HTF Review: "Better Off Dead" (With screenshots)

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Ronald Epstein, Jul 10, 2002.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    [​IMG]

    Better Off Dead




    Studio: Paramount
    Year: 1985
    Rated: PG
    Film Length: 97 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.85:1)



    Two Dollars. I want my Two Dollars
    Please allow me to get on my soapbox for a
    moment. Paramount is releasing two comedies
    next week that come as a direct result of the
    membership of Home Theater Forum. Top Secret!
    and Better Off Dead were titles that our
    membership campaigned for the studio to release.
    We would like to thank Paramount for listening
    and for releasing perhaps two of the greatest
    comedy titles in their catalog.
    [​IMG]
    I really feel as if I am holding the Holy Grail.
    Better Off Dead is without question one of
    the funniest teen comedy movies ever made. It's
    one of the quirkiest movies to come out of the 80's,
    mixing an off-beat plot with surrealistic humor.
    What's amazing about this film is that it's not
    the smartest or best-produced movie of its kind,
    but it works totally off the efforts of John
    Cusack, whose boyish charm (and often) deadpan
    delivery will have you chuckling out loud.
    [​IMG]
    At the age of 16, Lane Meyer (John Cusack) feels
    his world is crumbling around him. He has just
    been dumped by his girlfriend Beth (Amanda Wyss)
    who feels she should be hanging around someone
    more popular.
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    Things at home aren't much better. He's surrounded
    by the weirdest and most unhip family ever imaginable.
    There's Badger, his coupon-clipping brother, a mother
    whose meals literally walk off the table, a dad who
    has affection for TV dinners, and a best friend
    who snorts Jell-O. To top things off, the radio
    in his car is only playing breakup songs and now
    that he has broken up with Beth, everyone from his
    science teacher to Barney Rubble wants to date her
    (that kills me every time). To make things worse,
    two Chinese guys, one speaking no English one speaking
    like Howard Cosell, constantly want to race him on
    the roads.
    [​IMG]
    So Lane considers the next step, and his half-serious
    suicide attempts become as hilarious as the antics
    around him. Enter Monique (Diane Franklin), a foreign
    exchange student determined to rid Lane of his
    suicidal tendencies and win his heart in the process.
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    Will Lane end up with Beth or Monique? Will Lane
    win the K-12, the hardest ski slope in California?
    Will the paperboy ever get his two dollars?
    How is the transfer?
    Based upon Paramount's reputation for putting
    out immaculate transfers, I was anticipating that
    Better Off Dead would look spectacular on DVD.
    I hate to be the person to break the news to all
    the fans -- this movie doesn't look as good as it
    should.
    You'll see it right from the opening moments
    of the film -- there is an abundant amount of film
    grain everywhere. It sticks out like a sore thumb
    as Lane (Cusack) steps into his bathroom. The white
    tiles and tub are littered with grain. From that
    moment on, you can't get the grain out of your mind.
    It's everywhere.
    The film just doesn't look fresh on this format.
    Red color in the flesh tones and a lack of sharpness
    in the picture detail give Better Off Dead a
    very dated look to it. You can even see a good
    amount of film blemish scattered throughout. It's
    sort of surprised me that the last 30 minutes of
    the film looked better than the first 60 minutes.
    Perhaps I was getting used to the graininess at
    that point. Through all of this, colors do manage to
    stand out rather vividly -- especially on the ski
    slopes where you have all the colors set against
    a white background.
    [​IMG]
    The stereo surround track sounds pretty good.
    In pro-logic mode sound remained strong across
    the front channels while the rears provided an
    array of background noise from howling wind atop
    the California mountain to thunder claps outside
    of the fast-food restaurant to the sounds of
    shoppers inside a Supermarket. It's nothing to
    write home about, mind you, but listening to the
    film in pro-logic added to the overall experience.
    I just don't know what to make of this transfer.
    It could have been so much better and perhaps I
    am making such a big deal about such a small film
    because it is one of my favorites. The transfer
    isn't horrible, but I think fans are going to be
    a little agitated when they see this on their
    projections televisions.
    Special Features
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    There are none.
    Not even a friggin' trailer on this DVD.
    Final Thoughts
    A bare-bones release with a lackluster transfer.
    I feel sort of let down. Paramount obviously
    knew the popularity of this film. I think they
    could have done more with it. You mean to tell
    me that a simple trailer couldn't have been included
    in all this?!
    I can almost hear the studio whispering to me,
    "Buck up little camper, be happy you got this
    title released in the first place
    ."
    [​IMG]
    So buck up little fans, don't let this bad news ruin
    your desire to buy one of the best teen comedies
    ever made. Head straight to your local dealer...
    go that way, really fast....and if something gets
    in your way...turn. Just remember there is nothing
    worse than throwing away a perfectly good white boy.
    Release Date: July 16, 2002
     
  2. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Moderator
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    One of my all-time favorite movies (spent many of days in college quoting this film with many of my dorm mates and watching it on tape numerous times). Even with the so-so video transfer, I will buy it and enjoy it.

