Clash of the Titans (1981)

Desmond Davis directs Harry Hamlin, Judi Bowker and Laurence Olivier in this fantasy adventure where the Greek Gods watch Perseus track down Medusa to stop the Kraken from devouring his paramour.

Like Star Wars or Flash Gordon, this was a mainstay of my Hanwell childhood. A VHS perennial that exists better in my memory than as a revisit. What this viewing was missing was the shit brown corduroy sofa that stiffly sat in my parents’ first house, an orange Club bar wrapped in foil. It is very slow, in no rush to start the action. 40 minutes of dawdling set-up. Which is a shame as the eventual creature design is excellent and abundant. The plot essentially (after a lot of humming and ha-ing) is a join the dots exercise, the dots being another new hideous beast to meet and survive. Calibos is a brutal warped devil. His pitiful expressions and snarling anger, his pathetic lust and domineering control. I forgot what a petulantly effective villain he was… they should have seeded him throughout the narrative more. The blind Stygian Witches are played for laughs but their cannibal cauldron and all seeing crystal were formative movie horror imagery for young Bob Carroll. Medusa is a top tier fearful foe, that Harryhausen claymation reaching its evil pinnacle. The unsettling rattle of her tail, the glowing radioactive green of her eyes. Perseus entering her lair is one of the finest protracted suspense sequences ever committed to screen. It makes up for all the first act hamming and exposition. She is a devastating threat and we are on her home turf surrounded by the statues of fallen heroes who thought they could slay her. Massive scorpions. Race on Pegasus to beat the Kraken. Medusa’s horrifying final gaze. Green lasers bursting out at us. Titans is creaky, dated and wobbly. The acting is wooden and non-committal. It cannot hold a candle to predecessor Jason and the Argonauts. Yet it is embedded deep in my blockbuster primordial ooze. A yardstick from which all summer releases are measured.

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