Fletch: The Jane Doe Edition

Fletch: The Jane Doe Edition (1985)
Universal Home Video
Cast: Chevy Chase, Tim Matheson, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson
Extras: Featurettes

Almost 10 years ago, Universal Home Entertainment released "Fletch" on DVD and has never revisited this cult comedy since. Here now is the new "Jane Dow" Edition of the film, offering up a brand new transfer of the film, combined with a few extras. A few extras too few for my taste, but still, a release well worth taking a closer look for me.

Irwin "Fletch" Fletcher (Chevy Chase) is an investigative newspaper reporter who goes undercover in Santa Monica to uncover some drug dealings on the beach. Posing as a hobo his disguise is perfect – so perfect, in fact, that he is approached by a man who mistakes him for a real loser. The man turns out to be millionaire Alan Stanwyck (Tim Matheson) who wants to hire Fletch to kill him. Explaining the he's dying of cancer anyway the coup would serve to allow his wife to collect the insurance money and live a good life. Smelling something fishy in the offer, Fletch begins to snoop around a bit and discovers some interesting discrepancies between Stanwyck's version of the story and the real goings-on. Fletch is determined to find a front-page story in this and turns into a real bulldog.

One of the things that is most striking about "Fletch" is how well it lives up to expectations even after 20-some years. Where many comedies of the era fall apart and date themselves with their looks, references and characters, "Fletch" is virtually timeless. The story is so universal that it is as believable today as it was then and there's little in terms of gimmickry, pop-cultural references or such that would take away from the film. The only thing dating the film is Harold Faltermeyer's syncopated synth score, but which by the same token, adds some freshness to the film because it is so unique compared to today's movie scores. Chevy Chase's characters are every bit as funny as they were then, making it hard to believe that the film is actually over 20 years old.

Universal has created a new transfer for the film that is great-looking. Free of any blemishes or defects, the transfer faithfully restores the movie's original look without grain or color bleeding. Contrast is very good and ensures deep blacks with balanced highlights throughout the presentation, while colors are well saturated at all times. Skin tones are natural, giving the film its natural, realistic look. No edge-enhancement or compression artifacts were evident during our viewing of this DVD, adding to the overall great impression of this new transfer.

On the audio side, viewers are treated to a newly remastered 5.1 channel Dolby Digital track. Unlike the Dolby Surround track found on the previous release, this track sounds more dynamic and makes use of the surrounds more aggressively at times, or more subtly at others, allowing for the discrete channels to work at the best of their ability. Of course, given the fact that "Fletch" is a comedy and not exactly an action film, surrounds are still comparably tame but the new remastering brings these subtle effect to life much clearer and distinguishable than ever before. Dialgoues are well integrated and always understandable and Harold Faltermeyer's score has also benefited from the remastering as the expanded frequency response and re-equalization of the track gives the music added punch in the lower frequency range. Good stuff!

Those of you hoping to see a great Special Edition with lots of in-depth features will no doubt be somewhat disappointed by this release. Although it offers up a few bonus materials the overall supplemental content in comparably weak I am sorry to say.

For example there is no commentary track on the disc. While director Michael Ritchie may have passed away and may thus be unable to provide his thoughts on the film any longer, most of the other participants are not. Chevy Chase is entirely missing from all of the bonus materials, making the release feel a little like an egg without its yolk. This film in particular would lend itself to some sort of a trivia track because of the countless facets it touches upon with its characters, cast members and the story itself. Sadly none has been provided either. With that in mind, let's take a look at the extras that ARE there.

"Just Charge The Underhills" is an interesting featurette that offers a retrospective look at the making of the film. This featurette is a nice move away form the traditional EPK-style featurettes that have been part of DVDs for so many years now. Instead the DVD's producer and assistant producer have created a funny and entertaining odyssey-style featurette that shows them tracking down some of the actors and crew members and sitting them down to talk about the film. While it still contains the typical talking heads footage these interview segments are nicely interspersed with the search and research quest of the DVD creators. While the humor may not be exactly on a Chevy Chase level it is entertaining nonetheless, making it an enjoyable ride. Too bad, though that Chevy Chase himself is entirely absent from the bonus materials, and a quick few sound bites with Harold Faltermeyer who created the music for the film would have been a nice addition.

Also included is "From John Cocktoastin to Harry S. Truman: The Disguises," a featurette that takes a look at some of Chevy's disguises and how he brought them to life with minimal effort. Crew members talk about the genius of Chase as he would simply take a few fake teeth and create a character that was unique and filled with an individual personality.

"Favorite Fletch Moments" is, of course, a clip with some of the greatest moments form the film.

"Fletch" is a timeless comedy that has found a great new home on this DVD. While the extras are still pretty slim for a "Special Edition" and a commentary track is painfully missing, the DVD is a decent outing that certainly deserves to be seen, and I am positive there's a huge following of the movie out there who have never been able to pick up the 1998 DVD version of the film that has been out of print for some time.