Pump Up The Volume (Blu-ray Review)

Warner Archive Collection’s February lineup dug into a lot of very early classic Hollywood stuff, but one title stood out from the pack. 1990’s Pump Up The Volume was the most “recent” film from this month’s catalog to make its debut on Blu-ray. The Christian Slater pirate radio teen drama is a cult favorite and seems a little past due for release. Unfortunately, it doesn’t carry more than a trailer in terms of bonus materials, but having the film look and sound great finally, 22 years after it came out on DVD, is a fair compromise to have and keep from begging. Sure, it had a reissue on DVD a couple years ago, but this thing came out in 1999. Yes, it had a snap case. This arrives on Blu-ray February 23rd. And you can pre-order your copies now. You may use the paid Amazon Associates link that follows the review if you so choose.



In Arizona, an introverted and insightful teenager, Mark Hunter (Christian Slater), finds an outlet for his viewpoints through a shortwave radio. Broadcasting as “Hard Harry,” Hunter uses his pirate radio show to rant against the injustices and hypocrisies taking place in the area, and in society in general. Hunter conceals his off-air identity, but a determined student (Samantha Mathis) discovers the truth, while Principal Creswood (Annie Ross) seeks to shut down Hunter once and for all.

Pump Up The Volume has a lot of the 90s grunge angst with it before the vibe really even took off nationally (Nirvana’s Nevermind would release the following year).  Tapped in already was like director Allan Moyle would would go on to direct another 1990s grunge/alternative teen staple in that of Empire Records. This film surprisingly has a lot of that ideology, mindset and teen attitude right here before all of that would be more known.

I’d known OF this film, but I’d never seen it. The cover with Christian Slater smoldering into the camera by the microphone was a video store staple back in the day. Though I’d never seen it, if someone asked, I could tell them the cover. So were the days of the video store kid. I was intrigued to see it finally, and being very teen focused, I wondered how I might relate or see it. It certainly wouldn’t have the impact it would have on me had I watched it in my youth. However, I was stunned at what I saw that I mentioned above and that this movie actually got it right and wasn’t embarrassingly dated with the mindset in such a way that Reality Bites is a terrific movie with a cringe third act that doesn’t hold up as an adult.

There’s something nostalgic about having a pretty good late night local DJ probably is replaced by your favorite philosophic podcaster or something nowadays. But that’s drawn out here and it shows how people can gather around a cause and that youth standing up for themselves and not following the order can rile up adults. On the other side of the coin, the danger of power and people moving on your every word is given an honest tip here as well. The balance is quite nice, though the film does have you on the pro Slater side of things at the end of the day. And this is a teen film, so I’d say that’s the smart choice.

Pump Up The Volume is a pretty nifty little teen drama. There’s not a lot of “fun” going on. Its a film that is plenty dark and also wants to show you the inside of angst and deliver some youthful philosophical pondering. How deep or general it come across is beside the point as this is merely catching a moment as a time capsule for the teens of this specific time and place.


Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail:  Pump Up The Volume debuts on Blu-ray sporting a “brand new master”, which we can assume is no more than a 2K transfer at best. But it looks pretty darn good. Its a darkly set movie, but the image handles it well, with no flickering problems at all. Good contrast levels and the image is pretty crisp when well lit. Details, textures and patterns come through very well regardless of the lighting. This should be pretty satisfactory for fans.

Depth:  Decent distancing and spacing between characters, objects and environment in the frame. Some solid moments showcasing pushback. Character movements are cinematic and smooth with no motion distortion issues.

Black Levels:  This is a really dark movie, but it holds well with different shades and layering of blacks in shadows, the night and other darkness. No information that isn’t intended to be, is lost. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are pretty natural, with primary colors popping out, especially in contrast to some of the darker one. Reds, greens and the like all have a bolder, striking look but without any sort of bleed danger.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish of the film. Facial features and textures are neatly discernible from any reasonable distance in the frame. Obviously, the closer up the better.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean


Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: Pump Up The Volume comes with a 5.1 mix that is pretty good listen, though most of it winds up in the front. It showcases some good balance of effects, voice and music that allows all to naturally flow together and take the spotlight when necessary.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: Mostly the subwoofer helps add bump to some natural sound effect like doors closing and the bass of the music featured in the film.

Surround Sound Presentation: Not a whole lot to write home about from the rear channels. However there are some nice areas of ambiance. This one is mostly front heavy in its presentation. There are some big moments with police and stuff that ramp up the volume level behind, but that’s about it.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp.


Trailer (HD, 2:55)


Pump Up The Volume is a solid kickoff to 1990s teen drama and a decent film to revisit. Warner Archive Collection brings it to Blu-ray for the first time with a very good presentation. Unfortunately no extras to come by, but fans can comfortably upgrade their DVDs properly with this new Blu-ray.

This is a paid Amazon Associates link


Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com). He is also the Moderator/MC of the Live Podcast Stage and on the Podcast Awards Committee for PopCon (popcon.us). In the past 10 years at Why So Blu, Brandon has amassed over 1,500 reviews of 4K, Blu-ray and DVD titles.

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