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Emile Ardolino
Jennifer Grey, Patrick Swayze, Jerry Orbach
Writing Credits:
Eleanor Bergstein

During a summer at a Catskills resort with her family, Frances "Baby" Houseman falls in love with the camp's dance instructor, Johnny Castle.

Box Office:
$6 million.
Opening Weekend
$3,900,000 on 975 screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated PG-13

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 7.1
English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 100 min.
Price: $14.98
Release Date: 2/7/2017

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Co-producer Eleanor Bergstein
• Audio Commentary with Choreographer Kenny Ortega, Assistant Choreographer and Actress Miranda Garrison, Director of Photography Jeff Jur, Costume Designer Hilary Rosenfeld, and Production Designer David Chapman
• “Happy Birthday, Dirty Dancing” Featurette
• “Patrick Swayze: In His Own Words” Featurette
• “Eleanor Bergstein: Thoughts On a Lifetime of Dirty Dancing” Featurette
• “Patrick Swayze Uncut” Featurette
• “The Phenomenon” Featurette
• “The Rhythm of the Dancing” Featurette
• Three Music Videos
• Four Cast and Crew Interviews
• Deleted/Alternate/Extended Scenes
• Screen Tests & Outtakes
• DVD Copy


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Dirty Dancing: 30th Anniversary Edition [Blu-Ray] (1987)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 26, 2017)

With 1987’s Dirty Dancing, we get to revisit the Eighties and the careers launched and/or resuscitated by this left field hit. Actors Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey became stars after this flick, and Dancing also temporarily brought some old performers back to the pop charts. For instance, former Righteous Brother Bill Medley scored a hit single with Jennifer Warnes on “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life”.

Eric Carmen also notched a success with “Hungry Eyes”, his most popular song since 1976’s “All By Myself”. Such was the glow of Dancing that even non-crooner Swayze produced a hit with “She’s Like the Wind”, and old chestnuts like the Contours’ “Do You Love Me” got attention from a new generation.

Set in the summer of 1963, Dancing shows the Catskills vacation of “Baby” Houseman (Grey) and her family. That group includes her physician father Jake (Jerry Orbach) plus older sister Lisa (Jane Brucker) and mother Marjorie (Kelly Bishop). They settle into their cabin and get into the goofy swing of things with Latin dance classes and other activities.

As Baby explores, she overhears directives from resort owner Max Kellerman (Jack Weston) toward various staff members. He tells the male dance instructors to mambo with the single girls but not to pursue hanky-panky. Cocky dancer Johnny (Swayze) openly mocks these directives.

The old folks try to set up Baby with various nice boys, but the future college student and Peace Corps volunteer seems disinterested in them. She sees Johnny with fellow instructor Penny Johnson (Cynthia Rhodes) as they tear up the floor, and she becomes intrigued.

After a painfully kitschy comedy magic show, Baby wanders the grounds and visits the staff quarters, even though she’s not supposed to venture into that territory. She gets into their private party, where she sees some rather suggestive and intimate dancing.

This risqué behavior shocks Baby but also stimulates her, especially when she sees Johnny in action. He drags her onto the floor for some private instruction and teaches her not to be so stiff.

With that, Johnny disappears and Baby resumes her normal dull life with her family. While she resists the advances of Kellerman’s dorky but egotistical grandson Neil (Lonnie Price), she remains entranced with Johnny.

Baby manages to involve herself further in Johnny’s life when she helps him with problems encountered by Penny. When she arranges it so Penny can slip away from work, Baby takes the dancer’s place to make sure in a performance act so her absence doesn’t cause waves.

Naturally, this leads Baby to spend more one-on-one time with Johnny, who initially seems to dislike her. He sees her as a spoiled rich girl and resents her. Inevitably, they get to know each other better and start to develop a romantic relationship.

At its heart, the film provides nothing more than a “coming of age” movie. This genre is a dime a dozen, though it seems like most of them concentrate on boys who grow into men. Still, it’s not unusual to find one the focuses on female development, and Dancing falls squarely within the constraints of the form.

