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111 of 118 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Come back, Savage Steve!
As the years go by, I find myself growing more and more convinced that the '80s were the last true golden age for that often-maligned genre, the teen sex comedy. Whereas now Hollywood shells out a small fortune to finance a Britney Spears soundtrack for films starring young men who make Frankie Avalon look complex (and featuring actresses who seem to have copied Annette...
Published on December 24, 2001 by Jeffrey Ellis

versus
147 of 158 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Better Than Nothing - finally on DVD 7/2002
It's finally here, and although it doesn't cost $2.00, it's better than nothing (if you caught that reference, you're a fan and will buy it now).
I won't go into plot and such - you already know about the movie's merits (or can find them online easily). This review will concern the region 1 (USA) DVD release that came out 7/16/02 at long last! retail around $20-25...
Published on July 17, 2002 by Holofernes


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111 of 118 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Come back, Savage Steve!, December 24, 2001
By 
Jeffrey Ellis "bored recluse" (Richardson, Texas United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Better Off Dead [VHS] (VHS Tape)
As the years go by, I find myself growing more and more convinced that the '80s were the last true golden age for that often-maligned genre, the teen sex comedy. Whereas now Hollywood shells out a small fortune to finance a Britney Spears soundtrack for films starring young men who make Frankie Avalon look complex (and featuring actresses who seem to have copied Annette Funnicello's bust but none of her own admitedly simple charm), the '80s were usually made with low budgets, up-and-coming young actors who at least seemed to be having fun, scripts that were too joyfully crude to ever be considered truly offensive, and directors who seem to have vanished at the decade's in. My own personal favorite amongst these directors was "Savage" Steve Holland (Is that a perfect '80s name or what?) who defined the entire decade with just two films -- One Crazy Summer and especially Better Off Dead. Both of these films display Holland's crazed, gloriously strange wit, his penchant for casting Curtis Armstrong as a high school students (despite the fact that Armstrong appeared to be in his 30s at the time), his fondness for the random nonsensical cartoon, and especially his early foresight to make John Cusack his favored star.
In Better Off Dead, Cusack plays a likeable but nerdy high school schlub. Of course, all teen films claim to be about likeable schlubs but Cusack was one of the few actors who was actually believable as being both likeable and socially unpopular. He's dumped by his girlfriend, decides to beat her new boyfriend in a ski competition, attempts suicide a few times -- in a bit that everyone seems to hold as their personal favorite -- has to deal with a homicidal paper boy who wants his two dollars. Its a crazed plot and Holland doesn't waste much time trying to make it all coherent. Instead, he uses the plot as an excuse to pile on more and more strange sight gags and bizarre characters. In short, rather than pretending his story is some sort of grand artistic statement (like the current crop of youth films), Holland creates his own demented world -- a world where high school students are sent into almost religious ecstacy when their math teacer assigns them 200 pages of homework (their sincerely joyful reaction is my own personal favorite of the film's many out-there moments) and even a cartoon comes to life and asks permission to date Cusack's ex. Its a world where one of my favorite, unjustly unknown actresses of that era -- the sweetly pretty Diana Franklin -- shows up as a French exchange student who offers Cusack a chance at true romance if only he can survive a "fencing" match with an even more nerdy suitor. Its a world where a Japanese exchange student does a perfect imitation of Howard Cosell. In short, its a world that could only have been created in the freedom-loving days of the 1980s and John Cusack becomes the perfect everyman to lead us through that world. There are so many hilarious lines in Better off Dead and it seems everyone has their own personal favorite ("Its a shame people be throwing out a perfectly good white boy like that" comes up a lot though Armstrong shouting "Can you imagine the street value of this" as he snorts up a line of white snow is my own choice). What is truly amazing is that for a film that was dismissed when it originally opened, Better off Dead seems to have become the personal "cult" film of just about everyone who went to high school during the 1980s.
Cusack is one of the best actors working today but, for many of his long-time fans, his recent work has been a bit disappointing. Since renouncing the whole teen film thing, some of Cusack's performances have -- on occasion -- seemed to be a case of an actor taking himself too seriously. Even if the films did little for his career, Cusack seemed to, at least, be having fun in films like Better off Dead -- a quality that sometimes appears to missing from his "mature" work. Of course, everyone in Better Off Dead seems to be having fun. Its a fun, genuinely goon natured film and this is why -- despite being dismissed by snobs over the years -- it retains such a strong following. Whenever I see a commercial for yet another film featuring Freddie Prinze, Jr. doing his "soulful" thing while the Backstreet Boys parade in the background, I think of Better Off Dead and its missing director. Come back, Savage Steve and -- whatever you have to do -- bring John Cusack with you. We all deserve to have a little fun again.
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147 of 158 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Better Than Nothing - finally on DVD 7/2002, July 17, 2002
This review is from: Better Off Dead (DVD)
It's finally here, and although it doesn't cost $2.00, it's better than nothing (if you caught that reference, you're a fan and will buy it now).
I won't go into plot and such - you already know about the movie's merits (or can find them online easily). This review will concern the region 1 (USA) DVD release that came out 7/16/02 at long last! retail around $20-25 USD.
One note: I had trouble finding this on release day - the local "big box" boys all told me they had "a copy on order or something"... I guess they didn't anticipate a big demand for this wildy funny 1985 cult comedy.
DVD Special Features: Widescreen enhanced for 16:9, English Subtitle Option, Dolby Digital & "English Stereo" (whatever that means). No foreign language tracks, outtakes or even a trailer. No stills of the cast or bios.... nada. Zip. Zero.
Initial Impressions: This DVD is truly a bare-bones production from start to finish. I actually thought the audio track was absent at first, due to the lack of any sound at all until the movie proper starts. And of course you can't skip over the annoying studio splash or the stern warning not to copy it. At least there's no ads or previews in front like some.

