5-25-77 (2022) – Blu-ray Review


Directed by Patrick Read Johnson.
Starring John Francis Daley, Austin Pendleton, Colleen Camp, Neil Flynn, Emmi Chen, Steven Coulter and Justin Mentell.


5/25/77, Patrick Read Johnson’s autobiographical love letter to growing up in the cinema of the late ’60s and ’70s, has finally been officially released. It took him nearly 20 years to make the film, amid various delays, and it’s now available on Blu-ray in an edition that includes an AC commentary track, three picture galleries, and a post-screening Q&A from 2013.

I remember hearing about it 5/25/77 back and forth over the years, and I’ll admit that until I received this Blu-ray for review, I thought it had been released at some point. Little did I know until I read it online that the film took over 20 years to see the light of day in its final form.

The film is an autobiographical narrative of director/writer Patrick Read Johnson’s key childhood and high school years while growing up in a small town in Illinois. Played by John Francis Daley of freaks and geeks Fame portrays Johnson as a sympathetic nerd whose small circle of friends support his endeavors as an amateur filmmaker, including a sequel Jawwhile the top jock at her school eyed him for a pummeling from time to time.

Growing up in the 1970’s, I can attest that guys like Johnson really did get noticed like sore thumbs back then, especially before that war of stars‘ momentous release of 1977. Johnson loves 2001: A Space Odysseyfor example, and dreams of one day meeting special effects genius Douglas Trumbull, a wish his friends don’t really understand.

Neither do his siblings, who mostly go along with his ideas, such as finding a way to hang his little brother from the basement ceiling so he looks like he’s floating in space. Unfortunately, his father abandoned the family during Johnson’s childhood, and his mother is the one who has to deal with events like Johnson’s swimming pool filter clogging with fake blood and guts as part of his pine 2 Production.

However, his mother cherishes his dreams and ends up calling Herb Lightman, the editor of American cameraman magazine and a friend of Trumbull and other special effects guys. This leads to a cathartic trip to California, where Johnson witnesses special effects Close Encounters of the Third Kind and war of stars into action and meets its hero Trumbull, a very wired Industrial Light and Magic boss John Dysktra and even a very young Steven Spielberg. He ends up becoming the first outsider to watch early war of stars Footage that cements his anticipation of the film and makes him want not just his friends but his entire school to see it on May 25, 1977.

Johnson and his crew did an excellent job of recreating the 70’s era and capturing the movie people of that era, other than Spielberg. The actor who plays the famous director looks like a teenage version of Spielberg and not the guy who just turned 30. He doesn’t sound like him at all either, which further hampered my disbelief.

And clock in at 132 minutes, 5/25/77 feels a bit bloated. It probably could have been shortened a bit, especially some of the special effects-laden sequences that give us a glimpse into Johnson’s mind, but get a little boring after a while. The opening credits are also a bit tedious. I wanted to say, “I know, I get it, you showed who this guy is. Let’s pick up the pace a bit here.”

These are minor quibbles, however, for a film that is not only a love letter to that era and the freaks and geeks who inhabited it, but also a coming-of-age tale about Johnson falling in love with a girl named Arthur C. Clarke reads 2001: A Space Odyssey Roman in the school canteen. He falls deeply in love with her and envisions a future where she accompanies him to Hollywood as he tries to fulfill his dreams, but she doesn’t entirely agree, creating an emotionally complex situation typical of many teenage romances is.

It’s a shame some of the people involved in this film didn’t get to see the final version, including producer Gary Kurtz (American graffiti, war of stars, The Empire Strikes Back), the real Herb Lightman and others. I imagine they could at least see an early cut, so at least there’s that.

In fact, in the 54-minute Q&A on this Blu-ray disc, Johnson confirms that Lightman, at least, was able to do it. It’s from a screening of the film in 2013, before all the special effects were done and even before the music rights were settled. (Don’t tell ASCAP!) Johnson tells many stories about the making of the film, including how close it is to reality (short version: very close, but liberties were taken with the timeline to fit it into a film narrative).

Johnson also has the opportunity to delve deep into the film’s story in the commentary track that is included AV team Founder Seth Gaven leads a screen-specific discussion. Given the film’s extraordinarily long production history, Johnson has ample opportunity to talk about when certain sequences were shot and why. Fun fact: The opening shot was actually the very last one filmed (a week before the commentary was recorded, according to Johnson).

For some reason the commentary track is in the setup menu so check it there before assuming the packaging is wrong like I did at first. Finally, we have a trio of photo galleries: cast and crew and behind-the-scenes pictures, exterior shots, and model photography.

Flickering Myth Rating – Movies: ★★★★ / Movie: ★★★★

brad cook



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