When Titans Clash: Ray Harryhausen's Metamorphic Art

  If you have any interest in mythology, 'bad' Classics movies, claymation, poetry, literature, reception studies, or anything related thereto, don't miss this lecture by Professor Dan Curley (Classics, Skidmore College) at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 18 in Moseley Oak Room.

  Ray Harryhausen’s swansong, “Clash of the Titans” (1981), remains underrepresented in the groundswell of critical literature on classics and the cinema.  Yet beneath the film’s Saturday-matinee patina – uncomplicated heroics, workmanlike cinematics, and dated special effects – lies a program of myth-making as sophisticated and as self-aware as those of classical poets.  This program reveals itself in various ways, especially in instances of contaminatio, both in terms of Calibos as a replacement for that other son of Thetis, Achilles, and in the assimilation of Perseus and Andromeda to other mythic archetypes like Oedipus and Ariadne. Capping the entire mythopoetic enterprise is the animator, Harryhausen, whose stop-motion method breathes life (anima) into his creations. The so-called “arena of life,” where the gods devise new storylines for the lives of mortals, provides an analogue for Harryhausen’s animation. Just as Zeus and Thetis transform the story along with clay representations of the film’s characters, so the animator is the film’s prime mover, overseeing his mythical universe as the gods oversee theirs, or as a poet-narrator oversees even the gods.