• Rad (Vinegar Syndrome) 4k UHD/Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: June 30th, 2020.
    Director: Hal Needham
    Cast: Bart Conner, Lori Loughlin, Bill Allen, Talia Shire, Ray Walston, Alife Wise, Jack Weston
    Year: 1986
    Purchase From Vinegar Syndrome

    Rad – Movie Review:

    By Alison and Ian Jane

    Cru (Bill Allen) and his BMX-racing buddies are the bigshots of their high school and town. They can even make delivering newspapers look cool. When the big race – Helltrack - is coming to town, a bunch of the local kids decide to try out for it. Any amateur racers that qualify get $10,000 and a chance at $100,000, a Corvette and the opportunity to race against the professionals in the teenage-BMX world. The leader of that world is Bart Taylor (Bart Conner), who bears a striking resemblance to Johnny - the leader of Cobra Kai in The Karate Kid (…which reminds me I need to watch Cobra Kai Season 2). Released two years after The Karate Kid, the similarities don’t stop there! Bart and his friends are, of course, the “bad” guys, under the management of Duke Best (Jack Weston). Duke is just as mean-spirited and intent on his team winning (even if goofier) as that “Strike First, Strike Hard, No Mercy” sensai in The Karate Kid. Cru hooks up with the female-BMX champ, Christian (Lori Loughlin), and with her support, he decides to attempt to qualify for Helltrack, which turns into a Cobra Kai/Miyagi-do kind of battle for the top spot.

    Supporting actors in this one include… Ray Walston as a nerdy smart aleck, who rides around town on a BMX bike (carrying coffee, is the running joke), trying to not get run over by Cru and his newspaper crew… Talia Shire as Cru’s mom (try not to yell out “ADRIAN!” every time she’s on screen)… H.B. Haggerty as an ineffective but lovable motorcycle cop… Laura Jacoby as Cru’s foul-mouthed ten-year-old sister (mentioned only because Jacobys were EVERYWHERE in the 80s and they’re fun to spot)… and Marta Kober as Cru’s friend Becky (mentioned only because she was in Friday the 13th II and high five for that!). The film was directed by Hal Needham, the director of Smokey and the Bandit and Body Slam, and stuntman for countless films through the 60s and 70s.

    More Karate Kid comparisons… the song playing throughout the film whenever anything inspiring was happening, “Thunder in Your Heart,” was a total clone of “You’re the Best Around.” What that one did for me wanting to do karate, this one did for making me want to be a BMX racer. Lots of sappy montages to tug at your heartstrings and of course a PG-rated romance between Cru and Christian - who had been dating (but is now tired of) Bart… OH SNAP! Just like Johnny and Ali in Karate Kid. Rad is basically The Karate Kid on BMX bikes.

    That said, it’s nothing but fun from start to finish. Who wouldn’t want to see The Karate Kid on bikes, after all? Total nostalgia for 80’s kids and people into it when it was released, but also entertaining for those watching it the first time, like me. One of the highlights of the film is Cru and Christian going “ass sliding,” that Cru actually refers to as such later in the film. Lori Laughlin is definitely riding her bike in the close-up and easy shots, but for the trick shots it’s very clearly a dude in a girl’s wig - and an unconvincing one at that. Of course, it adds to the humor and charm of the film. Nowadays, I bet Lori is wishing that stunt double was still available to cover her jail time…

    Rad – Blu-ray Review:

    Vinegar Syndrome brings Rad to 4k UHD/Blu-ray combo pack for the first time in the universe. Only a BD-R check disc was made available for review purposes (we’ll update this once a 4k disc is sent) but it will at least give you an idea of what to expect once finished, retail product arrives in your hands.

    The BD-R gives the feature 29GBs of space on the 50GB disc and presents the feature in AVC encoded 1080p high definition, with the 1.85.1 widescreen picture having been taken from a new 4k restoration of the original 35mm negative. Picture quality is excellent. Detail is strong throughout playback and the image is very clean, retaining the natural film grain you want but not showing any noticeable print damage at all. The bright, bold and brash eighties color scheme really pops and black levels are nice and deep. There are no problems with any noticeable compression artifacts, edge enhancement or noise reduction – this transfer is excellent.

