Featured Blu-ray review: Revenge of the Nerds
Revenge of the Nerds came out in theaters 30 years ago and hit Blu-ray in February or May. Amazon seems to have been confused on this issue. The screener arrived late, possibly by a few months, but I finally got to the review this weekend. Was it worth the wait? The reviews were strong when it came out, but has it aged well? And is the Blu-ray worth checking out?
We first meet Gilbert Lowell as he's getting ready to go to college for the first time. He's a little nervous to leave his mom behind, plus he's a little nervous about being on his own as well. Fortunately, his best friend, Lewis Skolnick, arrives to give him a pep talk. Lewis's father is driving the pair of them to Adams College, at 35 mph down the highway. Their college life doesn't get off to a great start, as one of the members of Alpha Beta, Ogre, taunts them from the top of the Alpha Beta house.
We then cut to the inside of the Alpha Beta house, where a huge party is going on. We are also introduced to a couple of the bad guys in the movie, including Ogre and the head of the Alpha Betas, Stan Gable, as well as Stan's girlfriend, Betty Childs. The party gets a little out of hand when someone uses 188 proof alcohol called fireball to actually breath fire. One poorly aimed fireball later, and the Alpha Beta fraternity house burns to the ground. Since they can no longer live in their frat, the Coach convinces the Dean that the frat should take over the freshman dorm, which they do by physically throwing out the freshmen. This includes Gilbert and Lewis.
Because the freshmen were kicked out of their dorm, the school is waving the usual rule prohibiting freshmen from joining. Very quickly, most of the freshman are snapped up by the various fraternity. However, the less socially gifted students are excluded. The social rejects are Gilbert and Lewis, as well as Booger, Poindexter, and others. Since nobody else wants them, they decide to find a place to rent nearby and live together. There are a few... I think they are supposed to be jokes, while the gang tries to find a house to rent, but in the end, Lewis finds a fixer-upper. One montage later, and the house is looking great.
It is looking so great that when Stan and Betty ride by, Betty comments on how well they did fixing up the place, which immediately makes Stan jealous. Soon after, a rock is thrown through the window of the house with "Nerds get out" written on it. They try to go to the campus police, but they are told to meet with the Greek Council instead. Unfortunately, Stan is the president of the Greek Council and quickly rejects their application to become a fraternity. It seems they need a national sponsor. Everyone they send applications to, rejects them (the group photo seems to be the deciding factor). There was one fraternity they didn't sent a picture to, Lambda Lambda Lambda, a traditionally African-American fraternity. When they go to meet with them in person, they are initially rejected. However, Poindexter points out the Lambda Lambda Lambda by-laws says they have to be given probationary status for 60 days, so they are in.
Of course, becoming an official fraternity just makes them bigger targets for the Alpha Betas.
Oh boy... this film has not aged well. The jokes are not as funny as I remember them, while many of the characters are, well, troublesome. They do have an opening gay character, Lamar Latrelle, who is also African-America. That's very progressive for a 1980s film. Unfortunately, Lamar is little more than a gay stereotype. Toshiro Takashi is little more than a racist Japanese stereotype. There is also a pretty big misogynistic streak in the movie, with the "good guys" setting up hidden cameras in a sorority shower, selling topless pictures of one of the women, pretending to be the boyfriend of one of the women to have sex with her, all of which is illegal. Even the characters that are not offensive are poorly written and lack any depth. Judy, the female nerd, is typical of this. That's not to say there is nothing in Revenge of the Nerds that works. Some of the jokes are funny and I did like the musical performance the Tri-Lambs put on in the end, but that's not enough to recommend the movie as a whole.
Good news, there are plenty of extras, including an audio commentary track with the director, Jeff Kanew, as well as three of the stars, Robert Carradine, Curtis Armstrong and Timothy Busfield. Up next is a 40-minute retrospective, which features most of the main cast, who seemed to have a good time making the movie, despite all being embarrassed to star in it. Up next is nine minutes of deleted scenes. Finally, there's the 1991 pilot for a Revenge of the Nerds TV show. It's really bad. The good news is there are plenty of extras. The bad news is none of the extras are new to Blu-ray. This is just shovelware of the Special Edition DVD.
The video is better than it was on the DVD, but that is hardly a huge compliment. The level of grain fluctuates in many scenes and the level of details is never truly sharp. The colors are muted and not very vivid. On the other hand, there are no signs of digital manipulation, nor are there any compression issues. The audio is clear, but there is not a lot of activity in the surround sound speakers. This could be because it's in mono.
The Blu-ray costs $13, which isn't bad for shovelware.
Revenge of the Nerds is a film many consider to be a classic; however, I don't think it has aged very well. There are a number of characters and scenes that will make audiences who didn't grow up on the movie more than a little uncomfortable. The Blu-ray is shovelware, but it is not a bad price for shovelware.
Submitted by: C.S.Strowbridge
Date posted: 2014-07-13