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Flashdance: Special Collector's Edition DVD Review

Flashdance movie poster Flashdance

Theatrical Release: April 15, 1983 / Running Time: 94 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Adrian Lyne / Writers: Tom Hedley (story & screenplay), Joe Eszterhas (screenplay)

Cast: Jennifer Beals (Alex Owens), Michael Nouri (Nick Hurley), Lilia Skala (Hanna Long), Sunny Johnson (Jeanie Szabo), Kyle T. Heffner (Richie), Lee Ving (Johnny C.), Ron Karabatsos (Jake Mawby), Belinda Bauer (Katie Hurley), Malcolm Danare (Cecil), Philip Bruns (Frank Szabo), Micole Mercurio (Rosemary Szabo), Lucy Lee Flippin (Secretary), Don Brockett (Pete)

Songs: Laura Branigan - "Imagination", "Gloria"; Irene Cara - "Flashdance - What A Feeling"; Carnes - "I'll Be Here Where the Heart Is"; Kim Cycle V - "Seduce Me Tonight"; Joe Esposito - "Lady Lady Lady"; Karen Kamon - "Manhunt"; Helen St. John - "Love Theme From Flashdance"; Michael Sembello - "Maniac"; Shandi - "He's A Dream"; Donna Summer - "Romeo"; The Jimmy Castor Bunch - "It's Just Begun"; Joan Jett & The Blackhearts - "I Love Rock 'N' Roll"; Debussy - "Prelude A L'Apres-Midi D'un Faune"; Ned Washington & Hoagy Carmichael - "The Nearness of You"; Jacques Noel - "Resolution"; Albinoni - "Adagio for Strings"

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By Albert Gutierrez

Flashdance... what a feeling. I can't help but wonder if that feeling is impatience, exhaustion, or a charley horse. As a product of the 1980s, there is a certain camp and excess factor to Flashdance that reveals the movie's age and lessens its value. It isn't a great film to begin with. It's not even a film; it's more an experiment in quick movie editing and a montage of music videos. The story is weak filler meant to string each music video together. If there is anything a viewer can pick up in watching the movie, it's the simple fact that cut-off sweatshirts are sexy and leave much to the imagination. Well, that and the obvious theme of taking a chance and following your dream even in the face of failure.

Our dreamer is Alexandra "Alex" Owens (Jennifer Beals, in her first and still most famous movie role), an 18-year-old welder in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania who moonlights as an exotic dancer for Mawby's Bar. She welds to pay the bills and dances to, as she puts it, "disappear". It's her release, her escape from life, and for the benefit of male viewers, a well-choreographed turn-on.
Life for Alex is limited to welding and dancing, and although she'd like to join a prestigious ballet repertory, she lacks the confidence to even audition. After all, her best friend Jeanie (Sunny Johnson) tried and failed in her own ice skating audition, and Mawby's cook Richie (Kyle T. Heffner) would return from a failed attempt at stand-up comedy in Los Angeles. Even the inspiring words of former dancer and good friend Hanna (Lilia Skala) aren't enough for Alex. She simply believes she'll never have the courage to go out and try.

Enter Alex's boss, Nick Hurley (Michael Nouri). He watches her perform at Mawby's and is immediately smitten with the young woman. The road to romance is a difficult one, however, as his initial advances are turned down. For reasons entirely unclear, and in a passage of time far too short, Alex suddenly finds herself in love with the much older man, and the two become the unlikeliest of couples. Conveniently, Nick knows some friends on the "arts council", and uses his influence to get Alex an audition for the repertory. When she finds out, she's angered by his help, and opts not to go to the audition. Of course, in the spirit of predictable love stories, she does go and makes amends with Nick. All is well in the world, and the credits thankfully begin to scroll.

Jennifer Beals stars as Alex Owens, a welder by day and exotic dancer by night. Playing Nick Hurley, Michael Nouri lends half-a-smile to this half-a-movie.

Sprinkled throughout that weak story are a variety of musical numbers, either by Alex, the dancers at Mawby's, or the most random people on the street. At one point, Alex and a cop end up doing a little impromptu dance whilst directing traffic. The musical numbers (or more appropriately, music videos) are the only real highlights, and usually the first reason a fan would cite in confessing their love for Flashdance. The Kabuki number in particular is especially engaging, even with the headache-inducing strobe lights that last longer than necessary. Perhaps the greatest testament to the movie's innovative dancing is Jennifer Lopez's 2003 music video, "I'm Glad", both a blatant rip-off and tribute to the film.

