Scene 45: Perseus and our two dayplayers go into a dark entrance which leads down into another cavern system, which Medusa calls home and has decorated with more men who came to kill her, only to end up statuary.
As our men creep through the dungeon looking for their prey, all is silent but the guttering of torches in their sconces. From somewhere in the darkness comes the sound of a rattle, as we see the shadow of a tail flicking back and forth from torchlight.
We see against the wall, a shadow moving about….
[EEEeeey! I love this scene!! Love it so much!]
The sounds of slithering against rock is heard echoing off the walls, and the footsteps of our men trying to stay stealthy. No music is on the sound track [and it is GREAT… god, this scene… so tense!].
Another shadow reveals what looks like a quiver of arrows strapped onto Medusa’s back as her obviously snake-like body continues to slip closer to our men.
Perseus has his team separate to flush her out/cut off her head by creeping among the pillars to locate her.
One of our dayplayers, alas, gets an arrow deep in the back. He falls into a pit of acid, which boils and roils around him.
And then… she appears… looking far more ghastly than what you could expect:
Perseus spies on her with his shield. And we believe that she also catches his reflection from it, and readies her bow and arrow. But actually, she was seeing the inner reflective shield of Dayplayer #2. She lets loose an arrow, catching the man’s shield and causing him to fall to the stone floor, prostrate. Which leaves him vulnerable to her advance:
And alas for our poor hunk age, he turns his head..! Which is all it takes to turn him into solid stone [and awesomely, they didn’t cheat… his clothing doesn’t turn to rock].
Next it’s Perseus’ turn to get an arrow, and knocked out of his hiding place. But unlike unlucky Praetorian, he makes sure to only spot her with her reflection, despite having to also dodge arrows. To help him, he swings his sword at the wall sconces as he goes, plunging the room into deeper shadow to make it difficult for her to spot him, while he listens to her raspy breath and nervous tail rattle.
Scene 46: Perseus huddles against a pillar, trying to gauge where in the room Medusa is, while she continues to stalk him, peering into the dark corners of the tomb.
In his mind, Perseus hears the voice of the stranger and his warning to guard well the shield, as someday it will save his life and realizes this is the moment that he was forewarned of. He thinks for a moment, looking pretty damned terrified, and then tosses the shield away and into the arms of a previous victim frozen into stone. The unusual metal acts magnetically against the stone [magic did it, just move on], which gives Medusa the wrong target to fire at. Which she now does, knocking the shield to the floor.
As quietly as a mouse, Perseus unsheathes his magical sword [okay, there is no way to say that without it sounding porny] and takes a deep breath. All the while, the Gorgon slithers, hisses and rattles closer and closer, so slowly….
Perseus readies to strike. At the same time, Medusa readies her bow.
Perseus strikes out with a side blow, not looking, and manages to decapitate her, causing her body to flop around, her fingernails to convulsively scrape grooves in the pillars, and her blood to run out thick and red across the floor.
As Medusa death screeches and her last breath rattles away in the darkness, her blood runs under the knocked down shield, and Perseus sees first hand just how toxic it is. Like acid, it eats away at the magical shield, being strong enough to destroy even something made by the gods, themselves. It takes an inordinate amount of time for the headless body to finally still [yeecch].
Scene 47: Perseus stumbles out of the dungeon with Medusa’s head held by her snake hair. He lifts it to the sky in exhausted triumph.
Fade cut to lightning, and night time during a storm.
Scene 48: Camping out, Perseus and the remainder of his squad, including Thallo rest with Medusa’s head wrapped safely within Perseus’ cape where it can’t cause any trouble… or so everyone thinks.
For out in the clear skies, day-for-night, lightning and wind storm, Calibos has been stalking our hero. And he’s not about to let Perseus be successful in saving Andromeda.
Calibos, we see, has replaced his lost hand with a trident claw. And with this he has punctured the cape and the Gorgon’s head with, causing thick blood to drain onto the ground.
Now, this doesn’t seem to be sensible, until we see that Medusa’s blood remains cursed. From the puddle comes squirmy, maggot looking things, which congeal into scorpions, which grow to giant sized!
Bubo cries out a warning to our sleeping men, which is cut off as Calibos hits the mechanized bird with his bullwhip, causing it to fall into the pond below [I believe that they’re at the pond which is Pegasus’ drinking hole]. But enough noise has been made to awaken our men and they’re shocked to find themselves threatened now by scorpions as large as horses!
