CLASH OF THE TITANS – Laurence Rosenthal
Original Review by Craig Lysy
This film presents a classic Greek myth that tells the tale of the demi-god Perseus (son of Zeus) who secures the mandate of Heaven as he takes on an epic quest to slay the forces of darkness and rescue his love. The renowned master of stop motion animation Ray Harryhausen who was enamored with Greek and Arabic mythology conceived the film. MGM agreed to the project and provided a generous budget based on his previous successes with his three Sinbad films as well as Jason and the Argonauts. The film featured an all-star cast that included Laurence Olivier (Zeus), Maggie Smith (Thetis), Ursula Andress (Aphrodite), Burgess Meredith (Ammon), and the handsome newcomer Harry Hamlin as Perseus. The storytelling was first rate and the stop motion animation superb. While not a critical success, the film was a commercial success, more than covering its production costs of $15 million to make $41 million.
Harry Lojewski, the music director at MGM, was familiar with Rosenthal’s canon and arranged for him an interview with co-producer Charlie Schneer. Rosenthal confided that the project took him by surprise considering he had never seen a Harryhausen film nor written for this genre. But the interview went well and he accepted the assignment with enthusiasm. The film had been temp tracked with the classic music of “En Helddenleben” by Richard Strauss and he was asked to write a bold and heroic score in this style. Rosenthal took on the challenge resolved to ensure that the music was indeed heroic and spoke to the audience with his voice. At the end a proud Rosenthal stated; “I do not know of any score I have written in which I have more consistently united and had as much interplay among the themes.” So, let us begin the mythic quest…
“Prologue” opens the score in grand fashion with a prelude of harp and string glissandi (the metallic tenor evoked by the use of picks) that descends to a bass crash and bell toll. We next hear a heraldic fanfare motif that will be infused throughout the score to emote drama and challenge. Rosenthal then introduces his powerful Wrath of the Gods Theme; a six-note minor key statement led by French horns with ethnic horn counter and fluttering woodwinds that will sound whenever the wrath of the gods is manifest or Perseus confronts a mythical beast. After an extended statement we segue at the 1:22 mark into the “Main Title” where Rosenthal boldly introduces the heroic Perseus Theme, a score highlight born by heraldic horns. Following the fanfare, this lyrical, bright and effusive major key theme transitions to the strings for a lush restatement. This theme has a great heroic arc that inspires me.
“Olympus” introduces the Olympus Motif, which Rosenthal used to emote Olympus, the legendary realm of the gods. This ethereal motif, carried by angelic choir and sung in pandiatonic fashion, perfectly emotes the other worldliness of the cloud-draped mountaintop abode that was Olympus. This motif, whose volume was so dialed down as to be almost inaudible in the film, is presented here for the first time as originally designed. It reprises throughout the score whenever the scene shifts to Olympus; “Zeus’ Judgment”, “Zeus Commands the Gifts”, “Fulfill Your Destiny”, and lastly, “It Is My Wish”.
“Argos Is Doomed” is a portentous cue that opens with the Wrath of the Gods Theme, as an angry Zeus resolves to destroy Argos for the sins of its ruler King Acricius who cast Perseus and his mother to their death, adrift in a casket. The potent theme is stripped of its brutal power and instead emoted by solo harp played over mournful strings which builds with rumbling percussion to a thundering climax as Zeus condemns Argos to a horrible end. With “Argos Destroyed” a solo harp again plays the opening line of the Wrath of the Gods Theme until we hear a solo oboe, strings, woodwinds and chimes play a gentle version of Perseus’ Theme, a reminder that he survived. At the 0:42 mark horns announce the Wrath of the Gods Theme as the Kraken is released. Glissandi strings and woodwinds create an eerie texture as the Kraken rises from its dark watery depths. Tension continues to build as horns, strings, flute glissandi and frenetic xylophone play over a percussion rumble as a tidal wave sweeps toward the city of Argos.
“Boyhood of Perseus” is a very dramatic and beautiful cue. It opens with an orchestral crash and a series of potent descending statements by horns played over undulating strings and a percussion rumble as the great tidal wave wipes Argos from the face of the earth. A solo trumpet line plays a fitting epithet for the city’s demise. In a subtle transition from the solo trumpet line we hear the Wrath of the Gods Theme again emoted mystically by solo harp over woodwinds. At the 1:29 mark solo flute, harp, violins and glockenspiel tenderly introduce Perseus’s Theme. After this introduction trumpets with violins and glockenspiel accents take up the theme in a bright major key statement. The cue concludes with Perseus’s Theme diminishing and segueing into the mystical solo harp line.
