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Dirty Dancing – 30th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Dirty-DancingIn Lionsgate’s vault, as with any other studio, there are some titles that just do good business for them.  Lionsgate, of course inherited the Artisan library and Vestron Pictures one when it was in its infancy.  Dirty Dancing is one of their staples on the home video market and with the 30th anniversary of the film’s release upon us, its no surprise that a new edition is coming.  This marks (In the US alone) the fourth iteration of the Partick Swayze / Jennifer Grey dance classic on home video.  While, yea, its always a cash grab, Lionsgate has at least added new supplements (In one previous iteration a new transfer) to make it not just be a new cover.  With them having a Vestron Video label (primarily mirroring the Scream Factory model) and Dirty Dancing originally being a Vestron Pictures release, I thought it would have been fun to have done a Vestron Collector’s Series with this one, siding up to the likes of Return of the Living Dead 3 and Chopping Mall.  But alas, it was not to be.  Those Hungry Eyes settled for just an updated regular Blu-ray line of release.

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Film 

The summer of 1963. Innocent 17-year-old Baby vacations with her parents at a Catskill’s resort.  One evening she is drawn to the staff quarters by stirring music.  There she meets Johnny, the hotel dance instructor, who is as experienced as Baby is naive.  Baby soon becomes Johnny’s pupil, in dance and love.

There’s no denying that Dirty Dancing is one of the most iconic films of the 1980s.  With a television miniseries adaptation, its obviously also still very popular enough and relevant today.  Iconography and years of obsessive viewing and fandom can lead to a film’s detriment as well.  Many people who haven’t actually seen Dirty Dancing, probably feel like they already have just from its place in pop culture and numerous conversation and celebration over the years.  Legendary films like Saturday Night Fever, Jaws and Rocky also carry that distinguished labeling.

What many will miss, is that beyond the music, beyond the quotable lines, beyond the montages, beyond the Swazye…Dirty Dancing is actually a pretty strong film in its own right.  Showing progressive values, avoiding cliched romantic comedy and drama motifs, building believable relationships and displaying a talent for dance choreography with filmmaking, its surprisingly a better and smarter movie than its really ever takes credit for.  This movie is better than reciting “Nobody puts baby in a corner” to your friends and snickering.

Slipping past many that don’t know the film very well (And likely some of its biggest fans, too) is what actually sets the film’s plot off into motion and why everything is happening in this movie in the first place.  A back alley abortion is the crux of Dirty Dancing.  Its everything to it.  And its during both a time in the film and it’s release where this subject is completely taboo (Sadly, still is today).  You have the early 1960s and then the Reagan 80s.  Its incredible this film broke through and became the popular movie it is today with this whole story intact.  What’s interesting too is that, while the film makes light that its not something of an approved action, it sorta goes casual over the whole thing, especially when they could have had Jerry Orbach’s Jake Houseman give a lecture or go on a tirade about it.

One of the hindsight things that people poke fun at the movie for is that Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze) is much older than Baby and their hook up is statutory rape.  While Swayze was 34 at the time they shot the film, he’s playing a 25 year old.  Baby is 17 in the film.  That’s an 8 year difference. In real life the actors were roughly 7 years apart. Also in real life, couple Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively have an 11 year difference.  But she’s 17? Well, age of consent differs by state, with many of them citing 16 as the age.  I feel really odd writing about this in my Dirty Dancing review, but I was curious as to whether this poke of fun or disgust at the movie holds any merit.  And really, it doesn’t at all.

Let’s get back to something more fun with the film. The soundtrack.  I love that the score plays as one big build up to “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” rocking out in the finale.  There is a lot weighing on that Academy Award winning song to be great. I mean, what if the song was a complete failure?  This film almost predicates and gambles hard on this song carrying its finale. The dancing is one thing, but if the song you made for the film is bad, then this movie spins out of control and crashes.  Luckily, everybody know this damn song now and you can’t not hear it or see something from the movie and think about it.