Scene 49: Perseus quickly has his sword knocked from his hands, and has to fight one of the bugs with naught but a torch. Meanwhile, the remainder of the dayplayers and Thallo can’t help him, because they’re a bit busy with the rest of the arachnids.
But just to add to the problems, Calibos whips the horses until they break free of their ropes and rush off into the desert.
Commentary: And most of the stop motion has been excellently rendered alongside our human characters, so I have nothing but respect for the special effects crew who worked so hard on this film. BUT. You knew there had to be one coming up. But -- this composited shot looks like crap. Calibos is too large, even for forced perspective and his whip is clearly not interacting with the horses whatsoever. Plus, it’s hard to think that the horses wouldn’t already be panicking from the giant scorpions nearby. It’s just an awful shot all the way around.
Scene 50: Back with Perseus and our soldiers, they seem to be holding their own. Until Calibos with his half-mile long whip, wraps up the ankles of one of our dayplayers. The man goes down with a yell, and is quickly set upon by the stinger of our giant scorpion.
His death, being fueled by Medusa’s toxin, is nearly instant.
Meanwhile, I’m proud to gloat that movie!boyfriend Thallo slays one of the scorpions with his sword! YAY!
Grabbing up Perseus’ halberd, he tosses the sword through the air with a shout, allowing Perseus to save himself from certain death.
BUT NO! Calibos uses his whip again around the throat of movie!boyfriend!! NO, NO…
He pulls Thallo into his clutches by the throat and thrusts his trident claw into his back, impaling him fatally!
Commentary: FUCK! He was so close to making it out of this movie alive, damn it!!
Putting aside that I find myself wanting Thallo way more than Perseus, this whole battle against the scorpions was fun, energetic, and the stop motion is especially strong here, like with Medusa -- except that one unfortunate shot of Calibos whipping the horses into running away. And just when I was thinking, “well good lord, how long is this frickin’ movie going to go”, I’m quickly reinvested in it again, because it’s just so cool.
But gawddammit, Thallo…!
Scene 51: Perseus sees Thallo fall, and Calibos, but is still busy trying to avoid the stinger and claws of the scorpion trying to kill him. Thankfully the magic sword he was gifted is more than a match for cutting through scorpion parts and it is quickly killed.
But Calibos hasn’t taken this opportunity to flee. Instead he turns that masterful whip wielding against Perseus. Perseus is caught by the wrist, causing him to lose a grip on his sword a-frickin’-gain.
He’s yanked to the ground, where Calibos goes on a whipping tirade against him. He’s continually struck as he crawls across the ground toward his sword, only for Calibos to get him around the throat and begin throttling him.
The two enemies get into a tug of war, with Perseus on the ground trying to get more slack, and Calibos yanking to tighten the leather noose. Perseus struggles, but finally gets his hand around his sword. Using his strength of desperation, he throws the sword which sails through the air, and impales Calibos through the gut!
The bastard finally dies in agony. But the damage is done, and Thallo lies dead [yeah, and those nameless red shirts too].
Perseus rushes to Thallo’s side, heartbroken as I. But he lies dead, his eyes open but empty. Alas.
Perseus stumbles over to the bag with the Gorgon’s head, determined to travel by foot back to Joppa before the time limit is expired and to save Andromeda. But he falls face first into the stony ground, and lies in exhaustion.
Scene 52: Meanwhile, Bubo comes walking up out of the water amusingly [not really] ‘coughing’ despite being a mechanical being. Perseus tasks Bubo with finding Pegasus if the steed yet lives and sends him off to Calibos’ swamp.
Scene 53: In the Swamp Camp, Pegasus is indeed alive yet. But he is caged, watched over by the Swamp Folk, and the giant buzzard.
Bubo starts dive bombing them, causing the men to scatter and the vulture to begin flapping around in annoyance. The chaos of the panicking vulture causes candles to be dropped to the kindling of the camp, which causes a fire to spread rapidly [because as you know, the driest material on Earth are located in the middle of a swamp].
Driving off the buzzard, Bubo is then able to focus on the gate of the cage holding Pegasus and releasing the flying horse. There is more coughing by Bubo, this time due to smoke inhalation.
Scene 54: In the meantime, Joppa readies the Princess Andromeda for her sacrifice to the Kraken to avoid Thetis’ even greater vengeance. It is a bleak day in the Kingdom.
Because Andromeda ritually bathes first, we get some side boob and her nicely shaped butt. [Shut up, this shot was absolutely critical to the pathos of Andromeda‘s fate!]
