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HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Clash of the Titans (1981)



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#1 of 37 Cameron Yee

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Posted March 03 2010 - 03:15 PM

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Clash of the Titans

Release Date: Available now
Studio: Warner Brothers
Packaging/Materials: Single-disc Warner Digibook
Year: 1981
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1:57:00
MSRP: $34.99

Video
1080p high definition 16x9 Standard definition
Audio DTS-HD Master Audio: English 2.0 / Dolby Digital: French 1.0, Spanish (Latin 2.0, Castillian 1.0) and German, Italian, Portuguese and Czech Stereo
Subtitles English SDH, French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Greek, Norwegian, Swedish Variable

The Feature: 4/5

After being plucked from a sheltered existence on the island of Seriphos by the sea goddess Thetis (Maggie Smith), Perseus (Harry Hamlin) - half-human son of Zeus (Laurence Olivier) - embarks on a journey that will test the depths of his divine pedigree. Though outfitted with weaponry from the gods - a sword that cuts through marble, a shield that deflects more than just arrows, and a helmet that renders him invisible - Perseus's wits will prove to be his most valuable asset. Freeing the city of Joppa and its princess Andromeda (Judi Bowker) from the curse of Thetis's mutated son Calibos (Neil McCarthy) proves an easy first task, but when the Queen dares to exalt her daughter's beauty over Thetis's, Perseus must face the petrifying Gorgon and ultimately the monstous Kraken, last of earth's Titans. Though Perseus has always lived a charmed life, all of it may prove more than even the son of Zeus can conquer.

Though making some minor alterations to the myth of Perseus, "Clash of the Titans" captures much of what makes Greek mythology so exciting, thanks in large part to the stop-motion animation work of Ray Harryhausen. True, there's little in the way of character development, but these are archetypes in their purest form and there's something elementally inspiring about the hero's journey from boy to man. The narrative connections tying together his exploits are a bit weak, resulting in what feels like a series of vignettes or multiple beginnings to the story, but those problems have been long forgotten by the time Perseus reaches Medusa's horrific lair.

Not unexpectedly, the 30-year old effects work shows its age in today's predominantly CGI world, but it is undeniably impressive for the obvious time and energy poured into its creation. And regardless of how rough or unpolished it may look compared to today's work, there is something about the physical manipulation of physical material that lends itself a realism that even the best CGI can't duplicate (at least thus far).

Video Quality: 3/5

The film is accurately framed at 1.78:1 and presented in 1080p with the VC-1 codec. The image exhibits a wide range of issues - meager black levels, excessive grain, flat contrast, moments of softness, and occasional flickering - but by and large they seem inherent to the source, whether the result of the special effects work or the nature of the available film elements. There are moments when the picture looks as it should - good detail, the full range of contrast, nicely saturated color. But it doesn't happen frequently enough to override the memory of the other, less appealing qualities. I'll leave it up to Robert Harris to make the call on whether a restoration is warranted or possible.

Audio Quality: 3.5/5

Though sporting only two channels in the DTS-HD Master Audio track, the staging is impressively wide, giving some scenes rather unexpected directional and environmental effects. Voices and strings in the orchestral score also exhibit great detail and dialogue is consistently clear and intelligible. LFE is of course absent, but the track has satisfying dynamic range and depth.

Special Features: 3/5

Though obviously thin on video-based items, the collectible book and promotional items for the upcoming remake are appreciated.

Clash of the Titans (2010) Sneak Peek (5:07, HD): Preview of the upcoming remake starring Sam Worthington runs before the disc menu loads.

A Conversation with Ray Harryhausen (23:30, SD): Vintage piece features Harryhausen talking about how he got started in the filmmaking business, earliest projects and "Clash of the Titans'" casting, locations, music, and impact on directors like Steven Spielberg and James Cameron.

Myths and Monsters (SD): Harryhausen talks about creating and animating Calibos (1:19), Pegasus (1:21), Bubo (:47), the scorpions (:40), Medusa (1:53), the Kraken (1:28), and Dioskilos (1:06).

Collectible Book: The nicely produced book-that-is-the-packaging includes cast and crew biographies and numerous archival photographs.