    English language options are offered up in DTS-HD 5.1 and 2.0 Master Audio options. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. The 5.1 track spreads out the score and the effects quite nicely, taking advantage of the rear channels while the 2.0 track offers a listening experience more likely to replicate the film’s theatrical sound. Either way, no problems here. The levels are nicely balanced, the dialogue always clear and easy to follow and the tracks free or any hiss or distortion. Oh, and Real Life’s ‘Send Me An Angel’ sounds awesome in lossless.

    There is an insane amount of extra features on this disc, starting with three commentary tracks. The first track features moderator Robert Schwartzman with his mother Talia Shire, which is a fairly scene specific talk wherein Shire talks about the work that her husband, producer John Schwartzman, did on the film. She’s quite taken with the quality of the opening shots, and she talks about how much she enjoyed shooting in Calgary, how great Hal Needham was to work with and how Needham and his mother led the cast and crew in a prayer before shooting started! As the track progresses, she talks about the quality of the editing, the talent that the crew in Calgary had, the fun character actors that appear in the film (and how she considers herself a character actress), the way that the drama unfolds in the film, where stunt doubles were used in spots, the use of music in the film and how it expresses ‘love and competition with the dance of bikes.’ They occasionally lapse into sort of narrating what’s happening on screen but overall there’s a lot of info here, and Ms. Shire’s unabashed enthusiasm for this movie is nothing short of completely charming.

    The second commentary features lead actor Bill Allen who gives an interesting talk about his experiences on the film. He starts by talking about the ‘flat land tricks’ that are featured in the film, how before this movie came along fans could really only get info on BMX scenes from BMX Magazine, how the film let Eddie Fiola make his name, where Allen is in the film and where a double is used (he admits that he didn’t know what he was doing at the time), how much he enjoyed working with Jack Weston due to his love of a certain Twilight Zone episode, working with Ray Walston and Hall Needham regular Alfie Wise, the importance of the Calgary locations to the success of the film, weaving some of the failed jumps and crashes into the storyline, how Needham asked the pro-BMX riders in the film to hold back to let him get ahead in certain scenes, how he accidently hit Lori Loughlin with a bike in one scene and more. Allen could have maybe used a moderator here to keep him going as he goes quiet form time to time but when he’s talking he’s quite amusing, demonstrating a great sense of humor and clearly enjoying relaying his experiences working on a film that was obviously an important step in his career.

    The third commentary is a group chat with Bill Allen, actor Bart Conner, writer Sam Bernard, and a host of BMX riders featured in the film - Eddie Fiola, Martin Aparijo, Jose Yanez and Jeremy Moser. It’s a very boisterous track with a lot of back talk and laughter but it’s obvious that these guys are having an absolute blast watching the film together. They talk about shooting the opening in California, who did the coolest tricks in the film and who invented some of them, how one of the supporting actors got slapped nine times before Needham instructed actress Marta Kober to ‘just hit him,’ what was improvised on the set during the shoot and how some of the stunts were accomplished (the riding over the logs scene is a good example), how it might have been ‘a bit nippy’ during the shooting of one scene, the wardrobe choices on display in the film, how cold it was going down the concrete waterslide in the film, how the takeaway from the film is that ‘Cru is a big cheater,’ how goofy it is to have ‘My Favorite Martion’ peering at people from the background of certain shots and lots, lots more. Again, it’s a very rowdy talk but it’s also frequently hilarious and quite informative.

    Moving on to the featurettes, “The Stuntman Directs” is an interview with stuntman/director, Hal Needham, which will be included as part of the upcoming Rad documentary. Here, over the span of sixteen-minutes, he talks about his experience as a stuntman and with motorcycles and race cars and how he was trepidatious about making a movie about BMX riding until he saw the sport firsthand and realized there was just as much skill involved as in motocross. He goes into some of the difficulties with the ramps and stunts used in the film as well as the impact of the film on bike racing and freestyling and its continued popularity.

