Our review of Cheech And Chong's Up In Smoke: Special Collector's Edition, published September 10th, 2007, is also available.
"Up in Smoke, that's where my money goes…"
Paramount gets tired of listening to me rant and begins to deliver long overdue top-shelf material, one of the first being this delightful surprise from the '70s. Complete with unannounced special features such as an audio commentary and deleted scenes, this DVD release is sure to please long-time fans as well as endear a whole new generation.
Facts of the Case
Two stoners (Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong), auspiciously meet each other, become fast friends and set off on several missions; the most important (to them) is trying to score some smoke. It all starts when Cheech, a low-class Mexican-American picks up rich boy rebel Man (Tommy Chong) when he mistakes him for a woman hitchhiking. They soon discover that they are fellow musicians and agree to jam together. Before long, they are pulled over, arrested and miraculously escape jail time due to a hilarious discovery. Along the way, they meet Cousin Strawberry (Tom Skerritt), several bizarre partiers and a nemesis in the form of Sgt. Stedenko played by the riotous Stacy Keach in a perfectly over the top performance. The film climaxes with a battle of the bands at the Roxy that is classic Cheech and Chong.
I have to admit that even is this DVD version looked like crap I'd still be a champion as long as it was in 2:35 widescreen. Not only is the film in anamorphic widescreen, but the transfer looks fantastic. This film had been chopped and destroyed by pan and scan for years on video and TV, and after immediately viewing it in brilliant widescreen, I felt like I was seeing it for the first time. Director Lou Adler (why isn't this man directing today?) wisely uses the Panavision lens to its fullest, with beautifully choreographed two shots and four shots that pan and scan editors in the past had reduced to MTV music video quick cuts which messed up the pacing of the film. Especially evident are the scenes in which Cheech and Man are riding in the car together. Just being able to see each the two actors' reaction shots without cutting away is priceless. What pan and scan editors don't know is that just because a character isn't speaking, it doesn't mean that his or her reactions aren't valid.
The DVD presentation is spectacular. The picture is very crisp with sharp detail levels and only mild artifacting. I showed this DVD to a friend who had never seen the film before, and when I told her the movie was made in 1978, she couldn't believe it mostly due to the awesome picture quality. The soundtrack has been remastered in magnificent Dolby 5.1 surround sound, and its obvious the boys in the sound studio knew their audience when they went to work on this one. The channel separation is "highly" appropriate and the music in the film has obviously been reinserted from the original stereo tracks. I know this because I owned the 8-track soundtrack to this film at one time.
As for the extras, I couldn't believe it when I picked this one up at the store. To my amazement (and I thought it was an H2O misprint), Paramount has added a Lou Adler-Cheech Marin audio commentary which is often as funny as the film. They've also added what they call Roach Clips, or deleted scenes. These scenes are also available for viewing with the Adler-Marin commentary as well, and unlike many deleted scenes I've seen, some of these could have stayed in the film and worked quite well. Add to that the original theatrical trailer and the option of listening to the restored original mono track, the boys at Paramount have completely won me over on this one, and after Airplane and this release, I doubt if I'll ever be able to badmouth the studio again.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Do I have to? I really can't say anything bad about the movie or the transfer. I still think this should have been one of Paramount's early choices, but now that it's here, I can't complain. I don't really know anyone who dislikes this film. Sure a couple of the gags are tired and maybe one or two sequences go on a little too long, but when you look at many of the films that Hollywood releases as would-be comedies these days, a gem like this comes out smelling like a rose.
This film is based on several of Cheech and Chong's stand-up skits and albums that made them famous, so perhaps a first-time viewer may find the film a bit disjointed, but the laughs that come should make anyone quick to exonerate the filmmakers. One negative about the DVD release is that the promo text on the back reads like someone's grandmother wrote it. I wish that the studio had called me; I would have been delighted to write one for them.
This film is a classic comedy in my book. Oh sure it's not one of those high-brow comedies like Network or My Dinner With Andre, but I don't think fans of those films would 'reduce' themselves to watching a good old Cheech and Chong film, their loss.
Paramount is forever acquitted in my book with this lovely DVD release. I may even offer a formal apology if needed. Now if we can just coax Universal into getting busy and start polishing up Cheech and Chong's Next Movie for a DVD release and push Columbia's DVD department into getting their act together and start working on Cheech and Chong's Nice Dreams and Things Are Tough All Over, Cheech and Chong fans all over the nation will be at peace and 'happy'.
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