Following her ritual bath, she’s prepped in her best dress and has her hair done up all under the watch of her stricken mother.
Commentary: Okay, putting aside the unnecessary nudity, this scene was nicely shot because there isn’t any dialog and the only music is the military drum beat from the market square. It really had the weight of Andromeda’s self-sacrifice to save the city, and so what could’ve just been a quickie insert scene, actually had some emotional heft behind it. I really liked the way that Cassiopeia and Andromeda share no words between them.
Scene 55: In the meantime, Perseus arrives at the Amphitheatre, but he’s too physically spent from what appears to be a hike on foot all the way back to the city to do anything other than stumble in looking for Ammon and then collapse.
Scene 56: In Olympus, Zeus gazes down at his son’s clay representation, lying unmoving on the ground.
He’s interrupted by Thetis reminding him it’s time for Andromeda’s payment to her. To her pleasure, Zeus orders Poseidon to release the Kraken.
But as they walk away, Zeus reaches behind himself for the clay figure of Perseus. When he pulls his hand away, Perseus is back on his feet, with a much needed second wind.
[Heee-heee… I liked this so much. You could tell that he wants Thetis’ plot to fail because Perseus and Andromeda belong together, and I liked how he ever so slyly is giving his son the opening he needs to “find his Destiny”, despite his obligations to giving Thetis her way in this.]
Scene 57: In Joppa, Andromeda is marched toward the sea.
While far below the waves, Poseidon once again stands before the gate on the Kraken’s prison cell.
Commentary: And the shot is just as shitty as it was the first time around.
Scene 58: Eventually, Andromeda gets to the rock face where she is manacled to await her death for Joppa.
Scene 59: While far above, Perseus is flying to the rescue with the assistance of Bubo and Pegasus.
Scene 60: On the cliffs above, horns are blown to signal that the sacrifice is ready… while below the sea, Poseidon hears and releases the Titan, while above Perseus is again flying toward Calibos’ swamp needlessly… [Okay not really. But they’re reusing shots here which makes no frickin’ sense in order to pad out Perseus arriving to face off against the Kraken so Perseus, who was within walking distance of downtown Joppa is now flying half a continent away. I’m starting to wonder if he wants out of this whole marriage deal, having realized that his heart belonged to Thallo and he hadn’t realized it].
So, Andromeda afraid. Kraken approaches to threaten. Perseus taking the leisurely route to the rescue. Because Perseus isn’t in any hurry, Bubo is stuck distracting the monster.
Commentary: Yeah, now I’m definitely saying, “OKAY! Let’s get this thing wrapped up already! The cool battle was with the Medusa and the Giant Scorpions, and everybody knows that the day is going to be saved for crike’s sake!”
Scene 61: Perseus, when he deigns to show up, readies to unwrap the Gorgon head. But as he’s flying by distracting the Titan, Pegasus is hit by the claw of the Kraken!
[You Fuckin’ Idiot!]
Perseus falls into the sea. Pegasus falls into the sea. The bag of Gorgon falls into the sea.
Scene 62: Perseus has to swim ashore, but now he’s at the mercy of a Titan and Andromeda is still screwed.
Fortunately for everyone, Bubo is not a useless comedy relief sidekick and flies down to retrieve the cloak that Perseus bumbled.
With the hero music playing for the mechanical owl who deserves it, Perseus is dropped the cloak, which he manages to unravel this time only because all of these various distractions has the Titan not in a hurry to squash everybody.
He pulls out Medusa’s head and gives the Kraken a good long stare at her hideous face.
This does its job, turning even the Titan to stone.
Which breaks apart under its own weight.
Perseus tosses the head into the seas, where it can be found by somebody unlucky because he’s the hero. Uh-huh. [Oh, Thallo… *weep*.]
With everybody beginning to cheer at the defeat of the Titan, though restrained - probably waiting for Thetis to show up and throw a bitch fit, Pegasus suddenly and unexpectedly breaks from the sea, not drowned as we were led to believe. Yay!
Andromeda is freed! Yay!
Bubo survived! Ya… uh… tiny-yay?
Perseus can now become a Prince and push aside his wife for dominion over Joppa, because he’s the man! Yay! And rebuild Argos -- probably by stripping Joppa of its wealth to pay for it! Yay!
Scene 63: In Olympus, Zeus proudly proclaims Perseus a winner. He doesn’t mention that last minute cheat to give him the shot. And he stops himself from putting a thumb and index finger in an “L” shape to his forehead while laughing in Thetis’ face.
