The Legend of Hercules: Podcast 5-2.1

legend-of-hercules-whip
The latest installment of Cinefantastique’s Black Hole Ultra-Lounge Podcast muses on the casting of Zoe Saldana in ROSEMARY’S BABY; enthuses over the Blu-ray release of John Carpenter’s PRINCE OF DARKNESS; and battles against boredom in THE LEGEND OF HERCULES – the latest (though far from greatest) attempt to transform the demi-god of Greek mythology into a modern movie superhero. Listen in as Lawrence French and Steve Biodrowski tell you all you need to know!

Son of Samson: A 50th Anniversary Celebration of 1960

Son of Samon (1960) posterThe word peplum derives from the Roman word for pleated skirt, and a “peplum movie” is one in which the characters wear such skirts. SON OF SAMSON (originally Maciste nella Valle dei Re [“Maciste in the Valley of the Kings”]) was the second of Mark Forest’s muscleman movies (his first was GOLIATH AND THE DRAGON) and one of the earliest competitors to the highly successful HERCULES, which had kick-started the sound revival of the peplum genre. Forest would play Maciste 7 times and appear in 12 different pepla movies.
Traditionally, Maciste was the son of Hercules or even an alternate name for Hercules, but this film identifies him as the son of the biblical Samson instead. The character of Maciste is one of the longest-running cinematic characters, having been featured in over 50 films; he made his initial appearance in Italian cinema is the incredibly impressive silent epic CABIRIA( 1914), directed by Giovanni Pastrone and loosely based on Flaubert’s Salammbo. As in that silent film, Maciste here tells another character that his name means “of the rock” (macis is the Latin word for “rock”).
SON OF SAMSON follows the standard plot of a Maciste movie, which usually involves a young lady who runs afoul of an evil ruler and who must be rescued. Maciste also helps the rightful ruler overcome a usurper and confronts an evil queen with carnal designs who attempts to seduce him with a belly dance. In 11th CenturyEgypt, the Persian Queen Smedes (played by Folies Beregeres dancer Chelo Alonso) rules Egypt despite being secretly in league with the kingdom’s Persian invaders, who are raping and pillaging their way across the countryside. When Pharaoh Armiteo (Carlo Tamberlani) hears that Smedes participated in selling Egyptian women as slaves, the Pharaoh berates her for exploiting his subjects; however, one of Smedes’ minions shoots an arrow into the Pharaoh’s back. Meanwhile, Kenamon (Angelo Zenoli), the son of the Pharaoh, who has been traveling and fighting across Egypt, recovers from his wounds and spends some time with Norfret (Frederica Ranchi), who pines for him when he returns to Tanis. Persians attack Norfret’s village, killing the men, burning the huts, and rounding up the women to be sold as slaves.
Maciste, the Son of Samson (Mark Forest), viewed by the Egyptian as a potential savior, lies sleeping by a mountain when a lion stalks him. Seeing this, Kenamon shoots the lion with an arrow and as Maciste thanks him, another lion approaches. There follows the typical shots of Maciste hugging a lion followed by him struggling with a lion skin rug with roars and growls dubbed in. Finally, Maciste beats the second lion to death with his fists. In gratitude, Kenamon gives Maciste a ring as a token of his friendship. Taking his leave of Kenamon, Maciste comes across the Persian raiders, whom he crushes with boulders and a huge stone wheel, rescuing the Egyptian women and escorting them back to their village. Kenamon in turns finds the streets of his city of Tanis empty following the death of his father, Armiteo. Visiting the mummy of his father, Kenamon is advised by the Grand Vizier (Petar Dobric) that he is the new Pharaoh.
To secure her position, Smedes proposes she wed Kenamon, who declines saying that it is too soon after his father’s death. Smedes immediately assumes that another woman has won Kenamon’s heart. She leaves him declaring, “Our marriage must take place on order of the Persians.” Distressed, Kenamon finds his egress blocked by spear-carrying guards. He dispatches a servant to carry word to Norfret, but the servant is quickly intercepted by guards and pumped for information. Aware of Kenamon’s interest in Norfret, Queen Smedes plots to use the mystical “Necklace of Forgetfulness” on Kenamon, which will make him her slave. The Vizier, who is in cahoots with Smedes, places the necklace of forgetfulness around Kenamon’s neck, and he instantly falls under Smedes’ spell. Suddenly he relishes her company and accedes to her every request.
Meanwhile, Maciste drives the rescued women in a carriage to an oasis in a failed effort to find water. They find a similar situation once they reach the town of Memphis, where greedy merchants conceal what little water there is in their animal skins. Maciste. hearing that Kenamon’s coronation is about to take place in Tanis, resolves to find men to aid in the fight against the marauding Persians. Waiting until nightfall, he moves part of a mountain side to create a natural spring and supply the populace’s water needs.
