Blu-Ray Review: Fast Times at Ridgemont High

Stacy and Linda at work

Nowadays, the teen coming-of-age comedy is almost part of the cinematic furniture. However, this has not always been the case. They exploded in popularity around the turn of the century with the likes of American Pie, Superbad, Clueless and Mean Girls becoming firm favourites for several generations of cinemagoers. Back at the beginning of the 1980s, a young journalist, Cameron Crowe, went undercover in a San Diego high school, writing a book about his experiences. Fast Times at Ridgemont High was adapted into one of the most unlikely sleeper hits of the decade.

Stacy Hamilton (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is a 15-year-old sophomore eager to lose her virginity as soon as possible. Whilst her brother Brad (Judge Reinhold) is determined to make the most of his senior year by splitting up with his girlfriend and playing the field. Rat (Brian Backer) is working part-time as an usher and dreaming of love whilst Mike (Robert Romanus) always has multiple scams on the go. Meanwhile, Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn) dreams of becoming a surfing champion.

The reason why Fast Times at Ridgemont High works so well is that nestled in amongst the madness are elements of the truth. That and an incredibly talented (then largely unknown) young cast who revel in Crowe’s impressive script. Amy Heckerling’s film is colourful, lively and light but there are also more serious subjects tackled amidst the comedy. In many ways, Fast Times at Ridgemont High defined a generation of young Americans, excited about the future and what life may hold for them.  

Special edition features:

  • New, restored 4K digital transfer, supervised by director Amy Heckerling, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Audio commentary from 1999 featuring Heckerling and screenwriter Cameron Crowe
  • Television version of the film from the eighties, featuring deleted and alternate scenes
  • New conversation with Heckerling and Crowe, moderated by filmmaker Olivia Wilde
  • Reliving Our “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” a 1999 documentary featuring interviews with cast and crew
  • Audio discussion from 1982 with Heckerling at the American Film Institute
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • PLUS: An essay by film critic Dana Stevens and, for the Blu-ray edition, a new introduction by Crowe
  • New cover by F. Ron Miller

Fast Times at Ridgemont High is released on Blu-Ray by the Criterion Collection on 17 May.

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