Clash of the Titans comes to Blu-ray in a 1080p transfer framed in the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The initial experience once the film starts is a shocking one - leading this reviewer to believe that this may be the worst disc he had seen on Blu-ray yet. However, this opening scene is merely a representation of the transfer at its worst, and it is a shame it should be right at the beginning. This transfer may be inconsistent but there are moments during the film that truly shine.
The opening scene displays a problem that appears on frequent occasions during the film, and that is grain. Now, obviously an older film like this with probably limited appeal in today's market is unlikely to receive a full restoration. I was therefore surprised to see the rather cryptic message on the back of the box stating “This film has been remastered using state-of-the-art digital technology, while maintaining the visual appearance of the original theatrical release”. This immediately raised my initial low expectations to a higher level which weren't entirely fulfilled. Grain is a regular problem throughout the picture. Now, I am not the kind of reviewer who automatically hates grain. It was an essential part of the filmmaking process back then, and can give the image a nice organic feel. However, there are times during this film where the levels are quite excessive. These are typically, but not exclusively, the scenes where the actors come up against one of Harryhausen's creations.
Yet there are many scenes which are crystal clear and look suitably impressive. As just one example of this, note the scene where Perseus is given his gifts from the Gods. The picture looks fantastic with virtually no grain present.
Picture sharpness and detail are similarly inconsistent as are colour levels. Some scenes look fantastic with every stitch on the clothing clearly visible, the beautiful scenery disappearing into the distance and colour popping off the screen. In other scenes the picture can be soft with a corresponding lack of detail, and colour muted.
One major problem with the transfer, although it is one that I imagine cannot be avoided, is that the greater resolution really shows up the joins between the film and the effects. The Harryhausen creations, however impressive they are, always look clearly delineated from the actors who are playing alongside them. Other scenes also display this problem - look at the way the actors stand out against the destruction as cities crumble. I am aware that this is a problem that was always likely to manifest itself in any high definition transfer but it must be mentioned.
Finally, the print itself is rather inconsistent. There are times when the source looks really clean and pristine, but other areas where dirt and blemishes show through. I do not have a DVD release to compare it to, so I am not sure whether the cleaner parts have been cleaned up, and the blemished parts were simply too bad to do so - or whether Warners have simply been lazy. Whatever the situation, there are enough impressive parts to make the price worth it.
The bottom line with the transfer is, what would you prefer they did? Remaster, remix, polish, and destroy everything that made the film unique - or try and preserve the soul of the original and be sensitive when carrying out the transfer to disc. They have chosen the latter option, and I am pleased they have taken this option. The transfer may look inconsistent, and it may haven it's problems but to those of us of a certain age that is part of it's charm. It allows us to experience Harryhausen's exquisite work just as it was intended to be seen and this reviewer is very happy about that.
I was wondering how they would approach the sound on this disc. The film was originally released with only a mono soundtrack - so I wondered if we would get a full 5.1 remix. We don't. Instead we are presented with a DTS-HD 2.0 stereo mix, and the option of the mono mix should we wish to watch it. I chose the stereo mix.
The mix is like the picture - solid in places, weak in others, and absolutely not a mix to show off that fancy amp sitting in your home cinema cabinet. The first thing to note is how quiet the mix is. I had to turn my amp up a full +10db in order to reach a comfortable listening level. Once I had done so though, the dialogue was usually clear and well presented. There are a few cases where it seems a little lost in the mix, but these are few and far between.
Sound effects are similarly impressive, with the various creature noises sounding vibrant and clear. The noise the vulture makes calling Andromeda to the cage, the clack clack of the Scorpions - all these are well rendered. The music also soars, and is well integrated into the mix.
Some may have liked to hear a full-on 5.1 mix but again it depends what you are wanting from the disc. I personally usually find faux 5.1 mixes uninspiring and flat (although the Star Trek series boxes prove it can be done well). The fact is, the market for this disc is unlikely to ever make it economical for a full soundtrack remix to be performed, or maybe the source is too degraded. Whatever the situation, like the picture the sound does an excellent job of rendering the original film in a way that retains its integrity and atmosphere.
I love my packaging. Give me a disc in a nice booklet any day, if you will. It immediately elevates the film to a nice artefact to have in your collection. The US release of this film is treated to this kind of lovely packaging. The UK release sadly just comes in a vanilla box with absolutely nothing in it at all, not even an insert. Just the disc.
Other than this, the extras are identical to the region free US release. This means that the 12 minute conversation with Ray Harryhausen is here along with the Myths and Monsters gallery. Both these features are very interesting, and it is always a pleasure to hear Harryhausen speak - but they really could do with being longer and more in-depth. I could not help feeling slightly disappointed.
Finally we get a 5 minute preview of Clash of the Titans 2010 which shows some footage of the film and a few brief interviews. This certainly works well as a taster of things to come, and did leave me rather excited. Sadly, the US release comes with a booklet about the 2010 release. That is missing here.
I am not too sure how well Clash of the Titans will play to today's audiences. The film is definitely from a different time, with a languorous plot and a special effects style which is seldom seen today. However, there are many out there who remember the film fondly and truly loved it. It is these people that this disc is aimed at so I make no apologies for approaching this summary from the point of view of myself, who definitely falls into that category.
The fact is, there are flaws in the presentation on this disc - but would it truly be the film we loved without these flaws? Yes, the HD resolution may show the joins, and the picture may vary from the impressive to the frankly awful - but this is film and perfection can get boring. This is most certainly the most impressive version yet seen in the home, and as such it is certainly worth upgrading to, or even purchasing for the first time if like me you have only ever seen it in the cinema or on TV.
Where I find it less easy to recommend this however, is in the stingy packaging compared to the region free US version which comes in a nice book packaging with an extra booklet about the remake. Identical in every other way, the UK packaging omits these facets of the release and as such if the price is similar then the US version would win every time.
However, the film is a genuine classic and as such if you do have fond memories of it then this disc is worthy of a permanent place in your collection. For today's generation, let's hope that the remake retains the imagination and wonder of the original. I can't help but have my doubts.
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