Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

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Released 19-Jun-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Reliving Our Fast Times At Ridgemont High
Audio Commentary-Amy Heckerling (Director) & Cameron Crowe (Screenwriter)
Featurette-Hangouts Of Ridgemont High (4)
Production Notes
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Theatrical Trailer
Music Highlights
Easter Egg-Classic Quotes (12)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1982
Running Time 89:33 (Case: 86)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Amy Heckerling
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Sean Penn
Jennifer Jason Leigh
Phoebe Cates
Judge Reinhold
Brian Backer
Robert Romanus
Ray Walston
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $36.95 Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Greek
Danish
Finnish
Swedish
Norwegian
Portuguese
German
Dutch
Czech
Polish
Turkish
Hungarian
Bulgarian
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Most of you will know that before Cameron Crowe became a director of hit films, he was a writer for Rolling Stone magazine. One of his assignments for that esteemed tome was to go back to school and pose as a student, capturing all the trials and tribulations of campus life for a year. The result was the novel Fast Times At Ridgemont High, which became a best seller. He also penned the screenplay once the film rights had been secured with the directing duties being given to first timer Amy Heckerling.

    To call this film a teen sex-comedy is to dismiss it all too easily. Much like Amy Heckerling's other well-known teen film, Clueless, it appears on the surface to be just that, with sex, masturbation, and drug-taking all featured prominently. But scratch a little deeper and although you'll find all those elements, it also has much, much more to offer. Told with a certain freshness and frankness, that is both honest, touching and always bitingly real. It is also very funny. It doesn't have to resort to any toilet humour to crack a smile. Sure, there are a couple of very memorable nude scenes (that every red-blooded male will know without hesitation), but the whole plot doesn't hang on them, and we're not constantly wondering when each female character is going to get their gear off next.

    High school life at Ridgemont High is told through the stories of a series of characters that come into contact with each other. We meet the overly shy Mark 'The Rat' Ratner (Brian Backer) who so desperately wants to ask sexual novice Stacy Hamilton (Jennifer Jason Leigh) out on a date, but just can't pluck up the courage. This is despite the urgings of his super cool buddy and part-time ticket scalper Mike Damone (Robert Romanus). Stacy's brother, high school senior Brad Hamilton (Judge Reinhold) is super-confident, owns a great car, has a great job at the best hamburger place in town, and has a gorgeous girlfriend to boot. Things just don't get much better for Brad, but he better enjoy it while it lasts. There's also supposed sex expert Linda Barrett (Phoebe Cates), who coaches young Stacy on the finer points of various sexual techniques. Rounding out the young cast and basically stealing every scene he is in is Sean Penn, who plays perpetually stoned surfer dude Jeff Spicoli (it's his face that graces the cover of the disc). Spicoli gets all the memorable lines in the film and together with his mates (played by Eric Stoltz and Anthony Edwards) seems to manage to attend school without doing any real work.

    Adult roles are few and far between, but seemingly caught in the middle of all the classroom shenanigans is long suffering history teacher Mr Hand (the late Ray Walston). He tries to rule with an iron fist, but is really facing an uphill battle with the likes of Spicoli.

    I have lost count of the number of times I have seen this film. It has been shown on network television countless times (usually late on a Saturday night) and is a repeated favourite on TV1 on Foxtel. I've had the Region 1 DVD for over a year and must have watched it a dozen times or more. This really is one of those films that I never get tired of and find a certain amount of relaxation in watching (ok, I know what you're all thinking now!).