The corruption of Tanis is established in that travelers must bribe the guards to be admitted. The merchant with Maciste gains him entry by disguising him as a merchant whose rich caravan will be arriving shortly. Once inside, Maciste sees a young boy cry out for mercy for his father, who is being whipped. The boy throws rocks at the guards from a nearby rooftop after being chased away, so the guards climb up a ladder to pursue him. Maciste grabs the ladder with the guards on it, walks it over to the Nile and throws the guards into the water.
The gods having decreed to Maciste that Egypt will be free, Maciste goes to the slaves who are erecting an obelisk. When the obelisk slips down, crushing slaves and guards like, Maciste arrests the descent with his mighty muscles, and has the slaves pull from the other side. That night he tells the slaves to construct weapons while he seeks out Kenamon and enlists his aid in their cause. However, Kenamon doesn’t recognize the man he once saved in the jungle, and Maciste is beset by guards. He backs into what proves to be a swiveling wall and enters the “Cell of Death,” wherein the walls close in to crush him. With his incredible strength, he makes it to the gate of the cell and escapes, arranging for the slaves to attack during the next day’s chariot race.
At the chariot race, the winner is told by Smedes that he will have the honor of punishing some escaped slaves. He is given a chariot with long scimitars welded to the hub. The women Maciste rescues are brought into the arena blindfolded, and the chariot is driven among them, eventually cutting down the blind seer who prophesized Maciste being Egypt’s deliverer. Angered, Maciste throws off his disguise and grabs the back of the chariot, arresting its progress and bring the team of horses pulling it to a stop.
Son of Samon (1960) Impressed, Smedes falls for the mighty Maciste and grants him his wish of releasing the women prisoners. That night, she attempts to seduce Maciste with a seductive dance that allows Chelo Alonso to show off her dancing talents, though who knew that Persian queens were so versed in bellydancing? This allows Maciste to get close to Kenamon again and spell out his plans; unfortunately, Smedes can overhear them. Enraged, she gives Maciste a knock-out potion and orders him thrown to the crocodiles. Still, the mighty hero makes quick work of these reptilian foes and escapes to find the women safe and the slaves ready to revolt. After knocking down a few dozen soldiers, the rest of the royal force arrives, led by Kenamon. Maciste ties a rope to a support on the bridge they must cross, and as the leaders of the royal force almost reach the other side, Maciste pulls away the support, causing the bridge to collapse.
This causes the necklace to fall from Kenamon, and he once more remembers Norfret and turns against Smedes. Leading everyone back to the palace at Tanis, he tells the crowd that Smedes, for her perfidy, will be burned until she is embers, and that the crowd will deal with the overthrown Vizier. Smedes proclaims, “You win Maciste, but you will never burn me.” She runs through the wall passage of the cell of death and into the crocodiles’ lair. Norfret reunites with Kenamon, and Maciste, his destiny fulfilled, leaves to find other people to free and possibly other films to appear in.
The refreshing thing about this movie is the Egyptian settings, complete with authentic looking costumes and shots of the pyramids. SON OF SAMSON is directed by Carlo Campogallani, whose career stretches back to Italy’s silent era, when he directed some of the earliest Maciste movies, including MACISTE I (1919), LA TRILOGIA DI MACISTE (1920), MACISTE CONTRO LA MORTE (aka MACISTE VS. DEATH) (1920), and THE TESTAMENT OF MACISTE (1920). His other peplum include GOLIATH AND THE BARBARIANS, URSUS, and SWORD OF THE CONQUEROR. Campogallani keeps things moving and gives a fairly spectacular feel (the film is shot in Technicolor and Totalscope) despite the limited budget.
The fantasy elements of the film are largely limited to Maciste’s supernatural strength, the blind seer with the gift of prophecy, and the magical necklace that bends Kenamon to Smedes’ will. The horror elements include a generous application of bright red Kensington gore during the battle scenes, the crushing walls, the crocodile pit, whippings, and torture of a prisoner using a red-hot poker. Campogallani also gives us a disturbing image of the Persian depredations near the opening when we see snakes slithering past the heads of victims buried up to their necks in desert sand.
While not one of the more impressive 1960 genre efforts, SON OF SAMSON is a reasonably entertaining historical adventure that doesn’t make the mistake of presenting fantastic creatures it cannot quite pull off, unlike its immediate predecessor GOLIATH AND THE DRAGON. It is colorful and, like most pepla, features very fetching female leads with an impressively muscled bodybuilder at its center.
SON OF SAMSON (originally Maciste nella Valle dei Re [“Maciste in the Valley of the Kings”], 1960). Directed by Carlo Campogalliani. Story and screenplay by Oreste Biancoli, Ennio De Concini. Cast: Mark Forest, Chelo Alonso, Angelo Zanolli, Federica Ranchi, Carlo Tamberlani, Nino Musco, Zvonimir Rogoz, Ignazio Dolce, Andrea Fantasia, Petar Dobric, Vira Silenti, Ada Ruggeri.
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Clash of the Titans sequel hires writers

