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  • Audio commentary - Director John Hughes

Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Paramount/Paramount . R4 . COLOR . 99 mins . PG . PAL


Mr Bueller, and indeed writer/director John Hughes, should need no introduction to any ‘80s teen. As well as this particular classic of the genre, Hughes also documented the time like no other with the indispensable Molly Ringwald trilogy of 16 Candles, The Breakfast Club and possibly his masterwork, Pretty in Pink. And then he went onto foist such plop on us as Uncle Buck and the Home Alone series. Go figure.

For the one or two who have no idea about Ferris, he’s one of that rare breed that’s popular with all and sundry in his final year at high school. Be they Sportos, Motorheads, Geeks, Sluts, Bloods, Wasteoids, Dweebies or Dickheads it doesn’t matter – Ferris is one righteous dude. So much so that when, on the particular day of his life that is documented here, he decides to feign illness for a day off (easily convincing his parents with a rather hammy and pathetic bout of acting), a “Save Ferris” campaign is undertaken, with rumours abounding at school – and indeed in the general neighbourhood - of his suffering everything from kidney failure to a close proximity to death’s door.

Simply skiving for the day isn’t as easy as it may seem, however, as Principal Rooney doesn’t share the common love for the lad, and is hell-bent on catching him in the act. Ferris is quite prepared though, with somewhat elaborate setups involving all manner of gadgetry including samplers, tape recorders, wiring and dummies. With these in place he convinces his best friend, the so tightly wound that he’s a human diamond factory Cameron, to come over - for what’s a Ferris without wheels? Transportation sorted, in the form of Cam’s Dad’s prize possession, a rather scrummy red (naturally) 1961 Ferrari convertible, the next step is to get his girlfriend Sloane out of school and away from the clutches of Rooney. Then it’s off to enjoy the delights of a beautiful Chicago day - The Sears Tower (then the tallest building in the world), the Stock Exchange, a posh restaurant, a baseball game, a street parade (and the odd homage to The Blues Brothers) – this is a city where it’s all happening, and on a weekday no less!

With Rooney desperate and hot on his trail, and his none-too-supportive sister Jeannie suffering a serious case of the vengeful pouts, will Ferris manage to get away with it? And will poor Cameron ever be the same again?

"What are we going to do?”
“The question isn't ‘what are we going to do,’ the question is ‘what aren't we going to do?’"

Taking a slightly different tack to his adventures with Molly, with Ferris Bueller’s Day Off Hughes goes for more of a sort of streetwise, less emotional and more playful vibe with his lead character. Matthew Broderick was an inspired choice for Ferris, with his innate charisma allowing his character’s regular chats and knowing looks directly to camera to give off a ‘we’re all in this together’ type vibe that is very infectious, whereas in other hands it may have just been somewhat corny. While it’s undoubtedly Broderick’s show, things simply wouldn’t be the same without both his nemeses in Jeffrey Jones as his certainly-not-a-fan principal, and Jennifer Dirty Dancing Grey as his highly strung sister – a certain scene with her confronting Rooney at one point virtually stealing the entire movie.


What a treat it is to finally experience Ferris in 2.35:1 (anamorphically enhanced), rather than chopped up and spat out in full frame like the much-rented video and every single TV appearance ever witnessed by these eyes. The print used is remarkably clean of imperfections, save for a few speckles here and there, and is incredibly sharp and detailed at most times. The downside to this is the proliferation of shimmering and aliasing, with one of Jeannie’s stripy shirts at one point actually appearing to be animated. Otherwise, colour exhibits that slightly washed out look that’s quite common for films of this vintage. It doesn’t look bad by any means, just a little bit pale. Meanwhile, the layer change is quite magnificent. The more eagle-eyed will notice it, however it is non-intrusive and quickly navigated.


Remixed into Dolby Digital 5.1, don’t expect a major sonic explosion here, as indeed the film was never such a thing in the first place. There is some nice separation and some neat, subtle stereo stuff going on within the front soundstage, however the rears only really add a little ambience in some scenes (other than when they let roar in one scene involving the Ferrari), and the subwoofwoof murmurs a little during some of the musical moments. With a lot of often rapid-fire dialogue, it’s pleasing to note that everything is perfectly clear and audible, and all is synched perfectly.

Music-wise the score is a jazzy-tinged affair typical of ‘80s period Ira Newborn (who also scored 16 Candles). His boppy pieces share time with “pop” tracks from the likes of Euro-weirdies Yello (the inevitable Oh Yeah), fabulous Brit fly-by-night casher-innerers Sigue Sigue Sputnik (Love Missile F-1-11, or as it's more commonly referred to by the musically klutzy “Shoot it up!”, due to its chorus), those hey-umm-umm-umm-hey gentle popsters The Dream Academy (with an instrumental version of their gorgeous cover of The Smiths' Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want) and Mick Jones’ post-The Clash act Big Audio Dynamite. Also popping by are a certain theme for a certain space-based movie by John Williams, and a fab slice of the always fab The Beatles. Yes folks, this soundtrack is nothing if not eclectic!


Hmm, there isn’t much in the way of quantity here, with the solitary bonus feature coming in the shape of a director’s commentary. Now with his pedigree, you’d probably expect John Hughes to be somewhat super-interesting. However, while this does offer some interesting insights into all manner of things involved with filmmaking and, naturally, this film in particular, he does tend to deliver it all rather monotonously, and often has a habit of falling into that dreaded trap of simply describing what’s happening on screen. This may be handy for the blind, however...


Arguments may rage forever as to what John Hughes' greatest contribution to the field he essentially created indeed was (personal bias would suggest Pretty in Pink for instance), however it simply cannot be denied that Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is one of THE most-loved classics of the teen genre, from its most halcyon of days.

This DVD gives all of us a fantastic chance for a spot of reliving our youth, with the fact that quality-wise it’s quite the well presented little disc a bonus we can all be grateful for.

So, all together now, “Heeeeeeeeeey batter, batter, batter, batter, SAH-WING ba-tta!”

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      And I quote...
    "One of THE most-loved classics of the teen genre, and a fantastic chance for a spot of reliving our youth..."
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Onkyo TX-DS494
    • Speakers:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse RBS662
    • Centre Speaker:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECC442
    • Surrounds:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECR042
    • Subwoofer:
          DTX Digital 4.8
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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