As much as both "Shelf Life" and to a lesser extent "Making The (Up) Grade" are expressly designed to allow yours truly to revisit some of his previous favorites to see how well they hold up, there are some titles that I don't need to see again to know they're terrific. Boogie Nights is one of these: released in 1997 when I was still living in Charlotte, North Carolina, it should tell you how excited I was to see this that I drove to Atlanta with two buddies so we could see it two weeks early, and then proceeded to see it another 11 times in theaters when it finally arrived in my home town. It remains one of my favorite films, and like a record you heard when you were at an impressionable age, I can remember every shot, movement and line of dialogue.
Recently I went home for the holidays, and my buddy Brent, one of those two explorers who joined me for that trip to Atlanta, gave me a copy of the movie on Blu-ray. (For those who don't know, the movie is officially being released this month, but it was made available exclusively at Best Buy in mid-December.) Because I knew I wouldn't like the film any less, and, quite frankly, there haven't been a lot of other noteworthy reissues lately, Boogie Nights seemed a perfect candidate for "Making The (Up) Grade," since it's a movie whose fans will watch any amount of bonus materials, extras, or anything else – and I'm not just saying that because I'm one of them.
What's Already Available:
New Line Home Video initially released Boogie Nights on DVD April 7, 1998, and that single-disc release featured nine deleted scenes and a music video for Michael Penn's "Try," which Paul Thomas Anderson directed. On August 29, 2000, New Line released a two-disc Platinum Series special edition which featured ten deleted scenes, two commentary tracks by members of the cast and crew, cast and crew filmographies, "The John C. Reilly Files," a collection of extended sequences featuring Reilly, the "Try" music video, and color bars that offer a special surprise at the end.
What's In The New Set: The new set is contained on a single disc and features almost all of the same bonus materials – except for the color bars.
What's The Difference In The Movie Itself: Anderson's film was already a gorgeous, wonderfully-saturated landscape of color and movement, but the new transfer on the Blu-ray makes Boogie Nights look better than ever. In the Hot Traxx tracking shot that opens the film, the wallpaper shimmers in the background as the camera swirls around the characters, not only perfectly defining and distinguishing each of them, but immersing them in a dreamlike fantasy world that Anderson soon deconstructs. Once a pre-Dirk Diggler Eddie Adams returns to his parents' dysfunctional Torrance home, the images take on a decidedly more autumnal hue, both evoking the wood-paneled aesthetic of 1970s interior design and the constricting melancholy of Adams life in "the real world."
The film probably could have been considered reference-disc quality even without the high-definition upgrade, but I suspect you'll find few transfers that look as good as this one.
What's The Difference In Everything Else: Again, there are no real changes from the bonus content of the two-disc Platinum Edition of 2000, except for the absence of the color bars. (I realize this sounds silly to anyone not aware of what follows them, but if you're a fan of the film and an owner of previous releases you know what I'm referring to.) Interestingly, the laserdisc release not only featured that "color bars" extra footage, but a 1981 documentary (sans sex) on John Holmes, called Exhausted, that was clearly the inspiration for Amber Waves' loving tribute to Dirk Diggler, if not much of the story of Dirk Diggler as a whole.
Legal issues prevented that documentary from appearing on previous editions, but one suspects that it didn't show up here either because of those same legal issues or the fact that Warner Home Video, Boogie Nights' new distributor, perhaps understandably didn't want to pony up additional money for extras on a film that already had so many. But there's also just the question of what anyone possibly could put on a new or even anniversary–edition release of Boogie Nights that people haven't already seen, or would want to see in addition to what already exists. For example, I attended a screening of the film in Reseda at the location where the Hot Traxx scenes were shot, but the building is now an ethnic restaurant, and even dressed up for the film, it looked more like an Armenian bar mitzvah than a sweaty '70s discotheque.
What's The Final Grade: B-. There's no denying that the content on Boogie Nights Blu-ray is for all intents and purposes identical to what's on the two-disc DVD, but its transfer is positively sumptuous, and it's a movie with such fervent fandom that anyone who likes it will almost invariably be prompted to get it. In which case, the opportunity to go back and watch it again, looking better than ever, makes it a totally worthwhile purchase (or at the very least, a rental), but let your affection for the film, rather than your appetite for extras, be your guide.