FM – Blu-ray Review
Film Title: FM
Release Date: 1978
Runtime: 104 minutes
Region Coding: Region A
Distributor: Arrow Video
Audio Formats: LPCM 2.0 / DTS-HD 5.1 MA
Aspect Ratio(s): 2.35:1
Version Reviewed: Blu-ray Disc
Blu-ray Release Date: 07/02/19
Director: John A. Alonzo
Cast: Michael Brandon, Eileen Brennan, Alex Karras, Cleavon Little, Martin Mull, Cassie Yates, Norman Lloyd, Tom Tarpey, Jay Fenichel, James Keach, Linda Ronstadt, Jimmy Buffett, Tom Petty
Jump to Sections: Movie | Video | Audio | Bonus | Closing | Screenshots
Full Blu-ray Tech Specs at the bottom.
“FM” was a 1978 music-themed comedy and drama directed by John A. Alonzo. Alonzo is best known for his work as a cinematographer (director of photography) on such films as “Chinatown” (1974), “The Bad News Bears” (1976), “Scarface” (1983), “Steel Magnolias” (1989), and “Star Trek Generations” (1994).
The screenplay to “FM” was written by Ezra Sacks, who actually loosely based the story on real-life experiences working at a Los Angeles radio station. Sacks also wrote the screenplays to the films “A Small Circle of Friends” (1980) and “Wildcats” (1986).
The story here revolves around a (fictional) Los Angeles rock ‘n’ roll radio station called Q-SKY 71.1 FM: where “we never come down to earth.” The masthead to the station is the manager, program director, and lead disc jockey “Jeff Dugan” (Michael Brandon). The faces and voices of Q-SKY include the DJ’s like “Prince of Darkness” (Cleavon Little), “Mother” (Eileen Brennan), “Eric Swan” (Martin Mull), “Doc Holiday” (Alex Karras), “Cassie Yates” (Laura Coe), and “Bobby Douglas” (Jay Fenichel). Eventually, things take a turn from the carefree atmosphere we first see to a more complex environment after some rating changes and an advertising idea from the new sales manager “Regis Lamar” (Tom Tarpey).
Essentially the advertising becomes a problem when the sales manager decides to pitch an idea of running ads for the Army on the station via one “Lt. Reach” (James Keach). The idea of this doesn’t sit with our hero (of sorts) Jeff Dugan. This leads to an act of rebellion from the members of the radio station to get changes made and keep the format they’ve grown fond of, as have their listeners.
“FM” is a nice film that gives you a glimpse of what it was somewhat like at a rock FM radio station in the late seventies. Despite some of the similarities, this was not what inspired the TV Show “WKRP in Cincinnati“ that actually premiered the very same year (1978). The soundtrack to the film featured songs from The Eagles, Joe Walsh, Bob Seger, James Taylor, Billy Joel, Queen, and a title song from Steely Dan. The film itself featured performances by Jimmy Buffet and Linda Rondstadt as well as a cameo by the late Tom Petty (doing a radio interview as himself).
Movie Rating: 3.5 (out of 5)
“FM” on its Blu-ray Disc debut (from Arrow Video) is presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, just as it was shown theatrically.
The film has received an HD (1080p) transfer from the original film elements. There are some occasional blue spots (film damage) but it’s nothing too bothersome, as you should keep in mind this hasn’t been cleaned up – it’s just a digital scan of the film elements, not a restoration. That said there will be some occasional specks of dirt and hairs on the print along the way, which I found to be fitting for this late seventies film.
There’s a really nice amount of film grain visible here all throughout the movie. The black level seems to be pretty solid, the colors can be pretty vibrant at times, and the flesh-tones are accurate. There is for sure some new detail to be found here with this finally being presented in high definition. The movie admittedly has a rather soft visual appearance to it and it fits the cinematic style nicely.
Video Quality Rating: 4 (out of 5)
This is presented in both the original uncompressed Linear PCM 2.0 Stereo and also in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio. Being a purist, I first opted to watch the film in the original lossless Stereo mix and found it to be very solid. The music was really done justice with a nice amount of fidelity, and it almost felt just as Stereo in this time period did, making it a fitting viewing experience, in my personal opinion. The dialogue was mixed perfectly in the Stereo mix and the sound effects (especially later in the film) came across pretty believable.
