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John A. Alonzo
Michael Brandon, Eileen Brennan, Alex Karras
Writing Credits:
Ezra Sacks

A mutiny ensues when a radio station's management decides to increase the number of commercials, including army recruitment ads.

Rated PG.

Presentation: Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English LPCM 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 104 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 7/2/2019

• Isolated Music/Effects Track
• “No Static At All” Featurette
• “Radio Chaos” Featurette
• “The Spirit of Radio” Featurette
• Image Gallery
• Trailer


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-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver;
-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer.


FM [Blu-Ray] (1978)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 18, 2019)

Would WKRP In Cincinnati exist without the cinematic precursor of FM? Yeah – the former debuted only six months after the latter hit movie screens, and apparently the TV show’s pilot already sat in the can before FM materialized.

Nonetheless, like American Graffiti and Happy Days, FM and WKRP remain joined at the hip due to their many similarities. FM takes on the more dramatic view of the music and radio industries, however – to a degree, that is.

As the program director and manager of LA’s Q-SKY, Jeff Dugan (Michael Brandon) runs a loose ship, one that allows for a fair amount of freedom. This turns Q-SKY into a ratings behemoth, as its iconoclastic deejays rake in the listeners.

Never content to leave a good thing alone, Jeff’s corporate overlords attempt to influence programming and use airtime for a much higher percentage of commercials, including some that attempt to make military service look hip and cool. This creates a rebellion at the station.

Though rated “PG”, FM probably seemed a little too “mature” for a then-11-year-old like me, so I didn’t see the film during its theatrical run. In 1980, my dad and I went to a drive-in triple bill with FM, Buddy Holly Story and Let It Be.

I was there just to see the Beatles movie. It ran last, though, so we sat through the other two as well.

I maintain zero memories of FM from that screening. Sure, it was 39 years ago, but shouldn’t I remember something about the film?

Yeah, but now that I’ve seen FM again, I realize why it left my brain so long ago. While not a terrible film, FM seems limp and meandering.

Honestly, I suspect FM maintains a place in the cultural memory almost entirely due to Steely Dan’s hit title song. Without that close connection – and perhaps the WKRP association - the flick would likely be pretty much forgotten.

I can’t bemoan that potential lapse into obscurity, as so little of FM works. It dabbles in various plot points with commitment to none and fails to develop either storylines or characters in a satisfying manner.

FM mostly functions as a general view of life at a rock radio station, but the filmmakers can’t leave well enough alone. They decide they need to force the “stick it to the man” plot element in which the suits force extra commercials on the deejays, with the presence of military ads as the biggest offense of all.

To put it mildly, the US military wasn’t popular circa 1978, so close to the Vietnam War. Fairly or not, FM uses the military as one of the de facto villains, and this becomes an unnecessary choice.

Actually, the entire theme of the deejays vs. the suits seems borderline pointless. Again, a movie that simply gave us a “day in the life” look at the radio station would seem like enough, so the tacked-on anti-corporate narrative feels contrived.

That said, based on the evidence, I’m not sure a version of FM that just followed the inhabitants of the station without the conflicts would be much better. When FM concentrates on the antics at Q-SKY, it doesn’t prove much more compelling.

Maybe a single 104-minute movie just doesn’t offer the cinematic real estate necessary to take on so many characters. While Dugan acts as the core, we also spend a fair amount of time with deejays Mother (Eileen Brennan), Prince of Darkness (Cleavon Little), Doc (Alex Karras), Eric Swan (Martin Mull) and others.

Each one gets some screen time, but not enough to create fleshed-out roles. Throw in all the other Q-SKY staff, the corporate suits and others and you wind up with an overstuffed movie that lacks much room to breathe.

FM’s “PG” rating probably becomes its biggest drawback, though, as a story of a rock radio station circa 1978 can’t come across as realistic without an “R”. Sure, WKRP worked on broadcast TV, but it never aspired to offer anything other than a comedic take on the proceedings.

While it opts for laughs as well, FM clearly intends to bring us a more hard-hitting take on the topic, and that “PG” really restrains it. We get allusions to pot smoking and groupies, but most of the film feels awfully sanitized.

This really hamstrings FM. It’s hard to imagine a more debauched period than the LA rock scene of the late 1970s, so the near absence of those elements gives the film a problematic sense of unreality.

FM does boast a nice cast, even if they lack the opportunity to do much with their parts. It also provides an excellent soundtrack, one that acts as a strong representation of the period’s hits.

Color me astonished that Arrow cleared the video rights for all those songs. The breadth of famous songs on display seems breathtaking, and I imagine it must’ve been tough to get them all, but they’re here.

Beyond an overqualified cast and a terrific soundtrack, I find little to embrace with FM. An oddly neutered view of the music industry, it lacks the impact it needs.

The Disc Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B-/ Bonus C+

FM appears in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. While the movie showed its age, the transfer seemed to replicate the source reasonably well.

Sharpness appeared positive most of the time. Wide shots tended to come across as slightly soft, and the image never seemed tremendously precise, but delineation worked fine.

Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns, and I saw no signs of edge haloes. The movie’s grain structure implied that it didn’t undergo any obvious digital noise reduction, but occasional print flaws appeared, as I saw sporadic instances of specks and marks. These never became heavy, though.

The palette tended toward natural hues, and the disc reproduced these with reasonably good clarity and vividness. While the hues lacked much vibrancy, they appeared to reproduce the source pretty nicely.

Black levels looked generally solid, and shadow detail was reasonably deep without too much opacity. Ultimately, FM looked dated but fine.

In addition, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of FM seemed adequate for a film of this vintage. The forward spectrum displayed fairly positive stereo imaging for the music, though not consistently.

The records we heard showed mostly solid spread, but the live performances felt more lackluster. They also spread to the back speakers in an erratic manner.

Effects played a minor role in the proceedings, with only a couple of louder sequences like one in which Doc shot a gun. In this regard, the mix became borderline monaural, which seemed fine given the flick’s heavy emphasis on dialogue and music.

Audio quality appeared acceptable, with speech that remained intelligible and fairly concise. The lines showed a little edginess at times but they usually fared well.

Both effects and music appeared accurate enough and they lacked distortion, but they also failed to display much heft. The film lacked a score and used rock recordings, most of which functioned in the background.

The music could’ve been more dynamic but the songs worked well enough. Nothing here excelled but the track suited the movie for the most part.

Though we get no commentary for FM, we do find an isolated music and effects track. This presents the film’s dialogue-free audio via Dolby 2.0. It’s too bad we don’t get a lossless version, but this still feels like a nice addition.

Some featurettes ensue, and No Static At All spans 25 minutes, five seconds. It brings a new interview with actor Michael Brandon, as he chats about his career, with an emphasis on FM. Brandon turns this into an informative program.

Under Radio Chaos, we find a 2019 interview with screenwriter Ezra Sacks. In this 23-minute, 24-second piece, Sacks discusses his experiences on the radio, the development of FM and various movie notes. Sacks delivers a lot of good material here.

The Spirit of Radio goes for 23 minutes and offers a “video appreciation” from critic Glenn Kenny. He discusses aspect of FM radio as well as the movie’s soundtrack.

Though he brings a few decent observations, Kenny’s remarks lack much insight. It’s tough to take Kenny seriously when he can’t even identify all the bands correctly, such as when he claims Marshall Tucker Band did “Green Grass & High Tides” – while the screen shows a single that accurately credits the Outlaws!

In addition to the film’s trailer, we end with image galleries. These feature “Production Stills” (60 frames), “Posters, Lobby Cards and Press” (16) and “Soundtrack Editions” (46). Nothing great appears but these add some interesting tidbits.

Packed with classic songs, FM boasts a remarkable soundtrack. Otherwise, the film fizzles, as it delivers a limp take on the radio industry circa the late 1970s. The Blu-ray brings generally good picture and audio along with a few bonus features. FM becomes a mediocre movie.

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