Victim of a divine domestic dispute, Perseus must defeat two Titans in order to save the life of his betrothed. Director Desmond Davis conjures forth a magical mystery tour of epic proportions based upon the Greek myth, while the legendary Ray Harryhausen breathes life into the fantastic stop-motion monsters.
The film begins with Zeus’s wrath concerning the punishment of his mortal son, and soon the bitter conflict between the Kingly God and his wife Hera reverberates throughout the lives of Perseus and the deformed Calibos: humans are nothing more than clay pawns in the hands of these Olympian Deities. Laurence Olivier’s commanding performance as Zeus echoes Shakespearean dramaturgy, delivery his grandiose dialogue with the utmost sincerity and passion. Burgess Meredith portrays the playwright Ammon and though his character isn’t involved in the action, his wonderful performance adds a tone of melancholy and seriousness spiced with bits of humorous wisdom. Harry Hamlin’s deep-set eyes and shaggy hair project his Cro-Magnon good looks, perpetual bewilderment chiseled upon his stony visage. The entire cast seems possessed by the theatre, enveloped by an aura of pious melodrama…. with monsters.
Speaking of monsters, the Harryhausen creations are fantastic three-dimensional characters, sometimes out-performing their human counterparts. The snake-like titan Medusa is one of Harryhausen’s best, coiling in the darkness distributing death by arrow and green glare. Her rattle announces death, and the entire scene burns with a fiery red light and shadow, beckoning a poisonous or stony demise. The Vulture’s restless cawing, the winged Pegasus, a few Giant Scorpions birthed from viscous blood are undeniably cool, or the devilish Calibos and Bubo the tiny clockwork owl who expresses more emotion than the stoic protagonist.
Though there is very little clash between the two titans, Perseus final victory leads to a life of happiness and contentment…as long as the gods don’t interfere.
Final Grade: (B)