CLASH OF THE TITANS
CLASH OF THE TITANS ($20) marked stop motion animation wizard Ray Harryhausen's cinematic swan song and the only time in his career that one of his movies had stars as big as his effects. Of course, anyone wanting to own the CLASH OF THE TITANS DVD 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. Like the Harryhausen masterpiece JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS, 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 looks a little weak; however, I think this minor visual weakness adds to the charm of this movie. The human cast of CLASH OF THE TITANS also includes Burgess Meredith, Claire Bloom, Ursula Andress, Siān Phillips and Flora Robson.
Warner Home Video has made CLASH OF THE TITANS available on DVD in a 1.78:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. In general, this is a really good transfer, but it cannot always overcome limitations in the source material. Sequences involving fog filters and optical compositing (including Harryhausen's work) appear softer and less detailed than much of the principal photography, which is fairly crisp and nicely defined. Color reproduction is also variable, due to the same set of circumstances that effect sharpness of the picture. Most sequences with optical effects or processing tends to have a slightly muted quality, as opposed to the main body of the film that displays a richer, more vibrant color scheme. Blacks are fairly inky, whites appear stable and the contrast is smooth. The film element used for the transfer does display a number of small blemishes throughout the course of the move, plus there is a noticeable grain structure during much of the movie. The dual layer DVD does not exhibit any overtly noticeable digital compression artifacts.
CLASH OF THE TITANS is presented on DVD with a Dolby Digital 2.0 channel soundtrack that decodes to standard surround. The quality of the track is pretty good in terms of fidelity and usage of the surround channels. Of course, this is a product of the early 1980's and the mix is not at today's levels of technical excellence. Still, the mix proves to be nicely atmospheric and does take advantage of the rear channels for active sound effects. The forward soundstage is definitely livelier and is especially engaging during action sequences. Dialogue is cleanly rendered and the actors' voices have a nice sense of presence. Laurence Rosenthal's heroic music is nicely recorded and well represented in the sound mix. The track has a reasonably solid bottom end, but don't look for anything ground shaking. A French monaural soundtrack has also been encoded onto the DVD, as have English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Japanese, Bahasa, Thai and Korean subtitles.
Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features as well as a couple of supplements. 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. The Map of Myths And Monsters is really nothing more than a graphic menu that allows one to pick a particular Harryhausen creation and watch its sequence from the movie play out. A theatrical trailer, plus cast & crew filmographies close out the supplements.
CLASH OF THE TITANS is Ray Harryhausen's final film and another classic from the master of stop motion effects. Warner has done a really nice job with the presentation, even with the minor limitations that exist in the original film elements. CLASH OF THE TITANS is a fun movie, and something that fantasy buffs and Harryhausen fans will want to own. Hopefully, Warner will follow through and bring Harryhausen fans THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS and THE VALLEY OF GWANGI.
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