Stand By Me (UK - BD)
Chris has his first viewing of the classic coming of age drama with this Blu-ray...
In the summer of 1959 three friends—Gordie Lachance, Chris Chambers and Teddy Duchamp—are hanging out in their tree-house when the fourth member of their group, Vern Tessio, arrives with some startling news. Vern relates a conversion he heard between his brother Billy and his friend Charlie, in which they admit to stealing a car and stumbling upon the body of a local boy, Ray Brower, who went missing three days previously. Although the supposed location of the body is over thirty miles away the boys decide to set out to find it, which they see as a path to local celebrity status. Along the way the boys will need to overcome numerous obstacles, from a clouse encounter with a train, to a junk-yard dog and a gang of older bullies who want the credit for finding the body themselves. They must also contend with their personal demons, which each of the boys having suffered some sort of loss or personal tragedy in the course of their short lives.
I'll come clean now and admit that I had never seen Stand By Me before I popped this Blu-ray into my player. As a child of the seventies/eighties it's odd that such an iconic film went unseen for so many years, but I simply never got around to it. Now that I have I'm happy to have finally done so, but I also feel like I'm standing with one foot in the door of an exclusive club rather than becoming a full member. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I enjoyed many aspects of the film, from the simple but effective story and performances, to the sheer atmosphere of the piece, but I didn't have the feeling that I'd just watched something that had changed my life. I honestly put that down to my current age. I think that if I'd seen this back in 1986 when I was around the same age as the boys depicted in the film it would now be one of my favourite pictures, but as it is I felt like I was watching events from afar rather than being in there along with Gordie and friends. I hope that at least goes some way towards explaining what might seem a rather conservative score for such a much-loved picture.
There are some films that just evoke memories of one's childhood, and despite not having seen it prior to this Blu-ray viewing Stand By Me is one such film. The 1.85:1 (1080/24p AVC) transfer has what I like to call a distinctive 'eighties look' to it; the relatively soft focus and grainy appearance put me in mind of any number of my childhood favourites. Although dominated by the lush greens of the countryside and cool blues of the clear skies, the palette also features some bright, punchy reds and pastel shades. Skin tones are a little too reddish in places to be called natural, but this appears to be true to the original look. On the negative side there are a few speckles to be found on the print here and there, but other than that the image is quite clean. When compared against newer releases and the best catalogue efforts this isn't a top tier effort, but it's generally very good given the material. It's almost certainly the best looking version of the film you're likely to have seen outside of a cinema back in 1986.
The disc's primary soundtrack is a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 effort that does a reasonably effective job of transforming the original mono audio into something more in-keeping with today's aural expectations. Having said that it's important to keep those expectations in check as the track is limited by the source material. It will probably come as no surprise to read that the track is heavily biased towards the frontal array, which does a good job of delivering the various effects and dialogue. There are a few discrete surround effects though, such as the bullet ricocheting when Gordie fires the gun or when Teddy has his stand-off with the train, with the latter also demonstrating some nice stereo imaging. LFE is never in danger of rattling the ornaments, but it does provide gentle reinforcement during a number of scenes. The film's original mono mix is also included as a Dolby Digital 2.0 track for those who want the authentic theatrical experience and aside from the surround effects there's not a lot between the two tracks. Stand By Me's audio is perfectly functional, but it's not demo material.
The disc includes a small but informative collection of bonus material, headed up by an informative solo audio commentary from director Rob Reiner. This is followed by a picture-in-picture track with Reiner and stars Wil Wheaton and Corey Feldman, which is packed full of warm reminiscences from the set and humerous anecdotes, along with quite a lot of ribbing of Jerry O'Connell in absentia (mostly about his wife Rebecca Romijn). I found the PiP track very enjoyable thanks largely to the absence of long pauses, even if Reiner has a tendency to cut the other two short. 'Walking the Tracks: The Summer of Stand By Me' (36:46 SD) is a retrospective featurette that includes interview footage with Stephen King and Rob Reiner, along with the principal cast (River Phoenix aside). Like the audio and video commentaries it's full of interesting titbits of info, far more so than the glossy EPK stuff we're used to nowadays. Finishing off the extras are a 'Stand By Me' music video featuring the dance stylings of River Phoenix and Wil Wheaton (03:21 SD), a series of trailers for other Sony movies (including The Smurfs, The bridge on the River Kwai and The Green Hornet) and the usual movieIQ and BD-Live features.
Stand By Me is a great coming of age tale that I'm glad to have finally ticked off of my 'to see' list. It was especially interesting to watch the film as an adult without any of the childhood memories that usually colour one's perception. Perhaps it was because of this very fact that I didn't connect with it in the same way that I do with films like The Karate Kid, The Goonies, E.T. and of course Star Wars (to name but a few), but I still enjoyed the story and the performances. The Blu-ray is a competent catalogue effort that should more than satisfy the film's existing fan-base with its pleasing transfer and interesting selection of extras, not to mention bring a few new admirers into the fold.
* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Chris Gould
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 8th August 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 French, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 German, Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono English
Subtitles: Arabic, Danish, Dutch, English, English SDH, French, German, Finnish, Hindi, Norwegian, Swedish, Turkish
Extras: Audio Commentary, Picture-in-Picture Commentary,
Easter Egg: No
Director: Rob Reiner
Cast: Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Jerry O'Connell, Kiefer Sutherland
Length: 88 minutes
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