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Category:    Home > Reviews > Musicals > Dirty Dancing - Ultimate Edition (DTS DVD)

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 two-step. 


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 justified. 


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


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