When one hears the name Stephen King, one generally thinks of movies that will scare the daylights out of them. He has made a career of writing twisted thrillers like It, Pet Sematary, Misery, The Shining, etc. but occasionally he will offer up a piece of fiction that doesn't make the hair on our arms stand up. The Shawshank Redemption is a perfect example of his more dramatic literature. In 1986, based on his short story, The Body, Stand By Me was released by Columbia Pictures. Earlier this week the remastered 4K Steelbook edition hit stores just in time for some holiday shopping.
In the summer of 1959 in a little town in Oregon, Gordie (Wil Wheaton; Star Trek: The Next Generation) and his friends Vern (Jerry O'Connell; Scream 2), Chris (River Phoenix; My Own Private Idaho), and Teddy (Corey Feldman; The Goonies) trekked for two days in search of a young boy who had gone missing. Vern had overheard his older brother talking to a friend about having seen the boy's body in the woods near the train tracks and the river. When Vern told the others what his brother had said, the boys decided to find it and become local heroes. However, along the way, they discovered hidden emotions buried inside themselves.
Directed by Rob Reiner (A Few Good Men), the film not only takes the boys on a physical journey but takes them, and the audience, on an emotional ride as well. Filled with pain, anger, sadness, etc. the scars the young men carry begin to dissolve as they trust each other to help them through the ride. Reiner's wide, establishing shots offer the viewers a sense of the vastness surrounding the boys while his close-ups typically establish the intimacy necessary to feel what the characters are feeling when they are at their most vulnerable.
Unfortunately, while Dolby Vision upgrades are typically well appreciated, this one is not as appealing. The quality is often grainy, the effects look fake and Gordy's dream sequence is blurry and seems almost out of focus. Generally, there is much to complement new releases but Stand By Me doesn't offer much
The Dolby Atmos audio fares somewhat better but doesn't really have many opportunities to shine other than the occasional gunshot, train whistle, or the moments when the soundtrack fills the background. The ambient noise is well done, giving a little bit of depth, and the dialogue is very clear. It is a shame the video quality doesn't more closely match the audio upgrade.
There aren't many extras and all were previously released so there isn't anything exciting to report except that there is no digital download with this combo pack. The 4K extras are Deleted and Alternate Scenes and the Blu-ray extras include Picture-in-Picture Commentary with Director Rob Reiner and Actors Will Wheaton & Corey Feldman, "Walking the Tracks: The Summer of Stand By Me", Audio Commentary with Director Rob Reiner, and a Music Video.
Stand By Me is a sort of "coming of age" tale with moments of vulnerability that make it somewhat relatable while still keeping it unusual. The plot has a great deal going for it and Reiner narrowed in to make a film that would not only be nominated for an Academy Award but that would be remembered and beloved for generations to come.
The new 4K Steelbook release has a beautiful cover with the two discs inside. However, as previously mentioned, the video quality is less than one would normally expect from a remastered 4K which is disappointing. Even with that flaw though, this release is still worth the price.