FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Sep 25, 2008

childhood nightmares: MEDUSA

Medusa, Clash of the Titans (1981)

Stop-motion or not, this Gorgon broad absolutely scared the bejesus out of me when I was a wee bonny lass. With all those writhing snakes atop her head, Medusa was a nightmare brought to life courtesy of animation guru Ray Harryhausen. Frightening to behold (aduh- so much so that she'd turn you to stone), she was also a crackshot archer- if only she were prettier, she might've been Olympics bound- and she'd kill you before you even knew you were dead.

That doesn't make any sense.

Or does it?

No, it doesn't. The point is, she's all ten kinds of stealthy ninja, as she slithers around her underground temple, only the occasional soft rattle of her tail giving her away.

Director Desmond Davis plays it smart, building tension by introducing her via a shadow on the wall- and man, is it effective. Medusa was the Universal Monster of my childhood...she gave me nightmares, but not so much that I couldn't watch Clash of the Titans over and over and over...

Sure, Perseus defeats Medusa, as heroes are wont to do. She may have even deserved that beheading...and to a nine year old, the animated blood oozing out of her neck stump was beyond grody in the most awesome way.

Still, I've always had sympathy for Ol' Gorgie. I mean, it's not her fault she's so hideous- in fact, she wasn't even born that way. Rather, being transformed from a beautiful maiden into terrifying, scaly, snake-haired beast was her punishment for...for...well, for being raped, essentially. I bet she was wearing a low-cut blouse!

Medusa just wants to be left alone, just wants to hang out all by her lonesome in the dark, when along comes the handsome young hero to take her head to us as a weapon in his bid to save a beautiful young maiden. Ain't that always the way?

It's best not to think about it too much. The important thing here is that she's scary.

Watch her battle with Perseus via YouTube!

22 comments:

Mick O'Brien said...

Medusa scarred me as a kid, too. You're not alone.

StinkyLulu said...

I liked Gorgie, too, in a strange way, though the slithery shadow set-up of her freaked me out. I was actually much more scared by the witches and their shared eyeball. Ewww.

Fred [The Wolf] said...

Yep, Ducie was one scary bitch.

ladracul said...

I think the story was that Athena punished her for being vain. However, Athena also screwed over Arachne by pwning her at weaving...although it's really an unfair advantage since Athena's a goddess and Arachne's a mortal.

I never liked Athena that much...although when she was played by Jane Leeves on the "Disney's Hercules" series and had the owl, it was pretty cool.

Sometimes there's the glamorous interpretation of Medusa...Mattel is releasing a Barbie as Medusa doll this year.

http://tinyurl.com/6pjz5j

What's interesting is that Mattel had once said they never planned on releasing Barbie as a baddie...although they changed their minds after releasing the Gotham Girls (Catwoman, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn) and finally putting the Wicked Witch of the West in their "Wizard of OZ" line. (Which may have been due to the success of "Wicked".)

Anyhoo...I feel for Medi.

Jenn said...

Definitely not alone, she scared the shit out of me too.

Turnidoff Productions said...

For me, the reason she was so scary was that she WAS stop motion!

Those jerky movements were always erie for me.

Same with that scene in The Terminator where the robot is limping through the factory hall as Sarah & Reese are trying to shut the door!

Heebie-jeebies.

Man, I miss stop motion.

FilmFather said...

I couldn't get enough of Clash of the Titans on HBO as a 12-ish year old, especially Medusa's segment. Yeah, she was scary, but in an exhilarating kind of way.

I remember yearning for Clash of the Titans action figures to be produced so I could have my very own Medusa, Cerberus, etc., but I don't think that ever happened (not counting recent "collector's" releases).

I remember Clash being a cover story on one of my horror movie mags during that time (not Fangoria or Monsters, but some other title that escapes me). A big head shot of Calibos was on the cover. Me thinks I still have it in a box in my basement...

William said...

I remember seeing this when I was a kid, she terrified me, I remember having nightmares of her crawling down my dark hallway at night.

Sad to say a hero had to kill her to save someone else, it just doesn't sound right, someone breaking into another persons lair and killing them and being considered a hero. What is the ancient world coming to?

