Thursday , February 29 2024
Yet another childhood memory gets trampled on.

Blu-ray Review: Clash Of The Titans (1981)

Back in the early ‘80s, my older brother and I frequently enjoyed watching a selection of would-be classics over and over on HBO. Between Strange Brew and Enzo G. Castellari’s Hercules, we were privy to all of the wonders of the cinematic world — but no one film thrilled us as much as Ray Harryhausen’s swansong as a visual effects artist, Clash Of The Titans. It was a movie that took us into the realm of Greek mythology, and introduced us to such stop-motion critters as Medusa, that Kraken-thingy, and more. As a child, it was a film that couldn’t be beat.

As an adult, however, Clash Of The Titans isn’t as cool.

A very good friend of mine went to the theater back in ‘81 to see Clash Of The Titans with his then 9-year-old nephew. His only outstanding memory of the film was a particularly nasty round of burrito-induced flatulence that he released onto an unsuspecting auditorium, which in-turn created a wide circle between the rest of the audience and them as they giggled incessantly throughout what he has since dubbed “one of the worst movies ever.” And it really bothers me that my only viewing of the film since my childhood has left me with a stench that not even a burrito fart could have topped.

The story tells of Perseus (young Harry Hamlin), one of the many illegitimate sons of the almighty Zeus (a rather embarrassed-looking Laurence Olivier), who reigns from Mt. Olympus above along with goddesses Thetis (Maggie Smith), Aphrodite (Ursula Andress), and Hera (Claire Bloom). Raised safely on his own, Perseus’ benign existence is called to a halt when Thetis decides to thrust the youth into the harsh outside world — a punishment she has deemed just since Zeus had transformed her mortal son Calibos (Neil McCarthy) into a satyr.

Befriending an old theater queen named Ammon (Burgess Meredith), Perseus soon goes toe to toes with Calibos, gigantic scorpions, a trio of irritating witches, Medusa, and the dreaded sea beast, the Kraken. All of the mythological creatures presented here are brought to a splendid existence by the renowned animator, Ray Harryhausen (who also produced the film), and are the true highlights of an otherwise dull and boring fantasy flick laced with idiotic dialogue and sluggish performances (Burgess Meredith is about the only actor in the whole film who seems to be enjoying himself most of the time — which makes his performance all the more annoying in comparison).

It was never that good-looking of a movie to begin with, which most purists will have to take into consideration when they see Warner Home Video’s High Definition transfer. Presented in a 1080p/VC-1 transfer and a 1.85:1 widescreen ratio, Clash Of The Titans is a rather foggy and grainy affair, with a muddy black levels, a decent balance of colors, and the occasional bit of fuzzy footage that looks like it could have been shot by Abraham Zapruder. But, those of you who still hold this film on a high pedestal shouldn’t be too terribly disappointed: it still looks a lot better than it did on HBO.

The Blu-ray’s soundtrack, a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo mix, may also upset a few of you traditionalists. While it’s a shame that Warner didn’t go for a 5.1 track, the main audio track we’re given is nevertheless adequate to the rather low-tech High Def presentation. Additional audio options are provided in Portuguese, Spanish, Czech, and German (Dolby Digital 2.0), and French, Italian, and Castilian Spanish (Dolby Digital Mono). Over a dozen subtitle options are also included on this disc (English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Swedish, and Thai).

But perhaps even more disappointing than realizing how un-cool Clash Of The Titans really is after puberty, is the selection of special features included here. There’s a featurette entitled “A Conversation With Ray Harryhausen” that has been recycled from the old SD-DVD release, which is concluded with the “Map Of Myths And Monsters” Gallery (also from the old DVD). The only “new” extra here is a behind-the-scenes look at the 2010 Clash Of The Titans remake, along with a booklet about the original (which is housed in the Blu-ray Book case itself).

In short, Clash Of The Titans does not hold the same sense of supremacy for me now as it did when I was younger (if only I had eaten a burrito beforehand) — and Warner’s Blu-ray isn’t that much better. Fans of the film, however, will probably find it worth the cost of upgrade.

About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the alter-ego of a feller who loves an eclectic variety of classic (and sometimes not-so-classic) film and television. He currently lives in Northern California with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.

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