Stand By Me appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The movie offered a good but not great presentation.
For the most part, the film boasted good sharpness. The photographic style opted for a somewhat gauzy look at times, but actual softness was rare, so the majority of the flick appeared concise and accurate. I noticed no jaggies or shimmering, and edge haloes remained absent. Print flaws became a minor distraction. I noticed occasional specks but nothing substantial.
Stand maintains a subdued palette, but the colors appeared accurate and neatly saturated, without any signs of fading, bleeding or noise. Black levels were dark and rich, and shadow detail seemed clear and lacked any excessive heaviness to obscure parts of the image in low-light situations. The image never really excelled, but it worked pretty well.
In addition to the film’s original monaural audio, the Blu-ray provided a DTS-HD MA 5.1 remix. This went with a generally laid-back soundscape, though a few scenes brought the track to life. The sequences with trains and cars used the five channels, and Gordie’s story about the pie-eating contest also featured the back speakers in an active manner. Otherwise, the mix usually opted for general ambience; those elements created a decent sense of place.
Audio quality was acceptable given its age. Speech was natural and concise, without edginess or other concerns. Music tended toward 50s songs, with only a little score along for the ride. Those aspects of the mix showed decent range and definition. Effects were also fair, though they lacked great punch; for instance, the train scenes seemed a little thin. Still, they were adequate. Overall, this was a decent little remix.
How did the Blu-ray’s picture and audio compare to those of the DVD release? The sound was different but not necessarily superior. Yes, the 5.1 track offered a broader soundscape, but I tend to be leery of movies that alter the original material and I prefer to stay with the theatrical audio. Still, the 5.1 mix worked pretty well, so it’s a nice option for those who’d like to hear it.
The visuals displayed less equivocal improvements. The Blu-ray was definitely crisper and better defined than the DVD, and colors seemed stronger as well. This became a nice step up in picture quality.
Most of the DVD’s extras appear here, along with one new component. We find an audio commentary from director Rob Reiner, who provides a running, screen-specific chat. I've heard a few prior tracks from Reiner and found them to be fairly dry; his remarks during Criterion's treatment of This Is Spinal Tap were decent but his discussion of The Story of Us was almost as dull as the movie itself. Unfortunately, Stand does nothing to alter my impressions of Reiner's commentary style; this is another drab track.
The piece features many long pauses, and when Reiner speaks, it's usually to tell us that what we're seeing on screen was influenced by his childhood. That may sound good, as one might expect some interesting insights into his youth, and Reiner indeed provides a few compelling nuggets about his early life. However, the vast majority of the time he simply states that "My friends and I used to do that all the time" and provides no greater depth. I got the point very quickly and this made the commentary as a whole quite a drag.
For the new extra, 25 Years Later: A Picture-in-Picture Commentary Retrospective gives us a chat with director Rob Reiner and actors Wil Wheaton and Corey Feldman. It opens with a three-minute, 57-second intro in which the three men greet each other at the studio. After that, they sit together for a running, screen-specific discussion of sets and locations, cast and performances, and various aspects of shooting the flick.
While Blu-ray Discs often make good use of the picture-in-picture option to show storyboards, footage from the set, and other elements, this one gives us nothing more than shots of the guys as they chat. That makes it pretty useless from that point of view; I don’t understand the appeal of watching people as they sit in a recording studio, so as far as I’m concerned, you’re better off thinking of this as a standard audio commentary.
In that vein, it’s pretty good. Reiner sounds uninvolved in the 2000 commentary, but here he comes across as lively and chatty. As usual, Feldman tends to be somewhat self-involved – he loves to remind us what a bad boy he was – but he adds some good notes, and Wheaton seems charming and self-deprecating. They throw out a mix of nice notes and reflections on the movie in this enjoyable chat.
Titled Walking the Tracks: The Summer of Stand By Me, this 36-minute and 46-second program offers interviews with Reiner, author Stephen King, and actors Richard Dreyfuss, Wil Wheaton, Corey Feldman, Jerry O'Connell, and Kiefer Sutherland plus some film clips and a few production shots. It's a solid documentary that offers a terrific look at the creation of the film. Even though Reiner repeats a lot of the material stated in his commentary, he seems more compelling within this tightly-edited environment, and the additional perspectives are invaluable. It's a coherent and taut show that added to my enjoyment of the film.
We get a music video for "Stand By Me" by Ben E. King. This clip features movie shots plus vintage performance footage of King intercut with some old photos of the singer and circa 1986 lip-synch material with him. The latter also includes Phoenix and Wheaton who participate in the performance to a minor degree. It's not a bad little piece.
A few ads appear under Previews. We find promos for Get Low, Country Strong, Green Hornet and Taxi Driver. No trailer for Stand By Me appears here.
Does the Blu-ray lose anything from the DVD? Yup: it loses the movie’s trailer, some text “talent files” and an isolated score. In addition, a now out of print Deluxe Edition included a CD “songtrack” and a 32-page booklet, neither of which reappears here.
Stand By Me isn't perfect, but I thought it offered a nice look at an interesting time of life. The film is well-acted and rings true. The Blu-ray provides good picture, modest but adequate sound, and a mix of supplements that include an entertaining new video commentary. Fans will be happy with this satisfying release.
To rate this film, visit the Deluxe Edition review of STAND BY ME