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It seems like an odd time to bring out a special edition of the 1984 comedy Revenge of the Nerds. The 25th anniversary is still two years away and calling it “The Panty Raid Edition” says nothing, especially since none of the new extras relate to the panty raid scene in any way. It would have been more truthful to call this the “Fox Needs a Few Bucks Edition.”
The back of the DVD cover for Revenge of the Nerds (The Panty Raid Edition) states that this is the “frat boy comedy that started it all!” That is, of course, true if you ignore three or four other earlier movies including the one that probably did start it all, Animal House. Nerds not only followed the John Belushi classic but also other similar early 80’s comedy flicks like Porky’s and Fast Times at Ridgemont High. The latter two were set in high school but covered much of the same horn-dog outcast ground tread by their college-age brethren.
Despite some comments by the director and actors to the contrary, Revenge of the Nerds follows a formula that even in 1984 was well developed; lots of T&A, outrageous jokes and pranks, and a put-upon band of losers taking revenge against the upper-class/star athlete/beautiful people who have been putting them down for the entire movie. Even though it’s not exactly original it works well with sympathetic performances by Robert Caradine and Anthony Edwards as the lead nerds, and Curtis Armstrong, Larry B. Scott, and Timothy Busfield providing funny turns as their rag-tag band.
The movie doesn’t always work to the height of Animal House, but watching it in 2007 is in some ways a real time warp. In 1984 teen comedies it was pretty acceptable to set up some very broad stereotypes. The gay guy is, as Homer Simpson would say, Faaaaaa-laaaaaaa-mmming. One of the nerds is named Poindexter. Most have coke bottle glasses with tape in the middle. The one Asian character wouldn’t be out of place in one those WWII era Bugs Bunny shorts. It all comes across as pretty funny and the affection shown by the characters to each other (they are pretty accepting of anyone, in contrast to the campus elite) keeps everything from being mean-spirited.
In the end, the popularity of this movie remains a bit of a mystery. It’s not really the first time nerds and outcasts come together to win the day and get the girl. While there are some funny lines, it’s not as laugh out loud as a few other early 80’s offerings. But it does have a lot of heart, good performances, and more than enough pranks and hijinks to satisfy. If you’ve never seen it unedited and uncut, this might be a good time to check it out.
As noted above, the designation of this as the “Panty Raid Edition” doesn’t really describe or differentiate this from previous Revenge of the Nerds releases. But it could be viewed as the “Extras Edition,” since previous releases have nothing in terms of typical DVD extras. This version has a nice, if not exceptional, selection.
There is a 35 minute new featurette called “I’m A Nerd, And I’m Pretty Proud of It.” The extra includes interviews with Director Jeff Kanew and actors Caradine, Armstrong, Busfield, Ted McGinley, Larry B. Scott, and Julia Montgomery. The only major contributor not heard from is Anthony Edwards who was either too big to be bothered (he could be considered the only one with a current serious acting career) or unavailable.
The information provided in the featurette is pretty substantial. Kanew states that he almost didn’t get the assignment until he told the studio that he would make a movie “that I’d be ashamed to put my name on.” Scott seems determined that despite his characters predilection, he spent as much time as he could nailing co-eds, giving the camera a significant look as if to say “I’m sure NOT gay!” While all the participants reveal a lot about what went on during the location shoot at the University of Arizona, it sounds at times like no one has watched the movie in awhile. Caradine says the movie would probably be a PG-13 these days until Armstrong notes that his character says the “f word” about 30 times and there is full frontal nudity.
In addition to the featurette, the disc includes a trailer, the trailer for the one theatrical released sequel (the other two were TV movies), and six deleted scenes. There is also a full pilot for a planned “Revenge of the Nerds” television show. The show itself isn’t great, although it certainly doesn’t seem worse than “The Facts of Life” or “Different Strokes” or any other show on television in the mid-1980’s. It does give a view of one of the unsung acting talents of this or any generation. Robbie Rist plays the character of Booger, but you probably remember him as the much-maligned Cousin Oliver on the final year of “The Brady Bunch.” I couldn’t find any additional info about a TV show spin-off, so it looks like this show was never picked-up.
Kanew, Caradine, Armstrong, and Busfield provide an audio commentary that picks up where the featurette leaves off. There are lots of reminiscing about the shoot and appreciation for the work of the other actors. They also seem to sit and watch the action for quite awhile at times, but Kanew does have a lot of interesting comments, especially about what was in the original script compared to the final film.
The non-technically demanding look of the film benefits from a new release, especially if your recent experience has been a washed-out and edited version on Comedy Central. While the timing for this disc still seems weird, it is a fun film that holds up pretty well as an example of early 1980’s comedy.
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