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DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW: National Lampoon's Vacation - 20th Anniversary SE. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

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#1 of 79 OFFLINE   Herb Kane

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Posted August 15 2003 - 09:06 AM

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National Lampoon’s Vacation - 20th Anniversary SE

Studio: Warner Brothers
Year: 1983
Rated: R
Film Length: 99 Mins.
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Audio: DD Mono
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish & Portuguese

The Feature:
After a long wait, Warner is finally about to release one of the funniest movies ever as a Special Edition to commemorate the 20th anniversary of its original release. Brilliantly written by John Hughes and directed by Harold Ramis, National Lampoon’s Vacation is soon to be released in it’s proper OAR - widescreen glory. As a matter of fact, on October 7th, WB is releasing Vegas Vacation and Christmas Vacation in their proper OAR. Also on that date they are releasing the entire series as a box set. In the early years of the format, there were many non OAR WB releases. Finally, we are now getting around to having many of these classics revisited and released in their proper aspect ratio.

National Lampoon’s Vacation is just one of those movies that puts a smile on my face, just thinking about it. In fact all four in the series are classics in my opinion (albeit, the European and Vegas Vacation’s are the weaker of the bunch). I’m a sucker for funny travel movies such as Planes, Trains & Automobiles, The Out-of-Towners (1970 version) and, of course, the Vacation Series.

I can’t help but think of those summer vacations where we’d pack up the 1970 Chevy Impala and head out… you just never knew what you were in for – but you knew it probably wasn’t going to be pretty. Even though we never lost a loved one during our vacations -- over the years, I do recall a fish hook lodged in mom’s forehead, dad’s shaving cream exploding in his suitcase, an almost rollover to avoid a deer in the middle of a New Brunswick road and a pair of dad’s rank socks catching fire while drying on a woodstove…. Yes folks, these are all true stories. Therapy has made a world of difference…

I’m guessing there isn’t a single person reading this review who hasn’t had a similar experience…

Similar to my father’s attempt at the ultimate experience, Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) is the dad that I think most of us can relate to. He’s the consummate family man with a good job, a nice house in the burbs, 2.5 kids (almost) and a woody station wagon in the driveway… however, regardless of how hard he tries, he’s a putz. His wife Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo), is always doing her best to make peace and keep her husband from total humiliation or even worse, killing the family. Their two kids Rusty (Anthony Michael Hall) and Audrey (Dana Barron), are typical kids who are embarrassed by virtually everything their dad says and does…. and in this case, they might very well be justified. Last but not least, there’s cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) who is absolutely priceless and who is responsible for much of the humor for the entire movie.

Scored to the very catchy “Holiday Road” (and you’ll be humming this for hours after the movie), this vacation sets out on a cross country trip from Chicago to a California theme park called Wally World. Along the way we witness the trials and tribulations of Clark’s attempt at the perfect holiday. During their journey, he encounters a gorgeous blonde (Christey Brinkley) driving a red Ferrari which he flirts and fantasizes with. When they finally arrive, they are greeted by the inept security guard (John Candy) only to discover yet another surprise that awaits them.

Nobody has been on a vacation quite like this….

Warner Brothers boasts an all new digital transfer for this new release. Unfortunately (I really mean fortunately…) I don’t have the previous MAR’d disc to compare it to (while I did succumb to the pressure of Christmas Vacation, I remained vigilant in my stance against the purchase of this regular disc).

Overall, I found this transfer to be rather pleasing. For the most part, the image was sharp and detailed. On occasion however, I noticed the image was slightly soft. Skin colors were accurate, and colors were vibrant. Black levels were also very good.

During the scene when they are arriving in St. Louis, I noticed what appeared to be compression issues however, It only seems to last a few seconds during that scene.

Overall, I found the video presentation very film like and very pleasing with a definite look of the 80’s present. My criticisms noted above are only very minor in nature.

There is a ton of music during this movie. Even though the audio track is only DD Mono, it is delivered perfectly. The scenes where the music is present (and that accounts for a good portion of the film) is extremely full and expansive. I had to double check a couple of times to confirm it was only DD Mono… and it was. It gave the center speaker a pretty good workout – very impressive.

Dialogue is very clear with no audible hiss or noise. Very solid.

