I saw this day one in the theater, all of nine years old, and ready to scream and yell and drive any adult near me insane with the sheer force of my absolute bliss at seeing a Ray Harryhausen movie in the theater and not on TV.
Columbia Pictures, who had distributed so many of Harryhausen and producer Charles H. Schneer’s films. But as always, change happened and the new heads of the studio no longer wanted to pay for such a big budget. Schneer took it to Orion Pictures, who insisted on Arnold Schwarzenegger playing the lead, but at that point, Arnold was unproven at dialogue. So that took the movie to MGM.
The producer wanted better-known actors to play the Gods in order to improve the film’s chances at the box office. He got exactly what he wanted, thanks to Maggie Smith as Thetis, Claire Bloom as Hera, Ursula Andress as Aphrodite and Laurence Olivier as Zeus. But the real star in this movie is Harryhausen, making his final film and giving us Calibos, Pegasus, Bubo the mechanical owl, Dioskilos, Medusa, the scorpions and the Kraken, which was a toy that I asked for to no avail.
While this film came out at the same time as Raiders of the Lost Ark, it was still one of 1981’s biggest hits. The story of Perseus (Harry Hamlin) and his love for Andromeda became one that 80s kids would know by heart. Sure, the Kraken is from Norse mythology and Calibos is from Shakespeare, but why argue?
Director Desmond Davis mostly worked in TV, but he does a fine job here. Even decades later and so many advances in animation and I still thrill to the release of the Kraken.