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Eddie And The Cruisers / Eddie And The Cruisers II: Eddie Lives! – Double Feature (Blu-ray Review)

Eddie-And-The-Cruisers-Double-FeaturePrior to this review, I don’t have any history with the Eddie And The Cruisers duology.  I know the first film was a $5.99 – $9.99 bargain bin/sale rack staple back when it was on DVD.  It was a about a band, but other than that I was clueless.  There was also the surprise that this movie had a sequel.  Things started to come together a little bit when I watched the films.  For example, I was always wondering why Michael Pare is someone who is name checked in press releases from movies.  Like, what did he do that he’s an added value element?  Turns out that these movies are a big part of that.  Well, thanks to this new double feature Blu-ray from Shout! Factory, I’m all caught up on the Cruiser lore.  And I must say I’m really digging Shout!’s dedication to these double features in 2015.  Lots of fun to be had!

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Eddie And The Cruisers (1983)

They say rock ‘n’ roll never dies, but one dark night in 1963, Eddie Wilson’s car took a dive off a Jersey bridge with the troubled rock idol at the wheel. His body was never found.  Twenty years after the lead singer of “Eddie and the Cruisers” disappeared, the band’s songs are hotter than ever. And renewed interest in the band leads TV reporter Maggie Foley to pursue a tantalizing mystery: what if Eddie is still alive?

Eddie And The Cruisers is very much a cult classic in every way.  The film had high expectations, hoping to be big in the 80s teen market with a throwback to 60s rock.  It both bombed and was reviled by critics.  The blame is put on being released during the time kids were going back to school.  The movie would be discovered, running constantly on HBO.  Sneaking up on everyone was a year later, one of the songs from the film, “On The Dark Side” started getting heavy play and climbed the charts.  Suddenly, the soundtrack was selling like hotcakes.  Was it now Eddie’s time?  1984 thought so and rereleased the film only to have it fail again.

The film itself is a well acted, decent little rock and roll movie with a bit of mystery to it.  Its solid, but its exactly that type of HBO or TNT movie that you just sort watch to be watching and its enjoyable enough.  Michael Pare is actually quite terrific here and a full embodiment of his character.  Unlike its sequel, this one has other notable actors as Tom Berenger and Ellen Barkin serve primarily as the leads.

But, how’s the music?  Its catchy and good enough to have this movie work.  To sum up the sounds in short, Eddie & The Cruisers are basically the poor man’s Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band.  There’s no getting around that.  There are some good tunes, but nothing outstanding or extremely timeless like the band they are so desperately trying to sound like.  Pare really works as a front man.  And while a lot of the band drama is cliche, its doing it well enough that its not bothersome and actually interesting.

Eddie’s mystery is of the page turner variety that keeps you interested in each new development.  And I have to say I really like how the film ends the first time.  It all comes undone though with an early credits reveal that is deflating.  Considering the title of the 26 year old part II is “EDDIE LIVES!” I don’t think discussing this is too much of a spoiler.  Its not that I wanted someone to be dead and stay dead, but its a nice perspective on people reluctance to part with rock stars once they’ve left us.  If they keep the end that Eddie isn’t alive, but find the music, its a nice commentary on those that struggled on things like Elvis’ death and still think they see him everywhere or swear he is just living somewhere.  That statement is bold and a bit blunt, but somewhat of a harsh reality.  However, this film doesn’t believe in it.

Eddie And The Cruisers was a solid little movie.  I wouldn’t say its anything great, but its something I’d definitely venture back to.  Its got some fun and a nostalgia for the rock band aspect of the 1960s.  The film is also one that I think can spark a nice little discussion while also being musically pleasing enough.

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Eddie And The Cruisers II: Eddie Lives! (1989)

At the height of fame, rock legend Eddie Wilson (Paré) drove his car into the river and disappeared from the limelight. Twenty years later, his band Eddie and the Cruisers is hotter than ever. Posing as construction worker, Eddie has maintained a quiet life in Canada.  But his relentless desire to make music pulls him back to the stage where he forms a new band and an even hotter sound. Meanwhile, to cash in on the revived interest in the band, record executives release an Eddie and the Cruisers “lost tapes” album and promote a worldwide search for the mysterious rocker. As his new band hits center stage, Eddie finally faces the past – his way.

Who’s the real star of this movie, Michael Pare or his dynamite mustache?

