Neighbors [1981] – Blu-ray Review

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Film Title: Neighbors
Release Date: 1981
Rating: R
Runtime: 95 minutes
Region Coding: Region A
Studio: Mill Creek Entertainment
Audio Format: Dolby Digital 2.0
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Formats Available: Blu-ray
Version Reviewed: 2019 Blu-ray Disc
Blu-ray Release Date: 03/12/19
Director: John G. Avildsen
Cast: John BelushiDan Aykroyd, Cathy Moriarty, Kathryn WalkerTim Kazurinsky, Lauren-Marie Taylor


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The Movie

“Neighbors” was a 1981 dark comedy directed by John G. Avildsen, best known for directing other such films as “Rocky” (1976), “The Karate Kid” (1984), “The Karate Kid Part II” (1986), “The Karate Kid Part III” (1989), “Lean on Me” (1989), and “Rocky V” (1990). The screenplay adaptation of Thomas Berger’s novel was written by Larry Gelbart. Gelbart is best known for being the creator of the TV show “M*A*S*H” (1972-1983), as well as for working as a writer on screenplays to the films “Oh, God!” (1977) and “Tootsie” (1982).

The story here involves a husband “Earl” (John Belushi) and his wife “Enid” (Kathryn Walker) that reside in a very small neighborhood, so small there’s only one house beside them and it’s unoccupied. The husband and wife sit and watch television until the wife says it’s about time to go make dinner and off Enid goes. Meanwhile, this husband tired of his dull life is about to get a bit of a surprise, when Earl hears something next door and sees a car towing a U-Haul behind it. The husband immediately is excited to tell his wife that there seem to be some new neighbors but before he can they’ll soon enough meet. The female new neighbor named “Romona” (Cathy Moriarty) shows up first and catches Earl alone. It’s only a matter of time before she starts flirting with him in a very, very suspicious way.

It’s weird because after our bored husband is meeting this mysterious flirtatious woman the next thing you know she’s off and gone before he can even tell his wife. He soon enough meets another new neighbor, this time a male named “Vic” (Dan Aykroyd) that decides to introduce himself. Vic insists the guys all have dinner, yet asks for money to go out and get the food. He’s just that classy and somehow manages to get our protagonist to even let him lend him his car? Yeah, this film is just outlandish and these new neighbors are some very strange people. If this was a horror film and not a comedy it might have worked. I’m now going to have a bit further discussion here about the film itself and not the specifics of the film.

This is one downright creepy nightmarish dark comedy that truly is absurd. It feels like “The Twilight Zone” and knows it does, so much so that it even pays homage with the film’s original music using the theme song a few times. What it lacked though was a plot, unlike what it tried to pay tribute to or rip off. The performances aren’t really that bad, in fairness, it’s just the writing here lacked any real plot or meaning. I’m not sure how the actors managed to make this even come off as semi-believable. It shows how talented John Belushi was, as well as how Dan Aykroyd played off his former “Saturday Night Live” cast member. That’s one of the honest but real reasons that I find this film to be slightly enjoyable.

It’s a unique film and it has some laughs but it honestly is not the most memorable film featuring Dan Aykroyd or even the late John Belushi. Still, it’s a somewhat funny comedy however perhaps it is not for everyone as its dialogue feels a tad bit awkward at times. That said, I can only imagine how an audience in theaters felt watching this which is likely why it didn’t get very good reviews from the critics. Even still to this day, the film isn’t too highly rated on IMDb but has a bit of a cult following. Even during its original theatrical run, some critics enjoyed this film including the late Roger Ebert who gave it a pretty high rating in his review. Ebert claimed the film would “grow on you” but I’m not so sure I can agree with his statement there. It is a very unique film, and it certainly falls into a category of probably not for everyone. I’ll end by saying that I do like that one tagline used on the poster claiming it to be “A Comic-Nightmare” as that much I can actually say is true.

