Stripes (1981) from Tuna and Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Two thumbs up for the film in general, and a thumb up from Scoop for the new "extended cut" DVD as well.

Tuna's notes in white

Stripes (1981) is one of my favorite Bill Murray comedies.

Bill Murray and best bud Harold Ramis are going nowhere fast in life, and Murray talks Ramis into joining the Army with him. They are not ideal recruits in boot camp, and are in an entire company of equally inept would-be soldiers. They constantly run afoul of their training Sergeant, Warren Oates, but are befriended by female MP's, P.J. Soles and Sean Young. Somehow, they manage to pull off a showy precision drill at graduation, and that performance causes their platoon to be picked for a choice assignment in Italy. They are to test a heavily armed RV conversion, aka "Urban Assault Vehicle." Through a comedy of errors, they end up behind the Iron Curtain.

There are many laugh-out-loud situations, and great performances from the likes of John Candy, John Larroquette and Judge Reinhold.

It may mean more to someone who has been through basic training, but even if you can't tell boot camp from boot hill, comedy doesn't get a lot better than this.

Scoop's notes in yellow

Most of my comments relate specifically to the new "extended cut" DVD which was released in 2005. A lot of DVDs come out every year, and fewer than 5% of them are worth owning. The extended version of Stripes, however, is one of the exceptional winners. While I am normally unenthusiastic about so-called "special editions", I found this one to be everything I could reasonably expect from a re-release of an old film. I have a variety of reasons both logical and sentimental:

  • The director has assembled 18 minutes of additional footage, fully finished and scored. That is a tremendous plus for a film which is 25 years old. You can choose to watch the new extended version with the scenes integrated seamlessly or, if you prefer, you can watch the original version as you remember it, then see the six additional scenes in the special features.
  • One of the additional scenes features significant nudity from the sexy and cute P.J. Soles in a silly, funny sex scene with Bill Murray,
  • There is a new one-hour documentary which consists of interviews with just about all the principals who are still alive. There are some great reminiscences about the crusty veteran Warren Oates and that lovable Gargantuan rogue, John Candy.
    • Oates and Candy died of heart attacks. Oates died within two years of wrapping Stripes, aged 53. Candy, a three hundred pounder,  died in 1994, while still only 43. It is hard for me to believe he has been dead for ten years.
  • There is a full-length commentary by director Ivan Reitman.
  • The entire film has been mastered in high-definition.
  • It's a comedy classic to begin with, and brought back a lot of great memories for me.
  • The price is very reasonable.

I haven't watched the film since it first came out, and I was pleased to find that the first 75% of it is every bit as funny as I remembered. And the last quarter? I had mercifully forgotten that the excursion into Czechoslovakia is actually an extended action sequence, and provides neither much humor nor especially good action. In fact, the tone is actually rather dark, including scenes in which some members of the American platoon are tortured by the Russians. The essence of a "slobs versus snobs" comedy requires the underdogs to accomplish something unexpectedly heroic or triumphant at the end, but the process here was too drawn-out and too unfunny. After all, the film is a comedy, and the humor faucet was simply shut off for about fifteen minutes toward the end of the film.

Fortunately, the film has the requisite "feel good" wrap-up, and ends on a funny note in the final minute or two. That and the basic training portion of the film are good enough to assure its status as one of Bill Murray's most memorable comic vehicles.

I wish they still made films like this, unapologetic "guy comedies" with raunchy humor and raunchy nudity.

DVD Info

  • See the commentary above for a detailed list of the DVD features.



  • Early in the film, Murray's then-girlfriend Roberta Leighton is seen in nothing but panties as she gets dressed.
  • We see the WACs shower room, with several women naked including full-frontal nudity.
  • We see and lots of topless women in a club where John Candy takes on six girls in a mud wrestling contest.
  • In the deleted scenes, P.J. Soles is topless for an extended comedy/sex scene with Bill Murray.

The Critics Vote

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it  6.8/10, with no demographic group below 6.6.
  • with their dollars: US gross was $83.4m against a $10m budget.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a B- (both reviewers). We both like it; it is a critical favorite (see above); it has equal appeal across all age groups and both genders; and it was also a box office smash. Even those who don't like many comedies will probably enjoy this one, especially the basic training portion of the film.

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