The Review at a Glance: ( max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Universal - 1973
MPAA Rating: PG
Feature running time: 113 minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 2.35:1
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD MA 2.0, English, French DTS 2.0, English DTS Express 2.0, English Dolby Digital 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Starring: Harrison Ford, Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Suzanne Somers, Cindy Williams, Wolfman Jack and Mackenzie Phillips
Directed by: George Lucas
Music by: Kim Fowley
Written by: George Lucas, Gloria Katz & Willard Huyck
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: May 31, 2011
"Where were you in '62?"
Showcasing then-Hollywood-newcomers Harrison Ford, Richard Dreyfuss and Ron Howard, director George Lucas weaves together the stories of a disparate group of teenagers as they struggle with adolescent rites of passage in 1962. On the night before two of them leave for college, four high school buddies cruise their small hometown finding love and mischief in this Oscar-nominated coming-of-age classic.
My Take:'American Graffiti' is one of those films that has eluded me, and by title and preconceived notion, what I saw was not what I expected. I expected a deeper portrayal of kids about to go off to college, with a more defined structure and plot. What I got out of my viewing was a film with no real plot per se, other than it being a coming of age story of four teens set on the night before leaving for college. What 'American Graffiti' did was a first, and seemed so unique back in 1973. For me, this type of film has been done many times (Dazed and Confused, Fast Times At Ridgemont High), and to see the originator of this formula was bit of a let down. Set to a great soundtrack of 50s and 60s tunes, and the back drop of the car culture and memories of George Lucas' (you know, George Lucas) youth growing up in Modesto California, 'American Graffiti' is an enjoyable watch dispite its obvious shortcomings.
Richard Dreyfuss (Jaws) plays Curt Henderson, who is unsure about leaving to go to college, and is chasing after a mysterious blond who he swears mouthed "I love you" as she drove by. Ron Howard (Happy Days, Apollo 13) is Steve Bolander, who is conflicted on leaving his high school sweetheart behind. Paul Le Mat plays John Milner, the unbeatable drag racer who gets stuck driving around Carol (Mackenzie Phillips), a 12 year old girl who keeps him in-line as he is being hunted down by Bob Falfa (Harrison Ford). Falfa wants to challenge him to a race, like a cowboy looking to become the fastest gun in the west. Finally we have Charles Martin Smith as Terry "The Toad" Fields, the geeky one of the group who finally gets his chance to be cool. He get the car (instead of his Vespa) and the girl, and has the best scene in the movie as he tries to score some liquor by asking adults to buy for him as they enter the package store. Each of these characters gets their own story arch, and are all interesting enough, but I just never felt too deeply for any of them, though I did have fun going along for the ride. I guess it might have meant a lot more in the early 70s, especially considering its loss of youth theme. Between the time it was set (1962) and the films release, Kennedy was assassinated, Vietnam was happening, and the world lost a lot of the left over innocence of the 50s.
'American Graffiti' was nominated for multiple Academy Awards including best film and director, it is also one of the American Film Institutes's top 100 Films Of All Time and won Best Motion Picture at the Golden Globes. Directed by George Lucas and produced by Francis Ford Coppola, this was their answer to a need for a commercial hit (Coppola took the job of the Godfather) for their American Zoetrope studio that they founded in 1969. 'American Graffiti' is one of the most successful independent films of all time and for people of that era and age group, it must have been much a different trip and feeling than that of a child of the 80s seeing it in 2011. I can see how it must still be a sentimental, heartwarming and nostalgic journey for so many. For me it was kinda cute and fun, but left no lasting impression.
Rated PG for mature thematic issues, sexual content, drug material and language.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
Universal delivers a decent new Blu-ray release with 'American Graffiti'. The video portion has been rumored to have some DNR or EE (edge enhancements) going on. I did not see those issues jumping out too bad, and I was looking. Things do look look a bit soft and the fine details are just not as apparent as a newer film. Granted, this is a 38 year old source, and was filmed guerrilla style with 35mm film stock and sub-par lighting conditions. Blacks meander from strong to a dark shade of Grey, and do lose some definition at times. The 35mm film grain sure does peek out as a heavy overcast above blacks, almost looking like video noise. Thankfully colors seem true to form, as do skin-tones. From what I see, this is not a mind-blowing High Definition release, but I saw no signs of clicks, pops and scratches, leading me to believe it might have been milked the best this film can be. The DTS-HD MA 2.Surround Sound, while authentic to the source, will not appease the 7.2 LFE junkies of the readership. For a stereo mix, it does fair quite well, and have decent dynamics and low end. Dialouge was never an issue, and the music of the era came across nice and clear, knowing its place in the mix when dialogue showed up on top of it. Obviously the rear channels had no activity and same with the LFE.
- (HD) U-Control: Video Commentary with Director George Lucas
- (HD) U-Control: The Music of American Graffiti
- (HD) The Making of American Graffiti
- (HD) Screen Tests
- (HD) Theatrical Trailer
- BD Live enabled
- pocket BLU Ap
Even thought I was let down by my lofty expectations of 'American Graffiti', I did enjoy the film for its nostalgia, great soundtrack and cast. I didn't find the depth I had expected, considering its place in movie history, director and producer. George Lucas' commentary suggests a new transfer, and though this is not a mind-blowing High Definition release, I saw no signs of clicks, pops and scratches, leading me to believe it might have been milked the best this film can be. I did enjoy the special features and was surprised by the usually ultra-drab Lucas' commentary. Fans of this film should get some mileage out of this release, but I recommend a rental before purchase those yet to see 'American Graffiti' .
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JVC DLA-X3 3D 1080p 3D High Definition Front Projector
Screen Innovations Solar HD 1.3 120" 2.40:1 CinemaScope Screen
Marantz AV7005 Pre/Pro
Sunfire Cinema Grand 5 200 Amplifier
Sony PS3 Slim Blu-ray Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Sunfire Cinema Ribbon Trio On-Wall (5.1)
Sunfire True Subwoofer EQ Solitaire 10"