Clash of the Titans (1981)

(On DVD, August 2017) Special-effects-based fantasy blockbuster movies aren’t anything new. They’re far more common nowadays due to various economic factors, but Ray Harryhausen’s career is a long list of striking pre-CGI fantasy blockbusters. Clash of the Titans is the last movie he worked on, and it remains a worthwhile film even today. It’s certainly not perfect, especially from a contemporary perspective: the tone has a mock grandiloquent style that is now more funny than impressive. The special effects, as numerous and sophisticated as they were at the time, are clearly limited in their effectiveness. The pacing occasionally flags, the actors often seem ill-suited for their roles and the limitations of special effects introduce some very weird constraints when it comes to editing and continuity. We have, in short, seen much better in the thirty-five years since then. But what Clash of the Titans still have is, for lack of a better word, charm. Its arch leaden dialogue, creaky special effects and earnest performances by some old-guard legends don’t work in the conventional sense but create a fuzzy aura around the film that makes it hard to criticize seriously. Partially aimed at kids (as shown by the too-cute mechanical owl), Clash of the Titans did leave a mark—I don’t recall seeing it as an entire movie, but I recall seeing bits and pieces of it in class as part of Greek Mythology lessons back in the late eighties. It may be worth watching it on purely conventional grounds now that better examples of the form exist (starting with the decent remake), we’re free to appreciate the original as its own thing. Release the kraken!

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