Dazed and Confused: Criterion Collection (Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray)

The adventures of high school and junior high students on the last day of school in May 1976.

March 8, 2023 9 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Every so often a movie comes around with a somewhat unknown cast and then something happens. A star is born! And then two! And before you know it, this movie is known as “the one” which was a veritable launching pad for a new slew of Hollywood stars and starlets. “American Graffiti” was that movie for the 70’s, featuring the likes of Harrison Ford, Ron Howard and Richard Dreyfuss. “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” was that movie for the 80’s with Forrest Whittacker, Sean Penn, Eric Stoltz and Phoebe Cates. And wouldn’t you know it, “Dazed and Confused” was that movie for the 90’s. “Dazed and Confused” featured a cast of then fairly unknowns and the two biggest stars: Matthew McConaughey and Ben Affleck had some fairly big parts. Jason London, Adam Goldberg, Parker Posey and Milla Jovovich also have supporting roles and have all found a degree of success since this movie came out. Director Richard Linklater wrote the screenplay and it plays a lot like his earlier “Slacker”, albeit with a more liner plot. So what’s so great about this movie which made it land on critics’ Top Ten lists (back in 1993)? Read on and find out.

It’s the last day of school in 1976 and we follow the lives of several students as they get ready for their Summer before their Senior year. Parties are planned and the ritualistic hazing of the Freshman is about to begin. Randall “Pink” Floyd (Jason London) is the school’s All-Star quarterback who has found a new group of friends. He’s torn between being a jock and being a stoner. As we meet the group of people that compose the movie we see that they range between the nerdy (Mike and Tony) to the utterly useless (Slater). Now earlier I mentioned that this had a more linear plot than “Slacker”, but it’s not a liner story per se. We essentially follow about twenty different people during one night of the year. Like “Slacker”, the movie will often go off on a tangent and concentrate on a new group of people. The “Emporium” is the central focus of the story; it’s the main place for everyone to hang out and for the freshman to recuperate after being beaten by the seniors. It’s also the place where we see perhaps the greatest character in modern film: David Wooderson (Matthew McConaughey), words simply can’t do this man justice and I’ll leave it at that.

“Dazed and Confused” is one of those movies that’s really hard to put into words (as you’ve no doubt noticed), it’s an ensemble piece that has held up very well through the last dozen years. The cast is stellar and it’s a real testament to Richard Linklater, who is still producing some of the more interesting and creative movies out there (we’ll discount “The Newton Boys”). Linklater is a native Texan and was right at home here and I’d have to say that this features one of the best assortments of 70’s songs out there. If you’re one of the few that haven’t seen this movie, make it a point to do so.

Video: How does it look?

“Dazed and Confused” has had so many incarnations on disc format it’s hard to keep up with them all. It’s been over a decade since the release of this title on Blu-ray (to the Criterion Collection) and now with the help of Director Richard Linklater, we get a stunning new 4K image. The 1.85:1 HEVC 4K transfer is certainly a noticeably a better-looking transfer than the Blu-ray. Director Richard Linklater personally supervised this transfer and Criterion has done another fine job. Colors seem a bit richer as compared to the Universal version and I noticed a tad bit more depth as well. Granted there is still a layer of grain around the whole movie, but it’s the way it was meant to be seen. It’s as if on some minute level, a knob was turned and everything is finally in place, visually-speaking.

Audio: How does it sound?

You can do more visually than you can with the audio, so with that being said the DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack sounds about on par with the recent Universal Blu-ray. Anyone who’s seen the movie knows that it’s loaded with songs from the 1970’s and it was enough to warrant not one, but two soundtracks. Dialogue is a bit on the soft side at times, but thankfully we hear every line of Wooderson’s insightful comments with no distortion. The rear surrounds were very active and several of the scenes really do benefit from the songs chosen (such as when the initial hazing occurs – could there be anything but “No More Mr. Nice Guy” playing in the background?).

Supplements: What are the extras?

Disc One (4K)

There are no supplements on this disc

Disc Two (Blu-ray)

If you already own the Criterion Blu-ray then you already own half of this new set. The second disc is just that – the previously-released Blu-ray throw into this set and that’s where all the features reside.

  • Audio Commentary – Linklater is very candid with his comments, he was a younger filmmaker at the time and acknowledges that. He comments on the cast and crew and naturally the success that a majority of them have had since the film.
  • Deleted Scenes – Nearly a half hour of 17 deleted scenes are included, and while nothing mind-blowing we do get to see more of Ben Affleck’s infamous character.
  • Making Dazed – a 50 minute documentary of the movie shot by Kahane Corn. It brings new life into what the story was trying to tell. It’s interesting and certainly a good watch for true fans of the movie.
  • Auditions – Nearly 25 minutes of auditions that can be played as a whole or individually. Included are Michelle Burke, Rory Cochrane, Adam Goldberg, Cole Hauser, Christin Hinojosa, Nicky Katt, Jason London, Deena Martin, Matthew McConaughey, Anthony Rapp, Marissa Ribisi, and Wiley Wiggins.
  • Beer Bust at the Moontower – A two hour documentary that’s about the most all-encompassing look at the film. Heck, the documentary is longer than the movie itself. It’s divided into three sections: Character Interviews, Cast and Crew and Behind the Scenes Footage. Odds are that if you’re a fan of this movie, you’ve seen this but it’s nice to have nonetheless.
  • Theatrical TrailerĀ 
  • Illustrated Booklet – The obligatory illustrated booklet with essays by Kent Jones, Jim DeRogatis, and Chuck Klosterman along with some production photos from the film.

The Bottom Line

More time has passed since the release of this film than when it was released and the events depicted within. That being said, this is a modern classic that’s withstood the test of time. Criterion’s Blu-ray from a decade ago is the backbone of this set, but the real treat is the new 4K disc that gives us the best-looking picture we’ve seen. And who wouldn’t want to see Matthew McConaughey’s “Wooderson” looking his best?

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