Thursday, 4 August 2011

"American Graffiti". A Review Of The 1973 Film Now Reissued On A 2011 BLU RAY.

"…We’re Gonna Rock'n'Roll Ourselves To Death Baby!"

George Lucas' "American Graffiti" is remembered (and quite rightly so) with great affection - a five-star masterpiece that’s almost unique in its vision of growing up in 1962 America listening to music on the radio in your car, getting up to no good and generally enjoying the sheer blast of ‘boss’ Saturday night on the town. It also has one of the most atmospheric and brilliantly woven-in soundtracks 'ever' - an MCA 2LP set released with the movie in August 1973 that the public adored and kept on buying for decades after (it peaked at Number 10). It’s also forgotten now, but “American Graffiti” virtually kick-started the massive Rock'n'Roll revival of the early Seventies that saw every major label reissue R'n'B, Doo Wop and R'n'R LPs to beat the band – much to the delight of music fans. And who among us wouldn’t have wanted to spend the night in the company of the awesome Wolfman Jack (dialogue above).

I say all of this as a preamble, because I have no beef with the movie or what surrounds it. BUT - I have very real misgivings about the quality of the print on this 2011 BLU RAY reissue (hence the 2-star rating). It’s not great at all, and in places, it’s truly awful.

The opening Universal Logo looks ancient and scratched to bits, but as the movie credits begin to roll the picture-quality looks more promising if not a little blurry. You also see that we’re in the early part of an evening still bathed in fading daylight, but as the movie quickly progresses, every shot becomes a night time scene – and the blocking and terrible grain of the original print just gets worse and worse. It’s infuriating, because one moment the print quality is lovely – full of colour and depth – the next it’s like a bad videotape – grainy to a point where the fuzzy picture is ‘all’ you see. The real bad news is that as the movie progresses to the Harrison Ford/Paul Le Mat car race showdown – there are scenes where the print is appalling – as bad as “The French Connection” (and anyone who has bought that turkey of a Blu Ray will know what I mean).

This is how Lucas filmed it I know – but the point is that this BLU RAY affords you a better picture only in ‘certain’ places - but for the majority of the time it gives you an accentuated version of wildly haphazard cinematography – and it makes for a very disappointing watch indeed. The DVD was always ‘good’ rather than great, but this 2011 BLU RAY is not a ‘full on’ upgrade as some have suggested – nor does it have the beautifully cleaned-up and restored stills that are suddenly peppering the net at the time of release. Anybody claiming this is a GLORIOUS transfer is talking absolute knob.

Fans may be unable to resist replacing their DVD with this – fair enough – but anyone else considering buying it – I would advise a rental first to 'see' what I mean.

I hate doing negative reviews, but sometimes you need to. I wish someone had told me how bad this looked 'before' I wasted my money on it and had to sit through one of my favourite Seventies movies looking worse rather than better. What a disappointment…

Credits:
VIDEO: 1080p High Definition Widescreen, 2.35:1 Aspect
AUDIO: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, French, Italian, German, Spanish DTS 2.0 Mono, Japanese, Brazilian Portuguese DTS 2.0 Stereo
SUBTITLES: English SDH, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Japanese, Brazilian Portuguese, Cantonese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Icelandic, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Swedish and Traditional Mandarin

EXTRAS:
PIP Commentary with Director George Lucas
U-Control: The Music Of American Graffiti
Screen Tests
The Making Of American Graffiti
Theatrical Trailer

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