Film / Clash of the Titans (1981)

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"Release the Kraken!"

Clash of the Titans is the 1981 film adaptation of the Greek myth of Perseus. Stop motion animation was used extensively in many special effects, and the monsters were created by Ray Harryhausen, who retired from filmmaking shortly after Clash was released. Stephen R. Wilk wrote in 2000 that "most people today who are aware of the story of Perseus and Medusa owe their knowledge to the 1981 film Clash of the Titans."

A remake was released in 2010, see here.

Not to be confused with the works Class of the Titans and Crash of the Titans or the trope Trash of the Titans.


Clash of the Titans provides examples of:

  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: Perseus's magical sword can slice through marble. It never really needs to, but it does need to quickly behead Medusa, whose scales are as hard as iron.
  • Adaptational Badass: Medusa got taken out while she was asleep in the myths. Here she defends herself against would-be attackers not only with her power, but also with a bow and arrows. And she's a very good shot with it, signaling her presence by killing one of Perseus's soldiers.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Calibos was named Phineus in the original myth.
  • Adaptational Modesty: In the myth, Andromeda was sent out naked to be eaten by the sea monster. In the film, she gets some clothes.
  • Aesop Collateral Damage: The goddess Thetis demands the sacrifice of Andromeda after Queen Cassopeia boasts that she is more beautiful than the goddess.
  • Ambiguously Evil: Medusa never speaks, and one could say that she's doing little more than defending her home against trespassers. Viewers can make their own conclusions.
  • Ancient Greece: The setting, obviously.
  • Baleful Polymorph: Calibos, who is turned into a beastman by Zeus as a punishment.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Andromeda is beautiful, and she's as innocent as it gets.
  • Because Destiny Says So: "Find and fulfill your destiny."
  • Big Bad: Thetis pretty much sets up the need for Perseus to set off on a quest to defeat the Kraken.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: Calibos uses Medusa's blood to enlarge a pack of scorpions to attack Perseus.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Oh no! The Kraken is about to eat Andromeda! Perseus and Pegasus (and Bubo) to the rescue!
  • Blasphemous Praise: Queen Cassiopeia says that her daughter Princess Andromeda is more lovely than the goddess Thetis. Thetis is not pleased by this and orders that Andromeda be sacrificed to the Kraken. If they don't, the Kraken will destroy Joppa.
  • Bloody Murder: Medusa's blood melts Perseus's shield — and not any ordinary shield, but one given to him by the gods. And as if that wasn't enough, later on drops of her blood enlarge some scorpions.
  • Call a Pegasus a "Hippogriff": Not Pegasus himself, but the Kraken, which bears no resemblance to the mythological kraken more specific than them both being sea monsters and having multiple limbs.
  • Canon Foreigner: Calibos and Bubo.
  • Chained to a Rock: Andromeda is chained to a rock to be sacrificed to the Kraken.
  • Character as Himself: This is how "The Mythologicals" (Pegasus, Medusa, The Kraken, and Bubo) are billed in the credits.
  • Clockwork Creature: Bubo the clockwork owl, sent by Athena as a guide so she won't have to send her beloved owl.
  • Cold Sniper: Medusa, with a bow and arrows. As if the petrifying gaze wasn't enough...
  • Constellations: The film ends with Perseus, Andromeda, Pegasus, and other characters becoming constellations. Fitting too, as the movies are based on the myths of Perseus.
  • Cool Old Guy: Ammon.
  • Cosmic Chess Game: Perseus and Calibos are both guided by opposing gods, Zeus and Thetis respectively... in a very literal fashion, too! The gods have clay statuettes of their favorites that they move about as they wish in a model amphitheater.
  • Crazy Cat Lady: Ammon the playwright is a male example. Although not quite crazy he's still eccentric, and his abode is filled with cats.
  • Cute Owl: Bubo.
  • Damsel in Distress: Andromeda, in the climax.
  • Decapitation Presentation: Perseus takes Medusa's head after killing her and gets out of her hideout, then lifts it in the same iconic fashion as many artistic representations of him. Zeus then encourages him to keep fighting and fulfilling his destiny.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • In retaliation for his lover and son being sentenced to death, Zeus orders the death of their attempted killer, King Acrisius of Argos. Fair enough. But then he orders the destruction of all of Argos by the Kraken. Generally averted in the novelization, where Zeus comes off as much less petty in general. In regards to Argos, it's established that the Argosian people already had a long list of offenses against them, and the fact that no-one in the whole city lifted a finger to stop a father publically murdering his daughter and her baby was the last straw.
    • Thetis declares that all of Joppa must die in retribution for Calibos's maiming and Cassiopeia's insult.
  • Divine Assistance: Zeus interferes repeatedly to help his son Perseus and punish those who oppose him. He also has other deities give him divine gifts, including a shield, a sword, and a helm that grants the power of invisibility. The goddess Thetis likewise tries to help her son Calibos but it doesn't turn out very well.
  • Dramatic Necklace Removal: Andromeda dramatically takes off the jeweled necklace Calibos offered her, after her visitation in spirit to his lair.
  • Dull Surprise: Harry Hamlin's performance as Perseus.
  • Dwindling Party: All the soldiers end up dead.
  • Engagement Challenge: Part of the curse placed on Joppa by Calibos requires any potential suitor to Andromeda solve a riddle; failing to answer correctly meant death by fire. Unfortunately, the incredibly hard-to-answer riddle is chosen by Calibos himself and changes each time. Perseus not only answers correctly after learning the current one, he fights and grievously wounds the villain, sparing him only when he lifts the curse.
  • Everything's Better with Sparkles: Hello, Olympus!
  • Evil Poacher: Not the biggest reason Calibos was cursed, but likely what crossed the line in Zeus's eyes; after being given the Wells of the Moon to rule by his mother, he overhunted it, and as the final straw, killed all of Zeus's sacred flying horses, the one survivor being Pegasus.
  • Evil Slinks: Medusa, snake woman with an attitude.
  • Expy: Calibos = Caliban from William Shakespeare's The Tempest.
  • Eyeless Face: The three Stygian Witches (i.e. Graeae) have no eye sockets, but they trade a single crystalline "eye" between them. Perseus steals it to get information from them.
  • The Eyes Have It: The statue of Thetis when she's about to throw down.
  • Eye Spy: The Stygian Witches have to share a single (magical) eye between the three of them. The witch who has it is apparently quite capable of seeing through while it's sitting in her hand.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink:
    • The Kraken is from Norse Mythology. The original creature was Cetus, a giant whale, but it was apparently switched because the writer thought "kraken" sounded cooler. Ray Harryhausen changed the look from a giant squid or octopus to a four-armed humanoid because he thought it looked cooler.
    • Calibos is an expy of Caliban from The Tempest, who has nothing to do with Greek mythology at all.
  • Fed to the Beast: Andromeda.
  • The Ferryman: Charon, the ferryman on the River Styx, who transports Perseus and his team part of the way to Medusa's lair.
  • Fertile Blood: When Calibos sticks his trident into Medusa's head, which Perseus has hung on a branch while resting, giant scorpions are created from the blood as it drips on the ground, which proceed to attack Perseus and his men, killing many of them.
  • Genre Savvy: Ammon, due to being a poet and playwright of stories very much like Perseus's and dealing with some of the same characters, including Medusa.
  • Giant Flyer: Calibos' pet vulture. Mr. Harryhausen dug his giant flying beasties.
  • Give Me a Sword: One of Perseus's friends tosses him his sword so he can fight off a giant scorpion.
  • Go for the Eye: Perseus says this exact phrase when he orders Bubo to steal the Stygian Witches' crystal eyeball.
  • Gods Need Prayer Badly: Invoked during Zeus' final speech. While Hera is concerned that mankind will forget them, Zeus isn't bothered by it.
  • Grandpa God: Zeus.
  • The Grim Reaper: The Ferryman Charon isn't depicted as an old man as in the original myths, but as a black-robe-clad skeleton.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Perseus, as a demigod, fits this trope.
