Clash of the Titans is presented in 1080p High Definition and framed in 1.85:1 widescreen format. It's been transferred using the VC-1 encode.
The standard definition DVD release of the movie never underwent the greatest digital transfer. Encouragingly, the Blu-ray packaging on this high definition release states that the movie has now been given a digital restoration. You can imagine my dismay upon discovering that it wasn't as thorough as it should have been.
It's fair to say that high definition is a great thing but it can also highlight all the deficiencies in a picture. Whereas the SD version of the movie had a softer image which helped disguise the problems, this Blu-ray ray reveals all the flaws in painful detail.
There is a very heavy grain to the film at all times. The many layers of processing, probably used to try help improve the film are also quite evident. As the stop motion scenes intertwine with the real life ones you can see all the dramatic variations in the composition of the image. In fact the whole visual experience is best described as highly variable and very inconsistent throughout the film. So although the source material itself seems to have been faithfully reproduced, perhaps the fault actually lies with the original print.
Skin tones also appear to change from scene to scene with colours appearing bold and lush at times only to then be lost in the murky and dimly lit scenes. There are on the other hand some lovely moments as well. When Perseus speaks to the soldier as he enters the city of Joppa there is a wonderful cinematic feel to the image. Also before he enters Medusa's lair, these are some of the very best shots in the film.
The dirt and blemishes from the original print have also made it across and it's clear from that, that this restoration is lacking in attention to detail.
Perhaps this is the best they can get out of it? I imagine not. As mystified as I was with the restoration I re-read the small print on the packaging on the Blu-ray which states 'This film has been re-mastered utilising state of the art digital technology while maintaining the visual appearance of the original theatrical release.'
So, as far as restorations go Warner appears not to have gone the whole hog on this release; such a shame really. I can only imagine that there may be a problem with the source material having degraded over the years?
On the other hand all of this may of course be down to the fact that they have rushed this release in order to cash in from the launch of the remake? It's fair to say that whilst this Blu-ray has room for improvement it is nevertheless the best that this film has ever looked.
The disc comes with a lossless DTS-HD MA soundtrack and is limited to being only a 2.0 stereo mix. It is though on the whole a faithful reproduction of the audio.
For the most part there is a distinct clarity afforded by the resolution but the channel limitation means that it's predominantly all front stage based. Dialogue is intelligible but there are moments in the fighting scenes that all the sounds become quite muffled. There are times when you struggle to make out the separation in the distinct sounds.
LFE and low end support is lacking and where the soundtrack should really punch hard it lacks the oomph to really hit home. I guess there's only so much you can do given the quality of the original material. Nevertheless the qualities of the lossless resolution are clearly there for all to hear. I feel it is probably the age and limitation of the source that is at fault here.
Still, it's not all that bad because it does actually feel very authentic and in keeping with the film itself. Laurence Rosenthal's wonderful score gives the whole soundtrack a genuine sense of class and is a perfect accompaniment to the film itself.
So finally even though it's only a 2.0 mix Warner has after all given it the Master Audio treatment and for that you should at least be thankful.
This Blu-ray package is presented in a very nice digi-book format. The metallic cover has a 40-page supplement incorporated into it which includes photos, production notes and other bits and pieces of information about the film.
As for the special features these are limited to only two extras and a sneak preview of the new film. The extras are exactly the same as to those that can be found on the original DVD release.
Clash of the Titans: Sneak Preview (HD) - 5mins 7secs The disc automatically opens with a sneak high definition preview of the new 2010 remake of the film. It's a little more than just being a simplistic trailer as there are some cast and crew interviews. It's basically a technical teaser for the new film.
A Conversation with Ray Harryhausen (SD) - 12mins 12secs The master of stop motion talks about himself, of how he got into movies and what inspired him to concentrate on special effects. Ray Harryhausen was of course a legend of his own art and it is good to listen to him speak and impart some knowledge. Overall this is quite an enjoyable extra but it is in fact no different than what came with the original DVD.
Myths and Monsters Gallery (SD) Ray Harryhausen explains about his inspiration and execution of the creatures in the Clash of the Titans. This appears to be a follow on from the previous conversation but has been broken down to specifically deal with each of the creature creations in the film. He talks about the creation of Calibos, Pegasus, Bubo, The Scorpions, Dioskilos, Kraken and of course Medusa herself.
Warner have chosen to give Clash of the Titans (1981) a high definition makeover. In part the timing of this release appears designed to benefit from the launch of the 2010 remake. This shouldn't detract from the fact that the original remains a classic, much loved and cherished film in its own right.
The US Blu-ray is presented as a metallic digi-book. The disc is housed in a high quality case complete with a 40-page supplement which is actually an integral part of the cover. It feels very much like a collector's edition and that adds some additional desirability. Fans now have every reason to buy and upgrade from the DVD version.
Technically though the disc may not be to everyone's liking. The visuals and audio appear to be imperfect but that is primarily due to the fact that the high definition format is very unforgiving to the source material. Warner's digital restoration therefore comes with a caveat being that they have tried to 'maintain the visual appearance of the original theatrical release.'
It is also very easy of course to criticise the story but that would surely be defeating the objective of this fantasy? For those that saw Clash of the Titans the first time around the foray into Greek mythology and the mystical world of Harryhausen's creations was simply a joy to behold.
Overall, I can recommend the region free US Blu-ray release as one for fans and collectors alike. It would of course be good if Warner at some stage decided to give it a more complete digital restoration. In the meantime Clash of the Titans has never looked or sounded better.
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