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Romancing the Stone: Special Edition

During the early 1980s Hollywood spent its summers cavorting in the milk-and-honey of the Star Wars-inspired blockbuster mania. Suddenly, every sunny season was ripe with contenders for $100 million-plus box office lotteries, and the summer of 1984 was full of resounding success stories. But where champions like Ghostbusters, Beverly Hills Cop, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and Gremlins were expected to compete for every young male's moviegoing dollar, one of the season's surprise sleeper hits brilliantly engineered an action-adventure chick flick, injecting the rollicking spirit of the Indiana Jones franchise with a serious dosage of estrogen. Kathleen Turner stars in Romancing the Stone as successful romance novelist Joan Wilder, who spins sexy tales of exotic love and deadly peril, but has little to tell of real-life romance or excitement. Mousy and withdrawn, Joan's safe and introverted life is thrown into chaos when her brother-in-law mails her a Colombian treasure map shortly before his murder. Joan's sister is kidnapped by bumbling bandits (Danny DeVito and Zack Norman) after the same booty, and Joan is ordered out of her Manhattan cocoon to hand-deliver the map to Colombia and free her sister. Upon landing in Colombia, Joan finds herself stranded in the middle of nowhere and cornered by the sinister military renegade (Manuel Ojeda) who killed her sister's husband, but is providentially rescued when American bird-trapper Jack Colton (Michael Douglas, who also produced) happens upon the scene and fights off her attacker. Desperate for money, Jack agrees to deliver Joan to her destination for a fee, but when he discovers the sought-after map, he convinces Joan to pursue the treasure itself as leverage to rescue her sister. At first Joan despises Jack's shameless opportunism and disregard for the valorous principles of the heroes she writes about, but she is just the same swept away by his charm and mystery, and she discovers for once the breathless romance — and resources of inner-strength — exemplified by her famous fictional heroines. Directed by Robert Zemeckis, Romancing the Stone is almost perfectly paced and shot, skipping through the series of gratuitous contrivances the make up its plot with so much grace and spirit that its handicaps never slow it down. Turner and Douglas are excellent together, and their chemistry is so radiant that one can hardly imagine this pair failing to make movie magic (a fantasy easily deflated, however, by the lousy sequel, The Jewel of the Nile). DeVito is also perfect as the sleazy, incompetent thief Ralph. Even though the script was considerably doctored, screenwriter Diane Thomas was responsible for the unique feminine perspective on the adventure genre that made her only movie (she died the next year) an original crowd-pleaser during one of Hollywood's most action-packed summers. Also with Alfonso Arau and Holland Taylor. Fox's Special Edition of Romancing the Stone is presented in a good anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with Dolby 2.0 Surround audio. The disc also includes 20 minutes of "deleted scenes" — which are mostly scenes that were later reshot as the film was rewritten during production (and during one of which legendary porn star Ron Jeremy possibly makes an almost unnoticeable cameo appearance — decide for yourself) — plus a series of short featurettes containing interviews with Douglas, DeVito, and Turner, one of which tells the very short story of writer Thomas' brief Hollywood career. Keep-case in paperboard slipcover.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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