“Dreams and Omens” concerns the battle of competing gods (Zeus vs. Thetis) who have set into motion events that will bring their surrogates, their respective sons Perseus and Calibos, into armed conflict. The cue opens full of foreboding with repeating quadruplet statements by low register strings, with a bass pulse soon joined by quivering strings, as Perseus is transported to Joppa. Glockenspiel and lyrical strings play and add a sense of wonder as Perseus arrives and surveys the amphitheater. Rosenthal concludes the cue by adding exotic flute work and textures to the ambiance.
“Invisible” highlights Perseus exploring his new weaponry. The cue opens mystically with harp plucked over a prolonged violin chord as Perseus tries out his new sword and shield. Tremolo strings, chimes and glockenspiel highlight Perseus becoming invisible after donning the helmet. We segue into “Joppa” with a change in tempo ushered in by tambourine, woodwinds, percussion and other ethnic accents which signal a scene shift to this exotic city of the Levant.
“Andromeda” involves the first close encounter between the two lovers and introduces us to the A phrase of the timeless Love Theme. It opens dramatically with a prelude of celli and strings ascending in their register to culminate in a declarative orchestral statement lead by trumpet and xylophone that is filled with unease. After a prelude by woodwinds, chimes and glockenspiel the A phrase of the Love Theme is introduced at the 0:55 mark by solo flute played over a sustained violin chord with glockenspiel accents. A series of off pitch descending string statements later shifted to woodwinds signal that all is not well. Woodwinds and chattering xylophone shatter the magic of Perseus’s love-struck moment as the music shifts to strumming harps and woodwinds as a huge vulture takes Andromeda away in a gilded cage. The cue ends with a statement of the A phrase of the Love Theme full of longing from a love-struck Perseus.
“Pegasus” is a score highlight that involves Perseus capturing the winged horse Pegasus. The cue opens with strumming harp and mystical synth effects as Perseus observes the magical creature. French horns, chimes and glockenspiel sound the Perseus’s Theme as he moves in by stealth to lasso Pegasus. Bassoon takes on his theme with woodwind textures as he nears his target. At the 1:22 mark we hear an orchestral crash with furious string work and percussion as he lasso’s Pegasus and struggles to gain control. The triumphant return of his theme heralds his success. Next we are treated to a wondrous extended rendering of his theme as our hero soars in the heavens to rescue Andromeda from Calibos, the first challenge of his quest – simply glorious! At the 4:10 mark we segue into “To the Marsh” where Perseus dismounts and enters the marsh. Dark bass, harp and woodwind accents play as Perseus approaches Calibos’s encampment. His theme returns as he observes Andromeda in her gilded cage.
“The Lord of the Marsh” is an extraordinary passage and for me a score highlight. The cue opens darkly with two orchestral chords and harp accents that introduce the tragic Calibos Theme. His theme is dark and pathetic, carried in the low register as we see him enraged and nearly driven mad from the fate of his deformity. Plaintive strings take up and emote the man’s misery and rage as he recounts his tragic circumstances. I must say that Rosenthal really succeeded in emoting the anguish, anger and pathos of Calibos’s circumstances. As grotesques and reviled I felt from this villain, the music succeeded in eliciting empathy – a testimony to Rosenthal’s talent. Never-the-less, the battle is joined in “The Fight in the Swamp” where we experience a furious torrent of intense action writing that employs a wide array of percussion and exotic instruments including xylophone, chimes, guiro, ratchet and vibraslap.
“Curse Ended” involves Perseus freeing Andromeda from her gilded cage, thereby breaking the spell. The cue opens like the “Prologue” with a picked string glissandi followed by a fragment of Calibos’s Theme carried by woodwinds. From here we are treated to a fine interplay between Calibos’s Theme, Perseus’s Theme and finally the Love Theme as Andromeda is freed and the spell broken.
In “Justice or Revenge” powerful repeating low register resonating chords accompany the pain and pathos emoted by the Calibos Theme. At the 0:42 mark we segue into a score highlight, “The Lovers”, which features a full presentation of both the A and B phrases of the Love Theme. Opening with a prelude of strumming harp, violins introduce the lyrical A-phrase of the Love Theme. At the 1:10 mark the more subdued B phrase enters to extend the theme’s full development. The passage concludes with a reprise of the A phrase that fades to strumming harp. This love theme, so full of longing, is timeless and brings a quiver with every listen. I believe it to be a masterpiece theme.
