Stand By Me: 25th Anniversary (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Review)
March 8, 2011 by Dennis Amith
“Stand By Me” is one of my favorite coming-of-age teen films from the ’80s and in every sense of the word is a true “classic”, and I know that in films, this word tends to be used a lot but in this case, I do feel that “Stand By Me” is a true classic and a film that will continue to entertain people for many generations to come. “Stand By Me: 25th Anniversary” is highly recommended!
Images courtesy of © 1986 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: Stand By Me: 25th Anniversary
FILM RELEASE DATE: 1986
DURATION: 88 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1), English, French, Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, English Original Mono, Subtitles: English SDH, French, Portuguese and Spanish
COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
RELEASE DATE: March 22, 2011
Directed by Rob Reiner
Based on the novel “The body” by Stephen King
Screenplay by Raynold Gideon and Bruce A. Evans
Produced by Bruce A. Evans, Raynold Gideon, Andrew Scheinman
Music by Jack Nitzsche
Cinematography by Thomas Del Ruth
Edited by Robert Leighton
Casting by Janet Hirshenson, Jane Jenkins
Production Design by J. Dennis Washington
Set Decoration by Richard D. Kent
Wil Wheaton as Gordie Lachance
River Phoenix as Chris Chambers
Corey Feldman as Teddy Duchamp
Jerry O’Connell as Vern Tessio
Kiefer Sutherland as Ace Merrill
Casey Siemaszko as Billy Tessio
Gary Riley as Charlie Hogan
Bradley Gregg as Eyeball Chambers
Jason Oliver as Vince Desjardins
Marshall Bell as Mr. Lachance
Francess Lee McCain as Mrs. Lachance
Richard Dreyfuss as The Writer
John Cusack as Denny Lachance
In a small woodsy Oregon town, a group of friends–sensitive Gordie (Wil Wheaton), tough guy Chris (River Phoenix), flamboyant Teddy (Corey Feldman), and scaredy-cat Vern (Jerry O’Connell)–are in search of a missing teenager’s body. Wanting to be heroes in each other’s and their hometown’s eyes, they set out on an unforgettable two-day trek that turns into an odyssey of self-discovery. They sneak smokes, tell tall tales, cuss ’cause it’s cool and band together when the going gets tough. When they encounter the town’s knife-wielding hoods who are also after the body, the boys discover a strength they never knew they had. STAND BY ME is a rare and special film about friendship and the indelible experiences of growing up. Filled with humor and suspense, STAND BY ME is based on the novella ‘The Body’ by Stephen King.
Stephen King may be known for his horror novels but in 1982, the writer wrote a novella known as “The Body” as part of his collection “Different Seasons”. The story which was based on a writer named Gordon Lachance is told in the first person point of view and talks about a group of children who set out in a journey in 1960, living in Castle Rock, Maine.
While parts of the film are based on King’s childhood, a film adaptation of “The Body” created by writing duo Raynold Gideon and Bruce A. Evans (“Mr. Brooks”, “Starman”, “Cutthroat Island”) ad directing the film is Rob Reiner (“All in the Family”, “This is Spinal Tap”, “When Harry Met Sally…”, “The Princess Bride”) and to make sure people knew that this was not a horror film, the title of the film would be renamed to “Stand By Me” and released in theaters in the summer of 1986 by Columbia Pictures.
The film would receive critical acclaim and earn over $52 million in the box office, which was a lot back in 1986.
And now the film celebrates its 25th Anniversary with a Blu-ray release.
“Stand By Me” begins with an adult Gordie Lachance (played by Richard Dreyfuss, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, “The Goodbye Girl”), a writer who is working on a memoir about his youth and reading a newspaper article that a man named Chris Chambers was stabbed to death when trying to stop a brawl.
The story then goes back to 1959 in the town of Castle Rock, Oregon during Labor Day. A young Gordie Lachance (played by Wil Wheaton) is a quiet young boy who loves to write stories but at home, he is rejected by his father who has always put his older brother, a high school football star named Denny (played by John Cusack, “Say Anything”, “2012”, “Being John Malkovich”) on top of his family. As his father was very into Denny’s football accolades. But unfortunately Denny was killed in a jeep accident and because of an emotional disconnect at his home life, Gordie ends up spending a lot of time with his buddies.
