Clash of the Titans (1981)


Introduction

Clash of the Titans is a 1981 fantasy adventure film directed by Desmond Davis and written by Beverley Cross which is loosely based on the Greek myth of Perseus.

Refer to Clash of the Titans film series.

Outline

King Acrisius of Argos imprisons his daughter Danaë, jealous of her beauty. When the god Zeus impregnates her, Acrisius banishes his daughter and his newborn grandson Perseus to sea in a wooden chest. In retribution, Zeus kills Acrisius and orders Poseidon to release the last of the Titans, a gigantic sea monster called the Kraken, to destroy Argos. Danaë and Perseus safely float to the island of Seriphos, where Perseus grows to adulthood.

Calibos, the spoiled and rebellious son of the sea goddess Thetis, is betrothed to Princess Andromeda, daughter of Queen Cassiopeia of Joppa; but for committing several atrocities against Zeus, including destroying Zeus’s sacred flying horses (except for Pegasus), Zeus transforms Calibos into a deformed monstrous satyr-like creature. In revenge, Thetis transports an adult Perseus from Seriphos to an abandoned amphitheater in Joppa, where he befriends a soldier, Thallo, and an elderly poet named Ammon and learns that Andromeda is under a curse and cannot marry unless her suitor, upon the threat of execution if he fails, successfully answers a riddle concocted by Calibos. Zeus sends Perseus a god-crafted helmet from Athena which makes its wearer invisible, a magical sword from Aphrodite, and a shield from Hera. Perseus, wearing the helmet, captures Pegasus and follows Calibos’s giant vulture carrying off Andromeda’s spirit during her sleep to learn the next riddle. Perseus is discovered and nearly killed by Calibos, but manages to sever one of Calibos’s hands, losing his helmet in the process.

The next morning, Perseus presents himself as the next husband to be and correctly answers the riddle, winning Andromeda’s hand in marriage. Finding that Thetis cannot act against Perseus, Calibos instead demands that she take vengeance on Joppa. At the wedding in Thetis’ temple, Queen Cassiopeia declares Andromeda’s beauty greater than that of Thetis herself, whereupon an earthquake shakes the temple, causing the head of the statue of Thetis to break off and crash to the floor. Thetis, using the statue’s head to speak through, demands Andromeda be sacrificed to the Kraken on pain of Joppa’s destruction. Perseus seeks a way to defeat the Kraken, but Pegasus is captured by Calibos and his men. Zeus commands Athena to give Perseus her owl Bubo, but instead she orders Hephaestus to build a golden replica of Bubo, who leads Perseus, Andromeda, Ammon, Thallo and some soldiers to the Stygian Witches. By taking their magic eye, Perseus forces them to reveal that the only way to defeat the Kraken is by using the head of the gorgon Medusa, whose gaze can turn any living thing into stone, and who lives on an island in the River Styx at the edge of the Underworld. The next day, the group continues on their journey without Andromeda and Ammon, who return to Joppa.

On the Gorgon’s island, most of Perseus’ men are killed. Perseus fights and kills Medusa’s guardian, a two-headed dog named Dioskilos. Perseus then enters the Gorgon’s lair, where he uses the reflective underside of his shield to deceive Medusa, decapitate her, and collect her head; but the shield is dissolved by her caustic blood. As Perseus and his party set to return, Calibos enters their camp and punctures the cloak carrying Medusa’s head, causing her blood to spill and produce three giant scorpions. Calibos and the scorpions attack and kill Perseus’s remaining escorts, including Thallo, whose death Perseus mourns. Perseus overcomes the scorpions and thereafter kills Calibos.

Weakened by his struggle, Perseus sends Bubo to rescue Pegasus from Calibos’s henchmen and reaches the amphitheatre in Joppa, where he collapses from exhaustion. Andromeda is shackled to the sea cliffs outside Joppa, and the Kraken itself is summoned. Bubo diverts the Kraken’s attention until Perseus, whose strength was secretly restored by Zeus, appears on Pegasus. In the subsequent battle, Perseus petrifies the Kraken with Medusa’s head, causing it to crumble to pieces. He then tosses the head into the sea, frees Andromeda, and marries her.

The gods predict that Perseus and Andromeda will live happily, rule wisely, and produce children, and Zeus forbids the other gods to pursue vengeance against them. The constellations of Perseus, Andromeda, Pegasus and Cassiopeia are created in their honour.

Cast

  • Harry Hamlin as Perseus.
  • Judi Bowker as Andromeda.
  • Burgess Meredith as Ammon.
  • Maggie Smith as Thetis.
  • Siân Phillips as Cassiopeia.
  • Claire Bloom as Hera.
  • Ursula Andress as Aphrodite.
  • Laurence Olivier as Zeus.
  • Pat Roach as Hephaestus.
  • Susan Fleetwood as Athena.
  • Tim Pigott-Smith as Thallo.
  • Jack Gwillim as Poseidon.
  • Neil McCarthy as Calibos.
  • Vida Taylor as Danaë.
  • Donald Houston as Acrisius.
  • Flora Robson, Anna Manahan and Freda Jackson as the Stygian Witches.

