Fame is an odd film. The rose tinted specs of nostalgia often tag it as a bright, breezy happy musical, itself famed primarily for Irene Cara’s title tune and the abundance of leg warmers that accompany it during its time on the screen. And sure, it has some big musical numbers, and some memorable characters. But there’s a hard edge underneath Alan Parker’s original, that I have to assume has been significantly diluted with the remake in order to earn its PG-13 certificate in the States (I’ve not seen the new version though, so that’s speculation on my part).
For every upbeat moment in Alan Parker’s Fame, there’s a hammer blow generally to offset it, and set against the modern gloss of something like the X-Factor audition process, it comes across as quite gritty and down to earth rewatching it now. In fact, if memory serves, it felt tinged with melancholy back in the 80s.
One of the myths about the film is that it was a huge smash hit, when actually its box office take was surprisingly modest (much like the remake, ironically). The soundtrack album seemed to have a better shelf life than the movie (and is given a solid workout on this Blu-ray), and time, it’s fair to say, hasn’t always been particularly kind to it. Granted, the fashions here were dated within a matter of years of the film first coming out, but the ensemble assembling of fame-hungry wannabes has felt some of the ravages of ages around its edges.
Yet, that considered, it’s still quite a good movie. Fame was never really a classic, and its tone remains steadfastly – and you suspect deliberately – uneven for most of its running time. It still benefits enormously from characters as rich as Bruno, Leroy and Coco, and their trials and tribulations continue to make for interesting viewing. That said, the spin-off TV show The Kids From Fame sticks more fondly in my mind for many of the characters than the big screen version that kick-started it. That might just be me, though.
Back to the film, though. It also doesn’t shirk away from tougher moments. There’s the casting couch, for instance, and issues of sexuality, all of which are dealt with in a surprisingly brusk manner. There’s no coating of gloss here, and the film certainly benefits from it. High School Musical this absolutely isn’t. I’d wager it’s probably better than the new version, too.
Fame‘s journey to Blu-ray, you can only assume, was inspired by the release of the new remake/reimagining/whatever bullshit phrase has been used to justify it, and the end release isn’t really anything to get too excited about. The grainy picture quality is accentuated by the reasonable 1080p upgrade, and the audio work is comfortable rather than exceptional. It’s the increasingly usual drill – there’s an upgrade here over the DVD, but not enough to instantly send you to the shops to buy it. There’s also the argument that Fame and Blu-ray are far from a necessary marriage anyway, of course.
You get a bevy of extras, though. Alan Parker lends his time to record an understated commentary track, and while he’s not jabbering on for the duration of it, he adds intelligent and insightful thoughts to the film.
On Location With Fame is a dated featurette running to just shy of 12 minutes, and it’s basically the original making of. I like material like this, where there’s been no attempt to bring things up to date. A youthful Alan Parker – and Fame was his first film on American soil – talks about his reasons for doing the movie, which is quite interesting.
The Fame field trip, meanwhile, is a more contemporary featurette, and it’s a documentary about the New York School for Performing Arts, covering how it’s evolved. Things have changed, very interesting, move on quickly.
You can then also call up a selection of short interviews with the cast and crew, which pop up as the film progresses. When one is about to start, you get an on-screen notification for you to activate. There’s no option, strangely, to run these fairly forgettable interviews in one block, sadly, but you’re not missing too much if you decide to give them a miss. The disc is then rounded off with the original trailer.
It’s not a bad package of extras, to be fair, and given the number of catalogue titles that seem to be sneaking out with none on board, we’re not going to grumble about that. But this is far from an essential high definition release nonetheless, even if the film is a welcome antidote to the gloss of the modern day TV talent show.
The Film:The Disc: