Clash of the Titans (1981) was special effects guru Ray Harryhausen’s last main feature film and tells the story of Perseus, son of Zeus, in his quest to save Andromeda from being sacrificed to the mighty Kraken. Though it may be dated by today’s technological advancements in movie magic, Harryhausen brings many mythological creatures and monsters to life with his trademark stop-motion animation. Of all the monsters featured in the film, one in particular has always fascinated me since the moment I first saw her: the voiceless Medusa.
The design for Medusa is hauntingly terrifying – shriveled eye sockets revealing swollen blue eyes, cracked and scaly brownish blue-green skin, shriveled lips revealing pointed teeth. Her corpse-like features and serpent body make her hideous to look upon.
When you first hear about her in the film, she is referred to as a monster with a gaze that penetrates right into your inner being and petrifies you from the inside out – a power that makes her nearly invincible. The only way Perseus can defeat the Kraken is to use Medusa’s severed head to turn the Kraken to stone.
The hunt for Medusa ends, rather tragically, with her bloody head stuffed in a bag.
Medusa 101: Medusa is one of the most terrifying creatures in all mythology, but before her monstrous transformation, she was a beautiful woman and a symbol of purity. She served as a priestess in Athena’s (Goddess of Wisdom and War) temple and was bound by an eternal vow of chastity. Poseidon (God of the Sea) raped Medusa in Athena’s temple. As a powerful male god, Poseidon is not held responsible for his actions. In the eyes of Athena, it is Medusa who deserves to be punished. Not only does she transform Medusa into a corpse-like serpent beast, she also curses her to a life of isolation. Banished to a remote and desolate island for eternity, Medusa has to live in the physical embodiment of death until the day Perseus comes to kill her.
I always secretly rooted for Medusa. After all that she had been though, I felt that she deserved more than the death Perseus gave her in the 1981 version of Clash of the Titans. In the pictures and trailers I’ve seen for the upcoming remake, she looks less like the hideous, slow-moving Medusa Harryhausen animated and much more like a fierce warrior with the body and speed of an anaconda.