Walter Hill was a riding high in the early ’80s as a filmmaker. He wrapped up the 70’s with the double feat of producing the iconic Alien and directing the controversial The Warriors. He made the massive guy flicks The Long Riders and Southern Comfort. Then he captured the buddy cop magic of Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy in 48 Hrs. Which led Hill to be able to be a massive force in Hollywood. He laid all his chips on the table to create Streets of Fire. This mix of action, romance and music was “A Rock and Roll Fable” although it seemed based off one of thos Greek myths about a man who has to go into Hades to retrieve a kidnapped beauty.
Deep in a mythical world where everyone is a teenager or in their 20s lurks a glorious theater where rock and roll controls the ’50s style landscape. Ellen Aim (Rumble Fish‘s Diane Lane) and her band take the stage to a packed house. Little does she know that there will be no encore that evening because a diabolical biker gang led by Raven Shaddock (Platoon‘s Willem Dafoe) bust into the place. There’s fights all over the place ending with Raven kidnapping Ellen. He take her back to his brutish side of the city. Ellen’s manager (and currently lover) Billy Fish (Rick Moranis) seems inept at rescuing his star. Is she doomed? A nearby café owner Reva Cody (The Warriors‘ Deborah Van Valkenburgh) contacts her brother Tom (Eddie and the Cruisers‘ Michael Paré) to help out. Besides being a major badass, Tom also used to date Ellen. He arrives in town and immediately puts down a gang of jerks and takes their car. He ultimately takes a fee for going into the Hell of the Bombers to retrieve Ellen. He brings along an ex-solider (Amy Madigan) and Fish on what might be a suicide mission. Can they save Ellen and restore rock and roll to the theater?
Streets of Fire remains an exciting stylistic film. A lot of the credit goes to the cast who push their characters up a notch. Michael Paré should have been a larger action hero in the Planet Hollywood era. He looks and moves with gruff grace. Dafoe is so wicked in his first major screen role. When him and Pare battled with hammers at the end, it’s an anybody can win feeling. Lee Ving conquerors the screen as Dafoe’s toady. The lead singer of the punk band Fear looks natural in the Hellish biker world. He should have been cast as a Bond villain’s henchman after this performance. There’s quite a few notable faces in minor roles including Bill Paxton as a bartender and Ed Begley, Jr. as a shadowy figure. Cinematographer Andrew Laszlo pushes the urban framing and lighting beyond his work in The Warriors. The Blu-ray really brings out the special touches.
The fact that Streets of Fire wasn’t a a major success during its theatrical release is a bit of a shock. Mainly because the videos played for months on MTV, it felt like blockbuster on a Flashdance level. It seemed like every hour Martha Quinn introduced “”I Can Dream About You.” Of course in 1984, there wasn’t a daily fixation on box office unless you subscribed to Daily Variety. You didn’t log onto internet to get the latest news. Streets of Fire‘s budget of $14 million was met by box office returns of $8 million. But the film didn’t get a Heaven’s Gate reputation since Universal must have recouped the difference in soundtrack sales (Universal owned MCA records) and that brand new world of home video that was taking off with the VCR revolution.
Streets of Fire is a rock and roll film that rocks even during the non-musical numbers. The film doesn’t slow down over the course of 93 minutes. This was the peak of Walter Hill’s creative hot streak since next up was Brewster’s Millions with Richard Pryor and John Candy which the director admitted he made for his own millions. The best part about this Collector’s Edition is that Hill was not allowed to create a director’s cut. His mangling of The Warriors is a cinematic sin. He got Streets of Fire right the first time in the editing suite and the Blu-ray delivers the goods.
The videos is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The transfer brings out ever cool lighting trick used in the production. If your memory of Streets of Fire is an old VHS tape, you need to upgrade. The audio is DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix that lets the motorcycles swirl around you. There’s also the original stereo mix for traditionalist. The movie is subtitled.
HOTGUNS & SIX STRINGS: The Making Of A Rock N Roll Fable (100:23) is a documentary that’s longer than the actual film. Among those interviewed as nearly element is explored is Walter Hill, Producer Lawrence Gordon, Actors Michael Paré, Deborah Van Valkenburgh, Richard Lawson, Elizabeth Daily, Lee Ving, Screenwriter Larry Gross, Editor Freeman Davies, Associate Producer Mae Woods, Art Director James Allen, Costume Designer Marilyn Vance, Assistant Director David Sosna, Choreographer Jeffrey Hornaday, Sound Editor Richard Anderson, and music producer Kenny Vance. The film breaks down how Walter Hill and Larry Gross worked on Streets during production of 48 Hours. Hill wanted it to have a comic book feel along with retro ’50s. There are tales of how they had to cover an entire studio backlot so they could shoot in darkness without working only at night.
RUMBLE ON THE LOT: Walter Hill’s Streets Of Fire Revisited (82:29) is another feature-length documentary features interviews with Walter Hill, Michael Paré, Amy Madigan and art director James Allen. Hill admits that Streets of Fire is one of his few films based off romantic love since there was very little romance in The Warriors and 48 Hours. Paré admits it was a wonderful experience. Hill wanted to get back into the world of The Warriors.
Vintage Featurettes (10:43) includes Rock And Roll Fable, Exaggerated Realism, Choreographing The Crowd, Creating The Costumes and From The Ground Up. These quickie clips set up everything from how Jimmy Iovine to Hill wanting to create a new cinema style known as Exaggerated Realism. Cinematographer Andy Laszlo gets a bit of screen time to explain his style.
Music Videos (8:39) includes Fire Inc.’s “Tonight Is What It Means to Be Young” and Dan Hartman’s Dan Hartman’s “I Can Dream About You.” The secret to Dan Hartman’s video is that it didn’t feature Dan singing, but Stoney Jackson and the Sorels singing. This was a Milli Vanilli momement as the song hit the Top 10. Really wish I could see Martha Quinn introducing the videos.
Theatrical Trailer (2:25) promises a world where rock and rock is king and the only law is a gun. The trailer does show the energy in the film. Strange that it wasn’t a massive hit.
On Air Promos (13:12) are from the electronic media kit. The promo stresses that the cast is so young. They also show off the Chicago-esque backlot that was built for Hill.
Still Gallery has dozens of shots from the production and promotion.
Shout Select presents Streets of Fire: Collector’s Edition. Directed by: Walter Hill. Screenplay by: Walter Hill & Larry Gross. Starring: Michael Paré, Diane Lane, Rick Moranis, Amy Madigan and Lee Ving. Boxset Contents: 1 movie and 2 Blu-ray discs. Released: May 16, 2017.
Tags: Shout! Factory, Streets of Fire