Production

The film was the idea of writer Beverley Cross. In 1978, Andor Films submitted a copy of the script to the British Board of Film Classification, seeking advice on how to secure either a “U” or an “A” certificate. The draft script included scenes which the BBFC considered would not be acceptable under those certificates, including the Kraken tearing Pegasus to pieces and Andromeda appearing naked during the climax of the film. Changes to the script and, on submission, some cuts to Perseus’s final battle with Calibos were made and the film secured the “A” certificate: “Those aged 5 and older admitted, but not recommended for children under 14 years of age”.

Ray Harryhausen used stop-motion animation to create the various creatures in the film, including Calibos, his vulture, Pegasus, Bubo the mechanical owl, Dioskilos, Medusa, the scorpions and the Kraken. Harryhausen was also co-producer of the film, and retired from film-making shortly after it was released. Despite Bubo’s similarities to the droid R2-D2 of the 1977 film Star Wars, Harryhausen claimed Bubo was created before Star Wars was released. The BBFC, reviewing the film for certification in 1981, said Harryhausen’s effects were well done and would give entertainment to audiences of all ages, but might appear a little “old hat” to those familiar with Star Wars and Superman.

Columbia Pictures were initially set to distribute the film having made most of Harryhausen and producer Charles H. Schneer’s films, but after a change of guard at the studio, they dropped the project during pre-production, saying it was too expensive. Schneer took it to Orion Pictures who insisted on Arnold Schwarzenegger playing the lead but the producer refused as the role involved too much dialogue. He then tried Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer who agreed to finance. “They loved the material, they loved the picture, and they were wonderful to us,” said Schneer. “As I put the film together and the castings came up, they approved the additional castings and added that expense to the budget.”

Schneer deliberately sought better known actors to play the Gods in order to improve the film’s chances at the box office. “If we had played this picture with no recognised actors it might be assumed to be what it isn’t. It might suffer the fate of an Italian Western.” The scenes involving the Gods only took eight days. Claire Bloom said she only agreed to make it “because I was told Olivier was doing it and it only lasts a week.”

MGM overruled Schneer’s choice of John Gielgud to portray the playwright Ammon, and asked for Burgess Meredith to be cast instead. “I saw the sense in that,” said Schneer. “They preferred an American actor. They didn’t want the public to think it was totally an English picture.”

Schneer picked Desmond Davis to direct in part because Davis had made several BBC Shakespeare films and he wanted someone with experience dealing with Shakespearean actors.

Stars Harry Hamlin and Ursula Andress were romantically involved at the time of production. Their son, Dimitri, was born in 1980 after filming was completed, and their relationship ended in 1983.

Jack Gwillim, who appeared as Poseidon, had earlier played the role of King Aeëtes in the original Jason and the Argonauts in 1963.

The film’s screenwriter, Beverley Cross, was married to Maggie Smith, who played Thetis, until his death in 1998. Cross worked with producer Charles H. Schneer before, writing the screenplay for Schneer’s production of Jason and the Argonauts.

Locations

  • The karst area in El Torcal de Antequera, Spain appears in the visit to the Stygian witches.
  • The Azure Window in Gozo, Malta, appears in the battle against the Kraken.
  • Cornwall, United Kingdom.
  • The Albert R. Broccoli 007 Stage, at Pinewood Studios, United Kingdom.
  • Paestum, Italy.

Release

Clash of the Titans was released on 12 June 1981 and grossed $6,565,347 from 1,127 theatres in its opening weekend, second behind Raiders of the Lost Ark at the US box office, which was released on the same date. By the time it finished its theatrical run, it had grossed $41 million in North America. The film had a worldwide gross of over $70 million and was one of 1981’s biggest hits.

Legacy

The four-issue comic book miniseries Wrath of the Titans (2007), released by TidalWave Productions as part of their Ray Harryhausen Signature Series, picked up the story 5 years after the events of the film.

The 3D remake Clash of the Titans (2010) and its sequel Wrath of the Titans (2012) were released by the property’s current rights holder Warner Bros. The Kraken would appear in The Lego Batman Movie as one of the villains rallied by the Joker to destroy Gotham City.

