Wednesday, March 21, 2007

AndressFest (Part 3)

It was after midnight, we were all hammered on wine and cocktails, and we'd eaten all of the snacks... but there was still one movie left to complete our AndressFest '07 trilogy. And that movie was 1981's 'Clash of the Titans'.

Saints preserve us all.

'Clash of the Titans' is the last "significant" film Ursula made, before lapsing into TV movies and guest appearances on shows like 'The Love Boat' and 'Manimal'... although its significance is due to its contributions to cinematic cautionary tales, rather than due to any inherent quality.

It was a bloated, inane, fatuous mess of a movie, plundering Greek myth for a story about the hero Perseus and the trials he went through to rescue his beloved Andromeda from the wrath of the gods. The sets looked cheap, the lighting was dull, the script was as leaden as a fishing weight, the characters were listless and the camera work was bland. The actors ploughed their way through the dialogue like icebreakers trying to conquer the Arctic, then, just when they seemed to be getting somewhere, they were interrupted by yet another lumbering burst of stop-motion animation. The much-vaunted special effects of Ray Harryhausen, possibly the greatest special effects man Hollywood had known up to this point, would have been spectacular if 'Clash of the Titans' had been made in 1961. But it wasn't. It was made in 1981, when the cutting-edge work in 'The Empire Strikes Back' and 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' made these old-school efforts look laughable.

On the acting front, Harry Hamlin wasn't so much an actor as a pectoral delivery system, while Judi Bowker made Andromeda about as exciting as a Toyota Camry. Laurence Olivier chewed so much scenery on the Mount Olympus set that it's a wonder it didn't collapse on him. But, as Jar Jar Binks would prove twenty years later, the worst actors aren't human. The goddess Thetis gives Perseus a little gift to help him on his quests; a whimsical simulacra owl named Bubo... quite possibly the most cynically-created character in the history of cinema. Bubo is a shameless amalgam of Muffit, the robot pet from 'Battlestar Galactica', and R2-D2 from 'Star Wars', right down to the cute/clumsy movements and the unintelligible bleeping. However unlike these two earlier robot creations, Bubo is utterly devoid of charm.


Until this movie, I'd never wished for an alternate-reality time-travelling anti-owl rocket launcher. Then I met Bubo, and everything changed.

But enough about the wretched Bubo. There's only one reason why we watched this awful, awful movie in the first place. Let's get back to our Ursula.

'Clash of the Titans' is always one of the first movies mentioned when discussing Ursula's oeuvre, but that's not because of her performance. Although she was reasonably high up in the credits, she only had one line that contained an entire sentence, and spent most of her screen time just hanging around the halls of Olympus looking sultry. I'm pretty sure that standing still and being beautiful isn't as easy as it sounds, but frankly, if the hood ornament on a Rolls Royce can do it, then it can't be that hard. And unlike Ursula, at least the Spirit of Ecstasy reacts to outside stimuli.

For AndressFesters, 'Clash of the Titans' is really only memorable because that's where the 44 year old Ursula met the 30 year old Harry Hamlin and, being Ursula, had a torrid affair with him. Given that they didn't share a single scene in the entire film, this was quite an achievement. She must have met him in the catering queue, then cornered him later behind the wardrobe trailer. As a result, nine months later, her only child Dmitri was born.

And when you think about it, that's kind of touching. Regardless of how the rest of the world remembers it, there's at least one person who looks back on 'Clash of the Titans' and believes that something good came out of it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having seen "Clash of the Titans" at least twice - rainy Sunday afternoons and boredom are a dangerous combination - I aver that whatever the good was, it was not the movie.

btw, wasn't it Athena who gave Perseus the owl? She was supposed to be the wise one, springing out of Zeus' head; this is understandable as the only other means of egress from a male deity, while it is larger, resulting in less ichor, is nonetheless far more Icky.

8:54 PM  

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