With the remake of Footloose hitting cinemas today (our review HERE), Paramount Pictures have seized the opportunity to give the original 80s classic an HD upgrade as it makes its debut on Blu-ray. The film was made in a time when MTV was in its infancy, cassette Walkmans were the must have fashion accessory and soundtrack LPs were as successful as the films they promoted. The film launched the career of Kevin Bacon and made rock singer Kenny Loggins a household name for his Oscar nominated title song that still fills dance-floors to this day.
Set in the small town of Bomont where teenager Ren (Kevin Bacon) and his family have moved from big-city Chicago. The streetwise Ren can't quite believe he's living in a place where rock music and dancing are illegal. There is one small pleasure, however: Ariel (Lori Singer), a troubled but lovely blonde with a jealous boyfriend and her father, a Bible-thumping minister, who is responsible for keeping the town dance-free. Ren and his classmates want to do away with this ordinance, especially since the senior prom is around the corner, but only Ren has the courage to initiate a battle to abolish the outmoded ban and revitalise the spirit of the repressed townspeople.
With what seems to be one of the most unlikely premises ever, I was surprised to learn that the film was actually inspired by the fascinating true story of the American town of Elmore City that imposed a ban on public dancing in the 19th Century, a ban that lasted almost 100 years only coming to an end in 1980 when the graduating students of the local high school managed to overturn the ruling to hold their senior prom.
The film is essentially a musical but rather than the characters bursting into song they express their feelings through the medium of dance accompanied by a contemporary (at the time) pop soundtrack. With songs actually written for the film to capture the mood and atmosphere of the scenes they accompany, the music becomes the voice of the characters. Footloose pretty much set the standard for the films that followed in the 80s, utilising the soundtrack album in a way that had never been done before. Using MTV to promote the film with music videos made using clips from the film, many of the songs were well known long before people even saw the movie and watching the film today its amazing to see how many of the songs used are still regularly played on radio stations and have formed a life of their own beyond the movie.
After taking small roles in National Lampoons Animal House and Diner, Kevin Bacon turned down the lead role in John Carpenters Christine to star in the film and gave him the breakout role that set in motion his remarkable career how many other actors can claim they have a game named after them (Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon)? Bacon is excellent as Ren, a sort of rebel with a cause who lives to dance. He lends the character the right level of cockiness and passion while maintaining an air of likability and encapsulating the mood of the oppressed town. Sadly the same can not be said for Lori Singer whose dead-eyed blonde is the film's weakest link. Her character, Ariel is either rebelling or dicing with death as a way of dealing with her over-bearing father and abusive boyfriend. Her attraction to Ren seems half-hearted and she does not seem to develop a great deal over the course of the movie. Ren is so ardent on overthrowing the towns ban on dancing that he would still be motivated to do so with or without Ariels involvement rendering their whole relationship largely pointless.
Aside from Bacon, the star of the show is the late Chris Penn as Rens best friend and non-dancer Willard. He steals every scene he is in and plays the role with such ease; his transformation from the kid with two left feet to the centre of attention at the prom is played with total believability. Other noteworthy turns come from the ever dependable John Lithgow as the bible-bashing preacher who brings real emotion and meaning to the films central premise and Sarah Jessica Parker making an early appearance as Ariels kooky best friend Rusty.
The film has no shortage of memorable scenes, from the superb opening titles, that are certainly one of the best examples of the decade to the Lets Hear It For The Boy dance training montage to Bacons warehouse rage dance, parodied to great effect in the movie Hot Rod. The film paved the way for the dance movie to become a genre in its own right capturing the fashions and styles of the time and while it doesnt break new ground theme wise it has enough charm and heart to thoroughly deserve its place on a list of the most iconic and influential films of the 80s.
The 1080p transfer of the film is certainly a step up from any previous DVD releases and is the best the film has ever looked but it does suffer from a few imperfections most likely carried over from the 27 year old original print. Colour and detail is mostly consistent throughout but a few scenes suffer from a lack of definition, some minor pixelation and appear flat.
The sound quality is where this new release really shines. The DTS-HD 6.1 Master Audio offers a much fuller experience than ever before. The pop hit filled soundtrack is exceptionally clear and fills the speakers without compromising the dialogue.
For this Deluxe Edition, Paramount have really pulled out the stops. In addition to a wealth of material carried over from the 20th Anniversary Edition DVD they have created a whole new, up to date set of worthy special features many of which are also in HD. The full list of extras is as follows:Audio Commentary with Kevin Bacon Audio Commentary with Producer Craig Zadan and Writer Dean Pitchford Lets Dance! Kevin Bacon on Footloose (HD) From Bomont to the Big Apple: An Interview with Sarah Jessica Parker (HD) Remembering Willard (HD) Kevin Bacons Screen Test (HD) Kevin Bacon Costume Montage (HD) Footloose: A Modern Musical Pt.1 Footloose: A Modern Musical Pt.2 Footloose: Songs That Tell A Story Theatrical Trailer (HD)
Both commentary tracks are well paced and informative, Zadan and Pitchford give the most insight on all aspects of the film from the initial concept and the making of the film to the reaction to the film on release and its continued popularity. Bacon also offers a decent talk track with a more personal approach discussing how the film changed his life as well as a lot of behind the scenes trivia on the film.
None of the featurettes run for more than 15 minutes each but together they add up to almost 90 minutes of additional material. The best of the bunch is Footloose: A Modern Musical Parts 1 and 2, a retrospective documentary covering all aspects of the making of the film with recent interviews with all the key players. Remembering Willard is a touching tribute to Chris Penn and the Screen Test and Costume Montage are notable additions to the package.
Film 4 out of 5
A truly memorable 80s teen flick that helped create the dance movie genre and broke Kevin Bacon into the big time.
Visuals 3 out of 5
A reasonable HD upgrade and certainly the best the film has ever looked but there is room for improvement.
Audio 5 out of 5
Superb audio presentation of the excellent soundtrack packed with hits that defined 1984 and the birth of MTV.
Extras 4 out of 5
A great selection of worthy extras packed with insightful nuggets of information on all aspects of the film.
Presentation 4 out of 5
Front cover image is an updated reproduction of the iconic original cinema poster and the disc menus are simplistic but nicely designed.
Overall 4 out of 5
More than just a sly attempt by a studio to cash-in on the release of the remake, the Blu-ray is a really well put together upgrade that should please fans of this much beloved classic.
Footloose is now available on Blu-ray.