Dazed and Confused
America, 1976. The last day of school. Bongs blaze, bell-bottoms ring, and rock and roll rocks. Among the best teen films ever made, Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused eavesdrops on a group of seniors-to-be and incoming freshmen. A launching pad for a number of future stars, Linklater’s first studio effort also features endlessly quotable dialogue and a blasting, stadium-ready soundtrack. Sidestepping nostalgia, Dazed and Confused is less about “the best years of our lives” than the boredom, angst, and excitement of teenagers waiting . . . for something to happen.
Not even a couple of months after Universal released their own Blu-ray edition of Dazed and Confused The Criterion Collection ports (for the most part) their own DVD edition of Richard Linklater’s cult favourite over to Blu-ray, presenting the film in its original aspect ratio of about 1.85:1 on this dual-layer disc in a 1080p/24hz transfer. Interestingly the back says this is the “director’s cut” of the film (which is not indicated on the packaging of the DVD edition) but I didn’t notice any sort of difference here based on my memory of it or in comparison to the Criterion DVD, the only other edition of the film I currently own, have gotten rid of the VHS edition long ago. If there’s any difference it’s subtle.
At any rate we get a decent presentation for the film. In the commentary Linklater mentions that he wanted the film to look like it was made in the 70’s and here it certainly has that look. Colours look decent but are a little washed and never truly pop, while blacks are deep but are crushed in a few sequences. The transfer is generally stable even if shimmering is present in some of the tighter, more complicated patterns, but past that I didn’t notice any other problems.
The image is very sharp and never falters in this area, and film grain is present, looking natural but never heavy or overbearing. The print is in excellent shape with very little damage present. As a whole, though it didn’t knock me out, this is the best I’ve seen the film, which has rarely received the love it deserves over the years.
Criterion delivers a lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track that really sounds incredible, the best I’ve ever heard the film. Dialogue sticks to the center channel primarily and sounds sharp and distinct, with no muffled lines. All of the speakers then work together to deliver the film’s incredible musiuc soundtrack, which sounds absolutely crisp with no distortion or edginess. Sound effects from the various settings, whether in school, the Emporium, or the party, also move smoothly between the speakers. In all a sharp, “rocking” presentation.
Amazingly, until Criterion released the film on DVD in 2006 (to celebrate the “30th anniversary of the Bicentennial”) this movie never got a special edition other than some weak, half-assed DVD released around 2004 by Universal, which I never understood since the film has a rather large fan-base. Thankfully, after Universal released the film on their own weak looking Blu-ray (I haven’t actually seen the disc mind you, but it appears the only substantial supplement is a collection of deleted scenes) Criterion has ported their DVD edition over.
First we get Richard Linklater’s audio commentary recorded originally for the Criterion DVD. Linklater talks extensively about the production, his first studio feature, which was a mixed experience for him as he had to fight constantly to do what he wanted. He also had issues getting certain corporations to work with him, like McDonald’s, Schlitz, and Sonic, who were all written into the script but had to be dropped after the actual companies wouldn’t cooperate in filming (he also had issues getting a Zeppelin song he wanted for the film.) But it wasn’t all problematic and it sounds as though Linklater has fond memories of the production. He recalls the casting (even mentioning other actors, who are now big stars, who came in for auditions), what impressed him most about certain members, the production, and then of course post-production, which unfortunately included a rather upsetting test screening. He also offers many anecdotes from his own childhood, most of which made it into the film. In all it’s an entertaining, fairly enlightening track.
17 deleted scenes running 25-minutes are also included. It’s understandable why a lot of these were cut but they’re actually quite good to watch on their own. In them we get to see the actual stealing of the statues that are transformed into Kiss band members along with another moment involving that subplot and the police later one. We also see the return of Affleck’s O’Bannion character after receiving his comeuppance earlier, and then there are longer conversations that are more reminiscent of Slacker and seem out of place in this film.