Within that spectrum, though, it does pretty well for itself. I didn’t recall feeling impressed with Dancing back in the Eighties, and based on my general cinematic preferences, I entertained few expectations that it’d do much for me now. I can’t claim that the movie made me a fan, but it seems better executed and more compelling than I anticipated.

Much of that stems from Grey’s solid performance as Baby, as she takes a stock character and brings real life and depth to the role. She makes Baby’s awakening feel natural and not too forced or abrupt, and she infuses real sexiness into the part. I never found Grey to be a terribly attractive woman, but she comes across as pretty hot here.

Unfortunately, Grey makes Swayze look like an amateur. He does well with the dancing bits, and he certainly looks good, but he can’t act with any sense of realism. He lacks the natural qualities of Grey and always feels artificial and emotive. Swayze doesn’t ruin the film, but it’d have been more satisfying with a better actor.

A few other negative elements of Dancing exist. For one, I think the movie pours on too much melodrama, and it doesn’t really need those elements.

I guess it’s a requirement of this sort of chick flick that we get tension and obstacles to stand in the way of our lovers; that allows their ultimate connection to seem all the more tear-jerking. However, Dancing provides too many of these bits, and they get tiresome after a while.

When Dancing stays true to its period-accurate songs, the music works well. However, it periodically intersperses then-modern tracks into the affair, and those often work poorly.

“Hungry Eyes” manages to blend reasonably well, but others seem frightfully jarring and inappropriate. For instance, Merry Clayton’s Pointer Sisters-style pop tune “Yes” pops up out of nowhere and totally takes us out of the scene.

Nonetheless, most of the music seems well placed and well chosen, and director Emile Ardolino manages to give the movie a surprisingly low-key tone that suits it. Well, he does this through the first two acts, at least; when the emotional stuff starts to hit the fan in act three, the film lets loose with the tear-stained fireworks. Still, Ardolino keeps the flick reasonably low-key, which provides a relative but fairly pleasant surprise.

Dancing even tosses in decent humor at times. Wayne Newman offers a nice bit as the obnoxious activity director, but he doesn’t get the flick’s best line. That goes to Brucker as the ignorant Lisa, who states, “I’ve been thinking a lot about the Domino Theory. When Vietnam falls, is China next?”

Not only does this gag require some sophistication on the part of the viewer, but also the film tosses it out in a throwaway manner that rewards folks who pay attention. The movie doesn’t make a big deal of it, which allows it to become more satisfying for those who get it.

Other than that sort of small pleasure, Dirty Dancing mostly feels predictable. Nonetheless, the movie overcomes its genre restrictions via a nice lead performance from Jennifer Grey and a generally low-key tone. It seems somewhat erratic and never becomes a great film, but for what it is, Dancing works pretty well.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B/ Bonus B+

Dirty Dancing appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was a watchable but dated and erratic visual presentation.

Sharpness was the main inconsistent element. Some shots looked concise and distinctive, while others could seem somewhat soft and fuzzy. There was no particular rhyme or reason that I noticed, though wide shots tended to display the worst delineation. Overall definition was fine, but I found more softness than expected.

No issues with jagged edges or shimmering materialized, and I didn’t notice any artifacts. The image didn’t show any edge haloes, and I didn’t discern problems with digital noise reduction. Dancing came with a clean image, so don’t fret about print flaws, as they remained absent.

Colors were also inconsistent. Daylight shots demonstrated fairly peppy tones, but interiors could seem somewhat murky; those scenes lacked much vivacity from the hues, and the colors could be a bit messy. Blacks seemed tight and rich, and shadows mostly came across as detailed and distinctive. Low-light shots appeared well depicted across the board, though some muddiness occurred in interiors. I suspect that a lot of these problems stemmed from the source, but this remained a lackluster visual presentation.

Not surprisingly, music dominated the DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundfield of Dancing. The songs and score demonstrated reasonably good stereo imaging, though that depended on the source. Some of the older songs came from mono origins, so they either stayed that way or only gently broadened their spread.

