{2jtab: Movie Review}

American Graffiti - Blu-ray Review


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5 Stars

George Lucas’s ode to the social phenomenon of cruisin’ is a remarkably candid affair.  Often a victim of adlib and off-the-cuff antics and guffaws from its teenage cast, American Graffiti has a unique soul all of its own – even if it doesn’t always land its zingers. Time certainly has been kind to this hit from 1973. Wonderfully gassed-up with some seriously great 50s-era tunes, George Lucas’s sophomore directorial effort is light years away from the slump he is currently in. The film, restrained by a limited budget and a few stilted performances, isn’t pitch-perfect but, to be precise, that’s exactly what makes it so … wonderfully perfect. It’s a time-bottled portrayal of a drive-thru culture that doesn’t really exist in America anymore.

In this rock and roll coming-of-age narrative, two recent High School graduates, Curt Henderson (Richard Dreyfuss) and Steve Bolander (Ron Howard), and their socially awkward friends - John Milner (Paul Le Mat) and Terry "The Toad" Fields (Charles Martin Smith) - attempt to cash in on an evening of dancing and racing in Modesto, California before they part ways for college and the real life that awaits them outside of the High School.  Everyone is in a hurry to grow up or so it seems.  Without a clue as to what the real world offers, Bolander argues with his girlfriend, Debbie Dunham (Cindy Williams) while Henderson spends his time chasing an elusive blonde angel in a T-Bird (Suzanne Somers) who mouthed that she loved him.  Caught up in a sort of rebellious fantasy, the teens discover just how far one night can take them and their growing pains.

Shot from the hip by Lucas, American Graffiti is a challenging film in that its carefree attitude is properly tested by the misfit lessons each character learns about love, consequences, and mortality.  It’s a life-altering night and, for teenagers, sometimes one night can make the whole difference in the many directions their lives take them.  It’s certainly a distant world from the one teenagers inhabit today, but it’s a pleasant one with its polished chrome and its need for speed and rocking tunes.

Ironically enough, the criticisms hurled at this are the same ones being hurled at J.J. Abrams’ Super 8 in that it’s a film made for an audience that might only enjoy it for its use of nostalgia.  It’s a criticism I call into question as this is a film for all audiences.  After all, this is the film that ushered in the whole angsty teenager genre with a careful thought on the specific tunes that would cradle this film toward its financial success.  This is a film that celebrates the character of youth and brings it to a new level with its honesty and its fits and struggles; it isn’t clean and it certainly isn’t pure but it’s a hell of a lot of fun.

Lucas’s American Graffiti is about one night.  It’s about ‘The Night’.  It’s a coolly effortless affair but, deep within its own seemingly innocent ride, it knowingly depicts the coming darkness and desperation that – once upon a time - clung to the edge of the towns it now openly inhibits…


{2jtab: Film Info}

American Graffiti - Blu-ray ReviewMPAA Rating: PG for Adult Situations,Questionable for Children,Adult Language,Sexual Situations,Suitable for Teens
Director: George Lucas
: George Lucas, Gloria Katz
Cast: Ron Howard; Richard Dreyfuss; Paul Le Mat; Charles Martin Smith; Cindy Williams; Mackenzie Phillips; Wolfman Jack; Harrison Ford
Genre: Comedy | Drama
Where were you in '62?
Memorable Movie Quote: "Peel out, I just love it when guys peel out. "
Universal Pictures
Release Date:
August 11, 1973
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
May 31, 2011

Synopsis: The film focuses on vignettes about the four young men: Curt, Steve, Terry, and John. Curt is not sure if he wants to go off to college, despite receiving a lodge scholarship, much to Steve's consternation. Steve, on the other hand, is not sure about his relationship with steady girlfriend Laurie, Curt's sister. Curt spends the whole night riding around in other people's cars obsessing about a mysterious blond driving a white Ford Thunderbird.


{2jtab: Blu-ray Details}

American Graffiti - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades

Blu-ray Disc
5 Stars

4 stars

Blu-ray Experience
4.5 stars


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - May 31, 2011
Screen Formats: 2.39:1
: English SDH, French, Spanish
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0; French: DTS Mono
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD); Bonus View (PiP); BD-Live

There are a couple of beefs I have with Universal’s 1080p/VC-1 transfer.  Granted the film is thirty-eight-years-old but the use of edge enhancement doesn’t help smooth out the age of the film at all.  The colors absolutely pop with visceral boldness and clarity, but the halos ringing some of the light sources are obnoxious and not intended from the original photography.  All complaints aside about the transfer, this film – supported by a bold DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix which never compromises the sound – has never looked better than it does here.



  • Lucas, uncomfortable as ever, sits in front of a camera for a video commentary that supports the picture-in-picture format of Universal’s U-Control.  It’s fun for fans, but Lucas is a bit uncomfortable and the PIP format drops from view for long stretches of the movie when Lucas has no comment about the making of the picture.

Special Features:

There’s a lot and that makes up for some of the drawbacks of the edge enhancement woes that plague the transfer.  There’s an informative 78-minute documentary which must be seen in order to understand just how special and unusual this film is.  There’s a wonderful amount of screen tests (yes, they were recorded) and it’s amazing to see just how awkward everyone is with the rehearsals.

The breakdown is as follows:

  • The Music of ‘American Graffiti’ (Pop-up feature throughout the movie)
  • The Making of ‘American Graffiti’ (78 min)
  • Screen Tests (23 min)
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • BD-Live
  • My Scenes Bookmarking

{2jtab: Trailer}