Trivia

  • The film features the final work of stop-motion visual effects artist Ray Harryhausen.
  • It was released on 12 June 1981 and grossed $41 million at the North American box office, which made it the 11th-highest-grossing film of the year.
  • A novelisation of the film by Alan Dean Foster was published in 1981.
  • Warner Bros. released a 3D remake on 02 April 2010.
  • Despite being listed on posters and having main title billing, Ursula Andress (Aphrodite) only says one line in the entire film.
  • The original script called for Perseus to cut off Medusa’s head simply by throwing his shield at her, in an attempt to appease UK Standards and Practices censors (as the producers felt that the hero decapitating someone would not be appropriate for children in the audience).
    • Harry Hamlin was apparently resistant to the idea from the beginning, as it was not in keeping with the actual Greek mythology.
    • When the day came to film the scene, and it still had not been changed, he threatened to quit the movie and fly home.
    • He remained in his trailer, much to the producer Charles H. Schneer, director Desmond Davis, and producer Ray Harryhausen’s annoyance.
    • In the process of trying to coax him out, he was gradually able to get some of the other crew members on his side, which resulted in the scene being re-written accordingly.
  • Harry Hamlin and Ursula Andress began a relationship during the production of this movie, which produced a son, Dimitri Hamlin, born in 1980 after completion of principal photography.
  • The Titans were the gods who preceded the Olympians in power. Kronos (also spelled Cronus) and Atlas were the most famous Titans.
    • Ironically, none of the Titans from Greek mythology appear in this movie.
    • In the movie, the Titans are the Norse Kraken (who never appeared in Greek mythology at all) and Medusa (who was never considered a Titan by the Greeks).
  • According to mythology, after Medusa’s head was severed from her neck, two offspring sprang forth: the winged horse Pegasus and the giant Chrysaor.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s):
    • Desmond Davis.
  • Producer(s):
    • Ray Harryhausen … producer (produced by).
    • John Palmer … associate producer.
    • Charles H. Schneer … producer (produced by).
  • Writer(s):
    • Beverley Cross.
  • Music:
    • Laurence Rosenthal.
  • Cinematography:
    • Ted Moore.
  • Editor(s):
    • Timothy Gee.
  • Production:
    • Charles H. Schneer Productions.
    • Peerford Ltd. (uncredited).
  • Distributor(s):
    • Chapel Distribution (1997) (Australia) (theatrical).
    • Cinema International Corporation (CIC) (1981) (Brazil) (theatrical).
    • Cinema International Corporation (CIC) (1981) (West Germany) (theatrical).
    • Cinema International Corporation (CIC) (1981) (Finland) (theatrical).
    • Cinema International Corporation (CIC) (1981) (UK) (theatrical).
    • Cinema International Corporation (CIC) (1981) (Norway) (theatrical).
    • Cinema International Corporation (CIC) (1981) (Sweden) (theatrical).
    • Filmes Lusomundo (1981) (Portugal) (theatrical).
    • Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) (1981) (Brazil) (theatrical).
    • Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) (1981) (USA) (theatrical).
    • Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (1981) (India) (theatrical).
    • United Artists (1981) (USA) (theatrical) (released thru).
    • Disney Channel (1990) (USA) (TV) (as The Disney Channel).
    • Esselte Video (Finland) (VHS) (for MGM).
    • MGM/CBS Home Video (1982) (USA) (VHS).
    • MGM/UA Home Entertainment (1992) (USA) (VHS).
    • MGM/UA Home Entertainment (1992) (USA) (video) (Betamax).
    • MGM/UA Home Entertainment (1993) (USA) (video) (laserdisc).
    • MGM/UA Home Video (1983) (Australia) (video).
    • MGM/UA Home Video (West Germany) (VHS).
    • MGM/UA Home Video (1996) (USA) (VHS).
    • Mainostelevisio (MTV3) (1999) (Finland) (TV).
    • Vídeo Arte (Brazil) (VHS).
    • WGN (1984) (USA) (TV).
    • WGN (2002) (USA) (TV).
    • Warner Home Video (2002) (Australia) (DVD).
    • Warner Home Video (2010) (Australia) (Blu-ray).
    • Warner Home Video (2006) (Germany) (DVD).
    • Warner Home Video (2010) (Germany) (Blu-ray).
    • Warner Home Video (2005) (Spain) (DVD).
    • Warner Home Video (2010) (Spain) (Blu-ray).
    • Warner Home Video (2006) (France) (DVD).
    • Warner Home Video (2010) (France) (Blu-ray).
    • Warner Home Video (2005) (UK) (DVD).
    • Warner Home Video (2010) (UK) (Blu-ray).
    • Warner Home Video (2002) (Mexico) (DVD).
    • Warner Home Video (1992) (USA) (video) (Betamax) (for MGM).
    • Warner Home Video (2002) (USA) (DVD).
    • Warner Home Video (2010) (USA) (Blu-ray).
    • Warner Home Vídeo (2002) (Brazil) (DVD).
    • Warner Home Vídeo (2010) (Brazil) (Blu-ray).
  • Release Date: 12 June 1981 (US).
  • Running Time: 118 minutes.
  • Rating: 12.
  • Country: UK and US.
  • Language: English.

Video Link

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