Movie Cash: Worth up to $7.50 towards a ticket to see the upcoming "Clash of the Titans" remake.

Clash of the Titans (2010) Promotional Booklet: Includes a plot synopsis (the story seems considerably different from the original) and promotional photos and artwork.

Recap

The Feature: 4/5
Video Quality: 3/5
Audio Quality: 3.5/5
Special Features: 3/5
Overall Score (not an average): 4/5


For a film that captures much of the charm and excitement of Greek mythology, Warner Brothers turns in a video presentation that is best described as "true to the source," while the audio presentation is a pleasant surprise. The special features are a little thin on video content, but the "digibook" treatment is a fitting tribute to the film.




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#2 of 37 Ron-P

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Posted March 03 2010 - 06:23 PM

Great film back in the day, a favorite of mine. But sadly, the effects are too dated and too much of a distraction to enjoy it now. I'll wait for the remake.

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#3 of 37 Ronald Epstein

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Posted March 03 2010 - 11:33 PM

You know, I have to agree with that.

In the day, this was a really great film.  Seen it many times.
However, by today's standards, it has real "cheesy" special
effects and I no longer have the urge to watch this film anymore.

Not surprised by Cameron's review.  Warner hardly every
disappoints with these transfers.

 

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#4 of 37 Worth

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Posted March 04 2010 - 12:59 AM

The effects aren't just dated now, they were dated then. Clash had the misfortune to open on the same day as Raiders of the Lost Ark. I saw both of them on opening weekend when I was twelve and Clash really suffered by comparison. The moment that horribly matted seagull showed up over the opening credits, I knew the film was in trouble. And this is coming from a big Harryhausen fan.

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#5 of 37 cineMANIAC

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Posted March 04 2010 - 01:51 AM

Too bad there isn't a making-of featurette - maybe it would've shed a little light on the effects and whether or not it was a budget issue or a conscious decision to shoot the film in a style reminiscent of Harryhausen's 50's films. Either way, this is a film that certainly deserves a proper retrospective, not to mention a little info on the director.
 

 


#6 of 37 Dick

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Posted March 04 2010 - 04:56 AM

I have a different take on this film from most of you, I guess. I saw this theatrically in 1981, not long after seeing DRAGONSLAYER (which blew my mind), and I realized that this was one of Harryhausen's poorer efforts. It is so inconsistent that it's distracting. For instance, the Gorgon sequence rates right up there with some of Harryhausen's finest work, but the scorpions, while well-animated themselves, are very badly composited with the live actors and the difference in quality between the two elements is obvious and disappointing (I can't think of any instances in, say, the 7th VOYAGE OF SINBAD, made 23 years earlier, in which the compositing was as poor). While I understand the decision to split the Calibos character into live action actor vs. animation in order not to have to deal with animated dialog, again the differences are distracting and pull me right out of the movie. The Kracken, which is the creature used for the climax of the movie, is stiff and unconvincing, just standing there half out of water looking at the gorgeous Judy Bowker for many minutes while Perseus flies over to reveal the gorgon's head. And Harryhausen had help from animator Jim Danforth on this! I'd not been happy with SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER either for similar reasons: inconsistent effects work (the trog is excellent, but the walrus and fake snow effects suck, etc.) but was hoping for better on this one. I wish the man had retired following THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD, his last consistently excellent production. But, anyway, I can well image that the grain in the night shots for this Blu-ray would be excessive. The Dynarama work in 7th VOYAGE looks pretty reasonable on Blu-ray, but for whatever reasons (budget or whatnot), from GOLDEN VOYAGE on, Harryhausen's effects were wildly disparate. I am not sure I want to invest in the CLASH Blu-ray, having read the reviews. I do, however, await JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS eagerly.

#7 of 37 Douglas Monce

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Posted March 04 2010 - 05:02 AM

I saw Clash and Dragonslayer at a double feature in 1981. While Dragonslayer was more impressive visually, it clearly didn't have the character or charm that Clash had.