Making Dazed is a 45-minute documentary on the making of the film made up of on-set footage shot in 1992, and then various interviews filmed over the years with Linklater, Matthew McConaghey, Parker Posey, Adam Goldberg, Anthony Rapp, Ben Affleck, Jason London, and others, including Wiley Wiggins and Christin Hinojosa. It’s a fairly by-the-motions doc, covering the timeline of the production from Linklater pitching it to Universal execs to post-production, and then closing with coverage of a reunion screening of the film. Along with the commentary (and other features scattered about) it really shows that a lot of the film, despite having a script, was made up on the spot during rehearsals, which were extensive much to the dismay of the producers who were worried the film wouldn’t get done on time (and caused plenty of tension.) There are some amusing anecdotes, like where Affleck had a face-off with one of the producers, James Jacks, about the “cussing” in the film, and then there are more details about how the release of the film was handled. It’s a pretty charming doc, filled with great footage from the set and old interviews with members of the cast and crew (though these interviews are also included elsewhere on this set.)
Next we get 23-minutes worth of audition footage featuring Michelle Burke, Rory Cochrane, Adam Goldberg, Cole Hauser (who reads for what would become a deleted scene), Christin Hinojosa, Nicky Katt, Jason London, Deena Martin, Matthew McConaughey, Anthony Rapp, Marissa Ribisi, and Wiley Wiggins. These are actually quite amusing to watch, especially Cochrane, who is already very much in character for the reading.
Next are 2-hours’ worth of material under Beer Bust at the Moon Tower, which features a large collection of various footage shot during the filming of Dazed and Confused.
First under this section are Character Interviews, which features 40-minutes worth of interviews with the actors talking about their characters. Unfortunately McConaughey isn’t here (I would have found that interesting) and some of the actors do seem unsure what to do (even Cochrane, appearing in character, still can’t fully think like his character) but Posey is absolutely amazing here, completely disappearing into her character here and giving us the complete background and thinking process of her character. Cute overall.
Cast and Director’s Interviews is a 47-minute collection of interviews taken around the time of filming, starting with Linklater before filming began and then ending with Linklater just before filming ended, where he reflects a bit. In between here we get more interviews with Posey, Affleck, Hauser, Wiggins, Hinojosa, McConaughey, and others. Most of these appear in the documentary in a truncated form but are more complete here. In a bulk of the interviews the cast reflects on their scenes and the general shoot, which to many was the time of their life.
Behind-the-Scenes footage, which runs 31-minutes, offers footage of rehearsals, set-ups for certain scenes (like O’Bannion’s comeuppance), costume tests, footage of the extras being directed at the party that occurs near the end, footage of the props used (primarily the beer cans, bongs, and fake marijuana) and then footage of the cast and crew during their 2003 reunion. Some of the footage presented here is without audio.
While you can watch each piece under the “Beer Bust” section individually it also has a “Random Play All” option which plays every piece in here in a random order. I preferred just going through all of it but it’s an interesting option.
The disc then concludes with the trailer for the film (that I believe was only seen on video) showing that Universal has never known how to sell this film, simply sticking with the “stoner comedy” marketing they still use to this day (even though the film is technically not a “stoner comedy”).
Criterion then includes a thick booklet that features a number of essays, starting with one on the film by Kent Jones followed by one on the music from the era by Jim DeRogatis, and then a reflection by Chuck Klosterman. The booklet then includes a reprint of a lengthy article on the film that appeared in a 2003 issue of Texas Monthly, which includes interviews with members of the cast and crew again reflecting on the making of the film and the cult following it has built up. We also get reprints of some of the letters Linklater wrote to his cast and crew, and then finally we get bios for most of the characters that appear in the film presented in a yearbook format.
Overall what we get is a very satisfying set that should keep most fans of the film occupied for a while.
So far the best edition to be released for the film (thankfully also avoiding that “stoner” aspect Universal has latched on to) delivering a strong audio and video presentation, and a great collection of supplements that go very in-depth into the making of the film. Highly recommended for fans.