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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

American Graffiti Special Edition [Blu-ray]

 

(George Lucas, 1973)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Lucasfilm Ltd / Coppola Co. Production

Video: Universal Home Video

 

Disc:

Region: FREE! (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:52:36.576

Disc Size: 40,791,189,453 bytes

Feature Size: 32,452,442,112 bytes

Video Bitrate: 31.62 Mbps

Chapters: 49

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: May 31st, 2011

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: VC-1 Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 2101 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2101 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
DTS Audio French 384 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 384 kbps / 24-bit
* DTS Express English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / 24-bit

 

Subtitles:

English (SDH), French, Spanish, none

 

Extras:

• Commentary with Director George Lucas via UControl

The Music of American Graffiti via UControl

The Making of American Graffiti (1:16:31 - 7 Chapters in SD)

• Screen Tests (22:55 - 4 X with combinations of Howard, Dreyfuss, Williams, Le Mat, Mackenzie)

• Theatrical Trailer (2:52)

My Scenes

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: From director George Lucas (Star Wars) and producer Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather) American Graffiti is a classic coming-of-age story set against the 1960s backdrop of hot rods drive-ins and rock n’ roll. Starring Ron Howard Richard Dreyfuss Harrison Ford Cindy Williams Mackenzie Phillips and Suzanne Somers in their breakout roles this nostalgic look back follows a group of teenagers as they cruise the streets on their last summer night before college. Nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director American Graffiti features the howling sounds of Wolfman Jack and an unforgettable soundtrack with songs by Buddy Holly Chuck Berry The Beach Boys and Bill Haley & His Comets.

 

 

The Film:

It's the last night of summer 1962, and the teenagers of Modesto, California, want to have some fun before adult responsibilities... close in. Among them are Steve (Ron Howard) and Curt (Richard Dreyfuss), college-bound with mixed feelings about leaving home; nerdy Terry The Toad (Charles Martin Smith), who scores a dream date with blonde Debbie (Candy Clark); and John (Paul Le Mat ), a 22-year-old drag racer who wonders how much longer he can stay champion and how he got stuck with 13-year-old Carol (Mackenzie Phillips) in his deuce coupe. As D. J. Wolfman Jack spins 41 vintage tunes on the radio throughout the night, Steve ponders a future with girlfriend Laurie (Cindy Williams), Curt chases a mystery blonde, Terry tries to act cool, and Paul prepares for a race against Bob Falfa (Harrison Ford), but nothing can stop the next day from coming, and with it the vastly different future ushered in by the 1960s. Fresh off The Godfather (1972), producer Francis Ford Coppola had the clout to get his friend George Lucas's project made, but only for $750,000 on a 28-day shooting schedule. Despite technical obstacles, and having to shoot at night, cinematographer Haskell Wexler gave the film the neon-lit aura that Lucas wanted, evoking the authentic look of a suburban strip to go with the authentic sound of rock-n-roll. Universal, which wanted to call the film Another Slow Night in Modesto, thought it was unreleasable. But Lucas' period detail, co-writers Willard Huyck's and Gloria Katz's realistic dialogue, and the film's nostalgia for the pre-Vietnam years apparently appealed to a 1973 audience embroiled in cultural chaos: American Graffiti became the third most popular movie of 1973 (after The Exorcist and The Sting), establishing the reputations of Lucas (whose next film would be Star Wars) and his young cast, and furthering the onset of soundtrack-driven, youth-oriented movies. Although the film helped spark 1970s nostalgia for the 1950s, nothing else would capture the flavor of the era with the same humorous candor and latent sense of foreboding.

~ Lucia Bozzola, All Movie Guide

"Where were you in '62?" That was the tag line from the marketing campaign for American Graffiti (1973) and it seemed to bring back a flood of memories for moviegoers who first caught the film on its initial release. George Lucas's nostalgic portrait of what it was like to be a teenager in a small California town in 1962 became the sleeper hit of 1973 and spawned numerous imitations such as the TV series, Happy Days, and flicks like The Lords of Flatbush (1974). Produced for only $750,000 dollars with a 28-day shooting schedule, American Graffiti went on to gross more than $55 million; all this for a movie that every studio in Hollywood had turned down before Universal reluctantly agreed to release it. And let us not forget that American Graffiti also helped launch the movie careers of such relatively unknown actors as Harrison Ford and Richard Dreyfuss and enabled Lucas to produce his dream project - Star Wars (1977).

Excerpt from TCM located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

American Graffiti appears to have had some manipulation on Blu-ray from Universal - this comes in various forms including edge-enhancement (see second large capture - Dreyfuss is like a cardboard cutout) and unsightly halos but thankfully it does not appear to have been blanketed against the entire film. It seems more limited to the beginning. Later sequences show grain and a preferable rendering with texture and a more authentic look. I can only guess that the alternation was used to remove noise as the majority of the film is at night. Overall, I think it looks quite good but those sensitive to the digital tinkering may be bothered by some spots. Colors seem strong and the neon-lighting effect comes across through adept contrast.  This VC-1 encode is dual-layered with a high bitrate and seems truer than SD could relate. Production expenses were limited and the lack of glossy visuals definitely suit the style well. Even with the occasional black-mark this Blu-ray gave me a passable presentation. Most fans will appreciate it - and even purists may be relaxed enough to enjoy.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Universal have stuck with authentic stereo in a DTS-HD Master at 2101 kbps 2.0. Chuck Berry's "Johnnie B. Goode", Buddy Holly's "That'll Be the Day" to The Beach Boys's "Surfin' Safari" in uncompressed - all help establish the 50's feel. Dialogue us sometimes scattered - another effect of the production - but certainly authentic. The lossless transfer supports the film well. There are optional subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.

 

Extras :

With UControl via a picture-in-picture window we get a commentary with Director George Lucas as he recalls the film - mostly fondly but with some expected gaps from the limited production timeline and getting close to its 40th birthday. Fans may appreciate his candor in certain areas and fun anecdotes. Included within the UControl sphere is 'The Music of American Graffiti' which detail the specifics of 50's artists as songs are used in the film. This comes through onscreen and we forget how much music is in American Graffiti - there is a lot! The best supplements is the 1 1/4 hour long The Making of American Graffiti which covers an immense amount of territory. Screenwriters Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck join with Lucas in detailed specifics - divided into 7 chapters from "Genesis of the Project" to "Final Words" and it includes some of the cast - which augments the interest. There are also 4 screen tests using a combination of Ron Howard, Richard Dreyfuss, Cindy Williams, Paul Le Mat, Mackenzie Phillips and Charles Martin Smith. It total is runs about 23-minutes. Lastly there is a trailer and the disc has the 'My Scenes' capability of bookmarking. There is a lot here to indulge in.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Perhaps it is my age but I always found this a very memorable film. Lucas is the trendsetter of trendsetters - as many things he touches turn into an 'explosive franchise'. Nothing will ever be like American Graffiti and to have it on Blu-ray even in an imperfect transfer produces a worthwhile experience. Leaving the nest is a universal truism and few films touch upon its themes with such realism. Truly a classic that we recommend to those without sensitivity to edge-enhancement. 

Gary Tooze

May 24th, 2011

 


 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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