Now, the surround (5.1) mix comes with a nice delivery of vocals for music from the center channel, as well as for with the dialogue. The majority of the music is driven from the front left and right channels and the bass is represented pretty well by the subwoofer. There is a decent amount of rear channel presence too during the music (songs from the Soundtrack or performances). It sounds really good for a 1978 film about a radio station and one that depends on the music. There’s “no static at all” to be heard here or from me in regards to the audio mixes found on this Blu-ray. I found the Stereo and 5.1 mixes here to both be very solid. I can’t pick which mix I preferred as they both left me equally as impressed.
Audio Quality Rating: 4.25 (out of 5)
Bonus materials on this release are ALL presented in HD video quality with Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound – unless otherwise noted below. They include the following:
- NEW “No Static At All” (25:05 – HD) is an interview with the star of the film, Michael Brandon. He reminisces in making the film and it makes for some very interesting material. Fans will definitely dig this. Not only is this new but the interview was newly filmed.
- NEW “Radio Chaos” (23:24 – HD) is an interview with the screenwriter for the film, Ezra Sacks. He tells us how the story is based on a real Los Angeles radio station (KMET) that he worked at and how it served as inspiration for his story that would become the screenplay for this film. He eventually worked as the film critic as we learn (in a story similar to the film) at the station. Sacks goes on to discussing meeting people at the station and at other places, namely at a movie studio (Universal). This is how he managed to pitch his idea for the film. It’s obvious that the screenwriter and the main character (played by Michael Brandon) didn’t initially see eye-to-eye in regards to the car chase scene. It’s fun to learn how all of the musical acts came to be involved with this film – thanks to the music producer. Sacks finally talks for a while the film’s memorable soundtrack.
- NEW “The Spirit of Radio” (23:00 – HD) is an appreciation of the era of actual FM radio and the soundtrack to this film from music critic Glenn Kenny. Kenny writes for The New York Times. This is very educational and fitting for the film.
- Isolated Music & Effects Track is in a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix. This way you can watch the film and only hear the music and sound effects.
- Original Trailer (2:53 – HD)
- Image Galleries include:
- Production Stills (10:00 – HD)
- Posters, Lobby Cards And Press (2:40 – HD)
- Soundtrack Editions (7:30 – HD)
- Production Stills (10:00 – HD)
- A Collectible Booklet is included ONLY in the first-pressing. This booklet (pictured much further below) contains info about the cast & crew, some photos from the film, a retrospective/essay titled “Do You Remember Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio? FM and the Decline of the Freeform DJ” written by Paul Corupe, and info about the video transfer.
Overall the bonus materials here are pretty good. You get well over an hour of new extras as well as an isolated music & effects audio mix, the original trailer, and some image galleries. Lastly, in the first-pressing ONLY, you get a collectible booklet which is rather cool.
Bonus Materials Rating: 3.75 (out of 5)
“FM” was a pretty good film that tried to capture the feel of a radio station in the late seventies. Its characters can seem somewhat lovable and although they kind of lack full development they still will leave you rooting for them – as well as for the Q-SKY station. The video presentation here is solid to be just from an HD transfer of the film elements. The two Stereo and 5.1 lossless audio mixes both prove to be solid as well. The audio is even more enjoyable here with this having a great soundtrack of music from that time period. Finally, the bonus materials come with over an hour of new content as well as the original theatrical trailer, image galleries, and a collectible booklet.
In terms of Blu-ray release, this gets:
4 (out of 5) for video quality
4.25 (out of 5) for audio quality
3.75 (out of 5) for bonus materials
A Good Film AND Solid Blu-ray
Blu-ray Disc Screenshots:
Blu-ray Technical Specifications:
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Exact Runtime(s): 1:44:24
Audio Format(s): English Uncompressed Linear PCM 2.0 Stereo, English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (with a DTS 5.1 core)
Disc Size: BD-50
Disc Use: 45.72GB total / 30.3GB for the film