Footloose (Steelbook) (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Bill Hunt
  • Review Date: Feb 22, 2024
  • Format: 4K Ultra HD
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Footloose (Steelbook) (4K UHD Review)


Herbert Ross

Release Date(s)

1984 (February 13, 2024)


Phoenix Pictures/Indie Prod Company/Paramount Pictures (Paramount Home Entertainment)
  • Film/Program Grade: B
  • Video Grade: C
  • Audio Grade: B+
  • Extras Grade: B

Footloose (Steelbook) (4K Ultra HD)

Buy it Here!


The fact that young Ren McCormack (Kevin Bacon) and his single mother have been forced to move from Chicago to the small farm town of Bomont for his senior year would be difficult for any high schooler to deal with. But matters grow still worse when Ren learns that listening to rock music and dancing in public are actually against the law within town limits. It seems that, five years before his arrival, a group of local teens drove across the state line to drink and party, then were killed in a car crash on a local bridge while returning home. So Bomont’s elders, led by the fiery Reverend Moore (John Lithgow), made sure that it could never happen again by banning anything that might “let the Devil into the hearts” of their children. But Ren isn’t the only teen with whom the new rules don’t sit well; Moore’s own daughter Ariel (Lori Singer) and her friends (including Sarah Jessica Parker and Chris Penn) have become rebellious hell-raisers in response. So what’s any self-respecting teen rocker who’s new in town to do but challenge authority and trying to organize a senior dance?

Directed by Herbert Ross (Funny Lady, Steel Magnolias), Footloose was largely panned by film critics, but became an instant and massive hit with Gen X audiences already captivated by the irresistible combination of pop, rock, and new wave music set to standard-definition visuals in four minute chunks. Footloose was really the first Hollywood film targeted directly at the so-called MTV Generation, the cable music network having debuted in North America in August of 1981. (Flashdance, which was released in 1983, skewed toward an older Baby Boomer audience, as did the late 70s hits Xanadu, Saturday Night Fever, Grease, Staying Alive, and Urban Cowboy.) Cleverly taking advantage of this phenomenon, the producers created music videos for the many songs on its soundtrack using actual footage from the film, so when these played on MTV—often the first place Gen Xers saw and heard them—they became the perfect marketing tool.

Though he’d appeared in a number of films previously, including Animal House, Friday the 13th, and Diner, it was Footloose that finally catapulted Kevin Bacon into stardom. But the road to him landing the role was fraught indeed. The film had been in development for over three years when casting began, and virtually every other young male star of the period was considered, including Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer, and Rob Lowe. (Paramount executive Dawn Steel notoriously refused to approve the casting of Bacon, because she didn’t think he was “fuckable” enough. It was a different time, kids.) Thankfully, Bacon’s screen test was approved by studio president Michael Eisner. But Herbert Ross, the original director, left the film for four months during its development to take on another project. So Michael Cimono was hired to take over what would have been his first film since Heaven’s Gate (1980). When his vision for Footloose expanded well beyond the studio’s vision however, he was let go and Ross, whose other project had imploded, came back to take the helm. And Sarah Jessica Parker (Sex in the City) only appeared in the film as a last-minute replacement when the actress originally hired to play the role dropped out due to a family emergency.

Despite the project’s long and difficult journey to the big screen, Footloose grossed over $80 million at the domestic box office, and its iconic soundtrack—featuring the likes of Kenny Loggins, Deniece Williams, Bonnie Tyler, Sammy Hagar, John Mellencamp, Shalamar, Foreigner, Mike Reno (of Loverboy), Ann Wilson (of Heart), and Quiet Riot—hit the number one position on the US Billboard 200 chart and went Platinum, eventually selling over 9 million copies (on cassette, 8-track tape, vinyl LP, reel-to reel—one of the final releases on this format—and then-new Compact Disc).

Footloose was shot on 35 mm photochemical film by cinematographer Ric Waite (The Long Riders, Red Dawn, Brewster’s Millions) using Panavision Panaflex cameras and Panavision spherical lenses, and it was finished photochemically at the 1.85:1 aspect ratio for its theatrical release. For it’s debut on Ultra HD… well, that’s somewhat complicated.

If I had to guess what happened here, I would guess that this is probably a thirteen-year-old 4K scan produced for the film’s original Blu-ray release in 2011, but with completely redone digital mastering and a new HDR grade (both Dolby Vision and HDR10 are available). As fans will know, the Blu-ray image was ruined by truly absurd levels of digital noise reduction and manipulation—that mastering has thankfully been tossed and it seems that the studio’s gone back to the raw 4K film scan as the basis for this new presentation. And while this is 66 GB disc, only the film is included on it, so video bit rates are high, averaging about 70 Mbps. What that means is that this UHD release is arguably the best the film has ever looked at home—and it’s a major improvement over the Blu-ray. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that this is simply not a good 4K image by today’s standards.

