Directed By: Desmond Davis
Starring: Laurence Olivier, Harry Hamlin, Claire Bloom
Tag line: "An Epic Entertainment Spectacular!"
Trivia: This big budget 1981 release became the last feature film for which Ray Harryhausen created the special effects
Knighted in 1947 for his contributions to stage and screen, Laurence Olivier was a performer of impeccable taste and charm, having conquered Shakespeare time and again with his portrayal of such legendary characters as Hamlet, King Richard III, Othello and Shylock just to name a few. But for a kid growing up in the '80s, Sir Laurence will always be Zeus, the ruler of Olympus and chief of the Greek Gods. It's a role he took on in 1981’s Clash of the Titans, a film also notable for its special effects, created by that master of stop-motion, Ray Harryhausen.
Clash of the Titans transports us to the days of Ancient Greece, a time when the Gods ruled the world from atop Mount Olympus. Perseus (Harry Hamlin), a noble warrior and the son of Zeus (Olivier), falls in love with Andromeda (Judi Bowker), a beautiful princess who is being tormented by her former love, Calibos (Neil McCarthy), a criminal physically deformed by Zeus as punishment for his crimes. Perseus defeats Calibos in battle, yet spares his life in exchange for the Princess’s freedom. But Calibos is also the son of an Olympian; the Goddess Thetis (Maggie Smith), and as revenge for her son's humiliation, she commands that Andromeda be sacrificed to the Kraken, a powerful sea monster, in 30 days time. Only the head of the Gorgon, Medusa, which can turn a man to stone with a single glance, can save Andromeda from a watery grave, and only a hero as mighty as Perseus can deliver it.
Clash of the Titans features some of Harryhausen's most impressive creations, like the Kraken, which destroys the city of Argos in the film's opening scene, and the winged horse Pegasus, which assists Perseus on his adventures. As amazing as these creatures are, however, Harryhausen’s most stunning bit of animation has to be Medusa, the Gorgon with the granite-inducing stare. Having read Greek mythology as a kid, I was familiar with the legend of Medusa, and went into the film with a preconception of what she might look like. Harryhausen's Medusa encompassed everything I had imagined, and much more besides. In his hands, Medusa became a snake-like monster who slithered along the ground, had live asps for hair, and blood so lethal that one drop could burn a hole through solid metal. Being eleven years old when I first saw this movie, I found Harryhausen's depiction of Medusa both fascinating and unsettling.