Sam Worthington as Perseus
Sam Worthington is expected to return for the sequel.

The Hollywood Reporter reveals that Warner Brothers and Legendary Pictures are hiring two new writers for a sequel to CLASH OF THE TITANS: Dan Mazeau and David Leslie Johnson. Greg Berlanti is already working on a treatment; Mazeau and Johnson will collaborate with him, then write the screenplay.
The hiring of multiple writers is not uncommon for blockbuster films. Studios like to avoid putting all their eggs in one basket, fearful of spending months developing a story only to end up with a script that has great action scenes but terrible dialogue or vice versa. Different writers are brought on to finesse certain elements; however, the typical procedure is to have them working separately or even serially, with the the final draft later cobbled together from the various efforts. In the case of CLASH OF THE TITANS 2, Warners is putting the writers together, with the hope that Mazeau (who penned the upcoming THE FLASH and JOHNNY QUEST) can supply the action with Johnson (THE ORPHAN) adding the drama and characterization.
The plan is for Sam Worthington and Gemma Arterton to return. CLASH OF THE TITANS 2 will be shot in 3D (rather than adding 3D in post-production). Expected release date is spring 2012.

Clash of the Titans: Cinefantastique Horror, Fantasy & Science Fiction Pocast 1:8

We’re a day late but not a dollar short with this, the eighth episode of Cinefantastique’s weekly Horror, Fantasy & Science Fiction Podcast. Due to technical difficulties, podcast host Dan Persons sits out this episode, but he joins regular contributors Lawrence French and Steve Biodrowski in spirit as they analyze the new big-budget remake of CLASH OF THE TITANS. How does it stack up to the 1981 original, with stop-motion effects by Ray Harryhausen? Are the new computer-generated special effects an improvement? And what about the 3D? Also on the menu: news, home video release, and random recommendations. Enjoy!


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Supernal Dreams: Ray Harryhausen on the original CLASH OF THE TITANS

Perseus (Harry Hamlin) battles giant scorpions.
Perseus (Harry Hamlin) battles giant scorpions.

