Harry Hamlin, Judi Bowker, Burgess Meredith, Laurence Olivier, Claire Bloom, Maggie Smith, Ursula Andress, Sian Phillips
An Epic Entertainment Spectacular
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
German Dolby Stereo
Latin Spanish Dolby Stereo
Castilian Spanish Monaural
Portuguese Dolby Stereo
Czech Dolby Stereo
Runtime: 118 min.
Release Date: 3/2/2010
• “A Conversation with Ray Harryhausen” Featurette
• “Myths and Monsters” Featurettes
• Clash of the Titans (2010) Sneak Preview
• Hardcover Book
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.
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Clash of the Titans [Blu-Ray] (1981)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 26, 2010)
While the phony qualities of some computer-generated imagery (CGI) cause most of my objections to the format, I have other reasons as well. At the risk of sounding like a Luddite, I simply miss the sheer artistry behind the better physical effects. Even if they don’t seem totally realistic and convincing, they offer such warmth and charm that I don’t care. I respect the work of CGI artists and know many of them put a lot of time into their material, but those shots usually seem cold.
Lots of people use phrases like “charm” and “warmth” to excuse flaws, and one might accuse me of this as well. One can argue that I’m simply swapping one set of problems for another. The effects I espouse often seem unconvincing, so what makes their artificiality superior to the fakeness of the CGI?
I think the fact that most non-CGI effects actually exist in a real space makes a difference. The intangibles sway me as well – the simple fact that I know someone had to physically build and manipulate an element rather than just create it inside a computer.
To clarify: I don’t want to insult all of the CGI artists out there, for I think some of them do incredible work. I simply dislike Hollywood’s heavy dependence on the form and also the fact that this means the probable death of so many other kinds of effects. Everyone’s so heavily into CGI that there seems to be little reason for newcomers to invest their time in older forms.
One of the oldest kinds of physical effect, stop-motion animation brought life to classics like the original King Kong. The field reached its zenith with the pioneering work of Ray Harryhausen, arguably the most famous effects man of all-time. Old Ray’s still with us, but he hasn’t worked on a film in more than 20 years. He went out with 1981’s Clash of the Titans, a veritable feast of stop-motion animation that relied exceedingly heavily on his work.
Too heavily, if you ask me. Despite my affection for older methods of visual effects, they clearly have their flaws, and Titans exposed many of them. While the movie has its charms and seems entertaining as a whole, I think it goes overboard in its use of different effects elements.
King of the gods Zeus (Laurence Olivier) gets it on with beautiful mortal Danae (Vida Taylor). Their union produces a son named Perseus. When her father King Acrisius of Argos (Donald Houston) casts Danae and the infant Perseus into the sea, Zeus has the pair rescued and relocated to the island of Seriphos, where Perseus grows to manhood. The adult Perseus (Harry Hamlin) begins a quest to return to his rightful throne in Argos, which Zeus had destroyed as punishment for Acrisius’ act.
As Perseus heads home, he starts to learn his place in the grand scheme of things. Zeus gives him some cool hardware, and Perseus soon encounters the lovely Princess Andromeda (Judi Bowker). Originally slated to marry Calibos (Neil McCarthy) – the son of Thetis, goddess of the sea (Maggie Smith) – Zeus punished him for some cruel acts and turned him into a deformed monster. Calibos places a curse upon Joppa: each suitor for Andromeda has to solve a riddle or he gets burned alive.
Studly Perseus confronts Calibos and spares the monster’s life only if he eliminates the curse. Not the nicest of guys, Calibos essentially goes back on the deal and appeals to his mommy for help. When Andromeda’s mom Cassiopeia (Sian Phillips) states her daughter’s more beautiful than Thetis, the goddess demands that they sacrifice Andromeda to the Kraken or she’ll destroy Joppa.
Man, these folks just can’t catch a break! From there, the movie basically turns into a series of quests. At times, the flick feels like a role-playing game. Perseus goes from place to place to retrieve objects and slay creatures without any real sense of plot or character development. The movie has a fragmented feel that never really comes together.
Despite the seemingly capricious nature of the story, Titans manages to offer some fun. It’s an awkward flick, as exposition gets tacked on in unnatural ways. For example, Zeus’ introduction of the other gods makes no sense; he states their roles as he chats with them. Shouldn’t these folks already be really aware of who they are and what they do? In a movie filled with lots of different – and semi-complicated – personalities, those moments become distracting at times.
Despite that, the film contains enough adventure to seem moderately compelling. Actually, on the surface Titans appears weak. As I break down the various elements, most of them come across as flawed. Despite a fairly strong cast, the acting doesn’t stand out from the crowd. Major talents like Olivier and Smith phone in their work, and both Hamlin and Bowker seem attractive but dull.
The effects material in Titans doesn’t represent Harryhausen’s finest hour. The work appears ambitious – probably too ambitious, really. Quite a few scenes include stop-motion animation for no apparent reason. For example, McCarthy plays Calibos for close-ups, but in wide shots we go to a puppet. Why? Sure, the puppet moves his tail, but those elements easily could have been achieved alongside the real-life McCarthy. The same went for the Medusa – there was no need to feature her solely via stop-motion. The sequences seem interesting but pointless, and they took me out of the film.
Probably the most effective animated character is Bubo the mechanical owl. As a robotic creature, he’s supposed to seem somewhat stiff and artificial, so it made more sense for him to be a stop-motion creation. Even Bubo has his problems, though. Nonetheless, I think a lot of these stem from the progress seen in effects since 1981; back then, Bubo really impressed me, but he looks pretty cheesy now.