A hot topic regarding the merits of Flashdance as a legitimate dance film is how little dancing Jennifer Beals actually performs. It's no secret that the majority of Alex's dance is done with tight close-ups and deceptive lighting. As many as three dance doubles were used in the climactic audition scene alone, with Beals' main double being French actress Marine Jahan. You have to hand it to the director and editors; it looks both seamless and real to those who don't know better (it certainly did to me). What Beals lacked in dance skills, she makes up for as an actress. Sure, the dialogue she's given is hammy and clichιd ("If you close your eyes, you can see the music"), but Beals makes it sound somewhat believable. And fortunately she gets to play the self-supporting independent woman, a more developed role than her co-stars. None of the other characters are fleshed-out beyond a minimal set of stereotypical traits like "the perfect rich guy", "the best friend", "the plucky comic relief", "the smarmy not-so-good guy".

It's either impressive Kabuki-style dancing or a nightmare waiting to happen... Who knew a tux could look so sexy on a woman?

Movie tickets were an average $3.15 in 1983, and Flashdance grossed $93 million domestically, meaning about 29 million tickets to Flashdance were sold between April and October of that year. Were there really that many viewers of the MTV Generation that went to see this 93-minute R-rated music video? Then again, the movie is a clear commercial product of its time, coming in the early years of MTV and a few months after Michael Jackson's Thriller album. Its marketing as a hip new "musical" definitely appealed to younger viewers, and for that reason was met with indifference and scorn by an older audience.
Understandably, many critics reviled the movie, notably Roger Ebert who lists it among his most hated films. Of the various criticisms made, the most apparent was the lack of a real story, and the similarities with 1977's Saturday Night Fever. Both offer a protagonist in a less-than-exciting working-class environment who dance their way to personal success. The only major difference is gender and music style.

Flashdance's music selections are just as memorable as its choreography, putting in the rare group of bad 1980s movies with damn fine soundtracks. (Other films earning this classification include Flash -- ahhh-ahhh! -- Gordon, St. Elmo's Fire, and Dirty Dancing, my own guilty pleasure dance film.) Many of the songs used here would become iconic '80s tunes, chiefly "Maniac", "Gloria", and of course, "Flashdance - What a Feeling". I can't tell how many times I've heard the DVD's main menu in writing this review. It's very uplifting to listen to the chorus of "What a Feeling" over and over again. The soundtrack truly solidifies Flashdance as a definitive 1980s film, with overblown synthesizers and the excessively loud vocals, but catchy lyrics and inspirational themes.

Paramount initially released a barebones edition of Flashdance in 2002. In the years since, it has seen a few repackagings, either as a multi-disc bundle set or in double-feature retail DVD with Footloose. The latest release bears the reliable Special Collector's Edition banner, a few choice featurettes, and a bonus audio CD.

Buy Flashdance: Special Collector's Edition DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Surround (French),
Dolby Mono 2.0 (Spanish, Portuguese)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese;
Closed Captioned
Release Date: September 18, 2007
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Black Dual Amaray Keepcase with Embossed Slipcover


Flashdance comes to DVD in a 1.78:1 widescreen presentation that is enhanced for 16x9 televisions. Like many Paramount transfers, image quality is generally fantastic, though there are still elements that show the film's age. Most outdoor shots are softer than studio and indoor footage, and the entire film has a "foggy" look to it, emulating the Pittsburgh atmosphere.

Four audio tracks are provided, with the only English version being a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. The film benefits from the multi-channel remix, nicely balancing the full-blown music video numbers to more subtle background noise. Both the English and French tracks are very clean and free of distracting audio noise. Unfortunately, the mono tracks in Spanish and Portuguese sound abysmal, muffled and with a sizable deal of hiss and noise.

Actor Michael Nouri discusses his work on the film in one of five newly-produced featurettes. Jennifer Beals is surrounded by the breakdancing group RockSteady Crew in the featurette "'Flashdance': The Choreography." The main menu offers a nice SPLASH of clips and spotlights.


