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Up In Smoke – 40th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray Review)

In 1978, Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong made their feature film debut in UP IN SMOKE, the outrageously funny classic inspired by their now legendary comedy routines of the early ‘70s.  Following massive success with over 10 million comedy albums sold, four Grammy nominations and a win for Best Comedy Recording for “Los Cochinos,” Cheech and Chong took Hollywood by storm when UP IN SMOKE became a smash hit, establishing the pair as the reigning comedy duo of a new generation.  Today, the film still has viewers rolling in the aisles and maintains surprising cultural relevance four decades after its original release. Paramount will be celebrating the anniversary of the film but lighting up a fresh new Blu-ray release of the film with some all new bonus materials. You’ll be able to have it with plenty time to get ready for 4/20 when the it release on April 10th.

Film 

An unemployed pot-smoking slacker and amateur drummer, Anthony Stoner ditches his strict parents and hits the road, eventually meeting kindred spirit Pedro de Pacas. While the drug-ingesting duo is soon arrested for possession of marijuana, Anthony and Pedro get released on a technicality, allowing them to continue their many misadventures and ultimately compete in a rock band contest, where they perform the raucous tune “Earache My Eye.”

Despite your opinion of Up In Smoke, the fact remains that Cheech and Chong’s theatrical debut is a landmark for the comedy genre. Before this film, there was no such thing as the “stoner comedy”. I mean, in an unintentionally hilarious way Reefer Madness existed. But, having something to just casual flaunt marijuana and other drug usage and paint it in a more positive light was unheard of prior to this. I’m looking forward to a time where a movie being risque like this seems even sillier in a similar way to looking back at the prohibition era.

While probably not the first, its definitely one of the more notable road trip comedies as well. Cheech and Chong take their act on a journey to go play at a battle of the bands contest. Along the way, making stops, they pick up people and commit certain hijinx. All the while, they are followed by Stacy Keach, who certain plays a straight copy on a mission to great degree of hilarity. Since the film is full of sketch bits and little dialogue fun, its a good structure to go by to change the scenery while pulling off a dialogue driven comedy.

Critics certainly weren’t on board with the film when it came out but it sure lent itself some audience love and a lasting impact on the world. The film toked in a big 44 million dollars in the US on a little 2 million dollar budget. The duo had seen success with their stand up act and comedy albums, but the 1978 truly launched them into stardom. Becoming one of the most notable cinematic duos, the pair would make 7 films together, while also cameo’ing as their stoner avatars in Yellow Beard and Martin Scorsese’s After Hours.

Up In Smoke remains a significant launch for the two. Its a little bit a product of its time, but the chemistry of the comedians is pretty perfect and still feels kinetic and fresh. Some of the later movies would add more than just marijuana jokes (Which, in the films defense, were something new in a feature film at the time). Its a nice movie, that sorta drags, but is fun enough to warrant a visit from time to time.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Cheech and Chong’s Up In Smoke comes to Blu-ray after 40 years with a pretty nice looking and fresh transfer. Paramount certainly put some effort into making this look quality. The image is clear and crisp with plenty of good detail and texture throughout. There are some SD supplment showing clips from the film and you can see how big of a jump this was to Blu-ray.

Depth:  The image has some good foreground and background separation and depth to it. Movements are free and cinematic with no real distortion issue to report.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and feel pretty complimentary of what the intended presentation was to be. For the most part, details hold strong in dark areas of hair, clothing and surfaces as well as scenes that are darkly lit.

Color Reproduction: Up In Smoke is a very 1970s looking film, so it doesn’t really load itself with colors that pop. Red is really the only one that comes across strong. Although the browns and yellow do look very nice and it all upholds a naturally feel for the time very well.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent throughout the duration of the film. Facial features are pretty strong in medium and close up shots with relatively no smoothness intruding.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, French Mono Dolby Digital, Spanish Mono Dolby Digital, Portuguese Mono Dolby Digital, English Audio Description

Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese

Dynamics: Up In Smoke features a very nice new 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio mix that really livens the film up. There is good balance and separation of vocals, music and effects. The music in the film gives the film a good loud bump to it. Nothing really suffers from any sort of analog sourcing issues.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: Mainly the subwoofer helps out with the musical numbers and songs that play throughout the movie.

Surround Sound Presentation: The mix is primarily focused on the front but there are some decent moments (though few) from the rear speakers. Placement and sound travel from side to side work out pretty accurately.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are pretty clear and crisp sounding with a few moments hankering back to their analog sourcing.

Extras 

Up In Smoke – 40th Anniversary Edition comes with the DVD edition and a digital copy of the film.

Audio Commentary

  • By Cheech Marin and Director Lou Adler

How Pedro Met the Man: Up In Smoke at 40 (HD, 15:15) – Cheech Marin, Tommy Chong and director Lou Adler talk about their first joints, the taboo subject of it at the time and how they decided to bring marijuana usage into the conversation. They also talk about all the things that inspired them and how they turned them into bits and used them in the movie.

Roach Clips With Optional Commentary (SD, 11:29) – Basically little deleted moments with certain lines or vocal gags that were removed from the film.

Lighting It Up: A Look Back at Up In Smoke (SD, 11:11) – The previous “look back” from the DVD edition of the film.

“Earache My Eye” Featuring Alice Bowie: Animated Music Video (SD, 5:43) 

Cheech & Chong’s “The Man Song” (SD, 2:35) 

Vintage Radio Spots

  • Up In Smoke #1 Featuring Horrendo Revolver (SD, 1:31)
  • Up In Smoke #2 Featuring Saydi Saydat (SD, 1:28)

Theatrical Trailer (SD, 3:02)

Summary 

Cheech and Chong’s Up In Smoke may be a product of its time, but there are still some chuckles to be had and freshness to it still today. Its been inspirational and we have things we say in everyday dialogue that came from the duo and we don’t ever realize it. This 40th Anniversary Blu-ray has a really nice transfer with pretty solid new interviews as well as porting over the previous bonus features. And guess what? This release is super cheap, so if you like the movie, grab it.

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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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