Looking Back: Mattel's Clash of the Titans
October 6, 2010

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:
1) Medusa
2) Zeus
3) Andromeda
4) Ammon

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.

 

Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann
Action figure anthropologist, Professor Cantina Dan Neumann has been a scholastic contributor to the online community studying the complex world of parumplasticus populus {little plastic people} since the turn of this millenium. His primary focus is the visual cataloging of species exhibits through photo-journalism.
Read other articles by Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann.

 

 

 

21 Comments »

  • Hourman says:

    *sigh* I have happy memories of seeing this at the drive-in with my mom. I got the whole line, including the Kraken, for Christmas that year, along with some cool Empire Strikes Back swag. That was a good Christmas. I think I may still have Calibos and Charon tucked away somewhere.

    Btw, a “boat paddling pole” is an oar. :)

  • demoncat says:

    loved the movie. but thought the toys were done like a second thought and a last minute rush job making them.

    • Danny CantinaDan says:

      Yes, the line could have been better. And based on the fact that Mattel HAD done better with contemporary lines lends credence to your theory. Thanks!

  • Sector1014 says:

    What about Poseidon with weird underwater grimace face? :) I think this movie and the recent one need to be watched within a few days of each other.

  • JSAvsINFINITY says:

    “a bit hard to sit through now”?

    Still on my Top 10 Movie list of all time.

    Clash is a great movie and shows how CGI has ruined
    imagination for today’s kids.

    I picked up a few of the Mattel figures and love the card art as well but the recent Art Asylum figures really are a thing of beauty.Just need a new Perseus and Andromeda.

    • Danny CantinaDan says:

      Kinda harsh, but I stand by it. I’m probably just a whippersnapper accustomed to the eye candy and pacing of modern movies! That said, my comment wasn’t meant to disparage the movie itself. It is memorable and was fun for its time. Thanks for your thoughts.

  • mizzoujedi says:

    In regards to Calibos, the author forgets to mention Calibos gets his hand cut off in a fight. The figure depicts his goat foot getting cut off and replaced with a human foot. That was no doubt done to have the figure be able to stand since he would not be able to with two goat feet.
    I loved this line as a kid and still have them all sans the Kraken. I wish they would have made Medusa, too.

    • Danny CantinaDan says:

      Thanks for those observations. Yes, a Calibos with pitchfork had variant would’ve been cool. The scene where he uses it to pierce the bag holding Medusa’s head was memorable. Somehow I completely spaced on the foot disparity! They certainly could have made him work with two hoofed feet by making the tail a bit longer so as to help balance. Thanks!

  • ChuckJones says:

    Weren’t Pegasus & Perseus a two-pack?

    This was back in the day when theaters still had “double features”, and discount pricing. Great way to get out of the heat in the summer. Ah, memories…

  • Brainlock says:

    Totally 80s flashback!
    I remember getting most of these as a belated birthday present ($25 from grandparents?) on a trip to Children’s Palace (Manchester Rd/141, for any other St.Louisans out there, currently Goodwill/PO) I want to say it was 81 or 82?
    .
    I got the Perseus/Pegasus 2pk (cheaper than each individually), Thallo (whom I called Theseus, knowing he was the rightful rider of Pegasus. I was such a geek even then!) and Calibos. I know I still had P/P until recently (lost in move/storage couple years back), not sure where Thallo disappeared to, but I know I still had one shield and sword.
    .
    I remember I passed on Charon, because who wanted a skull in a robe? My brother tried to convince me later that they released him again with his boat (and OAR)! LOL yeah, he was such a loser at trying to fool me. (like, John Byrne’s last name is pronounced like comedian John Byner’s. he couldn’t even pronounce it properly. wtf?)
    .
    Not sure where the Pegasus body originated from, but the plastic was fairly strong for being a basically hollow figure. Unfortunately, the foreleg on mine broke and I had to tape it on as the glue I used didn’t last too long. LOL Mine didn’t yellow too bad, but the wings could have used a bath.

    and did anyone’s Calibos keep his tail longer than ten minutes? LOL
    .
    What was made for the new line? I know I saw the new Perseus figure once, but was anything else made to go along with him?

  • Lightso says:

    Medusa would have been cool, but I would have loved some giant scorpions!
    You rag on these old figures pretty hard. I don’t remember them looking any worse than any old Star Wars figure. This movie was HUGE then and would have been a fantastic full-fledged toy line… But the economy was in the sh*tter then too.

  • JSAvsINFINITY says:

    I was wrong,it was Gentle Giant that put out the AWSOME Clash of the Titans figures a few years ago.

    It was
    Calibos with pitchfork hand variant
    A superb Medusa
    And the Kraken

    I wish they had continued the line with a new Charon
    and some Humans.

    The 2010 movie line only had a Perseus and Battle damaged Perseus on clearance at TRU these days.Still haven’t picked it up yet.

  • aadesign says:

    I neve had these figures, but I remember seeing them on the pegs back in the day. I did have all of the Mattel Flash Gordon figures. I’m just guessing, but Calibos’ tail looks just like the tail on the Flash Gordon Lizard Woman. It looks very close to me. Great review and great ideas for 2nd and 3rd waves.

    • Cantina-Dan says:

      Thanks for the kind words! I love the Flash Gordon line and will do an update to a blog I wrote a while back. Calibos’ and Lizard Woman’s tails are different – but its common for both to be broken off!

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