Paramount Home Video presents
Cheech & Chong's Up In Smoke: Special Collector's Edition (1978)
"Hey, I thought of something really funny, man. Your mother!"- Pedro (Cheech Marin)
Stars: Cheech Marin, Tommy Chong
Other Stars: Stacy Keach, Edie Adams, Tom Skerritt, Strother Martin, Harold Fong, Jane Moder, Pam Bille, Gary Mule Deer, June Fairchild, Rainbeaux Smith, Rodney Bingenheimer
Director: Lou Adler
MPAA Rating: R for (language, adult themes, constant drug use)
Run Time: 01h:25m:44s
Release Date: 2007-09-04
DVD ReviewIf, like me, you were in high school in the 1970s, the drug humor of Cheech and Chong was likely requisite entertainment, with a string of stoner-heavy comedy albums that eventually spawned a series of films, beginning with Up In Smoke in 1978. In a weird way it all seemed very natural back then, but now the "hey maaan!" duo and their perpetual joints and constant high looks askew, and it's no wonder parents of the era looked at Cheech & Chong like some kind of counter culture anti-Christs.
With Up In Smoke director Lou Adler handily translated the familiar elements of the pair's comedy act to film, with a Cheech and Chong-penned screenplay that takes the barest of plots (if there even really is one), and over the course of 85 minutes simply operates in the moment. Or rather a series of them. Tommy Chong is the lazy, always high, very wealthy son of Strother Martin and Edie Adams, while Cheech Marin is a dingo-balls-blue-fur-adorned-lowrider-driving free spirit who lives in the poor part of town; a chance encounter hooks them up, and the remainder of the film is basically a continued search for the next high. The obligatory nemesis is Stacy Keach as Sgt. Stedenko, a character long-rooted in the mythos of Cheech and Chong's comedy albums.
While there may not always be a verifiable plot to follow, the strength throughout is the duo themselves, who were actually a deceptively talented pair of comedians that seemingly played out the same gag over and over. Their easy going rapport makes all of their dialogue sound natural and purely pot-induced, something that still shines through in spots even as I revisit their shtick 30 years later. Their conversations—rambling and incoherent as they become sometimes—typically contain little nuggets of funny, even if it is just a random line here or there. Perhaps the overall essence of the whole 1970s drug culture has given Up In Smoke a curiously dated look, yet a scene where they goof around with a police station radio remains giggly and moronic fun, though not so with the nonsensical Rock Fight Of The Century concert performance in the film's final reel, which is just an excuse to bring another of their comedy act bits to light.
The uneven nature of Up In Smoke has always been its biggest weakness, as a series of try-and-connect-the-dot scenarios that wander back and forth simply as setups for things like a giant, oversized joint. Diversions such as a Vietnam vet with flashbacks (Tom Skerritt) never quite works as well as the reliably hazy interplay between Cheech and Chong themselves. Time may have softened much of the impact of the core drug humor on display here, but there are still some solid comedic moments, most of which are built around the circuitous conversations of the leads. This isn't a particularly polished comedy, but more often a series of let's-get-high bits with some funny parts, though its place as one of the definitive drive-in movies (right up there with Rock N' Roll High School) remains unchallenged.
Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B-
|Aspect Ratio||2.35:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: This looks like the same nice looking 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer found on the 2000 release, and as before, colors are notably bright throughout. The print itself—aside from very minor dirt and grain issues—looks quite strong given the film's age, with carries solid edge definition throughout. I saw this in a theater back in '78, and I don't recall it looking this good then.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround option is ultimately overkill, essentially a mono mix at heart. The center-heavy presentation varies little from the 2.0 option also included, but in its defense, the material is not really geared for any grand pans or sweeps. No major complaints, as dialogue is clear on both mixes, with some of the music (such as the opening use of War's Low Rider) sounding moderately larger and more expansive under the 5.1 setting.
A French 2.0 mono dub is also included.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 11 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Blades Of Glory
8 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Cheech Marin, Lou Adler
Extras Review: This Special Collector's Edition doesn't really live up to its claim, offering up not only the identical cover art, but the same recycled set of deleted scenes dubbed Roach Clips (11m:27s)—available with a fairly dull optional Lou Adler/Cheech Marin commentary—most notable for an appearance by Harry Dean Stanton as drug-dealing prison guard. Ditto for the commentary track from Adler and Marin, which is also ported over from the 2000 release. Lots of chuckling and not much in the way of substantive content, unfortunately.
The new material, which includes a full motion menu, isn't really enough to merit a double-dip, and it begins with Lighting It Up: A Look Back At Up In Smoke (11m:08s), a fairly generic rehash of their career recalled by Chong, Marin, and Adler. A bizarrely animated music video for Earache My Eye (05m:41s) is the most worthwhile, but the audio content is lifted directly from the 1974 Wedding Album LP. New material concludes with Cheech & Chong's Man Song (02m:33s), basically footage of them saying "man" from various scenes in the film, and a pair of vintage radio spots featuring the characters Horrendo Revolver and Saydis Saydat.
Extras Grade: C+
Final CommentsIf you own the 2000 release, there's no real need to upgrade, as this so-called Special Collector's Edition doesn't offer any substantial new material. The surprisingly solid image transfer is a carryover, and the anamorphic widescreen presentation lends an air of legitimacy to all of the pot jokes.
It's infantile and silly, but holds up as pretty funny stuff centered on getting high, especially if you lived through it. Perhaps a little more hit or miss if you're under the age of 25, but it's a hazy counter-culture time capsule of the late 1970s.
Rich Rosell 2007-09-04