Dirty Dancing: Limited Keepsake Edition (US - BD)
Gabe sticks Baby in a corner and makes her think about what she's done
In the summer of ’63 Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman (Jennifer Grey) and her upper class family take a summer vacation at the famous Kellerman's resort. Baby enters the resort an innocent outsider, but soon notices the help staff, specifically Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze), a dance instructor known for his overly flashy footwork. Soon the outsider is coming out of her shell, and the sexy, detached popular guy is discovering the possibilities of true love. There’s something about an abortion in there too, along with a whole lot of dirty dancing.
It’s easy for me to dismiss Dirty Dancing as an adult male that has no nostalgic attachment to the material or era, but I’d be an irresponsible film fan to entirely ignore the film’s impact. The first thing I have to recognize is the expert use of formula, a formula Dirty Dancing happens to have partially defined, along with its ‘80s dance predecessors Flash Dance and Footloose. Part of the formula is, unfortunately, a really thin plot almost entirely dependent on the performances, which I’ve never found particularly charming. Well, that’s not entirely true, Jennifer Grey is actually pretty funny, and I’m reminded that her relative disappearance post-‘80s is a little sad. The lack of compelling story burns the film out early, leading to a slog of a second act where events are repeated, and angst overruns any charm. The filmmakers produce an effective, crowd pleaser of a climax, but the scenes where the romance between the leads begins to sour are a lot for a non-fan to endure.
The dance scenes are very well filmed, though not as exciting as those of other pop culture phenoms like Saturday Night Fever (a vastly superior film that is just as notable for its non-dancing moments) or even Footloose (a film I’d put on an even keel with Dirty Dancing). From my not exactly interested point of view the film scores points for its period setting. The ‘80s still permeate from the hair, costume and make-up styles (I’m pretty sure they did not have spandex dance uniforms in the early ‘60s), along with the original music, but the look doesn’t bleed neon and hairspray. The film is still dated, but not as much as it could’ve been, and a little ‘80s camp goes a long way. In the end it is the camp that makes the film work at all for me, even if that means I’m not taking the film as seriously as diehard fans would want me to. Campy is always better than boring.
Lionsgate has sent me both the Blu-ray and DVD versions of this ‘Keepsake Edition’ release, and I’m sorry to say that there isn’t a big difference between the two transfers. The Blu-ray does have some advantages in terms of detail consistency, and a lack of compression artefacts on the more vibrant hues, but none of the larger issues are really fixed between the 480i and 1080p versions. The transfer’s biggest problems are found in its overall darkness. Even outdoor, daylight sequences are dull. The print is also pretty grainy, and occasionally affected by dirt and minor artefacts, like tracking lines. Colours are relatively pure, as are the black and white contrasting elements, but the overall softness, which is (I’m guessing) inherent to the film’s intended style, keeps the edges a bit fuzzy. The softness doesn’t lend itself to a lot of super sharp details, but there isn’t a big difference between close-ups and wide shots and unlike the DVD the Blu-ray features almost zero edge-enhancement. There are problem shots that break the overall consistency, but the grain and darkness remain the key issues.
Dirty Dancing’s soundtrack runs on music, and the music on this DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track sounds pretty fantastic (and I suppose might be considered an upgrade over the PCM 6.1 track that accompanied the previous Blu-ray release, though I’m guessing the two tracks are pretty similar). The golden oldies have never sounded better, and aren’t over-produced, or awkwardly shifted into the surround channels. The bass presence is thick and punchy, without sounded out of place or absurdly aggressive. The bulk of the track’s sound effects are delegated to the centre channel, where they and the dialogue sound about as good as expected. The effects are occasionally tinny, usually flat, and the dialogue is inconsistent, though never expressly a problem. The LFE is a little overdone during sonically understated moments (car doors really throb for no good reason), but the dancing scenes features some decent stereo crowd effects. The rear channels very rarely get in on the action, despite the four channel spread. The best I noticed were some musical echo effects, a little bit of rain, and a few clapping crowds.
If there’s anyone Lionsgate’s willing to bleed dry it’s Dirty Dancing fans. It’s only been about three years since the ‘20th Anniversary’ edition release, and here we are with a big and bulky ‘Limited Keepsake Edition’. At the risk of sounding incredibly crass I’d call this release the ‘OMG Patrick Swayze Died! Edition’. Fans can be slightly excited by the new extras, which scream ‘cash in’, but don’t entirely disappoint in terms of content (unlike, say, all those Anchor Bay re-releases of Army of Darkness).
Carried over from the previous release are two commentary tracks. The first track features writer/co-producer Eleanor Bergstein, who is quite soft spoken, but a wellspring of information. Bergstein has so much to say she’s often interrupting herself midsentence. It’s an endearing track, and a good place for fans to start this disc’s extras. The second track features choreographer Kenny Ortega, DP Jeff Jur, production designer David Chapman, actress Miranda Garrison, and costume designer Hilary Rosenfeld. I’m honestly unsure if this is an entirely cobbled track. The commentators don’t really interact with each other very often, but their points are edited together organically enough that I think some of them may have been in the same room. Anyway, the second track is equally full-bodied and informative, and it doesn’t overlap with Bergstein’s track to often. The focus on technical and artistic elements does a lot to bring a non-fan like myself around to appreciating the film on a much higher level. There’s also an optional Trivia Track to activate during viewing, which mirrors the commentaries.