Special Features:
We have a choice of five options in the Special Features section. They are:

Introduction - Features Chevy Chase, Producer Matty Simmons and Randy Quaid. It’s only a couple minutes long and just gives a brief intro to the film.

Griswold Family Commentary – This is a rather interesting audio discussion of the film. Present are: Harold Ramis (who is actually pretty informative), Producer Matty Simmons, Chevy Chase, Randy Quaid, Dana Barron and Anthony Michael Hall. Absent is Beverly D’Angelo. Ramis takes the lead here and takes us on a detailed tour of the movie discussing why certain scenes were shot in the manner they were etc. Discussed is the infamous ghetto scene in St. Louis, working with Eugene Levy and John Candy. Personally, I found this to be the most (only…?) interesting special feature. Duration: 98 Minutes.

Family Truckster Interactive – This is nothing more than a still picture of the “Truckster”. When you click on certain parts of the car, it takes you to a 1-2 minute clip of the movie – a few of which have commentaries, a few of which do not.

Theatrical Trailer – The trailer is included however, I found it to be slightly grainy.

Cast & Crew – Just a text listing of all the participants and their roles.

Final Thoughts:
National Lampoon’s: Vacation is one of those comedies where repeated viewings offer up every bit as much fun as the previous one. It’s success is due in part to always having a funny quip, sight gag or a simple shrug of a shoulder on a continual flow. We’re never left without a laugh for more than a minute or two before the next one comes along. That, combined with the audio/video presentation on this disc, make it a must have for any fan or collector. If you’re on the fence about upgrading or simply buying this Special Edition, don’t be!

Highly Recommended…!

Release Date: August 19th, 2003
My Top 25 Noirs:

25. 711 Ocean Drive (1950), 24. Odds Against Tomorrow (1959), 23. Desperate (1947), 22. Pushover (1954), 21. The Blue Dahlia (1946), 20. The File on Thelma Jordon (1949), 19. He Ran All the Way (1951), 18. The Asphalt Jungle (1950), 17. The Killing (1956), 16. I Walk Alone (1948),...

#2 of 79 OFFLINE   Jeff D Han

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Posted August 15 2003 - 09:20 AM

Thank you for the review Herb. Posted Image

I'm definitely getting this and probably the Christmas

It would have been nice to see some more features, like
interviews with the cast/ film makers.
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#3 of 79 OFFLINE   Kyle McKnight

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Posted August 15 2003 - 10:26 AM

Since I have held off on these movies, I will be picking up a box set for myself, and one or two to surprise some friends. If only the Critter movies were available in a box set, they would be mine. I'm debating on whether or not I should pick them up...
Kyle McKnight

#4 of 79 OFFLINE   Eugene Esterly

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Posted August 15 2003 - 10:33 AM

Herb, Great review. I can't wait for this & the other vacation movies to be released on DVD in their OAR. It's excellent that Warner is finally releasing the Vacation movies in their OAR. I don't own any of the National Lampoon's Vacation movies yet but I am thinking of buying the box set now that all of the movies are now going to be released in OAR. Now, if Warner would only release Ace Ventura: Pet Detective in OAR.

#5 of 79 OFFLINE   Tim Glover

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Posted August 15 2003 - 07:28 PM

Can't wait 'till Tuesday...

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#6 of 79 OFFLINE   Deane Johnson

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Posted August 16 2003 - 02:25 AM

Anybody know the quality of the other three titles in the box set? Are they also remastered and anamorphic? Thanks Deane

#7 of 79 OFFLINE   Dome Vongvises

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Posted August 16 2003 - 03:45 AM

I'm definitely getting the box set.

#8 of 79 OFFLINE   JohnE


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Posted August 16 2003 - 04:31 AM

Thanks for the review. Not that I needed any encouragment to buy this one.Posted Image

#9 of 79 OFFLINE   Xenia Stathakopoulou

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Posted August 16 2003 - 04:35 AM

Thanks for the nice review, its great to hear they finally got it right this time, plus cool extras. Ill be getting this on tuesday as well.
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#10 of 79 OFFLINE   BrandonJF


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Posted August 16 2003 - 05:47 AM

I agree about Harold Ramis on the commentary - I, too, found his comments pretty informative overall and it has me interested in checking out some of his other commentaries. However, I found the rest of the participants' commentary to be a little lacking. They didn't seem to have much to say. Plus, with so many participants, I was surprised at the amount of "dead space" in the commentary. It made me wonder if we missed any of Ramis' comments to squeeze the cast portion in (Ramis was recorded separately and the commentaries were edited together). Don't get me wrong - I was never bored by the commentary and it was always interesting when Ramis was talking. Plus, the info on the original ending was nice, but, I have to agree with the Entertainment Weekly review... Where is it? Chase mentions he's got it on tape. Would've been neat to see it.

