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Feature


Amid a brooding rock & roll landscape, the Bombers motorcycle gang, led by the vicious Raven Shaddock (Willem Dafoe), kidnap diva Ellen Aim (Diane Lane). Her hope for rescue lies with unlikely heroes: soldier of fortune, Tom Cody (Michael Paré), and his sidekick, the two-fisted beer-guzzling McCoy (Amy Madigan). Joined by Ellen's manager, Billy Fish (Rick Moranis), the trio plunges headfirst into a world of rain-splattered streets, hot cars, and deadly assassins. (From Shout Factory’s official synopsis)

 Streets of Fire: Shout Select BD
 Streets of Fire: Second Sight BD
Though he has maintained something of a mainstream following well into the present day, thanks to his patented contributions to the pantheon of tough guy cinema, writer/director Walter Hill’s enduring legacy will likely lie in his more unusual cult films. I personally prefer the arty, tonally ambiguous approach he took to films like The Driver (1978) and Southern Comfort (1981), but cannot discount the impact of his more ostentatious work, specifically the comic book extremes of The Warriors (1979) and Streets of Fire (1984). These companion piece films take place in their own surrealistic universes, where pop music, eccentric costumes, and devoted anachronism holds an almost supernatural power that supersedes logic. Despite its outrageously invigorating pre-title sequence, Streets of Fire doesn’t really work for me, but it is such an affected and strange film that my criticisms remain almost exclusively subjective. For example, I can claim that Willem DaFoe is the only appropriately cast actor in the entire film, but then Hill was obviously trying to play many actors against type. And, as a Star Wars fan, I certainly can’t complain about the purposefully affected/stilted dialogue (the Star Wars-isms extend to the wipes between scenes and ‘50s fetishism, for the record). I find many of Hill’s deliberately odd choices sort of off-putting, yet I respect the idea of the film’s otherworldly tone, in which a number of non-campy characters (again, excluding DaFoe here) inhabit a neon world built over the ruins of 1950s pop culture. I mean, the pretentious audacity of calling your movie “A Rock ‘n Roll Fable...Another Time, Another Place” (Hill’s version of “A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far Far Away”) alone has to be worth a half of a thumbs up, right?

 Streets of Fire: Shout Select BD
 Streets of Fire: Second Sight BD

Video


With a cult following as strong as this one, Universal Studios could’ve milked Streets of Fire as extensively as Anchor Bay milked Army of Darkness or CBS milks Star Trek fans, but, for some reason, they repeatedly dumped barebones, non-anamorphic discs on the North American and international markets. In fact, as far as I know, there was never an anamorphic DVD release. Later, Universal hitched their wagon to HD DVD and released one of the formats more notoriously bad VC-1 compressed transfers. The Blu-ray versions from Koch Media in Germany, Wild Side in France, and Second Sight in the UK were similarly artefacty discs, but featured slightly better colour-timing. When Shout Factory announced they’d be adding the title to their Shout Select line and including a brand new transfer, struck from a 2K scan of the original interpositive, fan hopes skyrocketed. I’ve included screencaps from the Second Sight disc (which is, as I understand, identical to the other two Blu-rays) for the sake of comparison, though, because those caps were supplied to me via Chris in the UK, I was not able to directly compare each release in motion.

Overall, this 1080p remaster is a major improvement in almost every way that counts. Colour quality is more vibrant, better separated, and the warmer neutral palette fits the tone of the film better than the old, greyish transfer. The uptick in detail isn’t immediately apparent, beyond the fact that there’s so much less compression on the Shout Factory transfer. However, if you click on each image to expand it to its full size (Shout Factory on the top, Second Sight on the bottom), you will notice that the texture of wide angle shots is much sharper now, especially in the third screencap, where the patterns on Moranis’ jacket are finally discernible. Some scenes are still a bit muddy, including minor discolouration and posterised gradations, but I think this might just be an issue with the condition of the original footage, especially since the problems are at their most prevalent during neutral and underlit moments. Grain texture appears pretty accurate until the last third or fourth of the film, when the noise kicks up a bit, contrast levels start to appear overcranked, and artefacts such as edge enhancement and ‘step’ effects start popping up. This is probably the biggest shortcoming of the remaster and I’m not sure what the cause is. I thought maybe I was being too critical, but then looked closely at the the final two screencaps at their full size and realized they were nearly identical, aside from Shout Factory’s brighter tint. It’s a comparatively small complaint and the overall quality boost still makes this a worthy double-dip, even if there’s still room for improvement.

