New Criterion Blu-Ray Release of Dazed dazzles

Robert Starr

Physical media may be dying, but it’ll be a tragedy for the collector if it ever does. Sure, one could go to Amazon and download a digital copy of Richard Linklater’s “Dazed and Confused,” or stream it via Netflix, but true fans would probably rather have a hard copy, especially if it’s the Criterion Collection Blu-ray, which features a superb transfer of the movie as well as a slew of extras. Offered in a slick cardboard case with a booklet containing information about the movie and essays by Chuck Klosterman — among others — it’s well worth seeking out.

“Dazed,” filmed in and around Austin, takes place on the last day of school in a small Texas town in 1976 and really evokes the period as well as its location. We see the new seniors carry out initiation rituals on the incoming freshman, which involve brutal beatings for the boys and bizarre psychological dominance for the girls. Meanwhile we follow several characters in this town as they look for a party and ponder the future of their lives.

In short, it’s a sort of “American Graffiti” for the 1970s, but writer-director Linklater brings his own style to the movie. Much like his break-out hit “Slacker,” he fills his movie with characters who are either very thoughtful or very strange, but at the same time, seem genuine. Unlike “Slacker” however, “Dazed” has enough of a plot to keep things moving along, though that may have been Linklater’s compromise to get studio financing.

Criterion has always been exceptional at producing special edition releases of movies, and “Dazed” continues that trend. With a very detailed presentation of the movie, albeit one with slightly muted colors, this is the best that “Dazed” has looked since its original theatrical release, no question.

The sound has been remixed into a 5.1 DTS track, which aside from providing clear dialogue, also ensures that the music used throughout the movie sounds fantastic. And while the presentation is the most important aspect for preserving a cult favorite like “Dazed,” fans will likely get most excited about the extras. Included on the disc is an insightful commentary by Linklater, along with several deleted scenes that flesh out some of the characters.

There’s also a 50-minute documentary on the making of the movie, a ton of interviews, some conducted in character and a collection of many of the auditions that the cast gave for the movie.

Though there’s a lot here, none of it is worth skipping.

And while this content is all duplicated from the Criterion DVD release of a few years ago, it’s been updated to Blu-ray quality video and honestly, there’s not much more that a fan could ask for.

Perhaps Blu-Ray and other physical media are going the way of the dodo, but this release is a reminder of why we don’t need to rush to an all-digital future. The only real downside to the release is that there’s nothing new here that wasn’t on the DVD release from a few years ago.

However, for fans of the movie who want it looking and sounding great, upgrading to the Criterion Blu-ray release of “Dazed” is a no-brainer. 

Printed on Thursday, October 27, 2011 as: Criterion releases Linklater's 'Dazed and Confused' in Blu-ray