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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents
Stripes (Classic Comedies Collection) (1981)

"It's Czechoslovakia! We zip in, we pick 'em up, we zip right out again. It's not like we're going to Moscow. It's Czechoslovakia, it's like going to Wisconsin."
- Winger (Bill Murray)

Review By: Jon Danziger  
Published: January 16, 2006

Stars: Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Warren Oates, P. J. Soles, John Candy
Other Stars: John Larroquette, Sean Young, Judge Reinhold
Director: Ivan Reitman

MPAA Rating: R for sexuality/nudity, language and some drug use
Run Time: 02h:02m:47s
Release Date: January 17, 2006
UPC: 043396133402
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- BBB+ B-

DVD Review

How could anybody not love Stripes? Granted, it's not the most elevated comedy ever made, very much in keeping with the sloppy movies of the period from the same filmmakers—these included Animal House and Meatballs—and the most stridently Marxist might object to the film's romanticization of the military. But if your inclination is to steer the conversation in that direction, you're watching the wrong movie, soldier. Bill Murray, as the straw that stirs the drink, is casually, riotously funny in an almost throwaway fashion, and what Pauline Kael said about Casablanca is true of this movie as well: it's got more great lines than Hamlet.

The setup creaks a little bit, but director Ivan Reitman rips the Band-Aid off quickly enough that you'll run with it: Murray plays John Winger, and everything goes to hell for him in the space of a couple of hours. His girlfriend dumps him; his car gets repossessed; he loses his dead-end job driving a cab. His best pal Russell (played by Harold Ramis) is equally aimless, having landed in a gig teaching English to recent immigrants—his lesson plans consist of profanity and the lyrics to Da Doo Ron Ron. So: why not join the Army? Getting a clown like Murray into the service and seeing what happens is what this movie is all about, and it doesn't disappoint. Our basic training platoon is peppered with memorable comic characters: Judge Reinhold plays a stoner, Conrad Dunn a psycho who wants to be called Psycho (lighten up, Francis), and, best of all, John Candy is Ox, who signed up in a misguided effort to get his weight problem under control. (Watching this is a reminder of what a great loss Candy's passing was—he was aptly named, a great big lollipop of a man, and made more than his share of forgettable movies, but the guy could bring the funny.)

Leading the platoon is Sergeant Hulka, and Warren Oates is tremendous as Winger's nemesis—their relationship plays out like the comic version of the one between Louis Gossett Jr. and Richard Gere in An Officer and a Gentleman, which came out the following year. Also notable in the cast are John Larroquette, a doofus of a commanding officer, and Sean Young, as an M.P. with an eye for Russell.

I suppose you could also get on this movie for its misogyny—it's sprinkled with gratuitous shots of topless women, and the girlfriends that John and Russell find in the service are necessary plot elements, nothing more. (And come on, one of the climactic comic bits takes place with Ox getting in on the action in a ladies' mud wrestling establishment. I don't think anybody is stupid enough to stand up for the sexual politics of Stripes.) And the movie kind of creaks into its third act—you can almost hear the derivative trailer waiting to be cut, about "a plan so crazy it just might work!" But the basic training scenes are priceless, and Murray as Winger is a genetically encoded smartass, despite himself. The movie has no shortage of stupid jokes and pratfalls, as any good low comedy should, and its set pieces remain a kickĐthe sequence in which our boys graduate from basic training is alone worth the price of admission. The movie may not want to make you enlist, these days especially, but this is funny, funny stuff. And (wait for itů) that's the fact, Jack.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Pretty reasonable transfer—the print looks a bit faded, but with few imperfections and little debris.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Nice use of the surround speakers in the 5.1 mix, and a good balance of dialogue with the score by Elmer Bernstein, who had something of a career renaissance with these early 1980s comedies.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring D.E.B.S., Hitch, 80s Hits
6 Deleted Scenes
2 Documentaries
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Ivan Reitman, Dan Goldberg
Packaging: Digipak
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. theatrical and extended cuts (see below)
Extras Review: This special edition was originally released in 2005—here it's repackaged in a box set of Murray comedies, all of which are worth your while. (The other two are Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day.) The disc includes six deleted scenes, which you can watch on their own, or in an extended cut of the feature; the original theatrical cut (01h:46m:02s) is also available. There's some modestly funny stuff that's been excised, but no comic gems, and if you watch the extended cut, graphics will alert you regarding the beginnings and endings of the bonus scenes.

Director Ivan Reitman is joined by producer and co-writer Dan Goldberg on the commentary track, which appears under the theatrical cut only. It's full of fond reminiscences, of the shoot, at Fort Knox, and of the early days at National Lampoon, where Reitman first worked with Murray, Ramis, and a number of others. It's not a stellar track, but these two guys remember the project fondly, and still clearly like each other after all the years. Stars & Stripes is a documentary in two parts, the first (28m:12s) focusing on casting and script development—the original high-concept pitch was Cheech and Chong join the Army—the second (27m:27s) on stories from the set. Sitting for new interviews are Reitman, Goldberg, Ramis, Reinhold, Larroquette and Young, among others; the case trumpets the participation of Bill Murray, but the footage of him seems to have been shot by a documentary crew that cornered him at a reception of some sort. He's bathed in a weird blue light, holds a drink, and generally doesn't seem very happy to be answering the questions being thrown at him.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

Stripes remains a firecracker of a comedy, and this may be the definitive Bill Murray performance. But go get your own copy—you touch my stuff, I kill ya.


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