You want a white-winged horse, or don't you?
I've always loved Judith "Miss Manners" Martin's fussy Washington Post review of the original Clash of the Titans. It's one of my favorite movies from childhood, but Martin's glibly withering pan is appropriate. Here it is, just in time for the remake that comes out April 2.
The Washington Post
June 12, 1981, Friday, Final Edition
O, 'TITANS'! O, CLASHES!
BYLINE: By Judith Martin
SECTION: Weekend; Weekend At The Movies; Pg. 19
LENGTH: 451 words
CLASH OF THE TITANS -- At the Flower Twins, Hampton Mall, Riverdale Plaza, Roth's Mount Vernon, Roth's Tysons Corner, Tenley Circle and Towncenter Sterling.
A wonderfully movie-ish spirit pervades "Clash of the Titans," a hilarious outrage in which the special-effects boys take on Greek mythology. Far from being offered as criticism, therefore, the following points are mentioned in a spirit of admiration for the moviemakers' imagination and breadth of vision (compared, for instance, to Homer's) and in belief that the conferences in which these matters were settled must have been even more fun than the movie.
There are no Titans in the film, not even any mentioned. It's about Olympians, heroes and Gorgons. But "Titans" is a good, strong word for a title.
Thetis was a Nereid and her son was Achilles. Obviously, neither of them is dramatic enough, so she has been made an Olympian diety and given Caliban (Hellenicized to Calibos) for a monster-son. Caliban is from Shakespeare's "The Tempest," of course, but who will notice?
Danae and her son Perseus were put out to die by her father because he knew his grandson was destined to kill him, not because he was morally outraged at the illegitimate birth, and Perseus did eventually kill the king with an accidentally mis-tossed discus. However, by having king and kingdom destroyed immediately, by nature on the rampage, you get a great disaster scene.
Pegasus couldn't have helped Perseus on his quest to slay Medusa, because Pegasus was Medusa's posthumous son. It was Bellerophon who rode Pegasus. Look, you want a white-winged horse, or don't you? But you know you don't want a hero with a name like Bellerophon.
Andromeda was chained to a rock, naked except for her jewels, to be attacked by a female sea-monster. This is a little kinky. Leave her clothes on, and make it an aquatic King Kong. That's still sexy, but at least the audience will feel it has the sanction of tradition.
Speaking of cinematic mythology, you got to have an R2-D2, a cute little piece of metal that loves the hero and makes bringing noises. How about Athena gives him a mechanical owl?
Cerberus had three heads, not two. Listen, the visual-effects people are doing a serious job here -- will you keep the pedants out?
And let's not forget the job done in the casting department. A classy old guy for Zeus -- Laurence Olivier. Then Hera's got to be classy, too -- Claire Bloom. Aphrodite? Ursual Andress (snicker, snicker). And Maggie Smith at Thetis. You want good hefty ladies who would look good in marble. Naw, it doesn't matter that they both look like they've been around -- they're immortals, aren't they?