Doug

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#8 of 37 Dick

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Posted March 04 2010 - 05:35 AM

Hi, Doug. Well, I had problems with DRAGONSLAYER also, but not with the effects. The two lead characters played by Peter MacNichol and Caitlin Clarke were badly and inexplicably written as contemporary (20th-century) teens, while everything and everyone else around them were firmly planted in medieval times. But there was Ralph Richardson, whose canny and humorous portrayal of Ulrich IMHO far outmatches even Burgess Meredith's droll performance in CLASH. And there was Peter Eyre in a very 3-dimensional role as King Rex, and John Hallum as a truly threatening (although not really evil) Tryian. Then there is Chloe Salaman as Princess Elspeth, who behaves in ways we do not expect. I did not feel any similar sense of character in CLASH OF THE TITANS. Harry Hamlin was wooden and non-dimensional. Judy Bowker, while stunning and desirable, comes across as a typical female in distress without any real nuance except a bit of women's lib independence. But where the two films diverge completely for me is in the special effects, which for both films are vital. I've already pointed out Harryhausen's inconsistencies in CLASH. The dragon effects in DRAGONSLAYER are a wonder to behold, and never waver in quality. Vermithrax Pejorative is a magnificent and frightening creation that blows the Kracken (or any other creature) in CLASH out of the water. This is not true if the comparison is, for example, to the cyclops in 7th VOYAGE or the animated masthead in GOLDEN VOYAGE or Talos in JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS. I just feel that Harryhausen's work unfortunately degraded as the great animator headed toward retirement. I will, of course, be forever grateful to him for all the incomparable years of wonder and awe he provided me while I was a child. The 7th VOYAGE OF SINBAD remains my favorite fantasy film, and I don't see that changing, even in the era of epic fantasy we now experience.

BTW, Doug, that was a helluva double feature you got to attend! Hope they showed DRAGONSLAYER (the better of the two) last.

#9 of 37 Bryan^H

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Posted March 04 2010 - 06:31 AM

I'll take "cheesy" special FX any day over rampant CGI.
Lord of the Rings Return of the King.....hideous.  Too much CGI can alter a live action film into an animation fiasco.  Jurassic Park is the only CGI film I can stomach.  All you folks who blast the original Clash of the Titans, so be it.  But you wouldn't be getting a crappy remake without it.
What,  you don't expect the new film to be good do you?

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#10 of 37 TravisR

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Posted March 04 2010 - 07:11 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bryan^H View Post

I'll take "cheesy" special FX any day over rampant CGI.

 

Bad is bad. Why differentiate between a fake looking physical model on a string or a fake looking CG model?

And anyone being honest has to admit that some CG is seamless. Take a look at Deadwood or Lost or a million movies where they use CG to extend sets or create backgrounds that look completely real. Twenty years ago, they would have had to use a matte painting or a miniature and more likely than not, it would have looked just like a matte painting or a miniature.

#11 of 37 Steve Christou

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Posted March 04 2010 - 08:43 AM

A fantasy favourite I was looking forward to purchasing, but the dreaded words "excessive grain" in Cameron's review has put me off ordering the Blu-Ray at this time.

I can tolerate excessive DNR but I cannot stand excessive grain.

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#12 of 37 Derrick King

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Posted March 04 2010 - 08:43 AM



Quote:
Originally Posted by TravisR 



Bad is bad. Why differentiate between a fake looking physical model on a string or a fake looking CG model?

And anyone being honest has to admit that some CG is seamless. Take a look at Deadwood or Lost or a million movies where they use CG to extend sets or create backgrounds that look completely real. Twenty years ago, they would have had to use a matte painting or a miniature and more likely than not, it would have looked just like a matte painting or a miniature.
I'm not anti-CGI, but I would take the bad physical model over the bad CGI, because the bad model will always have a weight to it that bad (or, even in a lot of cases, good) CGI doesn't. Also, I have no problem with matte paintings looking like matte paintings or miniatures looking like miniatures, these techniques often add more to a film than they detract from a film.


