Baby Houseman (Jennifer Grey) and her family take a summer vacation to Kellerman’s Mansion House, a resort for the wealthy, in 1963. Her innocence is unparalleled but she’s incredibly good-hearted as she seeks to separate herself from the well to do stuck up people around her. She’s drawn to the more down to earth people and finds the “dance people” who work to entertain the rich folk, like herself.
In an effort to fit in, she finds a way to help one of the beautiful struggling young dancers, Penny (Cynthia Rhodes), but the only way she can is by filling in for her big dance with Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze), the hot dance man on campus. Since Baby has no idea how to do the mambo, she has to be taken under Johnny’s wing. Johnny isn’t all that keen on teaching her the new moves, but nevertheless he wants to help his friend, Penny.
Everyone knows what happens next: Johnny and Baby predictably fall for each other even though they come from completely different backgrounds. No shockers really, as this story has been used over and over since the dawn of time with the exception of the little details.
The last time I saw this movie in its entirety, I was probably 10. I can’t believe I was allowed to watch this movie! I watched it over and over with my mom when I was just a tiny 4 year old. Most of the adult content was entirely beyond me, and I only just realized recently why Baby had to help Penny. Certainly the deep controversial issues and challenging of sex roles that are still controversial today provides some explanation as to why people are still intrigued with this seemingly cliche love story. It really has a lot more depth when you scratch just below the surface.
Besides the adult content that I shouldn’t have been watching, the dancing is ridiculously sexual and there are even some scenes that involve Jennifer Gray and Cynthia Rhodes dancing with each other that are super sexually charged. Let me paint a picture: both women wearing high heels, fishnet stockings, underwear and tight shirts, gazing sweetly into each others eyes as they dance and Patrick Swayze’s character watches from behind. As if dressing like a slizzle and practically having lesbian sex while dancing is all a part of “learning the mambo.” The sexuality was clearly used as a cheap device, but it was the 80's and everyone was doing it. Keep in mind that realism wasn't the norm for film genres like it is today.
Other than the boosted sexuality that I seemed to miss out on as a little girl (thankfully), the character development of Baby is really what makes Dirty Dancing so successful. Jennifer Grey was so perfect at playing the awkward, ambitious young woman who’s totally into trying to escape her class and connect with real people. And, of course, Patrick Swayze will never ever be forgotten with his classic portrayal of Johnny Castle, the great guy who gets a bad rap because he’s basically too cool for the squares around him. I don’t care what you say about this film, Dirty Dancing is a timeless classic that will always be close to my heart.
This movie is not anywhere near a remake, sequel, prequel, or entirely fictitious storyline like the previously summarized, Dirty Dancing. Dirty Dancing: Havanna Nights, is loosely based on a real story of the choreographer/co-producer, JoAnn Fregalette Jansen’s experience in Cuba when her family moved there right before the revolution. This is shocking to me because I had no idea the time frame this took place or what it was about other than a retelling of the original. The film does have pretty big similarities to Dirty Dancing as the plot has the same formula in Havana Nights. I’m assuming this is why they named it after the original.
I’ll give you a quick rundown: Katey Miller (Romola Garai) and her parents and sister move to Havana in 1958. The very wealthy family lives in extreme luxury but Katey is drawn to a poor local named Javier (Diego Luna) who dances salsa wonderfully. Trying to be cool, she hangs out with him and ends up getting him fired from his waiting job in the hotel her family is staying at. Now the plot thickens as Katey encourages Javier to try out for a dance competition to get him out of his slum. And who should he dance with? Katey of course! Even though she’s a horrible dancer, the film now has the opportunity to show us countless boring minutes of Katey and Javier practicing dirty dancing and super under age individuals getting romantic with each other. Blah.
While this is a totally different setting than the original, Havanna Nights is ultra formulaic and boring. It’s been done before, and it didn’t need to be done practically the same again. Yes, it has the element of being “based on true events,” but that’s not to say the story has anything to offer other than a sappy underage love story of two people divided by socioeconomic class.
