Stand By Me


Stand By Me

Based on the novella  by Stephen King

Screenplay by Raynold Gideon & Bruce A. Evans

Directed by Rob Reiner



Wil Wheaton

River Phoenix

Corey Feldman

Jerry O’Connell

Kiefer Sutherland

Richard Dreyfuss

John Cusack


Theatrical:  Act III Productions

Video: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment


Aspect Ratio: 1,85:1

Codec: AVC

Disc Size: 31.40 GB

Feature Size: 26.62 GB

Bit Rate: 24.59 Mbps

Runtime: 98 minutes

Chapters: 15

Region: A


English DTS-HD MA 5.1 (48 kHz/1509 kbps/24-bit)

French English DTS-HD MA 5.1

Portuguese DTS-HD MA 5.1

Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

English Dolby Digital 2.0 (original mono)

English Dolby Digital 2.0 (commentary)

English DTS Express 2.0 (commentary)


English SDH, Spanish, Portuguese & French


• Commentary by Director Rob Reiner

• New PIP Commentary with Reiner and Actors Wil Wheaton and Corey Feldman

• Walking the Tracks: The Summer of Stand by Me

• Stand by Me Music Video


Amaray Blu-ray case: BRD x 1

Release Date: March 22, 2011


Sony took advantage of the 25th anniversary of the release of Rob Reiner’s third feature film to present Stand By Me on high-definition video.  The Blu-ray is not a slam dunk, however, despite the presence of a new PIP commentary with Reiner and two of his stars now grown, Wil Wheaton and Corey Feldman.  We shall see why presently.


The Movie: 8

Based on a 1982 novella by Stephen King titled “The Body,” Raynold Gideon’s adaptation doesn’t veer appreciably from the book, while Reiner’s take on it emphasizes how kids, especially Gordie (Wheaton), the main character, unable to get the attention and love he needs and deserves at home, finds refuge and camaraderie in his small gang of friends.  While the main action of the story occurs when Gordie was twelve, it is narrated by him some seventeen years later upon learning of the death of his best friend Chris Chambers.


“I was 12 going on 13 the first time I saw a dead human being. It happened in the summer of 1959 - a long time ago, but only if you measure in terms of years.”  That’s a knockout opening line – one of the best ever. It gets our attention, tells us what the story is going to be about, when the action takes place, how old the protagonist is and a little something about his life experience to that point.  In Richard Dreyfuss, Reiner finds his perfect narrator.  Dreyfuss, as he looks back on his character’s childhood, has just the right mix of detached, wry humor and deadeye observation required not only to do the voiceover but to bring the audience into his life as a grown-up and published author.


As you can tell, I love the way this movie begins.  There’s a long establishing shot of a lonely truck in a beautiful landscape, a medium shot of the truck, then a close up of Dreyfuss sitting in the vehicle, kind of lost in thought after reading about Chris’s death in the local newspaper.  He really is lost until he notices two boys riding by on their bicycles. He draws a breath and lets his mind remember the summer when he was closest to Chris and a story about that time flows begins to emerge, inviting us into his thoughts.  Brilliant!

That summer, the news about the small town of Castle Rock, Oregon, was the disappearance of another boy about Gordie’s age; but the mood in his own home was saturated with grief about the recent death of Gordie’s football hero, older brother, Denny (John Cusack - another piece of casting perfection), whom we see in brief flashbacks.  The dad especially, cannot help but compare Gordie unfavorably even as Denny tries to bring this or that success on Gordie’s part to the attention of his folks.  Dad, as played by Marshall Bell, is something of a cardboard character - the only one in the movie, I’m both happy and grieved to say - I don’t believe a word he says.  Reiner gets everyone else so right on, it’s surprising how much he misjudges the tone of this guy.


Fortunately for Gordie, as is often the case with the lucky ones, he is best friends with Chris, the leader of a quartet of similar outcasts.  Drugs and alcohol are not in the equation (more luck), but Chris does manage to swipe his dad’s handgun (not so lucky) and brings it along, more for the swagger than for needed protection.  Chris and Gordie join their friends Teddy Duchamp (Corey Feldman), the craziest kid in school, and Vern Tessio (Jerry O’Connell), a slow, plump kid whose IQ is in inverse proportion to his weight.  Supremely likable, in part because he puts up with being the butt of everyone’s making fun of him, Vern puts up with his friends because they are his friends, the only friends he’s got - and much the same can be said for the others.

