Dazed and Confused
See more details, packaging, or compare
America, 1976. The last day of school. Bongs blaze, bell-bottoms ring, and rock and roll rocks. Among the best teen films ever made, Dazed and Confused eavesdrops on a group of seniors-to-be and incoming freshmen. A launching pad for a number of future stars, the first studio effort by Richard Linklater also features endlessly quotable dialogue and a blasting, stadium-ready soundtrack. Sidestepping nostalgia, Dazed and Confused is less about “the best years of our lives” than the boredom, angst, and excitement of teenagers waiting . . . for something to happen.
Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused receives a sparkling 4K presentation from The Criterion Collection through this new UHD edition. The film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on a dual-layer, BD-66 disc and features a 2160p/24hz ultra high-definition encode with Dolby Vision. Criterion also includes a standard dual-layer Blu-ray disc featuring a 1080p presentation of the film and all of the included special features. It is the same disc from their 2011 edition, meaning it uses the same old high-definition master.
Though Criterion sold it as a newer high-definition restoration at the time (sourced from a 35mm interpositive), I’m still convinced their original Blu-ray was simply a reworking of the same high-def master used for their 2006 DVD release, and possibly Universal’s. In the end, it was serviceable, yet even for the time looked dated, featuring questionable contrast and mushy grain thanks to poor compression. Criterion has started from scratch for this new presentation, going to the 35mm original camera negatives and scanning them in 4K resolution before performing an extensive digital restoration. The results, I’m happy to say, are nothing short of spectacular, and the jump in quality from what the Blu-ray was able to deliver doesn’t just come down to a simple increase in resolution and definition but also in how it handles color, contrast, brightness, shadows, black levels, and more. To put it another way, the 4K presentation is packin’ muscle, whereas the Blu-ray’s is something out of a comic book ad you’d find next to the sea monkeys.
Thanks to the newer and improved scan, finer details are far more apparent and sharper here, with corduroy making its presence more obvious. The severe compression that hampered Criterion’s Blu-ray is no longer an issue, and the film’s grain, which I’m surprised to see is incredibly fine (something I would have never guessed from the Blu-ray’s muddled representation of it) is rendered gorgeously, the encode looking clean. There’s far more of a film texture to this presentation than anything prior, and even though I knew it wasn’t up to par back then it’s still shocking to see how off all previous home video releases were in this regard.
The colors lean warmer with a heavier yellow tinge to things, but I’d say this is closer to how the film is meant to look and suits the Texas summer setting. The older disc presentations could look a little undersaturated and pushed the reds/magentas more, so skin tones were far hotter. Wooderson’s (Matthew McConaughey) pants would also range between a pinkish beige and a rose-pink. Here they come off more of a light tan. I have no doubt there will be online arguments around it, but it’s ultimately not an extreme push, and the colors also look better in other areas, from lawns (which almost looked atomic-relish green in the old presentations) to blue jeans and the skin-tones as mentioned earlier. Whites aren’t impacted negatively, either, looking warmer but still white.
Dolby Vision also adds another beautiful layer to the presentation, though don’t be surprised if you’re a little disappointed by its application during the first portion of the film taking place during the day. The HDR10 MaxFALL falls only around 54 nits, so it wasn’t surprising that the opening daytime portions look “darker” compared to the Blu-ray. Still, I found the lighting to look more natural here, and there is more range in the colors; the orange GTO in the opening shots looks incredible, with the light reflecting beautifully off of it. Black levels and shadows are also cleaner, appearing nowhere near as murky as they did on the old DVD and Blu-ray.
Where HDR and Dolby Vision really shine and show off, though, is during the nighttime portions of the film. Blacks are much cleaner and purer, with the broader range allowing for distinct shadows and better depth in every shot. It’s also lovely getting dark street shots with headlights or taillights beaming without wonky contrast and brightness levels turning the whole scene milky. Highlights and reflective surfaces stick out, and the entire first pool hall sequence, from the outside with the neon lights to the smokey, dimly lit interiors, looks simply stunning. Another scene, where junior high kids are making out in a blue-lit room, pops like it never has before, with clean blues that blend nicely into the shadows and blacks. It looks incredible.
The restoration work has also cleaned things up nicely, not that the previous presentations were littered with damage. A handful of minor marks pop up here and there, but you have to be looking for them to notice. Overall, this looks just stunning, and it made me realize just how terrible all previous presentations looked.
The 5.1 soundtrack, presented in DTS-HD MA, sounds the same as the Blu-ray's, but as I've said before, I’m far from the best at finding the little nuances between soundtrack presentations. At the very least, it sounds at least as good as the Blu-ray’s, delivering sharp, clean dialogue with excellent fidelity. The film’s incredible soundtrack fills out the environment nicely and is mixed effectively, while background effects are naturally integrated through the speakers with superb direction. The bass is decent, though maybe not as effective as I expected (this also holds with the Blu-ray, which I sampled again). A very suitable presentation for the film.