In “The Head of Thetis” a boastful Queen Cassiopeia proclaims that the beauty of her daughter Andromeda is greater than the goddess Thetis. Horn blasts and rumbling percussion signal divine offense and portend retribution following Cassiopeia’s intemperate boast. Strings and fluttering woodwinds play atop the percussion rumbling with a recurring tolling bell as the head of the great statue begins cracking. We hear the alarm of trumpet blasts and furious strings as the head crashes to the floor and begins speaking. A fragment of the Love Theme is heard as Andromeda’s fate is in peril as Thetis condemns her to death. The cue segues at the 2:03 mark into Pegasus in the Net where Calibos captures Pegasus in a net. A torrent of strings, ratchet and racing percussion highlight the struggle.
In “Bubo Arrives” Zeus commands Athena to send her mechanical owl to guide Perseus on his quest. Rosenthal introduces the austere five-note horn carried Quest Theme that underpins Perseus’s journey. The cue opens with a steady percussion beat coupled with restrained brass emoting the theme. A trumpet call leads to a transition passage with the theme serving as a prelude to Bubo’s comic arrival. At the 1:06 mark Bubo’s Theme is finally introduced by flute and serves to lighten the film as she crash lands. The theme rebounds as Bubo regains her bearing and we segue into “The Quest”, which returns carried by its five-note theme. As the party prepares to depart the horn play becomes brighter and takes on greater potency until we again transition to the A phrase of the Love Theme. The cue finishes with an extended passage of the Quest Theme that concludes with dark and powerful rumbling as Perseus approaches Hades. The whimsical and playful Bubo’s Theme, often used for comic effect, makes me smile whenever I hear it.
“The Farewell” opens with the A phrase of the Love Theme that then interplays with the Quest Theme as our Hero prepares for his next challenge. With “The River Styx” Perseus and his men must pay Charon to ferry them across the river Styx to the temple of Medusa. The cue opens eerily with quivering strings, stark percussive chords and wailing male chorus as the hooded Charon approaches. The dark tenor of this passage is then joined by low register horn calls, which perfectly emote the men’s unease as well as the stench of death that permeates the land about them. The frightful ambiance continues in “Medusa Temple” where the bass chord, quivering strings and plucked harp underscore the party’s approach to the temple. Rattling percussion and more powerful bass chords mount as the temple entrance is sighted. At the 1:32 mark we segue abruptly into “Two Headed Dog” where the startled men battle the frightful beast. Rosenthal employs very dynamic and syncopated writing carried by furious strings and frenetic percussion to capture the fearsome battle. The cue concludes when a dramatic horn blast sounds as Perseus slays the beast.
“Medusa” details the epic battle where Perseus slays the fearful gorgon. This creepy and suspenseful cue stands in stark contrast to the more lyrical thematic approach used in the rest of the score. Here Rosenthal choose to score the scene atonally with electronic harpsichord and the orchestra providing odd percussive accents as well as slithering and rattling motifs to emote Medusa’s movement and tail action. He succeeds on all counts and this terrifying cue is perfectly attenuated to the scene.
“Andromeda Shackled” describes the preparation of Andromeda for sacrifice to the Kraken. The cue opens darkly with a series of string chords overlaid with muted horns. It then segues into an ominous statement of the Wrath of the Gods Theme that portends a dark retribution. Yet there is hope as we hear a brief play of the Perseus Theme as our hero rides to the rescue. The cue concludes with a trumpet line that fades upon the wind.
In the following three cues, which comprise the final epic battle, Rosenthal unleashes a wondrous interplay of themes that is frankly remarkable and leaves me in awe. We begin with “The Kraken”, which displays the primal horror of the beast ascending from the watery depths. Befitting its enormity Rosenthal opens the cue with deep bass chords and ascending dissonant strings as the beast rises. From here it flows into the Wrath of the Gods Theme which crescendos with awesome brutal power. The heroic Perseus Theme however counters this statement as we see our champion riding to the rescue. But there is more, as lo and behold Bubo’s Theme joins the fray as the owl darts and dives in a daring attempt to distract the beast. An ominous drum roll heralds the Kraken dispatching poor little Bubo. Next, a steady percussion pulse with racing strings and horn counters is heard as the Kraken moves in to seize its prize. Yet our champion arrives and we hear a resplendent counter by his theme as the battle is joined. We hear a swirling string torrent as the battle unfolds, which ends with a horn crash as Perseus is pummeled and he along with the sack holding Medusa’s head fall into the bay. With “Clash of the Titans” as all seems lost, yet Perseus’s Theme emerges atop ascending strings against dark bass chords and horns, which crescendo with horrific power as the behemoth stands poised to seize Andromeda. At the 0:42 mark as Perseus unveils Medusa’s head and we hear huge bass chords with woodwind echoes that flow into a dramatic horn statement of the Quest Theme as the Kraken turns to stone, cracks apart and falls into the bay. With the beast destroyed, triumphant horns emote the Quest Theme, which after a harp glissandi transition ushers in a joyous Perseus Theme which quickly segues into a climatic rendering of the A phrase of the Love Theme. After a comic Bubo interlude, the cue concludes with a warm caveat of the Perseus’s Theme.
