Stripes 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. Although I didn’t expect a lot from this transfer, it ended up as a generally positive presentation.
The two biggest problems stemmed from edge enhancement and source flaws. Light haloes appeared occasionally, though this didn’t make much of a dent on sharpness. The only shots that seemed a bit blurry were those that appeared to have been shot a little out of focus. Some bits came across that way, and I didn’t get the impression the transfer was at fault. Nonetheless, the haloes became a little distracting.
As for the source concerns, occasional specks and marks appeared. These stayed modest for the most part, however, and weren’t as prominent as I expected from a cheap movie shot in 1981. Grain was moderately distracting at times. Jagged edges and shimmering also caused no concerns.
Colors were a high spot. Most movies of this one’s era and budget tend to look dull and flat, but the tones of Stripes were very bright and bold. Yeah, a few less vibrant shots appeared, but most of them were surprisingly distinctive. Blacks also showed good depth, and shadows were usually quite well-delineated. Only a little inkiness interfered, as most of the shots were smooth and clear. Despite the various concerns, this was a nice transfer that almost made it to “B+” territory. I flip-flopped about my grade and decided the edge enhancement was too distracting for that high a mark, but it still earned a solid “B”.
The new Dolby Digital 5.1 remix of Stripes also had some age-related flaws, but it presented a surprisingly involving and vibrant affair. Stripes was originally monaural, which meant I didn’t expect much from the new soundfield. However, it opened up matters quite well. All five speakers presented a lot of audio, and these brought life to both street scenes and those in various military situations. Shells and bullets zipped around the room to good effect and vehicles moved neatly across the spectrum. Music also showed nice stereo delineation as well as reinforcement from the rear. None of this seemed awkward or artificial, as the soundfield blended well.
Audio quality occasionally showed its age, mostly due to the speech stems. Those tended to sound stiff and reedy, and they also showed some edginess, particularly during the mud wrestling sequence. Speech was usually fine given its age, however.
On the other hand, both music and effects demonstrated strong definition. The score was bright and dynamic, while the effects seemed crisp and lively. They presented very impressive low-end and made a real impression. There was little distortion as the track showed solid fidelity. Only the relatively weak speech kept this from “A” territory; otherwise Stripes really impressed.
Fans who waited for years to get a special edition of Stripes will feel pleased with the extras found on this set. First of all, we can watch both the theatrical and the extended cuts of the film. The latter runs a whopping 16 minutes longer than the original 106-minute version.
What extra bits fill out the extended edition? Here are the new scenes, so skip this area if you don’t want to learn about them in advance:
-John talks about his how he thinks the Army will be and convinces Russell to join;
-John tries to get Russell out of camp and they end up on a Special Forces mission;
-Captain Stillman challenges the squad to graduate and says he doesn’t think they’ll do it;
-Sgt. Hulka picks on John and Russell in Italy;
-John and Stella and Russell and Louise get it on in Germany;
-John talks Russell into rescuing their comrades in Czechoslovakia.
The most significant of these is the Special Forces scene. This lasts almost nine minutes and takes our heroes all the way to South America. It’s an odd scene that feels like it comes from a different movie, which is sort of true; it was originally meant for a script written for Cheech and Chong, and it doesn’t connect to Stripes at all.
The others are shorter, but I think all of them were appropriate cuts. We don’t need more of John’s attempts to get Russell into the Army, as the existing scene tells us enough. Stillman’s scene is also redundant; we get that information elsewhere and don’t need it twice. The same goes for Hulka’s bit; do we need an explanation for why he gives John crappy jobs after all their antagonism?
The other two pieces are more useful, especially since the party sequence offers plenty of skin from PJ Soles. Still, neither adds much. As a long-time fan of Stripes, it was fun to get a look at these cut pieces, but in the future, I’ll stick with the tighter theatrical cut.
In a nice touch, markers indicate the beginning and end of the bonus scenes. I don’t think these are perfect, though, as I believe the extended version includes a snippet or two not in the original but not listed as new. For instance, during the initial training montage, there’s a scene in which Ox tricks Russell into taking out a heavier trashcan. Maybe I remember the movie incorrectly, but I don’t recall that from the theatrical cut.
Note that some shots from the extended edition were a little lower quality than those from the theatrical version. For the most part, they blended pretty well, but the added scenes looked a little dirtier at times. Some were also notably grainier, especially the party in Germany sequence. Audio seemed similar for all parts of the flick, however.
To accompany the extended cut, we get an audio commentary from director Ivan Reitman and co-writer/producer Dan Goldberg. Both men sit together for a running, screen-specific chat. They mostly focus on story issues, as we learn about the deleted - and now reintegrated scenes - as well as pacing and changes from the original script. We learn the movie was first intended as a Cheech and Chong outing and see the connections to that concept. We also hear about locations, casting, improvisation, working with the military, the score and many specifics related to the shoot.
Though the commentary proves generally satisfying, it doesn’t achieve greatness. Some dead spots occur, and Reitman has an annoying tendency to get the era incorrect; he occasionally refers to shooting the flick in 1982. Nonetheless, I learned a lot about the movie in this mostly entertaining and compelling track.
Presented in two parts, a documentary called Stars and Stripes fills a total of 55 minutes and 39 seconds. It presents movie clips, archival materials, and interviews with Reitman, Goldberg, actor/co-writer Harold Ramis, and actors Bill Murray, Judge Reinhold, John Larroquette, Sean Young, PJ Soles, and John Diehl. They discuss the film’s genesis and development as a Cheech and Chong effort, the change from that to a Murray project, the cast, Murray’s impact on the set and the partnership with Ramis, improvisations, Warren Oates’ work and the Hulka/John interaction, John Candy’s work, locations and the involvement of the Army, various combinations of actors and their contrasting styles, and specifics of shooting some scenes.
Given its length, I had high hopes that “Stars” would present a rich look at the film’s creation. Unfortunately, it’s not terribly informative. On one hand, it’s good to hear from some of the actors, they provide a mix of decent stories about the shoot. However, “Stars” includes way too many movie clips, and a lot of the content repeats from the commentary. In addition, we hear a fair amount of praise, and Murray’s interview is a big disappointment. He says very little and only pops up a few times. “Stars” becomes reasonably entertaining at times, but I don’t feel like it tells us a whole lot.
Six deleted scenes last a total of 17 minutes and 43 seconds. If you already watched the extended edition, you’ll know what to find here. The “Deleted Scenes” section uses all the same segments reintegrated into the movie, so don’t expect anything different here. Nonetheless, it’s good to get them on their own in case you prefer to watch the theatrical cut of the flick.
(By the way, if you’re wondering how come the extended version of Stripes runs 16 minutes longer than the theatrical cut when we have almost 18 minutes of deleted scenes, there’s a simple answer. As seen on their own, the snipped sequences include some bits that appear in the theatrical cut, so not all of that footage is brand-new.)
Lastly, Previews includes trailers for Stripes, DEBS, Hitch and “80s Hits”.
One of the strongest comedies from the Eighties, Stripes occasionally shows its age. However, it boasts an excellent cast, strong performances, and a lot of laughs. The DVD offers surprisingly solid picture and audio. The extras are a little superficial but they include some useful materials and we learn a reasonable amount about the film’s creation. We also get a nice complement of cut footage. This is a quality DVD for a fun movie.