    This film also seemed to give an awful lot of stars their big breaks in the film industry. Virtually all the younger members of the cast were unknowns at the time, with only Sean Penn and Phoebe Cates having done any film work. In addition to the main cast there are a number of others that appeared in bit parts that have gone on to become huge stars with the likes of Forest Whitaker, Anthony Edwards, Eric Stoltz, and Nicolas Cage (credited as Nicholas Coppola) all having minor roles.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Oh dear!  There's something definitely not quite right here. I was only about five minutes into the film when I thought there was a distinct jerkiness or judder in the picture. When my wife also spotted it I knew there was a definite problem (she is normally not sensitive to these sorts of things). Certain scenes, especially those that featured some sideways movement or panning exhibited a distinct judder. It was as if every fourth or fifth frame was just missing from the picture. It is certainly very noticeable. After some detailed investigation which entailed sampling it on two players just to confirm that it wasn't the fault of my player and stepping through significant sections of the film frame by frame, I have come to the conclusion that this is not a native PAL telecine transfer. It is most likely a poor NTSC to PAL converted transfer with some 3:2 pulldown preserved from the NTSC source. There are some tell-tale signs of this when pausing on several frames whenever there is a little bit of sideways movement (check out the jeans pockets at 1:28-1:33). You will be able to see mixed or interlaced fields instead of solid frames. I quickly hauled out the Region 1 disc to compare and found that despite it being a NTSC transfer, it contained none of the jerkiness or judder at all. Further evidence of the source of this transfer came to light when I checked the running times of both Region's discs. Expecting the Region 4 PAL transfer to be some 4% faster due to PAL speedup, I can say I was quite surprised when both discs ran for exactly the same time - 97:37 minutes each. All this evidence points to this transfer being a PAL conversion of a Region 1 NTSC telecine transfer. Rather than having the 24 frames/second of film being telecined to high definition video which in turn is used to produce both NTSC and PAL transfers, it would appear that the Region 1 NTSC master has been used to produce the PAL version.

    To say this is disappointing is an understatement, as it renders many of the scenes quite tiresome to watch. It isn't completely unwatchable, it just becomes annoying after a while. This is a real shame, since in almost all other respects, this is a half decent transfer of a classic film.

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, the transfer is also 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is reasonably sharp throughout with only a tiny bit of edge enhancement present. This is one area of the transfer that I was quite happy with. Shadow detail is exemplary, and grain is actually reasonable well managed. It is present, but seldom becomes noticeable. There is also no low level noise.

    The colours are also pretty good, with decent deep and solid blacks, and natural skin tones. There are no problems with oversaturation or bleeding.

    There are no MPEG artefacts present. There is some mild aliasing throughout, mostly noticeable on the uniforms that the girls working in Perry's Pizza Parlour wear. Check out the worst examples at 6:20 and 81:50. There are enough film artefacts to be noticeable, but they are not overly annoying. They are pretty much to be expected for a film of this age.

    Lots of subtitles are available. I sampled the English variety while listening to the audio commentary and found them to be highly accurate, well placed on screen, and of decent readable size.

    This is a dual layered disc, although I was unable to spot the layer change.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Despite the collector's tag and a whole swag of quality extras being added to this disc, the same loving treatment has not been afforded to the audio. We are given the original mono soundtrack only. Disappointing, as a fully remixed 5.1 track would improve many parts of the film, especially the music.

    There are three audio soundtracks to choose from, these being Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtracks in English and German, and a commentary track in English. I listened to both English tracks in total.

    Dialogue is fairly flat and at times takes on the low fidelity harshness so evident with older style mono tracks. Audio sync problems are limited to a couple of obvious examples of poor ADR work (most notably at 7:01), but these are obviously related to the source material and are no fault of the transfer.

    In audio terms, the music is the highlight of the soundtrack. As with any film with which Cameron Crowe has some influence, the songs used throughout read like a top forty of the era, with artists such as The GoGo's, Oingo Boingo, Tom Petty, Led Zeppelin (of course), The Cars, and most of the lads from The Eagles providing solo numbers (which Amy Heckerling hated apparently).

    Being a stock standard Dolby Digital mono track there is obviously no surround or subwoofer use.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio & Animation

    Various scenes from the film in a small window complete with audio.

Featurette - Reliving Our Fast Times At Ridgemont High

    Made in 1999, this is quite a substantial featurette running for 39:16. It is presented in full screen 1.33:1 with audio from a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. Shots from the film are also presented at 1.33:1 (pan & scan). This is a retrospective and therefore somewhat nostalgic look at the film, with interviews of director Amy Heckerling and several of the cast including Sean Penn, Judge Reinhold, Robert Romanus, Brian Backer, and the late Ray Walston. It contains some behind-the-scenes photos, but is mostly current day interviews and highlights from the film. It does tend to fall into the "he's so great, she's so great" syndrome, and the notable omissions of Cameron Crowe and Jennifer Jason Leigh from the interviews does dent the credibility of the whole thing.

Audio Commentary - Director Amy Heckerling, Screenwriter Cameron Crowe

    A quite relaxed commentary track, as director Amy Heckerling and screenwriter (and sometimes director himself) Cameron Crowe discuss the film, talking about the casting and the various locations. Screen-specific at times, they do tend to wander off on tangents on occasion. An interesting bit is about the rating that the film received in the US (it nearly got an X rating until a couple of seconds of the sex scene with Jennifer Jason Leigh were trimmed - it ended up with an R rating). The Australian Region 4 disc is rated M.

