Release Date(s)1985 (January 2, 2018)
Studio(s)Universal Pictures (Criterion – Spine #905)
- Film/Program Grade: A+
- Video Grade: A+
- Audio Grade: A+
- Extras Grade: A+
Before John Hughes (a National Lampoon alumni with hardly any directing credit) put pen to paper and wrote out ideas and treatments for The Breakfast Club, the concept of a “teen” movie meant that a bunch of young horny men were trying to see girls naked in the shower or that groups of young women were on the prowl. Hughes had made Sixteen Candles one year before, but The Breakfast Club was where that melodramatic 80s “teen” movie notion really came to fruition, treating teenagers like real people while simultaneously latching onto a generation of young adults who saw themselves in the characters and could identify with them.
The Breakfast Club was also many other things. It was a star-making movie, first and foremost. Emilio Estevez, Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson, Anthony Michael Hall, and Ally Sheedy were all names on every young person’s lips after seeing the movie, and no school authority figure carried as much weight in the 1980s as Paul Gleason. One also cannot overlook the popularity of the film’s soundtrack, including Simple Minds’ Bowie-esque chart topper “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”, a tune that’s still on permanent radio rotation these many years later. But the point of The Breakfast Club was really about teenagers with depth, exploring the effects of social and parental pressures while also witnessing five disparate characters slowly come together and form a resilient bond with each other – all over a Saturday morning of detention.
Over the course of 100 minutes, a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal all learn that there’s more to them than what’s on the surface. We don’t really see them interact with other teenagers in their normal environment. Instead, we see them in a situation that most of them are not normally in (outside of Bender, of course). It’s why many people consider The Breakfast Club to be the finest high school experience movie. Between Hughes’ writing and direction, the performances, and the soundtrack, it’s one of the best films to come out of the 80s, but more importantly, one of the better films that deals with the process of growing up.
After multiple releases of The Breakfast Club on Blu-ray, the film’s Criterion Collection debut comes armed with a 4K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative, which was previously carried out for its 30th Anniversary Blu-ray release. It’s virtually a perfect presentation of the film, in both the video and audio departments. An amazing amount of depth is on display with solid grain levels and excellent texturing on objects, people, and clothing. The color palette is rich, despite the fairly low-key color scheme of the film’s main location, while black levels are thoroughly deep with great contrast. It’s also quite stable with no digital or film-related anomalies, major or minor, meaning that it carries a strong encode and is clean-looking, retaining a film-like look. The audio, which is presented with both the original English 1.0 LPCM soundtrack and an alternate English 5.1 DTS-HD track with optional subtitles in English SDH, is also impressive. The mono track is the clear winner of the two for me, but the 5.1 is not without its positive aspects. It doesn’t offer an enormous amount of separation, but key moments do benefit from occasional surround activity and more breathing room for both the score and the music selection. Dialogue is clean and clear as well, on both tracks. The only way this could look and sound better is if it was prepared for a 4K UHD release with an HDR pass. Otherwise, it’s perfect.
Besides the amazing A/V presentation, this release also sports a remarkable amount of extras, many of them brand new. Starting things off is an audio commentary from 2008 featuring Anthony Michael Hall and Judd Nelson, moderated by producer Jason Hillhouse, which is fairly lighthearted and entertaining. The real draw of this release for many folks will be the new inclusion of nearly an hour of deleted and extended scenes from the film’s original 150-minute workprint cut. All of it is sourced from analogue sources as seemingly none of the trims could be found, or were even available to be found, but there are some real gems that hit the cutting room floor. Most of the material is scene extensions rather than full deleted scenes, but there is a lengthy moment with Carl the janitor that was cut which offers more insight into his character, among many other moments of intrigue. Also included is the very good Sincerely Yours documentary from 2008 featuring actors John Kapelos, Ally Sheedy, Judd Nelson, and Anthony Michael Hall; costume designer Marilyn Vance; filmmakers Amy Heckerling and Michael Lehmann; writer Diablo Cody; and journalist Hank Stuever; a set of cast and crew interviews, beginning with a newly-filmed 20-minute segment with Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy, as well as archival interviews on the set of the film with Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, Irene Brafstein, and Paul Gleason; two separate audio interviews with John Hughes, one with the American Film Institute from 1985 and the other with Sound Opinions from 1999; the film’s original Electronic Press Kit, which includes an Ensemble Profile, a John Hughes Profile, a Dede Allen Profile, “Youth Picture”, “Roller-Coaster”, an additional featurette, and the film’s theatrical trailer; an excerpt from a 1985 episode of The Today Show with host Jane Pauley interviewing Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson, Anthony Michael Hall, Emilio Estevez, and Ally Sheedy; Describe the Ruckus, a new video essay by the Criterion Collection featuring a reading of John Hughes’ production notes for the film by Judd Nelson himself; an episode of the NPR radio program This American Life from 2017 featuring Ira Glass interviewing Molly Ringwald about Ringwald showing her daughter the film for the first time and the repercussions of that; and last but not least, a 24-page insert booklet with an essay on the film entitled “Smells Like Teen Realness” by David Kamp, as well as restoration details. The only extras missing from previous DVD and Blu-ray releases are The Most Convenient Definitions: The Origin of the Brat Pack featurette and the Accepting The Facts: The Breakfast Club subtitle trivia track, both hardly missed with this wealth of bonus material.
While many initially balked at the idea of a Criterion Blu-ray release of The Breakfast Club, many of us saw it as something that was long overdue. Enough time has passed that much of Hughes’ filmography has become a part of the cultural lexicon, outlasting changing trends and multiple generations while also outgrowing its 1980s confines. Along with Sixteen Candles and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (amongst other notable works), Hughes’ filmography has proven itself to be resilient, and to most film fans, essential viewing. The Breakfast Club is no exception. Criterion’s treatment of the title has already earned itself a spot on the yearly list of top Blu-ray releases of 2018, and it’s just getting started. Highly recommended, to say the least.
- Tim Salmons