Looking at this presentation, there are some shots that actually do look like they were scanned from original neg, while many more look like interpositive elements. But there’s something else going on here that needs to be discussed: Footloose is just not a particularly great-looking film in the first place. Its lighting is often flat, choices of camera angle and position are uninspired, many exterior shots look washed out while dark interiors (especially night scenes) exhibit badly crushed shadows, many shots have focus issues (either the entire shot is slightly out of focus or the actor’s face is blurry while the wall behind them looks crisp), it often appears that the digital encoding is struggling to deal with the grain, and a few very wide establishing/exterior shots just look so terrible that one can only surmise that one of the production’s cameras was malfunctioning. (Among these are literally the very first shot in the film, after the foot-tapping title sequence.)

Whatever the reason for it, this is just an unimpressive 4K image. And if it is indeed an old scan, I suspect the studio’s calculation is that a new 4K scan wouldn’t really improve matters much. But again—and to be very clear—this 4K presentation is still vastly better than the previous Blu-ray. (And all one needs to do to appreciate that fact is to watch a few minutes of that Blu-ray, which is conveniently included in this package.)

Audio-wise, the 4K UHD release includes the exact same English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio lossless mix that was found on the previous Blu-ray. And that’s okay, because it was pretty terrific back in 2011 and it remains so now. Clarity is excellent, with clean dialogue and plenty of atmospheric ambience in the surround channels. But the real star of this mix is the film’s soundtrack and score, which take full advantage of the lossless fidelity and muscular bass. The soundstage is big and wide, with the surround channels employed to envelope the listener in the music. Tonally, the mix is full sounding, with plenty of crisp percussion lingering in the air. And this is a mix that definitely benefits from volume, do don’t be afraid to turn it up. Additional audio options include German, French and Italian 2.0 Dolby Digital, as well as Japanese mono in Dolby Digital. Optional subtitles are available in English, English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, German, Spanish, French, Italian, and Japanese.

There are no extras whatsoever on Paramount’s new 4K UHD disc, which is available in both regular Amaray and Steelbook packaging. But each of those packages also includes the previous Blu-ray version of the film in 1080p HD (and this is not remastered). That disc offers the following extras:

  • Audio Commentary with Craig Zadan and Dean Pitchford
  • Audio Commentary with Kevin Bacon
  • Let’s Dance! Kevin Bacon on Footloose (HD – 12:20)
  • From Bomont to the Big Apple: An Interview with Sarah Jessica Parker (HD – 7:37)
  • Remembering Willard (HD – 6:11)
  • Kevin Bacon’s Screen Test (HD – 4:36)
  • Kevin Bacon’s Costume Montage (HD – 2:50)
  • 2004 DVD Archive
    • Footloose: A Modern Musical – Part 1 (SD – 17:55)
    • Footloose: A Modern Musical – Part 2 (SD – 12:05)
    • Footloose: Songs that Tell a Story (SD – 13:54)
    • Theatrical Trailer (HD – 1:33)

The first commentary features the film’s screenwriter and producer who talk about the process of conceiving the film, attempting to get it produced and green-lit by Paramount, the struggles of casting, the advantages and challenges of working with Ross, and how the film’s ending had to be revisited at the 11th hour after a disastrous test screening resulting from the fact that the director had refused to actually shoot the big dance scene (he believed the film’s true ending came when they won permission for the dance instead). The second commentary features Bacon himself, who adds a personal touch by offering his experiences on the filming, the pleasure of working with his fellow cast members, and how the film’s success impacted his career (he apparently struggled for years with the frustration of wanting to be seen as a serious actor, when he became an overnight pop culture star instead.)

There are a trio of interview featurettes, one each with Bacon and Parker and a third that’s a retrospective of the late Chris Penn, plus you get to see Bacon’s filmed screen and costume tests. The rest of the extras are carried over from the original DVD release, so it’s good to have them in this package. The film’s theatrical trailer has also been upgraded to HD (from the SD version on the DVD). And of course, a Digital Copy code is included on a paper insert. The Steelbook also includes a folded mini-poster for the film.

Home theater fans and A/V enthusiasts are almost certainly going to disparage this 4K edition, and certainly not without justification. Longtime fans of this film, however, will probably have somewhat more appreciation for the fact that while this Ultra HD is very far from perfect, it’s also—hands-down—the best version of Footloose currently available to own on any video disc format to date. So if you love the film, it’s an instant must-own release. Just be sure to buy it at a good sale price and keep your expectations really low. And again, if you find yourself discouraged at any point while viewing it, trust me—spinning the Blu-ray for a few minutes will definitely refresh your memory and recalibrate your perspective

- Bill Hunt

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