With the re-make of Clash of the Titans hitting theaters this week, Warner Bros. has released the original 1981 film on Blue-Ray disc. To celebrate, here is part V of my interview with Ray Harryhausen, discussing his hand-crafted approach to creating the film’s special visual effects.
Mr. Harryhausen, who will celebrate his 90th birthday in June, will be having a retrospective exhibition of his original stop-motion models and related items at the Academy of Motion Pictures Gallery the same month.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Did you supply the original story for CLASH OF THE TITANS?
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: No, it was Beverly Cross who came up with a 25-page outline called Perseus and the Gorgon’s Head, taken from Greek mythology. Beverly has worked with us for some time. He also worked on Jason and the Argonauts and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, and had written a picture for Charles (Schneer) called Half a Sixpence. We had quite a good relationship with him on all of those films. He is also a Greek scholar, which was important and rather rare. In his college days he studied all the Greek classics, so he also knew all the stories of ancient Greece. Beverly also lived in Greece for quite some time and he told me that while he was living on a Greek island in the Aegean Sea, he felt he could develop something with Perseus. I had always wanted to do the Perseus story, in fact right after Jason I wanted to make it, but I never clearly saw the development of the story. So Beverly came up with quite a good outline of how we could get a progressively good story out of the tale. Then I went my way and made some drawings of what I thought the visual elements should look like and Beverly enhanced his treatment, incorporating my visuals, because in our type of picture we have to start with the visuals.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: You took certain liberties in adapting the Perseus myth to the screen, didn’t you?
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: Yes, because most mythologies are rather fragmented, with many of the climaxes occurring in the first reel. In Greek mythology, the stories are so episodic you have to rob from one legend and put it into another. You can’t just take the Greek myths the way they are. You have to shape it and glamorize it. I like to glamorize my skeletons and I like to glamorize my dinosaurs. I think if you just took Greek mythology and put it on the screen you’d find it would be a big bore to everybody, because you don’t have a natural development of what is needed for a screenplay. We don’t like to tamper with the myths, but for example, in CLASH OF THE TITANS, we found that according to the legends, Pegasus is supposed to come from Medusa’s blood. Well, if we left it that way, we couldn’t have Pegasus come into the picture until reel eleven. Since we wanted to use Pegasus throughout the story, we had to develop another concept to account for him, which we did by having Zeus explain that Calibos was once a normal person, who was given a certain area to control on Earth and he slew all the herds of Zeus’s wonderful flying horses. That accounted for the fact that Pegasus came into the story before Medusa got her head cut off.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: The idea of the Gods playing with the life of the human characters was an idea you carried over from Jason and the Argonauts, wasn’t it?
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: Yes, we really needed a transition between the Gods and the mortals, like the chessboard we used in Jason. You’re dealing with an almost surrealistic type of film that needed to depict the Gods, so I came up with the idea of a miniature amphitheater where the Gods could put these miniatures figures into the arena and shape their destinies.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: On CLASH OF THE TITANS, you had your biggest budget ever. Did you still find you had many shots that could have been improved?
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: Oh yes, many. You always run into that problem. You see, there’s this delusion, where people on the outside of filmmaking think you take a camera and just put it down under ideal conditions. But when you’re on location, taking 80 people from country to country, there are many compromises you have to make, because of the weather, because of accommodations in the summer, because of many things. For example, we had to shoot some plates in very bad weather, and I regretted that, but we’re not in a position to keep re-shooting scenes until we get it perfect. On all the pictures we had to compromise, because we usually had very tight budgets, especially compared to pictures that are made today. Today a picture can cost $100 million dollars and you don’t even see half of it on the screen, or if you do see it, you can’t understand the story. But as somebody once said, “these are the conditions that prevail.”
LAWRENCE FRENCH: What about the seagull that appears behind the opening titles of CLASH OF THE TITANS. Were you satisfied with that?
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: Well that was done mostly with high contrast mattes in the optical printer. After we had filmed the seagulls, we took them out and put them in a different background, simply because we were in no position to find a talented seagull to take with us to the Amazon jungle and put them in the proper background we had chosen for the trip to Mount Olympus.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: If you were offered the chance to make a film with a $100 million budget, what would you do?
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: I think I would faint! Seriously, working as I did on mostly very tight budgets it made you think about cheaper ways of doing things. I had to do that right from my first solo effort, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, which only cost $200,000, so I had to devise a simplified way of combining the models with a live action background. Even with a bigger budget, you still have to find short cuts and make compromises.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Is that what happened with the Kraken scene in the finale of CLASH OF THE TITANS? It looks like there is a background plate of the sky that is missing.