New extras begin with ‘Kellerman’s: Reliving the Locations of the Film’ (12:30, SD), a look at the major locations with David Chapman and Eleanor Bergstein, who discusses the process of building up and decorating the sets, along with the process of finding usable existing locations. The featurette ends with some comparison shots of the sites then and now, and a discussion with the real hotel’s staff. ‘Dirty Dancing: The Phenomenon’ (13:40, SD) is the surprisingly interesting story of the film’s production. Apparently Vestron Video put the film into production in an effort to compete with Flash Dance and Footloose. This unusual production process equates the film with some of my favourite video era exploitation/horror classics, like Re-Animator, which was made with video in mind. Re-Animator didn’t have a comparably successful release, but I’m enjoying the comparison.
The ‘Tributes’ section begins with ‘In Memoriam’ (02:00, SD), an all purpose quick tribute to Swayze, actor Jerry Orbach, actor Jack Weston, director Emile Ardolino, and actor Max Cantor. ‘A Tribute to Patrick Swayze’ (15:20, SD) sees the cast and crew laying the love on thick for the Dirty Dancing star, including some words creepily lookalike brother Donny, and widow Lisa Niemi, who lets us in on the more personal aspects of the actor’s life. Thankfully this is not an entirely sensationalist featurette, though unfortunately Lionsgate didn’t shell out for footage from films that aren’t Dirty Dancing. The other two parts of the Tributes section are actually carried over from the previous release including ‘A Tribute to Emile Ardolino’ (13:30, SD), a very thoughtful celebration of the film’s director (mostly from the point of view of his work on Dirty Dancing), and ‘A Tribute to Jerry Orbach’ (06:30, SD), a more fluffy look at the career of the actor most modern audience will remember for his work on Law and Order.
‘The Rhythm of the Dancing’ (04:10, SD) features Swayze discussing the songs he wrote for the film, including ‘She’s Like the Wind’, along with a general discussion of his song writing overall. This leads into the ‘For the Fans’ section of the disc, which includes a ‘Fan Reel’ (01:40, SD), and ‘James and Julia Derbyshire: Dancing Across the Pond’ (04:40, SD), a featurette concerning a UK (well, half UK) couple that re-enacted a scene from the film for their wedding. ‘Dancing to the Music’ (16:30, SD) takes a look at the film’s soundtrack, including the oldies Eleanor Bergstein insisted be a part of the final film, and the popular original pieces ‘(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life’ and ‘Hungry Eyes’ (both songs I never need to hear again now).
The most involving new extra in terms of sheer time is ‘Dirty Dancing Live in Concert’ (83:00, SD). This made for video version of a live show that toured following the film’s surprise success is painfully dated, and will likely only appeal to the film’s most steadfast fans, but is certainly a worthwhile edition to the collection in terms of exhausting all available elements. If someone filmed the stage version of Evil Dead I know I’d want it included in the next DVD release, even if it stinks. The new extras conclude with the original trailer in HD, a ‘Vintage Featurette’ (06:40, SD), and a HD scan of Eleanor Bergstein’s full script (entirely text based).
Additional extras from the 20th Anniversary release include ‘Dirty Dancing with Patrick Swayze’ (12:30, SD), a general discussion about the making of the film with the actor, Outtakes (00:40, SD), three music videos (‘Hungry Eyes, ‘She’s Like the Wind’ and ‘(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life’), two multi-angle dance sequences (‘The Lift’ and ‘Everybody Dance’), four cast and crew interviews (Jennifer Grey, Eleanor Bergstein, Miranda Farrison and Kenny Ortega, 58:00, SD), Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey’s screen test montage (01:10, SD) and Jennifer Grey’s solo screen test comparisons (two tests, two scenes, 04:40, SD), 11 deleted scenes (11:50, SD), three alternate scenes (02:40, SD), six extended scenes (07:50, SD), and a photo gallery.
Lionsgate is beating a handsome, twinkle-toed dead horse here with this ‘Limited Keepsake Edition’ release (I know, I’m going to hell for that), but the new extras are actually reasonably substantial (not the crappy booklet, by the way), and the DTS-HD 7.1 is a bit of an audio upgrade. I’m not sure about the supposedly remastered video. If the previous release looks any rougher than this already rough looking release a double (triple, quadruple) dip might be a fan requirement. I suppose the unfortunate truth is there is room for improvement here, so fans should probably beware.
*Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13
Release Date: 4th May 2010
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 English, Dolby Digital EX 5.1 English
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Extras: Filmmaker Commentary, Writer Commentary, Kellerman’s: Reliving the Locations of the Film, Dirty Dancing: The Phenomenon, In Memoriam, Fan Reel, The Rhythm of Dancing, Dancing to the Music, Photo Keepsakes, Eleanor Bergstein's Script, Screen Tests, Cast and Crew Interviews, Deleted/Extended/Alternate Scenes, Outtakes, Music Videos, Trailer, Dirty Dancing: Live in Concert, Digital Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Emile Ardolino
Cast: Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Grey, Jack Weston, Jerry Orbach
Genre: Musical and Romance
Length: 100 minutes
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