Chris (River Phoenix), though he comes from the most dysfunctional family of the bunch and has a more substantial history of delinquency than his three friends combined, is the wisest of the gang.  (Much the same could be said of the actor until he let himself get swept away by drugs.)  There’s an older gang of “real” delinquents in town, lorded over by Ace Merrill (Kiefer Sutherland).  While two of his minions talk about how they came upon the dead body of the missing boy some miles out of town, Vern secretly overhears them and quickly relays the news to his buddies.  They all agree to trek out to where it is and “discover” the body to the authorities first and in turn become the town heroes they imagine they should be.


That’s their plan anyway. Reiner’s movie is about why and how these boys are friends and how their adventure would become the most memorable summer they ever had and likely ever will have.  Reiner has a ready understanding of what it is like to be such a boy - the relentless teasing and name calling, the bragging, the daring, the competition, the songs, the smoking, the fear of the dark, and the preoccupation with sex, such as it is with virginal boys, namely every young boy’s wet dream, Annette Funicello.

Reiner is less careful or concerned with his editing, as for example how the gun appears and disappears without concern. (Note that after firing off a “test round” Chris and Gordie run around the corner and the gun that was in Gordie’s hand has vanished, not to appear again until Chris flashes it in front of Teddy and Vern who, until that moment didn’t know he had one, and don’t seem at all surprised.  Curious, because Gordie was more than surprised - and he’s Chris’s best friend.)

Anyhow, Stand By Me is both more and less than its many memorable scenes.  Reiner and screenwriters Raynold Gideon & Bruce A. Evans have bittersweet nostalgia down cold.  The kids are great and remain kids in every scene: they laugh, they cry, they tremble and tell stories.  Together, they, too, are more than the some of their parts - and that’s the point.


Image: 7/8

My 10-year old Columbia anamorphic DVD isn’t as weak as I thought I remembered it, and frankly, I didn’t expect all that much from the Blu-ray.  The good news is that Sony doesn’t get in the way of the granular structure and leaves its nostalgia filter intact.  I thought it an improvement over the orange-casted DVD in this respect, but it’s still a little too saturated for my taste.  In other respects it’s fairly good.  Edge enhancement is not in evidence; black levels might be a skosh increased but not to the point of crush.  The image is clean and yet never really sharp (hair, for example, is always matted) but I don’t think it ever was.


Audio & Music: 5/8

According to the IMDB, the original sound mix is mono, which leads me to scratch my head at Amazon Users who complained that the DVD was not bumped up to stereo - as if that is actually possible with current technology without significant losses, to say nothing of whether or not it’s desirable.  Sony seems to be of two minds about this, offering a 5.1 mix! in DTS-HD MA on the one had, but the original mono in garden variety Dolby Digital on the other.  Given that the disc has more than enough room to have accommodate a second lossless uncompressed track - to say nothing about the rightness of the thing - it passes understanding that they didn’t, common as this omission is amongst Blu-ray studios. 

In other respects the dialogue is clear enough, and the train has a suggestion of weigh, if not authority, consistent with the rest of the movie, and the gun goes off with something vaguely resembling a bang. Whether you prefer the 5.1 or the mono may depend on your playback system. And leave us not forget the movie’s marvelous soundtrack, laced with such classics as Buddy Holly’s “Everyday,” The Chordettes’ “Lollipop”, The Del Vikings’ “Come Go With Me” and Ben E. King doing the title song - more muted than aggressive, unlike the the practice common today.


Extras: 4

Sony’s extra features are much the same here as on the Columbia DVD, minus the “Talent Files, Production Notes, and an Isolated Film Score.”  The important new item is a PIP commentary with Reiner, Feldman and Wheaton made like yesterday 25 years after the original release of the movie.  So nostalgia is in the air.  Why PIP, I can’t begin to get my mind around, especially as the commentary begins with a full size several minutes of the three of them re-introducing themselves to one another after so many years.  Just to get it out of the way, Reiner is not what you call a critical commentator on wither track.  ‘Nuf said on that score.  Two marks against the PIP: subtitles for the movie are inaccessible and the dialogue is so subdued you can only hear it when these guys stop talking, and you can’t toggle between the feature film and PIP.  The commentary alone would have been enough, only you can’t make that happen while watching the feature.


Much more important is that River Phoenix died only seven years after the movie came out.  Feldman, who is not exactly a big name in the movies these days, plays a “psycho” kid in the movie is saved from a head-on collision with a train by River’s character.  The irony of this is not lost on anyone, and Corey makes certain his role in his friend’s life and death is noted.  The legacy of the actor’s loss weighs heavily in the air, especially in that it is Chris’s death is the catalyst for the story in the first place.

Recommendation: 6

I suggest renting before you purchase only to make sure you can live with the color (I should note that other on-line commentators did not find it objectionable) or are willing to dial it down if not.  The movie is still rated “R”.  I didn’t understand it then.  I still don’t.



Leonard Norwitz

© LensViews

March 10, 2011

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