Clash of the Titans
In 1981, I had traveled with my father to the theater for the first time. It was my first official film of my life. I didn't know what to expect and quite frankly, I didn't care. Clash of the Titans was the film and it was such a long time ago that I actually remember receiving a program of the film in the lobby of the theater (yes, it was a long time ago). The film had everything a kid could want; a hero, a princess, monsters and a flying horse. It was perfect for me and it wore down our top loading VCR in less than two years ($1300 device back in the day).
Fast forward nearly 30 years and it has been released on Blu-ray from Warner Home Video. Can it still capture the same magic that the young kid remembers from the early 80s?
The same, but different
If you're not familiar with Clash of the Titans story, you should be thanks to the remake from Warner Brothers coming in April of this year. The story follows a half-God named Perseus. His mother slept with Zeus and he was produced and bound for greatness. Perseus finds his way into a strange, struggling land where a princess is trapped against her will. Andromeda was going to marry a man named Calibos, but thanks to Calibos' misdeeds he was horribly disfigured by the Gods. Not accepting this disfigurement and shunned by Andromeda, he cast a curse on her that each suitor she meets must answer a riddle made by him. If they don't guess the riddle then the punishment is death. Perseus, with the help from the Gods, finds a way to guess Calibos' riddle and defeat the abomination forever. Regretfully, Calibos is the son of goddess Thetis and the city ends up paying for Perseus' actions. Thetis unleashes the Kraken on the city and promises to avoid destroying the entire city if Andromeda is given up to the Kraken for sacrifice. Perseus must find a way to defeat the Kraken and save the city and save Andromeda.
The film really does put together some of the best group of actors in recent history. I doubt it cost Warner Brothers millions of dollars to do this. You've got the powerful, and wonderful, Laurence Olivier playing Zeus. Olivier's Zeus is one of the more commanding roles that is pulled off with ease from the seasoned actor. Harry Hamlin, who went on to a very successful career on L.A. Law (80s show) and several movies, plays Perseus the protagonist. Against him there is the beautiful, yet sassy, Maggie Smith as Thetis (mother to Calibos). Helping Perseus fight against Thetis and Calibos is the very missed Burgess Meredith as Ammon. Finally, the beautiful Judi Bowker as Andromeda, Perseus' main squeeze. This cast might have been young or up and coming in 1981, but they commanded the screen perfectly. Hamlin, who was young and barely broken into filmmaking, pulled off a spectacular role as hero. At the time, no one in their right mind would think that anyone could beat him during his adventures through the movie.
The cast was second to none and the carried the film beautifully.
Another great part about the film, and something that was certainly toted pretty well during the marketing of the movie, was the variety of monsters that Perseus came across. From giant scorpions to deranged devils and ultimately to the Kraken at the end; there wasn't a shortage of monsters in the film to keep you on the edge of your seat. The most memorable and fierce, outside of the gigantic Kraken, was Medusa. I can't remember a more intense battle between monster and man, in almost any film, then the one between Perseus and Medusa. I know that might sound extaggerated, but I still get chills after 29 years from this battle. I knew that she was stop motion, but the lighting mixed with the sound effects simply made this battle more intense. Plus, she's (bleep) ugly. Ugly, plus mean, plus snake hair, plus turning people to stone with an eery gaze made the long battle between Perseus and her one for the ages.
Shifting gears a bit, let's talk about flaws.
The movie wasn't without flaws. The story itself is a bit flawed as it's roughly put together without regards to smooth transitions in plots or in character development. I think most critics would agree it simply went too fast. In 1981, there were already stories in place that were perfect examples of how character development and slowly developing plots could mean a successful film. Here we've got a story that introduces our hero, puts him in danger, finds him true love and doesn't stick around too much to develop any of it. The film was solely depending on action and monsters and not too much on developing properly. Ultimately, especially when it was released in the theaters, this is probably where it met its downfall. Hopefully this flaw isn't carried over to the remake. Thankfully, many early indicators are pointing towards positive outcomes. Anyway, this is the one flaw that fatally wounded what could have been an epic adventure.
Let's talk about the blu-ray for a bit.
As beautiful as the movie was in 1981, it certainly has shown some age in 2010. The magic of Clash of the Titans was that Ray Harryhausen contributed his cinema magic one last time. He shaped the magical creatures in the movie and the menacing monsters to help keep the intensity going with the action scenes and the mythological feel to the Greek story. If you're not familiar with his line of work, you need only look back about 50 or so years to see he's fascinating and frightening creations that he did by hand. His monsters in Sinbad certainly scared the bejesus out of moviegoers during the time period it was released. Regretfully, the early 80s were truly the birthplace of special effects and a guy named George Lucas drowned out stop-motion for good. Harryhausen's characters look a bit aged in comparison to today's special effects and look even more so on Blu-ray. This shouldn't stop you from admiring his work or from appreciating Clash of the Titans.
The HD upgrade for the classic adventure was a good one, despite the aging effects. The amount of detail that comes out in the picture in 1080p is quite amazing. You'll be swatting marsh flies from your television during the market place scene. You might grow hungry seeing the red blood of Medusa pour from her neck in stunning high definition. There are some spots that do have some graininess to them, but for a film that is nearly 30 years old you can't really complain much with the results. The biggest upgrade thanks to Blu-ray is the audio. While I certainly didn't care too much for the goofy soundtrack (I know, I know. Many people love the soundtrack), I loved how well the sound effects were translated over. It's truly one of the brighter spots in the movie and it helps bring out some of the best moments of the film. For example, the creaking of Medusa's bow as she cocks the arrows back to kill Perseus and his men is nothing short of exquisite. Need another example? Listen to the movement of the giant scorpions and enjoy. All of the sounds in this film simply shimmer ever so gently and beautifully into your ears.
As for the special features, here's what you're looking at:
-Interviews: A Conversation with Ray Harryhausen
- Myths and Monsters
The interview with Harryhausen is nothing short of cool and insightful. Folks that is film history living and breathing (and talking) on your Blu-ray. That feature is really strong. The Myths and Monsters is interesting. I wish there were more features attached to this release. You'll basically have a nice feature in the booklet that makes up the Blu-ray, but having more recent interviews of the stars or a nice documentary of the film would have been fantastic; doubly so thanks to the upcoming remake.
Clash of Classic
For any moviegoer that was born or raised in the 80s this is a must-have for your collection. Sure the story is a bit hokey and the effects are certainly dated, but there's something really cool about the 'original' Clash of the Titans that will make you warm and fuzzy. It could be the sweet and sour chicken sauce pouring from Medusa's head or it could be Bubo the mechanical owl. Regardless, you'll enjoy this classic on Blu-ray.
I know I will.