The Jerk (1979)

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Released 1-Aug-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Production Notes
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1979
Running Time 90:01
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Carl Reiner
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Steve Martin
Bernadette Peters
Catlin Adams
Jackie Mason
Case Soft Brackley-Transp
RPI $24.95 Music Jack Elliott


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Pan & Scan English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Spanish
English
Danish
Finnish
Dutch
German
Swedish
Norwegian
Polish
Czech
French
Portuguese
Turkish
Hungarian
Bulgarian
Smoking Yes, The range - Cigarettes, pipes and joints.
Annoying Product Placement Yes, Remember TAB? You will...
Action In or After Credits Yes, Credits run over a final musical sequence.

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

Plot Synopsis

    What can be said about a Steve Martin movie that people do not decide as soon as they know he is in it? He has made a career of playing essentially the same character, in what is essentially the same movie. If you have ever seen any other Steve Martin movie, you will have a pretty good idea what as to whether or not you will enjoy The Jerk. There is one thing that makes this particular movie more interesting however - The Jerk is where it all began. Fresh out of Saturday Night Live and trying to prove himself in the world of film, Martin was also the co-writer of The Jerk.

    The story follows Navin Johnson (Steve Martin), the adopted son of a poor black family. He does not feel as if he fits in with his family, so he sets off into the world to find out what is missing from his life. Taking a job as a "gas station" attendent, Navin begins to learn the ways of the world...and some of the downsides. Navin goes on to be a weight-guesser at a fair, and a successful inventor, all the while finding the romantic attentions of a motorcycle stunt rider (Catlin Adams) and a trumpet playing cosmetologist (Bernadette Peters). This is billed as a "rags to riches to rags" story and to that end, Navin is eventually brought down by a cruel twist of fate...but is that the end for him?

    In typical Steve Martin fashion, Navin is not exactly quick off the mark, and manages to get himself into numerous situations that require talking in a strange voice, arguing with his dog, or running in a strange manner (which seems to be the extent of Steve Martin's physical comedy). As many jokes mis-fire as not, and it often seems to be trying too hard, but overall, it is still a very amusing film.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    For a low-budget 1979 commedy, the video tranfer for The Jerk holds up reasonably well, with one problem - an excessive level of grain.

    The transfer is presented in full screen, brought down from its original 1.85:1 ratio through panning and scanning. While this is correctly stated at the base of the back of the case, the special features box clearly states as a special feature Original Widescreen presentation. Beware of this, as it most certainly is not.

    The transfer is not at all sharp, being no better than could be obtained from a tape. This is due to the considerable amount of grain throughout. While initially annoying, the at least constant level of grain makes it easier to become accustemed to, although it still seems excessive, even for a 22 year old obviously unrestored source. Shadow detail is not particularaly good either, although this is of little consequence given the few night-time sequences. There is no low level noise present in the transfer.

    Colour in this transfer is somewhat muted, not showing any highlights even where they could reasonably be expected, such as the scenes at the fair. The result is that the overall tone appears quite drab. It does improve to a certain extent later in the movie but could never be classed as good. Skin tones suffer from the muted nature as well, making people look a little pale.

    Due to the constant grain, the entire transfer suffers from the presense of light pixelization, although it does appear to escape any posterization problems. The grain also means that the transfer is too blurry to have any aliasing problems. Film artefacts are an affliction throughout, although most are small enough not to draw attention away from the rest of the action.

    The subtitles are relatively close to the spoken dialogue, but they do drop words from a surprisingly high number of sentences. Fortunately, this does not change the impact of any of the spoken jokes.

    This is a single sided, single layer disc, and therefore has no layer change.

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

Audio

    The audio transfer is not great, but does the job well enough for a comedy.

    There are four soundtracks on this disc, being the original English, along with French, German, and Italian dubs. All soundtracks are presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (two channels carrying the same audio signal). I listend to the English track.

    Dialogue was realiatively clear for the most part. There were occasions when background sounds combined with the mono nature of the soundtrack to reduce clarity, but never to the extent that I had to repeat a sequence to hear what was said. An example is a scene on a beach at 48:19-48:45 where the dialogue is almost overlapped by the background ocean sounds.

    Audio sync was never a problem in this transfer.

    There is very little in the way of score music in this movie, instead music is generally only used to punctuate key comic sequences, and is composed by Jack Elliott. Strangely enough, the lack of music is not particularly noticable, also pointing to a good effort by the composer to engage the music without drawing attention to it. The style of the music is American folk, with a fiddle and guitar combination being used extensivly.

    Being a mono movie, there is no surround sound use at all.

    As with the surrounds, the subwoofer remains dormant throughout the movie.

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

Extras

    This disc contains only a minimal complement of extras, none of which are particularly compelling.

Menu

    The menu is static, non 16x9, and has no audio.

Theatrical Trailer

    This trailer suffers from the same grain problem as the main feature, and has many more (and larger) film artefacts.

Production Notes

    These are somewhat interesting, including the fact that the entire film was completed in 45 days, and going on to cover the locations used during the shoot.

Cast and Filmmakers

    This is the normal short blurb and bio for the four major cast members and the director. Nothing here is of particular interest.

R4 vs R1

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

    The R4 and R1 versions of this disc are essentially the same, differing only in subtitle and dubbed language choices. The only downside to the R1 version is its high recommended price of US$29.

Summary

    The Jerk is a typical Steve Martin movie that his fans will still want to see despite the grain problems.

    The video quality can only be described as watchable, suffering from an excess of grain.

    The audio quality is average, although serving a comedy well enough.

    The extras are minimalist and do not really satisfy any real curiosity about this film.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Nick Jardine (My bio, it's short - read it anyway)
Sunday, August 12, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using S-Video output
DisplayRCA 80cm. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS787, THX Select
SpeakersAll matching Vifa Drivers: centre 2x6.5" + 1" tweeter (d'appolito); fronts and rears 6.5" + 1" tweeter; centre rear 5" + 1" tweeter; sub 10" (150WRMS)

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