Clash of the Titans (1981)

Sometimes we review beloved entertainment from our childhoods and cringe at the terribleness of it. Other times old entertainment hits the sweet spot of being cheesily bad without being cringe worthy. Tonight I took over our big TV to watch the 1981 version of Clash of the Titans. I giggled all the way through, part out of nostalgia and part because of the ridiculousness of what was on the screen. It helps that we recently watched Mystery Science Theater 3000 so I was primed to riff on old movies. This meant I could watch a scene, remember how I felt about it as a kid, see how I felt about it now, and imagine what sort of jokes would liven the scene up even more. Like the moment where soldiers very seriously announce that they’ve looked everywhere, they rode all the way around the lake, while the “lake” is in the foreground of the shot very obviously being a small pond. Or when the stygian witches make a big deal about how Perseus’s red cloak is now imbued with magic… only he’s never worn a red cloak at any point in the movie this far. It makes its first appearance two scenes later.

I imprinted on this movie a bit when I was 10 and 11. It was the source material for games of pretend at recess. When it came on TV, my family recorded it on video cassette, so I was able to re-watch it. It turns out I still have most of the lines memorized, not to the point that I could recite them, but I always knew what would be said next with what inflection and tone of voice.

No one watched it with me. Howard is five years older than I am. This means that the movie showed up when he was past the developmental sweet spot. Or something. His memory of the film is being disappointed in it. So he didn’t really want to sit through the whole thing, but he wandered past occasionally and I’d fill him in on whatever ridiculous thing was on the screen. I was pleased to be able to note that this movie had 10 speaking parts for women and 8 for men, which surprised me to notice and may explain some of why I found it compelling. The women-as-goddesses matched the men-as-gods in petty squabbling, as is appropriate for Greek gods. The heroine is a damsel-in-distress some, but there are also moments when she took control. And her most damsel-in-distress moment is one that she deliberately walks into in a noble attempt to save her people from destruction. I can see why I liked her and wanted to be like her. I can also see the unconscious societal biases that are stamped all over the film: women are valued for beauty, love at first sight, ugly = evil. I absorbed all of that too. As we all do from entertainment we love, particularly at early ages. There were some things I had to unlearn later. Also a common life experience.

Analysis aside, I’m just glad that I got to spend this evening being happy while watching a compelling munged-together hodge podge of story lifted from Greek myth and presented with only the vaguest attempts at any sort of historical accuracy.