His friends include Chris Chambers (played by River Phoenix, “My Own Private Idaho”, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”, “Running on Empty”), the leader of the group and comes from a family of criminals and alcoholics; Teddy Duchamp (played by Cory Feldman, “The Lost Boys”, “The Goonies”, “Gremlins”) is eccentric and wears a hearing aid and was physically scarred after his father held his ear to a stove; and Vern Tessio (played by Jerry O’Connell,”Crossing Jordan”, “Jerry Maguire”), the overweight kid who people tend to pick on.
One day Vern overhears his brother Billy (played by Casey Seimaszko) talking about a missing boy they saw dead after he was struck by a train. The news has reported that their is a search for the missing teenager and the teens debate in contacting the authorities. When Vern hears the news, he runs and tells his group and so, the boys decide to go on a journey to see the body.
Before they begin their journey, both Gordie (wearing a New York Yankees hat that his brother gave him) and Chris run into “Ace” Merrill (played by Kiefer Sutherland, “24”, “The Lost Boys”, “Phone Booth”), the town bully and his friend. They take Gordie’s hat and Chris tries to defend his friend but Ace throws him to the ground and holds him down.
From this point on, we learn about how Gordie and Chris are good friends. Despite Chris’ family background, if there is one thing that made him special to Gordie is that he was there for him and offer him advice, mostly to continue to urge Gordie to follow and pursue his dream as a writer, even if he doesn’t get that support from his own parents.
While on this journey, the boys gets to know each other but also learn about each other’s personal stories that have affected them and together, throughout this journey, they face major dangers.
Meanwhile, when Ace finds out from his friends about the whereabouts of the dead body, he and his friends feel they can collect on a reward, so they take off to find the body as well.
Who will get to the body first? And what happened to Gordie’s friends as he got older?
“Stand By Me: 25th Anniversary” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1). First the good news. Compared to the 15th Anniversary of “Stand By Me” released in 2000, this Blu-ray release definitely surpasses the DVD release in terms of picture quality and detail. You can see the stains on Gordon Lachance’s windows, you can see the grime on the kids during their trip and also at times the skin pores, clothing textures and if anything, clarity. Skin tones look natural, while blacks tend to have a bit of crush.
There is a good amount of grain throughout the film and for the most part, because the film is shot primarily outdoors, you do get to see the colors and details a bit more. But this leads to the bad news, which is the fact that this film looks a bit soft at times and the film has aged quite a bit (note: A lot of ’80s films do suffer from this on Blu-ray). If anything, we know the film is shot outdoors but it doesn’t have that vibrancy that you expect from outdoor shots. It’s a bit soft. But the picture quality is good, it’s just not great and I believe it’s due to the nature of the film stocks used back in the ’80s.
I did enjoy the cinematography and Director of Photography, Thomas Del Ruth (“The Breakfast Club”, “The Running Man”, “The West Wing”) did a great job in this film. From the kids walking through the forest or walking on the train tracks, you had the sense of calmness yet a small feel of tension through it’s cinematography. Loved the wideshots and how that train scene with Gordie and Vern was shot.
But in someways, because of the age in the film, it kind of makes the time period of 1959 seem much more real for this 1986 film. So, rather than hurt it, I think it does make things seem more real. But that is my point of view. I do feel that this is the best looking version of the film to date!
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Stand By Me: 25th Anniversary” is presented in English, French and Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital and English original mono. While the film does come with its original monaural track, the English 5.1 DTS-HD MA lossless track does enhance the clarity of the dialogue and music for the film.
It’s important to note that this is a dialogue-driven film and while there is a scene with a gun shot, knocking down of mail boxes and trains, they don’t take advantage of the surround channels all that much. If anything, the film is primarily front and center channel driven. But for this type of film, I suppose the lossless track is quite adequate for this type of film, nothing mindblowing but I’m glad there is a lossless 5.1 track included along with the monaural soundtrack.
Also, I want to mention how I did enjoy the score from Jack Nitzsche (“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, “Grindhouse”, “Dogma”) and the use of Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me”. If anything, the film did a lot of good in bringing that song back from obscurity and I think that to this day, it still gets a ton of airplay on the radio or restaurant it seems. But “Stand By Me” does have memorable music and a theme song that continues to live on for generations like the film itself.
Subtitles are presented in English, English SDH, French, Portuguese and Spanish.
“Stand By Me: 25th Anniversary” comes with the following special features in standard and High Definition:
- Picture-in-Picture Video Commentary with Director Rob Reiner, Wil Wheaton and Corey Feldman – Featuring a reunion with the three men as they talk about their experience of shooting the film, the legacy of “Stand by Me”, memories of River Phoenix and more. A wonderful commentary but I wish Wil Wheaton was able to complete some of his stories such as revisiting the town in Oregon where they shot “Stand By Me”.
