Risky Business Blu-ray Review
PictureRisky Business comes to Blu-ray day and date with a DVD re-release to celebrate its 25th anniversary. Presented in its theatrically correct ratio of 1.85:1 and with a 1080P encode, I was fascinated to see exactly how one of my favourite eighties movies was going to look like in Hi def 25 years on.
Obviously, compared to the very latest big budget releases this is not going to look particularly great. Even 25 years ago, this was a low budget release so I was not expecting great things from this disc. Although this is never going to be reference material, this is easily an improvement over the extremely ropey original DVD version, mainly due to the re-mastering process that has taken place.
The first thing one notices when watching Risky Business on Blu-ray is the level of detail that is present in the transfer. Compared with the original DVD, this is probably the biggest improvement. This is particularly noticeable when the Chicago exteriors are lovingly shot, with the buildings displaying a previously unnoticed level of grime and the windows providing a beautifully illuminated sheen onto the cityscape that is spread out in front of the camera. However, this is also noticeable in other scenes too. The infamous party scene is full of little moments that were perhaps not as visible as before, and the scene where de Mornay first gets her clothes off (not that I studied this scene in any great detail) is also a lot cleared than it was before - which will please those of a certain disposition.
Where the disappointment is, although it is not unexpected considering the age and budget of the film, is the level of 3D pop. The image always looks strangely flat for an HD release - never really threatening to pull you in to the scenes you are watching.
The source is probably a lot to do with this, and even though it has been remastered for this release, it still displays a level of dirt and grain which does tend to rather subdue the image. It should be stressed again that this was a budget release even 25 years ago, and would not be classed as a huge release now, so this is hardly a surprise. This is the best the film has looked by a long way, but those who are used to modern day perfection, or who have never seen this film on DVD before, may find themselves a little disappointed by this.
Colour is similarly muted, but this time it is down to the way the film is shot rather than any encoding process that has been used. Risky Business, was never an overly bright film, and even the exterior scenes in the suburbs were never exceptionally colourful. There is the occasional bright splash of colour which accentuates what might have been, but the general drab nature of the transfer is more down to the way the film was shot than any deficiencies with the encode.
In general, this disc is certainly a perfectly fine representation of the film, and easily the best the film has ever looked within the home.
SoundFor this blu-ray release, Warner is offering a brand new English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround mix for the film. Whereas it is nice to have, it does suffer from the usual problems engendered by trying to update a less dynamic soundtrack in this way.
Unlike the picture, there seems to be little problem with the source - it is always clear and precise, and dialogue is always easy to hear. There is no need to manually alter settings in order to hear what is being said.
Music is a very important part of the film, and this is perhaps the most disappointing part. The Tangerine Dream score is integral to the film but here it always sounds a little forced, a little louder than it should be - thus rather forcefully cutting across the action instead of complementing it like it should do. A perfect example of this is when Phil Collin's “In The Air Tonight” is used over the top of the “sex on the underground” scene. This scene is meant to slowly build up the sexual tension through the use of the song, before releasing it in an ambient soundscape created by the composers. Instead, the scene is like being hit over the head with sound, and it sounds incongruous and unnecessary.
Surround use is almost non-existent, and they only kick in on one or two occasions, or when the music plays (one of the reasons for the music being too dominant). It certainly seems that very little care has been taken over sound placement here. Of course, when upgrading a soundtrack that wouldn't have been 5.1 in the first place, it is always a difficult choice. Do you stick with the original soundtrack or do you remix it up to 5.1. However, regardless of the arguments for and against this approach if you are going to do a remix, then more care should really be taken over it than this.
ExtrasThe previous SD release was bare bones, but this Blu-ray contains all the extras from the re-release DVD as well as a couple of exclusives. There may not be hours of stuff here, but what is here is riveting and well worth dipping in to.
We start with a Risky Business : The 25th Anniversary Retrospective featurette. This is in HD, lasts 30 minutes, and features all new interviews with the main participants, and also Cameron Crowe. The information given is fascinating, and it is great to see all the major players, and some of the minor ones, reflecting on their experience making the film, and its impact, 25 years later. Not so long than it overstays its welcome, this is great stuff.
However, this is trumped in the fascination stakes by the superb screen tests. This is up scaled video into HD, but this matters not a jot as it is fantastic seeing Tom Cruise trying out for the role alongside DeMornay. Full credit to Cruise for allowing this to be used, this is really interesting.
Famously, Risky Business had an alternative ending that the director always preferred, but it has never before been seen. It is presented here, and provides an interesting alternative to the original. I must say, I prefer the original, but it is good to finally get to see this alternative. This is supplemented by the original Theatrical trailer
Even if we just had that it would be great, but for the 25th anniversary, Cruise, the director and Producer sat down to record a new commentary. This is present in audio from on the re-release DVD but on the blu-ray we get it in PIP form (on profile 2.0 players). This works absolutely seamlessly, and is a fascinating watch. Cruise comes out of the whole enterprise remarkably well, and everyone involved provide a great mix of insight and personable company. One of the best commentary options I have seen, it is just a shame that an audio only option isn't available. Oh, and we also get a digital copy of the film. Be still my beating heart.
VerdictRisky Business is genuinely an eighties film that really does deserve the epithet “classic”. Subverting the teen genre in a delightful way, the writing, direction and performances are all razor sharp and spot on. The beauty of the film is that on the surface it may seem as shallow as the characters it portrays but it is actually far deeper than it may appear. As much a critique of the time it was made, as it is teen comedy this is subtle, clever, and well worth revisiting.
Unfortunately, the film was hardly a big budget enterprise, so although the remastering has gone some way to covering up the flaws, the source is still problematic. This means that some video flaws are present, and the sound is at times incredibly disappointing. That said, however, this is still way better than it has ever looked before on home formats, and probably the best representation of the director's original intention that we are likely to get.
The poor video and audio quality is made up for with a superb package of extras which illuminate a film that for once does stand up to scrutiny. The quality of the film and the extras mean that this is quite simply a no-brainer to anyone who is already a fan of the film. If you did miss it the first time around, or are simply too young to remember the eighties, then perhaps the purchase decision is a little more difficult - but if you do take the plunge it is highly unlikely that you will be disappointed. There is absolutely nothing risky, about the business of purchasing this Blu-ray.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £28.99
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