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DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW #1: The Jerk: 26th Anniversary Edition



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#1 of 20 OFFLINE   Steve Tannehill

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Posted July 31 2005 - 11:54 AM

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The Jerk: 26th Anniversary Edition


Studio: Universal
Year: 1979
Rated: R
Film Length: 94 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1x85x1, enhanced for 16x9 televisions
Audio: English DD 5.1, French and Spanish DD 2.0 Mono
Captions/Subtitles: English Captions / French and Spanish subtitles
Disc Format: Single Sided / Dual Layered



"Huh? I am not a bum. I'm a Jerk.
I once had wealth, power, and the
love of a beautiful woman. Now I
only have two things: my friends...
and, uh, my thermos."


So starts the rags-to-riches...to rags story, which has finally gotten a long-overdue remastering on DVD.

By the time of this 1979 theatrical release, Steve Martin had been well-established as a comedy writer and performer, his writing talents going as far back as The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in the 1960’s, and continuing on to such 70’s staples as Glen Campbell, Sonny and Cher, and Van Dyke and Company. Martin made numerous TV appearances, including The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson; he created memorable characters on Saturday Night Live (“But what the hell is that?”), he had television specials, and his comedy albums went platinum. I remember watching him perform “King Tut” live on SNL. Those were the days.

But until The Jerk, Martin’s movie appearances had been limited to a short subject film called The Absent-Minded Waiter and brief roles in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band and The Muppet Movie. The Jerk was Steve Martin’s breakout success, capturing box-office gold and catapulting his movie career to the next level.


The Feature:

In The Jerk, Steve Martin plays Navin R. Johnson, the naïve son of a black sharecropper family. Navin loves his family, and his family loves him—but even after a heartwarming birthday party in his honor, he feels different—like he does not fit in. He finally discovers that he is adopted, which probably explains why singing the blues depresses him, and why he can’t get the rhythm down. But later, Navin hears a radio broadcast of some Lawrence Welk-style music, and it moves him to dance. It gives Navin the motivation to go out in the world and be somebody.

Navin hitchhikes his way to St. Louis, where he picks up a canine traveling companion that network television named “Stupid” (decorum prevents me from revealing his actual name). Once in St. Louis, Navin gets a job at a gas station. The owner takes pity on him, and allows him to stay in the back room. At one point during the job, Navin meets a salesman whose glasses keep falling down. Navin then invents a nose rest that holds the glasses in place (and later proves to be very profitable).

With a place to stay comes… the phone book (and one of the movie’s most memorable lines). And with that, comes a sniper who attempts to shoot Navin. Or is it the oil cans? Navin escapes, but ends up in a circus. There, he meets a dominatrix motorcycle rider who gives him extra work, and the lovely Marie (Bernadette Peters), who learns of Navin’s special purpose. Navin and Marie fall in love, but Marie is conflicted because Navin is not (yet) a man of means.

I don’t want to spoil the surprises for those of you have not seen the movie, but if you are new to The Jerk, leave the kids in the other room with a Disney DVD and enjoy. The last time I saw The Jerk was on network television, which means that I hardly saw it at all. This is an R-rated movie, with drug references, sexual humor, and language galore, and it was heavily edited for network TV. I think that is why I laughed so loud and hard at some of the humor this time around.

Does the humor hold up after 26 years? Sure. This is like a Monty Python movie to me in that it has followers who can recite it word-for-word, and it has humor that will always offend or go over the heads of someone. I remember the day my high school chorus director got the new phonebook and started jumping up and down shouting that memorable line. You had to be there, but this movie sure brings back good memories. And it is very funny.

The Feature: 4 / 5
Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image


Video:
Sad to say, I’ve had the original DVD release sitting on my shelves since it was first released in 1998, purchased with the full intent of reviewing it for my old website. But it was a full-frame transfer of a vintage film, and there were so many other newer titles out there to review. So I sit here now with the new 26th Anniversary Edition spinning, and all I can say is “Wow!”

The Jerk has finally been remastered with a 1.85x1 widescreen transfer that is enhanced for 16x9 displays. There is some visible grain in the picture as well as a few specks of dirt, but not enough to be distracting, even on the 65-inch display. Detail is a little lacking in the backgrounds, but the overall picture quality is good. The contrast and black levels are also good. Colors are realistic and bright (I love Navin’s disco). It’s time to toss that old full-frame DVD.

Video: 4 / 5
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Sound:
The English soundtrack got a Dolby Digital 5.1 remix that has no surround activity and is very center-focused. Still, there is a little front directionality to the sound and it is mid-to-full range, although not by much (the dominatrix motorcycle sounds pretty good, for example, but the waves at the beach sound compressed). French and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtracks round out the soundtrack options.

