Old Time Hockey

Not a single character in Slap Shot is happy. Charlestown’s economy collapses as the city’s minor league hockey team pushes for a championship, or rather, the team tries to. The players suffer an embarrassing losing streak, and off the ice, their dismal relationships remain stable only when drunk. Fatalism ran rampant in 1970s cinema, but few were this miserable – yet so funny.

Actually, nix that opening line. Someone is thrilled to be in Slap Shot: The Hanson Brothers trio who maul people during their line shifts with the Charlestown Chiefs, brawling more so than actually playing hockey. They’re too stupid to ever be depressed.

Coarse, sexually crude, and abrasive as Slap Shot is, this script comes with nuance

Slap Shot isn’t necessarily about hockey much as it is the well textured lives of the people around the sport, and how the business weighs on their ever sinking mood. The idea that pro sports players exist in this vacuum, shielded against economic downturns, is obliterated by Slap Shot. The game itself never matters – the Chiefs win, turning their fans ravenous for violence via an absurd sideshow act, but the owner never cares. To her, hockey is a tax write-off, nothing more. People are irrelevant, same as the soon-to-be-unemployed miners are to their bosses. To American capitalism, according to Slap Shot, it doesn’t matter how well you work, produce, perform, or play. What matters is the profit margin to the owners.

This isn’t how sports movies work. Formula dictates the team starts in the cellar, finds their inspiration, and wins to save the city/player/town. To an extent, that’s Slap Shot. The Chiefs draw record attendance by launching themselves into the stands, taking cheap shots, and failing to even start a game without fighting. It’s a circus. Led by aging star Reggie (Paul Newman), the “screw the system” attitude he brings to the Chiefs resonates because everyone paying for tickets feels the same way. Coarse, sexually crude, and abrasive as Slap Shot is, this script comes with nuance. There’s no sentimentality here, just endless hilarious misery.

Through the decades, Slap Shot keeps a hold on hockey culture, partly because so few adult hockey movies exist, but mostly because the Hansons keep the comedic energy intense. They stave off the pacing’s occasional dead air through their lunacy. That includes rage against a vending machine eating a quarter and anger toward a slot car race, both bested only by the on-ice brutality they deliver. They’re also somewhat pure in a comedy locked to dated historical jabs towards sexuality, and probably the safest guys to be around amid a team of social misfits.

Video

Licensed from Universal, Shout’s anniversary release looks relatively untouched in terms of modern mastering. It’s a pervasively soft, dull presentation, lean on resolution, enough so to dim the grain structure to almost nothing. That leaves the encode free at least, with little challenge. The print is clean enough, freed from defects like scratches and dirt. Definition, at its best, barely rises above average.

Color is excellent though, giving primaries vividness they lacked before. Flesh tones glow a bit, if not oversaturated. Red and yellow stadium seats provide a great backing. Jersey colors stand out from the ice and pale boards.

Awesome contrast belies the age and the lackluster mastering. Depth looks spectacular, shadows intense, just on the verge of crush, but then falling into pitch black sans detail on occasion. Brightness is cranked high enough to keep dimension potent.

Audio

Worn DTS-HD mono rattles the creaky dialog, struggling to sustain stable treble. While there’s no static or popping, overall fidelity stays lean, wholly low-rent ’70s.

Music fares a touch better. At least there’s range and some clarity to appreciate, but even that’s limited by puffy lyrics. Every aspect of this A/V presentation needs a modern touch.

Extras

The Hanson Brothers head up a lively commentary, followed by short four-minute featurette, Puck Talk with the Hansons. Then, an eight-minute promo trailer, gorgeously restored, unlike the movie itself.

Slap Shot
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
4

Movie

Coarse, irreverent, and a bit dated, Slap Shot remains a hilariously sharp and crass sports comedy.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 45 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots grabbed directly from the Blu-ray: