Monday, April 05, 2010

CLASH OF THE TITANS (1981) - Desmond Davis


Back in the early days of HBO, well before McNulty, Omar or Tony Soprano, there were two movies the young cable channel played every day in tandem for what seemed like an entire summer -- Under the Rainbow and Clash of the Titans. As a movie geek in the making without asset of VHS (or even Beta), I would watch and re-watch both of these movies 60 times a piece rather than do something normal like go outside and ride my bike or generally engage with the greater world. I preferred the company of movie midgets, mechanical owls and Medusa, it seemed.

Thanks to the good people at the Warner Brothers Archive, I had a chance to revisit Rainbow recently and found myself quite entertained (I could still quote half the lines) if not a little underwhelmed. Nostalgia can be a tricky emotion. It builds grand statues in your mind for the sketchiest things (a joke about crushed nuts or a Billy Barty sight gag) only to topple them decades later when you see the whole museum for what it really is -- a silly, borderline exploitative Chevy Chase vehicle about alcoholic little people. Not that I don't love Chevy Chase or little people...

A similar thing happened while I was re-watching the original Clash of the Titans this weekend, the first time I'd seen it again in its entirety in at least 15 years. If graphed, my viewing experience would look something like an average EKG reading -- great crests of glee followed by troughs of boredom and disappointment. Don't get me wrong. The Harryhausen contribution is still a mighty one and worth every memory. Calibos is still one freaky, evil-looking bastard, like Ricardo Montalban on acid. The Kraken is still a fantastic stop-motion Creature from the Black Lagoon blown-up 100 times scale. And the Medusa scene still packs a punch, proof that if you shoot it right and cut it right you can even milk suspense from a piece of well-molded Play Doh.


But then there was the stuff I'd forgotten about. I'm talking about Harry Hamlin and his 100 mile underwear model stare. I'm talking about his lame invisible helmet that allowed him to get in and out places (and scenes) that he shouldn't be in. I'm talking about all the really boring parts, the goofy exposition, the stuff you overlook when you're 10 years old and picking your feet and eating your boogers in the summertime waiting for that quick flash of Perseus' mom's breast or another shot of Cerebus the three-headed dog guarding the gates of hell before it's time to take out the trash. I'm talking about those tricky sands of time.

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