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1981ís CLASH OF THE TITANS ($35) marked stop-motion animation wizard Ray Harryhausen's cinematic swan songÖ and the only time in his career that one of his movies had stars as big as his visual effects. Of course, anyone wanting to own CLASH OF THE TITANS on Blu-ray knows that the only name with any marquee value is Ray Harryhausen's, and that his effects still manage to ellipse even the legendary stars that make appearances in the movie. Sure, the reason that CLASH OF THE TITANS is making its high definition disc debut sooner, rather than later, is tied to the cinematic remake that is scheduled to appear in theaters, a few weeks after this Blu-ray release appears in stores. Heck, the Blu-ray release of CLASH OF THE TITANS even promotes the upcoming remake, which utilizes state of the art CGI animation, in place of Harryhausenís stop-motion work. I have to admit the new move looks very cool, but as a long time Harryhausen fan, I tend to doubt the creations in the remake will have the charm of something hand animated, one frame at a time, by the master himself.

Like the Harryhausen masterpiece JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (sadly absent from Blu-ray), CLASH OF THE TITANS utilizes Greek mythology to spin its tale of enchantment and wonder. CLASH OF THE TITANS tells the story of Perseus (Harry Hamlin), the mortal son of the god Zeus (Laurence Olivier), and heir to a kingdom that was destroyed for the grievous actions of its previous king. Growing to manhood away from his ravaged kingdom, Perseus finds his destiny manipulated by the jealous goddess Thetis (Maggie Smith), who has been angered by Zeus' treatment of her own mortal son. After falling in love with the beautiful princess Andromeda (Judi Bowker), Perseus discovers she is doomed to be sacrificed to the Kraken, unless he can find a way to destroy the giant sea creature. Making a perilous journey to see the Stygian Witches, Perseus learns that he must face and kill the Gorgon Medusa if he is to have any chance of destroying the Kraken.

In addition to the Kraken and Medusa, other Harryhausen creations for CLASH OF THE TITANS include the winged horse Pegasus, the two-headed dog Dioskilos, Bubo the mechanical owl, a giant vulture, giant scorpions and Andromeda's transformed former suitor Calibos. All of the Harryhausen stop motion animation is wonderfully done, especially the sequence with Medusa, she is certainly one of the master's most beautifully designed and animated creations. In this age of digital effects, some of the optical compositing of live footage with Harryhausen's work is completely obvious; however, I continue to think this visual weakness adds to the charm and novelty of this movie. The human cast of CLASH OF THE TITANS also includes Burgess Meredith, Claire Bloom, Ursula Andress, Si‚n Phillips and Flora Robson.

Warner Home Video has made CLASH OF THE TITANS available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. The 1080p presentation of CLASH OF THE TITANS certainly bests the previous DVD release, however, even high definition cannot overcome the limitations contained in the source materials. CLASH OF THE TITANS was shot with varying film stocks and has various issues associated with the production techniques available to a modestly budgeted film from 1981. Sequences involving fog filters and optical compositing (including Harryhausen's work) appear softer and less detailed than much of the principal photography, which tends to appear rather crisp and pretty nicely defined. Certainly, one will not find the level of detail contained in a new movie, but CLASH OF THE TITANS looks significantly better on Blu-ray than it did on DVD. Color reproduction has some consistency issues related to production technique, but it is definitely improved on Blu-ray. For the most part colors are warm and attractive. Blacks are pretty accurate and the whites appear stable. Contrast is a bit variable, as is shadow detail. Day for night sequences have a few issues. The film elements from which CLASH OF THE TITANS are mastered appear quite clean. Grain is present at varying levels, and is sometimes quite heavy, but it all maintains the appropriately film like quantity of this presentation.

CLASH OF THE TITANS is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 2.0 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. A 5.1 channel remix would have been preferable, but since CLASH OF THE TITANS seems a little thin in the sound design department, the stereo serves the material well enough, even during the action sequences. Also, despite the lossless encoding, fidelity does have some age related limitations, although Laurence Rosenthal's heroic music sounds nice enough. Dialogue is cleanly rendered and the actors' voices have a respectable sense of presence. French, Spanish, German, Italian, Dutch, Czech and Portuguese monaural tracks are also encoded onto the disc. Subtitles are available in English, French, Spanish, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Portuguese, Swedish and Thai.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some extras, most of which were ported from the DVD release. A Conversation With Ray Harryhausen is a twelve-minute program in which Harryhausen discusses his work on CLASH OF THE TITANS and the various creatures he brings to life during the course of the film. Myths And Monsters Gallery allows access to the particular Harryhausen creation from the movie and allows the master to briefly discuss it. A Sneak Peek of 2010ís CLASH OF THE TITANS closes the disc-based extras. CLASH OF THE TITANS features book styled packaging that contains forty-four pages of photos and production notes.

CLASH OF THE TITANS represents Ray Harryhausen's final film, as well as being another in a long series of classics from the master of stop motion effects. The Blu-ray is impressive, insomuch as that it accurately reflects how CLASH OF THE TITANS actually looks, plus the presentation wrings the most detail out the elements one is ever likely to see. Highly recommended.



Clash Of The Titans (Blu-ray Book) (1981)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2010 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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