As for effects, these stayed modest in scope. Those elements almost entirely consisted of general environmental bits, with very little that elevated the track above that level. Given the focus of Dancing, though, this restricted range was fine. The surrounds contributed modest reinforcement of the music and effects but didn’t do much more than that.

Audio quality seemed satisfactory for a flick from 1987. Speech was generally natural and concise. Some lines were just a little muddy, but those concerns seemed infrequent and minor, and I noticed no issues related to edginess or intelligibility.

Effects played a small role in the proceedings, and sounded fine. They portrayed their elements with acceptable accuracy, though they failed to do anything more than that.

Music varied dependent on the source but mostly seemed good. Some of the songs featured a little excessive low-end, but they generally came across as acceptably concise and lively. In the end, the audio of Dirty Dancing showed its age but seemed mostly solid.

How did this 2017 “30th Anniversary” Blu-ray compare with the 2012 Blu-ray ? Audio was identical, and I’d be hard-pressed to identify changes between the visuals either. None of the 2017 version’s press materials claim it brings us a new transfer, so I suspect it just replicates the prior release.

The Blu-ray mixes old and new extras. We find two separate audio commentaries, the first of which comes from writer/co-producer Eleanor Bergstein, who provides a running, screen-specific piece.

And an excellent track it is, as Bergstein goes into a myriad of topics. She discusses autobiographical influences, variations between the script and the movie, casting, locations, music, expectations for the film, anecdotes from the shoot, and many other bits.

Bergstein consistently seems chatty and engaging, and she gives us a personal and lively examination of her experiences. Other than a few minor sags, she offers a solid commentary.

The second commentary includes remarks from choreographer Kenny Ortega, assistant choreographer and actress Miranda Garrison, director of photography Jeff Jur, costume designer Hilary Rosenfeld, and production designer David Chapman. All sit solo except for Ortega and Garrison, who are together for their parts.

One can get a good idea of the subjects covered from the job descriptions. We learn about the dancing, the movie’s cinematography, the clothes, and the movie’s visual look. This comes about with issues like making the dancing look appropriate for the period and the characters, adapting Sixties outfits and maintaining an accurate wardrobe, and marrying the setting with Eighties expectations.

The group consistently gets into interesting issues and relates some nice specifics of their work. This track doesn’t seem as compelling as Bergstein’s, but it provides a good examination of the various elements and proves to be a worthwhile listen.

Inside the Cast & Crew Interviews domain, we find chats with four participants: actor Jennifer Grey (11 minutes, 14 seconds), choreographer Kenny Ortega (15:23), writer/co-producer Eleanor Bergstein (18:38), and assistant choreographer and actress Miranda Garrison (13:19). All of these provide efficient explorations of various subjects, though they come about in a flat manner due to the simple “talking head” format.

Nonetheless, this makes them accentuate the information, and a lot of good notes appear here. Bergstein again proves to be interesting as she offers a rich discussion of details related to the film, and all involved largely avoid repetition of concepts from the commentaries.

Two areas pop up under Original Screen Tests. “Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey Screen Test Montage” goes for one minute, 12 seconds and indeed shows a compilation of test footage. “Jennifer Grey Screen Test Comparisons” breaks into “Baby Blackmails Lisa” and “Baby Confronts Dad”.

“Lisa” gives us the screen test (0:53) and an extended version of the scene (1:08), while “Dad” shows the screen test (1:06) and the actual scene (1:36). The montage is okay, but the “Comparisons” are much more interesting.

Next we get a whopping 38 seconds of Outtakes. This is a pretty standard blooper reel, with the usual silliness. Its brevity is either a blessing or a curse, depending on your interest in the subject matter.

Next comes unused footage. We get 11 Deleted Scenes (11:53), three Alternate Scenes (2:40) and seven Extended Scenes (7:50). None of the changes/additions seem particularly memorable, though I do like the “Family Vote” scene.