Though they sadly don’t add any new material, Criterion still ports everything over from their impressive special edition Blu-ray, if only because they include the same Blu-ray from their 2011 release. The only supplement found on the 4K disc is the audio commentary recorded by Linklater in 2006 for Criterion’s DVD edition. All other supplements are located on the standard Blu-ray disc. In the track, Linklater talks extensively about the production, his first studio feature, which was a mixed experience for him as he had to fight constantly to do what he wanted. He also had issues getting certain corporations to work with him, like McDonald’s, Schlitz, and Sonic, who were all written into the script but had to be dropped after the actual companies wouldn’t cooperate in filming (he also had issues getting the Zeppelin song he wanted for the film, you know, the one the film is named after, and it’s not a surprise to hear why he couldn’t get it). But it wasn’t all a problematic experience, and it sounds like Linklater has more fond memories of the production than bad. He recalls the casting (even mentioning other actors who are now big stars who came in for auditions), what impressed him most about specific members, filming, and of course, post-production, which unfortunately included a rather upsetting test screening. He also offers many anecdotes from his childhood, most of which unsurprisingly influenced moments in the film. He’s very forthcoming and keeps the track entertaining, making it an enjoyable listen.
The track is also included with the 1080p presentation for the film found on the standard Blu-ray (again, the same disc from the 2011 release using the same high-def master). The disc then presents the rest of the video features, starting with 17 deleted scenes that total around 25 minutes. It’s understandable why many of these were cut, but they’re all good to watch on their own. In them, we see the actual stealing of the statues that end up being transformed into the Kiss band members and another moment involving that subplot with the police later. We also see the return of Affleck’s O’Bannion after receiving his comeuppance earlier. Interestingly, there are scenes featuring more extended conversations that callback to Slacker but seem out of place in this film. Again, they were cut for a reason and wouldn’t have worked, but they’re still fascinating to watch here.
Making Dazed is a 45-minute documentary on the making of the film comprised of on-set footage filmed in 1992 along with various interviews filmed over the years with Linklater, Matthew McConaughey, Parker Posey, Adam Goldberg, Anthony Rapp, Ben Affleck, Jason London, and others, including Wiley Wiggins and Christin Hinojosa. The documentary format follows a familiar flow, covering the film's timeline, starting with Linklater pitching it to Universal execs and then moving on through every step up to post-production. Still, it does offer a reflective angle when it closes with coverage of a reunion screening of the film. Along with the commentary (and other features scattered about), it shows that a lot of the film, despite having a script, was made up on the spot during rehearsals, a fact that worried producers who wanted the film to be completed on time. There are some amusing anecdotes, like one where Affleck had a face-off with one of the producers, James Jacks, about the “cussing” in the film, and then there are more details about how the release of the film was handled. It’s a charming making-of, filled with great footage from the set and old interviews with members of the cast and crew (though these interviews are also included elsewhere in this release).
Next, we get 23-minutes’ worth of audition footage featuring Michelle Burke, Rory Cochrane, Adam Goldberg, Cole Hauser (who reads for what would become a deleted scene), Christin Hinojosa, Nicky Katt, Jason London, Deena Martin, Matthew McConaughey, Anthony Rapp, Marissa Ribisi, and Wiley Wiggins. These are amusing to watch, especially Cochrane, who is already very much in character for the reading.
Next is 2-hours’ worth of material under Beer Bust at the Moon Tower, which features an extensive collection of footage shot during Dazed and Confused's filming. First under this section are Character Interviews, which feature 40 minutes’ worth of interviews with the actors talking about their characters. Unfortunately, McConaughey isn’t here (I would have found that interesting), and some of the actors seem unsure what to do (even Cochrane, appearing in character, still can’t thoroughly think like his character). On the other hand, Posey is incredible, completely disappearing into her character and giving us her complete background and thinking process for the character. It’s fantastic to watch, and this footage alone is one of the release's highlights.
Cast and Director’s Interviews is a 47-minute collection of interviews taken around the time of filming, starting with Linklater before filming began and ending with Linklater just before filming ended, where he reflects a bit. In between, we get more interviews with Posey, Affleck, Hauser, Wiggins, Hinojosa, McConaughey, and others. Most of these appear in the documentary in a truncated form but seem to be taken from the raw footage here. In most of the interviews, the cast reflects on their scenes and the general shoot, which was the time of their life for many.
Behind-the-Scenes footage, which runs 31-minutes, offers footage of rehearsals, set-ups for certain scenes (like O’Bannion’s comeuppance), costume tests, footage of the extras being directed at the party that occurs near the end, footage of the props used (primarily the beer cans, bongs, and fake marijuana) and then footage of the cast and crew during their 2003 reunion. Some of the footage presented here is without audio.
While you can watch each piece under the “Beer Bust” section individually, it also has a “Random Play All” option which plays every video in random order. I preferred just going through all of it individually, but it’s an interesting option.
The disc then concludes with the trailer for the film (that I believe was only seen on video), showing that Universal has never known how to sell this film, simply sticking with the “stoner comedy” marketing they still use to this day.
Criterion then includes a thick booklet that replicates the previous DVD and Blu-ray versions, featuring several essays. It starts with one on the film by Kent Jones, followed by another on the music from the era written by Jim DeRogatis, and then a reflection by Chuck Klosterman. The booklet then includes a reprint of a lengthy article on the film that appeared in a 2003 issue of Texas Monthly, which includes interviews with members of the cast and crew again reflecting on the making of the film and the cult following it has built up. We also get reprints of some of the letters Linklater wrote to his cast and crew, and then finally, we get bios for most of the characters that appear in the film presented in a yearbook format. I compared the booklet to the Blu-ray and DVD versions as best I could, and they all seem to be the same, with only the information around the restorations being what differs. The release then features the same poster the other releases did.
All around, it’s still a very impressive and satisfying set of features, only missing some academic on-disc material.
No new features, but the new 4K presentation is simply stunning, the film coming to life in a way it hasn’t before on video—a very easy recommendation.