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Times Square (Special Edition)
Allan Moyle's 1980 film Times Square introduces us to Johnny LaGuardia (Tim Curry), a DJ who works the late night shift from a studio that overlooks Times Square, but keep in mind this is the gritty, grubby Times Square of 1980 and not the post-Guiliani Disney-fied Times Square of the modern era, where porno movie theaters have been replaced with chain restaurants. Johnny plays the hits, but not the kind of hits that the top 40 stations are playing, more like the hits that the record store geeks are geeking out to. He doesn't play the flavor of the month pop top 40 tracks, rather the stuff that has some staying power and that the effortlessly cool denizens of nearby neighborhoods like the Lower East Side might groove to.
In a psychiatric hospital not too far from Johnny's digs lie rich kid Pamela Pearl (Trini Alvarado) and blue collar born street rate Nicky Marotta (Robin Johnson). When they hit it off and decide to split the psycho-ward for greener, less supervised pastures they wind up hiding out in a warehouse only to learn that Pamela's dad, a high-ranking city official, has told the press that his daughter has gone missing. The NYPD, presuming that she's been kidnapped, start to comb the city. While this is going on, Pearl and Nicky start calling into Johnny's show and start to form an interesting bond with him. Out of money, Pamela decides to take a job as a Times Square stripper while Nicky decides to try and make a go of it as a recording artist.
An interesting dramedy that also serves as both a coming of age story and an excellent time capsule of the Times Square that once was, the movie is not without its charm. The film benefits from a pretty solid cast, with both Trini Alvarado and Robin Johnson doing a nice job of inhabiting their characters. We have no trouble buying them as reckless, troubled teens trying to find themselves and figure out this whole ‘life' thing, and on top of that they're likeable enough. The two do a good job of forming a believable chemistry together, you'll have no trouble convincing yourself that these two would hang out and gravitate towards one another.
Of course, getting Tim Curry in a really strong supporting role doesn't hurt anything either. He's his typically likeable self here, charming and quirky, likeable and enigmatic. He was definitely the right choice to play the DJ in the film and he makes the most of his screen time here. The rest of the supporting players are all fine as well, but Curry definitely stands out as the best and most interesting of the bunch, and the movie absolutely benefits from his screen presence.
The plot is a bit choppy and there are some bits where you get the impression that the script could and should have been better, but it's pretty easy to overlook that for the acting and the aforementioned time capsule footage. The vast majority of this film was shot on location in Times Square before it became the playground for tourists that it is today. You can get lots in the scenes where rows and rows of movie palace marquees light up the street and have a lot of fun trying to pick out what was playing when and where and you'll see everything from vintage adult movies to old school kung fu films to horror and action movies represented. The film also benefits from a great soundtrack featuring contributions from the likes of Suzi Quatro, The Pretenders, Roxy Music, Gary Numan, Marcy Levy and Robin Gibb, Talking Heads, Lou Reed, Patti Smith Group, David Johanson, The Cure, The Ramones and, of course Trini Alvarado and Robin Johnson themselves.
Kino Lorber presents Times Square on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 that, generally, looks really good. Taking up 38.8GBs of space on the 50GB disc, detail is much improved over the DVD release from Anchor Bay that came out years ago and color reproduction feels more natural here without looking tweaked or oversaturated. The film is as grainy as you'd want it to be but not to the point of detriment and aside from a few tiny white specks here and there, you won't find much in the way of actual print damage to complain about at all. Black levels are nice and solid while skin tones look nice and natural. There isn't any evidence of any noise reduction having been applied here, nor are there any issues with edge enhancement or compression artifacts.
English language 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio tracks are offered up in 5.1 and 2.0 on this and there are no problem here, both options sound very strong even if the 2.0 option is the more accurate in terms of the film's origins. The score sounds good, the dialogue is easy to understand the levels are properly balanced. There are no issues with hiss or distortion and everything comes through cleanly and clearly. As this is an older mono mix you obviously can't really expect much in the way of channel separation or fancy surround action but for what it is, this older single channel tracks sounds just fine. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.
Extras are highlighted by a commentary track that features director Alan Moyle and star Robin Johnson, carried over from the old Anchor Bay DVD release, and it goes over how Johnson came to star in the film, the shooting locations that were used for the movie and how different Times Square looks now (very different from how it appears in the film), the different cast and crew members that were used in the picture, where the inspiration for some of the characters came from, Johnson's thoughts on the character and what it was like to audition for the movie, how the Teamsters working on the film adopted Robin on the set since she was a working class girl from Brooklyn, the different artists that wound up on the soundtrack and how this came to be, getting along and working with co-star Trini Alvarado, how important it was to have Tim Curry in the film and what he was like to work with (everyone loved him) and how he brought a million ideas to the movie and lots more. There's definitely some dead air here but there are also some great stories about how the movie turned out compared to how they envisioned it, the script, the casting, where important script ideas were cut out, what it was like on set and lots more.
A second audio commentary, exclusive to this disc, features Kat Ellinger and Heather Drain that is, for all intents and purposes, a fan commentary, but I say that in the best possible way. These two clearly love the movie and do a nice job of explaining and exploring why that is the cast as the track plays out, while at the same time going into detail on pretty much every cast and crew member associated with the movie, the importance of the actual Times Square footage used in the film, how the movie represents the end of an era in film, how the film compares to Saturday Night Fever, the lesbian subtext of the film and what was cut out, thoughts on the different characters that populate the movie, how the movie ties into the real-life history of Times Square and the different characters that made it the cultural milestone that it is, details on what shows up on the different marquees in the background, how this film compares to the gentrified teen films of directors like John Hughes, the quality of (most of) the film's soundtrack and lots more. It's an active and engaging track featuring the right mix of dissection, observation and just general 'why I dig this movie' talk.
The disc also features a trailer for the feature as well as bonus trailers for Diva, Zoot Suit, Modern Girls, Grace Of My Heart, Stella and The Gun In Betty Lou's Handbag as well as menus and chapter selection. This release also comes packaged with a slipcover.
Times Square isn't a perfect film but it's an entertaining one with some good performances, interesting characters, a solid soundtrack and a lot of amazing footage of its titular location. Kino's Blu-ray release does a very nice job with the presentation and the two commentary tracks are worthwhile extras. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.