Outside of offering the original mono soundtrack as an option (the previous Universal disc doesn’t) there isn’t an upgrade in terms of A/V. At the very least, though, Criterion does include a number of new features exclusive to this release, quite a few revolving around Hughes himself.
Some of the material from previous editions also make their way here, starting with the 2008 audio commentary featuring actors Anthony Michael Hall and Judd Nelson, accompanied by the original Universal DVD’s producer, Jason Hillhouse. I had never listened to the track before but was pleasantly surprised finally coming to it here. It’s admittedly more a reflection on the filming, what it was like working with Hughes and the other performers, and the atmosphere of the shoot (early on they, unsurprisingly, say it could feel more like a play than a movie), but also compliment the performances in the film (including Hall telling Nelson that he probably gives the best “f*** you” in all of cinema). At first I thought Hillhouse was there to make sure the track keeps going by offering questions, and he does this early on but eventually stops, with the track dying out a bit later on with more dead spots. Yet, despite that, it’s a good track.
New to this release, and probably the one feature most will be looking forward to, are the 52-minutes’ worth of deleted and extended scenes. All sourced from video tapes (so the quality is not great I’m sad to say) they offer a few gems but I think they will mostly be a bit of a disappointment to fans, and that disappointment will probably come in how the material is presented. Good chunks of the 52-minutes of material is already in the finished film, and it is used here to bookend some of the more major deleted and extended moments. For example we get a couple of deleted scenes in the girls’ bathroom between Ringwald and Sheedy that are both good, but we also get a lengthy amount of material that appears in the finished film that leads up to that. Another is an extended monologue from Kapelos’ janitor to the kids in the library, and here we pretty much get the whole scene as it was in the finished film, just with the extended dialogue and some extra shots. And there are also moments where we get an entire sequence in the finished film to show a slightly different edit or to show how a deleted moment would fit into the context of it. This ends up padding it out. The notes state that the rough cut was 150-minutes long but it’s clear not all of it is here.
Still, having said all of that, there is some interesting stuff to be found. The bathroom scene is good, as is Kapelos’ speech (though it was rightly trimmed down). I also liked the scenes where Brian and Clair (in response to Bender) reenact their respective home lives, and I enjoyed seeing some subtle difference, like the original edit for the ending. We also get some rough unedited footage including the entrance of all of the characters, along with reaction shots of Nelson, Hall, and Ringwald cheering on Estevez’s dance moves. In all, I’m glad this material has finally made it to video, and it was great seeing it, but for those most hyped about this extra it may prove a bit of disappointment.
Moving on, another feature from previous editions makes its way here, the 51-minute making-of, Sincerely Yours, featuring interviews with actors Sheedy, Hall, Nelson, and Kapelos, as well as costume designer Marilyn Vance. Outside of the production cast and crew fans of the film also make appearances, including directors Amy Heckerling, Michael Lehmann and Marco Siega, writer Diablo Cody, and journalist Hank Stuever. Though it does summarize details about the production, and also reflects on the impact the film still has on kids today, it feels pretty much like a fluff piece and never really goes beyond your typical studio produced making-of, despite its length. It has a few charming moments but if you decide to listen to the commentary you can pretty much skip this one.
Next up is a collection of cast and crew interviews, including new ones with Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy recorded exclusively for this release. Here the two talk for 19-minutes about Hughes’ understanding of teens, his insistence at doing films that centered around a female protagonist (Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink) when studios were afraid of films like that (for Pretty in Pink Universal refused to do it so he had to go to Paramount) and how Hughes was very open to letting his actors give input, even letting them look at his older drafts of scripts to pull material they liked out of them to use in the finished film. Their fondness for Hughes comes through, highlighting how great he was with his actors, offering them the freedom that allowed more honest portrayals to come out in their performances.
The rest of the interviews are all archival, appearing to have been filmed during production for promotional material. This includes Judd Nelson (around 12-minutes), Sheedy again (around 15-minutes), Irene Brafstein (around 9-minutes), and Paul Gleason (11-minutes). The three actors talk about their characters, working with Hughes, and acting in general. I was surprised by Gleason mostly, though: he usually plays such hard-asses in films that it’s really odd to discover that the real Gleason is a really sweet guy, speaking highly of his costars (I guess this shouldn’t be a surprise but it sill was). The most interesting input comes from Brafstein, though, who I guess worked as the teacher/tutor for the young stars. She talks about the environment that needs to be set up for children that work on films, including tutoring, and the difficulties that arise around child actors, usually involving the parents and/or guardians. This proved especially fascinating and I’m a bit disappointed Criterion didn’t delve a bit deeper into this aspect.
