Retro Movie Review: Clash of the Titans (1981)

Genre: Action | Adventure | Family | Fantasy

Director: Desmond Davis

Writer: Beverley Cross

Cast: Laurence Olivier, Claire Bloom, Maggie Smith, Ursula Andress, Jack Gwillim, Susan Fleetwood, Pat Roach, Harry Hamlin, Judi Bowker, Burgess Meredith

MPAA Rating: PG

Summary: By answering a seemingly impossible riddle, Perseus, the son of Zeus, wins the hand of the Princess Andromeda in marriage. Trouble appears in the shape of Calibos, the princess’s former love, and his mother, the Goddess Thetis. In order that the dreaded Kraken not be released, Andromeda has to be sacrificed and Perseus searches for the Medusa; her head is the only thing that can stop the Kraken.

Run Time: 118 Minutes + 5 Minute Sneak Peek

View The Trailer HERE

Warner Bros. was kind enough to provide me with the opportunity to download the original Clash of the Titans on iTunes, and not only did I get the full length film but a full 5 minute sneak peek of the upcoming Clash of the Titans remake as well. I know that you may be thinking that the five minutes provided is probably everything that has been online for months all cobbled together, and I can assure you that it is not (I had that same worry). The sneak peek includes quite a bit of unseen footage from the finished film, along with a detailed, behind the scenes look at both the creation of Medusa and The Kraken. The behind the scenes material includes interviews with the animation supervisors (Max Solomon & Greg Fisher), visual effects supervisors (Tim Webber & Gary Brozenich), lead modeler (Scott Eaton), and of course the main cast and director Louis Leterrier. The sneak peek is fantastic and packs a lot of new stuff into a mere 5 minutes.

I also have to mention that I found the download experience through iTunes both a simple, and quick process for an immensely high quality cut of the film in H.264 Widescreen. I simply logged into my iTunes account, clicked on the movie and while it downloaded I grabbed a snack, returned to my computer and it was ready to go. Even at 1.35 GB in size, it only took about 12 minutes to download via high-speed connection. I honestly can’t remember ever seeing the original Clash of the Titans in such high quality and I was quite pleased.

Now, on to the film; 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 the original Clash of the Titans will never go down in history as one of the ‘greats’, it has a certain kitschy, campy, cult classic quality that can’t be ignored. Part of that quality, and the high point of the film itself is no doubt, Ray Harryhausen‘s visual effects. At the time, Harryhausen’s old-fashioned stop-motion animation reached new heights with Clash of the Titans. Re-watching this film after so many years, made me realize the giant leap for mankind that visual effects have taken in the last 29 years, both practical effects and CGI are light years from their humble beginnings.

Desmond Davis‘ directing, in addition to a cast who at times over-act or have the personality of wallpaper, make this film seem to drag on a bit in places. Though Watching Sir Laurence Olivier, who plays Zeus, and a young Maggie Smith (Professor McGonagall in the Harry Potter series), who plays Thetis in a verbal spat is one of the exceptions, and is a joy to watch. Burgess Meredith (Rocky), whom I’d completely forgotten was in this movie did a fairly stellar job playing Ammon, a playwright and poet who befriends Perseus in his quest. Harry Hamlin (Perseus) does a fairly decent job, and seems to make an attempt to bring some energy to his role, however I think he and the rest of the cast may have been much more hampered by Beverly Cross’ screenplay than they were by their acting ability.

The other gods in the film are Claire Bloom as Hera, Zeus’s long-suffering wife; Ursula Andress as Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty; and Susan Fleetwood as Athena, goddess of wisdom, fertility, the useful arts, and prudent warfare, and Jack Gwillim as Poseidon. These gods have such limited dialogue in the film, you really aren’t left with much to judge.

To this day, the stars of the film are Harryhausen’s creations. the mechanical owl, Bubo; the two-headed dog, Dioskilos; the snake-headed, Medusa; the Pegasus; the giant scorpions; and of course the famous monster known as The Kraken.

One last note for all of you film score buffs, the score by composer Lawrence Rosenthal not only holds up after all these years but was very reminiscent of some fantastic scores of recent memory, including the Harry Potter Films, and the Lord of The Rings trilogy – it’s very sweeping and epic and doesn’t seem anywhere near as dated as the rest of the film.

Check out my ratings below, and if you want to check out this downloadable version with the sneak peek footage for yourself, visit [Link opens in iTunes]

I Give The Sneak Peek of the NEW Clash of the Titans Five Out Of Five Stars

I Give The iTunes Download Experience Five Out Of Five Stars

I Give CLASH OF THE TITANS (1981) Three Out Of Five Stars

Jason Moore
Written by Jason Moore

is a member of the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films and the Founder/Editor In Chief of SciFi Mafia®