Blu Ray Title: Fletch
Disk Release Date: June 2, 09
Screen format: 1080P High Definition Widescreen 1.85:1
First theatrical release: 3 May, 1985
Previous releases on disk: Multiple DVD releases and an HDDVD on March 11, 2008
Director: Michael Ritchie
Starring: Chevy Chase, Joe Don Baker, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson, Richard Libertini, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Tim Matheson
Sound Formats: English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Length: 1 Hour 38 Minutes
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
In 1985’s Fletch Chevy Chase stars as titular lead Irwin P. ‘Fletch’ Fletcher, an undercover news reporter who writes under the name ‘Jane Doe’. Fletch is busy staking out the local beaches trying to break a story on the drug trafficking going on there when he is asked to perform a most unusual service for businessman Alan Stanwyk (Matheson): Stanwyk wants Fletch to kill him in order to avoid a long drawn out battle with cancer. While Fletch agrees on the surface, he proceeds to use guile and a series of fake personalities to investigate what is really going on with Stanwyk, as he immediately believes all is not as described.
While there are a number of brilliant character actors who make up the people Fletch interacts with, the film is all about letting Chase off his leash to improvise and launch one one-liner after another, many of which have become some of the most memorable and oft-quoted lines in film history. Central to the story is Fletch’s pursuit of Stanwyk’s wife, Gail (Wheeler-Nicholson), as his rapid fire charm slowly grinds down her faith in her husband while Fletch uncovers the depths of Stanwyk’s misdeeds. To get there tho Fletch will have to juggle his overbearing editor (Libertini), get up close and personal with Stanwyk’s physician (Walsh) and get the best of the local PD, who turn out to be mixed up in the drug operations from the chief (Baker) on down.
For me, Fletch remains one of those films that is timeless, you can sit back with a beverage of choice and chuckle to yourself as your favorite zingers come along and only wish you had the knack for pulling them off as smoothly as Irwin does. You’re not going to sing for us, are you Sammy?
Sound Quality: 2/5
Sadly the sound quality is very spartan here, with almost all the action in the front line and left to dwindle in hollowness with very minimal bass. The credit music ‘Bit by Bit’ is typical of cheesy 80s music and then the score veers off in a direction completely, centered around Harold Faltermeyer’s amazing “Fletch Theme” and other Faltermeyer contributions. Since the music is what I remember most about this film, almost as much as the banter, and to hear it sound so pedestrian on BluRay is a big disappointment.
The issue is probably endemic to the masters, really we probably shouldn't expect more from a 1985 comedy that Universal didn’t really understand how to market even then, but this film has gone on to be one of Uni’s ‘launch standbys’ for every new format and it deserves better. Just charge it to the Underhills.
Visual Quality: 2.5/5
Visually speaking Fletch is a little better handled than it’s audio is, as cleanup has removed the majority of dirt, scratches and pops and preserving the look of the original film stock used, matching the clarity and color cast of the theatrical print and giving a decent jump to the detail level from the DVD. It's also about equal to what I recall seeing on the HDDVD (tho I did not do a full review of that release). Again however the limiting factor is the original material, as Fletch was never a particularly striking film to begin with and it has a visible grain structure in many scenes and only average sharpness. Those looking for absolute wow factor will be disappointed, those expecting an authentic transfer will be pleased. And bring me the head of Alfredo Garcia.
Extra Features: 2/5
There are exactly three extras (four if you count the trailer) and all have been ported over from prior releases. “Making and Remembering Fletch” is the centerpiece, interviewing everyone involved with the film EXCEPT Chevy Chase, which is neat in a “where are they now” kind of way. “The Disguises” focuses in on the many identities Fletch takes on during the film, showing the range of things used to get there, from absolutely nothing more than facial expression all the way to $5000 wigs and expensive prosthetics. “Favorite Fletch Moments” strings many of the funniest one liners together in one continuous clip. It’s all ball bearings these days.
Overall: 3/5 (not an average)
Overall Fletch is a fan favorite that makes the leap to Blu with very little fanfare. While the experience is surely better than the one I had when I saw this in theaters over 24 years ago, it’s not up to the superior capabilities that the Blu format has to offer. For those who have yet to experience Fletch this is the best way to do so, but for those who already own one of the legions of previous issues there is not a hugely compelling reason for the upgrade here. Moooooon River!