Dirty Dancing‘s tunes didn’t stop there though.  The movie starts out by pulling on nostalgia strings and playing hits of the oldies.  But, the way they are used in the film sheds a new light to them and gives them a different appeal when put with dancing and visuals not really associated with those songs prior.  Not only does it have those songs, but it bounces out newer, modern hits like “Hungry Eyes” and “She’s Like the Wind”.  These very 80s sounding songs are woven in such away your forget to question why the hell 80s music is leading the charge of a film set in the 1960s.  Which, I also want to point out that both Johnny Castle and Marty McFly share the distinction of 1980s protagonists in the past that save the day by playing songs that came from the future.

Performance-wise, the movie is solid.  Jennifer Grey is a bit rough around the edges here, but it works for her part.  Cynthia Rhodes turns in some awesome work here, while looking absolutely on fire in the film.  While the movie isn’t anything to write home about, she was good in Staying Alive and continues to bring that even more here.  Patrick Swayze, the more I revisit his older work, the more I see that I didn’t appreciate him enough while he was around.  This is probably his most iconic role, and it goes beyond teen girl crushes and the movie’s popularity.  He’s damn good.  Swayze has a role that might’ve been weak on paper, but elevates it into a fully function, completely 3-dimensional and real to life character.  Not to mention that the man has skills as a dancer and musician to boot.  This movie truly encapsulates all his talents at once.

While I give Swayze some credit over the script, I need to give due diligence to the writing.  It avoids pitfalls and traps of romance movies at every turn.  This screenplay allows for characters to act as adults and to just be kids and adults and not invoke silly, unwarranted developments and B-plots for the sake of “drama”.  What I really appreciate is that there is no love triangle between Baby, Johnny and Penny. You feel that this is exactly where the film is headed.  But, no, they are allowed to just be friends. There is no jealousy from Penny and when Baby shows up at Penny’s after a fight with Johnny and he’s there its just accepted that he went to talk about it with his close friend.

Eleanor Bergstein’s script features many more of these elements and we truly should look to and respect Dirty Dancing for not once falling into that trap and allowing the characters to make human and decent decisions rather than ones that could just create more obnoxious drama.  With character, Johnny is also that “bad boy” type, but Bergstein allows him to be human, reveal his insecurities and really show that what Baby saw was just an image that she crafted and not him. Bergstein’s screenplay allows for a sole focus on our characters, their relationship and the challenges to move the one simple plot toward the finish line.

Among all the things I’ve just analyzed, Dirty Dancing is still a cute and fun movie.  Its lasting qualities and constant watching have allowed us to flow into nostalgia for goofier moments, overuse of lines we’ve heard over and over and maybe pulling things out of context to look or sound funny.  Truth be told, its also a better film than you probably think it is.  While there are images, songs, moments, lines we remember, the film itself is good enough to hold its title as one of the most iconic of the 1980s.  I was very young when the movie came out, but its one I never really forgot even though I’ve seen it a mere handful of times and not very often.  The soundtrack was ingrained in my brain as well as many of the dance moments.  Its a film standing the test of time and garnering new fans with each passing year, and deservedly so.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail:  No new transfer was done for this 30th anniversary Blu-ray edition of Dirty Dancing. This is the same one featured on the second Blu-ray release (Limited Keepsake Edition) that was also packed with Havanna Nights in 2-pack in 2012.  The transfer is really fine as it is.  Its not remarkable, but its not even close to awful.  The film itself has a bit of a soft touch to it that is never going away.  Details are pretty strong and its got a good natural overall look to it.  For a film like Dirty Dancing, this transfer will do.

Depth: Not the greatest depth work here, but its enough to have solid separation of character and background.  Movements are cinematic with a very minimal amount of blur.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and pull a little more grain with their shadowing.  Unfortunately some detail is lost in darker sequences and on darker surfaces and clothing.  No crushing was witnessed during this viewing.

