A film that jump-started the big-screen career of actor Eddie Murphy and producers Simpson/Bruckheimer, "Beverly Hills Cop" was a high-concept comedy that worked, thanks to a funny screenplay from Daniel Petrie, Jr. and Dan Bach as well as a sharp early performance from Murphy. Murphy stars as Axel Foley, a Detroit cop who uses his wits to talk his way into and out of trouble. In this original picture, Foley's best friend and current low-key criminal Mikey Tandino (James Russo) is killed by criminals, Foley wants to investigate. His commanding officer, Inspector Todd (played by Gilbert R. Hill) won't let him, so he decides to go it on his own.
The trail of clues leads him to Beverly Hills, where the prime suspect is art dealer Victor Maitland (played by Stephen Berkoff), who may be dealing in something illegal instead. Of course, the BH police are none too pleased with Foley's way of going about finding the villian, so Lieutenant Bogomil (played by Ronny Cox) assigns Detective Billy Rosewood (played by Judge Rheinhold) and Sergeant Taggart (played by John Ashton). Of course, the main comedy of the film is how the two eventually begin to work with Foley and understand his methods rather than their own by-the-book ones.
The plot is, looking back, rather ordinary. Similar films were spawned in the years after and, while successful, remain rather predictable. There's really not even that much action in this picture and other Simpson/Bruckheimer pictures since have used directors who are considerably more visual than Martin Brest. What has made "Beverly Hills Cop" (at least the first one), "Die Hard" and "Lethal Weapon" famous is simply that the actors in each of these franchises have made the characters memorable. Murphy and writers Petrie and Bach made Foley a great character and, while the insistance on returning to Beverly Hills has made the other films less interesting, the first film still stands out and, aside from the fashions, has not become that dated in the years since.
VIDEO: "Beverly Hills Cop" is presented by Paramount in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen (as II was the only picture of the 3 filmed in 2.35:1). 17-years-old at this point and the lowest of the three in terms of budget, I'd expect the film to have some minor flaws related to age. Yet, this presentation ends up - as did the other three - at being better than expectations. Specifically speaking about this picture, sharpness and detail are actually quite good, as the picture appears consistently well-defined, even in some of the low-light scenes.
If anything, there is some instances of mild grain that do appear on occasion throughout the picture, but I really didn't find the grain that bothersome. A couple of traces of edge enhancement appear, but these aren't very irritating, either. No pixelation was seen and the print seemed suprisingly clear and clean. Colors could appear a bit flat at times, but could also look vivid and a bit brighter at others. Overall, this was a very nice transfer - aside from a few minimal problems, I'd guess this is about the best that this film can look.
SOUND: "Beverly Hills Cop" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, as the studio has reworked the original 5.1 soundtrack for this DVD release. As would be expected from what was originally a stereo soundtrack, the audio really stayed within the front speakers for the majority of the movie. The 80's tunes that populated the soundtrack generally sounded flat and occasionally thin, but they were opened out into the room by the surrounds very slightly. Dialogue sounded fairly good; it could come across a bit rough at times, but otherwise sounded clear.
MENUS: The menus for the first picture are animated and the most interesting of the three releases, with nicely done film-themed images as backgrounds.
Commentary: This is a commentary from director Martin Brest. Brest generally provides an interesting commentary, at least for the first half of the picture. Pointing out details about scenes and discussing working with Murphy, he generally seems upbeat and honest about the worries that he had during filming. The amount of comments is sometimes sparse, but the gaps become a bit more noticable during the second half of the picture.
Cast and Crew Interviews: The film's writers, producer Bruckheimer, director Brest and other members of the cast and crew (including very brief comments from Murphy) sit down to discuss the history of the production. There's quite a few interesting stories to tell; we learn more about the history of writing the screenplay, as well as the original choice of casting Stallone in the picture before Eddie Murphy. The documentary lasts 29 minutes.
The Casting Process: This is a documentary that features the film's casting director as well as some comments from the actors and director Martin Brest. We learn about the function of the casting director, as well as how their choices effect every step of the production process.
Also: The film's theatrical trailer; a terrific interactive map that not only offers featurettes about the film's locations, but provides information about the obstacles of securing locations; a photo gallery and featurette about the music.
Final Thoughts: "Beverly Hills Cop" is a comedy classic, with a terrific Murphy performance and several great supporting roles. Paramount's DVD also does a superb job with the presentation of the film, as it boasts very good audio/video and fine supplements. Recommended.