John A. Alonzo was regarded as one of the best cinematographers in 1970’s Hollywood; some of his most notable work included Harold and Maude (1971), Chinatown (1974), and Brian De Palma’s remake of Scarface (1983), just to name a few. By the end of the decade, he was given the chance to direct his first picture; the result, FM, is a vignette comedy based in the world of broadcast radio and rock and roll music. Previously released by Anchor Bay on DVD, Arrow has licensed the film from Universal for its Blu-ray debut.
The Production: 3/5
Q-SKY is the most popular radio station in the City of the Angels, thanks in no small part to station manager Jeff Dugan (Michael Brandon). Due to the combination of sticking to a mix of eclectic DJs and a steady stream of great music, Q-SKY manages to pull in great ratings and a devoted fanbase. However, when the powers that be try to insist that Dugan cut into the air time with cheesy promos for the Army, he balks, setting in motion a revolt that will rock the airwaves!
Billed as “a now story with now music”, FM is an enjoyable look into the world of FM radio as well as some of the personalities behind it. Created around the same time as a certain TV show with a somewhat similar premise (think WKRP in Cincinnati), the film mostly follows a series of vignettes of station life rather than a whole, cohesive story; that may be the film’s weakest point but it does offer more than a few memorable moments, especially the moment where one of the DJs has a romantic encounter with one of his listeners that’s caught during broadcast. Understandably, the two best things about the movie are the colorful array of characters manning the station as well as the succession of memorable music (including the Steely Dan title track) that fills the film’s soundtrack. While this proved to be his only feature film (he direct a few TV movies after this), John A. Alonzo should be commended for capturing the spirit of 70’s music as well as Los Angeles during the time the movie was made; in short, FM works as a time capsule of the late 1970’s.
As the film’s anchor, Michael Brandon is an effective lead as Dugan. Martin Mull is memorable as the eccentric Eric Swan, whose on-air breakdown stands out as one of the film’s most memorable moments; the eternally cool Cleavon Little is notable as the hip DJ known as the Prince of Darkness. Eileen Brennan brings a luminous quality to Mother, a world weary ex-hippie DJ while Alex Karras makes the most of his time as Doc, another radio veteran bemoaning the change in the times. Other notable appearances include Norman Lloyd as the company owner caught up in the radio revolt, Tom Tarpley and Joe Smith as the management staff trying to get Dugan to comply with their demands, James Keach as the Army lieutenant hoping that Q-SKY will air the cheesy recruitment ads, Cassie Yates and Jay Fenichel as fellow up and coming DJs at the station, and appearances by Tom Petty & REO Speedwagon in addition to live performances Jimmy Buffett (“Livingston Saturday Night”) and Linda Ronstadt “Tumbling Dice”, “Poor, Poor Pitiful Me” & “Love Me Tender”).
3D Rating: NA
The original 2:35:1 aspect ratio is intact on this HD transfer of the movie. Film grain is sturdy and organic throughout with fine details rendered strongly and faithfully; colors are also given a faithful representation with only minimal instances of age related issues (dirt, dust, scratches, tears, etc.) present. Overall, a great improvement over the previous Anchor Bay DVD and likely the best the film will ever look on home video.
There are two options on this release: an uncompressed 2.0 PCM stereo track and a 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio track. Dialogue is strong and clear along with the multitude of rock and roll songs – which have great fidelity and ambiance – and sound effects on both tracks. Signs of age related issues – crackling, popping, hissing, etc. – are very few and far between, which means that both tracks are likely the best the movie will ever sound on home video; “no static at all” indeed!
Special Features: 3.5/5
Isolated Music & Effects Track – The film’s soundtrack and sound effects are presented on a separate 1.0 PCM track.
No Static at All – An interview with Michael Brandon (25:05) – In this brand new interview, the star talks about his time on the movie as well as a few anecdotes on his life around the time of filming.
Radio Chaos – An interview with Ezra Sacks (23:24) – The screenwriter talks about his script as well as the inspiration for it in this new interview.
The Spirit of Radio – An appreciation by Glenn Kenny (22:50) – The film critic goes over the film’s soundtrack and some of the stories behind the songs in this appreciation.
Still Galleries – There are three galleries presented here: Production Stills (60), Posters, Lobby Cards & Press (16), and Soundtrack Editions (45).
Theatrical Trailer (2:53)
Booklet featuring an essay by film historian Paul Corupe (first printing only)
While a little threadbare in terms of plot, FM is a movie that’s like a good record that can be listened to over and over again. Arrow has done a fantastic job in bringing the film to Blu-ray with a great picture and a nice selection of special features; the addition of an isolated track for the film’s great soundtrack is worth the price of admission alone. Highly recommended.https://www.amazon.com/FM-Blu-ray-Michael-Brandon/dp/B07R4PBTC4/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3ESOLRANJPXNX&keywords=fm+blu+ray&qid=1565202366&s=movies-tv&sprefix=fm%2Caps%2C205&sr=1-1