Back to School appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though the transfer never faltered badly, it also never became anything special.
All the various elements displayed pros and cons, and sharpness was no exception. Much of the movie appeared reasonably detailed and concise, but exceptions occurred. Wide shots tended to be a bit soft and indistinct. I noticed no jagged edges or shimmering, but some edge haloes cropped up at times. As for source flaws, the flick looked a bit grainier than expected, and I also saw a few specks and marks. However, it usually seemed pretty clean; the grain was the biggest distraction.
Many 80s comedies suffered from somewhat muddy colors, and that came into effect with School. Though many of the hues looked fairly lively and dynamic, they also often seemed a little messy and drab. They were acceptable most of the time, however. Blacks tended to be a bit dense, and shadows tended toward the thick side of the street. I thought the transfer was good enough for a “B-“, but don’t expect anything special.
Along the same lines, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Back to School seemed lackluster. The soundfield opened up matters to a minor degree. Most of the material concentrated on the front speakers. Music offered fine stereo delineation, and various effects spread to the sides in a moderately satisfying way. Nothing particularly memorable occurred, but these elements broadened the settings.
The surrounds added a bit of ambience with a handful of unique pieces. For instance, at one point a door knock came from the right rear speaker. These instances popped up infrequently, though, so don’t expect much from the back channels.
Audio quality was dated but fine. Speech seemed satisfactory. The lines appeared natural and concise, without edginess or other issues. Music showed reasonable range and punch, while effects offered decent clarity and accuracy. The audio wasn’t special but it suited the film.
Most of this DVD’s extras come from a series of featurettes. School Daze: The Making of Back to School runs 17 minutes, 11 seconds as it offers the usual mix of movie clips, archival elements, and interviews. We hear from director Alan Metter, production designer David L. Snyder, co-writer Harold Ramis, producer Chuck Russell, and actors Burt Young, William Zabka, Sally Kellerman, and Keith Gordon. The program looks at script issues and changes, cast, characters, and performances, sets and shooting at the University of Wisconsin, some musical choices, some Rodney-related memories, the movie’s reception, and other production notes.
While not the most direct encapsulation of the film’s creation, “Daze” works pretty well. We get a lot of fun facts about the significant issues and find these presented in an entertaining manner. This ads up to an enjoyable look at the flick.
For the six-minute and five-second Dissecting the Triple Lindy, we get remarks from Russell, Ramis, Metter, Zabka, stunt coordinator Dick Zicker, stunt diver Abbe Gore, and stunt double Michael Ostovich. They discuss the design and execution of the movie’s climactic dive. The participants dissect the wacky dive well in this neat little show.
Paying Respect: Remembering Rodney Dangerfield goes for 10 minutes, two seconds and features Russell, Metter, Ramis, Snyder, Zabka, wife Joan Dangerfield, and actor Jeffrey Jones. “Respect” looks at Rodney’s life and career as well as aspects of his work and some memories of the comic. This doesn’t turn into a full biography, but it succeeds in its attempts to convey elements of Dangerfield’s personality. It’s certainly not the usual hagiography, as “Respect” practically revels in its examination of Rodney’s demons; drugs, depression and drink dominate the discussion. It’s an intriguing program.
Another tribute comes to us via the one-minute and 19-second Kurt Vonnegut: In Memoriam. It offers notes from Russell. It doesn’t tell us much, though, as it mostly just rehashes the Vonnegut-related clips from the movie. That makes it a bit of a waste of time.
For a glimpse of supporting actor Burt Young, we head to News Wrap: From Rocky to Rodney. The three-minute and 22-second clip offers a promotional piece from 1986. We hear a little from Young as he discusses his character and his life. We get a few slightly useful details but not much to inform us.
Finally, Sports Wrap: Rodney – A Diving Force fills one minute, 35 seconds. Another vintage snippet from 1986, this one does little more than show the Triple Lindy scene from the movie. Skip it.
A Photo Gallery offers 18 stills from the movie. It’s a bland and forgettable collection. We also get three TV spots, the theatrical trailer for School and ads for Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj, Get Shorty and the “Best of the 80s”.
If you want to see some classic comedy… look somewhere else. Back to School has a lot of funny moments, but it also comes with a lot problems. It’s enjoyable but frustrating. The DVD presents adequate picture and audio as well as a smattering of reasonably interesting extras. This is a decent DVD for a sporadically amusing movie.