Movie Rating: 2.75 (out of 5)


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Video Quality

“Neighbors” on Blu-ray is presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, just as it was shown theatrically. According to IMDb, this was shot on 35mm film using the Panavision Panaflex cameras and spherical lenses

This looks about as rough as one might expect for a 1981 film. There are some occasional visual imperfections along the way like dirt and such but nothing all too bothersome in that department. Sadly, most of the film grain here is compressed and not so much visible and preserved as it should have been. Looking at this transfer, the black level appears to be solid and there’s a pretty bright amount of colors with somewhat accurate flesh tones.

Sadly, this presentation isn’t as impressive as it could be and I think compression is primarily to blame. At times it shows that it’s only using a BD-25 (single layer 25 gigabyte Blu-ray Disc) which it doesn’t even manage to fill. In fact, to get specific, this only uses 20.4GB for the movie. My biggest complaint though here visually is that some of the darker scenes look unacceptably rough – not at all visually pleasing. One scene that comes to mind here I can actually show you with two screenshots: HERE and HERE (the one shown above). As you’ll notice in the way that first shot turns the darkness into a pixilated (compressed) horrendous mess. Only a few seconds later it slightly clears up with that second shot, which isn’t as pixilated or compressed.

Flaws aside here, for the most part, this doesn’t look entirely bad. It just doesn’t look that great either. If you’re just wanting to see the film in HD you’ll be happy with this purchase for the low price. If you’re expecting a lot from it visually you’re not going to find it here nor probably elsewhere. Finally, it’s worth noting that there was originally a limited release of the film by Sony via a movie-on-demand (MOD) line and that is likely this very video transfer.

Video Quality Rating: 3 (out of 5)


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Audio Quality

Audio here is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, which makes absolutely no sense considering that format hasn’t been used since the days of DVD. They should have put a lossless mix here but instead opted for an outdated format. Ironically, all of the packaging to this Blu-ray release even states this was supposed to include lossless audio but that’s nowhere to be found.

That said, it still manages to do a comedy like this some slight justice. The mix is clean, admittedly, and full of lively music and sound effects at times. Dialogue is distinctly delivered all throughout the film and certainly will require no volume adjustments, as Dolby Digital tends to actually be louder than lossless formats. It’s just not really that good in terms of sound. The music originally composed isn’t done justice nor is the film itself, for those who enjoy it.

I’m going to go as far as to say shame on Mill Creek Entertainment for not only putting Dolby Digital but also for making a misprint on both the slipcover and cover art to the (retro VHS-style) packaging. They’ve put Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on previous Blu-ray releases and keep trying to pull off these half-assed and lazy attempts at home video releases. Half, appropriately enough, is what this release gets for audio quality.

Audio Quality Rating: 2.5 (out of 5)


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Bonus Materials

No bonus materials are included on this release. Nothing.

Bonus Materials Rating: 0 (out of 5)


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Closing Thoughts

“Neighbors” from 1981 was not to my liking, as I can’t say this made much sense at all to me, honestly. It seemed like nothing but just farcical comedic nonsense from the very start all the way up to the ending. Sure, it made me laugh a few times, but I’m not even sure what in the hell I was even laughing at. It’s a dark comedy and in all seriousness here maybe it’s just a tad bit too dark and nonsensical for most people. It feels like a cartoon and even seems to try to pay homage to Looney Tunes at the end in the closing credits music? Weird. On a sad note, Neighbors was the final film that John Belushi would do before he would die a year later, in 1982.

In terms of a Blu-ray release, this is a nightmare itself with a slightly above mediocre video presentation and an entirely outdated lossy sound presentation. Plus, as if that wasn’t enough, it contains an amazing zero minutes of extras, which is what it earns for a score on bonus material. It’s really not a release that I would suggest to anyone but those who are fans of the film or the cast. All and all, you get what you pay for here and the price isn’t too much. So you can pretty much expect that same quality.

In terms of Blu-ray release, this gets:
3 (out of 5) for video quality
2.5 (out of 5) for audio quality
0 (out of 5) for bonus materials


Overall Verdict:

Definite “Comic-Nightmare”


Available As:

2019 “VHS retro” Blu-ray Release


2019 Blu-ray Disc Screenshots:

 


Packaging:

 

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