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 quite 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 Blu-ray compare with the 2003 Ultimate Edition DVD ? Audio was fairly similar. Though the lossless DTS-HD track had a little more pep and depth, there wasn’t a ton that could be done with the 25-year-old root material, so don’t expect significant improvements.
The visuals showed moderate growth, though again, the source footage restricted the film. Actually, this was one of those cases where Blu-ray’s increased resolution made problems more obvious. The film’s inherent softness and murkiness was more obvious on Blu-ray, so “sins” that weren’t apparent on DVD became more noticeable. Nonetheless, I feel confident that the Blu-ray provided a stronger representation of the original film.
The Blu-ray includes the extras from the prior DVD as well as additional features. 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 very 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.
The disc also presents a trivia track. If you activate this subtitle option, you’ll periodically encounter factoids about the movie’s setting, its actors, and its music, among other general topics. This offers an update of the DVD’s trivia track, and it’s a good one, as the Blu-ray’s text commentary proves to be more useful and engaging.
Dirty Dancing Live in Concert provides a 1988 performance from some of the musicians heard on the soundtrack. In this one-hour, 22-minute and 56-second program, we get numbers from Merry Clayton, the Contours, Eric Carmen, and Bill Medley. They do their songs from the movie as well as work done previously and some tracks from artists not represented at the show.
Dancing diehards might dig this, but otherwise “Concert” will be entertaining mostly to those who like silly Eighties relics. Thrill to Carmen’s poofy poodle haircut! Shriek at the sight of Medley’s mullet! Gasp at all the flouncy dancers and their emoting! Essentially little more than the kind of show you’d see at an amusement park but with more talented singers, “Concert” seems consistently goofy and borders on the absurd much of the time. It was amusing, but I laughed at it, not with it.
Inside the Interviews domain, we find chats with four participants: actor Jennifer Grey (11 minutes, 13 seconds), choreographer Kenny Ortega (15:21), writer/co-producer Eleanor Bergstein (18:36), 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 Gray Screen Test Montage” goes for one minute, 10 seconds and indeed shows a compilation of test footage. “Jennifer Gray Screen Test Comparisons” breaks into “Baby Blackmails Lisa” and “Baby Confronts Dad”. “Lisa” gives us the screen test (0:51) and an extended version of the scene (1:06), while “Dad” shows the screen test (1:04) and the actual scene (1:35). The montage is okay, but the “Comparisons” are a lot of fun.
A look at the places used in the film shows up via Kellerman’s: Reliving the Locations of the Film. It runs 12 minutes, 24 seconds and provides notes from David Chapman, Bergstein, Virginia film commissioner Rita McClenny, Mountain Lake Hotel general manager HM “Buzz” Scanland, Jr., Mountain Lake Hotel executive chef Michael Porterfield, and Sapphire Ballroom and Dance Center owner Linda Stancill. We get a look at the spots featured in the flick and learn a little about them. This tends to be a superficial piece that seems more interested in marketing the Mountain Lake Hotel than anything else, but it’s still a decent glimpse of the place.
Under The Dirty Dancing Phenomenon, we find a 13-minute, 43-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.
A few clips appear within For the Fans. “Fan Reel” runs one minute, 42 seconds and shows photos and/or video of Dancing buffs, usually with elements/poses connected to the flick. “James and Julia Derbyshire: Dancing Across the Pond” occupies four minutes, 42 seconds with info from a married couple whose wedding dance got lots of exposure. Neither segment does much for me.
During the 16-minute, 32-second Dancing to the Music, we encounter notes from Bergstein, Morrow, Lloyd, Previte, DeNicola, Ortega, Clayton, Widelitz and Patrick Swayze’s wife Lisa Niemi. We learn about the songs created specifically for the film as well as aspects of their recording. Though we’ve heard some connected notes in other areas, “Music” delivers a pretty interesting overview of the subject matter.
Dirty Dancing with Patrick Swayze fills 12 minutes, 28 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.
Four elements pop up under “Tributes” for deceased film participants. Emile Ardolino Tribute lasts 13 minutes, 28 seconds and features Miranda Garrison, Jennifer Grey, Kenny Ortega, Eleanor Bergstein, and Ardolino’s partner Luis M. Rodriguez Villa. A reflection on the director’s life and career, this provides us with some decent notes about the man. Unsurprisingly, it turns pretty goopy at times, as heavy praise dominates.
With A Tribute to Patrick Swayze, we locate a 15-minute, 15-second reel with comments from Lisa Niemi, Eleanor Bergstein, Kenny Ortega, Miranda Garrison, and Swayze’s brother Donny. We get an overview of Patrick Swayze’s life and career in this fairly tight piece. As with the Ardolino show, it comes with ample praise, but it still serves as a good summary of Swayze.
One more look at a deceased actor appears with the Tribute to Jerry Orbach. In its six minutes, 33 seconds, we find a quick biography narrated by actor Kelly Bishop. It’s easily the most informative of the bunch, as it focuses on career/life details without too much fluff.
In Memoriam fills one minute, 58 seconds and simply shows footage and the names of five deceased folks connected to the film. Since we already get separate tributes for three of them, it often seems redundant.
For a fascinating stillframe component, we find Eleanor Bergstein’s Script. As the writer notes in an introduction, it’s an incomplete melange of pages, but it gives us a really nice look at the original text. Add to that some of Bergstein’s original notes and this becomes one of the disc’s coolest extras.
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.
Two sequences appear under Multi-Angle Dance Sequences. These cover “The Lift” and “Everybody Dance”. As implied by the title, we can see the two scenes in question via a mix of angles. I like this kind of feature and think this becomes a decent bonus.
Next comes unused footage. We get 11 Deleted Scenes (11:48), three Alternate Scenes (2:38) and seven Extended Scenes (7:49). 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.
After this we locate a Vintage Featurette. It fills six minutes, 45 seconds with comments from Jennifer Gray, Patrick Swayze, Emile Ardolino, Kenny Ortega, and Cynthia Rhodes. Much of this offers standard promotional material, but we get enough insight and footage from the set to make it better than average.
We get the film’s theatrical trailer plus 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.
The set wraps up with a Photo Gallery. In this stillframe component, we see 26 shots from the movie. It’s a pretty forgettable collection.
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 simply stellar set of supplements. With a low list price, this is a definite must-have for Dancing fans.
Note that this version of Dirty Dancing comes as part of a two-pack with 2004’s Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights.