*1/2 out of ****
If an older film can be considered “dated” – even by those who claim to be film aficionados – then was it really any good to begin with? I asked myself this very thing while watching the original 1981 “Clash of the Titans” and figured that this theory does indeed apply to it and a great number of other films that for whatever reason get recognition from large amounts of viewers. This is basically the kind of film that you had to grow up with to enjoy or appreciate in the slightest; thus leaving everyone else – those who cannot relate to the sweet nostalgia that the movie supposedly evokes – in the dark. “Clash” has been remade recently and not very well from what I can remember; sure, aspects were changed, but if this exact movie were made today, it would have been just as much of a failure. Actually, if someone were to remake the film properly; it would be panned universally by critics. Why? Because just about every last goddamn motherfucking aspect of it feels ancient and wrong.
When the God Zeus (Laurence Oliver) impregnates the King of Argos’s daughter Danae, the latter banishes his child and her own to the open sea in a fancy coffin. When Zeus learns of this, he calls upon Poseidon to summon the Kraken from the depths of the ocean so that it may destroy all of Argos. Meanwhile, Danae and her child Perseus (Harry Hamlin) make it to land, where she raises the boy into adulthood. Perseus does not grow up knowing that he has an incredibly destiny set out for him, and it’s about to unfold before his very eyes. After Calibos (Neil McCarthy), son of Thetis and suitor to the heir of the city Joppa, kills all of Zeus’s flying horses (except for the prolific white pegasis); he puts a curse upon the young man that transforms him into a vile being. Perseus, armed with sacred armor that renders him invisible among other things, goes to try and court the heir with a riddle (which happens to be the ring on the hand of Calibos, which is severed).
What puts the last half of the story in motion is the revelation that Thetis wishes to sacrifice the heir to the Kraken. To prevent her demise, Perseus must set out to find out what can kill the Kraken; since mere mortal men will not do the trick, so he is told. It is a mighty beast, and something otherworldly must be used. Something like the head of the titan Medusa; who lives in an underworld like kingdom where she reigns supreme. Medusa’s blood can also apparently produce gigantic scorpians, which sets up another one of the film’s famous scenes.
To me, the story was far too simplistic. Never are we given a reason to care about these characters or even the protagonist and his quest. Hamlin is mis-cast and therefore his performance seems to be more about the looks than the talent; this is proven by the early lingering shots of his naked chest, which the ladies must have ogled over in his time. Laurence Oliver is good as Zeus, but he’s clearly in the wrong movie (given that nobody else is as dedicated to delivering a solid performance as he is). Alas, the film does have its pleasures: the Medusa sequence is exciting, Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion effects were impressive for their time and still hold up nicely for what they are, and the sets are impressive looking. But that doesn’t hide from the fact that “Clash of the Titans” has mainstream intentions on its mind, and I don’t like that it’s selling itself off as something that it’s not: genuine entertainment.
The whole thing kind of feels a little like “Star Wars”, although that was probably the intent of the filmmakers given how popular those films were (although only the first had been released prior to “Clash”). Throw in some Greek mythology and bring down the intelligence to the lowest level possible, and you’ve got this movie in a nutshell. Sadly, George Lucas – love him or hate him – made better movies than this. Here, Desmond Davis’s direction is sloppy and unsure of where to take the story. For all the walking and talking, the film never feels like it is really moving. I guess that explains why Davis didn’t get much work afterwards; because this rotten, brainless, boring piece of shit was fucked before the cameras even started rolling.