- Movie Rating -

Clash of the Titans (1981)

| June 12, 1981

It is perhaps a credit to the great animator Ray Harryhausen that in the age of Star Wars, his brand of special effects can still dazzle us.  Perhaps it is because we can see the work.  He takes tiny scale models and moves them one-quarter of an inch and photographs them one frame at a time in order to create the illusion of motion.  You know it as stop-motion.  But why does it endure.  Why is his work still relevant in the days of optical illusions and full-scale models?  How does he stay relevant in an age when an X-Wing fighter can whiz by at breakneck speed and really seem to exist?

Perhaps, once again, because we can see the work involved.   We know that Harryhausen has spent hours, days, weeks in his workshop getting the shots right and his illusion of movement is strange and effective.  There’s a herky-jerky quality to the ways in which his creatures move that somehow feels more real than many polished special effects.

It also says something that he is the real star of Clash of the Titans, a retelling of the story of Persis, the son of Zeus who battles and assortment of stop-motion creatures great and small in order to rescue the beautiful Princess Andromeda.  Harryhausen’s work is the star in a movie that includes Laurence Olivier, Maggie Smith, Clair Bloom, Ursula Andress and Burgess Meredith.

Recalling perhaps the great stone-faced historical epics of the past, the actors use a flat style of speaking, a very formal manner of addressing one another.  It’s the kind of thing that one might read in a 10th grade reading assignment but if rarely ever works on the screen.  It works for the material and we believe it.  What is not present in the dialogue is present in the visual splendor of the film.  We forgive its flat manner of speaking because the movie is presented so well.

Even more compelling is that this is a movie with a lot of energy, a lot of great action and a great Hero’s Journey as Persis is tasked with traversing the underworld to claim the head of the mighty Medusa, an apparition so horrifying that one look at her ugly mug can turn the average man to stone.  Her presentation is one of the movie’s grand highlights as Persis has to claim her noggin without ever looking at it, and she is presented with a rattle snake tail that simply gives you the creeps.  Sight and sound are important here.

There are many dazzling visual effects in the movie but I must admit one that made me feel the pure joy of movies.  Toward the end of the movie the mighty Kraken comes up out of the water and we first see a hand, a second hand and then a third.  My heart leapt at the moment.  It’s that kind of movie.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1981) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized