The theatrical box office (especially on a film’s opening weekend) is like Hollywood’s voting booth. When you buy a ticket for a remake of a classic film you’re telling film producers/studios that you want more of the same, you’re showing there’s a demand, making them respond by continuing the supply. The old saying for political elections, “if you don’t vote you have no right to complain” works backwards in The Industry…If you DO buy a ticket you have no right to bitch about the lack of original films coming out.
This is why I started Remake Shmee-Shmake, because OLD MOVIES FUCKING ROCK, and unless you’re Quentin Tarantino, you haven’t seen enough of them.
Instead of paying first run theatrical prices to see what (let’s face it), is almost assuredly an inferior film, why not rent/stream the original? Or, if not, try one of my similar feeling choices below! You’ll get a better movie, save money, and help dissuade Hollywood from constantly rehashing the same product. Just (re)imagine the savings!
What Not to Watch: Titans…Clash’10 or Wrath‘12 thereof
Why the Original’s Great: It’s Ray Harryhausen’s Abbey Road…One of the greatest fantasy monster extravaganzas of the pre-digital age.
Many of the Harryhausen creature quest movies were low budget Italian productions, but in the post Star Wars fantasy film boom, things were different. Harryhausen had been wanting for years to get the budget to do a fantasy picture on an A-List scale, and now he was finally able. Clash had bigger special fx, no distracting dubbing, and Hollywood style production value. Clash also had star power. Aside from Maggie Smith (Hogwart’s Prof. Minerva McGonagall) and Burgess Meredith (The Penguin), they got freakin’ Laurence Olivier to play Zeus! OLIVIER!
Our story’s about Perseus, bastard son of Zeus. See Zeus was fond of changing shape, coming down to earth and seducing mortal chicks. Perseus wakes up one morning having been magically transported by a jealous goddess far away from his home to the city of Joppa. And just like that, he’s already on a quest. This movie is full of the gods just hanging out, playing games with their little mortal toys…sometimes seemingly just to be dicks. (for an example, check out the creation of Bubo scene)
So Zeus is kinda pissed that his kid got BAMF-ed to the big city and decides he deserves some magic items. Just like that, Perseus gets (as gifts from some other goddesses) a shiny new sword, (+5 against marble) a helmet of invisibility, and a shield that works as a mirror and gets occasional hails from the big guy. So what’s his quest then? Well at first he doesn’t have one. Zeus, by way of shieldvision, tells him simply “Find and fulfill your destiny!” Uh, can ya be a bit more specific dad? Pers wanders into town and immediately runs into a guardsman named Convenient Expositionus, who gives him the skinny on this hot princess looking for a man. That night Perseus uses his invisibility helmet to sneak into her room to watch her sleep.
Sure enough, the first time he sees an attractive woman sleeping suddenly he feels his destiny rise! Call me old fashioned but I think there’s something creepy about a guy who sees you for the first time, watches you sleep for two minutes and says “Oh yeah, she’s the one.”
(Is there such a thing as snore-fetishism? I think Perseus, Prince Charming and that Edward from Twilight should start a support group)
And with that, Perseus finds his oh so original quest…marry a hot princess. Things are looking up. He cuts off a deformed guys hand, answers a riddle and BAM, it’s time for wedding bells. I dig this bit of wedding day dialogue between Perseus and his bride to be Andromeda(photos below)… is she talking about her former fiancé Calibos, or losing her virginity in high school?
So Mrs. Vengeful Goddess Head (Calibos’ mom) busts up the wedding, saying that not only can Andromeda not get married, but in 30 days when the Kraken shows up again, it’s her job to get stuck in his teeth, or he’ll put the Kraken smackdown on the city. Finally Perseus has a real quest…How to stop the Kraken, and save his almost wife?