John W. Morehead said...

Harryhausen's Medusa is one of my favorites too. Thanks for mentioning this. I picked up the Gentle Giant toy/statue of her last Christmas, and she's one of my favorites in the collection. In my view of the Harrhyausen creature pantheon she's right up there with the Cyclops, Talos, the Ymir, Kali and the Crab from Mysterious Island.

Rachel said...

I never saw this as a kid, and for a first time watch I've got to say - not at all scary - even kind of amusing and somewhat reminiscent of Thunderbird s Are Go (puppet animation of fighter pilots if I remember correctly) in the jerkiness of her walk..

thebonebreaker said...

One of my Favorites!

Harryhausen Rocks!

Steph said...

What a childhood memory you brought back, Stacie!!! I remember thinking this was THEBESTMOVIEEVER. My older sister took me when I was eight. Eight!!! And I was such a scaredy-cat. What the hell was she thinking? I did watch most of the Medusa scene through my fingers covering my eyes though. But I loved it!

Michael Floyd said...

I have always wanted a stone sculpture of an 19th or 18thc medusa.


http://theshockwavesphenomena.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

"There's no snarky commentary to accompany these beauts."
: (

Heres to hope for this comming Friday.

Jason said...

Medusa was indeed terrifying... the devil guy with the whip was pretty damn creepy, too!

E.K. Wimmer said...

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Now, I've got to get back to reading more of your blog.

narvolicious said...

Man oh man...classic. My family and I went to see CotT at a local drive-in when it came out. I was hanging around outside the car, and when I saw Medusa, I ran back inside the car and ducked in the back seat! Needless to say, she was responsible for a few sleepless nights afterwards.

I remember her being especially creepy due to the weird jerky stop-motion feel. It's kinda "Ring"-ish, no? That skipping frames kinda stuff...

Wasn't it awesome when he brought down his sword on her neck and that stop-motion steamy spaghetti sauce poured out...her headless body trying to hold itself up for a moment, then it just expires...poor thing, she was just hangin' out in her cave with her boy toys (they were hard as a rock, hyuk hyuk).

Nothin' beats when he takes her outta the bag and shows it to the Kraken...crazy how she comes back to life, her eyes flashing and snakes a-movin...yet more nightmarish fodder there--her head still lives on its own! AAaaauggghh

I remember wanting that mechanical owl for a pet...who was it, "bubu?"

jervaise brooke hamster said...

stacie, i`m not kiddin` when i first saw "clash i the titans" i actually fancied medusa, i truly thought she was a tasty bird, (although judi bowker was an incredible chick as well) and i still think the medusa sequence is harryhausens best (the atmosphere in it is so magical). It is also one of the most incredibly charming films ever made.

Christopher said...

I loved Clash of the Titans as a kid. Grown up, it doesn't hold up quite as well, but it served its purpose as a terrific jumping-off point to get me back to Jason & The Argonauts, Sinbad, etc., etc. Much better Harryhausen flicks.

Alan said...

Just dropping a comment half way through making my way through your wonderful, wunderbar archives as you mentioned one of my most favouritest childhood films.

I too had several bejebusses scared out of me as a wee laddie by the snake-haired stunner. The Medusa scene was always my favourite part: the shadowy underground temple, the past victims frozen in terror, the creepy harpsichord music, the rattle of her tail. (don't know if the remake will stand up to it, CG gorgons and jump cuts probably) Clash was also one of the first films where I saw an actual nude, bare nekkid ladie's bottom but was shocked/horrified/outraged/dismayed to find out that Judi Bowker used a body double. I loves Judi Bowker...

I had the good fortune to meet Mr Harryhausen at the Cambridge film festival a few years back and got to ask him what foul liquid emanated from poor Medusa's neck after she was smoten by Harry Hamlin. I was hoping it was strawberry jam, but he said it was simply wallpaper paste with red dye.

Anyways, very much enjoying your blog. Long may it reign!

Stacie Ponder said...

Thanks, Alan- and thanks for the trivia! Wallpaper paste. Whoda thunkit?

Anonymous said...

if anyone has watched x men then medusa would appear as mystique with snake hair