Stand By Me

Collector's Edition

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Details At A Glance

Category Drama Audio Commentary - Rob Reiner (Director)
Featurette - Behind The Scenes (36:45)
Music Video - Ben E King: Stand By Me
Cast & Crew Biographies
Isolated Musical Score
Rating m.gif (1166 bytes)
Year Released 1986
Running Time 85:06 Minutes
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (?56:59)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 2,4 Director Rob Reiner
Columbia.gif (3109 bytes)
Columbia Tristar Home Video
Starring Wil Wheaton
River Phoenix
Corey Feldman
Jerry O'Connell
Kiefer Sutherland
Case Soft Brackley
RPI $36.95 Music Jack Nitzsche

Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, 192Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, 192Kb/s)
German (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, 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 mono, 192Kb/s)
Isolated Music Score (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, 192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9Yes.jpg (4536 bytes)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles English
French Audio Commentary
German Audio Commentary
Italian Audio Commentary
Spanish Audio Commentary
Dutch Audio Commentary
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    Stand By Me is, in my not-so-humble opinion, the best film to ever be made out of a Stephen King story. Based on a whimsical and reminiscent drama titled The Body, one of the four novellas that make up the 1982 collection Different Seasons, this film succeeds where so many other adaptations fail because it takes on a life of its own. This is thanks in part to some excellent casting, with Kiefer Sutherland playing Ace Merrill so well that I immediately thought of him when I read of the character's further adventures in Needful Things.

    Stand By Me is a simple story at its heart, beginning with a shot of an adult Gordon Lachance (Richard Dreyfuss, who also narrates the rest of the film) in his car with a newspaper. For the sake of preserving some mystery about the plot, I won't reveal what the newspaper actually says, but this element of the plot is executed so well that I was really shocked by it when I first saw the film, in spite of having read the novella a few months beforehand.

    From there, we are treated to a slice of Lachance's memoirs, with young Gordon (Wil Wheaton), Chris Chambers (River Phoenix), Teddy Duchamp (Corey Feldman), and Vern Tessio (Jerry O'Connell) meeting in a treehouse. While digging fruitlessly for a lost jar filled with pennies under his home, Vern overhears a conversation between his elder brother, Billy (Casey Siemaszko), and Charlie Hogan (Gary Riley). It seems that the two young men have stumbled upon the location of a boy about Vern's age who was walking along the railroad near Castle Rock when he was hit by a train, and are in a dilemma about whether to report their discovery to the authorities.

    Of course, with their imaginations being as active as they are, our four young heroes believe that if they find the body and report its location to the authorities, they will get their five minutes of fame in the local papers and so forth. With this goal in mind, they set out on a journey to the dead body's location, arguing and bonding in the sort of ways you'd expect from a foursome of twelve-year-old males. Meanwhile, Ace Merrill (Kiefer Sutherland), who just happens to lead the gang that Billy and Charlie are a part of, learns the location of the dead body and sets out to find it himself. It is quite hilarious to see the four young boys take two days to walk the distance that Ace and his gang cover in their cars within a matter of hours. Along the way, we are treated to some impressive photography, hilarious encounters with leeches, and a slice of life in the middle of the twentieth century that lives and breathes in a way I just cannot explain adequately. If you have a hankering for dramas set in eras that are probably best left behind, then Stand By Me is definitely for you. I'm just perplexed as to why some critics seem to believe the high volume of four-letter words in this film is not characteristic of the 1950s, because last I heard, pre-pubescent males hadn't changed that much in the last fifty years.

    One thing to look out for in this film is the brilliant realization of Stephen King's story within the story, that of the vomitous revenge that Davey "Lardass" Hogan (Andy Lindberg) wreaks on his entire town. Watching a whole tent-full of people spewing on each other has never been quite so funny, even if the best line of the novella's account of this event was left out of the film.

Transfer Quality


    Considering that this is a fourteen-year-old film that hasn't seen any serious restoration effort in all that time, this transfer comes up looking very nice indeed.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and it is 16x9 Enhanced. The film was definitely not filmed anamorphically, as boom mikes were clearly visible in the top of the frame during several shots of the VHS version.

    The transfer is razor-sharp throughout, although there are some moments where background details become a little blurred due to what I presume is a minor lapse in focus. These lapses in background detail only occur a handful of times in the entire picture, so this is easy to overlook. The shadow detail is good, but a little lacking in the night-time camping sequence, although all the important details in this part of the film are perfectly visible. There is no low-level noise to mar the picture, and film grain is not much of an issue, either.

    If it is possible to make the colour saturation of a film seem faded and vivid at the same time, then this transfer accomplishes just that. Dead grass, train tracks, and darkly-shaded dirt figure prominently in this film, and the obvious intent during principal photography was to create the image of a faded, old-looking town with the occasional crop of lush vegetation. The transfer captures the contrasted look of the film's location without skipping a beat, and there are no instances of bleeding or misregistration.

    MPEG artefacts are not a problem in this transfer, which is what you'd expect when an eighty-five minute film is compressed onto a dual-layer disc. The bitrate of the transfer varies all over the place, with the majority of the film being allocated as much as eight megabits per second. There was one suspect passage at 65:30, just after the four boys are finished pulling leeches off each other, where the background becomes rather indistinct, but I vaguely remember this happening during the last time I viewed the film on television. Film-to-video artefacts were not a problem for this transfer, either, with no serious instances of aliasing or telecine wobble apparent at any time. Film artefacts are a slight problem in this transfer, with black and white flecks being scattered around the film intermittently, but this is a very clean-looking transfer of a fourteen-year-old film when all is said and done.

    This film is compressed onto an RSDL disc, in spite of only being eighty-five minutes in length. I believe I found the layer change, which is accompanied by a small pop in the audio, at 56:59. The layer change is noticeable, but well-placed as it is in the middle of a natural fade-to-black.


    While this film would have been nice with a Pro-Logic or Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, what we have here is definitely good enough for the purposes of the film and the story. Another side of this coin is that a discrete or even matrixed remix might be a waste, since there aren't many moments in the film when multiple sound effects can be heard at once.

    There are a total of seven soundtracks in this audio transfer, all of them in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono with a bitrate of 192 kilobits per second: the original English dialogue, with dubs in French, German, Italian, and Spanish, as well as an Isolated Music Score and an Audio Commentary by director Rob Reiner. I listened to the default English soundtrack, the Isolated Music Score, the Audio Commentary, and a couple of passages in Spanish for good measure. The dialogue is clear and easy to understand at all times, even when multiple actors talk over the top of each other. There were no discernible problems with audio sync.

    The music of this film is divided into two parts: a score by Jack Nitzsche, and some contemporary songs from the time period the film is set in. Overall, I found the contemporary music had more presence and relevance to the film, save for the moment when the boys finally find the dead body that they've spent the better part of two days hiking towards. Of course, the song from which the film takes its title, Ben E. King's Stand By Me, leaves the biggest impression by far.

    Being a Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack, there is no surround-channel activity to speak of. While some will certainly lament the lack of a surround remix, there aren't that many sound effects that would be suitable for redirection to the rears. The film was originally presented in mono, somewhat unusually for a film from the mid-1980s, which explains the single sound effect at a time approach the film mostly takes. The subwoofer was used intermittently, taking redirected signal from the stereo channels during the music and occasional bass-heavy sound effects, such as the approach of trains.



    The menu is static, and 16x9 Enhanced. Navigation is very simple and easy.

Audio Commentary - Rob Reiner (Director)

    This commentary is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, with the film's soundtrack rising up from beneath Rob Reiner's voice during his frequent pauses. The commentary gives some interesting insights into the making of the film, but it isn't one that I would return to with any frequency.

Featurette - Behind The Scenes

   Clocking in at thirty-six minutes and forty-five seconds, this featurette is presented with the interview footage in Full Frame, with footage from the film panned and scanned into the 4:3 ratio. The featurette is worth watching just to see what Stephen King has to say about the film, not to mention how different the three surviving child actors from the film look as adults.

Music Video - Ben E King: Stand By Me

    Presented in Full Frame with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, this music video was obviously put together at a much later date than the song was recorded, with Wil Wheaton and River Phoenix appearing with Ben E King. The music video is enjoyable enough to warrant multiple viewings.

Cast & Crew Biographies

    Biographies for Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Kiefer Sutherland, Jerry O'Connell, novelist Stephen King, and director Rob Reiner are presented under their own menu. The biographies merely relate a few salient points about each person without revealing anything too insightful.

Isolated Musical Score

    Having briefly sampled this soundtrack during the sequence in which Ace and his gang have a drag race, as well as the sequence in which the younger boys find the body they've been searching for, I really think that an Isolated Musical Score was a waste of effort where this film was concerned. This soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, and sounds amazingly clear considering the age and original mix of the source materials. The result is almost like muting the film and listening to a soundtrack CD at the appropriate moments.

R4 vs R1

    There are two versions of this disc available in Region 1: a bare-bones version on a single-layer disc, and a special edition that is equally packed with extras. For the purposes of this comparison, I am referring to the special edition.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    I really see no reason to prefer the Region 1 disc over the Region 4 disc, given that the additional trailers have nothing to do with the film, although the booklet may be of some interest to budding filmmakers. We can call this one even.


    Stand By Me is a riveting film that everyone should watch at least once, presented on the best kind of DVD that the source material allows for.

    The video quality is very good, hampered only by a handful of film artefacts and ordinary shadow detail.

    The audio transfer contains two of the best monaural soundtracks you're likely to hear for some time.

    The extras are comprehensive.

Ratings (out of 5)

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© Dean McIntosh (my bio sucks... read it anyway)
4th January 2001

Review Equipment
DVD Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output
Display Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm) in 16:9 and 4:3 modes, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built In (Amplifier)
Amplification Sony STR-DE835, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Yamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NS-C120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer