Bring on the Virgins

There was a time, long, long ago, when the ills of a city or kingdom were solvable by sacrificing a virgin or a high-level babe to a monster. Nowadays we convene Royal Commissions (well, in Canada we do) or Senate Hearings where political chess maneuvers dominate any genuine effort to solve problems and create bridges so bickering factions can live together and govern its populace with rational intelligence and fiscal responsibility.

If money is the reason the long-form mandatory census is being scrapped by the Conservatives up here, perhaps a virgin could revitalize the nation’s coffers; it might give power to a monster more malevolent than our graying pinhead PM, but we’d have more money.

Maybe that sounds a bit extreme, but in the worlds of demi-god Perseus and dragon Vermithrax, a virgin did the trick until a hero brave enough to scrape away the stupid stuff came along. His success (and the general safety of virgins) banished the demons into oblivion, and allowed peace and civility to reign again in ancient Greece and grubby Medieval Scotland.

When Clash of the Titans was released in 1981, was part of a three-film offering of ancient lore. There was John Boorman’s Excalibur, beloved by some in spite of it being visually steeped in bad eighties d├ęcor, costumes and soft focus lenses (not to mention the most amateurish use of Carmina Burana on record); Matthew Robbins’ Dragonslayer, with stunning cinematography, music, and a real dragon; and Titans, which also featured soft focus cinematography, but was mostly redeemed by a stellar montage in which Perseus and his crew cross the River Styx, and venture into Medusa’s lair to hack off her snake-encrusted head.

Warner Home Video recently released both the 1981 and 2010 versions of Titans on Blu-ray, and I’ve uploaded reviews that examine the virtues and flaws of the first, and compare the main changes made to the ’81 script by a trio of screenwriters for their ’10 remake.

Not addressed in either review is the need for studios to adapt existing scripts instead of going back to the original Perseus myth and creating something new. The presumption is that Beverley Cross’ script was so well structured that there was little point in creating more work when the filmmakers of the remake already had a well-defined skeleton. Titans is, in fact, not a bad remake of an older script, and a good point of comparison is The Jackal (1997), which is a godawful attempt to rework an older script based on a good book into something hip and kinetic.

Also uploaded is a review of Dragonslayer, which I’ve wanted to see for a while because it represents an early attempt by Disney to venture into more adult fodder. The film was in fact a co-production with Paramount, and unlike Disney’s other co-production with MGM, Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983), it doesn’t feel schizophrenic.

It also helps that Dragonslayer wasn’t affected by major reshoots, child actors growing older between principle and secondary shooting schedules, and Disney’s desire to lighten up an otherwise grim and gloomy story. Dragonslayer is probably PG-13 material, since it has some moments of graphic violence that’s unnatural to the Disney brand. The fact the film was left alone is perhaps a miracle, or maybe it was Paramount who wanted to make sure the production didn’t get dumbed down for a younger audience.

Tied to the DVD review is a review of Alex North’s score, which was recently released in a newly remastered and expanded CD from La-La Land Records. In the case of Wicked, Georges Delerue’s darker score was junked in favour of James Horner’s music (which is actually quite affecting), but there apparently wasn’t any danger of North’s dissonant music being tossed; the filmmakers loved it too much, and he essentially delivered what they wanted, so a replacement would’ve made as much sense as, oh, Wolfgang Petersen junking Gabriel Yared’s Troy music in 2004 because of some bizarre panic attack, and brining in Horner (again) to write a new and more accessible score for Western audiences.


Mark R. Hasan, Editor


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