Zeus (Laurence Olivier) isn’t a happy chap when he discovers that King Acrisius has cast his daughter out to sea. His fury leads to Poseidon releasing the Kraken and bringing about the end of Argos, limited only by the instruction that the son of Zeus, borne to Acrisius’ daughter, be unharmed.
Demolished Argos, complete with death and destruction, gives way to a montage in which young Perseus goes from weak little boy to strapping Harry Hamlin in a matter of moments. Zeus is happy
about this, until Thetis (a youthful Maggie Smith) mentions her son, Calibos, who is a bit of a tearaway. Zeus decides to punish Calibos by turning him into a mockery of mankind, forcing him to live in the forests as an outcast.
Thetis isn’t too happy about how things have turned out, so decides to transport Perseus to the kingdom of Joppa to teach Zeus a lesson. In Joppa, Perseus befriends Ammon, the playwright, who informs him that Joppa is under a curse.
Zeus finds out what has happened to his favourite son and, being the King of the Gods, is unable to do anything about it, so he instructs his fellow Gods (well, Goddesses) to give him some quality weapons, a sword, a shield and a helmet, all of which he’ll be able to use ‘when the time comes’.
Whilst wandering through Joppa, Perseus learns that Andromeda is seeking a suitor, having lost her beloved Calibos. Suitors that don’t make the cut by solving a riddle gets burnt at the stake, something that doesn’t seem to put Perseus off pursuing the most beautiful of all women.
So, Perseus decides to meet Andromeda and, spurred on by his new invisibility helmet, he sneaks into her bedroom and stares at her. As if this behaviour wasn’t weird enough, it turns out that the spirit of Andromeda takes flight each evening in a cage carried by a giant vulture.
With the help of Pegasus, Perseus follows the spirit of Andromeda, landing in the swamps where Calibos lives with his group of fellow outcasts. Calibos has been summoning Andromeda, giving her seemingly impossible riddles for potential suitors, much to her distress. Whilst, Andromeda’s spirit returns home, Perseus is stumbling through the swamps and nearly dies at the hands of Calibos, managing to snatch victory at the last moment.
Spurred on by his new found heroism, Perseus presents himself to Andromeda in the court of Queen Cassiopeia. As everyone looks sombre listening to Andromeda’s words, Perseus does a lot of posturing and posing, before revealing the answer to the riddle and that he defeated Calibos, allowing him to live if the curse were lifted.
Everyone’s happy, Andromeda and Perseus are betrothed to each other and we’re all going to live happily ever after. Except that Calibos isn’t happy, having lost a hand, begging for assistance from his mother, Thetis.
Whilst in the sanctuary of Thetis, Cassiopeia is preaching about her daughter’s beauty, only to be interrupted by Thetis herself, in the form of her fallen statue, demanding that Andromeda be tied to a rock in thirty days time as a sacrifice to The Kraken.
Perseus isn’t going to let this happen and decides to take on The Kraken, without the aid of the Pegasus (captured by Calibos), and his helmet of invisibility (lost in the swamps), escorted by Andromeda (all headstrong), a retinue of soldiers and a robotic owl named Bubo, built by Hephaestus (as Athena wouldn’t hand over the real one).
Many perils lay in Perseus’ path. There’s a mountain to climb, the man-hungry Stygian Sisters with their single eye, who possess the secret of killing The Kraken, and there’s Andromeda to abandon on a hillside without her knowledge.
Travelling across the River Styx, Perseus is attacked by a two headed dog but makes light work of it with the help of his soldiers. Onwards they travel to tackle Medusa, but she’s wily, and Perseus finds himself alone, fighting the snake-haired Gorgon in a tense game of cat-and-mouse.
Emerging victorious, though minus his shield, Perseus takes a few minutes to sleep, except Calibos has other plans, unleashing an army of giant scorpions borne from the blood of Medusa, before driving away the horses that would carry our heroes to freedom. Whilst battling the scorpions, more men die and Perseus faces Calibos for the final time.