    "How do you say...Duck head!"

    "Rick-KAYYYYY!!!!"

    And the Asian Howard Cosell always cracked me up, as well as the "race" at the stop lights.

    Minute for minute, this film is just flat out humorous. It gets better with each viewing.
     
  3. James L White

    James L White Supporting Actor

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    barebones, why does this NOT come as a surprise,kind of pissed that the video isn't up to typical Paramount standards[​IMG]
    I think I'll pass unless I can find it for a good price [​IMG] but another fine review none the less
     
  4. streeter

    streeter Screenwriter

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    Doesn't surprise me either. We can always expect few special features and high prices from Paramount.

    BOOO
     
  5. JonZ

    JonZ Lead Actor

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    (In Howard Cosell voice)Bare Bones, not even a trailer,a ok trnasfer,2.0 soundtrack and Ill bet it will still be a $24 disc.

    This has been one of my comedy faves since I saw it on cable 15 years ago.
     
  6. John Berggren

    John Berggren Producer

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    You like raisins...

    I really wish you had better news on the transfer and the features. I'll see how discounted I can get this title. I've never seen it in it's OAR, so at least that's a bonus.
     
  7. Chris Brunner

    Chris Brunner Second Unit

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    Next Tuesday (16th) is a strange day for me. I will no longer have a movie to pine for on DVD. [​IMG]
    I guess I will focus all of that longing on the 'Better Off Dead Remastered Director's Edition'.
    'Till then, thanks Mr. Blythe, Paramount and the HTF for making this possible.
    Chris
    "Everybody Wants Some"
     
  8. Marc Colella

    Marc Colella Cinematographer

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    I can't wait to get my testicles on this DVD.
    Ummm, I mean tentacles, tentacles... big difference.
    [​IMG]
     
  9. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer
    Reviewer

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    Based on the review and screen shots, it looks like a low budget 80s comedy, which is what I expected. I'm just glad that they did not try to "sharpen it up" with EE.

    I plan on picking this up and watching it after an international dinner of Fraunch Fries, Fraunch Dressing, and to drink...Peru.

    A year ago, Paramount would have had a MSRP of $30 for this one. At least they are heading in the right direction, even if they still have a ways to go.

    Regards,
     
  10. John Stone

    John Stone Supporting Actor

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    Great review, Ron. I share your enthusiasm for this film. Better Off Dead has been at the top of my want list ever since I purchased my first DVD player.

    I understand the lack of extras (see below quote from Martin Blythe), but I'm really bummed about the poor transfer. Here's a 4/16/2002 Martin Blythe quote that helps explain why Paramount chose to go with a bare-bones release at this time:

     
  11. Will K

    Will K Screenwriter

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    There seems to be a recurring theme with Paramount's catalog releases of late. While I am grateful of their commitment to OAR, more and more titles are appearing completely barebones without even a trailer(Graveyard Shift, Silver Bullet, Thief Of Hearts, to name a few). I also understand all or most of the 9/3 titles will not have trailers, either. What gives?
     
  12. Ron-P

    Ron-P Producer

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    Major bummer on such a lack-luster DVD for such a great movie. But I will buy this one.
     
  13. MichaelW

    MichaelW Stunt Coordinator

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    Sophomore in HS when this came out. I was in love with Diane Franklin after this movie. Not sure whatever happened to her.

    Bueno for its release on DVD.
     
  14. ChrisMatson

    ChrisMatson Cinematographer

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    I really like this movie, and I want to replace the old VHS (*shudder*) tape we have. The lowest price I could find is $15.99 over at buy.com. We may be able to do better at B&Ms when it streets. I think I'll wait to see what the Weekly Roundup finds on Sunday!
     
  15. Dean DeMass

    Dean DeMass Screenwriter

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    Great review Ron, I can't wait to pick this up.

    ****snorts snow****
    "Do you realize what this is? It's pure snow! You know what the street value of this mountain is?"

    -Dean-
     
  16. Jenna

    Jenna Second Unit

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  17. Craig S

    Craig S Producer
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  18. John Berggren

    John Berggren Producer

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    I'm confused too. This one should be in a keepcase.
     
  19. Greg S

    Greg S Supporting Actor

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    Can't wait!!

    Now I can finally get the wife to understand what I mean when I say ...

    $2, I want my $2!!!

    I LOVE THAT PART!!!!

    Greg
     
  20. Matthew Chmiel

    Matthew Chmiel Cinematographer

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    The DVD could've been packaged in a paper bag and had an SRP of $30 and I still would've bought it.
    Better Off Dead... is one of my favorite movies and on Tuesday I will be buying it.
     

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