New to this Special Collector's Edition are five featurettes by prolific DVD producer Laurent Bouzereau. A "Play All" option should have been utilized here as the featurettes might as well be a five-chapter, 49-minute documentary. Among those interviewed are producer Jerry Bruckheimer, associate producer Lynda Obst, director Adrian Lyne, actors Michael Nouri (Nick) and Kyle T. Heffner (Richie),
editor Bud Smith, costume designer Michael Kaplan, composer Giorgio Morodor, music supervisor Phil Ramone, choreographer Jeffrey Hornaday. Noticeably missing is the welding maniac herself, Jennifer Beals, which is pretty disappointing.

The first featurette, "The History of Flashdance" (14:41) takes a look at the origin of the story and the casting. It's almost hard to believe that the movie is partly based on a true story, and inspired by a visit to a strip club. Up next is "The Look of Flashdance" (9:13), with very basic and straightforward examinations of the cinematography and director's style, as well as Alex's wardrobe.

"Flashdance: Music and Songs" (6:13) is the shortest of featurettes, and simply gives a rundown of each song used with a little history behind them. Likewise, "Flashdance: The Choreography" (10:09) goes through the different musical numbers and offers comments on how they were devised, as well as praise for the likes of Cynthia Rhodes (Tina Tech) and the audition doubles.

Finally, "Releasing the Flashdance Phenomenon" (8:52) discusses the movie's release and the critical and public assessment of the surprise hit. There's also a bit of recognition to a few of the cast and crew who have since passed away, as well as some quick sound bites about what the film meant to the fans.

The original teaser trailer (1:31) and theatrical trailer (1:57) are also provided, along with a singular preview (despite its plural title on the menu) for the Dreamgirls DVD.

The nicely animated 16x9 main menu plays to "Flashdance - What a Feeling" and features a montage of Alex's erratic dance movements. All other menus are static, but in the same design. Interestingly, the first menu screen to appear on the DVD isn't for the film, but a prompt to select which language to view the movie and bonus features in.

In addition to the DVD features, a bonus audio CD is include in the case, offering the best of Flashdance. Obviously, Irene Cara's "Flashdance - What A Feeling" is present, as are five other songs: Karen Kamon's "Manhunt", Shandi's "He's A Dream", "Joe "Bean" Esposito's "Lady Lady Lady", Donna Summer's "Romeo", and the ever-spastic "Maniac" by Michael Sembello. A minor exclusion that got me a little miffed was Laura Branigan's "Gloria", which plays during Jeanie's ice skating audition, and sadly hasn't even turned up on the full soundtrack.

The DVD and CD are packaged in a dual amaray keepcase where the opposite inner panels hold a disc. The cover art simply adds a border and reuses the iconic Jennifer-Beals-in-hot-sweatshirt photo that's graced many a DVD and VHS cover in years past. A cover-art-repeating slipcover is included, with the title embossed across, allowing others besides Nick Hurley to feel across Alex Owens' chest.

Wait...that's not Jennifer Beals auditioning for the ballet repertory! Since Pittsburgh isn't close to the beach, Alex and Nick take their long walks on railroad tracks.


Perhaps I was not meant to completely appreciate this particular chapter of 1983 pop culture. It fails in executing a worthy plot, offering a substandard Cinderella story and overindulging in setting any scene to music. I was impressed by the musical numbers, but not enough to enjoy the movie as a whole, and ultimately it really isn't worth anyone's time. The new DVD will probably only excite the fans, providing a solid 49-minute documentary (er... five featurettes), the trailers, and a nice bonus CD. Those who have the original 2002 release are encouraged to upgrade, and fans who have yet to pick any copy up should choose this over previous editions. For the rest of the world, get a taste of the 1980s by buying the soundtrack instead.

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Saturday Night Fever (30th Anniversary Special Collector's Edition) • High School Musical 2 (Deluxe Dance Edition)
Step Up • Step Up 2 The Streets • Kickin' It Old Skool • Cujo (25th Anniversary Edition) • Shall We Dance? (2004)
A Night at the Roxbury (Special Collector's Edition) • Red Dawn (Collector's Edition)
Back to School (Extra-Curricular Edition) • The Verdict (Collector's Edition) • Tex
Voyagers!: The Complete Series • Silver Spoons: The Complete First Season

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Reviewed September 24, 2007.

Text copyright 2007 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1983 Paramount Pictures and 2007 Paramount Home Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.