Sunday, June 12, 2011

When the Titans Originally Clashed

Last year, a remake of 1981's "Clash of the Titans" was released.

Both movies were loosely based on the Greek myth of Perseus. The 2010 version had some advantages over the 1981 version — better technology, mostly. That helped with the special effects.

Both did well financially. The markets were different, of course, but the 1981 version was 11th in box–office receipts that year, and last year's version is in the Top 100 of all–time earners.

And, too, the cast in the 2010 version was pretty good. It included the likes of Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Elizabeth McGovern — all veteran performers.

But the acting in the first version may have been, if anything, better. After all, that cast included Maggie Smith, Laurence Olivier, Burgess Meredith, Claire Bloom and Ursula Andress. Talk about veterans.

And I believe, to this day, that the first one was more entertaining.

I don't remember when I saw it for the first time. It had long since left the theaters because I recall watching it on cable (a commercial channel at that) one summer weekend when I had nothing better to do.

It was a hot, lazy weekend — the kind of summer weekend when the mere thought of stepping outside into the heat starts sapping the energy — noticeably — from your body. I surfed frantically through the channels I got in those days, hoping to find something, anything, and I came across "Clash of the Titans."

And I recall sitting in front of my TV with a cold drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other (a classic juxtaposition of hot and cold, I guess) — and enjoying a thoroughly unexpectedly rollicking adventure.

It did help to know something about Greek mythology. For example, when the movie opened with a contingent of mortals boxing up a young woman and her baby and throwing them into the sea, some knowledge of mythology would have helped ordinary moviegoers — but perhaps not as much as you might think.

Like the 2010 remake, it was loosely based on Greek mythology. Oh, the characters were legitimate mythological characters, but they were never really identified for the viewers. It was as if the producers of the film took it for granted that viewers were well versed in Greek mythology — and I would guess that most were not.

And there were certain liberties taken with the story.

Those weren't the only problems. The animation, particularly when the sea monster Kraken was called upon to wreak havoc on land, resembled either Claymation or whatever was used to create Godzilla in the Japanese monster movies of the 1960s. Perhaps both.

Still, if one wasn't overly picky about such things, "Clash of the Titans" was an enjoyable movie experience.