REVIEW: CLASH OF THE TITANS (1981)

CAST
Harry Hamlin (Veronica Mars)
Laurence Olivier (Spartacus)  …
Claire Bloom (The Haunting)
Maggie Smith (Harry Potter)
Ursula Andress (Dr. No)
Jack Gwillim (Patton)
Susan Fleetwood (Young Sherlock Holmes)
Pat Roach (Willow)
Judi Bowker (Sins)
Burgess Meredith (Batman 60s)
Siân Phillips (Dune)
King Acrisius of Argos (Donald Houston) imprisons his daughter Danaë (Vida Taylor), jealous of her beauty. When the god Zeus (Laurence Olivier) impregnates her, Acrisius sends his daughter and his newborn grandson Perseus to sea in a wooden chest. In retribution, Zeus kills Acrisius and orders Poseidon (Jack Gwillim) to release the last of the Titans, a gigantic sea monster called the Kraken, to destroy Argos. Meanwhile, Danaë and Perseus safely float to the island of Seriphos, where Perseus grows to adulthood.
Calibos (Neil McCarthy), son of the sea goddess Thetis (Maggie Smith), is a young man engaged to marry Princess Andromeda (Judi Bowker), the daughter of Queen Cassiopeia (Siân Phillips) and heir to the rich city of Joppa; but has not only reduced the Wells of the Moons to a near-lifeless swamp, but also hunted and destroyed Zeus’s sacred flying horses (excepting only Pegasus). To punish him, Zeus transforms Calibos into a monstrous satyr and he is exiled by his people. In revenge, Thetis transports an adult Perseus (Harry Hamlin) from Seriphos to an abandoned amphitheatre in Joppa, where he is befriended by an elderly poet named Ammon (Burgess Meredith) and learns that Andromeda is under a curse and cannot marry unless her suitor successfully answers a riddle, whose failures are burned at the stake. In order to aid his son, Zeus sends Perseus a god-crafted helmet from Athena (Susan Fleetwood) which makes its wearer invisible, a magical sword from Aphrodite (Ursula Andress), and a shield from Hera (Claire Bloom). Perseus, wearing the helmet, captures Pegasus and follows Andromeda to learn the next riddle. Perseus is nearly killed by Calibos but escapes, losing his helmet in the process. He also manages to sever Calibos’ hand.
Perseus befriends Tallo and presents himself as suitor and correctly answers the riddle, presenting the severed hand of Calibos. Perseus wins Andromeda’s hand in marriage. Calibos, finding that Thetis cannot act against Perseus, instead demands that she take vengeance on Joppa. At the wedding, Queen Cassiopeia compares Andromeda’s beauty to that of Thetis herself, whereupon Thetis demands Andromeda be sacrificed to the Kraken on pain of Joppa’s destruction.
Perseus seeks a way to defeat the Kraken, while Pegasus is captured by Calibos and his men. Zeus commands Athena to give Perseus her owl Bubo; but she orders Hephaestus (Pat Roach) to build a golden replica of Bubo instead, who leads Perseus to the Stygian Witches (Flora Robson, Anna Manahan, and Freda Jackson). By taking their magic eye Perseus forces them to reveal that the only way to defeat the Kraken is by using the head of Medusa the Gorgon, 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 with three soldiers by his side, Perseus fights Medusa’s guardian, a two-headed dog named Dioskilos, who kills one of his companions but Perseus intervenes in the nick of time and kills the beast. Perseus leads his two remaining allies into the Gorgon’s lair. His two other companions die on encounter with Medusa herself; she shoots one of the soldiers with an arrow and turns the other to stone. Perseus uses the reflective underside of his shield to deceive Medusa, decapitates her, and collects 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 called Scorpiochs. The scorpions attack and Perseus’ friend Thallo is able to kill one of them, but he is killed by Calibos himself. Perseus slays the other two scorpions and thereafter kills Calibos.
An excellent rendering of classical Greek myth to film. It is always a joy to have Ray Harryhausen’s distinctive and outstanding work for any production, and this is no exception. The quality of acting is high, and includes Lawrence Olivier in one of his last major performances. Highly recommended.
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REVIEW: SPARTACUS (1960)

 

 

CAST

Kirk Douglas (The Devil’s Diisciple)
Laurence Olivier (Clash of The Titans)
Jean Simmons (The Big Country)
Charles Laughton (Mutiny on The Bounty)
Peter Ustinov (Death of The Nile)
John Gavin (Psycho)
Nina Foch (Sliver)
John Ireland (Red River)
Herbert Lom (The Dead Zone)
Joanna Barnes (The Parent Trap)
Tony Curtis (Some Like It Hot)

Spartacus is one of the great Hollywood epics and Kirk Douglas’ defining role. It is a brilliantly written screenplay that combines the struggle for freedom from oppression with a compelling love story in a setting that accurately depicts the majesty as well as the corruption of the Roman Empire. The scenes depicting the political maneuvering of the Senate were priceless.

Kubrick’s work was nothing short of brilliant. His attention to the details of the period was wonderful. The orchestration of tens of thousands of extras in the battle scenes was phenomenal. His presentation of the love scenes between Varinia and Spartacus were sensitive and compelling. I was most impressed with his treatment of the slave army. He put a human face on the slaves by showing mothers with their children and scenes of Spartacus walking among the people. This completely wins the affections of the viewer. His pacing was perfect and despite the film’s length at over three hours, it did not seem to drag since there was always something fascinating on the screen.

Kirk Douglas gave a powerful performance and created a character that was bigger than life. He was strong and inspirational while simultaneously being gentle and kind. Laurence Olivier gave a riveting performance Crassus. He was cunning, imperious, consumed by ambition and utterly heartless. It is hard to imagine a more nefarious bad guy.

Jean Simmons has had an impressive acting career that has spanned more than 50 years. She is both a great beauty and an enchanting actress. She gave Varinia dignity, strength of character and a quiet seductiveness that played well off the power exuded from Douglas. Their screen chemistry was both passionate and touching. Rounding out a great cast were Peter Ustinov who was terrific as the sniveling and cowardly Batiatius always conniving to profit from someone else’s misfortunes, and Charles Laughton as the astute and duplicitous Gracchus, manipulating the Roman senate to his best advantage.

The last decisive battle scene between the slave army and Roman legions was magnificently staged. The extras playing the Roman legionnaires marched in formation so precisely, and the whole formation moved like a single organism. The blinding flash, which was created when thousands of extras simultaneously pointed their shields toward the camera, was absolutely awe-inspiring. Just before the two armies clashed, thousands of extras playing the Roman army quickly and precisely reorganized the formation to create skirmish lines. This was a site to behold. It must have been absolutely terrifying for the foes of Rome to watch the formations of these robot-like, super-precise Roman legionnaires charging toward them. This is among the best epics ever made and certainly among the top three films about the Roman Empire. This film should be on every film buff’s list of required viewing and is highly recommended for its moving story to anyone who hasn’t seen it.