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Dirty Dancing - Ultimate Edition
Reviewed by: David Litton
Genre: Drama
Video: 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen
Audio: English DTS-ES 6.1, English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and 2.0
Languages: English
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Length: 105 min
Rating: PG-13
Release Date: 12/9/2003
Studio: Artisan Home Entertainment
Commentary: Feature commentary with writer/co-producer Eleanor Bergstein, feature commentary with choreographer Kenny Ortega, cast member/assistant choreographer Miranda Garrison, cinematographer Jeff Jur, costume designer Hilary Rosenfeld, and production designer David Chapman
Documentaries: None
Featurettes: "Emile Ardolino Tribute" featurette
Filmography/Biography: None
Interviews: Cast and crew interviews
Trailers/TV Spots: Theatrical trailers
Alternate/Deleted Scenes: None
Music Video: Eric Carmen "Hungry Eyes" music video, Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes "(I've Had) the Time of My Life" music video, Patrick Swayze "She's Like the Wind" music video
Other: Jennifer Grey introduction, trivia track, Jennifer Grey screen test, "Dirty Dancing: Live in Concert" television special, "Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights" sneak peek
Cast and Crew: Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Grey, Jerry Orbach, Cynthia Rhodes, Jack Weston, Jane Brucker, Kelly Bishop
Written By: Eleanor Bergstein
Produced By: Linda Gottlieb
Directed By: Emile Ardolino
Music: John Morris
The Review:

Whether you find yourself catching certain moments on cable whilst flipping through channels one evening, or you hear the music that even today plays prominently on some radio stations, there's no getting away from the cultural phenomenon that was (and still is) "Dirty Dancing." During its release in 1987, the film pulled in a domestic gross of $63 million, and garnered a worldwide sum of $170 million. It has since developed a following that rivals those of most other cult films, its fiery dance numbers and catchy beats remaining something of a landmark in movie history, however minor. Not bad for a cheesy little 80's flick that takes place in the 60's and features then-modern music and production design that just didn't seem to have that period feel to it. But hey, if Baz Luhrmann did it in 2001 with "Moulin Rouge," why can't it be done here? ***

The plot for this exercise is pretty standard melodrama: teenager Frances 'Baby' Houseman (Jennifer Grey) has just arrived with her family for a vacation at a mountain retreat where one can enjoy the amenities of tennis, bingo, swimming, and most of all, dancing. To Baby, dancing has always meant a simple fox trot or waltz, tastefully done. That is, until she meets Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze), the camp's head dancing instructor whose after-hours moves are are a bit more risque. Instantly taken with him, Baby gets closer to Johnny when she offers to step in for his partner, Penny (Cynthia Johnson), who undergoes a back-alley abortion and suffers complications, thus prompting our young heroine to bring her doctor father (Jerry Orbach) into the picture, after which he discovers what his daughter has been up to all those late nights out. Will Daddy's word reign supreme? Or will our young lovers defy the odds against them? ***

Such a question is easily answered in a movie like "Dirty Dancing," which is about as uncomplicated as you could imagine. The screenplay's attempts at conflicts- the abortion, for instance- are cloyed and something of an act of desperation, so in order to enjoy the movie, you just have to take certain things at face value. This, surprisingly enough, is not that difficult: director Emile Ardolino and his crew of filmmakers pump this one full of enough gyrations, swinging hips, and dangerous pelvic movements to make one want to get up and dance, all aided by a soundtrack that even today is still pretty damn catchy. And Swayze and Grey, despite the truly simplistic nature of their characters, manage to strike sparks in their moments together onscreen: there's a fire to their presence that keeps many moments alive and kicking, that which spills over into the dance numbers and romantic undertones. Some have cherished it for years, while others have condemned it religiously. Love it or hate it, though, "Dirty Dancing" will not be put into a corner. --

Image and Sound:

Being a low-budget movie, "Dirty Dancing" isn't exactly the ideal representation of perfection in terms of visual appearance. Two DVD transfers and sixteen years since its theatrical release, the film is now coming home on DVD for the third time, although the transfer is certainly not up to par with others on the market today. Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with anamorphic enhancement, the film looks okay when it comes to its source print. There is a good bit of film grain, but scratches and speckle are absent. Contrast and shadow detail are okay but very dated, and color saturation, despite the best efforts to make it look great, just doesn't look very natural, and there is some smearing now and then. Clarity is also only so-so, with sharp edges that are hampered by enhancement halos, and detail that isn't very pleasing. In short, this one is okay, but it's far from being the time of your life. ***

The audio has been given more attention, however, with two different options available to us. Of course, there aren't very many distinctions between the DTS-ES 61 track and the Dolby Digital 5.1 EX mix; honestly, I can't remember hearing any at all. Both make pretty good use of the soundfield without ever really wowing the listener: the music especially has been given special attention, filling out the front end nicely and engaging the surrounds slightly for a wrap-around effect that is just barely there. The .1 LFE is engaged on occasion, but is nothing to shout about, while dialogue sounds decent enough and stays centered as it should be. Overall, this is much better than the previous releases. --

The Extras:

Tying "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" for the number of times its been released on DVD, "Dirty Dancing gets its third digital video disc treatment in a new "ultimate edition" that is more of a release to promote the forthcoming sequel/prequel/whatever "Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights." ***

On Disc One we begin with a short introduction from Jennifer Garner, and then progress into the feature commentaries. Also included on Disc One is a subtitled trivia track that gives us lots of "Dirty Dancing" factoids and information about the cast and crew. Then we move on to Disc Two, which begins with new interviews from Grey, Ortega, Bergstein, and Garrison, all of whom lament over working on the project, what it meant to them, how they reacted to it and the reaction of the audience, etc. Ortega's first reaction to a rough cut of the movie is quite interesting, while Grey's candor is always welcome. From here we move on to Grey's screen test, which is more or less just another add-on. Then we have the featurette "Emile Ardolino Tribute," a pasting together of interview snippets that gives insight into the life and accomplishments of the director. *** The rest of the disc's material, aside from the sneak preview of "Havana Nights" (it's going to suck, I'm sure), is all rehashed from the previous DVD: we have the theatrical trailer, the music videos for all the headline songs, and the abhorrent "Dirty Dancing: Live in Concert" television special that is just too cheesy for words to describe.

Commentary: The first commentary is from the previous DVD: in it, writer/co-producer Eleanor Bergstein talks in enormous detail about how her own experiences went into the writing of the screenplay, as well as discussing a lot of production facts like where certain scenes were shot, who did what on the set and off, and so on. While those who are familiar with this track may not want to relive it in its entire, it does have the upper hand over the new track, which features a multitude of people talking about their specific fields of interest as related to the movie. Choreographer Kenny Ortega, cast member/assistant choreographer Miranda Garrison, cinematographer Jeff Jur, costume designer Hilary Rosenfeld, and production designer David Chapman, all talk about a number of things, but with so many people contributing, there's not a lot of room for personal reflection, something the track could use. Still, for its technical aspects, it's worth a listen.
Final Words: While there is some substantial material here that is worth checking out, the rest of the extras are carried over from the previous collector's edition, making this one a tough choice for those who already own that disc.


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