Criterion next digs up two excellent audio interviews featuring director John Hughes: a 47-minute discussion recorded in 1985 at the American Film Institute, followed by a 1999 radio episode of Sound Opinions (apparently a program that looks at movie soundtracks) running about 16-minutes. The one for the AFI focuses a lot on The Breakfast Club, Hughes talking about the sript development and then looking for financing, first from A&M Records and then through Universal. He talks about the casting, including who he originally wanted in the film (Virigina Madsen as one of the girls, John Cusack as Bender) and then how he catches himself identifying with the younger generation.
It’s a great lengthy discussion, Hughes even getting into the more technical aspects of filmmaking, which he had to learn (Dede Allen helping with editing) but I was surprised to find the shorter 1999 recording was the more fascinating of the two. Here Hughes talks about the soundtracks to his films and how he keeps up with the music scene, discovers these then-obscure musicians, and using the correct music for the correct moments in films: he doesn’t just want to throw in the latest hit just to do so. This is probably one of the more impressive things Criterion has dug up recently.
The disc then devotes an entire section to the electronic press kit. This includes a number of videos that would have been sent out as promotional material. “Ensemble Profile” (4:01) and “John Hughes Profile” (3:36) just go over the film’s cast and its director, including short interview snippets, followed by a “Dede Allen Profile” (3:43) featuring the editor talking about her past work and then the appeal of this film. “Youth Picture” (2:18) and “Roller-Coaster” (1:49) are more standard promotional pieces, the former looking at how this film fits in with such “youth pictures” like Beach Blanket Bingo and Rebel Without a Cause. There is then a fairly standard “featurette” (8:21) that’s basically a combination of everything previous. This section then closes with the film’s theatrical trailer. (NOTE: the opening text inherent to the videos indicate the running time and that there are multiple audio tracks available for the airing station to use, Channel 1 featuring voice-over narration and Channel 2 presenting the production audio. Only the voice-over audio has been included here.)
Digging out more archival material, Criterion includes two excerpts from back-to-back episodes of Today, which aired around the time of the film’s release. Running 10-minutes altogether, the first half features Molly Ringwald and Judd Nelson, the second Ally Sheedy, Emilio Estevez, and Anthony Michael Hall. This is obviously more promotional in nature but it’s interesting listening to the three offer their interpretations of the film and its characters, and they also address the comparisons to The Big Chill (brought up in a couple of other features as well), which they think are unwarranted.
The video essay Describe the Ruckus features John Hughes notes on the film, read in voice over by Judd Nelson. The 12-minute feature chronicles Hughes’ thought process in developing the film and its characters, showcasing a number of changes that occurred in development, from character names to situations. The level of detail is also quite extraordinary, Hughes at one point, realizing the script was reading more like a play, envisioned ways to make it more like a film, including ways to indicate the passage of time. I would have liked an actual gallery you could scan through, but it’s still a nicely put together feature.
The last feature is a bit of an odd one, though all the more fascinating because of it. Molly Ringwald recorded herself watching The Breakfast Club with her then 10-year old daughter for an episode of the radio program This American Life. Ringwald was rather horrified to discover her daughter was about the only one in her class who had not seen the film and felt it might have been time to watch it with her. Ringwald was most concerned about the sexual elements in the film, though those ended up just flying over her daughter’s head, and she was caught off guard by what seemed to have the most impact on her daughter, while also being surprised how the film had changed for personally: she now saw it from the viewpoint of a parent. It is a bit odd, but occasionally funny, and it ends up showing how the film works from a few different angles, whether it was intentional or not.
The release then comes with a booklet featuring a new essay by writer and Vanity Fair editor David Kamp, writing about the film’s appeal through the generations and Hughes’ work as a whole. Together with a number of the new features on here it works to give Hughes’ films and style a legitimacy that seems to have escaped him through the years.
Despite a couple of misses the supplements overall for this edition are plentiful and rather satisfying, providing an excellent look behind the development of the film and the lasting impact it has had. 8/10