Color Reproduction:  Colors have a more natural look to them.  Nothing really pops out too much, garnering a restrained dimmer appeal.  Some reds will stand out here and there, but overall the colors do their part to not make a spectacle of themselves.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural and maintain a consistent look throughout the film.  Facial details are more discernible and full in close-up shots.  Medium shots tend to range from okay to a little smooth.

Noise/Artifacts:  Some light grain.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 7.1 DTS-HD MA, English 5.1 Dolby Digital EX

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics:  Dirty Dancing comes with a bit excessive 7.1 track.  I’m not against this kind of reimagining of audio, but it really doesn’t prove itself any worth in the long run.  The mix is passable, but I wanted this thing to burst open at different parts where it didn’t.  When Baby discovers the underground dirty dancing gather at the beginning its nice and loud, but no other numbers really hit that.  I was wanting the finale to be much more loud and pounding, but it wound up being a bit of a pedestrian “okay”.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  There is some oompf, but I was really wanting more from it.  Especially during the songs.

Surround Sound Presentation:  This is a real front heavy track.  Not much use or creativity is put to the rear and side channels.  Movements are accurately displayed.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is all right.  At times a little low, but clear and clean for the most part.

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Extras 

Dirty Dancing – 30th Anniversary Edition comes with the DVD edition and UltarViolet Digital copy of the film.

Audio Commentary

  • With Writer/Co-Producer Eleanor Bergstein
  • With Kenny Ortega, Miranda Garrison, Jeff Jur, Hilary Rosenfeld and David Chapman

Happy Birthday, Dirty Dancing (HD, 29:19) – A mix of set interviews from the cast with present day interviews of cast from the upcoming TV mini-series reminiscing what made the movie great for them.

Patrick Swayze: In His Own Words (HD, 12:52) – An interview with Patrick Swayze, who goes deep into his contributions on Dirty Dancing as well as a little background of his upbringing.

Eleanor Bergstein: Thoughts on a Lifetime of Dirty Dancing (HD, 6:40) – The writer/co-producer talks the film’s legacy as well as certain aspects of making it and  goes into details on the stage play.

Patrick Swayze Uncut (HD, 13:34) – The rest of the interview that the “In His Own Words” segment was taken from.  Interview was his last conducted strictly about Dirty Dancing in 2006.

Featurettes

  • Dirty Dancing: The Phenomenon (SD, 13:45) 
  • The Rhythm of the Dancing (SD, 4:08) 

Music Videos

  • Hungry Eyes (SD, 3:54) 
  • She’s Like the Wind (SD, 3:59) 
  • (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life (SD, 4:51) 

Cast & Crew Interviews

  • Jennifer Grey (SD, 11:14)
  • Eleanor Bergstein (SD, 18:38) 
  • Miranda Garrison (SD, 13:19) 
  • Kenny Ortega (SD, 15:23) 

Deleted Scenes (SD, 11:53)

Extended Scenes (SD, 7:50) 

Alternate Scenes (SD, 2:40) 

Screen Tests & Outtakes

  • Jennifer Grey Screen Test Comparisons – Baby Blackmails Lisa, Baby Confronts Dad
  • Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey Screen Text Montage
  • Outtakes (SD, :38)

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Summary 

Dirty Dancing turns the dirty 30, but is this edition worth dumping your previous edition, or doubling up?  I’m not sure.  If you’ve never owned it, now’s the time.  They’ve managed to craft new extras, then port over some, but not all.  What’s here feels complete enough for someone who’s never owned it.  Audio and video-wise this is the same transfer from the second Blu-ray release (Limited Keepsake Edition).  Depends on if you’ve whether you’re a fan who has “Hungry Eyes” or the casual viewer who has “never felt this way before”.

The link below is for the deluxe edition, since no link populated for the standard edition of the 30th anniversary Blu-ray release (Which is what this review covered)

Dirty-Dancing-Blu-ray

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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).

1 Response to “Dirty Dancing – 30th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. DAVID

    Hi, sorry for my bad English, could you tell me if the songs are subtitled in English? I do not mean the dialogues, I mean the songs that appear in the movie. If you would notify my email you would make me very happy.