  • Hand Signals: Perseus uses a "stop" signal to halt the travelers just before they meet Bubo, and also gestures to the soldiers with him as they approach Medusa's lair.
  • The Hero's Journey
  • Hollywood Torches: In Calibos's encampment and in Medusa's lair.
  • Hook Hand: After Perseus cuts off Calibos's left hand, it is replaced by a short trident.
  • If I Can't Have You...:
    Thetis: If my son is not to marry her, then no man will.... As my Calibos suffers, so will Andromeda.
  • Intelligible Unintelligible: Bubo, the mechanical owl. What sounds like clicks and whistles to everyone else is perfectly understandable by Perseus. Justified by the fact that it is a gift from the goddess Athena.
  • Introdump: The movie has Zeus address all the gods by their name and what they are god of, just so the audience won't be confused.
  • I Should Write a Book About This:
    Ammon: This would make a fine heroic poem you know. Or perhaps a play...
  • Jerkass Gods: Played with mainly with Zeus and Thetis. Both tend to be very protective of their children and fond of disproportionate retribution. Zeus at least only acts when someone has committed an injustice, is letting Perseus's defiance slide, and appears to be willing to allow the gods one day to be forgotten. The rest of the gods come off as indifferent rather than malicious.
  • Kraken and Leviathan: A Kraken is summoned to destroy the city.
  • Large Ham: Burgess Meredith is clearly having a blast as Ammon. Justified in that the man is a playwright and actor and even admits to Perseus he likes to act up being a ghost to keep looters from the theater.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Bubo will unquestioningly fly into battle when called upon and apparently can be quite fearsome, frightening off the much larger and ostensibly scarier-looking giant vulture at one point.
  • Loophole Abuse: When Calibos begs mother Thetis to punish Perseus, Thetis says she can't do anything because of Zeus's command. However, when Cassiopeia calls Andromeda more beautiful than the goddess, Thetis is able to use this open blasphemy as the excuse to condemn Andromeda after all to strike Perseus.
  • Love at First Sight:
    Perseus: Just believe me when I say I that I did see you. And the sight of you burst straight through me like an arrow.... From that moment, I knew that I loved you.
  • Magi Babble:
    Stygian Witch: [Medusa's blood] is deadly and poisonous. But you have touched the eye. Just as it has the power to give us sight, so it can make your cloak — your red cloak — proof against the blood.
  • Mama Bear: Thetis curses Joppa for what happened to Calibos, then orders Andromeda's sacrifice out of revenge for him being mutilated (partially).
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": The city people in the temple when Thetis declares the Kraken will destroy them all if they don't sacrifice Andromeda.
  • Mauve Shirt: Thallo. He fights and kill a giant scorpion without help. But then, Calibos deals with him.
  • Meaningful Name: Bubo the Owl.
  • Medusa: The mythological gorgon is depicted here as having the lower body of a giant rattlesnake.
  • Misplaced Retribution: After Cassiopeia insults her in her own temple, Thetis demands Andromeda's life as retribution.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: The snake that shows up is a boa constrictor. Boa constrictors live in the Americas — they would have definitely not been found in Ancient Greece.
  • Moses in the Bulrushes: Baby Perseus, being an illegitimate demigod, is locked into a coffin with his young mother and thrown into the sea, but Zeus has Poseidon make certain the waters will gently take Perseus and his mother to safety. Perseus is then raised on an island paradise.
  • Mr. Exposition: Thallo, the World's Most Helpful Guard. Perseus, a complete stranger, walks up to him, and he manages to go from surly hostility to explaining the complete social and political history of Joppa in under a minute. While swatting flies.
  • Multi-Armed and Dangerous: The Kraken has four arms. The goddess Thetis says that it's capable of destroying the entire city of Joppa and all of its inhabitants.
  • Nipple and Dimed: Averted. Danae and Andromeda show some T&A even though the film is rated PG!note 
  • No Eye in Magic: Medusa must make eye contact to be able to turn people into stone.
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Bubo.
