June 20, 1981 [Raiders of the Lost Ark, Clash of the Titans]

Is it too late for a matinee? Both Raiders of the Lost Ark and Clash of the Titans would have been perfectly at home on any Saturday afternoon thirty years ago--the latter picture more so, another Ray Harryhausen animated monster rally, looking just like Jason and the Argonauts or The 7th Voyage of Sinbad--then again, Harryhausen hasn’t ever left us--two “Sinbad” movies in the last decade.

And Spielberg is certainly keeping his eye on Harryhausen’s world--but also on the old serials, not to mention Zorro, Secret of the Incas--Charlton Heston with his own hat--or Valley of the Kings. The list goes on, but that’s not the point. Like Ray Bradbury, Harryhausen and Spielberg refuse to grow up--just look at the hysteria of Raiders’ finale, Nazis getting it with all the glee of boys playing backyard War. Better yet: the chases defying all laws of physics and anatomy, Indy bobbing like a cork on stormy waves.

What’s missing is the sense of menace--mostly sexual--of the old vamp-inspired adventures: Queen of Atlantis, and even Ursula Andress in She. But Spielberg knows that such dangers will not fit into his fearless twelve-chapter recreation--aside from Indy’s whip--and that easy smile Harrison Ford has sculpted, a little something for the ladies.

But I’m not complaining. Both Spielberg and Harryhausen understand that the best magic tricks end with a bang--and Harryhausen adds an almost academic attention to the details of classical mythology, as he has in the past--but here, with odd superstar cameos, the gods of acting--Olivier, Claire Bloom, Maggie Smith--and there she is again, Ursula Andress as, of course, Aphrodite--looking down through their special effects at all-American Harry Hamlin as Perseus, almost shoved off-camera by those stop-action creatures and wonderments, one after another.

And standing behind the curtain is George Lucas, whose Star Wars mind brushes aside adulthood--not thoughtlessly, or in anxious denial; just determined to remake the movies he loves, including his own. Fortunately, there’s great fun to be had--and, I will admit with some relief, a sense that, despite all the stormy New Waves of the past twenty years--anomie and nihilism meeting like fronts, clearing the deck--some little paper boats keep sailing.


  1. "Both Spielberg and Harryhausen understand that the best magic tricks end with a bang..."

    What an appropriate summation. Gotta lone that showmanship.

  2. The more movies I watch, the more I'm convinced the best seats in the house are reserved for Barnum's suckers--we like a little flash with our hoodwink.


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