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: Yes, I had always planned to have dark and threatening storm clouds behind the Kraken for the sacrifice of Andromeda, along with lightning effects to suggest the wrath of the Gods, but because of time and budget considerations, we were never able to complete the scene to my satisfaction.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: The Kraken is actually taken from Scandinavian mythology, isn’t it?
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: The name is, but the sea monster is from the Greek myths. However, in the Greek stories, the sea monster was never actually named which is why we borrowed the name from the legends of the great giant squids of medieval times, when sailors didn’t have a name for a giant squid, so they called it a Kraken. John Wyndham wrote a story called The Kraken Wakes (1953) and several other stories have been written using that name, as well. But the Kraken is definitely a much later name than the sea monster that is supposed to devour Andromeda in the Greek legend. And since we had to give our creature a name and we didn’t want to call it Leviathan or Behemoth from the Bible, we decided to settle on the Kraken.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Was CLASH OF THE TITANS the first time you had assistance on the animation?
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: Yes, because we had deadlines and had to get the film out by a certain date. As I result, I had to take on help. So I asked Jim Danforth to come in and animate Pegasus, because I had seen a horse he had done for a commercial some years before, while he was at Cascade. It was a commercial for a floor wax that showed a herd of horses that went rushing across the floor, so I felt he would be the right man to do the flying scenes of Pegasus. He also animated Dioskilos, the two-headed dog. Then we hired a young English animator, Steven Archer, because I had seen some of his work with clay figures. He had done three or four test subjects on his own, just for fun, but under very distressing circumstances, so I thought he would work out well. Steven ended up doing most of the animation for Bubo, the owl. Then both Jim and Steven did bits and pieces of the Kraken, because we had spasmodic pieces of film shot for each sequence of the Kraken.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: You mentioned earlier that one of the keys to your long collaboration with Charles Schneer was that you never agreed. Couldn’t that be a real problem if you and Jim Danforth or Steven Archer had differences of opinion on how to animate a sequence?
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: Not really, because most of the sequences had already been laid out in storyboard form, so there was already a broad outline for both Jim and Steven to follow. Of course, any animator has to use his own judgment, because while you are animating on the set, so many things can be suggested. Once you are on the set, one pose suggests another, so most of the animation has to be done right there on the spot. So what I tried to do was to focus everyone’s attention towards the one specific channel that I thought would work for our overall purpose.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Earlier you said you never wanted to do a scene like the skeleton fight in Jason again, but you didn’t make things very easy for yourself when you gave Medusa all those snakes in her hair.
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: Well, with Medusa we needed to have a lot of snakes in her hair, otherwise she wouldn’t look right. After all who wants a Gorgon that’s skimpy on snakes! We ended up giving her twelve snakes, plus one on her arm. Each snake had a head and a body with a ball and socket armature, so I had to animate twelve snakes for each frame of film, plus the rattle of her tail, keeping all of that in synchronization. Then, because she plays opposite Harry Hamlin in a ten-minute scene and had to shoot arrows, we had to have an intricate model that was fully jointed. The final puppet had 150 joints throughout her body. Each of her fingers was jointed as well, so she could shoot arrows. We also built a much larger Medusa model, but it didn’t photograph with as much detail, so it wasn’t used in the final film.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: What was your inspiration for the design of Medusa?
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: I did a lot of research, and looked at Benvenuto Cellini’s bronze sculpture in Florence which shows Perseus holding Medusa’s head up at arm’s length. But I found that most of the classical Medusa’s were simply a rather attractive looking woman’s face with snakes in her hair. That wouldn’t turn anybody to stone, unless I miss the point of Greek mythology. Most artists, other than Cellini, all pictured her as a normal woman who simply had snakes in her hair. That wouldn’t be very dramatic for a motion picture, so I gave her a scaly face, and a more evil face than most of the classical concepts. Then I thought that the serpentine motif could be extended, by making her into a snake woman, which is something you find in German Gothic concepts. They used to combine the snake and the woman—no reflection on womanhood—but many of the early Gothic concepts involved that type of idea. Maybe that came from my Germanic background.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: The Snake woman in THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD was sort of a early version of Medusa, and there’s a beautiful color sketch of her in The Art of Ray Harryhausen (on page 158).
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: That was just a simple tinted watercolor. The Snake woman was a forerunner of Medusa, but she had a bra. For Medusa we also started out by giving her a boob tube, but we didn’t like it, we thought it would look too vulgar, so we just decided to light her very discreetly. We wanted her to appear in a very mysterious kind of lighting to maintain the mood.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: In An Animated Life you talk about the film Noir type of lighting in MILDRED PIERCE (1945) that influenced the Medusa sequence.