“The Constellations” opens with Bubo’s Theme carried by harp and solo flute, which segues into a full statement of the Love Theme that is alight with glockenspiel and harp. At the 1:26 mark we segue into the End Title, which burst forth gloriously with a full statement of the Perseus Theme. We conclude with one last statement of the A phrase of the Love Theme and a sparkling flourish of the Perseus Theme.
We now come to the alternative cues. I will only comment on cues that offer significant variation or something new to the existing narrative. “The Constellations – End Title” Rosenthal provides the aforementioned cues with a narrative by Sir Lawrence Olivier. I am not a purist that condemns reflexively any cue that includes a narrative. I must say that in this case, Olivier’s classic Shakespearean diction and delivery enhances the emotional narrative and contributes to a better musical statement.
Folks, the original LP and CD releases featured a minuscule 39 minutes of music (less than half of the finished score), however thanks to Intrada, we are provided a 2-disc set that presents the entire 90 minute score, including rare choral pieces written for Mount Olympus scenes that went largely unused! We are also treated to for the first time the powerful “Two-Headed Dog” battle, the lengthy and inspiring “The Quest” sequence plus entire “Medusa” cue. The sound quality is exceptional, and I must provide a hand over heart thank you to producer Douglass Fake, Warner Brothers, Lukas Kendall at FSM, and Sony Music for providing what I consider a monumental film score release.
This 1981 score is really a throwback in that it is clearly written with a Golden Age sensibility, and I must say that I believe this effort constitutes the apogee of Rosenthal’s career. He succeeds on all counts in providing a score that will not only stand the test of time but also bring joy to future generations of film score lovers. He provides a multiplicity of timeless and beautiful themes, which he combines and contrasts with sublime artistry. If you desire a score with heroism, adventure, love and pathos, you have found it. I highly recommend this score and assign it my highest rating.
Buy the Clash of the Titans soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store
- DISC ONE
- Prologue and Main Title (3:59)
- Olympus (Chorus) (2:33)
- Argos is Doomed (1:46)
- Argos Destroyed (2:27)
- Boyhood of Perseus (3:05)
- Zeus’s Judgment (Chorus) (0:58)
- Transformation of Calibos (0:59)
- Dreams and Omens (2:03)
- Zeus Commands the Gifts (Chorus) (1:25)
- Magic Weapons (1:05)
- Fulfill Your Destiny (Chorus) (1:08)
- Invisible/Joppa (2:44)
- Andromeda (4:21)
- Pegasus/To the Marsh (6:32)
- The Lord of the Marsh (3:56)
- The Fight in the Swamp Fanfare (1:02)
- Curse Ended/The Dancing Girl (1:57)
- Justice or Revenge/The Lovers (2:23)
- DISC TWO
- The Head of Thetis/Pegasus in the Net (3:09)
- We Follow The North Star (0:27)
- It Is My Wish (Chorus) (1:24)
- Bubo Arrives/The Quest (5:41)
- The Farewell (2:17)
- The River Styx (2:50)
- Medusa Temple/Two Headed Dog (3:31)
- Medusa (6:36)
- The Magic Sword (2:47)
- Bubo the Dive-Bomber (1:21)
- Andromeda Shackled (2:04)
- The Kraken (3:27)
- Clash of the Titans/Andromeda Rescued (4:20)
- The Constellations/End Title (4:05) Prologue and Main Title (LP Version) [BONUS] (3:21)
- Zeus’s Judgment (Chorus – Unused Alternate Version) [BONUS] (0:17)
- No Mercy (Chorus – Unused Version) [BONUS] (0:29)
- Joppa (Original Version) [BONUS] (1:30)
- The Quest (Alternate Version) [BONUS] (1:04)
- Procession Drums [BONUS] (2:53)
- The Constellations/End Title (LP Version) [BONUS] (narrated by Laurence Olivier) (4:05)
Running Time: 102 minutes 01 seconds
Intrada Special Collection Volume 150 (1981/2010)
Music composed and conducted byLaurence Rosenthal. Performed byThe London Symphony Orchestra. Orchestrations byHerbert W. Spencer. Edited byRobin Clarke. Score produced by Laurence Rosenthal. Album produced byDouglass Fake.