Stripes appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The image showed its age but generally seemed positive.
Sharpness was acceptable. The movie rarely came across as especially concise and distinctive, but it showed adequate clarity and delineation. I noticed no signs of jagged edges or shimmering, and edge haloes failed to appear. Grain seemed heavy, but that was part of the original photography, and at least this meant the image lacked obvious digital noise reduction. Print flaws weren’t a factor; I noticed an occasional speck but the movie remained clean most of the time.
Colors were erratic but decent. The image varied from flat tones to more vivid ones, with the original photography the reason for the lackluster hues; when allowed to shine, the colors looked pretty good. Blacks showed good depth, and shadows were usually quite well-delineated. Only a little inkiness interfered, as most of the shots were smooth and clear. Nothing here dazzled, but the movie looked fine given its era.
The modern DTS-HD MA 5.1 remix of Stripes also had some age-related flaws, but it presented a surprisingly involving and vibrant affair. Stripes was originally monaural, which meant I didn’t expect much from the new soundfield. However, it opened up matters quite well.
All five speakers presented a lot of audio, and these brought life to both street scenes and those in various military situations. Shells and bullets zipped around the room to good effect and vehicles moved neatly across the spectrum. Music also showed nice stereo delineation as well as reinforcement from the rear. None of this seemed awkward or artificial, as the soundfield blended well.
Audio quality occasionally showed its age, mostly due to the speech stems. Those could sound stiff and reedy, and they also showed some edginess, particularly during the mud wrestling sequence. Speech was usually fine given its age, however.
On the other hand, both music and effects demonstrated strong definition. The score was bright and dynamic, while the effects seemed crisp and lively. They presented very impressive low-end and made a real impression. There was little distortion as the track showed solid fidelity. Only the relatively weak speech kept this from “A” territory; otherwise Stripes really impressed.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the 2005 DVD? Audio was comparable; the lossless track might’ve had a little more range – especially connected to the score – but it didn’t blow away the DVD’s sound.
As for visuals, the Blu-ray tended to be a bit sharper and more film-like. Stripes became an example of a movie where Blu-ray’s superior capacities revealed limitations more clearly than DVD did; the movie’s inherent softness and messiness became more obvious on Blu-ray. It still offered the superior presentation; there’s only so much that could be done with the source.
The Blu-ray comes with some – but not all – of the DVD’s extras. The disc presents an Extended Cut of the film. This runs a whopping 16 minutes longer than the original 106-minute version.
What extra bits fill out the extended edition? Here are the new scenes, so skip this area if you don’t want to learn about them in advance:
-John talks about his how he thinks the Army will be and convinces Russell to join;
-John tries to get Russell out of camp and they end up on a Special Forces mission;
-Captain Stillman challenges the squad to graduate and says he doesn’t think they’ll do it;
-Sgt. Hulka picks on John and Russell in Italy;
-John and Stella and Russell and Louise get it on in Germany;
-John talks Russell into rescuing their comrades in Czechoslovakia.
The most significant of these is the Special Forces scene. This lasts almost nine minutes and takes our heroes all the way to South America. It’s an odd scene that feels like it comes from a different movie, which is sort of true; it was originally meant for a script written for Cheech and Chong, and it doesn’t connect to Stripes at all.
The others are shorter, but I think all of them were appropriate cuts. We don’t need more of John’s attempts to get Russell into the Army, as the existing scene tells us enough. Stillman’s scene is also redundant; we get that information elsewhere and don’t need it twice. The same goes for Hulka’s bit; do we need an explanation for why he gives John crappy jobs after all their antagonism?
The other two pieces are more useful, especially since the party sequence offers plenty of skin from PJ Soles. Still, neither adds much. As a long-time fan of Stripes, it was fun to get a look at these cut pieces, but I prefer the tighter theatrical cut.
Note that some shots from the extended edition were a little lower quality than those from the theatrical version. For the most part, they blended pretty well, but the added scenes looked a little dirtier at times. Some were also notably grainier, especially the “party in Germany” sequence. Audio seemed similar for all parts of the flick, however.
To accompany the extended cut, we get an audio commentary from director Ivan Reitman and co-writer/producer Dan Goldberg. Both men sit together for a running, screen-specific chat. They mostly focus on story issues, as we learn about the deleted - and now reintegrated scenes - as well as pacing and changes from the original script. We learn the movie was first intended as a Cheech and Chong outing and see the connections to that concept. We also hear about locations, casting, improvisation, working with the military, the score and many specifics related to the shoot.
Though the commentary proves generally satisfying, it doesn’t achieve greatness. Some dead spots occur, and Reitman has an annoying tendency to get the era incorrect; he occasionally refers to shooting the flick in 1982. Nonetheless, I learned a lot about the movie in this mostly entertaining and compelling track.
Presented in two parts, a documentary called Stars and Stripes fills a total of 55 minutes and 41 seconds. It presents movie clips, archival materials, and interviews with Reitman, Goldberg, actor/co-writer Harold Ramis, and actors Bill Murray, Judge Reinhold, John Larroquette, Sean Young, PJ Soles, and John Diehl. They discuss the film’s genesis and development as a Cheech and Chong effort, the change from that to a Murray project, the cast, Murray’s impact on the set and the partnership with Ramis, improvisations, Warren Oates’ work and the Hulka/John interaction, John Candy’s work, locations and the involvement of the Army, various combinations of actors and their contrasting styles, and specifics of shooting some scenes.
Given its length, I had high hopes that “Stars” would present a rich look at the film’s creation. Unfortunately, it’s not terribly informative. On one hand, it’s good to hear from some of the actors, they provide a mix of decent stories about the shoot.
However, “Stars” includes way too many movie clips, and a lot of the content repeats from the commentary. In addition, we hear a fair amount of praise, and Murray’s interview is a big disappointment. He says very little and only pops up a few times. “Stars” becomes reasonably entertaining at times, but I don’t feel like it tells us a whole lot.
Lastly, Previews includes trailers for Bad Teacher and 30 Minutes or Less. No trailer for Stripes appears here.
That marks a change from the 2005 DVD, as it included the Stripes trailer. The Blu-ray also drops the theatrical cut of the film, which is a shame. As I noted earlier, I prefer the shorter version, so it stinks that we can only view the longer one. The Blu-ray also drops the collection of deleted scenes found on the DVD, but that makes sense; all those cut sequences show up in the Extended Cut, so they’re unnecessary here.
One of the strongest comedies from the Eighties, Stripes occasionally shows its age. However, it boasts an excellent cast, strong performances, and a lot of laughs. The Blu-ray offers generally positive picture and audio along with a few useful supplements. This release could be better, but it becomes a mostly satisfying rendition of a fun movie.
To rate this film, visit the original review of STRIPES