    “Writing Something Rad” is a seventeen-minute interview with writer/co-producer, Sam Bernard. He talks about working with Hal Needham and his involvement in the story and writing for Rad. He reveals that this film wasn’t originally intended for such a young demographic but ended up being marketed as such and touches on the controversy of why Rad was never released on DVD.

    “Rad 25” invites viewers along to spend nine-minutes at the Rad 25th Anniversary Event in Calgary, AB, Canada. This convention brought together cast and crew from the film with fans from all over. Included is footage from an on-stage freestyling exhibition from the event.

    The “Cast And Crew Interviews” section includes twenty-five-minutes of interview clips with Bart Conner (actor, Bart Taylor), Sam Bernard (writer/co-producer), and BMX professionals, Eddie Fiola, Jeremy Moser, and Martin Aparijo. As an Olympic champion, Conner discusses his background in gymnastics and how it compares to the world of acting. He talks about meeting Shaq, who “loved [him] in that movie” and how he’s looking forward to sharing Rad with his son when he’s a little older. Fiola, Moser, and Aparijo talk about how they got involved in the film and their backgrounds in BMX racing. It’s nice to see how fondly everyone involved seems to look back on working together.

    There is also a pair of archival featurettes and interviews, five-minutes and eleven-minutes in length respectively, that offer us deeper insight into the making of the film and more with director, Hal Needham, and actors, Bart Conner, Lori Loughlin, and Bill Allen.

    Also included in the extras on this disc are a behind the scenes still gallery, a music video for the song ‘Break The Ice’ (performed by John Farnham) and the original theatrical trailer for Rad. Menus and chapter selection are also provided.

    Rad – The Final Word:

    Rad is a seriously fun nostalgia trip for eighties kids and BMX fanatics! It’s derivative, sure, but it’s a ridiculously entertaining blast from the past. Vinegar Syndrome gives the film a beautiful presentation on a disc positively stacked with extra features. That might not convince those not already enamored with the movie, but the film’s considerable fan base should consider this essential.

    Click on the images below for full-sized The Rad screen caps!

    Comments 12 Comments
    1. Scott's Avatar
      Scott -
      Love this movie to pieces. The soundtrack shares similarities with TRANSFORMERS: THE MOVIE and SAVAGE STREETS.
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      I haven't seen it in years, but I loved it when it came out. This and THRASHIN' were like my VHS bibles. We had a killer BMX track near my place, can't believe I didn't get more hurt on that thing. Truth be told, the only time I got badly injured was riding my bmx to school one morning, and I was carrying my Return of the Jedi lunchbox, which dropped into the path of my left knee, which threw me off balance while I was going wicked fast, and I managed to skid sideways on the pavement for about 40 feet; all right in front of the seniors at the school who gave me a standing ovation for my spectacular wipeout.
    1. VinceP's Avatar
      VinceP -
      Mark, this sounds epic. Wish I could have witnessed, hahaha.
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      It's funny, it happened 34 years ago and I still remember it vividly. Amazing that I didn't break anything, just lost 30 yards of skin.
    1. VinceP's Avatar
      VinceP -
      Did it make you cool with the seniors or were you ridiculed for the rest of your high school years?
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      I don't know...they all hung out in the smoking area, a scene I didn't make until 2 years later.
    1. funkvader's Avatar
      funkvader -
      I've been waiting for this one for ages.
    1. funkvader's Avatar
      funkvader -
      Lori Loughlin is going to have some time to watch this one.
    1. Newt Cox's Avatar
      Newt Cox -
      No mention of Robin Bougie being an extra in this film... SHame shame lol
    1. Alison Jane's Avatar
      Alison Jane -
      Next time it's released you can do the review for it.
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Stop Ian Jane From Reviewing Movies.
    1. Newt Cox's Avatar
      Newt Cox -
      My review would suck.

      Rad is Rad.I would watch it again.