One cool part about this film is getting to see young January Jones as a snotty stuck up teenager, and John Slattery as Katey’s father. Both of these Madmen stars have come a long way from Havanna Nights and that certainly makes me happy. Other than that, the acting isn’t all that spectacular, Garai does a shotty job covering up her accent and I just can’t see how this movie had any success. Maybe some people like it, but it’s definitely not something I ever want to see again.
The presentation of Dirty Dancing comes in a 1080p AVC encoded transfer with a brand new widescreen aspect ratio of 1.78:1. I’ve never been more pleased with a transfer to blu-ray from the 1980‘s, a time when movies typically looked horribly dark and dirty and are unfortunately not the best transfers to Blu-ray either. I noticed right away that the colors were more vibrant than ever before. The colors are supported by a spectacular amount of detail as you can see every little thing you never even imagined existed prior to this clean-up job. One scene where Baby wears a fuzzy shirt you can see every little fuzz and those 80s hairdos stick out all over the place with frizz I never noticed before. Probably the most impressive aspect is the fact that the backgrounds look so beautiful, which is important because the places the film was shot involve a lot of gorgeous outdoor scenes. Sometimes you'll notice old films will be cleaned up nicely but they still have a fair amount of dirt or distractions, that’s not even the case here as the few scratches will probably go unnoticed. I wish every classic film was given this amount of attention.
The English 7.1 DTS-HD audio compliments the film pretty great. The famous soundtrack has been overplayed on too many cassette tapes that can still be found in every unwanted stack of tapes in America, so you know this film needed to have excellent audio. And Lionsgate doesn’t fail to disappoint here either with a great audio transfer. The music is the key to this film and each and every track was given so much love, with not a trace of distortion anywhere. The sub woofer added a nice touch and boomed in just the right places with the music. With so much music, there’s plenty of moments when dialogue occurs at the same time, but fortunately the two don’t have to compete with each other. The center channel brings the dialogue forward strong and full of life. The rear speakers lend themselves well to ambience of birds chirping, or simply adding depth to the infamous music. Overall this is an incredible audio transfer to Blu-ray.
This 2004 Blu-ray transfer of Havana Nights, like its predecessor, is also presented in 1080p courtesy an AVC encode. It’s clear that this film was just added to the combo to increase the value of Dirty Dancing by making it a combo pack. Basically, what we have on Havana Nights is an average transfer that has decent colors, slightly muted to represent the early 60’s displayed in a clear image. The grain is persistent and you won’t find much in the way of distractions. My one major complaint is that I think the hazy atmospheres of night club scenes was a little too much and it offset the overall quality of the film’s presentation. Other than that, it’s just a run of the mill 2004 Blu-ray film that looks decent but not fantastic.
The English 7.1 DTS-HD audio on board Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, compliments the video quality nicely. The dialogue is very cleanly heard coming through the center channel, and the music is strong but not overpowering. Just like the original, the makers of this film tried to tie together present day popular music with the original time period’s music. I absolutely can’t stand the music they chose to do this because I don’t think it fit well with the Cuban inspired dance moves, and I think it just didn’t fit with the general feel of the movie. This is a matter of opinion though so I’ll keep the technicalities the focus when I say the audio came together decent overall.
No these aren't all high-def extra features, but who cares? They look great upconverted and the ridiculous amount of extra features on both discs are enough to keep you entertained for an entire day if you count the fact that each film is really an "extra" to the other for the low low price you can find this combo at. Dirty Dancing deserves every little bit of special treatment it gets and I think the disc with it on there does a spectacular job squeezing every bit of info out that the fans want to see.
Dirty Dancing: Havanna Nights:
With a phenomenal Blu-ray transfer for an 1987 film, a spectacular display of extra features, and a bonus movie that may be pretty terrible, but nevertheless included, what is there to worry about with a full out purchase? No, Dirty Dancing is not for everyone (ahem, men), but it's at such a good price, stars a recently deceased awesome actor in his prime, is risque, and contains two movies with a load of bonus features. Dirty Dancing: 2-Film Collection is a clear keeper by definition.