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James Bridges
John Travolta, Debra Winger, Scott Glenn
Writing Credits:
James Bridges, Aaron Latham

Bud is a young man from the country who learns about life and love in a Houston bar.

Rated PG.

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French Dolby Mono
German Dolby Mono
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 134 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 6/2/2020

• “Good Times with Gilley” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes
• Outtakes
• Rehearsal Footage


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Urban Cowboy (Paramount Presents Edition) [Blu-Ray] (1980)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 14, 2020)

Back in 1977, John Travolta starred in Saturday Night Fever, a major hit that also ignited disco fever and made him a movie idol. Three years later, Travolta tried to do the same for country via 1980’s Urban Cowboy.

Bud Davis (Travolta) leaves small-town Texas to move to big-city Houston, where he works alongside his Uncle Bob (Barry Corbin) at a refinery. They frequent Gilley’s country bar, and there Bud meets Sissy (Debra Winger).

The pair fall in love and marry, but happily ever after doesn’t come along for the ride immediately. Tensions evolve that threaten the relationship.

As mentioned, Fever turned into a huge success, one that ended up fourth at the year’s box office behind Star Wars, Smokey and the Bandit and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. As the only “R”-rated flm of that bunch, Fever’s success becomes even more impressive.

As a kid in 1980, it seemed clear that Cowboy wanted to replicate that impact, but it fell short of those goals. The whole enterprise felt forced, like those involved tried too hard to enact the kind of cultural revolution, but it just didn’t take.

Though rated a more family-friendly “PG”, Cowboy earned less than half of Fever’s gross. This left it 13th on the 1980 box office charts and a commercial disappointment.

Cowboy didn’t even deserve that level of success. A thin stab at melodrama, the film becomes a long, slow journey to nowhere.

With Fever, we got a character drama that offered some insights into a particular culture, and it also came with a compelling lead. While we saw Tony Manero as rough around the edges, he displayed goals, ambitions and traits that made us bond with him.

Don’t expect the same from simple-minded, lunkheaded Bud, one of the least sympathetic leads you’ll find. As much as the movie wants us to connect to Bud and root for him, we don’t, mainly because the flick never gives us a reason to do so.

Bud plays as a jerk from almost literally Minute One. He shows no obvious charm and he treats Sissy poorly.

Given the nature of this story, our disenchantment with Bud turns into a fatal flaw, especially because Cowboy comes woefully thin on plot. It acts more as a collection of melodramatic scenes with musical bits inserted than as a true narrative.

Due to our general lack of interest in the characters, this becomes a real problem. If the movie fails to deliver a compelling story and engaging characters, we find no reason to dig into it.

Travolta throws out a cheesy cornpone accent and lacks the charisma that made him a star with Fever and 1978’s Grease. He plays Bud as a dull blob of a character, and he can’t bring personality or life to the film.

Winger leapt to stardom via Cowboy, and she fares better than Travolta, but sensual shots of her on the mechanical bull did most of that work. While not bad in the part, Winger can’t do much to turn the underwritten Sissy into an interesting character.

Add the fact that the filmmakers stretch Cowboy to a mind-numbing 134 minutes and this becomes a turgid drag of a movie. Too long, too thin and too pointless, Cowboy fails to find a groove.

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

Urban Cowboy appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a watchable but erratic presentation.

Definition was mostly positive. Occasional soft shots materialized, and I couldn’t call the movie razor-sharp, but the majority showed good clarity. No issues with shimmering or jaggies materialized, and but some edge haloes cropped up at times.

Print flaws remained relatively minor. A handful of specks popped up along with a gate hair, but those issues weren’t pervasive. Instead, the movie usually looked clean.

With a lot of grain on display, it seemed clear the image didn’t undergo massive noise reduction. That said, some interiors at Gilley’s could feel a bit mushy and “smoothed out”. While in the minority, these seemed a little unnatural.

Colors appeared largely appealing. The movie tended toward a low-key palette, and the disc replicated those with good accuracy.

Blacks were reasonably dark, while low-light shots demonstrated appropriate clarity. Overall, I felt this was a “C+“ image.

As for the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio, it opened up the material in a reasonable manner, especially as it related to music. While some cues remained essentially monaural, others broadened to the sides in a solid manner and delivered nice stereo presence.

Effects also broadened to the various channels in a moderately involving manner. Although those also could lean mono a fair amount of the time, scenes on construction sites or at Gilley’s contributed an appealing sense of place.

Audio quality seemed dated but acceptable to good. Music fared best, as performances often came across with nice range and vibrancy.

Effects felt more pedestrian, and they could come across as a little distorted at times, but these elements usually offered reasonable clarity. While dialogue could appear a bit thin and reedy, the lines remained intelligible. This turned into a more than decent track for a 40-year-old film.

A few extras appear here, and Good Times with Gilley spans 15 minutes, 10 seconds. It brings notes from musician/club co-owner Mickey Gilley as he discusses his life/career and involvement in the movie. Don’t expect real insights, but Gilley brings a likable chat.

Four Deleted Scenes fill a total of eight minutes, two seconds. These offer minor character expansions but nothing memorable. The final cut already runs too long, so it makes sense these got the boot.

Note that all four appear in a 1.33:1 ratio. I believe all got integrated into the broadcast TV version of the film.

We also get four minutes, eight seconds of Outtakes. Here we see “John Travolta and Debra Winger Dancing” (1:28) and “John Travolta Dancing” (2:40).

Some of this seems interesting, especially a scene that feels like it exists to give Travolta a spotlight ala his iconic Saturday Night Fever dancing. Unfortunately, he looks fairly silly here.

Finally, we see four minutes, five seconds of Rehearsal Footage. All three segments focus on Travolta and/or Winger with the mechanical bull.

These allow the actors to work out their efforts. I like this kind of raw footage.

A failed attempt to recreate the buzz of Saturday Night Fever, Urban Cowboy never threatens to bring us an engaging film. With an unlikable lead and a thin plot, the movie lacks obvious charms. The Blu-ray brings acceptable picture along with pretty good audio and a few bonus materials. Don’t expect much from this dull melodrama.

Viewer Film Ratings: 1 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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