Strictly Ballroom appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The movie came with an erratic, unexceptional transfer.
Sharpness became one of the many up and down elements. Close-ups looked fine, and occasional wide shots seemed decent.
However, much of the flick came across as a bit soft and indistinct. These concerns were never extreme, but a lot of the movie appeared somewhat mushy.
No issues with jaggies or shimmering materialized, and edge haloes remained absent. While the image could seem excessively grainy, it lacked print flaws, though it could seem a little wobbly at times.
With its lavish costumes and vivid dance settings, Ballroom arrived with a bubbly palette. Unfortunately, it failed to replicate these tones in a dynamic manner.
At best, the colors appeared reasonably lively, but they usually seemed somewhat flat and bland. The hues weren’t bad, but they should’ve been better.
Blacks were passable, while shadows tended to be a little muddy. Perhaps this is the best the movie can look, but it sure seemed iffy.
While not exceptional, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Ballroom suited the material. As expected, music dominated the proceedings.
The songs and score offered nice stereo presence and also offered a smidgen of spread to the surrounds. That was the most obvious element, though some effects appeared in the rear and back speakers as well. None of these added much more than ambience, but they contributed a bit of environment to the proceedings.
Audio quality seemed fine. Music remained the most significant element, and that side of things sounded decent. The score and songs could’ve been a bit more dynamic, but they showed acceptable vivacity.
Speech was similarly decent. Some of the lines were a little reedy, but they were reasonably natural and they lacked edginess.
Effects stayed a minor aspect of the mix but demonstrated fair clarity and range. While nothing here stood out as memorable, the audio suited the story.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the DVD version? The lossless audio felt a bit fuller and more dynamic, while visuals seemed better defined and livelier.
That said, whatever improvements I saw came from the superior capabilities of Blu-ray. Honestly, I suspect that the BD used the same mediocre transfer as the DVD.
When we shift to the set’s extras, we start with an audio commentary from director/co-writer Baz Luhrmann, production designer/co-costume designer Catherine Martin and choreographer John (Cha Cha) O’Connell. All three sit together for a running, screen-specific look at the project's origins and development, choreography and costumes, cast and performances, sets and locations, cinematic styles, and the film's reception.
Though not without a few lulls, the commentary usually moves at a nice clip. Luhrmann dominates, but the other two get in plenty of remarks as well. They combine to make this a useful, engaging piece with lots of good info.
Two featurettes follow. Strictly Ballroom: From Stage to Screen goes for 23 minutes, 22 seconds and includes comments from Luhrmann, Martin, executive producer Antoinette Albert, and producer Tristram Miall.
The show examines the project’s stage roots and path to the cinema as well as casting, dancing, and its release. I’m not wild about the program’s quirky visual style, but it includes a lot of good information, so it’s well worth your time.
Samba to Slow Fox lasts 30 minutes, 17 seconds and features various real-life ballroom dancers. We get their thoughts on the dancing scene and see many examples of competitions. This offers a nice glimpse of the real world behind the movie’s fiction.
One Deleted Scene runs one minute, 57 seconds. It shows an additional attempt to get Scott to dump Fran for another partner.
It seems fairly redundant, as we already have enough pressure on Scott, though it does tell us a little more about how Scott’s choice might impact the family business.
Finally, we get a Design Gallery. This delivers montages via five smaller areas: “Backstage Snapshots” (2:20), “Production Design” (0:18), “Promotional and Various” (1:36), “Baz’s Family Album” (0:46), and “Scott and Fran” (1:11).
Along with the images, we hear comments from Luhrmann and Martin for all the compilations except “Design”. I’m not a huge fan of running photo montages, but the addition of the commentary brings worth. We get many good shots; I especially like the ads in “Promotional” and the old snaps in “Album”.
The disc opens with ads for Chicago, Shakespeare In Love and Velvet Goldmine. No trailer for Ballroom appears here.
Strictly Ballroom came as a pleasant surprise nearly 30 years ago, and it continues to entertain. The movie’s not my normal cup of tea, but I see it as a fun, sweet appreciation of dance as an art. The Blu-ray provides bland picture, decent audio and a pretty good collection of supplements. This isn’t a particularly strong disc, but the film’s enjoyable enough to earn my recommendation.
To rate this film visit the DVD review of STRICTLY BALLROOM