Now this is the way you do a Greek mythology epic, with heart, fun and some top-notch stop motion effects. There is more emotion and character in a single armature movement in this film, than in the whole of the pixelated version of the 21st century!
I was so happy to be able to sit down and watch this one again after so many years. This is the final recommendation in the action section of the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book for my viewing of The Thief of Bagdad. And it had been far too long since I had seen this.
Harry Hamlin is Perseus, Burgess Meredith is his friend and supporter Ammon, and Laurence Olivier is his father Zeus. When the goddess Thetis (Maggie Smith) is angered over the favor Zeus gives his son, Perseus, but her own son, Calibos (Neil McCarthy) is punished and deformed at the father of the gods’ hands, she sets Perseus odd on a dangerous journey to find his destiny, and his love with the princess Andromeda (Judi Bowker), who has been sentenced to death in thirty days at the hands of the monstrous Kraken!
Setting out on a quest to find a way to destroy the seemingly indestructible titan, Perseus is outfitted by the gods, with a helmet that renders him invisible, a sword, and a powerful shield, and eventually, a robotic owl, Bubo, based on Athena’s (Susan Fleetwood) beloved pet.
With the winged steed Pegasus as his mount, Perseus dives into adventure, racing to meet with Medusa, the one being whose powers will put a stop to the Kraken and save Andromeda from her fate.
Ray Harryhausen’s brilliant visual effects and stop-motion animation bring an amazing collection of creatures to life, and sure, you can tell that sometimes they’ve been added in during post-production, but dammit if that just doesn’t add to the fun of the film. Something that is seriously lacking in the 2010 remake.
There’s a wonderful sense of adventure to this film, and I was rather stunned to find, a little bit of nudity, but all in a very National Geographic kind of way, so perhaps that’s why it got away with its PG rating, whereas something like that nowadays certainly wouldn’t happen!
The expansive cast also includes Ursula Andress, Pat Roach (who menaced Indiana Jones on a regular basis), Claire Bloom and Jack Gwillim!
Sure, some of it seems a little goofy now, but it never even comes close to campy or juvenile. Yes, there’s an innocence there that may not exist in modern films, but for me that just adds to the enjoyment of it. I love this old-school way of making films, practical effects, in-camera tricks, and physical effects. Sure sometimes they look bad, but there’s a reality to them that a lot (not all) of the CG work being done nowadays doesn’t have.
I loved rewatching this one. Next we skip ahead to the next chapter in the book, in an attempt to keep things interesting and not confining myself to one or two genres at a time…
What’s your favorite Harryhausen flick?