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Warner Home Video presents
Swing Shift (1984)

"Well, we showed them."
- Kay Walsh (Goldie Hawn)

Review By: Matt Peterson   
Published: January 18, 2004

Stars: Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell
Other Stars: Christine Lahti, Fred Ward, Ed Harris
Director: Jonathan Demme

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: PG for (mild language and brief sensuality)
Run Time: 01h:39m:58s
Release Date: January 20, 2004
UPC: 085392888924
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Some films begin with good intentions. Some go through the studio ringer, emerging as a convoluted, barely recognizable mess. Still others have little substance to begin with. Swing Shift may qualify for all of the above, but it is difficult to tell. Directed by Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia), this period drama stars Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell (the two met during filming), and Ed Harris. Not a bad lineup. However, Demme's original cut was changed by the studio at Hawn's request, who wanted the film to shed a more favorable light on her morally questionable character. This is problem number one. Prepare for more.

WWII has just broken out. As the men go off to war, the women are called to work the factories, building fighter planes, tanks, and whatever else the war effort requires. Kay (Goldie Hawn) has just said goodbye to her husband Jack (Ed Harris), who is off to fight in the Pacific. Once she begins work at the local airplane factory, she achieves a level of independence and authority previously alien to her. With her fellow riveters, including her best friend Hazel (Christine Lahti), she stands up to the sexist, older employees and makes a name for herself. In the process, she meets Lucky (Kurt Russell), a dashing trumpet player who was rejected from the Army and is a factory leadman. He falls in love with Kay, despite her marital status. Kay quickly (very quickly, I might add) follows suit. What happens next? Do I need to go on? Sure enough, Jack comes home and all hell breaks loose. Throughout this ordeal, Kay must deal with a friend's betrayal, her adultery, and the challenge of forgiveness.

Swing Shift is a film that does not know where it's going, or what it's trying to say. It offers an accurate look at the integral contributions made by working women during the war, but even that serious historical event is treated rather tongue-in-cheek. The nostalgic opening credits gives the message that we are about to see a throwback to the post-war romance films of the late '40s and early '50s. There is potential in this premise. However, some scenes follow this motif, and others take a hard-lined, dramatic approach, creating substantial inconsistancies. It could have explored the complex social struggles of those manning the homefront, but it degenerates into a semi-comedic soap opera. I'm still not sure if I was supposed to sympathize with Hawn and Russell. The film certainly seemed to try to convince me, but it takes quite a bit for me to feel happy for a woman who cheats on her noble husband and for a man who encourages such behavior. Later, Hazel is brought into the mix, creating a virtual WWII incarnation of Melrose Place. All in all, the film reeks of massive studio recuts.

Demme's direction is relatively solid and the picture looks very good, thanks to Tak Fujimoto's (The Silence of the Lambs, The Rocketeer) subdued cinematography and well-executed production design. The performances are decent, but do not have a clear direction, much like the plot. Russell's Lucky is a semi-nerdy factory leadman in one scene and a greasy-haired trumpet player in another. Hawn's Kay is an innocent, committed wife in the beginning and a heavy drinking adulteress near the end. There is little to no progression between these drastic transformations. There is some chemistry between the two, but not as much as one would expect, considering the real life romance that was blossoming before the lens. The real standout is Christine Lahti's Hazel, a women torn between dreams of fame and a stable domestic life. She earned an Academy Award nomination for her supporting role.

I've always been interested in WWII history and have enjoyed films set in the period. However, Demme's film does not do the period justice. Even though it has its entertaining moments, it is mostly downright frustrating. Aside from the historical importance of the film's depicted era, there are few redeeming qualities to be found.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Warner's transfer is surprisingly subpar. The anamorphic 1.85:1 image is consistantly grainy. Some shots look much better than others, but the grain persists throughout most of the picture. This appears to be a combination of source grain and some compression artifacts. Fujimoto's color scheme seems accurately represented, and aside from the persistent grain there are no print blemishes to be found. Minor edge enhancement and shimmering appears on several occasions. Overall, a watchable yet disappointing transfer for a relatively recent film.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, Frenchno

Audio Transfer Review: The mono sound is clean and clear. I find it odd that a major studio picture of the mid-eighties would not have a Dolby Stereo track. Still, it is a fine aural presentation.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 29 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Snapper
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The only extra is the film's theatrical trailer.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

Warner’s effort is lackluster, much like the film. A disappointing transfer combined with a limited mono soundtrack hampers an already taxing cinematic experience. Granted, there is potential here. Too bad Warner did not see fit to make Demme's original cut available. It must have been better than this.


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