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: Yes, I was very impressed by Mildred Pierce which I had seen years ago, and how they did the lighting on Joan Crawford’s face where she was moving in and out of shadows. So I tried to get that type of lighting on Medusa. That lighting was all dictated by what was going on in the background plate that had already been shot by our cameraman, Ted Moore. We had flames flickering throughout the sequence from braziers on the full-size live-action set, so I had to have a flicker effect on Medusa to match it, otherwise she would look like she had just been pasted on. I did all the lighting myself and devised a red and orange color wheel that cast colored light on the Medusa puppet, so it appeared as if she was lit by torch fire.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: And Tod Browning’s FREAKS (1932) inspired Medusa’s initial entrance.
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: Yes, I remembered seeing FREAKS, which had a man in the circus with no legs who had to pull himself along the ground with his arms. So when I began animating Medusa that image came to my mind, because she has no legs either. I thought it would be a good way to have her enter the scene—having her pull herself along with her arms. It gives a very weird impression when you first see her. She seems like a freak, so you feel a bit sorry for her.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: How did you achieve the effect of having Medusa’s arrow knock over Perseus’s shield?
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: On the live-action set we had a long wire going up to the shield, and off camera we had a man who shot the arrow. The arrow rode along on the wire, and we put hydrochloric acid on it so it would smoke as it went by. Then when I went to animate Medusa, I put her in the right position, so when she releases the miniature arrow it matched the rear-projection plate that was behind the model.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: After Perseus decapitates Medusa what did you use for the ooze that comes out of her neck?
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: That was done with wallpaper paste tinted red. It was quite effective and originally it was supposed to poison anyone who touched it. But we found we didn’t want to go into that kind of extreme detail for the scene, so in the end we didn’t use it.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Did you ever think about having Medusa speak?
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: No, because then you’d be getting into the realm of the puppetoon, and we didn’t want that. It’s all right for puppetoons, but it’s never convincing for an animated character. No matter how carefully you animate a creature like Medusa, if you attempt to use dialogue you are really trying to play God, and that’s not my mission in life.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Is that why you decided to use an actor for Calibos, alongside the stop-motion model?
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: Yes, because we initially started out with Calibos as being only a bestial character, with one cloven hoof and a tail. Naturally you can’t find an actor with a cloven hoof and a tail, so originally Calibos was just going to grunt and groan, a la ONE MILLION YEARS, B.C. Then we decided in the final screenplay that we would need to have some exposition and dialogue from him, in order to keep him from being a dull character.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Calibos also has a touch of pathos about him. When he gives Andromeda the necklace, it invokes the memory of their past love and what he once looked like.
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: Yes, Desmond Davis, the director was trying to get the feeling of Jean Cocteau’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST into those scenes. Calibos was simply the victim of circumstances. Zeus turned him into this apparition of horror because they were whimsical Gods who were created in man’s image and they seemed to like revenge, which is really not very God-like. But in those days the Gods had many whims.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: CLASH OF THE TITANS was the first and only time you had a cast of big name actors to work with.
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: Yes, we never really had stars in our pictures. We didn’t think we needed them because the pictures didn’t have star parts. Instead we tried to keep a minimum of dialogue and stress the fantasy aspects of the pictures. CLASH OF THE TITANS was the only one where MGM felt it was necessary to have some star names. We got some notable actors, mostly to play the Greek Gods. Beverly Cross had written a section into the script that glamorized the Gods, which I think worked out quite well, because who else could play Zeus, but Laurence Olivier? Maybe Charlton Heston, since he played God*, but Laurence Olivier was ideal. Although he wasn’t very well at the time—he was sort of on his last legs, and in rather poor health, but he gave a good performance. So I was most grateful we had at least one picture with a lot of stars in it. Of course, the stars got more money working for two weeks than I got for working two years! But that’s the way the cookie crumbles and you can’t worry about it.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: In your earlier films, although you didn’t have star names, you always had excellent British character actors, like Douglas Wilmer, Laurence Naismith and Patrick Troughton. In fact, all those actors appeared in Sir Laurence Olivier’s film version of RICHARD III. Did you see RICHARD III when it came out in 1955?
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: Oh yes, although that was many years ago. And as you say, we always had very talented actors, even if they were not what today you would call stars. But they were all very competent actors: Douglas Wilmer was brilliant as King Pelias in Jason and later we used him in THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD as the Grand Vizier. Laurence Naismith was also in JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS, and we used him again in THE VALLEY OF GWANGI.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: What led you to retire after making CLASH OF THE TITANS?
Ray Harryhausen with the Medusa model from the 1981 CLASH OF THE TITANS
Ray Harryhausen with the Medusa model from the 1981 CLASH OF THE TITANS