Sound: 3.5 / 5
Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image


Extras:
This is the first DVD I’ve seen with an actual ukulele lesson from “Ukulele Gal” for the song “Tonight You Belong To Me.” It takes you through tuning a ukulele, learning the seven necessary chords, and playing along with the Gal or The Jerk. No capo (needed to play along with the Gal) nor trumpet lessons are included, however. (I think I’ll stick to my Strat, but it’s a cute feature. And I was actually able to pick out the chords on my ukulele, so the lesson really did work!)

Additional filmstrips of Father Carlos Las Vegas De Cordova (4:20) range from fish teasing to plant abuse. Cute, but not that funny.

The extras are rounded out with the original trailer (2:31) and several pages of production notes.

While I would have loved a commentary with director Carl Reiner and Steve Martin, that might have made this a 27th anniversary release. It also would have been nice to have the alternate footage used for network television—it’s a different movie.

Extras: 3.5 / 5
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In Conclusion:
The Jerk is a fun film, and a reminder of Steve Martin's wild and crazy past. It makes me want to track down those old comedy albums, and watch some of his older movies. Meanwhile, I'll be enjoying this new DVD with my friends. That's all I need. And this ukulele. This DVD and this ukulele and that's all I need. And this Harmony remote control. The DVD, the ukulele, and the remote control, and that's all I need...

Posted Image

Overall Rating: 4/5
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Release Date: July 26, 2005




Display calibrated by Steve Martin (no, not that Steve Martin) at http://www.lionav.com/

#2 of 20 OFFLINE   walter o

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Posted July 31 2005 - 01:30 PM

For a 26th anniversay edition, I find the extras seriously disappointing, but I am happy it is finally out in it's OAR.

#3 of 20 OFFLINE   Steve Tannehill

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Posted July 31 2005 - 02:03 PM

And there's still some space to play with on the disc itself. Still, apart from maybe a commentary, a teaser trailer, and whatever retrospective documentaries they could throw together, I can't see there being much else out there.

Unless they throw in an oven mitt. Or a thermos. Posted Image

The transfer is nice, though.

- Steve

#4 of 20 OFFLINE   walter o

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Posted July 31 2005 - 02:07 PM

Well I would have prefered a documentary/instructional film on how to/art of cat juggling over the ukulele!Posted Image

#5 of 20 OFFLINE   Bill Williams

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Posted August 01 2005 - 02:41 AM

Maybe some "how-to" instructions on building your own Opti-Grab would have been nice, too! Posted Image
"I have in my heart what it takes to run with the big dogs in this life, and nobody can say otherwise."

"Attention all personnel. Tonight's movie is a holdover from last week and will be shown right after supper, which is also a holdover from last week."

#6 of 20 OFFLINE   TonyD

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Posted August 01 2005 - 05:23 AM

"Saturday Night Live (“But what the hell is that?”)"
hah, i remember the first time i saw that.
steve and bill murray. that might be the simplist/minimal skit they ever did on snl, but still one of the best.

i guess i was about 13 when that was on and probably wasnt supposed to be saying "hell" but it still became a bit of a catch phrase around me and my friends.

i've been waiting for a good dvd of the jerk for years.
glad it's finally here.

the "all i need is...." part of the jerk, easily is a top 10 funniest moments in film from the last 30 years or so.

not really a special edition though.
i'm still happy.

now we need the rest of martin's movies to be released oar.
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#7 of 20 OFFLINE   Keith Paynter

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Posted August 01 2005 - 03:23 PM

Steve, I know what that is... Posted Image

Lost me on the Ukelele lesson and the extra filmstrips of Father Carlos Las Vegas De Cordova. But...it's an OAR transfer...and that's all I need...

...and I'm still ticked off that this didn't come in a can...
I don't like SPAM!

#8 of 20 OFFLINE   Steve Tannehill

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Posted August 01 2005 - 03:49 PM

Perhaps one day, we'll get a deluxe edition with an oven mitt. Posted Image

I've got friends coming over Friday night, and I'm looking forward to spinning this up again.

- Steve

#9 of 20 OFFLINE   TommyT

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Posted August 02 2005 - 04:56 AM

Thanks for the review, Steve. Shouldn't it have a "Recommended" tag?'

Also, you sorta goofed up the release date, it came out on July 26th.

Perhaps it could have come with an official tin of snails too? Or was it oysters that he was snippy about in the restaurant? Or maybe a map of his palatial estate, prominently showing all the statues & S-shaped hedges, laid out in color?

Ok, I went too far. I'll be good now!
It has to start somewhere, it has to start sometime,
What better place than here? What better time than now?

-Rage Against the Machine

#10 of 20 OFFLINE   Steve Tannehill

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Posted August 02 2005 - 07:54 AM

Sorry about the wrong date, and thanks for proofreading. I fixed that.