Things are, by now, looking pretty bleak, but Bubo is on hand to locate Pegasus, swooping in to rescue him from Calibos’ henchmen, all of whom are pretty scared as they’ve probably never seen a robotic owl before. Even the giant vulture is no match for the little golden owl who manages to set the whole swamp lair on fire before rescuing the flying horse.
As if things weren’t bad enough, Cassiopeia is getting ready to sacrifice her daughter to The Kraken, unaware of what weary and wounded hero has been up to. As Andromeda is bound to the rock, Perseus swoops from the sky aboard Pegasus, ready to take on the mighty Kraken with the help of the head of Medusa and Bubo the owl.
As we all live happily ever after, the Gods reflect on their decisions and the future of mankind and the need for Gods. Zeus immortalises the characters in the night sky, telling us that they’ll be remembered as long as man walks the earth.
Just like this review, it’s a lengthy film filled with plenty of rambling dialogue. Unlike this review, the film is broken up by some really quite impressive action sequences. The fight with Medusa, the far too short Kraken confrontation, the scorpion attack, and the scenes with Calibos all make the film worth watching.
Hamlin’s main job is to look heroic and handsome, with his chest out. He manages this with ease, even throwing in a good dose of looking confused. Burgess Meredith is wonderfully cast as the elderly Ammon, and there’s excellent support from Maggie Smith, Ursula Andress and Siân Phillips as goddesses and a queen, respectively. Laurence Olivier is perfect as the tyrannical Zeus.
The real star of the film has to be Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion animated menagerie of beasts, which all look fantastic. Medusa, snake-bodied with flowing snake-hair, is amazing as it slithers around, wielding a bow and arrow whilst stalking Perseus. The same goes for The Kraken, Pegasus and even Bubo the owl. This was Harryhausen’s last movie, as the world of film moved from stop-motion to more sophisticated methods of special effects.
What really lets the film down, especially seen in a modern format, are the endless scenes of blue screen. In the opening sequence, model structures are swept away by water, with actors added to the scene later. The actors appear to have been filmed on better quality stock than the models, so it looks a bit odd, to say the least.
Whilst not a terrible transfer, the Blu-ray does suffer from looking a bit flat and from grain and flicker, most obvious in the scenes on Olympus. The film doesn’t lack bitrate, often in excess of 35Mbps. It’s a real shame that more couldn’t be done with the quality of the transfer.
The film is still a fun fantasy flick, though it is quite dialogue heavy, which makes the 118 minute runtime seem even longer, especially given a lacklustre performance from Hamlin and not enough for the other characters to do. The stop-motion sequences are still impressive, though some of the other special effects are a disappointment.
‘Clash of the Titans Sneak Peek’ provides a five minute look into the 2010 version of the film, including lots on the SFX work that went into creating Medusa and The Kraken.
‘A Conversation With Ray Harryhausen’ lasts twelve minutes and is presented in standard definition. It covers his love of fantasy, the construction of the stop-motion sequences,and how his career led to his work on Titans. He talks about the casting and filming, however, the length of the feature is far too short to go into depth, though does show Harryhausen’s passion for his art.
Seven short, standard definition featurettes show Harryhausen’s inspiration and work on individual characters: Calibos (and how the actor was made to look like the model), Pegasus (and his decision to make it seem more likely to fly), Bubo (and the decision to make it a mechanical owl), Scorpions (and… errr… their inclusion in the film), Medusa (and the decision to make her appear hideous), The Kraken (and the various models that were made along with the design decisions), Dioskilos (and how they animated the two headed dog that should have been three headed.) There are brief looks at the modelling and animation process, but nothing really indepth.
Overall, the features are interesting, but disappointingly too short, especially considering the sheer amount of work that goes into stop-motion animation.
Clash Of The Titans is out now on Blu-ray and available from the Den Of Geek Store.