Some other interesting bits appear as well, though the most intriguing scenes come from those that feature Lynn Lipton, the actor originally cast as the mother; she took ill during the shoot and was replaced by Kelly Bishop.

Under Dirty Dancing: The Phenomenon, we find a 13-minute, 45-second show with remarks from Kenny Ortega, Miranda Garrison, Eleanor Bergstein, David Chapman, Lionsgate executive Jim Gladstone, songwriters John DeNicola, Franke Previte and Stacy Widelitz, actor Jane Brucker, music supervisor Michael Lloyd, and actor/period music consultant “Cousin Brucie” Morrow.

Here we take a look at the development process of the film, with an emphasis on the status of Vestron and how it affected the company’s fortunes. Like most of the disc’s programs, this one tends toward fluffiness, but I like the notes about the financial side of things.

With The Rhythm of the Dancing, we find four minutes, eight seconds from actor Patrick Swayze. He discusses the movie’s music and his role in the songs. Nothing particularly informative appears here, but it’s nice to see a little of the late actor.

We get three music videos: Eric Carmen’s “Hungry Eyes”, Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes’ “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life”, and Patrick Swayze’s “She’s Like the Wind”. The Carmen clip makes the singer look like a Robert Palmer wannabe and seems pretty laughable today.

“Life” isn’t very good, but at least it’s not a campy dud like “Eyes” and it doesn’t seem too dated. “Wind” falls somewhere between those two. It’s not as ridiculous as “Eyes”, but it does appear silly to watch Swayze seriously emote his way through the terrible ballad.

Patrick Swayze: In His Own Words fills 12 minutes, 52 seconds and gives us details from the actor. He discusses a mix of elements related to his experiences on the film. Nothing scintillating pops up, but Swayze delivers a pretty good retrospective.

In that vein, Patrick Swayze Uncut gives us 13 minutes, 34 seconds from the actor. From the same 2006 interview as “Words”, Swayze talks a little about Dirty Dancing but he mainly talks about other aspects of his life and career. “Uncut: offers a reasonable complement to “Words”.

Happy Birthday, Dirty Dancing lasts 29 minutes, 19 seconds and provides info from Bergstein, Swayze, Grey, Garrison, Ortega, Brucker, casting director Bonnie Timmerman, director Emile Ardolino, dancers Doriana Sanchez and Jesus “Jay” Fuentes, actor Kelly Bishop, Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story On Stage personnel Bronwyn Reed, James Powell, Michelle Lynch, and Christopher Tierney, Dirty Dancing TV movie personnel Debra Messing, Nicole Scherzinger, Bruce Greenwood, Andy Blankenbuehler, Colt Prattes, and Tony Roberts, and movie fan/Swayze co-star Lori Petty.

“Birthday” mixes production notes about Dancing with appreciation from those involved in spinoff productions. Some of the comments about the original movie are interesting, but we hear a fair amount of this material elsewhere. This ends up as a fluffy piece with too much happy talk – all of the material from those not involved with the 1987 film feels superfluous.

Finally, Thoughts of a Lifetime of Dirty Dancing provides another piece with Eleanor Bergstein. This one fills six minutes, 40 seconds and presents Bergstein’s notes about the film’s title sequence as well as the spinoff productions. Bergstein tosses out a few decent notes but nothing especially memorable.

As implied earlier, the 2017 Blu-ray omits features from the 2012 release – quite a lot of them, actually. The 30th Anniversary set omits too much for me to list all of it. The absence of these materials disappoints.

This package includes a DVD copy of the film as well. It features the two commentaries and Happy Birthday but lacks the other extras.

I didn’t expect much from a chick flick like Dirty Dancing, but it actually works fairly well. The movie proves to have some intelligence and heart, and while it gets too melodramatic, it still delivers a reasonably solid effort. The Blu-ray offers acceptable picture, good audio and a largely good set of supplements. This seems like a pretty nice release, but the 2012 Blu-ray the superior package because it includes a stronger roster of bonus materials.

To rate this film, visit the prior review of DIRTY DANCING

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main