Well, if you don’t know, I won’t tell you, just promise not to go look at the poster again. But I will say it involves adventure, intrigue, a two headed wolf, giant scorpions, a trio of blind witches, much sword fighting, and Medusa herself…all wonderfully brought to life by Ray Harryhausen.
(Not solely by Ray though. This is actually the only film in his filmography where he had assistants working with him. Jim Danforth and Steven Archer *imdb*. Meaning every other film, like Jason reccommended below, he was doing all the stop motion animation and monster modeling himself.)
When told there was a Hollywood Remake planned for Clash, here is what Ray had to say: “Oh, I hope not…why are they going to remake it? We had a wonderful cast that you could never assemble today. Its a Greek Myth they teach in schools now,they use our film “Clash of the Titans” as an example. Why remake things like this…I don’t know.” – We dont know either Mr. Harryhausen. ~Editors Note.
Harryhausen Highlight: Perseus vs. Medusa!
“The Medusa of classic mythology was just a pretty woman with snakes in her hair, dressed in cosmic gowns,” he says. “I didn’t want to animate clothing, so I gave her a snake’s body” – Ray Harryhausen
*GeekNote…historically speaking, the Kraken is a giant squid…so if you’re wondering who’s more accurate, Clash 81’s slimy four armed aqua monster or Clash 10’s LOTR ripoff, the answer is Pirates of the Carribean…GeekNote*
_______________ What to See Instead (of the remake): ___________
Quick note…I’m not recommending the LOTR trilogy as it’s just too obvious. Unless you just moved to town from your former home under a rock in a cave deep in the black heart of Mordor, you know them, you’ve seen them, and you probably own the thick ass “looks like a small set of encyclopedias mixed in with my dvd’s” versions.
Plus, Clash and its brethren are from a different family of storytelling. It’s adventure in the oldest terms. It’s light, it’s fun, and nobody cries. Hell, if Perseus had to get Medusa’s head to Mordor, he’d fly the decapitated bitch over in no time on his Pegasus, flashing her around as he flew, dropping newly stoned dragons and ring wraiths out of the sky. He’d swoop right up to Sauron and be like “Yo, big eye fire guy! Peep this!” And that’d be the end of it. Like I said, it’s an apples/oranges kinda thing. The long drawn out journeys are typically montaged over to get to the next epic creature fight…incidentally, the same can be said for character development, setting, and any kind of subtlety of story.
JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS – If you’ve never seen it, it may feel like Clash jr. to you. A mortal goes on a quest where he’ll face off against a variety of cool monsters while simultaneously being watched/helped/tormented by a gaggle of Greek gods who get off on playing Risk with his life.
Jason and his backup band The Argonauts go on a hack and slash tour of mythological monsters on a quest to find a golden fleece…for some reason. So that he may reclaim the throne stolen from him when his father was murdered? Unite the kingdom? Sell it for whatever the going rate is for gold wool? They throw out a few different reasons, but it’s all just so much MacGuffin. The point is just to have SOMETHING worth travelling “to the end of the world” for. Oh, and the REAL point of the travel, and really, of ALL quests in these type of movies? I’ll say it again, MONSTERS. That’s why these are considered “Harryhausen” films. People came more for the creature fights and mythological monster mangling than the stories. I saw an interview once where John Landis (Blues Brothers, American Werewolf) said that the Writers and Directors input on these pictures were less important than Ray’s…and with all due respect to those creators, I think he’s right.
As previously stated, Jason and his buddies run into some trouble in their journey. Hercules (looking one tweed jacket from being an art history professor and in no way the strongest man on earth) is so greedy and arrogant, that he accidentally brings to life a bronze statue of Talos. I’m sorry, I meant to say A CRAZY HUGE REALLY PISSED OFF bronze stature of Talos. He goes on a rampage famous enough you’ll probably recognize bits of it, but in the end is stopped by Jason…with some help from the gods of course. (This is one of those story elements you just don’t see much anymore. I mean why doesn’t Batman, or James Bond, or Don Draper stop, look longingly at a statue and say “Uh, God, can ya do me a solid?”)
