Dirty Dancing (Ultimate Edition)
Picture: B- Sound: B+
Extras: A- Film: B-
What was it with the boom
of dance movies during the 1980’s? I
suppose the phenomenon was as short lived as the high school-related movies
that also filled the decade, but the dance movies still have a following from
those still living with that sense of escapism.
Flashdance (1983), Footloose (1984), and of course Dirty Dancing (1987) would become
symbols of this generation that would almost transform the Musical Genre into a
dramatic narrative with musical numbers.
The result is certainly mixed, but few can ignore the popularity of
these films even after all these years.
MTV had something to do with it, but that is another essay.
Dirty Dancing would put Patrick Swayze into his most memorable role of his career
only to be rivaled by Ghost (1990)
just a few years later. He would be an
icon of sensuality that would make those that quivered for John Travolta is
Saturday Night Fever once again get the shivers. Jennifer Grey was catapulted to fame and
would never achieve that status again and has since done mostly made-for-TV
material. Director Emile Ardolino would
only do a few other films before his death in 1993 of AIDS including Three Men and a Little Lady (1990) and Sister Act (1992).
A slight movie recap…
It’s the summer of 1963
and 17-year old ‘Baby’ is on vacation with her conservative parents at a resort
where she quickly becomes attracted to the hotels dance instructors. He represents all the experience in the
world, as she is the absolute opposite. Together they have chemistry and soon
they find their regular dance sessions leading to more than just the
So what’s the message
anyway? Dancing leads to sex? Dancing leads to absence of purity? Or is this just a coming-of-age film from a
female perspective, which happens to revolve around dancing? Take away the dance scenes and we have a
pretty flat love story, but their conviction is at least real. This is a prime example of filmmaking 101, so
luckily most of its audience is not really interested in that. Ever cliché in the book is used to a perfect
T and the music covers up most of the sappiness.
Artisan is become
notorious for constant reissues on the DVD format, but the one positive thing
about this is that they do a better job with each attempt. Consumers are found beating themselves silly
when they find out that yet another issue of Stargate or Terminator 2
are on the market, but for certain technical reasons these re-issues can be necessary
to some degree.
The biggest question at
hand with the Ultimate Edition of Dirty
Dancing is what are the improvements from the Special Edition from Artisan
as well as the Live edition that was released as a basic only version back in
the early days of the DVD format. Yes,
this makes for the third DVD issue of this film, but indeed this is the best
thus far. Is this worth paying a few
extras bucks for? What if you have the
previous DVD and are thinking about upgrading?
Here are some considerations.
The main improvements are
in the soundtrack and the image transfer.
First we have the inclusion this time of a DTS audio track, which is
actually a DTS-ES Discrete mix, which upgrades from the basic Dolby 5.1 mix that
was on both the Live and initial Artisan issue.
Even that Dolby mix on this Ultimate Edition has been remixed with an EX
(sixth channel) to coincide with the ES for DTS. Perhaps the smartest move on Artisans behalf
was re-issuing this film just for those improvements simply because this is a
music powerhouse film with songs like Be
My Baby, Do You Love Me, Stay, In The Still of the Night, and of course the movies biggest hits She’s Like the Wind and (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life. Music titles receive the biggest benefit from
DTS audio delivering with more clarity, control, depth, fidelity, and the list
goes on. Songs need to be heard in the
best format possible, so any improvements in the soundtrack are rightly
This new mix certainly
adds a whole new dimension to the film.
Comparing this new edition to both the basic Live version and Artisan
version, plus even the Dolby EX mix on this edition, the DTS is a clear winner
in all aspects. The DTS-ES Discrete mix
offers a very spacious, solid, and penetrating mix that makes the other mixes
sound faint, confined, and mostly pathetic in all aspects. The music does not have the dimension that it
deserves that only the DTS-ES mix gives.
Now there are several problems still with this mix and that is that it
can be a little too spacious at times almost making it sound a tad thin, but
that’s getting a bit picky. There is no
doubt that part of this comes from trying to take an older film that had a less
state-of-the-art sound design and make it sound newer, louder, and more prominent.
Purists can stick with the 2.0 Dolby Digital that is also provided.
So let’s say that you are
not that interested in the upgrades in picture and sound, but are curious about
the extras here. Well, this Ultimate
Edition features two commentary tracks starting with one from
writer/co-producer Eleanor Bergstein, who fills us in on more of the
development of the movie from a writers standpoint and of course the overall
producing of the film, which would include how it came about and what a success
it has been since. Those more interested
in the dancing portion of the film will enjoy the second audio commentary with
Kenny Ortega (choreographer), Miranda Garrisson (assistant choreographer and
actress in the film), Jeff Jur (Director of Photography), Hilary Rosenfeld
(costume designer), and David Chapman (production designer). The first of these commentary tracks is the
same as on the earlier release from Artisan.
That earlier disc also
featured the music videos for She’s Like
the Wind, Hungry Eyes, and (I’ve Had) the Time of My Life, which
are also on the Ultimate Edition. The
only other extra that is similar is the live concert version of Dirty Dancing,
but new to this are the screen test of Jennifer Grey plus her intro to the film
and interview. There are also interviews
for Miranda Garrison, Kenny Ortega, and Eleanor Bergstein. A tribute for Emile Ardolino makes for a very
thoughtful segment, as is the Trivia Track, which die-hard fans will enjoy for
sure. It’s probably safe to say that
based on the demographic nature of this film that the extras here will most
likely be worth the upgrade to most.
Artisan has been one of
the few companies that is adamant about keeping their product fresh and even
though they keep re-issuing titles, they are getting better each time. Certain titles like Dirty Dancing, which is an evergreen title that brings in money no
matter what. Let’s hope that Artisan
keeps with this tradition and delivers the same quality on some of their other
titles like Made, Requiem for a Dream, Pi, Stir of Echoes, in addition to more recent films that did not
receive the highest treatment at the time of their initial release. Going back and doing High-Definition
transfers for these titles and upgrading the audio to DTS/DTS-ES would be an
investment worth looking into. What some
companies fail to realize is that there is a large audience out there concerned
about the audio/visual realm, while others are more interested in extras and
then some want both. Luckily this one
delivers to both sides and is fair about both.
While this might still not be a reference disc for its presentation, but
it certainly has new life for home viewing.
- Nate Goss