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St. Elmo's Fire (1985) Print E-mail
Monday, 03 August 2009
ImageThe 1980s produced some of the most memorable teen feature film hits of any decade.  There are film lovers out there that now every line of films such as "Sixteen Candles," "The Breakfast Club" and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," all of which happen to be written by legendary filmmaker John Hughes.  While I find myself attracted to a few of these 1980s classic hits, I find myself struggling to get through "St. Elmo's Fire."

"St. Elmo's Fire" is a more adult version of "The Breakfast Club."  In fact, both of these films were released in 1985, the latter coming first.  The film could even be considered a sequel to its predecessor in some respects.  In terms of actors and story there are a lot of similarities.

Half of the actors in the film have been carried over from "The Breakfast Club."  Judd Nelson, Emilio Estevez, and Ally Sheedy.  While their characters between the two movies are different (maybe with the exception of Emilio Estevez), their presence in a 1980s film just overlap.  In terms of the story, "St. Elmo's Fire" takes place a few months after college graduation.  While "The Breakfast Club" took place in high school, this film still seems to carry over.  It is almost as if the group of detention students became best friends.

"St. Elmo's Fire" follows seven friends that are going in separate directions in their lives.  Alec (Judd Nelson) is uptight with political aspirations, in which he struggles with Democratic and Republican views.  His longtime girlfriend is Leslie (Ally Sheedy).  She is an artist at heart that keeps spurning Alec's advances to marry her.

Billy (Rob Lowe) is the goof and screw up of the bunch.  He has a baby with a wife, but continues to get smashed and cheat on his wife.  Wendy (Mare Winningham) is one such person that is in a relationship with Billy.  However, she pushes him away only to find that she really wants to be with him.

Kevin (Andrew McCarthy) is another friend that is struggling to write the meaning of life.  He rejects girls as he is in an unrequited love situation with Leslie.  Kirby (Emilio Estevez) is working to get into law school, but takes a detour when he reunites with Dale (Andie MacDowell).  Kirby becomes an obsessive stocker, defeated in the end.

The final of the friends is Jules (Demi Moore).  She is a banker that falls in with the wrong crowd and begins to do drugs and blow off her responsibilities.  And as all the friends start to drift apart, it is Jules' breakdown that brings them back together.

"St. Elmo's Fire" is not the best movie by far.  It is struggles to create a cohesive element.  There is no real linear story.  It is almost as if the film is a biopic of seven peoples' lives.  The characters do evolve over the course of the film, but there was no establishment of care for the characters at the beginning, so there is no reason to follow their character evolution. Joel Schumacher, who is better known for directing a couple of the Batman movies and "Flatliners," also directs this film.  Direction is not memorable, but he does an admirable job.

The Blu-ray video transfer of this film is clearly 1980s, but has been cleaned up nicely to provide a decent presentation.  The print is aged, but it has no obvious signs of neglect.  The print is fairly clean, only a minor scratch here and there.  The image does appear a bit washed out due to its age.  The colors are solid, but unbalanced a little throughout the film.  Certain colors dominate the screen, which may be stylistic or not.  Edges are finely tuned.  The film struggles in its dark scenes.  While the black levels are admirable, shadows present a problem for details.  Daytime sequences fair quite nicely and really pop from the screen.  Film grain is moderate, but surprisingly not distracting.  Textures in the faces and clothes are lacking.  Overall the film's appearance is rather flat, but it is still a solid upgrade from the previous standard DVD release.

I was not very impressed with the audio track.  While it is a tremendous upgrade over the lossy Dolby Digital track, the TrueHD track brings forth all the problems with the original audio track.  Dialogue is most disconcerting.  It is very muffled at times and is nearly always buried beneath the pumping 80s music track.  The music is very solid and would be great for the audio track were it not destroying the dialogue.  The LFE channel kicks in for the pop music.  Ambience in the surrounds is very matrixed sounding.  Dynamics are expansive due to the music track.  The frequency response is wide but unfortunately certain frequency ranges clashes with one another.  The bass and treble are unbalanced.  Surround usage is limited to the remixing of the original stereo track.  There are no discreet effects in the surrounds and panning is rather clumsy.  While I still prefer this track over the lossy audio, so might like the lossy track as it obscures many of the dialogue problems.

The Blu-ray edition of "St. Elmo's Fire" comes with a couple of Blu-ray exclusive features and the standard definition DVD special features.  Exclusive to the Blu-ray is a featurette, "Joel Schumacher Remembers 'St. Elmo's Fire.'"  This featurette contains recollection by the director, which is mainly the same as his audio commentary.  The other exclusive feature is a collection of about a dozen deleted scenes.  There is an audio commentary with director Joel Schumacher, who discusses all aspects of the film.  Fans will find some interesting information in this commentary.  The disc also includes a music video for John Parr's "Man in Motion," as well as the original making-of featurette.  The Blu-ray is also BD-Live enabled.  The retrospective featurette is presented in high definition, while the rest of the material in standard defintion.

"St. Elmo's Fire" is not the best of the "Brat Pack," but it may hold some value for lovers of the era.  The video and audio quality are decent, but far from an ultimate Blu-ray transfer.  I would recommend this disc if you know you like the film.

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