- Audio Commentary with Director Rob Reiner – The original audio commentary by Rob Reiner from the 15th Anniversary DVD release.
- Walking the Tracks: The Summer of Stand By Me – (36:46) A retrospective featurette featuring all cast members from the 15th Anniversary DVD release. Still a wonderful featurette as it does go into the making of the film, remembering the making of the film and how special the film is today. While created in 2000, it features most of the cast members from the film.
- Stand By Me Music Video – (3:21) The original “Stand By Me” music video (for the film) featuring the music of Ben E. King.
“Stand By Me: 25th Anniversary” comes with a slip-over cardboard case.
“Stand By Me” to me, will always be a true classic.
For me, there are six young teen ’80s films that I consider classic must-own titles: “The Outsiders”, “The Goonies”, “Stand By Me”, “Red Dawn”, “Karate Kid” and “The Lost Boys” and within the last year, we have had the opportunity to have three of those films on Blu-ray and now here we are with “Stand By Me”.
I’m very happy to finally watch this film on Blu-ray but also the fact that they tried to bring everyone back for a reunion and give them a picture-in-picture video commentary (this was done years ago for “The Goonies”).
First, let’s talk about the film. There are many memorable moments from the film, may it be the pie eating contest, to the train coming towards Gordie and Vern but what captured my attention the most was the deeper moments of the film. From Gordie’s breakdown of how he feels his father is to him, when Chris confides to Gordie and of course the ending moments of the film and to circle back on what happened to the character of Chris and when juxtaposed to the reality of what happened to River Phoenix.
Each of the individuals of “Stand By Me” obviously give credit to the film for the impact it had in their career. Director Rob Reiner, who has done many hit films considers “Stand by Me” his favorite film he has worked on, Kiefer Sutherland who appears in two of my favorite teen films has went on to bigger things and is primarily known as Jack Bauer to millions of Americans. But what about the teens of the film at-the-time, who gave a convincing and emotional and real performance.
Granted, for Corey Feldman, he has appeared in three of my favorite ’80s teen films but he did a great job in “Stand By Me”. For Wil Wheaton, he went on to do “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and interesting enough, like Gordie, he became a writer (who would also write about his personal life) and techie and occasional nemesis on the hit show “The Big Bang Theory”. Jerry O’Connell’s character Vern finds a penny and in reality marries a supermodel and goes from the short and stocky character, to the trim and quite tall actor. But River Phoenix shows his talent at an early age of what he could accomplish and knowing that this young actor had so much potential but died early in his life due to a drug overdose.
“Stand By Me” is a coming-of-age film that many can watch and realize that when we were younger, you can recall those early friendships, taking on various challenges and if you had the opportunity, to remember those small adventures you enjoyed with your friends. But to know that as we all get older, everyone goes on their separate ways. Some are able to grow up together but most grow up and pursue different directions in life. And for some, many can relate to the characters because they had a similar dysfunctional upbringing and somehow find that connection with the characters. That is why I feel “Stand By Me” is truly ageless in its storyline and will continue to entertain many more generations to come. It’s a film that many can relate to.
As for the Blu-ray release, while not a significant “25th Anniversary” release, it does contain a lot of the 15th Anniversary special features. But I do give credit for the video commentary and the fact that they tried to get everyone together. It’s a shame that Jerry O’Connell could not partake in the audio commentary but we do get director Rob Reiner, Corey Feldman and Wil Wheaton together. For the most part, the reunion was very fun to listen to, although I can tell Wil Wheaton had some fun stories to tell but the guys tend to cut him off before he can end his story. But there are some deep moments in the commentary, from their discussion about River Phoenix and how he was so different compared to other kids at that time at a young age. But also memories of him after the film was complete and their last memories with him.
I hope that if this film does get re-release, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will consider showcasing a featurette on this annual celebration in a town in Oregon for “Stand By Me” which Reiner and Wheaton talk about during the video commentary. The 15th anniversary featurette “Walking the Tracks” is probably the only time anyone’s going to get all cast members together to participate in the memory of “Stand By Me”, so it’s great to have that still included on the 25th Anniversary Blu-ray release.
Overall, “Stand By Me” is one of my favorite coming-of-age teen films from the ’80s and in every sense of the word is a true “classic”, and I know that in films, this word tends to be used a lot but in this case, I do feel that “Stand By Me” is a true classic and a film that will continue to entertain people for many generations to come.
“Stand By Me: 25th Anniversary” is highly recommended!
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