  • Non-Indicative Name: The title would seem to have you believe that at least two titans will clash at some point in the film. No actual Titans from Greek mythology show up. The Kraken is, at one point, called "the last of the Titans", which would seem to preclude it from clashing with any others. They might has well have left that line out and just tried to play off that "Titan" is supposed to mean "monster". The closest thing we get is when one of the Stygian Witches refers to Perseus using Medusa to defeat the Kraken as "A Titan against a Titan!"
  • Novelization: A very nicely done one by Alan Dean Foster, which does a fair job of reconciling the plot to traditional Greek mythology.
  • Offing the Offspring:
    • King Acrisius tries to off Perseus as a child, which would actually be Offing the Offspring's Offspring.
    • Queen Cassiopeia must sacrifice her virgin daughter Andromeda because she pissed off Thetis. In her own temple.
  • Offstage Villainy: Calibos's crimes that were the cause of his transformation are only described but not shown.
  • Oh, Crap!: Cassiopeia, upon realizing her insult has doomed her daughter and/or her city to the wrath of an angry goddess.
  • Oh My Gods!: Ammon's Catch-Phrase is, "By the gods!"
  • Organic Bra: Medusa.
  • Overprotective Dad: The film's explanation for why Acrisius "grew jealous and kept (Danae) guarded from the eyes of men, locked behind iron doors" (in the original myth, this was partly due to a prophecy that his grandson would kill him, but You Can't Fight Fate).
  • The Owl-Knowing One: Athena gives Perseus Bubo, a clockwork duplicate of her own owl companion built by Hephaestus, which becomes Perseus's guide.
  • Papa Wolf: Zeus destroys Argos out of retribution for his lover and son's sentence.
  • Pegasus: The film takes the "whole species of winged horses" route, although Pegasus himself is the only one who appears, Calibos having killed all the others.
  • Poisoned Weapons: Calibos uses his trident Hook Hand to pierce the bag containing Medusa's head, coating it with her poisonous blood in the process. He later stabs Thallo in the back with it, and the Mauve Shirt dies pretty quickly.
  • Poison Is Corrosive: The Stygian Witches say that Medusa's blood is a deadly poison, and after Perseus cuts off her head her blood spews out and melts Perseus' shield, which was a gift from the gods.
  • Prequel: To Ray Harryhausen's previous film Jason and the Argonauts. Both stories being based off of Classical Mythology, Perseus is the great-grandfather of Hercules, it's all there.
  • Reality Changing Miniature: There is a small chamber in Olympus containing several clay figurines, each one representing a real person. The gods can resculpt the model to invoke a Painful Transformation, or just smash the thing to kill the person outright. Zeus even at one point sets Perseus's model back upright after he collapses from exhaustion.
  • Red Shirt: Any soldier who goes with Perseus on his quest.
  • Rent-a-Zilla: The Kraken.
  • Robot Buddy: Bubo, a clockwork owl fashioned by Hephaestus in the shape of Athena's pet owl Bubo, to be Perseus' companion.
  • Rule of Cool: After being turned into stone, the Krakken breaks into pieces for no reason but this.
  • Sadly Mythtaken:
    • The Kraken is from Norse Mythology.
    • Contrary to the reference by one of the Stygian witches, Medusa and the Kraken were not Titans. The Titans were Elder Gods, who were overthrown by a race of younger gods, their descendants, a.k.a., the Olympians.
    • Amphitrite is the wife of Poseidon in Greek mythology, while Thetis is generally a sea nymph. Some suggest that she was a full goddess, as portrayed in the film, but even then she was certainly not among the central circle who dwelt on Olympus.
    • The original myth has Perseus seeking Medusa's head for a completely unrelated reasons to Andromeda's plight. He saves her because he happens to be flying home on Hermes's winged sandals and comes across this poor Virgin Sacrifice strapped to a rock.
    • There was only one Pegasus, not a herd, who sprang forth from Medusa's neck after she was killed. (Indeed, "Pegasus" actually means "he who sprang".) Pegasus was also not ridden by Perseus, but an unrelated hero named Bellorophon.
  • Sandal Punk: The film is set in a version of Ancient Greece where fantasy monsters are real.
  • Scary Scorpions: The giant scorpions that Calibos creates by causing Medusa's blood to drop on some normal scorpions.
