequence. Harryhausen’s serpentine female creation is benefited by the stop-motion animation to give her a more otherworldly feel, same goes for the creepy Charon the Ferryman and the majestic Pegasus. The scorpion battle, Argos destruction, and the Kraken itself are still exciting set pieces but more in idea than execution. The two-headed dog, the fight with the demonic looking Calibos and some of the earlier action pieces more than ever feel like unnecessary filler which is a shame.

The wonderful orchestral score plays the unforgettable theme tune with resonance at every turn, production values are surprisingly high quality at times, and in the end it remains a great 80’s light fantasy piece. As an objective reviewer I’d probably score this lower than I have but this is one film I can’t really be objective about. Call me corny or cheesy, but this very B-grade effort means a lot to me and that’s one opinion that time and an expanded knowledge of film won’t change.