St. Elmo's Fire

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Details At A Glance

Category Coming-Of-Age Theatrical Trailer(s) None
Rating Other Trailer(s) Yes, 2
About Last Night... (1.85:1 4x3 Dolby Digital 2.0 mono)
Mortal Thoughts (1.33:1 4x3 Dolby Digital 2.0 mono)
Year Released 1985 Commentary Tracks Yes, 1 - Joel Schumacher (Director)
Running Time 103:48 minutes Other Extras Cast & Crew Filmographies
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 2,4 Director Joel Schumacher

Columbia Tristar
Starring Emilio Estevez
Rob Lowe
Andrew McCarthy
Demi Moore
Judd Nelson
Ally Sheedy
Mare Winningham
Martin Balsam
Andie MacDowell
Case Brackley
RRP $39.95 Music David Foster

Pan & Scan/Full Frame None MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Dolby Digital 4.0 
16x9 Enhancement
Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 4.0 L-C-R-S, 448Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, 192Kb/s)
German (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192Kb/s)
Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, 192Kb/s)
Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, 192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary (Dolby Digital 2.0)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes, very much so
Subtitles English
French Audio Commentary
German Audio Commentary
Italian Audio Commentary
Spanish Audio Commentary
Dutch Audio Commentary
Annoying Product Placement Yes, mildly
Action In or After Credits Yes

Plot Synopsis

    St. Elmo's Fire is one of my favourite movies of all time, and certainly my favourite in the "Coming-Of-Age" genre. An ensemble piece, this movie shows us a short snippet of life for seven new college graduates. Universally panned when it was released, it nonetheless struck a chord with audiences everywhere for its true-to-life portrayal of these flawed characters. I suspect a lot of its magic comes from the fact that almost everyone everywhere can relate to at least one of the characters in this movie. There are seven strong performances from the lead actors, and the great writing fleshes out their characters, making them all truly believable, with their individual foibles and vulnerabilities.

    Leslie (Ally Sheedy) and Alec (Judd Nelson) are the central golden couple. Having been together seemingly forever, it would seem that marriage is a fait accomplis. Alec, however, is the philandering type. Kevin (Andrew McCarthy) is a cynical, journalistic type, carrying a hidden torch for Leslie. Wendy (Mare Winningham) is frumpy and shy, but infatuated with Billy (Rob Lowe), who is totally lacking in direction having left the relatively safe and cloistered college environment, where he was the typical party animal. Kirbo (Emilio Estevez) becomes obsessed with an older woman (Andie MacDowell) and rounding off the cast is the seemingly suave and sophisticated Jules (Demi Moore).

    To tell you any more about the movie would be to give too much away, as this movie's journey is one that you must experience for yourself, and I suspect that the majority of you reading this review will have already experienced the movie anyway. Suffice it to say that anyone who has felt lost at the start of life's big journey should be able to relate to at least one character in the movie, and subsequently enjoy it.

Transfer Quality


    I think I can sum up the video transfer quality of this movie by using two words; Columbia and Tristar. All bow down and hail the gods of DVD. I have never, ever seen this movie look anywhere near as good as it looks on this DVD, and that includes its theatrical release. This is a stunning video transfer of this movie. Whilst it is not reference quality, it isn't far off. It is so much better than my laserdisc version of this movie that it isn't funny. It was like watching a whole new movie.

    This transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. It is 16x9 enhanced. Other than theatrically, I have only previously experienced this movie in Pan & Scan, and was thrilled to experience the stunning cinematography in its original widescreen glory again. This movie really brings home just how much you miss out on with Pan & Scan transfers.

    The transfer is nicely sharp and clear, with an amazing amount of detail revealed that I had never seen before in this movie. It well-and-truly belies its 15 years of age. Shadow detail is the only give-away to the age of this movie, with the darker scenes having only limited or no shadow detail. Having said that, the absence of low level noise made even these scenes look by far the best that I have ever seen them. The most obvious example of improvement in this area was the scenes involving Naomi, the prostitute. Whilst there is not a lot of detail to be seen in these scenes, there is no low level noise marring the blackness, either.

    The colours of this movie are stupendously rendered in this transfer. They are fully saturated and vibrant in a way that I have never seen before. The biggest positive aspect of this transfer is the complete lack of chroma noise in the vibrant, fully saturated splashes of colour. The next most impressive aspect of this transfer is the complete lack of colour bleed at any point in time. Jules' apartment is particularly notable for these characteristics, with the heavily saturated and vibrant pinks and reds of her apartment being perfectly rendered - no noise and no colour bleed mars the image at any time. It is remarkable to see the way in which these colours simply stop where they are supposed to stop instead of bleeding over the image boundaries. Another specific example of this is during the opening credits which are razor sharp and clear instead of smeared and blurry.

    There were no MPEG artefacts seen at any time during this transfer, which was pleasing considering that the movie has been compressed onto a single layer. There was a small amount of image wobble from time-to-time (probably inherent in the movie), but this was so slight that it was no bother whatsoever, and there were a few film artefacts here and there, but again these were so rare and infrequent that they were hardly noticed.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Grain/MPEG Artefacts
Film-to-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    I have raved about the video transfer of this DVD. I will not rave about the audio transfer of this DVD, which, whilst better than the original stereo mix of this movie, is not without its problems.

    There are six audio tracks on this DVD, in a series of formats. The first (and default) audio track is English, in Dolby Digital 4.0 (Left-Centre-Right-Surround configuration). Next, there is a French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track, a German Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded track, an Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track, a Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track and finally an English Audio Commentary Track in Dolby Digital 2.0. I listened to the English Dolby Digital 4.0 soundtrack and to the Audio Commentary track.

    There is an audio drop-out in the left channel between 47:50 and 47:56.

    The dialogue was mostly clear and fairly easy to understand, within the limitations of the original score recording. However, the dialogue was generally placed in the center speaker only, and encoded a little on the low side, so music and foley effects had a habit of drowning out the dialogue at times. You could certainly make out everything that was said, but there were times when you needed to listen very carefully in order to do so. An example of where this was a problem was during the Billy Hixx band sequence, where Billy's center channel saxophone solo is somewhat drowned out by the music in the left and right channels. Audio sync was not a problem at any stage.

    The score by David Foster is a classic score, featuring a series of enduring hits including the almost timeless Man In Motion. The music is an integral part of the movie's experience, providing the appropriate emotional bias and support to the on-screen action.

    The left and right front speakers were frequently utilized for music and special effects. There is, however, quite a harsh and dramatic separation between the left, center and right front channels which makes for a poorly integrated listening experience. Sound effects in particular seemed to come from extremes in the front sound hemisphere, and did not integrate with the dialogue all that well. As mentioned previously, the sound effects and the music had a habit of drowning out the dialogue, and it may pay you to crank up the center channel volume slightly when listening to this DVD. The rear surround channel got essentially no use, with this mix being predominantly front hemispheric, though a very small amount of ambient music was noted in the rear.

    The .1 channel was not specifically encoded, and the overall soundtrack came across as somewhat bass-light. The soundtrack really could have done with some more bottom end, particularly from the music.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



Audio Commentary - Joel Schumacher (Director)

    I enjoyed this commentary, but I love this movie. Joel Schumacher is not particularly animated in his discussion and concentrates more on the characters than on the technical aspects of the movie-making process. I suspect that this commentary track would best be left for devoted fans of this movie who will find it worthwhile. Casual listeners will probably get bored quickly with Joel Schumacher's somewhat monotonous presentation.

Theatrical Trailers

    Trailers for About Last Night... and Mortal Thoughts.

Cast & Crew Filmographies

R4 vs R1

    This disc appears to be unavailable in Region 1.


    St. Elmo's Fire is a great movie, and is one of my all-time favourites.

    The video quality is stunning. Fans of this movie are in for a visual treat.

    The audio quality is acceptable, but it could have been better.

    The extras are limited but acceptable.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Michael Demtschyna (read my bio)
19th June 2000

Review Equipment
DVD Sony DVP-S336/Loewe Xemix 5006 DD, using S-Video/RGB outputs
Display Loewe Art-95 95cm direct view CRT in 16:9 mode, via the S-Video/RGB inputs. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Denon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital AddOn Decoder, used as a standalone processor. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Amplification 2 x EA Playmaster 100W per channel stereo amplifiers for Left, Right, Left Rear and Right Rear; Philips 360 50W per channel stereo amplifier for Centre and Subwoofer
Speakers Philips S2000 speakers for Left, Right; Polk Audio CS-100 Centre Speaker; Apex AS-123 speakers for Left Rear and Right Rear; Hsu Research TN-1220HO subwoofer