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Shag (Blu-ray Review)

Shag was a film that came out to really no big fanfare in 1989. While it had critical praise, even from Roger Ebert ( “It has a charm based on its innocence, its conviction … the actors in Shag are some of the best of the younger generation in Hollywood, and they treat their material with the humor and delicacy it deserves.”), it didn’t catch with audience and made not a blip on the box office radar. It found its life on home video, though controversially it had two releases. Apparently there were some music rights issues with it and they had to replace songs. Its coming from Olive Films to Blu-ray here on June 27th. I can confirm that the cut of the film is being used for the release IS the theatrical one with the original songs. Olive Films has reached to me to and informed me they were able to put that version out. A version which hasn’t been seen in maybe 20 some years!

Film 

Some young girls are on the loose in Myrtle Beach circa 1963. Carson McBride, who’s counting down the days until her wedding, and Melaina Buller, the capricious daughter of a preacher, will sneak away from home along with friends Caroline Carmichael and Luanne Clatterbuck for big time fun and “shag” dancing on the south coast. Through romantic entanglements, broken hearts and some of life’s hard truths, these friends are in it for the long haul.

In 1987, Dirty Dancing came out and took the world by storm. That film has a legacy that still goes on strong today. In 1989, Shag came and wanted to do the same thing. But, nobody cared and nobody went to see it. Its like Dirty Dancing without adults and without the real cajones to say anything, the incredible soundtrack or the campiness to make legendary moments. Its very safe and very plain. Though that’s not to say it isn’t enjoyable.

Shag was a movie that I didn’t ever notice around the video stores until after Austin Powers came out. And then I was like “WOAH, what is this?” But, its referring to dancing. While there is a dance contest and whatnot in this, that’s the focus at all. Its just some girls liberating themselves a bit more in the 1960s. Its nice, but it doesn’t do anything to really set itself apart. All the characters and all the arcs are things we’ve seen done countless times before. Its almost like it was pieced together out of a hat carrying character types, arcs and conflicts consistently used.

When it came to seeing this pop up for a review, I couldn’t turn down something with Phoebe Cates in it . She’s a figured I sure miss seeing in the pictures, but at least we have the 80s, right? She’s fine in this movie and never really tries to rise above the rest of the cast, settling in and becoming one with the ensemble. Robert Rusler playing bad boy dreamboat is pretty fun. Its also fun to see a super young Bridget Fonda and Annabeth Gish come of age as well.

If you’re a fan of Dirty Dancing, Shag is something that you’ll probably find and be okay with. Though, I wonder if there are Shag fans that argue its better than the Swayze/Grey film. This has those classic music cues, doomed relationships and going against the norm just like it. On its own, I really find it harmless, but its also just really forgettable too.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-25

Clarity/Detail: Shag comes with a pretty nice transfer that really carries a nice filmic look akin to an appearance coming from a projector. There’s a hair of a little flicker a big, but its not distracting and really complimentary of the image. It features strong colors and a decently detailed image in some good closeup shots and the like. This isn’t going to knock anyone’s socks off, but its far from problematic and a pretty solid presentation and likely the best this film has ever looked.

Depth:  Spacing and such looks very nice and some of the interiors show some good 3 dimensional work to them as it has an average push back look. Movements are smooth and cinematic with minimal blur or jitter with frantic movements.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and pretty rich. For the most part things are okay, but some hair, shadows and darkened surfaces and clothing do miss a bit of detail. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: Colors are pretty strong while hold a reigned in sense of restraint. Greens, reds, blues, yellows and such look full and bold, but not really crazily vivid or going overboard. Naturals like browns and the like have a nice rustic charm to them.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from the start of the film all the way through to the very end. Facial features like scarring, make-up, veins, wrinkles and blemishes look pretty good in close-ups and decent in the medium shots.

Noise/Artifacts: There is a nice complimentary bit of grain with very minimal specs and dirt on the print.

Audio 

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

Subtitles: English

Dynamics:  Shag features a rock solid stereo track that has a healthy balance between the score, vocals and sound effect work in the film. Everything is loose and free from one another. What really works out the best is the music as all the instrumentation is well represented, discernible by the individual part and overall sounding good and everpresent. Ambiance may be a tad on the weak end, but overall this thing sounds just find.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are good and clear with good clarity. Some of the ADR sounds a bit obvious and quiet moments are a bit quiet, but they are still crisp sounding.

Extras 

Trailer (HD, 2:34)

Summary 

Yup, this is the knock off Dirty Dancing. And its not really even half the film that is, but its just kinda okay for the most part. This Blu-ray features a solid look and sound to it. No extras are anywhere to be found, though I think a retrospective on this movie would have been really fun. Oh well. At a low price this one isn’t too bad for fans to upgrade on.

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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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