It’d be pretty ballsy on anyone’s part to argue that it’s Savage Steve Holland’s unique brand of humor that makes Better Off Dead… so outstanding. Some of us — the fans — have no problem rolling right along with the film’s incongruousness, and those of us who should probably be on some sort of medication find the outlandish behavior of the film to be quite normal.
Sadly, the general public and critics alike never saw Savage Steve’s method of moviemaking to be as enjoyable: both Better Off Dead… and it’s unofficial “follow-up” feature, 1986’s One Crazy Summer, failed to make much of an impression with theatergoers (though, ironically enough, Holland still managed to mold a career for himself by writing and directing off the wall television shows aimed at the younger generation). As such, the nonappearance of Savage Steve Holland’s participation in this long-awaited High-Def issuing of Better Off Dead… is hardly surprising.
Yup, that’s right: CBS/Paramount’s Blu-ray release of Better Off Dead… is a barebones affair. The cult moviemaker doesn’t appear on the disc’s roster of special features in any way, shape or form — and there’s nary a featurette or commentary in sight. As a matter of fact, the only extra on-hand here is the original theatrical trailer. The sigh.
Moving onto the disc’s specs: the video presentation brings out the best the film ever had to offer (a bright color scheme, some fine detail), but it also carries its share of battle scars in the guise of some pale faces and grain. Sound-wise, there’s a choice between a new English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix and an English Stereo option that is more on par with the film’s original soundtrack. The new mix isn’t the brightest I’ve heard: it suffices for a mid-‘80s comedy, but it isn’t altogether spectacular. French and Spanish mono tracks are also included, as are English (SDH), French and Spanish subtitles.
The bottom line: while the bonus materials suck, the improved audio/video aspects of this classic make this well worth the upgrade from the previously-released Standard-Definition DVD.
It’s certainly a lot better than that old Key Video release I wore out during the ‘80s.