DVD Movie Guide @ dvdmg.com
Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main


Ivan Reitman
Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, John Candy, Warren Oates, P.J. Soles, Sean Young, John Larroquette
Writing Credits:
Len Blum, Daniel Goldberg, Harold Ramis

The story of a man who wanted to keep the world safe for democracy ... and meet girls.

When John Winger (Bill Murray) loses his girlfriend, his job, and his apartment, he and his best friend (Harold Ramis) decide to join the Army. Way over their head, they eventually learn the ropes and manage to take a top-secret U.S. recreational vehicle behind the iron curtain on a road trip.

Box Office:
$10 million.
Domestic Gross
$85.300 million.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French DTS-HD MA 5.1
German DTS-HD MA 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 122 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 1/24/2012

• Audio Commentary with Director Ivan Reitman and Writer/Producer Dan Goldberg
• “Stars and Stripes” Documentary
• Previews


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.


Stripes: Extended Cut [Blu-Ray] (1981)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 10, 2015)

Bill Murray played the lead in 1979’s Meatballs, which became a pretty decent hit, and he also participated in 1980’s very popular Caddyshack, though he was a supporting character in that ensemble piece.

In 1981, Stripes gave Murray his breakout flick as a lead actor. Though the flick provided Murray ample support from many other talents, it definitely put him at the fore and became his movie to make or break. Though not as big as later efforts like Ghostbusters, Stripes did quite well and established Murray as one of the most successful Saturday Night Live alumni.

Murray plays John Winger, a cab driver whose girlfriend (Roberta Leighton) leaves him due to his lack of ambition and consistent screw-ups. His buddy Russell Ziskey (Harold Ramis) teaches English as a second language to adults; it’s a new job and he also lacks much drive. Down on his luck, John decides he and Russell need a change, so he convinces his pal that they should join the Army.

Off they head to basic training under humorless hardass Sergeant Hulka (Warren Oates). Along the way, they meet sexy MPs Stella (PJ Soles) and Louise (Sean Young), both of whom they’ll later romance. The guys also get to know squadmates like tubby Ox (John Candy), dimwitted hick Cruiser (John Diehl), stoner Elmo (Judge Reinhold), and intense Psycho (Conrad Dunn). The movie follows their training and initial deployment to Europe, most of which are played strictly for laughs.

I was 14 when Stripes came out and I always loved it as a kid and young adult. Because of that, it becomes tough to objectively critique the flick. So many of my opinions toward it are wrapped in sentiment and nostalgia that it can be difficult to view it on its own.

If I try to do so, I can see how much of Stripes now seems dated. It definitely exists as a product of its era, especially via the anarchic, anti-establishment tone that runs through much of it.

We also see loose, barely-coherent storytelling that often occurred in this sort of comedy back then. Granted, we get plenty of poorly-told flicks nowadays as well, but there’s a certain peculiar looseness to movies such as Stripes, Caddyshack and Meatballs that marks their vintage.

That said, Stripes continues to amuse. It features more funny lines and quality comedic performances than we have a right to expect. You could take the sum laughs from 10 modern comedies and not get the total found in Stripes.

Much of the humor comes from the reactions. With Murray, Ramis, Candy and the others, the flick really boasts a terrific cast, and the way they play off each other works wonderfully. Just look at Candy’s reaction to Psycho’s warning; he makes that throwaway moment hilarious.

While most of the performances stay in the realm of broadly comedic, some actual acting appears during Stripes, mainly via the interactions between Murray and Oates. I’d say that Oates is the only performer who truly “acts” on a consistent basis, as too much of Murray’s work involves loose shtick. Nonetheless, they have a few surprisingly effective dramatic scenes. No, their confrontation sequence doesn’t pack the power of a similar bit in An Officer and a Gentleman, but it fares quite well for what it is.

As often happens with this sort of movie, pacing causes some problems. The first act plods as we wait for John and Russell to actually join the Army, and the third act seems unnecessary. In his commentary, director Ivan Reitman indicates that he feels any movie about the military needs to include a war, but I disagree. Heck, the aforementioned Gentleman doesn’t have any battles but still succeeds, and the fighting sequences in Stripes seem pointless. The movie would end on an appropriate note if it concluded with graduation from basic training; anything extra makes the flick wear out its welcome.

Actually, I’ll admit that last statement’s a little extreme, as Stripes still has some funny moments during its third act. I just think the movie would work better if it developed the time during basic training a bit better. The story should have concentrated more on those elements and left out the pointless trek to Europe.

Truncated it may feel, that second act really does shine. Since I’d not seen Stripes for a good six or seven years before I watched this disc, I was disappointed to find myself a little bored during the opening scenes. However, once Russell and John meet their fellow recruits and head to camp, the movie picks up speed and becomes consistently satisfying.

Despite some complaints, I still really like Stripes. It displays a wonderful array of comedic talent who live up to their potential most of the time. It’s too inconsistent to be on the same level as comedy classics like This Is Spinal Tap or fellow Murray flicks such as Quick Change and Ghostbusters, but Stripes remains a winner.

Note that the Blu-ray presents only the movie’s extended cut. I’ll discuss the ways it alters the theatrical version in the “extras” portion of this review.

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

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