BILL & TED’S MOST EXCELLENT COLLECTION is a Triumphant Video on Blu-ray

 

Release Details
Bill & Ted’s Most Excellent Collection arrives on Blu-ray September 19th from Shout! Factory as part of its new Shout Select line.

This article contains several comparisons which contrast the older DVD version of Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (“before”, left) with the new Blu-ray edition (“after”, right). The frames aren’t necessarily exact matches, but should give a solid indication of the visual differences.

Comparisons to the prior Blu-ray of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure are not included because they were identical – the new disc appears to use the same transfer.

This week Shout Factory releases a box set collecting both Bill & Ted films as the fifth release in its Shout Select line of prestige titles. These clever and fun movies about a pair of lovable dimwitted wannabe rockers have become beloved 80s classics, and the Most Excellent Collection seeks to be the definitive release of both films.

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure has been one of my favorite movies for awhile, but after not seeing it in several years, this rewatch reminded me why I loved it so much. It’s just an exuberantly joyful movie with a pair of very likeable protagonists that have more to them than meets the eye – a pair of dumb metal-heads with a dream of playing rock & roll, despite having no actual musical talent.

The film begins from a premise that the music of the Bill & Ted’s band, Wyld Stallyns, can one day unite the world with their message of peace and harmony — but only if they stay together. The ditzy duo are failing history, and Ted’s Dad threatens to send him to military school, bringing their rock & roll dreams to a most heinous end. Their last chance is to score an A+ on their final oral report, and Rufus (George Carlin), a sort of time traveling Oracle from the “good” future, approaches the boys with a special gift to help them out: his time machine (in the form of a tricked out phone booth).

After a strange encounter with their future selves (which pays off massively later when they meet their past selves), Bill And Ted embark upon an excellent adventure; meeting, mispronouncing, and kidnapping several important figures from throughout world history – Napoleon Bonaparte, Billy The Kid (“Mr. The Kid”), Socrates (“So-Crates”), Beethoven (“Beeth-oven”), Joan Of Arc (“Noah’s wife?”), Genghis Khan (Al Leong!), Sigmund Freud, and Abraham Lincoln. They even manage to pursue romance in the form of a pair of medieval princesses (“historical babes!”), nearly getting beheaded by some royal ugly dudes in the process.

One of the most fun aspects of the story is how the historical characters are approached. They’re not merely treated as props, but as characters, each with aspects of their historical personalities intact and some great memorable moments. One endearing aspect of the film is that all of them, even the rowdy types like Billy The Kid and Genghis Khan, are pretty chill with the whole adventure and willingly become part of the team, so to speak, even when language barriers would realistically prevent them from understanding what’s going on. I particularly love how Billy The Kid and Socrates become fast friends despite being completely different, and how Beethoeven becomes absolutely enamored with modern synthesizers. These are subtle touches, but add so much warmth to a movie that’s full of joy.

The film’s rousing second half has a great sequence in which the historical characters explore a modern shopping mall and get into all kinds of trouble, and the finale in which Bill & Ted present their history report with the help of their new friends is an absolute blast, not only bringing history to life and demonstrating what they’ve learned, but allowing their rock-star stage personas to emerge as well.

Even though I’ve seen Excellent Adventure several times, I realized something important on this rewatch: Even as a fan, I might have been predisposed to call it dumb entertainment. It’s not. Bill and Ted are dumb characters, yes, but this script is incredibly intelligent and insightful, especially with its playful time travel mechanics. And contrary to the concerns of many parents at the time these films were made, they don’t glorify stupidity. Not only is the film actually quite educational (no doubt many kids were first introduced to some of these historical figures by the film), but more importantly this is a story that lifts up the virtues of love and laughter, a message so universal that the two dumbest guys at San Dimas High School can figure it out: Be Excellent To Each Other – And Party On, Dudes!

Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey

Full-size pop-out: DVD / Blu

When the time came to make a sequel, it was decided that the film shouldn’t be a rehash of the original. Instead, the writers and filmmakers spitballed ideas until they landed on one that seemed radically different but still in the same wheelhouse of a wild fantasy adventure: Bill & Ted Go To Hell.

Full-size pop-out: DVD / Blu

For a long time, I considered Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey a vastly inferior sequel, and interestingly enough, it’s for the same reasons that many fans consider it superior. Instead of having Bill & Ted travel through time, it sends them into the afterlife. In a seemingly Terminator-inspired plot, future warmonger De Nomolos sends evil robot doppelgangers to murder Bill & Ted and take their place in order to unfix future history – but the duo navigate The Beyond through death, hell, and heaven to make a triumphant resurrection.

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Some of the film’s weirder detours are pretty out there – the “Station” aliens are a bit obnoxious, the hell sequence delves into wacky surrealism, and a lot of the film’s costuming and sets feel overly cartoonish. But then there’s the great parts that just work so well. The “evil robot usses” are a hilarious dual role for Keanu and Alex, playing evil-programmed versions of their dorky personas. Despite being enemies by design, the four characters have a weird rapport that frequently emerges due to their personalities being so similar.

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And then there’s William Sadler’s Grim Reaper, who steals every scene he’s in and strikes absolute comedy gold. In a surprising send-up of Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, Bill & Ted challenge Death to a duel of fate. Defeated, the Reaper joins their quest against his will, but like the historical figures from Excellent Adventure, he gets caught up in the duo’s schemes and transforms from the stoic personification of Death into an exuberant avatar of joy. He tonally brings the sequel to a place that is in touch with the original, and is probably the single coolest and most lovable character in the entire franchise.

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There’s other stuff to love as well, like a riotous scene in which Ted possesses his father. Major kudos to Hal Landon Jr. for channeling Keanu in an inspired performance. And then there’s this gem: In Excellent Adventure, it was blaxploitation legend Bernie Casey who busted the boys’ chops as their concerned history teacher. How the heck do you top that? In Bogus Journey, a parallel role is filled by none other than PAM GRIER, as a concert promoter who admonishes them to get their act together (they still don’t know how to play their instruments) for their chance to hit the big time in an upcoming Battle Of The bands.

Full-size pop-out: DVD / Blu

Like Excellent Adventure, the film ends with a triumphant staged setpiece, as Bill, Ted, and their new friends square off against De Nomolos and his evil robot creations at the Battle Of The Bands. It’s another terrific and exciting climax, bringing back the time machine mechanic, and segueing into the bright future of rock and roll with Wyld Stallyns’ soulful rendition of “God Gave Rock And Roll To You”.

I used to consider Bogus Journey a terrible sequel, but I’ve come around. It really works as a complement to the first film, striking a similar tone without simply rehashing the same ideas.

The Package

True to its name, Bill & Ted’s Most Excellent Collection, Shout! Factory serves up both Bill and Ted films in their most excellent home video package ever. The 3-disc Blu-ray set includes a slipboxed case, gorgeous new cover art, and physical extras including a Wyld Stallyns guitar pick and a pair of stickers featuring the title logos of both films. This release is spine #5 of the new Shout Select series.

Each of the movies gets its own disc with a pair of commentaries and a trailer. The third disc houses the rest of the special features, which are considerable, including materials culled from prior releases as well as impressive new documentaries on both films.

Here are a few more screenshots from both films:

Full-size pop-out: DVD / Blu

Full-size pop-out: DVD / Blu

Full-size pop-out: DVD / Blu

Full-size pop-out: DVD / Blu

Full-size pop-out: DVD / Blu

Special Features – Disc 1 (Excellent Adventure)

NEW Audio Commentary with Creators Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon
NEW Audio Commentary with Star Alex Winter and Producer Scott Kroopf

Trailer (1:59)

Special Features and Extras – Disc 2 (Bogus Journey)

NEW Audio Commentary with Creators Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon
NEW Audio Commentary with Star Alex Winter and Producer Scott Kroopf

Trailer (2:05)

Special Features and Extras – Disc 3

The special features disc includes a pair of new documentaries made for this release in addition to most of the features which have come before on prior DVD and Blu-ray releases. The older features have not only been ported over, but deinterlaced as well – excellent! Not everything made the cut; there are a couple items on the 2012 Blu-ray that are not included: a handful of radio spots and an episode of the Bill & Ted cartoon, “One Sweet And Sour Chinese Adventure to Go”.

The two new making-of documentaries feature new interviews with Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves together, co-creator/co-writer Chris Matheson, producer Scott Kroopf, and many other cast members. One of the most heinous things I learned: the first movie was basically shelved and it took a lot of work and a new distributor for it to see the light of day – of course, once it finally reached audiences, it became a big hit, and then a beloved classic.

NEW Time Flies When You Are Having Fun! A Look Back At “Excellent Adventure”

NEW Bill And Ted Go To Hell – Revisiting A “Bogus Journey”

The Most Triumphant Making-Of Documentary (30:53)

The Original Bill & Ted – In Conversation With Chris & Ed (20:15)

Score! An Interview with Guitarist Steve Vai (12:46)

The Hysterical Personages Of Bill & Ted (15:27)
A gallery of often-humorous BTS photos (and a bit of video) of Excellent Adventure’s historical figures.

Air Guitar Tutorial (13:15)
Featuring air guitarists Bjørn Turoque and The Rockness Monster

Vintage EPK (6:39)

The Linguistic Stylings Of Bill & Ted (3:41)
Video glossary of some of Bill & Ted’s trademark vocabulary.

It’s true that fans who have already purchased the first film on Blu-ray may feel slighted that the sequel hasn’t been made available as a stand-alone title, and feel forced to repurchase in order to get both films. This is particularly true since this release re-uses the same (non-heinous) transfer. But aside from that caveat, I can’t recommend this set enough. An absolutely triumphant video package that collects two great movies that are both even better than I remember. Catch you later, Bill & Ted!

A/V Out.

 

Get it at Amazon:
Bill & Ted’s Most Excellent Collection[Blu-ray]

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the author

Austin Vashaw is a technology and new media professional in Overland Park, KS (a Kansas City 'burb). Film yakker, wisecracker, tact lacker, and BK Stacker snacker; lover of photography, Victorian literature, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. @VforVashaw | letterboxd.com/VforVashaw