Probably out of deference for her cursed son getting gutted and all.
He then commands that no further action is to be taken against Perseus or Andromeda as reward for his overcoming the Titan. The other gods worry over the precedent set by a mortal man defeating the powers of the gods and what that may mean to them, but Zeus [belying his prickishness, I suppose] states simply that they would no longer be needed, though he doesn’t seem all that worried.
He then furthers sets images of Andromeda, Perseus, Cassiopeia [that must burn Thetis’ ass] and Pegasus among the constellations as inspiration to mankind after the Prince and Princess’ long lives together in which they’ll have many heirs.
[Except he drones on about it, so it takes about three minutes to get through it.]
And then it finishes with the cast list… Yay!
The Good: First, foremost and always, the spectacular characters of Ray Harryhausen must go here at the top. But special mention must go to Medusa, Calibos, the Giant Scorpions, and The Kraken... and Pegasus....
Laurence Olivier playing Zeus was a natural. I thank him in memoriam for agreeing to the role.
Maggie Smith is wonderful whenever she's allowed to turn Thetis petty, droll or imperious.
Neil McCarthy is absolutely terrific as Calibos, the villain and I'd say his is my favorite work. And speaking of Calibos, his makeup for the live performance is also great! I loved every time he was on camera.
The prop work for Bubo, the sword and shield of Perseus and the Medusa head are fantastic. Just wonderful!
I really loved the gruesome touches that were allowed to get away with, considering this was more of a children's tale, then meant for adults. The burned man at the stake, and especially Medusa's protracted death despite being beheaded was pretty in-your-face.
I really enjoy the musical score for the film, especially the main theme.
The entire scene from the moment that Perseus and the Doomed DayPlayers enter Medusa's underground lair to the moment that Perseus emerges victorious is made of AWESOME. It is creepy, it is tense, the Medusa herself is horrifying, the silence except for her rasping and tail rattle is unnerving. The scene is just incredibly well done, including matting the stop motion with the live actors. Best scene of the movie, no contest.
I'm also going to put the death scene for Thallo and Calibos here, with the giant scorpions. Some more wonderful blending of stop motion and live action here... except for that environment commentary in 'The Bad'... there is that.
The Bad: I know it's a small thing, but those opening credits are really cheap and tacky for a theatrical movie. They really leave a bad direct-to-video feeling to start the film on with the audience.
Some of the mat work/blue screen is hideous. None more so than Poseidon under the sea, using a hand crank to lift the godly gate on the Kraken's cave. Not only is it horrible looking, but the image bounces all over in that "unintended sea quake" way. And the thing is, it wasn't even needed really - let alone repeated.
Oh Jeezus. Another film trying to pull off the day-for-night. And worse, also trying to pull off a storm when the top of the frame keeps revealing a sky that clearly is cloudless.
The repeated scenes near the big finale is annoying. Especially because they were the poorer examples of the bluescreen work, they weren't necessary and only added running time, and they caused that inconsistency with Perseus' travel time to save Andromeda from the monster by obviously sending him way off course.
Other Thoughts: I'm going to put the general pacing here because for the most part you'll be kept entertained enough for the story to slip by. But there are individual scenes that seemed dragged out with slooow talking or too much empty space for characters' thinking a moment to inflate the run time. And at nearly two hours, this really didn't need any inflating, if anything it needed slight trimming throughout to bring the run time down, without losing the terrific set pieces.
I'm also putting most of the human acting here. Harry is great in action scenes, but he's plodding in the dialog heavy ones. Judi has the same problem... good when her scenes call for crying and anguish, but dull when she's just reciting dialog not meant to be anguished declarations.
Why, why, why do movie making people not understand that we can notice when somebody comes from off-camera that the main character should've seen easily but didn't because they suddenly lost their peripheral vision somewhere. That is so annoying.
Bubo scared the crap out of me. But only because I was afraid we were going to end up with a load of "humorous" empty scenes for the cutesy animal sidekick and I was appalled at the prospect. But, I must report to you that he's actually put to good use in the story and his minor few comedy bits aren't painful enough to complain about. Yay!
In general, the confrontation between the Kraken and Perseus was a little too drawn out for me. By that point, I was really ready for a quick ending, but instead we had to dick around a bit. Then we had to spend several drawn out minutes on top of it to finally end the film with the closing credits, and I was really chomping at the bit to get Zeus to shut up and get this thing over.
The Score: A great, fun film - especially if you have a soft spot for Ray Harryhausen and his stop motion magic.
4.0 out of 5 stars