A notable sequence in “Clash of the Titans” featured Perseus and his men having to raid the cave-like lair of the gorgon Medusa. Medusa, to remind readers, turns interlopers into stone with her magical gaze. Perseus requires her head, then, as a weapon to be used against the undersea behemoth, the Kraken. Perseus had been blessed with a magic sword that was capable of taking off her head, and the inside of his shield was mirrored, allowing him to approach Medusa without looking at her. However, someone at United Artists became skittish about the violence in the movie, because there was to be a last-minute change, forcing Perseus to take off Medusa’s head with a thrown shield instead of his sword. As Harry Hamlin said:
“Perseus, a lot happened on Perseus, that people don’t really know about. They came to me one day, three-quarters of the way through filming the movie, and they said, ‘You can’t cut Medusa’s head off with the sword.’ Now, the whole reason I had the sword was to cut Medusa’s head off. Zeus, Laurence Olivier, had given me the sword to cut her head off […] You can’t … cut her head off with the sword, because in a telex they had gotten the night before it was determined that if I cut Medusa’s head off with a sword and they get an X rating for violence.
In 1981, it should be remembered, there were only G, PG, R, and X ratings. “Clash of the Titans,” an English/American co-production, came at a time of increased sensitivity to violence found in the British home video market — regulations on VHS content weren’t as stringent as theatrical content — and the notorious 1983 list of “Video Nasties.”