#11 of 79 OFFLINE   Magnus T

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Posted August 16 2003 - 08:32 AM

I wonder how this transfer compares to the R2 one (which is anamorphic widescreen too), which was/is almost reference quality. Hopefully DVDBeaver can make a comparison.
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#12 of 79 OFFLINE   James L White

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Posted August 16 2003 - 08:33 AM

[quote] Anybody know the quality of the other three titles in the box set? Are they also remastered and anamorphic? [quote] the only other Vacation movie on DVD that's now available in WS is European Vacation, it is anamorphic, the a/v is quite good, the opening credits are dirty as Hell but once the actuall movie starts it clears up big time. Vegas/Christmas Vacations will be reissued in Oct 7 in Anamorphic WS, remastered I'm sure. Posted Image
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#13 of 79 OFFLINE   Joseph J.D

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Posted August 16 2003 - 10:55 AM

As much as I want to get Vacation, I think that I'll wait until October for the boxset. I know that it will be difficult to put the DVD down when I see it in the stores on Tuesday.....Must....resist....buying for now.Posted Image Good review though.Posted Image
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#14 of 79 OFFLINE   Jason Perez

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Posted August 16 2003 - 11:33 AM

Great review Herb! I have come to expect nothing less though! Posted Image Posted Image

Thanks for filling us in on this release. I have been looking forward to this one for some time now, and am very happy to hear that the WB delivered the goods.


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#15 of 79 OFFLINE   Scott Temple

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Posted August 16 2003 - 01:36 PM

I should receive my copy in the mail on Monday. Posted Image Posted Image

BTW, I know the up-coming re-release of "Vegas Vacation" (Oct. 7) isn't labeled as a Special Edition, but I wonder if it will have a commentary track? "European Vacation" (released last year) isn't labeled as a Special Edition and it has one, (by Chevy Chase.) Would a Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, Marisol Nichols, Ethan Embry, and Randy Quaid track be too much to hope for? Posted Image

Speaking of which, funny how Beverly D'Angelo isn't participating in the commentaries. She was supposed to join Chase for the "European" commentary last year, but didn't and now we find out she's absent on the "Vacation" track too.

As far as the films go, the only one I *don't* like is "European Vacation." On the flip side, "Vegas Vacation", which seems to get trashed the most, is my favorite - with the original a very close second.


1. Vegas Vacation Posted Image
2. Vacation Posted Image
3. Christmas Vacation Posted Image
4. European Vacation Posted Image

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#16 of 79 OFFLINE   Erin C

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Posted August 17 2003 - 03:27 AM

Unfortunately Beverly D'Angelo has been involved in a REALLY
nasty custody battle with husband Al Pacino(I believe they are separated)over their children,or i'm sure she would have participated in the commentaries.Posted Image

#17 of 79 OFFLINE   Aaron Silverman

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Posted August 17 2003 - 08:53 AM

According to IMDB, they aren't really married (just "companions"), and she has two films currently in post-production. Maybe she's just dissin' us!
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#18 of 79 OFFLINE   Carlo Medina

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Posted August 17 2003 - 09:30 AM

How great to see this review today. I totally forgot it was coming out, and then this morning I saw it in the Best Buy ad and thought "wonder how good this will look?" Because we've all seen that re-issues do not always (though for the most part they do) mean a better transfer. Thanks for the in-depth review, will be picking this one up alongside Chicago on Tuesday!

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#19 of 79 OFFLINE   Matthew_Millheiser


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Posted August 17 2003 - 03:04 PM

Dana Barron is pretty active throughout the commentary track. She also looks amazing now. :b

A fine DVD, definitely worth your shekels.

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#20 of 79 OFFLINE   JasonKZ


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Posted August 17 2003 - 11:12 PM

Glad they got the transfer right, but where are the special features? Are they really trying to call THIS a "special edition"???

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