Menu Options: The menu page is a static photo with three options - Play, Setup and Scene Selection. Setup lets you pick from "Subtitle: English or None". That's it. No other setup options... it looks like you could change Audio Indicator to other foreign languages, but that option does not highlight. Maybe they forgot to add foreign language tracks or the coder forgot to link up to the function.
Video: I played this on two different TV/DVD setups - one highend and one old/low end. The Widescreen refused to work on my lowend set, but worked fine on the new DVD player. However, both sets showed the film to be overly bright and rather soft, especially in outdoor scenes. Even inside, there were no good strong blacks to be seen. The print itself seemed rather clean, with no spots or distortions immediately visible. Overall, it looked like a moderate home-transfer job of a videotape via a DVD burner... barely better than my vhs. Such a shame.
Audio: Nothing special, just good old Dolby. Not that surround would do much with this movie, but still.. blah.
Extras: none. I suspect if they could have had "less than none" they would have. Truly a poor showing for this classic comedy.
Summary: Although "gotta have it" fans like myself are happy to have a DVD at last, this shoddy transfer and lack of features makes me a bit ticked at whomever decided to jam it to us fans and charge "normal" dvd prices. It would have been much more accurately priced as a budget dvd in the 12.99 range after all this time... surely the production costs have been paid for many times over.
Other: The VHS (20th Cent.Fox) edition indicates 98 minutes, the DVD says 97 minutes... reason not apparent. Also, the keepcase coverart is truly dreadful- whomever created this case cover needs some more photoshop lessons pronto!
5 stars for the original movie, 3 stars for this lackluster DVD edition.
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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Better Than Ever!, August 7, 2011
By 
This review is from: Better Off Dead [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
I don't know what people were expecting to see or hear with Better Off Dead on blu-ray. High definition does not translate to a miraculous transformation. It simply allows you to experience more closely what the source elements have to offer. In the case of Better Off Dead, it had a very low budget and was made very quickly. The filmmakers weren't concerned with how great the shots could be artistically, since it's a screwball comedy for teenagers. The low quality 80's film stock that was used wasn't great with detail, depth, or color, and was quite unstable. The film's soundtrack, which was originally in mono, was created with basic sound effects and design, because that's all the budget allowed for. The film will never look amazing no matter how much restoration is done to it and it'll never sound amazing unless an entirely new sound mix with new sound effects is created. It is a product of its low budget source limitations and unless you accept that fact, you will be greatly disappointed.

On the positive side, the print is clean and full of natural film grain. It's the best I've ever seen it look. The sound is exactly as it has always been, thin, lifeless and limited in range, though dialogue is always intelligible. The downside of this release is there are no special features. No retrospective, or appreciation, or commentary. I'm not surprised considering how limited the fan base is for the film.

