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Paducah Film Society showing Clash of the Titans

The Paducah Film Society is screening the campy 1981 classic Clash of the Titans – an adaptation of the Greek myth of Perseus filled with monsters and magic – on Tuesday, Nov. 14, at 7 p.m. at Maiden Alley Cinema.

The newly formed group serves as Maiden Alley Cinema’s own monthly movie club, drawing inspiration from one of the local theater’s earliest names when organizers showed films in Market House Theatre.

Now, the Paducah Film Society screens classic, cult and foreign films once a month at Maiden Alley and invites members of the public to participate in after-film discussions and interactive programming – much like a book club, but for movies.

Directed by Desmond Davis – a camera operator turned director after shooting the Best Picture-winning Tom Jones in the early 1960s – Clash of the Titans stars Harry Hamlin, who would go on to star in L.A. Law and be featured on Mad Men; legendary British star and director of stage and screen Laurence Olivier; future Academy Award winning actress and Harry Potter and Downton Abbey star Maggie Smith; sex symbol and Bond girl Ursula Andress; the Mick to Sylvester Stallone's Rocky, Burgess Meredith; and English television and film actress Judi Bowker.

Andy Black, an associate professor of English and philosophy at Murray State University, will lead a talk before the screening about the film and its connections with Greek mythology – specifically the mythic figures of Perseus and Medusa.

“It's a special film because it kind of represents a sort of a last effort in the 1980s to really do Greek mythology and to turn it into an epic story,” Black said. “It's just an exciting and evocative and visually amazing film.”

Though it massages the source material for dramatic purposes to “spectacular” effect in Black’s eyes, the professor thinks the story is still entertaining and rewarding to watch.

“You can find YouTube videos out there … that say, ‘What Clash of the Titans gets wrong about mythology’ and it's fun to see like, ‘Oh, no, this is the real Perseus story,’” he said. “But I don't think that really matters so much, as long as we're taking these kinds of materials and using them to tell stories, which is what the Greeks would do, actually.”

Clash of the Titans was produced by special effects wizard Ray Harryhausen and his production partner Charles Schneer. It brings the figures of myth to life on the screen through the use of Harryhausen's patented Dynamation stop motion technique, which he used in classics like Jason and the Argonauts, It Came From Beneath the Sea, and The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, all of which were produced by Schneer.

It was the last film Harryhausen would make as a producer or special effects artist before the rise of computer-aided special effects put him effectively out of business. He wouldn't make another feature film before his death in 2013. The film is often considered to be a bookend to the glory days of 70s and 80s fantasy flicks featuring practical special effects as films like Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark rose to box office dominance.

Black said these special effects lend the film its campy quality, but also its mythic stature.

“You watch these movies, and you see these walking skeletons and these giant monsters which are being filmed frame by frame, and it looks very quaint and antique to us now today, and sometimes even comical, but I find it awesome to see these creatures brought to life,” Black said. “Now sometimes those things look quaint to us, but they also look, I think, great compared to CGI … everything is made by hand and being done in a way that's really creative and unusual.”

More information about Paducah Film Society and upcoming screenings can be found on their official Facebook page. PFS also regularly publishes a newsletter with historical context for its selections and upcoming repertory screenings at MAC.

A native of western Kentucky, Operle earned his bachelor's degree in integrated strategic communications from the University of Kentucky in 2014. Operle spent five years working for Paxton Media/The Paducah Sun as a reporter and editor. In addition to his work in the news industry, Operle is a passionate movie lover and concertgoer.
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