RAY HARRYHAUSEN: I had enough of spending my time in a dark room after everybody else went home. I spent most of my life in a dark room, painted black, which can be depressing if you are aware of it, although I was never aware of it. I also felt that tastes had changed. After CLASH OF THE TITANS, we were going to do a follow-up, and I helped Charles develop a script with Beverly Cross called FORCE OF THE TROJANS, although a lot of the effects work would have been farmed out to someone else. But even though CLASH OF THE TITANS had made a lot of money for MGM, they didn’t want to back it. They felt costume pictures weren’t suitable, and the pictures the studios wanted you to make all had to have explosions in them every five minutes. So I’m grateful that I got in on the tail end of the great days of Hollywood.
FOOTNOTE:

  • Actually, Heston played Moses in THE TEN COMMANDMENTS and John the Baptist in THE GREATEST STORY EVERY TOLD, but not God himself.

Clash of the Titans: Ralph Fiennes video interview

One of the highlights of the new CLASH OF THE TITANS is Ralph Fiennes’ performance as the sinister Hades, brother of Zeus (Liam Neeson). Given more screentime than Voldemort in the HARRY POTTER films, Hades emerges as a memorable portrait of malevolence and resentment, urging Zeus to reign vengeance upon mankind while simultaneously working to usurp the King of the Gods.
In this brief clip, Fiennes discusses his role and working with his SCHINDLER’S LIST co-star, Neeson.
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Titans clash with Gods

Harry Hamlin as Perseus in the 1981 version of CLASH OF THE TITANSVariety reports that Relativity Media and Warners Brothers are battling over who will be the first to reach the screen with a big-budget fantasy film based on Greek Myth. Relativity is backing a film called WAR OF THE GODS, which had Warner Brothers had considered backing until they signed Louis Leterrier (THE INCREDIBLE HULK) to direct a remake of 1981’s CLASH OF THE TITANS instead. The CLASH remake had been in development a while but was immediately green-lit upon hiring the director; GODS meanwhile is racing to get started by the end of the year, with Tarsem Singh (THE CELL) directing from a script by Charley and Vlas Parlapanides. Unfortuantely, it sounds as if both films Read More