Footloose - Special Collector's Edition
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1, anamorphically enhanced
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Surround, French Stereo
English & Spanish subtitles; Closed Captioned in English
Special Features: 2 featurettes, 2 commentaries, theatrical trailers
City kid “Ren” (Kevin Bacon) moves to a small town where dancing has been outlawed. So what’s a boy to do? Take on the town council and the local preacher, and have the law taken off the books... that’s what.
The story of Footloose isn’t very deep, but the film works on the strength of performances by Kevin Bacon, Christopher Penn and John Lithgow. The real star of the film, however, is the soundtrack. This film spawned several major 80’s hit songs, including: Footloose, Dancing in the Sheets, Let’s Hear it for the Boy, Holding Out for a Hero and Almost Paradise.
You all know the story and the music, and you’ve probably seen the previous DVD release... so how does this Special Collector’s Edition stack up?
If I had to pick one word to describe the transfer of this film, it would be: inconsistent. The picture ranges from poor to good, with the average being in the fair to good range.
Grain ranges from mild to heavy. Colors are somewhat red-shifted throughout. In some scenes, the picture is clear and has good contrast. In some others, it is muddy and lower in contrast. Some outdoor low-contrast scenes actually appear to be the result of lens flare in the original filming process.
Black levels are also somewhat inconsistent, and there is a frequent loss of detail in the shadows.
Sharpness is also variable. Some scenes appear soft, while others exhibit reasonably good detail. There is no evidence of sharpening halos.
Variable would be the word, again, as far as dust and scratches go. There are long periods of film that are relatively free of detritus, but there are also scenes that are plagued by it.
This is a somewhat disappointing transfer. At the very least, the print could have benefitted from some digital grading to compensate for the variable contrast and color issues.
It seems that most of the attention for the sound in the film is focused on the music, which sounds very good. There is excellent bass response, good use of the entire front soundfield, and a moderate use of surrounds. The musical aspects do a good job of recreating a theater experience. I’m impressed by the music in this mix.
Outside of the music, the sound is rather subdued for a 5.1 track. Dialog is pinned front and center, for the most part. There are decent directional effects for ambient sounds, but LFE (outside of the music) is a bit light. Its a fine, non-agressive mix.
Commentary by Kevin Bacon
This is very much an actor’s commentary. Bacon talks about auditions and screen tests for the part, working with Christopher Penn, Lori Singer, Sarah Jessica Parker, et. al.
Bacon tends to wander off-topic, starting to comment on a specific thing on screen, and then deviating from the topic, getting back “in synch” at certain points. It is somewhat stream-of-consciousness in delivery, which is fine... it is fairly effective, here. Part of the issue is due to the fact that, as Bacon points out during the commentary, he hadn’t seen the film since the 80’s, and was coming in “cold.”
This commentary feels much like Bacon is in the room with you, reminiscing on his work on the film.
Commentary by Producer Craig Zadan and Writer Dean Pitchford
Footloose endured 22 drafts of the screenplay, a change of studio, a change of director, another change of director... The first ten minutes of this commentary is a fascinating look at the politics and blood, sweat and tears that go into producing a simple, low budget film.
The two talk constantly about the experience of the cast and crew, the jeopardy that the production was constantly facing, etc. Occasionally, they talk about the action on the screen, but in the 15 or so minutes that I sampled, this commentary was not exactly pertinent to the action on-screen.
Still, its an interesting look at the studio system of the 1980’s.
Writer Dean Pitchford does take some time to talk about story construction, and filling in the blanks with music.
If you are a fan of this film, this commentary is highly recommended.
Two-part Documentary: Footloose: A Modern Musical
(Approximately 30 minutes, total)
In Part 1, Craig Zadan and Dean Pitchford talk about how Footloose came about... how the story was thought up, written, and the process of getting the film off the ground. Townspeople from the town that inspired Footloose talk about the real case of their town and the prohibition of dancing, and how the law was taken off the books to allow a Senior Prom.
There is a great deal of discussion on the casting of Kevin Bacon as “Ren.” Christopher Penn was cast, and the part was rewritten for him. John Lithgow talks about the difficulty of playing his role without going over the top. I’ve always thought Lithgow’s performance rang very true. Lori Singer talks about understanding her character as soon as she read the part.
Part 2 covers rehearsals and choreography for the film. Christopher Penn talks about almost backing out of the film due to his fear of dancing. The choreographer took extra steps to work with the actors to discover their experience and strength, since none of them were dancers.
Kevin Bacon, Christopher Penn, John Lithgow and Lori Singer talk about their experience with the film, and how it affected their lives and careers.
This featurette takes a laid-back approach, and does a good job examining the evolution of Footloose.
Featurette: Footloose: Songs That Tell a Story
Footloose was groundbreaking in its cross-platform approach. The album boosted the movie ticket sales, which boosted album sales... In the days before MTV was a big thing, this was an innovative approach to filmmaking.
Included are comments from Zadan, Pitchford, Kenny Loggins, Sammy Hagar, Mike Reno and others.
This is an interesting examination of making a different, modern musical - and the blending of the music, lyrics, dialog and visuals in a nontraditional format.
This Special Collector’s Edition is a mixed bag. A lackluster video transfer of an old looking print combine with a good 5.1 mix of a rousing score. Add in a good commentary by Zadan and Pitchford, another okay commentary with Kevin Bacon, and about 45 minutes of documentary - plus the theatrical trailer, and I still have a hard time recommending this DVD.
The extras are nice enough, and the soundtrack sounds great. If you’ve seen the previous DVD release, I think you’ll know what to expect with the video quality on this one, since it is apparently the same.
I would say if you’re a fan of the film, but didn’t buy the last release, then buy this one. I doubt that Paramount will revisit this title again in the foreseeable future. If you own the previous release, you’ll be double-dipping on the same video quality. If you want an upgrade in sound or you’re itching for the commentaries and featurettes, then go for it... just don’t expect any improvement in the video department.