Release Date(s)1970 (February 1, 2019)
Studio(s)Stanley Kramer Productions/Columbia Pictures (Powerhouse Films/Indicator)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B-
Stanley Kramer’s R.P.M. (Revolutions Per Minute) came at the beginning of the 1970s when campus protests were at their peak for a variety of reasons. In this film, the revolution is led by a group of liberals who have a list of twelve items that they want carried out by their school’s leaders before they will vacate the campus premises. On that list of demands is a new university president, specifically Professor “Paco” Perez (Anthony Quinn), an aged writer and activist known to sleep with the undergraduates, such as the young Rhoda (Ann-Margaret). Reluctantly accepting the position, he soon finds himself up against his own beliefs versus his responsibility to the school, while also developing a growing concern for the well-being of the students.
While the most successful aspect of R.P.M. at the time of its release was its soundtrack featuring songs performed by singer-songwriter Melanie, its attempt at dealing with counterculture concerns and ideals missed the boat when it came to its structure and eventual outcome. Ultimately, the film is less about revolution and more about a man coming to terms with the fact that he isn’t “with it” as much as he used to be. It’s a point highly-emphasized by his relationship with Rhoda, who constantly says things he doesn’t understand, but also bests him when the two go out jogging together. It’s clear that he’s fighting the idea of who everybody thinks he is and who he actually is, which is an older man out of touch with what young people really want.
On the other hand, those young people are also not that amenable. They’re no angels and they’re willing to do unsavory things in the name of revolution, including destroying private property. Unfortunately, we don’t have a full background on why they’re doing these things. The film begins by ousting the old university president by the students in order to gain a new one, but we never get a build-up to that. It’s difficult to be on their side when they’re so obstinate – insulting authority figures and disagreeing with everything that they say. It could also be that the ultimate point is that nobody has an answer to it all, meaning that we eventually (and fruitlessly) wind up back where we’re started. In other words, the message of the film is confusing.
Ultimately, R.P.M.’s strength is in its performances, whether they come from Anthony Quinn or Gary Lockwood or Paul Winfield (I didn’t really care for Ann-Margaret all that much). Stanley Kramer and screenwriter Erich Segal (Love Story) seemed to have had something on their mind, but it’s not sorted out enough to fully accept it or care. It also doesn’t help that the film tries to tiptoe between being a quasi-comedy and a deep, meaningful drama, never fully committing to one or the other. Above all else, a clearer understanding of the opposition was needed in order to strengthen the conflict as a whole.
Indicator’s Region Free Blu-ray release of the film features a strong HD presentation, providing plenty of depth and detail in both low light, indoor, and outdoor scenes. Grain levels are attenuated well and appear even, aside from some transitions. The color palette isn’t a bold one, but offers a variety of hues, many of which are well-rendered, including skin tones. Blacks are fairly deep while overall contrast and brightness levels are satisfactory. It’s a stable presentation with only mild defects left behind, such as lines, speckling, and occasionally weak frames.
The audio is provided in English 1.0 LPCM with optional subtitles in English SDH. It’s a relatively narrow presentation that doesn’t require much in the way of dynamics for sound effects, but the film’s music selection has some heft to it. Meanwhile, dialogue exchanges are clean and discernable. There are also no leftover instances of distortion, hiss, crackle, or dropouts.
The extras for this release includes a well-researched audio commentary by author Paul Talbot, who talks about various members of the cast and crew, including director Stanley Kramer, provides some context for the film’s subject matter, and goes into a fairly deep analysis of the film; Two Sides of the Coin: The Songs and Music of R.P.M., a 14-minute interview with composer and songwriter Barry De Vorzon, who reflects upon his songs that he wrote for the film, but also how he got involved with it; an isolated music and effects track in 1.0 LPCM; a TV spot; an image gallery containing 37 stills of promotional images, lobby cards, soundtrack liner notes, press materials, and posters; and a 32-page insert booklet containing the essay R.P.M.: Revolutions Per Minute by Jeff Billington, an interview with Anthony Quinn on R.P.M.: Revolutions Per Minute for the New York Daily News by Kathleen Carroll, a set of the film’s soundtrack liner notes by Mort Goode, a set of critical responses to the film, the original poster, and presentation details.
Indicator’s Blu-ray release of R.P.M. is a fine package overall. I have issues with the film itself, but its presentation is indeed a welcome one.
– Tim Salmons