Monday, 20 September 2010

High Def Damages Classic Sci Fi?

It's the moment that every parent dreads. You're introducing your son to the pleasures of THUNDERBIRDS for the first time (and why else would you have children in the first place?) and all they can see is 'I can see the strings'.

Now OK, I expected that with regards to the puppets. Everyone can see the strings on the puppets. That's part of the show's charm after all. What I didn't expect was to be able to see the strings holding up Thunderbird 2. I've seen this show on small colour televisions when it was first shown and on video, but the DVD version of the show with its crisp, clean transfer is the first time that I have ever noticed the strings holding up Thunderbird 2.

Now I have noticed that Ray Harryhausen classics like IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA or EARTH VS THE FLYING SAUCERS are now available on the highest of definition formats - Blu Ray and the question occurs - how will 50s special effects that were dodgy at the time stand up to being digitally enhanced.

Well, the truth of the matter is that they don't. Blu Ray enhances everything and that means that it enhances all of the defects as well. I recently caught THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN (not sci fi I know, but the principle applies) on a hi-def TV channel and had to turn it off after a few seconds because the special effects in some of the aerial scenes were so unutterably awful. I'd never noticed that before.

Now Blu Ray is the only way to see the likes of AVATAR in your own home (not least because you can pause it when your bum - or your brain - just gets too numb) because their effects stand up to the spotlight that Blu Ray puts on them. These old classics, however, just don't.

Fortunately, what IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA has that its modern counterparts seem to lack is an entertaining storyline that zips along and involves the audience without either lecturing them or talking down to them. Whilst I could watch IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA and enjoy it for what it was, though, I did flinch when those special effects came on.

Perhaps all films should take a leaf out of the STAR TREK book and remaster all those old special effects so reduce the 'ouch' factor.

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