Fast Times at Ridgemont High appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was a pretty nice transfer for a low-budget early 80s movie.
Sharpness generally appeared positive. Some softness interfered at times, though, and a smattering of shots came across as a bit ill-defined, related to the source photography.
Still, most of the flick presented good delineation, and no issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred. Edge haloes remain absent, and with a natural layer of grain, I suspected no noise reduction. Print flaws also failed to mar the proceedings.
The film’s palette tended toward a natural depiction of hues, and they always looked nicely bright and lively. The colors became a surprising strength.
Blacks were deep and dense, while most shadows seemed clear. No one will view Fast Times as a visual showcase, but the Criterion Blu-ray represented it well.
Instead of the movie’s original monaural audio, this release included a DTS 5.1 remix. This wasn’t an ambitious mix, but it worked fine for the material.
The soundfield lacked a lot of breadth but it added some engagement. Music showed passable spread and general crowd/mall scenes brought information from around the spectrum.
The two most active scenes came from Spicoli’s surfer fantasy and Brad’s vision of Linda in which the Cars’ “Moving in Stereo” filled the speakers. Nothing scintillating came from the soundscape, but it worked fine for a nearly 40-year-old character movie.
Audio quality was fine. Speech consistently remained intelligible and without edginess, and the line showed a reasonably natural feel. Effects didn’t boast great impact, but they appeared reasonably accurate.
Music varied depending on the source, but the songs usually were moderately vivid at best, though some worked better than others. Noothing exciting happened here, but I gave thought the mix merited a “B-“.
How did the Criterion release compare to those of the 2012 Blu-ray? Audio seemed a bit improved, as the Criterion’s set appeared a little more involving.
According to the package’s liner notes, Criterion worked from the same 2004 remix that got used for the Universal Blu-ray along with “additional restoration”. The latter seemed to give the new disc’s audio a bit more heft and involvement, though the two remained fairly similar.
Visuals showed a step up, as the Criterion release looked better defined and cleaner. This turned into a satisfactory upgrade.
Note that the Criterion release rosters a brief nude shot absent from prior versions. Here we see Damone in all his glory for a short moment. Whether or not this is an improvement is up to the viewer, but the filmmakers seem happy to get the snippet back in the film.
The Criterion Blu-ray mixes old and new extras. Taped in 1999, we get an audio commentary from writer Cameron Crowe and director Amy Heckerling, both of whom sit together for this running, screen-specific piece. They cover a mix of subjects but mostly focus on the cast.
They tell us about how many of the actors came to the film as well as working with them and various improvisations. We get notes about the movie’s tone and battles with the studio who wanted it to be sillier, and we also hear about the music and other production notes.
Plenty of cool tidbits emerge, such as the fact the producers tried to hire David Lynch to direct! The track becomes a little too giggly at times, but it includes a lot of solid information and proves to be a winning commentary.
Also from 1999, we get a 39-minute, 16-second documentary called Reliving Our Fast Times At Ridgemont High. We get remarks from Heckerling, producer Art Linson, casting director Don Phillips, and actors Judge Reinhold, Scott Thomson, Sean Penn, Eric Stoltz, Robert Romanus, Ray Walston and Brian Backer.
They chat about the roots of the story, bringing it to the screen, casting, general anecdotes, its release and reception. The comments about the cast heavily dominate, as the vast majority of the show focuses on that subject.
Nothing here stands out; it's very typical of the genre. The biggest surprise comes from the participation of Penn, who I didn’t expect to see. It's ultimately a good piece but it seems vaguely lackluster. I liked it, but not tremendously so. Note that some of Heckerling's anecdotes from the commentary are repeated here.
New to the Criterion release, we find the movie’s TV version. It goes 1:35:07 versus the theatrical cut’s 1:29:53 and comes with a mix of additions/changes.
The TV version wholly sanitizes the original. This means it loses virtually all the profanity as well as the nudity, sex and drugs.
Given how much of Fast Times involves those topics, this makes the TV edition a substantially different experience – and a neutered one. While it remains the same basic set of events and characters, it feels sanitized and without the sense of realism the “R”-rated film maintains.
To compensate for all those sex and drugs-related scenes now gone, the TV version adds a bunch of material from the cutting room floor. By my count, I found 19 scenes that are completely new, extended or alternate, though I’m sure I missed a little material.
These don’t make Fast Times a better movie, and I don’t think they’re improve the film even if they appeared in an “R”-rated cut. Nothing important comes from the added footage.
That said, fans will enjoy the view of these unused sequences, and they’re consistently fun to see. Plus, Nicolas Cage’s “blink and you’ll miss him” role gets a little expanded – heck, Cage even gets lines in the TV version! It’s an inferior version of Fast Times, but it’s an interesting alternate.
One curiosity: I think Heckerling specifically shot an alternate take for Brad’s fantasy. In the TV version, she starts to take off her top as she approaches him, whereas in the “R” cut, she’s topless when she comes up to him.
Actually, as depicted in the TV cut, Brad’s fantasy becomes totally neutered. Here he just stares at Linda and fantasizes, with no implication of masturbation.
Presented 1.33:1, the TV version of Fast Times looks decent but not as good as the main feature. In particular, we get more than a few print flaws, though not dominant. Still, the TV edition usually offers fairly good visuals, so it’s more than watchable.
Two more additions to the Criterion set comes under Interviews. First we find a 2020 chat among Amy Heckerling, Cameron Crowe and actor/filmmaker Olivia Wilde.
During this 34-minute, 27-second program, the three discuss the project’s origins, the film’s use of the mall culture and attempts at realism, the movie’s depiction of sex and drugs, cast and performances, music, the flick’s release and legacy.
Some material repeats from earlier programs, and I question the accuracy of some memories. For instance, Heckerling claims she couldn’t cast Ralph Macchio because he was doing
Karate Kid, a movie that didn’t shoot until more than a year after the release of Fast Times.
Also, Wilde goes into fangirl mode too much, so the reel can feel like little more than gushy praise for Fast Times. Still, it’s good to see the three together and this becomes a decent piece.
Note that an extra piece of conversation occurs after the interview’s end credits.
Finally, we locate a 1982 audio-only piece that brings Heckerling and producer/actor Stuart Kornfeld to the AFI. It goes for 47 minutes, 42 seconds and offers thoughts about the project’s development as well as cut scenes, music, cast and performances, and other production areas.
Though Kornfeld occasionally chimes in, this becomes Heckerling’s chat., and she offers a pretty good look at a mix of topics, most of which come from audience questions. I like the fact we get a contemporary discussion of the flick and this turns into a useful conversation.
A booklet appears as well, one that provides photos, credits, a new intro from Crowe and an essay from critic Dana Stevens. It offers a nice complement.
The launching pad for many famous actors, Fast Times At Ridgemont High remains an entertaining flick. It’s fun to see due to all the well-known participants, and it manages a reasonable amount of good material despite some inconsistencies. The Blu-ray delivers very good picture and supplements along with more than adequate audio. Criterion makes this the best version of Fast Times on the market.
To rate this film, visit the Special Edition review of FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH