Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. This was a more than acceptable presentation.
I mostly didn’t factor the archival material not shot explicitly for Titan into my grade. Those elements demonstrated all sorts of flaws, but it didn’t seem fair to criticize the Blu-ray for problems with that kind of stuff.
As for the new shots, they presented solid sharpness most of the time. These elements usually looked crisp and detailed, but some exceptions occurred. In particular, one session with Harryhausen demonstrated bland delineation; since we saw a lot of that interview, we found more than a few elements with lackluster clarity.
I noticed no problems with jagged edges or shimmering. Outside of the archival bits, I saw no source flaws.
Not surprisingly, the movie’s palette tended toward natural tones. The movie’s hues came across with reasonably positive clarity and definition. The hues never popped, but they were fine most of the time.
Blacks seemed fairly deep and firm, while the occasional low-light shots appeared well defined and clean. Overall, I found the image to seem pretty good for this sort of flick.
Don’t expect much from the LPCM stereo soundtrack of Titan. This was a consistently subdued affair that concentrated on dialogue. Music spread gently to the side speakers, but much of the mix felt pretty monaural in nature.
Audio was acceptable. Interview dialogue appeared good, as the material seemed natural and intelligible. Music was fairly full, while effects appeared restricted, mainly because most came from old film clips. This became an adequate track without anything remarkable about it.
Titan comes with a bunch of extras, and these launch with an audio commentary from writer/director Gilles Penso, producer Alexandre Poncet, film historian Tony Dalton and associate producer Timothy Nicholson. All four sit together for this running, screen-specific discussion of aspects of the film’s creation, score, editing, and various challenges.
Chatty and chummy, the commentary becomes an easy listen – but it doesn’t necessarily tell us a lot about the documentary. The remarks favor praise a lot of the time, so the content doesn’t always seem especially involving. Still, we get a decent overview of the processes involved with the movie’s creation, so it’s a relatively worthwhile chat.
A featurette called A Treasure Trove lasts 13 minutes, 36 seconds. It allows us to view a slew of items from the Harryhausen Archives. It can be interesting to see the creations, but the format seems inefficient, as it wastes too much time with images of the items as they get unpacked.
Under Interviews, we locate four clips with participants who didn’t make the final film. We hear from filmmakers Edgar Wright (4:24) and Peter Lord (2:26) as well as special makeup effects creator Rick Baker (5:08) and actor Simon Pegg (3:44). Most of these comments just praise Harryhausen; Baker offers a little more substance, but not much.
More of this sort of footage appears under Interview Outtakes. This section includes special makeup artist Colin Arthur (2:40), visual effects supervisor Dennis Muren (5:12), concept designer Greg Broadmore (4:12), director Joe Dante (5:56), director John Lasseter (4:56), visual effects supervisor Ken Ralston (3:33), actors Martine Beswick and Caroline Munro (2:05), director Nick Park (6:52), creature effects supervisor Phil Tippett (4:53), animation supervisor Randy Cook (3:51), special makeup effects creator Steve Johnson (7:45) and daughter Vanessa Harryhausen (3:25).
The content of the “Outtakes” follows the information from the main program pretty closely. That means a lot more appreciation for Harryhausen’s work and career. We get a few technical insights – and I like Vanessa’s memories of her unusual toy chest – but we don’t get a lot of new facts here.
A Message to Ray runs two minutes, 16 seconds and featues Ray Bradbury, James Cameron, Guillermo Del Toro, Ken Ralston, Vanessa Harryhausen and Randy Cook. This appears to have been a 2013 birthday greeting to Harryhausen. It seems like an odd addition to the set.
Eight Deleted Scenes fill a total of eight minutes, 19 seconds. These include participants from the main feature, though we also get a segment with visual effects supervisor Douglas Trumbull and director Jean-Pierre Jeunet. These tend to be technical and seem mostly interesting.
On the Set of Sinbad goes for two minutes, 59 seconds. As expected, it provides some archival 8mm footage from the 7th Voyage shoot. It becomes a decent historical curiosity.
Two Q&As follow. “Paris Cinematheque” (18:39) features Penso, Poncet, Nicholson and Dalton, while “London Gate” (8:58) includes Harryhausen himself as well as Dalton, Landis, Munro, Penso, Park and Poncet. Both offer some useful details, though neither comes packed with substantial material.
In addition to the trailer for Titan, we find a Ray Harryhausen Trailer Reel. It includes promos for The 3 Worlds of Gulliver, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, 20 Million Miles to Earth, Earth Vs. the Flying Saucers, It Came From Beneath the Sea, Jason and the Argonauts, Mighty Joe Young, Mysterious Island and The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms.
As a look at arguably the most important effects technician in Hollywood history, Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan offers a mixed bag. When it focuses on Harryhausen’s work, it illuminates, but the filmmakers fill the documentary with far too much praise. The Blu-ray brings us acceptable picture and audio as well as a mix of supplements. Parts of Titan work but the program lacks much substance.