Mattel produced a few 3 3/4" scale, 5 POA action figure lines in the late 70’s / early 80’s. This scale and articulation mimicked the dominant Kenner Star Wars line and helped cement this as the default, iconic, and preferred style of action figure for many enthusiasts of that generation, myself included. The unfortunately short lived Clash of the Titans action figure series is representative. This movie line was created to correspond with the film released in 1981. The film was a success. Seems the toys were not.
Clash of the Titans was a cool movie for an eight year old. What now perhaps seems slow and primitive – at the time proved to be both fascinating and terrifying. The stop motion animation that was largely behind Titan’s special effects looks pretty dated at this point but I didn’t seem to notice 30 years ago. Medusa certainly succeeded in scaring the bejesus out of me. This was, in fact, the stop motion legend Ray Harryhausen’s last main feature film. That fact alone gives Titans serious geek status.
The only Clash of the Titans action figures I was able to unearth from my childhood were Charon and a no-tail Calibos. Fortunately, filling the gaps is not hard. As is often the case with rebuilding vintage collections, its the accessories that are hardest to acquire. Save one big omission, here is the crew:
The film’s main character, Perseus, was played by relative newcomer Harry Hamlin. The Perseus action figure is about as good as it gets for the line which is largely mediocre. Because I know Mattel excelled with character likeness face sculpts on other contemporary lines, I’ll go ahead and say the Titan’s head sculpts are disappointing. There are some other detail short-cuts that annoy me a little. For instance, Perseus’s brown leather strap ends at his hip on the figure. No doubt Mattel cut that corner so they could reuse the legs on Thallo. Perseus comes with a sword (common to all four figures) and a shield (common to him and Thallo). Would have been cool if he also came packed with the third gift from the gods: the helm.
Calibos came to life on screen partially through the acting of Neil McCarthy and partially via stop motion miniature model. Scary either way. The figure is cool ’cause it has a tail. And a hoofed right foot. Otherwise it strays far enough from the movie representation to be annoying. For instance, the tunic should be light blue, belt brown, hair reddish. Where did those arm and wrist straps come from? And why pack the sword when Calibos’ weapon of choice was a whip. I’m nitpicking. Keep in mind when you are looking to pick this figure up that on the vast majority the tail is broken off.
Thallo could have come with the horse-tail fly swatter he was using when first approached by Perseus at the gate to Joppa. Instead he comes with a sword and shield. That’d be fine but for the fact that he had a lion on his shield, not an eagle, like his buddy, Perseus. Ah well, no biggie. If they were going to take the time to get one thing more accurate I would vote for lighter color paint apps for his beard, eyebrows, and plume. Those black paint apps really make the figure NOT look like Thallo. I’ll just note that the Thallo and Perseus figures don’t just share common weaponry, they also share the same arms and leg molds. I liked Thallo and was pissed when Calibos took him out.
I wouldn’t have guessed Charon to have made the first wave but I’m glad he did. He was super creepy in the film and it was a a cool scene when Perseus places the coin in Charon’s skeletal hand. Obviously, Charon did not need to come with a sword. He should have come with his boat paddling pole. And he should have had a coin sculpted in his hand, a la Kenner’s Indiana Jones Toht. This is a memorable vintage figure for me. I have an XMas photo that clearly shows this figure newly unwrapped. I’ve had the figure ever since.
There are not many mythological creatures more rad than a white Pegasus. OK, I’ll admit, Clash of the Titans 2010’s black Pegasus was like Luke showing up wearing black in Return of the Jedi. Anyway, the vintage toy is a nice sculpt. It has zero articulation, however, unless you count the flexible rubber wings. The rest of the body is a hollow hard plastic that almost feels brittle. As I write this I’m conjuring up a vague recollection that this may have been sculpted for some other toy line before Titans. Can anyone confirm that? One thing to watch for when you look to acquire this toy: it is susceptible to yellowing, especially down the seam where glue often leaked out.
Last but not least, Mattel’s big ticket item for the line is the 15" Kraken. I do not own Poseidon’s pet because 1) he’s expensive to purchase complete, and 2) would take up too much of my limited storage space. You can see him pictured here in this sweet ad courtesy of our friends over at Plaid Stallions:
The packaging for this vintage line is pretty attractive. I am a fan of the card art, in particular. Check it out:
Now my favorite part . . . picking the line up for an imaginary additional wave! There are lots of interesting characters and creatures to choose from but these four made the most sense to me:
Yeah, I know that list includes two old guys with white beards but they are essential to the story. Pack that scary mask as Ammon’s accessory. And, yes, I know, Mattel didn’t do female figures. Andromeda is a must, though. Here is a way you could have kept her from becoming a peg warmer: make Bubo a pack-in. Medusa is a no-brainer.
Oh, and those are just the singles. With wave two I’m introducing multi-packs! Let’s do three:
1) The Stygian Witches
2) The Gods
3) Calibos’ Buddies
Perhaps your wish list for imaginary additional waves would be different. Who would you have liked to see in this line? Here are the credits to jog your memories!
All in all, Clash of the Titans 1981 is a classic fantasy adventure. A bit hard to sit through now but engaging and memorable 30 years ago. Despite great potential the action figure line was unfortunately abbreviated. It does, however, occupy a small notch of fond nostalgia for vintage fans.