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Revenge of the Nerds: Panty Raid Edition

Revenge of the Nerds (1984) is no masterpiece, but it is perhaps the best example of the adolescent titty movies that were popular in the early '80s. Mixing the ingredients of 1978's National Lampoon's Animal House (which more or less proved the bankability of slob vs. snob hijinks) and Porky's (1981) (a mix of sexcapades and revenge plotting), Nerds quickly emerged as a box-office smash — which surprised a lot of folks, including Twentieth Century Fox, who reportedly funded it as a write-off after the huge success of Return of the Jedi the previous year. Louis (Robert Carradine) and Gilbert (Anthony Edwards) are our two leading-men nerds, who enroll at Adams College to study computer science. But when the Alpha Beta frat-boys (a group who doubles as the Adams U. football squad) burns their fraternity house down after partying too hard, the college allocates the freshman dorms to them for living quarters, leaving the freshmen — and our heroes — sleeping in the school gym. Eventually the only people left in the gym because they can't get into a frat (or get anyone to rent them a room, for that matter) is an assortment of nerds, including Lewis, Gilbert, the slovenly Booger (Curtis Armstrong), ultra-geek violinist Poindexter (Timothy Busfield), 13-year old math prodigy Wormser (Andrew Cassese), Japanese exchange student Takashi (Brian Tochi), and the very gay Lamar (Larry B. Scott). Eventually the nerds find a house to fix up, and then they manage to establish themselves as the Adams U. chapter of Lambda Lambda Lamdba (an African American frat), thanks to the president, U.N. Jefferson (Bernie Kosar), who accepts them after some reluctance — after all, nerds are a minority, too. But the Alpha Betas hate nerds, and always will. The two factions stage running-gun battles over the course of the film, which leads to laughs — and panty-raids (but surprisingly for a film of the era and genre, there is no strip club scene). It's a familiar set-up, and thankfully Nerds is funny and rude in all the ways college-prank movies should be, even if we can't ignore the fact that the nerds will eventually make more money on stock-options alone than any of the brain-dead jocks will ever see. Don't miss early appearances from John Goodman as Coach Harris and James Cromwell as Louis's dad.

*          *          *

Fox's Revenge of the Nerds: Panty Raid Edition updates the previous bare-bones DVD release with the sort of retrospective special edition it deserves. The film looks pleasant enough in a solid anamorphic transfer (1.85:1), although the DD 2.0 Stereo audio sounds a bit thin at points — the presentation would have benefited from a Dolby Digital 5.1 remix (a mono track also is on hand). The best supplement is "I'm a Nerd, and I'm Pretty Proud of It," a 38-min. look back at the making of Nerds with director Jeff Kanew and most of the principal cast (Anthony Edwards is the one notable absence). Also included is a group commentary featuring Kanew and stars Robert Carradine, Timothy Busfield, and Curtis Armstrong — the quartet offers several behind-the-scenes recollections, although they also trail off at several points, giving one the impression that they haven't seen the movie for a while. Six deleted scenes (with a "play all" option) reveal judicious cutting on someone's part, seeming at times to be from different movies entirely. And the TV pilot for a "Revenge of the Nerds" series is so terrible that it's actually painful to watch, essentially coming across as a 22-min. interpretation of the feature film as done by a high-school drama department. Trailers for Nerds (narrated by Orson Welles!) and Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise complete the extras. Should we be disappointed that this DVD edition does not include the 1987 sequel, as the first DVD release did? Perhaps not, although that and two more Nerds films made for TV in the '90s fill out Fox's Atomic Wedgie Collection box-set. We're betting most folks will be happy with this. Keep-case.
—DSH



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