This is the best presentation of Better Off Dead to date and I'm sure it could never be much better than it is on blu-ray. Adjust your expectations accordingly.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Poor sound quality, but great movie, July 24, 2002
By 
Seth Berger (Boyertown, PA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Better Off Dead (DVD)
First off I have seen this movie quiet a few times, and it is a great flick, but when they made the DVD I had to have it. Well I am sorely disappointed in the quality of the sound. It doesn't have either Dolby Digital or DTS. I have movies that have both, ad sound great. This sounds like a muffled person.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars My favorite movie - disappointed with DVD though, July 21, 2002
This review is from: Better Off Dead (DVD)
First off, you have to see this movie. Although it would get awards for being extremely cheezy... it's quite humorous. If you want a movie review, read the excellent posts by Jeffrey Ellis or Joshua Lai.
Second, my low rating is based on the actual DVD. I waited, and waited, and waited for this movie to come out on DVD. Considering DVDs have been around more than 5 years already, I'm truly amazed that companies still put out VHS quality works in DVD format. I could have sworn I was watching a videotape (on my HD monitor with progressive scan player). Unless you are a Better Off Dead nut like myself, wait until the studio releases a Collector's edition or Special editor before spending your money on this DVD.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two dollars... Two dollars..., June 20, 2000
This review is from: Better Off Dead [VHS] (VHS Tape)
This is an uproariously funny flick, allegedly written by a guy experiencing a very black mood who wanted to get it all out of his system. When he showed the product to his friends, they couldn't stop laughing, so he went with the flow and just made it funnier and funnier.
John Cusack, as we all know, rocks. He rocks on in this movie, like in all his other ones I've ever seen. For me, I think the thing that worked best about this movie is the sheer concatenation of random, bizarre subplots. The homicidal newspaper boy who wants his 2 dollars; the Japanese brothers who learned to speak English by watching Howard Cosell; Lane's mutant pal, played by the actor who played "Booger" in "Revenge of the Nerds"; Lane's effortlessly brilliant little brother, who gets everything he wants while Lane's life goes to hell; Lane's monumentally un-hip father, who wants to be cool; and the disgusting fat kid who has the hots for his french exchange student; sue me, but it all works.
It is also a movie that doesn't really take itself too seriously. The basic story of identifying true love is a good one, but basically, it's all just constantly hilarious. Oh, the trials and tribulations of suburbia. Definitely a must-see.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great movie, worthless Blu Ray., August 3, 2011
By 
shawnr5 (Mesa, Az USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Better Off Dead [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Better Off Dead was an integral part of my teen years and remains one of my favorite movies. I picked up the Blu Ray edition at a local big box store, first thing in the morning on release day. I popped the disc in as soon as I got home and found that the video quality is no better than the DVD, the sound is awful and there is only one special feature, the theatrical trailer. Save your money and keep watching the DVD you already have. Don't support studios that issue crap editions just to harvest cash.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I love this movie!, July 18, 2002
By 
D. Barreto "ladydi4476" (Bronx, NY United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Better Off Dead (DVD)
I have always been a fan of Better Off Dead since I first saw it back in the 80s. John Cusack is simply one of my favorite actors of all time and he is so lovable in this movie. He truly does capture the angst of what it's like to be a teenager. All the secondary characters just rock! The Howard Kosell talking race driver to the infamous "I want more $2, cash! Plus tip" crazed little paper boy. My personal fave is the friendship that develops between Lane and Monique.
I finally purchased my DVD and was a little dissappointed in the lack of special features! Um, let me correct that--there are no special features. Not even a trailer. No audio commentary, no photo galleries, no deleted scenes. Nada. Oh well--the one good thing is that it had that "kiss" scene at the end. Believe it or not, in my airings of this movie on local broadcasts they cut Lane & Monique kissing at the very end. They just show the far out wide shot with the paperboy running towards them. So I was happy to see the full ending in it's entirety. Other than that, this DVD is pretty standard and it deserves so much more--much like many other 80s teen movies.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better Off Buying This Film...., July 3, 2002
By 
Rachel Lai (London, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Better Off Dead (DVD)
....than you are purchasing any of the so-called teen "comedies" of today.
This movie is simply wonderful: hilarious, poignant, sardonic, and romantic, it features what defined 80s adolescent flicks -- John Cusack. Who could play the everyman better than he? Who was more skilled at identifying with a teenage audience than Mr. Cusack? As a 17-year-old, I can say that the film has not lost any of its charm: this is a cult flick at my school, and it still resonates.
If you're a girl, you want to be with Lane Meyer (Cusack's character). If you're a guy, you simply want to BE him. 'Nuff said.
The film relies not on gross-out humour (thank God), but on subtle touches of wit, elements of fantasy (Lane's crawling meal), and absolutely hilarious comic vignettes ("How To Pick Up Trashy Women")
In short: it's worth buying, and has not dated in the least. Much like Say Anything..., it was another critical triumph for Cusack, but a bomb at the box office. Why are such good films appreciated AFTER they've played out in theaters!!? There's no justice...
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A must have for the "Breakfast Club Generation", January 23, 2000
By 
This review is from: Better Off Dead [VHS] (VHS Tape)
This movie has some of the funniest moments and lines ever put on film. This is the movie that defines John Cusak as an actor. When you watch it you will see a young actor who with his dead pan delivery and sarcastic demeanor was undoubtedly to be a star. John Cusak became this star from his portrayal of Lane Meyer, a love sick , obsessed, confused (as if none of us were) ,cynical, and very unusual teenager in the mid to late eighties.
His girlfriend leaves him and his thoughts go to how to terminate his life. But his neighbor and a foriegn exchange student ( as well as some very funny attempts) change his attitude towards death.
This movie has now become a staple of the comedy channel and can often be seen on TBS but it really needs to be seen in its original format.
I dont want to say any more less I ruin the great laughs that you are sure to encounter from this film. I will leave you with this one thought "Gee Im real sorry your mom blew up Ricky. The doctor says she'll be alright, she just cant eat any spicy foods for a while."
Enjoy.
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Better Off Dead [Blu-ray]
Better Off Dead [Blu-ray] by Savage Steve Holland (Blu-ray - 2011)
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