One might argue that Bubo’s the best-acted and most memorable character in Clash of the Titans. Overall, the movie seems watchable and generally entertaining, but it fails to become more than that. It stands as a historical footnote since it’s the last hurrah of Ray Harryhausen, but otherwise, it’s not terribly memorable.
The Blu-ray Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B+/ Bonus C
Clash of the Titans appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though generally acceptable, the picture showed a mix of concerns that rendered the overall product as fairly average.
Sharpness seemed inconsistent but usually appeared positive. Most of the movie presented a reasonably crisp and detailed image. At times, the film became somewhat fuzzy and soft, but those instances didn’t occur with great frequency. I noted no problems related to jagged edges or moiré effects, and I also detected no signs of edge enhancement.
In regard to print flaws, the picture seemed moderately grainy at times. It also showed a handful of specks, but nothing extreme. Clearly the heavy use of special effects caused much of the grain, though even shots that didn’t involve effects could still be rather graint.
For the most part, colors looked reasonably vibrant and distinct. Titans featured a somewhat hazy look that fit the mythological setting, but the hues usually seemed fairly clear and accurate nonetheless. At times they took on a slightly muddy appearance, but those occasions seemed relatively infrequent. Black levels also came across as a little inky and ill-defined, and shadow detail could appear moderately thick at times. That issue became especially prominent during the “day for night” shots; those were rather heavy and impenetrable.
Despite all these concerns, I still felt Clash of the Titans merited a “C+” because it seemed to represent the original material to a fairly positive degree. Between the heavy use of special effects and the moderately soft and glowing look given to the piece, one can’t expect it to look much better than this.
On the other hand, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Clash of the Titans provided a surprisingly positive affair. The soundfield seemed quite active and involving for a film of this era. Music showed nice stereo imaging, while effects spread smoothly across the forward spectrum. In addition to some localized speech, the effects seemed accurately placed and they blended together neatly and efficiently. The surrounds added a very nice sense of environment, especially during the action sequences. The material moved nicely around the spectrum and provided a rather convincing setting.
Audio quality seemed a bit more average for the era, but the sound still worked well. Speech seemed somewhat flat but the lines always remained intelligible, and they demonstrated no problems related to edginess. Effects came across as moderately thin with some boomy bass, but those elements sounded fine for an older flick. The effects offered no significant distortion, and most of the material appeared acceptably vivid and clean. Music fared best of all, as the movie presented a nicely bright and rich score. The music came across with good depth and clarity. Overall, the soundtrack for Clash of the Titans has held up quite nicely over the decades.
How did the picture and sound of this Blu-ray compare to the prior DVD? Even though the earlier release was a 2.0 mix, the audio was pretty similar. I thought the DTS track seemed a little more engaging, but its age held it back. While the track held up well given its vintage, the potential improvements offered by a lossless 5.1 mix just didn’t seem to be huge. Both tracks worked nicely; the DTS version was a little better, but it didn’t blow away its predecessor.
As for the visuals, the source material also came with big restrictions. Indeed, the extra resolution of Blu-ray made some of the film’s flaws – like grain and softness – even more prominent. It still came with improvements, as the best-looking shots were significantly tighter, but the image still remained messy. That’s just the way it is, as the flick will always look grainy and murky.
The Blu-ray includes most of the extras from the DVD with some minor new ones. A Conversation with Ray Harryhausen offers exactly what one might expect: a 12-minute and 12-second program in which the special effects legend discusses his work. Harryhausen briefly goes over his early career and also ends with his thoughts about fantasy films in general, but mostly he covers his efforts for Titans. He provides some good general notes about the flick as well as some specifics about his creations during this reasonably interesting piece.
Myths and Monsters allows us to learn more about the film’s creatures. We get short discussions of Calibos, Bubo, Pegasus, the scorpions, Medusa, the Kraken, and Dioskilos. Each of these segments offers quick notes from Harryhausen about the different characters. The segments run between 41 seconds and 114 seconds for a total of eight minutes, 35 seconds of footage. Some of Harryhausen’s comments seem bland – such as his quick discussion of Bubo – but most appear quite useful. He explains topics like the inclusion of the live actor for Calibos and covers a number of other nice details.
The disc opens with a five-minute, seven-second preview of the 2010 Titans. It combines movie shots with some cast and crew interviews; expect the usual promotional clip.
No trailer for the original film appears here. That’s a change from the 2002 DVD; the Blu-ray also loses some “Cast and Crew” filmographies.
Finally, we locate a hardcover book. This comes as part of the package; open up the disc’s casing and the book appears on the left half. It features a mix of components. It presents a short introductory look at the Greek legends that influenced the story, biographies for Harryhausen, Harry Hamlin, Judi Bowker, Laurence Olivier, Ursula Andress, and Burgess Meredith, info about Harryhausen’s creations, and some trivia. It also provides various photos and movie publicity. The book contributes a little more value to the set.
As the final work of effects legend Ray Harryhausen, Clash of the Titans merits notice for historical reasons, but the movie itself seems fairly lackluster. To be sure, it provides a moderate amount of entertainment, but it suffers from a mix of weaknesses; the whole feels like less than the sum of its parts. The Blu-ray offers moderately flawed but decent picture along with surprisingly positive audio and a small but useful roster of extras. The Blu-ray offers the best home video version of the film, but don’t expect it to radically improve upon the earlier DVD, as the source material comes with too many restrictions for greatness to occur.
To rate this film visit the original review of CLASH OF THE TITANS