First off, you have to give this movie a ridiculous conceit that 20 years later, people would still have this huge craze for Eddie And The Cruisers.  That there is this MANIA for a band that really didn’t make much of a peep 20 years prior, but is allllll the rage now.  Here’s another thing the movie doesn’t even brush upon; faking your death is ILLEGAL.  Cool, Eddie is alive!  Now handcuff him and send him to jail!

While those were some outside things going on in my mind, this movie has its own world and plays by those rules (Of which my concerns have no merit).  This movie is entertaining for both its concept and for a lot of the wrong reasons.  I like Michael Pare’s character’s sort of battle with himself, his past and returning to his passion.  However, a lot of this is done with plenty of 80s bravado.  Don’t worry folks, you’re in for plenty of montages here.  And montages that really make no sense and progress nothing.  Its kind of a riot.

The music in this one graduates to Bruce Springsteen’s Born In The USA album in terms of style and genre.  Once again, its good enough to get you on board with it and have you forgetting about when you wake up the next morning.  Pare was sort of a side character in the last movie, but he’s front and center here to carry this movie, and once again he is nothing but Joe West/Eddie Wilson.  I’m sure he’d be done for Eddie & The Cruisers III: I’m Sure Tom Berenger Will Come Back This Time.  The man really digs and is nothing but the trouble musician.

This sequel is a step down from the previous one, not a big step, but notable.  Its pretty damn cheesy while stringing together some nice ideas that aren’t executed to any sort of expertise.  This all manages to work out and deliver in the very end though.  Somehow, as sloppy or clumsy as the road is getting to the final concert, the stakes actually feel quite present and the outcome works on a higher level than the rest of the movie.  Oh and OF COURSE this ends on a freeze frame, it wouldn’t run the whole 80s gamut without it!

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail:  These films both have a pretty similar look to them even if their aesthetics are a bit different.  The image is sharp enough with some areas of what looks like softness from just the way it was shot.  Detail is pretty good on instrument surfaces and things like wood grain and clothing fabric.

Depth:  Dimensional work is pretty average.  Movements are smooth, separation of person and environment is ok, just not very loose like.

Black Levels:  Blacks are solid and strong.  They hide a bit of detail when used as an article of clothing or hair color.

Color Reproduction:  Reds stick out pretty good.  Strong without bleeding.  Browns are also pretty bold in this picture.  Most of the colors look nice, accurate and have a nice mild degree of pop to them.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural and consistent.  Some flickering in scene transitions, but its very minimal.  Close ups looks impressive and the detail gets lesser as the camera pulls back.  Overall looks very nice.

Noise/Artifacts: A nice layer of grain is accompanied with some minimal specs/dirt throughout.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics:  Things such as effects, voice and score sound pretty nice in this 2.0 track.  But what these movies have in common is that the music sounds outstanding.  Shout! seems to know that’s what people are coming for and they do not disappoint.  While this may be a little 2.0 track, it delivers a BIG sound and fills your room like you’re at a rock concert.  Instrumentation is discernible and the tracks feature plenty of wonderful dynamics that make both films audio tracks the highlight of this release.

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is clean and clear.  Singing vocals sound crisp and rich.

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Extras 

The reverse side of the cover has additional promotional photos/art.

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Trailer (HD, 2:02)

Eddie And The Cruisers II: Eddie Lives!

Trailer (HD, 3:03)

Behind The Scenes (HD, 10:26) – Some old video footage of shooting the arena concert.  Camera is in the pit area in front of the stage.

Interview – Larry Stessel – CBS/EPIC (SD, 5:06) – An older interview that looks to be from around the time of the movie.  He mainly is promoting the soundtrack.

Interview – Johnny Musso (SD, 3:44) – Another, what looks to be, exec talking about the success of the music from the film.

Interview – Tony Scotti – Scott Bros (SD, 12:27) – The guy from the record company who put this music together fluffs the film and the music.

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Summary 

Both Eddie and the Cruisers movies make for a nice little complete story as strange as it is that the first one has a sequel.  But, somehow it manages to work enough.  These Blu-ray come with some solid audio and a really impressive 2.0 track that not only keeps the theatrical experience intact, but manages to make the music really sound alive and present.  There are some throwaway extras that look to be ported over from a previous release.  As Eddie Wilson would tell you though, its not about those extra things, its about the music.  Definitely an upgrade for fans.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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