    It's worth noting that the commentary track runs for an additional eight minutes after the end credits finish rolling. The two just don't want to stop chatting and continue to reminisce about all manner of things. I have included this extended running time in the overall running time of the film. The duration of the film itself is 89:33.

Featurette -  Hangouts of Ridgemont High

    This extra is based around a map that shows the main locations where the film took place. Selecting the location takes you to a scene in the film that used that location, and provides a voiceover description of exactly where the real-life location was and what it is now.

    Locations and running times are;

     Ridgemont High School - two schools were used for internal and external shots. Running time is 50 seconds.
     The Point  - A little league baseball field. Running time is 33 seconds.
     Ridgemont Mall - two shopping centres (or malls) were used, one for internal and one for external shots. Running time is 39 seconds.
     All American Burger - A real All American Burger store was used. Running time is 51 seconds.

Production Notes

    Several screens worth of brief notes about the filming locations.

Biographies-Cast & Crew

    The usual biographic and filmography details for the main cast members. Cast and crew available are Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold, Robert Romanus, Brian Backer, Phoebe Cates, Ray Walston, and director Amy Heckerling. Current up to 1999.

Theatrical Trailer

    Running for 1:38 minutes, this trailer confirms the suspicions of just how much Universal hated the film and really had no idea how to promote it. It does not do any justice to the themes of the film at all and simply makes it appear like another teen sex-comedy with little substance. One of the mostly poorly conceived trailers I have ever seen. Full screen Pan & Scan with audio from a Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack.

Music Highlights

    Now this is a neat extra. The soundtrack is one of the very best things about this film and this extra provides links to nineteen of the songs that featured throughout. At the click of a button you can replay the scenes that feature the songs. Examples include the opening credits sequence with We Got The Beat by the GoGo's, my personal favourite Somebody's Baby by Jackson Brown, Kashmir by Led Zeppelin or the best scene in the film (where Linda hops out of the pool) with Moving In Stereo by The Cars playing in the background. Classic stuff!

Easter Egg

    Watch out for the feet! Several links to some of the more memorable quotes from the film. You know the sort of thing - "That was my skull" and "Awesome! Totally awesome" among others. Don't stop at one screen either.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 disc starts up with the menu, rather than going straight to the film and has two pages of notes in the form of a booklet inside the case. The Region 4 features the addition of a German soundtrack and a host of other subtitles whereas the Region 1 only has the English soundtracks and English and French subtitles. In all other aspects they are identical

    Based on the problems that I have encountered with the Region 4 video transfer and the fact that it has been sourced from an NTSC master, I would strongly lean towards the Region 1 disc. It exhibits none of the judder or jerkiness so obvious in the Region 4 transfer.

Summary

    Fast Times At Ridgemont High is, in my humble opinion, the film that defines the teen-film genre. More than just a teen-sex comedy, it tells it how it really was for teenagers in the early eighties, when music, computer games, school grades, and parents battled it out with the girls (or boys), drugs, and sex for your attention. Featuring a witty and incisive screenplay, memorable characters, and moments that we all relate to in growing up, this is a film that sits well inside my top ten of all time.

    The video transfer for this Region 4 release is very disappointing. It appears to have been mastered from an NTSC source rather than a properly sourced PAL telecine transfer. As a result, there are glaring interlacing artefacts present and a general judder and jerkiness to much of the picture.

    The audio is pretty much as original, which in itself is fine, but I can only think what a remastered 5.1 soundtrack would have done for the music soundtrack.

    The extras are excellent, with a comprehensive nostalgic featurette, a very good commentary track, and a host of other goodies to delight fans.

    I am, though, unable to recommend this version over the Region 1.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Darren Walters (It's . . . just the vibe . . . of my bio)
Thursday, August 01, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDLoewe Xemix 5006DD, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationHarmon/Kardon AVR7000.
SpeakersFront - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
All DVD versions are cut - Doctor (Biometric Readout) REPLY POSTED
New version 'Fast Times' out? - TurkeyTom
Extra footage that appears in the TV version - cztery
New version DVD seems to be a marketing exercise only - cztery
new version - reason - cztery
New R4 still awful transfer. - cztery