In 1983, MTV was two years old, a toddler tottering around on unsteady feet, but just starting to get the hang of it. I was a freshman in high school, and Joe Eszterhaus and Paul Verhoeven were still 12 years away from unleashing Showgirls on the world. We'd been inspired by Fame just three years earlier, the world was ripe for another dance musical -- and a film called Flashdance -- an unlikely Cinderella story about a blue collar girl who works as a welder by day and an exotic dancer (the kind who doesn't take her clothes off) by night, while dreaming of a better life as a ballerina -- took the world by storm.
The film starred newcomer Jennifer Beals, a Yale freshman with a fresh-faced, doe-eyed look just right for the part of Alex, the dancer with the heart of gold, and was directed by Adrian Lyne, three years off his previous film, Foxes (anyone remember that one, I do! I do!), which starred Jodie Foster and ... Scott Baio. Lyne was still four years away from Fatal Attraction, the film which would earn him serious cred and an Oscar nod for Best Director, when he was offered the opportunity to direct Flashdance (according to the film's Wikipedia entry, David Cronenberg and Brian DePalma were prior choices, but turned the film down). The film was also the first co-producing effort of powerhouse team Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson, who went on to produce a slew of hits together (Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop, Bad Boys) up until Simpson's death in 1996, and also boasted Jon Peters (aka "Barbra's hairdresser") as an exec producer.
And now, 24 years later (and boy, do I feel old saying that), we have, at long last the Collector's Edition of the Flashdance DVD, which comes out today (a previous edition came out back in 2002). The box cover has that famous shot of Beals in the cut-up sweatshirt and red heels on the cover (I have this film to thank for the selection of pics of myself in bad '80s fashions tucked away in old photo albums at my parents' house -- I was young, I was gullible, I accept no responsibility for my adolescent fashion sense) and boasts some special features: The History of Flashdance, The Look of Flashdance, The Music and Songs, The Choreography, and "The Flashdance Phenomenon," as well as interviews with Lyne, Bruckheimer and more. The teaser and trailer are there also, and the edition includes a CD with the six catchy songs from the film so you can do your own "Maniac" dance in the privacy of your living room (with the drapes tightly drawn, of course).
The film itself is pretty much what it was back in 1983; the romance between 18-year-old Alex and her 36-year-old boss (Michael Nouri) is still as improbable as ever (though the same could be said about the storyline of Pretty Woman, and that film was enormously popular as well; people love a Cinderella story), the dancing is still great, the songs are catchy, the script is still pretty much ... meh. But this was never a film about story to begin with, was it? It was intended as a musical, only instead of characters breaking into song-and-dance at random moments, we have songs that are accompanied by very visual, music video-style sequences. In that sense, Flashdance, whatever the critics may have thought of it at the time -- or now -- is historically significant; it changed the way movies were made (the Top Gun "Take My Breath Away" sequence was inspired by Flashdance) and changed the way people thought of music videos as well, spawning a whole generation of stylized music videos that were essentially short films set to music.
The film itself, in the Collector's Edition DVD, looks great, although the sound is better on the music than on the dialog, and I had to adjust the volume from one to the other to keep a balance. It's widescreen (at least, the review copy I had is) enhanced for 16:9 TVs, with Dolby Digital Sound (5.1 English, 2.0 French, and Mono in Spanish and Portugese), so you can settle down in your spiffy home theater for a Flashdance experience and rock out. Subtitles are provided in English, French, Spanish and Portugese as well.
The music still rocks -- I'd forgotten that Irene Cara's stirring rendition of the song "Flashdance -- What a Feeling" actually made this film an Oscar winner for Best Song. And maybe it's partly nostalgia, but I enjoyed rewatching Flashdance and reliving the '80s at the same time. The commentary is pretty interesting as well, and the film will make a nice companion piece to that Footloose: Collector's Edition already sitting on your DVD rack (don't try to hide it, we know you've got it stashed there). With a Footloose remake starring High School Musical star Zac Efron in the works, could a remake of Flashdance be far behind -- and can't you just picture Efron's HSM costar, Vanessa Anne Hudgens, starring in it? All we need then is a remake of Dirty Dancing, and the 80's dance flick flashback will be complete. Let's just hope it doesn't all lead to a revival of bad 80's fashions.