Stand By Me appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although the picture presented a few minor flaws, for the most part it looked pretty strong.
Sharpness seemed uniformly crisp and clear, with almost no instances of softness to be found. The image consistently appeared detailed and distinctive. Some minor jagged edges and moiré effects occurred, and I also noticed minor edge enhancement at times. The print itself showed occasional speckles and spots plus a couple of nicks, but these didn't seem significant.
Stand maintains a subdued palette, but the colors appeared accurate and neatly saturated, without any signs of fading, bleeding or noise. Black levels were dark and rich, and shadow detail seemed clear and lacked any excessive heaviness to obscure parts of the image in low-light situations. The movie presented a solid image.
Also good is the monaural soundtrack of Stand By Me, though I felt it necessary to deduct some points due to the fact it only offered one channel; mono sound is unusual for such a recent movie. Nonetheless, the quality of the audio seemed very strong. Dialogue appeared natural and distinct, with no concerns related to intelligibility or edginess. Effects were crisp and clear and lacked any distortion.
Music only appeared sporadically during the film and maintains a quiet presence most of the time. In addition, much of the music came from source materials, which meant they were reproduced to sound as though they came from radios. Nonetheless, the tunes seemed acceptably smooth and well-reproduced. I didn't feel comfortable offering Stand anything higher than a "B-" simply because of the monaural nature of the sound, but rest assured that the audio seemed clear and clean throughout the film.
What did I find when I compared the picture and audio of this new 2005 Deluxe Edition of Stand By Me with the original release from 2000? They were absolutely identical. As was the case with the 35th anniversary release of Easy Rider, the Deluxe Stand simply packages the existing DVD with some new non-disc-based materials.
That means we get the same picture and audio quality as with the first release, and all the supplements on the DVD itself repeat. These start with an audio commentary from director Rob Reiner, who provides a running, screen-specific chat. I've heard a few prior tracks from Reiner and found them to be fairly dry; his remarks during Criterion's treatment of This Is Spinal Tap were decent but his discussion of The Story of Us was almost as dull as the movie itself. Unfortunately, Stand does nothing to alter my impressions of Reiner's commentary style; this is another drab track.
The piece features quite a few long pauses, and when Reiner speaks, it's usually to tell us that what we're seeing on screen was influenced by his childhood. That may sound good, as one might expect some interesting insights into his youth, and Reiner indeed provides a few compelling nuggets about his early life. However, the vast majority of the time he simply states that "My friends and I used to do that all the time" and provides no greater depth. I got the point very quickly and this made the commentary as a whole quite a drag.
Another audio feature appears as well: we get an isolated score with just the music on it. Since Stand features such a modest score and mostly offers songs from the era, I didn't think this program was all that valuable, and the fact the music plays in mono doesn't help. In any case, it's a decent addition for those who like such things.
Next up is a featurette. Titled Walking the Tracks: The Summer of Stand By Me, this 36-minute and 43-second program offers interviews with Reiner, author Stephen King, and actors Richard Dreyfuss, Wil Wheaton, Corey Feldman, Jerry O'Connell, and Kiefer Sutherland plus some film clips and a few production shots. It's a very solid documentary that offers a terrific look at the creation of the film. Even though Reiner repeats a lot of the material stated in his commentary, he seems more compelling within this tightly-edited environment, and the additional perspectives are invaluable. It's a coherent and taut show that added to my enjoyment of the film.
We get a music video for "Stand By Me" by Ben E. King. This clip features movie shots plus vintage performance footage of King intercut with some old photos of the singer and circa 1986 lip-synch material with him. The latter also includes Phoenix and Wheaton who participate in the performance to a minor degree. It's not a bad little piece.
A few minor extras round out the disc. There are the usual uninformative Talent Files that appear on many Columbia-Tristar DVDs; these include extremely rudimentary details about Reiner, King, Wheaton, Phoenix, Feldman, Sutherland and O'Connell. Bonus Trailers features promos for The Karate Kid and Fly Away Home, but no ad for Stand appears. Soundtrack provides a static screenshot that tells us the soundtrack is available from Atlantic Records.
As we head to the materials added to this Deluxe Edition, we discover a CD Songtrack. This eight-song affair almost duplicates the movie’s official soundtrack album. It omits “Whispering Bells” by the Del Vikings and “Get a Job” by the Silhouettes. Why lose only two songs? Why not just put out the full soundtrack? I don’t know, but it’s an annoying alteration. At least all eight tunes are the originals; the Easy Rider “songtrack” included a few re-recorded renditions.
While the Deluxe Edition loses the old release’s leaflet, it adds a 32-page booklet. This one presents an introduction with a little about the story’s origins and the production. It also offers 1986 pressbook biographies of Reiner, King, Wheaton, Phoenix, O’Connell, Feldman, Sutherland, Dreyfuss and actor John Cusack along with 2005 “postscripts”. The booklet also includes some photos and replicas of theatrical posters. It’s a decent piece but it doesn’t add a whole lot to the package.
Stand By Me isn't perfect, but I thought it offered a nice look at an interesting time of life. The film is well-acted and rings true. The DVD provides very good picture, modest but accurate sound, and a few decent supplements. It's a solid movie that would make a nice addition to your collection.
The question becomes which version of Stand By Me to buy. If you already own the original special edition release, there’s no reason to double-dip; it doesn’t add enough to merit a repurchase. However, it might be the way to go if you don’t already have the prior disc. This one retails for only $5 more than its predecessor, and that’s not a bad price for the booklet and the CD.