Blu-ray Review Dirty Dancing Collection Blu-ray Review

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  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer

    Apr 24, 2006
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    Charlotte, NC
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    Matt Hough
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    In the 1970s, there began an interesting series of hybrid films which weren’t quite musicals but yet which incorporated songs (usually performed by soundtrack artists and not actors in the movie)  and dance (intrinsically woven into the story) which proved popular when traditional song and dance films had fallen out of favor. Saturday Night Fever, Flashdance, and Footloose were three of the most popular examples of this new dance drama genre, but perhaps no film quite captured the essence of this movement more than Emile Ardolino’s Dirty Dancing. It was a watershed film of 1987, a one-of-a-kind romantic dancing show which really couldn’t be duplicated. Nevertheless, they tried to in 2004 with Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights. The second film can’t carry its predecessor’s Capezios, but both have been joined together in a new Dirty Dancing Collection on Blu-ray.

    Dirty Dancing Collection (Blu-ray)
    Dirty Dancing/Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights

    Directed by Emile Ardolino, Guy Ferland

    Studio: Lionsgate
    Year: 1987/2004
    Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1   1080p   AVC codec
    Running Time: 97/86 minutes
    Rating: PG-13
    Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 English
    Subtitles: SDH, Spanish

    Region: A
    MSRP: $ 19.99

    Release Date: May 8, 2012

    Review Date: April 29, 2012

    The Films

    Dirty Dancing – 3.5/5

    When her family vacations at the Catskill resort Kellerman’s Mountain Home, Frances 'Baby' Houseman (Jennifer Grey) gets to know many of the staff who work to make the patrons’ stay more pleasurable. One of the featured dance instructors Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze) and his professional partner Penny Johnson (Cynthia Rhodes) particularly catch her eye. Penny has found herself pregnant by sleazebag resort waiter Robbie Gould (Max Cantor) and wants to abort the pregnancy, but the illicit operation can only be scheduled when Johnny and Penny were supposed to perform at another resort hotel in the area. So, Baby volunteers to substitute for Penny, and during the course of her instruction, she falls in love with Johnny and he with her. But Baby’s father (Jerry Orbach) isn’t going to take kindly to the idea of his “silver spoon” child fraternizing with the help, so they keep their relationship private. That is, until Baby must be Johnny’s alibi against charges of theft thus revealing her spending the night with him during the night of a burglary. With misunderstandings and recriminations all around, Baby and Johnny’s love appears doomed.

    Writer Eleanor Bergstein’s coming-of-age story is based on her own life and memories of visiting Catskill resorts as a young girl. The story is rather simplistic and predictable, but director Emile Ardolino and choreographer Kenny Ortega breathe life into it with the sensual displays of first class dancing throughout. They’re blessed to have found their perfect leading man, the young Patrick Swayze, who exudes a carnal yet controlled sexuality while dancing that makes his every move dynamic, and the film cemented him as a major star. His first tango with the superb Cynthia Rhodes is electric, and their later private exhibition of “dirty dancing” scorches the screen. Ardolino shoots the dancing wonderfully with the right blend of facial close-ups, full figure shots of the dancers, and close-ups of their feet in motion that stirs the senses and gets the blood pumping, and the series of montages showing Johnny and Baby learning their moves on the dance floor (and elsewhere) is engagingly filmed. Jennifer Grey, playing the youthfully inexperienced in love and in dance teen, gets by in the terpsichorean and dramatic scenes (though her acting is much less authentic than her co-stars and her dancing can’t compare to Rhodes’ vivacity). The Oscar-winning “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” is but one of several wonderful tunes that are used as underscore for the vibrant dance numbers.

    Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights – 2.5/5

    High school senior Katey Miller (Romola Garai) isn’t thrilled when her father’s business has him transferred to Cuba for her senior year in 1958. Many of the American teens there are snobbish and prejudiced, but she meets bus boy Javier Suarez (Diego Luna) at the hotel where they’re living and they strike an instant connection. When he takes her to a hot after hours club called La Rosa Negra and she sees the sensual Latin versions of classic ballroom mambo, she’s entranced. Later when Javier is fired from the hotel for fraternizing with an American guest, Katey makes it her business to make it up to him by entering them in a ballroom dance contest with a $5,000 first prize. The two begin to practice together and naturally fall in love, all the while revolutionary forces are threatening to take over the country and bring down its corrupt leader Batista.

    While the Boaz Yakin-Victoria Arch screenplay attempts to be an entertaining dance/romance film like its predecessor, it eschews some of the soapier aspects of the first film but instead weighs down the plot with political undercurrents which aren’t well developed but are injected at random moments without being fluidly woven through the film by director Guy Ferland. The film also didn’t luck out in the charismatic actor department; neither of its two leads creates sparks either in the dramatic scenes or with the dancing, and the film errs again by bringing in Patrick Swayze for a cameo as a local dance instructor at the hotel, and even his simplest moves crackle with the kind of swagger and authority that Diego Luna especially just doesn’t have (to be fair, Luna had no training as a dancer prior to the movie; Swayze had been dancing for a long time and was ballet-trained when he did the first film). True to the tastes of the era, Ferland shoots the dances with lots of rapid fire editing thus destroying any continuity in the dancing and not ever giving us a great look at his dancers’ grace and line. Supporting actors are effective in the film: John Slattery and Sela Ward as Katey’s parents make strong impressions, and Rene Lavan as Javier’s brother has the kind of firecracker machismo that might have served the film well if he had been the leading man.

    Video Quality

    Dirty Dancing – 4/5

    The film has been framed at 1.78:1 for this Blu-ray transfer and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. Sharpness is rather a letdown in all but the close-ups in the film. Color saturation levels are balanced and never go overboard though some may find flesh tones occasionally rosy. Black levels are good but not great, and contrast sometimes seems more veiled than it needs to be. The film has been divided into 16 chapters.

    Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights – 4.5/5

    The film has been framed at 1.78:1, and the transfer is presented in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. Though the film is definitely sharper than its predecessor, it still displays some soft-focused scenes (especially early on), and though color is stronger and more appealing, flesh tones still sometimes have an unnaturally rosy glow. Black levels are just fine. The white subtitles when Spanish is spoken are very easy to read, and the film has been divided into 16 chapters.

    Audio Quality

    Dirty Dancing – 4/5

    The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 sound mix only really makes the most of its extensive soundstage during music sequences when the canny mix of old and new pop tunes and John Morris’ underscore offer an immersive listening experience using all channels and some impressive LFE effects. Otherwise, the film has a distinctly stereo feel with only the front channels offering much in the way of aural intensity. Dialogue is always clearly presented and has been focused in the center channel.

    Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights – 4.5/5

    The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack has its volume level turned way up (and beware the DTS opening logo which is pitched at system-threatening levels of volume), but there’s no denying the dynamism of the Latin music that swirls through all of your sound system’s speaker array. And other ambient sounds such as nightclub chatter and ocean waves have also been filtered into the fronts and rears creating a quite viable surround environment. Dialogue is sometimes lost in the loudness of the music in the surround tracks, but it’s usually discernible and has been placed in the center channel.

    Special Features

    Dirty Dancing – 5/5

    The disc offers two audio commentaries. Screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein flies solo on the first one. Choreographers Kenny Ortega and Miranda Garrison, cinematographer Jeff Jur, costume designer Hilary Rosenfelt, and production designer David Chapman are edited together to form a second commentary track. For fans of the movie, both are indispensable. All share memories of the making of the film and offer consistent comment throughout the running time of the movie.

    The viewer may turn on a trivia track which adds pop-up information throughout the movie.

    With one exception, all of the featurettes are presented in 480i.

    “Kellerman’s: Reliving the Locations of the Film” features production designer David Chapman discussing which parts of their North Carolina and Virnigia locations were pieced together to make the Catskill mountains setting for the movie. This runs 12 ½ minutes and includes shots of these places in 2010 which now offer tours and other tourist attractions for fans of the movie.

    Dirty Dancing: The Phenomenon” tells the story of Vestron Video who began their sojourn into the movie business by putting up $8 million to make the movie, the subsequent success of which caused them to produce many other films that lead to bankruptcy. This runs 13 ¾ minutes.

    “Dancing to the Music” focuses on the different songs, both old and new, which appeared in the film and how difficult to get the rights for most of the older songs it was for the producers. This runs 16 ½ minutes.

    There are four tribute featurettes to those who have passed away after the movie wrapped. The first In Memorium runs 2 minutes with simple faces and necrology facts. There are separate featurettes for Patrick Swayze (15 ½ minutes), director Emile Ardolino (13 ¼ minutes), and Jerry Orbach (6 ½ minutes).

    “The Rhythm of the Dancing” features Patrick Swayze discussing how important music has been in his life and he describes the song he co-wrote for the movie, “She’s Like the Wind.” This runs 4 minutes.

    A photo gallery contains over two dozen stills (both production shots and portraits) relating to the film and its stars that the viewer can step through.

    A fan reel offers a montage of photos of fans who have trekked to Virginia to be photographed in the locale of many of the movie’s most famous scenes. It runs 1 ¾ minutes.

    The theatrical trailer is presented in 1080p and runs 2 minutes.

    Eleanor Bergstein’s script is available to be stepped through.

    A promotional featurette filmed at the time of shooting features director Emile Ardolino, stars Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Grey, and Cynthia Rhodes, and choreographer Kenny Ortega discussing the story and themes of the movie. It runs 6 ¾ minutes.

    Dirty Dancing with Patrick Swazye” finds the star of the film discussing memories of making the movie and expressing what it meant to him and his career. It runs 12 ½ minutes.

    The outtakes reel runs 38 seconds.

    There are three music videos. They are “Hungry Eyes” (3 ¾ minutes), “She’s Like the Wind” (3 ¾ minutes), and “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” (4 ¾ minutes).

    There are two dance sequences which can be watched from four different perspectives using the angle button on the remote: “The Lift” and “Everybody Dance.”

    Four principal members of the cast and crew give video interviews recounting memories of making the movie years after the fact. These are from Jennifer Grey (11 ¼ minutes), writer Eleanor Bergstein (18 ½ minutes), assistant choreographer Miranda Garrison (13 ¼ minutes), and choreographer Kenny Ortega (15 ¼ minutes). Some of these comments are also heard on other featurettes in this section.

    Screen tests consist and Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey dancing together (1 ¼ minutes) and two dramatic scenes of Jennifer’s in both the audition and final versions in the film.

    There are eleven deleted scenes, three alternate take scenes, and six extended scenes, all of which can be watched separately.

    “Dirty Dancing Live In Concert” is an 83-minute television special featuring artists whose songs appear on the soundtrack plus studio dancers reviving some of the dancing from the film.

    Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights – 3.5/5

    The audio commentary is provided by producer Sarah Green and co-producer/choreographer JoAnn Jansen (whose life story the film was based on). The two friends certainly offer plenty of anecdotes about the making of the film, but it’s somehow not quite as interesting as the commentaries for the previous movie, possibly because this film isn’t as interesting.

    All of the featurettes are presented in 480i.

    There are three multi-angle dance sequences: a preview of how the angle button operates and then two separate couples (not the stars) dancing their finale dances with four possible points of view for each dance.

    There are ten deleted scenes, all of which may be viewed separately.

    “Baila!” features choreographer JoAnn Jansen discussing how the dances were constructed for the film, made difficult by the fact that neither star had any dance training. Both Diego Luna and Romola Garai discuss their journeys toward becoming reasonably secure dancers for the filming. It runs 11 minutes.

    “Inside Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights is a 23 ¾-minute featurette on the making of the movie featuring brief interviews with all of the leading players as well as director Guy Ferland, choreographer JoAnn Jansen, production designer Hugo Luczyc-Wyhowski, costumer Isis Mussenden, and record producer Clive Davis who discusses the music used in the movie.

    “Guajira” music video is performed by Yerba Buena and runs for 3 ¼ minutes.

    The disc offers promo trailers for Dirty Dancing, Killers, The Switch, and Serendipity.

    In Conclusion

    3.5/5 (not an average)

    The Dirty Dancing Collection offers Blu-ray versions of both the 1987 original and its 2004 sibling (neither prequel nor sequel seems really the right term) with appealing lossless 7.1 audio tracks that will get the feet moving and the toes tapping. They’re not great films, but their appeal, especially the first one, is inarguable, and this package is a budget-conscious way to own them both.

    Matt Hough

    Charlotte, NC


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