January 9, 2021

Clash of the Titans (1981)

Clash of the Titans has come up in conversation a couple of times during recent Cocktail Hours, so when Pete proposed the Great Uborka Movie Project of 2021 (still to be properly named), this was my first suggestion. I was ten when it came out, and utterly enthralled by the special effects, the glamour, the sheer beauty of the acting, and so on, and so forth. “It looks like stop-motion animation,” scoffed Bernard, contemptuously, before returning to the game on his phone. Oh my darling, that’s just what it was.

The movie opens on an October day somewhere in Devon, as Danae and the infant Perseus are cast into the sea in a box, to prevent Perseus from fulfilling the prophecy that he will kill his father. More on this later. Action then moves to Olympus, where Laurence Olivier sits upon his goldy throne presiding over some spat between Extremely Minor Sea Goddess Thetis (Maggie Smith in fully towering Prof. McGonegall sternness) and, erm, it’s not entirely clear who is in trouble here. The writer of COTT doesn’t just deviate from the ancient stories, he creates some sort of hideous faux-mythological soup, where the norse Kraken has travelled all the way round the Iberian peninsula and across the Mediterranean, to terrorise various Greek seaside kingdoms; and characters loosely derived from Shakespeare are invented to drive the plot forward.

As Danae breastfeeds baby Perseus (in a position which, in my professional opinion, would be both ineffective and painful), the goddesses fill in the back story: Zeus “visited” Danae disguised as a shower of gold, and she became pregnant with Perseus. This intriguing sex scene is not shown. Zeus therefore has high hopes for Perseus, providing him with a range of enchanted gear, and setting him on his way to the kingdom of Joppa. Here he dons his helmet of invisibility and uses it to watch the princess Andromeda while she sleeps. He observes her disembodied self being kidnapped by a giant bird that closely resembles Professor Yaffle from Bagpuss, which flies jerkily away with her in a cage. This prompts Perseus to capture and tame Pegasus, the last of the jerkily flying horses, so that he can follow Prof. Yaffle to a swampy land. The flight may be jerky, but not a demigodly hair on Perseus’ pretty head is ruffled out of place. He also has the smoothest chest you ever did see, which neither adds to nor detracts from the story.

Despite being the dimmest of the demigods, Perseus wins Andromeda’s hand, leading her mother Cassiopeia to crow that Andromeda is more beautiful than Extremely Minor Sea Goddess Thetis, who is pissed off by this and demands Andromeda’s sacrifice. She can only be saved by dim demigod Perseus and his magic jerkily flying horse, but lo! the jerkily flying horse has jerkily flown away. He sets off on an ordinary horse, with Andromeda, who has donned her smartest pastel pink travelling outfit in order to accompany him to the cave of the cannibalistic one-eyed witches who will be able to tell him what to do. She then returns home in order to be sacrificed as promised to Extremely Minor Sea Goddess Thetis, while dim demigod Perseus continues on his way via the river Styx, past the two-headed three-headed dog Cerberus, to slay the Gorgon Medusa.

A special mention must be made at this point of the armoured owl Bubo, or R2D2-lite, a movie creature so embarrassing that I almost forgave Jar-Jar Binks his existence. Inevitably dim demigod Perseus addresses what was originally the apparently multi-lingual owl of Athena as “my little friend,” which strikes me as impertinent.

By the end of this terrible movie, the story has been mucked about with like a chocolate chip wensleydale cheese, proving how wrong I was that it should be included in the Films Uborka Could Kiss Project. I mentioned that Danae and Perseus were cast adrift because of the prophecy that he would kill his father; in fact this prophecy isn’t mentioned at the start of the film, and doesn’t conclude it either. It baffles me that a perfectly good adventure slash love story with a neat ending should be so mangled, even before we get to the Terry Gilliam-style animation of Maggie Smith’s head, or indeed the fact that there aren’t any Titans in it at all, and they don’t clash.

I conclude with Pete’s assessment that the second film in our project is “the worst shite you’ve ever seen.” We should probably have watched The Shawshank Redemption, as he suggested. I hate it when he is right.

Karen

1 thought on “Clash of the Titans (1981)

  1. This review is brilliant. Suddenly I no longer care about the crapness of the film.

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