February 10, 2019

Clash of the Titans (1981)

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Those kooky ancient Greeks! What with their Krakens and Gorgonses and Pegasuseses and gods for every occasion, it's not hard to imagine why they came up with such oddball stories about why stuff happened. And it was only a matter of time before Hollywood got their hands on these stories and made something that, if you step back and squint really hard, might somewhat resemble something vaguely similar to the established Greek mythology.

Which brings us to this episode's movie, 1981's Clash of the Titans...A film that boldly calls Burgess Meredith a philosopher and a poet, and puts Harry Hamlin in a miniskirt!

Hamlin plays Perseus, the bastard child of the god Zeus (Sir Laurence Olivier). When Acrisius of Argos (Donald Houston) has his daughter Danaë and her newborn son Perseus stuffed in a wooden box and shoved into the sea, Zeus kills Acrisius and sics the Kraken on Argos to destroy it.

The biggest jerks around.
Danaë and Perseus end up having floated to the island of Seriphos, where Perseus grows into the slope-foreheaded young man he was destined to be.

Calibos (Neil McCarthy), the son of sea goddess Thetis (Dame Maggie Smith), is working some sort of deal to be engaged to Andromeda (Judi Bowker), daughter of Cassiopeia (Siân Phillips), Queen of Joppa. However, Calibos pisses-off Zeus, who transforms him into what appears to be a wolfman with an afro. This is never fully explained. For revenge, Thetis transports Perseus to an amphitheater in Joppa, where he meets Ammon (Burgess Meredith), the aforementioned philosopher and poet. He tells Perseus about Andromeda, who is apparently under a curse from Calibos, and cannot marry unless the prospective groom answers a riddle that Calibos feeds her. If they get the answer wrong, they are barbecued in the town square. (You know, as one does to make sure nobody hears the same riddle twice...?)

Total jerk.
Suitably ticked-off about Thetis pulling a stunt without giving him a heads-up, Zeus Has the other gods make some stuff for Perseus to defend himself and impress Andromeda. Hera (Clair Bloom) makes a shield for him, Athena (Susan Fleetwood) gives him a helmet that makes its wearer invisible, and Aphrodite (Ursula Andress) gives him a magical sword that can cut fake cinder blocks in half. As a test run, Perseus uses the helmet to catch a Pegasus and goes into Joppa, where he discovers that Calibos has a giant vulture that picks Andromeda up at night (her spirit, actually) and takes her to his cave, where he gives her the next riddle. Perseus is almost captured by Calibos, but he puts up a good fight and manages to cut off Calibos' hand, which he takes back to Joppa. He does, however, manage to lose his shiny new helmet in the process.

The next morning, Perseus and Ammon go to Joppa so Perseus can ask for Andromeda's hand in marriage, because things were, apparently, much easier back then -- no long, drawn-out periods of dating; just jumping right into the marriage with both feet. He correctly answers the riddle, and a wedding is set. Calibos, meanwhile, wants revenge, but Thetis cannot act against Andromeda, so she uses a loophole and interrupts the wedding after Cassiopeia compares Andromeda's beauty to that of Thetis. Thetis demands that Andromeda is sacrificed to the Kraken. If Cassiopeia doesn't do it, the entire city of Joppa will be destroyed. Unwilling to have his soon-to-be new wife eaten by an ocean monster, Perseus and his team (Ammon, plus a couple of military dudes from Joppa) hatch a plan to find out how to kill the Kraken. Before they can leave, however, the Pegasus is stolen by Calibos and his Geico Caveman knockoff henchmen.

Also a jerk.
Setting off with a plan to find the Stygian Witches (Flora Robson, Anna Manahan and Freda Jackson), who can tell them how to stop the Kraken, Perseus, Ammon, Andromeda and the soldiers head out on slower, non-flying horses.

Zeus discovers that Perseus lost his helmet (kids these days!), so he tells Athena to send her owl Bubo to Perseus, but she doesn't want to give it up. Instead, she has Hephaestus build a mechanical version and sends that, and it leads Perseus to the Stygian Witches.

Not jerks.
Perseus has to steal the one magic eye the three blind witches use between them in order to get them to answer his question about defeating the Kraken. When he promises to give it back, they tell him he must find Medusa, the Gorgon, whose stare -- alive or dead -- can turn anything that looks back at it into stone. If he can get Medusa's head, he can use it against the Kraken.

With this new information in hand, Perseus sends Ammon and Andromeda back to Joppa because he feels the next part of the journey will be too dangerous for them to follow. After some protesting, they agree. Perseus and the others, meanwhile, call the ferry to take them across the River Styx, which will bring them to the Gorgon's lair.

Upon landing on the island, the group is attacked by Dioskilos, a two-headed dog that acts as Medusa's guardian. Perseus kills it, and the group proceeds into the abandoned temple in which Medusa lives, warning the others to not look her in the eye if they see her, and that they should instead use the reflection on the inside of their shields. Of course, this is almost immediately forgotten when they encounter her, as one of the men is killed whens he shoots him with an arrow, and the other turns and looks directly at her, which, as promised, makes him an instant statue. Perseus, however, has remained hidden and, managing to snag his shield on the stone body of one of Medusa's previous victims, catches her attention. But when she approaches to attack, he lops her head off with his magic sword, throws her head in a bag, and gets out of Dodge. Now all has to do is rest a bit, and then get back to Joppa as quickly as possible.

Jerkiest of jerks.
The "rest" part is interrupted when Calibos sneaks into their camp, pokes some holes in Medusa's severed head, and causes giant scorpions to grow and attack Perseus and his few remaining men. After much fighting, Calibos and the scorpions are killed, as are the rest of the men who accompanied Perseus. Straight-up worn out from battle, Perseus sends Bubo to rescue the Pegasus from Calibos. Not only does Bubo manage to do that, but he also fights the giant vulture and causes it to set Calibos' castle on fire, burning it to the ground.

Back in Joppa, it is the longest day of the year, which also happens to be Kraken Sacrifice Day, so Andromeda is super-hoping Perseus gets there soon. But will he? Will he also manage to defeat the Kraken with Medusa's head, despite his inability to untie what appears to be a pretty simple knot? Will he and Andromeda be married? or will it degenerate into a West Side Story-style knife fight? Also, when will Bubo get a spin-off movie of his own?

You'll have to tune in to find out! (Except for the last one; sadly, that's never going to happen.)

Jake loves this movie for the same reasons he did when he first saw it as a child: Fun story, silly acting, and amazing Ray Harryhausen stop-motion visuals. Really, when you have those things, what more do you need? Love. You need love. And water. Probably food, too.

Derek also loves this, but now views it with the jaundiced eye of a man who has seen some godawful movies, and recognizes this for what it is. And what it is, is a fun movie with vague connections to Greek mythology and some bitchen visual effects courtesy of the greatest stop-motion director of all time.

So gather up your sword and helmet, put on some kicky sandals, wind your owl, and check out this week's episode!

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