The cult favorite coming of age film Fandango finally arrives on Blu-ray from Warner Archive with a new transfer and not much else.
The Production: 4/5
1. a lively Spanish or Spanish-American dance in triple time that is usually performed by a man and a woman to the accompaniment of guitar and castanets. also: music for this dance
2. A foolish act
May 1971 in Austin, Texas. At his graduation/bachelor party, Kenneth Waggener (Sam Robards) announces to his fraternity and roommates known as The Groovers that he has called off his wedding after being drafted to fight in Vietnam. His best friend (and best man), Gardner Barnes (Kevin Costner), has also received a draft letter for failure to advance his academic achievement in college. ROTC graduate (and fellow Groover) Phil Hicks is also headed for Vietnam, while Dorman (Chuck Bush) is a graduate of religious studies and Lester Griffin (Brian Cesak) has landed a cushy job as an accountant at Arthur Anderson in Dallas, Texas. With everyone going their own separate ways, Gardner quickly decides what The Groovers need is “one last farewell fandango,” with the five guys piling into Phil’s Cadillac for a road trip of misadventures to dig up Dom. Their misadventures, however, reveal their flaws. Gardner is the immature member of the group, ready to dodge the draft by sneaking off to Mexico at the first opportunity, but also deals with memories of the girl (Suzy Amis) that he allowed to get away. Waggener is conflicted about the draft and marriage to the girl of his dreams. And Phil is a whiney martyr, hoping that Vietnam will either make him a man or die a hero.
Fandango marked the directorial debit of Kevin Reynolds (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Waterworld), based on his USC student film Proof, and holds a special place in my collection, as this was the first movie I “discovered” at the video store all by myself, and introduced to many of my filmmaking buddies back in 1985. The highlights of the film are its four set pieces – an ill-fated attempt to hitch a ride on a passing train with Phil’s Cadillac; playing hide and seek with fireworks in a cemetery with two local girls (Elizabeth Daily and Robyn Rose); parachute school led by a doped-up instructor (Marvin J. McIntyre); and conning a small border town to pitch in for Waggener’s wedding. The film is by no means perfect, but its the early performances by its three leads and the set pieces that make this film memorable (the parachute school sequence, which was the basis of Proof is a real hoot).
3D Rating: NA
Available on DVD since 2005 (or sooner) and as in HD from digital retailers for at least the past decade, Fandango has been in desperate need of a new transfer. The HD digital had been taken from the same master used for the 2005 DVD, which was overly soft and full of debris. Warner Archive’s new Blu-ray release sports a new 2K transfer, which is more vivid in its colors and nearly free of any dirt or scratches. It is still a relatively soft picture, but this new transfer does have stronger detail than the HD digital.
Fandango was originally mixed in Dolby Stereo with a matrixed surround channel, and that is pretty much what was included on its initial video cassette release, and I remember it sounding excellent, with surrounds engaging during the set pieces and during key moments as incidental songs transition to being a part of the scene (the transition of Carole King’s It’s Too Late from AM car radio to one of Gardener’ memories, the song becoming more immersive during that transition, was always the most memorable use of surrounds for me). The film was remixed in 5.1 for its DVD release, and was very disappointing. While the HD digital has been stereo across all retailers since it was released, it always sounded like it was mixed down from that 5.1 remix. When Warner Archive’s press release stated that this film had been remastered and would have a DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo track, I had hopes that the studio was going back to that original stereo mix. Unfortunately, that is not the case, as the disc does in fact contain a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track, which sounds nearly identical to the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix from the DVD. While dialog is clear and understandable throughout, the mix is very flat, almost mono. Front stereo separation is minimal, even during the 1970s classic rock songs lie Elton John’s Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting), Spooky by Classics IV, Steppenwolf’s Born to be Wild, etc. Surrounds are nearly non-existent, as is LFE.
Special Features: 1/5
Kevin Reynolds has stated (through his agent) that he has nothing more to say about this film, so the lack of extras should come as no surprise.
Theatrical Trailer (1080p; 1:46)
Fandango is a personal favorite of mine, and to have it on Blu-ray with a new transfer is a thrill. My only disappointment is the audio, basically recycling the 5.1 mix from the DVD (but now in lossless DTS-HD MA), rather than going back to the original stereo mix.
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