#13 of 37 cineMANIAC

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Posted March 04 2010 - 09:15 AM

CGI doesn't hold a candle to practical effects unless someone like Peter Jackson is handling it - everybody else overuses it. The new Medusa looks fake from a mile away, judging from the trailer. Every time I see obvious CGI I think of a 12 year old playing with his computer
 

 


#14 of 37 Larry Sutliff

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Posted March 04 2010 - 09:28 AM


Quote:

 Too bad there isn't a making-of featurette - maybe it would've shed a little light on the effects and whether or not it was a budget issue or a conscious decision to shoot the film in a style reminiscent of Harryhausen's 50's films.

Maybe we can get George Lucas to fix the f/x in CLASH.


#15 of 37 Guest__*

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Posted March 04 2010 - 10:17 AM

I was five (almost six) when this came out and I thought the film was boring, with terrible effects that weren't even convincing for me. It was my mom's least favorite film of all-time. However, I watched this again a few years ago and it was much better than it was in 1981. So, I will probably get this when the price drops. Dragonslayer was much better, to my young eyes.

#16 of 37 TravisR

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Posted March 04 2010 - 10:32 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Luisito34 View Post

CGI doesn't hold a candle to practical effects unless someone like Peter Jackson is handling it - everybody else overuses it.

I'm not talking about the fake looking CG that's in the Clash remake or almost every other big budget movie, I'm talking about where CG is used to enhance a background or extend a set and it's seamless. In those cases, CG easily trumps practical effects. I love practical effects and have no problem watching movies that use them but there's no contest between the two in that area.

As for Peter Jackson, I love the guy's movies but there's been plenty of times when he overused CG too.

#17 of 37 Bryan^H

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Posted March 04 2010 - 12:47 PM



Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Christou View Post

A fantasy favourite I was looking forward to purchasing, but the dreaded words "excessive grain" in Cameron's review has put me off ordering the Blu-Ray at this time.

I can tolerate excessive DNR but I cannot stand excessive grain.
 
I ordered it today.  The standard dvd was pretty poor(video/audio) so the Blu-Ray can only be an improvement.  I was a fan of Easy Rider(another digibook).  Lot of grain in that one, but it is much better than the standard dvd.

 

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#18 of 37 Douglas Monce

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Posted March 04 2010 - 03:02 PM



Quote:
Originally Posted by Luisito34 

Too bad there isn't a making-of featurette - maybe it would've shed a little light on the effects and whether or not it was a budget issue or a conscious decision to shoot the film in a style reminiscent of Harryhausen's 50's films. Either way, this is a film that certainly deserves a proper retrospective, not to mention a little info on the director.
In one of the many special features on previous Harryhausen films on DVD, they talk about how Clash had by far the largest budget of any of his films. I think Harryhausen was just making films the way he always had, its simply that the state of the art in special effects was starting to pass him by.

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#19 of 37 Douglas Monce

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Posted March 04 2010 - 03:06 PM



Quote:
Originally Posted by Dick 



BTW, Doug, that was a helluva double feature you got to attend! Hope they showed DRAGONSLAYER (the better of the two) last.
Interesting take on the films Dick. I hope you won't be offended if I don't agree.

It was quite a double feature. However I must say that when I saw these two films, I was 16 and found Dragonslayer to be deadly dull. While I appreciate the film much more today, Its really is an excruciatingly slow paced movie.  I still find Clash to be MUCH more entertaining.

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#20 of 37 cineMANIAC

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Posted March 05 2010 - 12:53 AM



Quote:
Originally Posted by TravisR View Post



I'm not talking about the fake looking CG that's in the Clash remake or almost every other big budget movie, I'm talking about where CG is used to enhance a background or extend a set and it's seamless. In those cases, CG easily trumps practical effects. I love practical effects and have no problem watching movies that use them but there's no contest between the two in that area.

As for Peter Jackson, I love the guy's movies but there's been plenty of times when he overused CG too.

Travis I agree with you 100% - a great example of proper use of CGI is Ridley Scott's Gladiator (and of course the first two Jurassic Park films). Scott used seamless cgi to 'extend' the arena, and add an audience, and it looked spectacularly real, and this was 10 years ago! Today the technology has vastly improved but its still overused and much of it still looks fake