 Streets of Fire: Shout Select BD
 Streets of Fire: Second Sight BD

Audio


Just like its German, UK, and French counterparts, this Shout Select release of Streets of Fire includes the original stereo and 5.1 remixes, both in uncompressed DTS-HD Master Audio. Obviously, since the film touts itself as a ‘rock ‘n roll fable,’ the music is the key component and the element that will make or break a 5.1 remix. In this case, the sound designers have attempted to separate the tracks in a way that improves the whole live concert aesthetic, by spreading stereo elements and dropping a decent echo track in the back speakers. They’ve also punched up the aggression on stuff like crowd noise, fist fights, engines revving, and other sound effects, which the filmmakers integrating into Ry Cooder’s score and Jim Steinman’s songs to sound kind of like an additional rhythm track. Naturally, there’s also a sizable LFE boost. The remix certainly has a different vibe and the same artificial quality that plagues most after-the-fact 5.1 mixes (the biggest culprit being explosions, which sound completely different), but I found myself mostly enjoying the extra depth and volume. On the other hand, the stereo track is more ‘comfortable’ (especially for someone like myself, who doesn’t love the movie, but listens to the soundtrack with relative regularity) and has been well preserved, thanks to the lack of compression.

 Streets of Fire: Shout Select BD
 Streets of Fire: Second Sight BD

Extras


  • Shotguns & Six Strings: The Making of a Rock ‘n Roll Fable (1:40:23, HD) – Arrow kicks off this collection’s new extras with an incredibly in-depth retrospective documentary from Ballyhoo Motion Pictures that even Streets of Fire detractors can appreciate. It features new interviews with Hill, producer Lawrence Gordon, screenwriter Larry Gross, editor Freeman Davies, associate producer Mae Woods, art director James Allen, costume designer Marilyn Vance, assistant director David Sosna, choreographer Jeffrey Hornaday, sound editor Richard Anderson, music producer Kenny Vance, cast members Michael Paré, Deborah Van Valkenburgh, Richard Lawson, Elizabeth Daily, and Lee Ving, and a litany of film critics.
  • Rumble on the Lot: Walter Hill’s Streets Of Fire Revisited (82:29, HD)  – This second feature-length documentary previously popped up on the Koch and Second Sight discs. It features additional interviews with Hill, Paré, and Allen, as well as actress Amy Madigan. There’s a lot of overlap between the docs, but Rumble on the Lot is definitely worth it for Madigan’s point-of-view and the fact that Walter Hill has a little more to say.
  • Vintage EPK featurettes with cast & crew interviews (10:43, SD):
    • Rock And Roll Fable
    • Exaggerated Realism
    • Choreographing The Crowd
    • Creating The Costumes, From The Ground Up[/i]
  • Music videos:
    • "Tonight is What It Means to Be Young" (5:51, SD)
    • "I Can Dream About You" (4:03, SD)
    • "Nowhere Fast" (5:42, SD)
  • On-air EPK promos (13:12, SD)
  • Trailer
  • Still gallery


 Streets of Fire: Shout Select BD
 Streets of Fire: Second Sight BD

Overall


I still prefer the more measured efforts of The Driver, Southern Comfort, and The Long Riders (1980), but Streets of Fire is arguably the quintessential Walter Hill movie and I can’t possibly begrudge its vehement fanbase. Shout Factory’s Select line Blu-ray has corrected the film’s history of garbage home video releases with a much improved HD transfer, two solid uncompressed audio options, and an entire disc of documentaries and archival supplements.

 Streets of Fire: Shout Select BD
 Streets of Fire: Second Sight BD

 Streets of Fire: Shout Select BD
 Streets of Fire: Second Sight BD

 Streets of Fire: Shout Select BD
 Streets of Fire: Second Sight BD
* Note: The above images are taken from the Arrow (top) and Second Sight (bottom) Blu-rays, then 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.


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