  • "Scooby-Doo" Hoax: Perseus initially meets Ammon while the playwright is dressed up in a creepy mask and robe. He claims to use the get-up to scare trespassers away from the amphitheater.
  • Shadow Discretion Shot: Calibos's transformation from man to monster. Necessary in that such effects were otherwise impossible to render cheaply in 1981.
  • Shout-Out: The Kraken bears a strong resemblance to Ymir from 20 Million Miles to Earth, also animated by Ray Harryhausen.
  • Snake People: Medusa.
  • Sneaky Departure: While on the journey to Medusa's island, Perseus and his soldiers take off in the middle of the night, leaving Andromeda behind (and Ammon to look after her).
  • Standard Hero Reward: Perseus wins the right to Andromeda's hand twice; first by solving her riddle and freeing Joppa from Calibos's curse (even thought the second part wasn't necessary) and second by saving her from the Kraken later (the part loosely adapted from actual mythology).
  • Stay in the Kitchen: "Too perilous (a journey) for a princess." To which Andromeda responds with all due spunk, "You are not my lord and husband. Not yet!" and comes along on the trip to the Stygian Witches anyway. Perseus later does ditch her for her own safety when he finds out he has to fight Medusa.
  • Stop Motion: Stop-motion animation was used for the monsters.
  • Summon Bigger Fish: Using Medusa on the Kraken.
  • Supernatural Aid: Perseus's helmet, sword, shield, and Bubo.
  • Sword & Sandal: The fantasy subtype thereof.
  • Taken for Granite: All of Medusa's past victims that are exhibited in her temple, one of Perseus' soldiers and the Kraken.
  • Team Pet: Bubo the robot owl regularly acts goofy, including flying into things and making crash-landings. However, it also leads Perseus to the Stygian Witches, grabs the Witches' Eye for him, single-handedly frees Pegasus from captivity in Calibos's camp, distracts the Kraken long enough for Perseus to arrive, and carries the bag containing Medusa's head to Perseus, allowing him to petrify the Kraken and save the day.
  • This Way to Certain Death: The statues outside Medusa's lair.
  • Throne Made of X: Calibos has a throne made of bones in his encampment.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: How Perseus finishes off Calibos, since it's hard to get close as the latter wields a whip.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Cassiopeia declares her daughter Andromeda to be "more beautiful than the goddess Thetis herself!" This she does while standing in Thetis' own temple, directly beneath a giant statue of Thetis. Needless to say, it does not go well for anyone. Even the film itself lampshades how ridiculously stupid this gaffe is.
  • Traveling at the Speed of Plot: Perseus's journey back to Joppa on Pegasus as Andromeda's sacrifice is being carried out.
  • The Unintelligible: Bubo, except to Perseus. Ammon eventually figures out what he's saying.
  • Virgin Sacrifice: After Perseus rescues Joppa from the curse and wins Andromeda's hand in marriage, Thetis demands Andromeda's sacrifice as an alternative restitution, and specifies she must be "unknown to man, a virgin" — not for any mystical reason but just to spite Perseus and make sure he doesn't get any of what Calibos had once hoped to get.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Harry Hamlin as Perseus.
  • Wax Museum Morgue: Medusa's temple, albeit stone instead of wax.
  • Wedding Smashers: During Perseus and Andromeda's wedding, Thetis stops the ceremony by causing an earthquake and giving an ultimatum about the Kraken's attack.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: There are three giant scorpions, but only two are killed...
  • Whip It Good: Calibos's favorite weapon is a whip, and he's very handy with it, capturing Pegasus and nearly strangling Perseus.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Calibos can be perceived sympathetic and at least worthy of pity, especially because we are only informed of his cruelty before the transformation. Indeed, Perseus says that's why he spared his life, in spite of all he had put Andromeda and the city through. But Calibos comes back on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge anyway.
  • The X of Y: Clash of the Titans.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle: Perseus frees the city of Joppa from its curse fairly early in the film, and the good guys throw a big party — only for a much worse crisis to then present itself before they're even through celebrating.

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