Stripes – Extended Cut (1981)

Directed by Ivan Reitman

An extended version of the 1981 movie Stripes seems like … umm, well there’s sort of a sado-masochistic quality to it. I mean, when I saw there was an extended version my first question was, “Whatever for?”

Having seen Stripes – Extended Cut, I’m even more puzzled. This is not a great movie.

So the idea of extending something that was dragging to begin with strikes me as an unnecessarily painful exercise.

Granted, the movie has moments. The problem is, that is all it has. Between those moments are some pretty dreary bits connecting them (and I use the word “connecting” very loosely).

My favourite part of the entire movie is John Candy. How I wish there had been more with him. Seeing him here reminded me of just how good he was and how I wish he had lived longer to make more films.

Bill Murray is also quite good. You can see him doing the obligatory “Bill Murray” performance, meeting expectations so to speak, but you also see him attempting to do something more within the limitations of what the film allowed. There’s the very good scene with Murray and Warren Oates (“You want to take a swing at me?”) that is more dramatic than comic – it makes you wish there had been more moments like this to put more meat on this movie’s skinny bones.

This looks like, and comes across as, a movie by very young, inexperienced filmmakers, people who have good instincts (especially comic instincts) but who haven’t yet figured out how to make the pieces cohere. They’ve understood from movies like Animal House that “slob jokes” have worked for them, but haven’t yet figured out how to craft that kind of comic sensibility into a fully realized movie.

Basically, their storytelling abilities haven’t matured yet.

As for the DVD

I don’t know what they were thinking when they put this DVD together but it certainly wasn’t the viewer. If you watch the extended version, every time an added scene begins text appears at the bottom of screen announcing it. It apears again when the added scene ends.

This is incredibly annoying and serves only to disrupt the film. It’s also unncessary given that the added scenes are not of the same picture quality as the rest of the film. In other words, they look different (less clean) so you can tell they are added scenes. (I have to be honest – I only watched the first one. I couldn’t bring myself to watch a movie that had text introducing certain scenes so I switched to the theatrical version. It should also be pointed out that the added scenes can be watched separately in the special features.)

Then there is the theatrical version of the movie … It keeps freezing for a moment every time an added scene has been included in the extended version.

The end result is neither version of the movie is very good from a movie watching perspective. In both cases, the flow of the film is disrupted – either by text announcing scenes in the extended version, or brief pauses in the theatrical version.

For me, the best part of this disc was the two part documentary of the film’s making, “Stars and Stripes.” It’s quite good.

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