You raise a good question about the "Recommended" tag and how it gets used. I'll give it some thought.

(It was snails. And the wine was not fresh at the "fancy" restaurant.)

Regards,
Steve

#11 of 20 OFFLINE   Dave Scarpa

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Posted August 02 2005 - 08:23 AM

I have this on Order. I'm glad to revistit the glory days of 70's Comedies that could have a R rating and have some good offensive humor, THe Jerk, Animal House,Stripes,Caddyshack. Now of course everything has to be PG13 to appease to that almight demographic. And of course Action movies can get a PG13 mowing down hundreds of extra's with bullets, but god forbit show those Breasties.
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#12 of 20 OFFLINE   TonyD

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Posted August 02 2005 - 11:30 AM

anyone think the framing of this dvd is a lttle tight?

i'll have to check again but one scene that i noticed was when
martin is dragging the dog by his leash.

steve on the left and dog on the right barely fit into the screen.

i have about 5% overscan so i know that doesnt help.
when i looked at the trailer it seems to be open matte.

there is a bunch of extra info on the top and bottom.
also lots of extra on the sides, especially the dragging dog part.

the other thing about the trailer is all the sound seemed to be coming out of the surrounds.
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#13 of 20 OFFLINE   bob kaplan

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Posted August 02 2005 - 11:52 AM

Yes Tony,
i agree. When the owner of the gas station is explaining why his relationship with the babe is important to him, the hand jestures emphasizing "what" is important are nearly cut off!!...i am not sure if the full frame disc was open matt or pan and scan but the scene actually plays better in the full frame since his hand motin is in full view...and not cut off. at least to me.

#14 of 20 OFFLINE   Ed St. Clair

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Posted August 02 2005 - 01:02 PM

Quote:
it is finally out in it's OAR

Is this transfer "OAR"?
Thanks.
Movies are: "The Greatest Artform".
HD should be for EVERYONE!

#15 of 20 OFFLINE   Ken_McAlinden

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Posted August 03 2005 - 01:48 AM

Quote:
I have this on Order. I'm glad to revistit the glory days of 70's Comedies that could have a R rating and have some good offensive humor, THe Jerk, Animal House,Stripes,Caddyshack. Now of course everything has to be PG13 to appease to that almight demographic. And of course Action movies can get a PG13 mowing down hundreds of extra's with bullets, but god forbit show those Breasties.
You are aware what the number one film at the box-office last week was, right? There's plenty of R-rated comedies released during the last decade. The problem is that a lot of them aren't that good (although some are).

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#16 of 20 OFFLINE   Steve Tannehill

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Posted August 03 2005 - 02:01 AM

Ed, this has finally been released in its theatrical OAR of 1.85x1.

In the 1.78 frame (fully visible on my computer monitor), there are even slight black bands at the top and bottom. I don't see these on the big-screen TV, because it has 4-5 percent overscan.

- Steve

#17 of 20 OFFLINE   Dave Scarpa

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Posted August 03 2005 - 04:02 AM

Yep I'm aware Wedding Crashers was #1 but it is a rare thing now a days to get an R Rated comedy
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#18 of 20 OFFLINE   Ken_McAlinden

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Posted August 03 2005 - 04:58 AM

Quote:
it is a rare thing now a days to get an R Rated comedy
All from 2004-2005:

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
Club Dread
EuroTrip
Garden State
The Girl Next Door
Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle
I Heart Huckabees
The Ladykillers
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Seed of Chucky
Shaun of the Dead
Sideways
Soul Plane
Team America: World Police
Wedding Crashers

Of course, how these hold up to the following R-rated comedies from 1979-1980 is a matter of opinion:

Alligator (I figured if I included "Shaun of the Dead" and "Seed of Chucky", I had to count this as a comedy, too Posted Image)
The Blues Brothers
Caddyshack
Cheech & Chong's Next Movie
The Hollywood Knights
Hopscotch
The Jerk
Life of Brian
Manhattan
Private Benjamin
Stir Crazy
10
Used Cars
Where the Buffalo Roam

Regards,
Ken McAlinden
Livonia, MI USA

#19 of 20 OFFLINE   Dave Scarpa

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Posted August 03 2005 - 05:48 AM

I still think if you took a list of all comedies of 04-05 and broke them down by rating the PG13 side would be much much longer. I never said there were'nt R Rated comedies, just that 's it rare compare to PG13's
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#20 of 20 OFFLINE   Ken_McAlinden

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Posted August 03 2005 - 06:02 AM

Without belaboring the point, I think there are just as many high-profile R-rated comedies being produced as there were 25 years ago. They have not become rare, although your point is correct that, overall, a lot more comedies are being produced today, and most of them are PG and PG-13.

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Ken McAlinden
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