Color, 1980, 106m.
Directed by Adrian Lyne
Starring Jodie Foster, Cherie Currie, Marilyn Kagan, Kandice Stroh, Scott Baio, Sally Kellerman, Randy Quaid, Lois Smith
Kino Lorber (Blu-ray & DVD) (US RA/R1 HD/NTSC), MGM (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
Before he became an era-defining juggernaut later in the '80s with Flashdance and Fatal Attraction, British director Adrian Lyne made his big screen debut in the dying days of disco with Foxes, the fourth of five theatrical productions from Casablanca Filmworks. The movie production offshoot of the popular disco label Casablanca Records, the company had shown an odd affinity for recruiting UK directors for its films (Peter Yates for The Deep, Alan Parker for Midnight Express), with heavy hitters from the company's album branch like Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder recruited for their soundtracks (resulting in an Oscar for the latter film). For this one, both Donna and Giorgio came on board to supply a hit theme song, "On the Radio," which also became the title of Donna's big greatest hits release the same year.
As for the film itself, it's such a product of its era that any kind of impartial critical study is almost entirely beside the point. The diffused lighting (a trick inspired by photographer/erotic filmmaker David Hamilton), semi-naturalistic performances, and energetic soundtracks that would come to define most of Lyne's films are already fully in place here, with a young Jodie Foster anchoring the film in a solid performance alongside her former Bugsy Malone costar, Scott Baio. There isn't much of a plot here per se as much as a character study of four San Fernando Valley teenage girls (a setting and template later adopted for both Valley Girl and Fast Times at Ridgemont High) as they grapple with troubled home lives, the demands of slowly moving into adulthood, the challenges of romance, and even the finality of death itself in the inevitable tragic climax. Jeanie (Foster), Annie (Currie, lead vocalist for The Runaways), Madge (The Initiation's Kagan), and Deirdre (Stroh) are all best friends, but their bond is tested by problems like an abusive cop dad and substance abuse, with Jeanie doing her best to hold them all together.
Though the film does its best to capture a slice-of-life portrayal of teens essentially left to their own devices, almost everyone agrees that some of its best material is the relationship between Jeanie and her mother, nicely played by Sally Kellerman as a sort of overgrown, jaded girl herself. It's also fun to see rocker Currie in her film debut (sporting a great feathered peroxide 'do) that only led to a handful of future roles like Wavelength and Parasite. And then there's that soundtrack, with "On the Radio" serving as the anchor (including a couple of instrumental Moroder renditions) alongside tunes by Cher, Munich Machine, Bob Seger, and an Angel track bearing this film's original title, "20th Century Foxes." (You can probably figure out why they had to change that one.)
Theatrically released by United Artists, Foxes became a steady cable TV favorite for years and popped up on home video in numerous VHS incarnations from MGM with a DVD following in 2003. The SD transfer of the DVD had a lot of trouble with the film's gauzy aesthetic, which mostly turned into a blurry sludge. The 2015 upgrade from Kino Lorber on Blu-ray (with a DVD reissue to match) does a much better job with the hazy textures of the majority of the film, with the subdued, pastel-tinged color palette also coming through more accurately. If you've seen other Lyne films upgraded to HD, you should have an idea of what to expect here; it's probably going to confuse anyone who isn't familiar with the era or the director's style, but fans should find it a substantial improvement. Audio is mono as always with the DTS-HD MA track doing what it can with a pretty flat original mix, while extras include the theatrical trailer, a laid-back but fairly informative Lyne commentary track chatting about working with the young actresses, doing research on real teen activities, and shooting in SoCal at that time, and a cool new extra, a new 9-minute interview with Kellerman who comments on Foster's much-noted professionalism on the set, Lyne's qualities as a first-time director, and her approach to playing a different kind of screen parent at the time.