And there’s still more danger on the horizon for Jason! Okay, the danger’s really for the Argonauts (let’s just call them mythological Red Shirts) not so much Jason, as I don’t think it’s a spoiler to admit that he won’t be getting Lunchable-d by the hydra. Then Jason still has to go up against a gang of sword wielding skeleton men before being able to steal the golden fleece and sail off into the sunset.
Harryhausen Highlight: Skeleton sword fight.
Already Seen That One Too? Try:
THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD – My favorite of the Sinbad movies I’ve seen. This is a later Sinbad flick, and so compared to say 7th Voyage of Sinbad, the dialogue’s less cheesy, the monster modeling’s smoother, the sword fights are longer, and the easy-to-rescue princesses are bustier…and she’s not a princess, but a slave girl with a magic tattoo and killer lavender shrug top.
Sinbad (this round played by Babrarella’s John Phillip Law) must travel across the seas to put together a golden map to find the Fountain of Destiny.(which he then bottles and sells at Ralph’s as Destiny water) Sinbad’s got some adversaries (this sounding familiar yet) to contend with along his journey, notably a six armed Kali statue, a one eyed centaur, a killer little flying demon/gargoyle guy, and fucking Doctor Who! No kidding, Tom Baker, arguably the most popular of the good Doctors, plays evil wizard Koura, who’s looking to kick Sinbad’s seven seas sailing ass.
Harryhausen Highlight: The Six Armed Statue sword fight.
SPY KIDS 2 – This may seem like an unusual choice, as it’s not just modern, but a sci-fi family of spies movie. It also happens to be the most Harryhausen-y non-Harryhausen movie I’ve ever seen. Steve Buscemi plays a mad scientist type who’s created an island full of monsters. Oh yeah, and there’s these spy kids (four of them actually, two brother/sister duo’s trying to out-spy each other) who come along to muck up his mad scientist dreams.
Aside from the non-stop chases, gadgets, and creatures, this one’s got a pretty great cast…Antonio Banderas, Bill Paxton, Steve Buscemi, Carla Gugino, Ricardo Montalban, Tony Shalhoub, Alan Cumming, Cheech Marin, Danny Trejo…
Non-Harryhausen Highlight: The straight-outta-Jason and the Argonauts skeleton fight.
CONAN THE DESTROYER – This one’s actually the odd choice recommendation-wise, as it’s not at all Harryhausen-y. It IS however, a light, fairly silly, quest movie full of monsters and sword fights. DO NOT get this confused with Conan the BARBARIAN, which is a long, epic (R Rated) revenge film full of bloody battles and tits. Destroyer is the “fun for the whole family” sequel, where ancient prophecies, protecting a princess, and Pro-wrestling a wizard sub in for almost fucking a succubus, genocidal snake cults, and Conan’s slavery based origin story.
(Side note, if you at any time just now thought I was referring to the Rose McGowan Conan ’11…Well stop reading right now, take down your pants and spank yourself roughly with a VHS tape. Then say five Hail Marty’s (Scorsese, duh) and watch A Clockwork Orange twice. Yes, Cinephilism is much like Catholicism, all’s forgiven as long as you stop being a bitch and do your penance.)
Back to our regularly scheduled review…Conan is hired to escort a princess to find a magic horn so the queen can fulfill a prophecy. The queen by the way is Sarah Douglas (Ursa from Superman II) playing about the most spot-on live action version of a Disney evil queen ever. Conan rounds up your basic AD&D campaign party (Thief, Wizard, Berzerker Bitch, Wilt Chamberlain) and heads out for adventure!
Non-Harryhausen Highlight: Big ending fight with the Dagoth
…And remember: If you absolutely HAVE to see a remake, buy a ticket for some other, more original film, and then sneak in to the remake’s theater.
Editors Note – Man, these just get better and better!