Thursday, April 5, 2018

CHEECH AND CHONG'S UP IN SMOKE (1978) (Blu-ray Review)

2-Disc Dual Format 40th Anniversary Edition 

Label: Paramount Pictures
Region Code: A
Rating: R

Duration: 85 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Surround 5.1, English Dolby Digital Surround 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreem
Director: Lou Adler
Cast: Cheech Marin, Tommy Chong, Strother Martin, Tom Skerrit, Edia Adams, Stacy Keach 

Up In Smoke (1978) was the movie introduction to the characters of Cheech and Chong who already had a series of very successful comedy albums, the film opening with an introduction to our two main guys, with Chong being dressed down by his affluent father (Strother Martin, The Brotherhood of Satan) threatening to send his slacker son into military while the bearded stoner blends a tasty smoothie. He drives off in his Volkswagen Beetle convertible with a Rolls Royce grill literally tied to the front end, which breaks down a short time later on the side of the road, which is where he meets his Chicano soul-mate Cheech while hitchhiking, a Mexican American dude cruising the streets of L.A. looking for ladies in his low rider, the two strike up a fast-friendship over an enormous joint before being jailed when cops find them run aground on a street median amidst an a cloud of pot smoke. This is the beginnings of what would become known as the stoner-comedy, before this there was no such thing, and every stoner-comedy that came afterward owes a hug debt of gratitude to these joint-passing characters who really tapped into the zeitgeist of drug culture in the 70's with thi sone.

The loose narrative plays out as both a series of comedy of error vignettes and a weed-fueled road trip, all of which leads to a  a local battle of the bands at the Roxy Theatre in Hollywood, culminating in the performance of the "Earache My Eye", with Cheech parading around the stage in a pink tutu. Along the way we meet Pedro's cousin Strawberry (Tim Skerritt, Poltergeist III), a 'Nam vet with a huge birthmark on his neck and face, a notable Ajax snorting weirdo played by June Fairchild (Thunderbolt and Lightfoot) and of course Sgt. Stedenko (Stacy Keach, Road Games) the over-zealous narco-cop who leads an inept squad of zero-tolerance goons who give chase to stoner-duo who have unwittingly smuggled a van made of "fiberweed", a stoner-age polymer of cannabis, into the country after being deported to Tijuana. 

The movie is a product of it's time but I think stoner-comedies of the 70's have a certain timeless nostalgia, at least they do for me> Growing up in the 80's this film was sort of a right of passage, they same way Iron Maiden's 'Number of the Beast' LP was, your coolness was ranked by if you had seen one and/or heard the other, and dammit, I wanted be cool! The parade of anti-establishment stoner fun and bathroom humor still plays well, with two affable slackers that are totally high just trying to make their way, to where I don't really know, but I had fun on the way their.

Audio/Video: Cheech and Chong's Up In Smoke (1978) arrives on Blu-ray from Paramount Pictures frame in 2.35:1 widescreen, the 1080p HD image looks pretty damn great, the colors and textures are significantly richer than on the previous special edition DVD. While this isn't advertised as a new 4K the image is most certainly a new HD scan, it's surprisingly vibrant and detailed. The opening scenes inside Cheech's plush-interior low rider are nicely detailed, the textures really come through in the close-ups, with the copious amount of weed smoke being nicely resolved. 

Audio comes by way of an English DTS-HD MA Surround 5.1 track, the track is clear and resonant without being overly active in the surrounds, dialogue is clean and clear. The music selections sound great, from from War's "Lowrider" and Danny Kortchmar's "Lost Due to Incompetence", to live performances from punkers The Dils and the Berlin Bras "So Taco" during the battle of the bands, to original tunes from Cheech and Chong like the toked-up title track and the acid-rocker classic "Earache My Eye", it's all good, optional English Subtitles are provided. 

Onto the extras we a vintage audio Commentary from Cheech Marin and Director Lou Adler, plus a new 15-min retrospective doc 'How Pedro Met the Man: Up In Smoke at 40' with Director Lou Adler and stars Cheech Marin whom discuss how they came together, the early days of their stoner-comedy routine, making the film, and their own initial forays into smoking dope, in addition to the legacy of the film.

There's also a selection of deleted scenes with optional commentary from Marin and Adler, these include extended and deleted bits, such as Chong in old age make-up playing a character named "Leslie" and some bit with Harry Dean Stanton as a jailer, and more of June Fairchild as The Ajax Lady! Also carried over is the vintage making of retrospective from the previous DVD with the same trio of guys (only younger) covering much of the same stuff. There's a cut and paste animated music video for "Earache My Eye" and a montage of all the times they same "man" in the movie, plus a selection of radio spots and a trailer for the film.

The two-disc set comes housed in an eco-case with a one-sided sleeve of artwork featuring a new design. I do wish they had carried over the original one sheet movie poster as a reversible option, that would have been real cool man. This release also includes a slipcover (o-card) with the same artwork. This release is a dual-format combo that includes a DVD with the same film and extras, plus a digital copy of the film.  

Special Features: 

- Audio Commentary By Cheech Marin and Director Lou Adler
- How Pedro Met the Man: Up In Smoke at 40 (15 min) HD
- Roach Clips With Optional Commentary from Director Lou Adler and Cieech Marin  (11 min) HD
- Lighting It Up: A Look Back at Up In Smoke (11 min) 
- “Earache My Eye” Featuring Alice Bowie: Animated Music Video (6 min) 
- Cheech and Chong’s “The Man Song” (3 min) 
- Vintage Radio Spots: Up In Smoke #1 Featuring Horrendo Revolver (2 min), Up In Smoke #2 Featuring Saydi Saydat )1 min)
- Theatrical Trailer (3 min)

Cheech and Chong's Up In Smoke (1978) is a product of it's time but so am I, but regardless I think if you love irreverent comedies of any era this is gonna be a blast, particularly of you like stoner-comedies. The Blu-ray from Paramount looks remarkably crisp in HD and the vintage and new extras are sure to please fans. This release is the special Deluxe Collector’s Edition pairing the Blu-ray with the original soundtrack on CD and Vinyl LP in deluxe packaging from Rhino, which features a newly recorded “2018 version” of the title song “Up In Smoke”, so if you're a vinyl or soundtrack collector you might wanna snatch that up - limited to 5000 copies. 

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