Stripes Celebrated 40 Years In June

Bill Murray, John Candy, and Harold Ramis in Stripes. Courtesy of Columbia Pictures/

Stripes, which marked its 40th anniversary in June, recently got an upgrade in the recent Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Collection: Vol 2.

John Winger (Bill Murray) turns to enlisting in the army after losing his job, girlfriend, and apartment in the single span of one day. He’s a slacker so it’s no surprise to see Anita leave him. Best friend Russell Ziskey (Harold Ramis), who teaches English as a second language, joins him in enlisting. First up is basic training at Fort Arnold. In classic comedy fashion, the pair are also assigned to a platoon completely full of misfits. Their personalities certainly do not mesh well with either Sergeant Hulka (Warren Oates) or Captain Stillman (John Larroquette).

If not for a pair of MPs, Louise Cooper (Sean Young) and Stella Hansen (P.J. Soles), both John and Russell would have gotten chewed out by Capt. Stillman after a raid on a mud wrestling bar. It’s to John–yes, the slacker–to deliver a Bluto-esque speech for motivation. Following the completion of basic training, Post Commander General Barnicke sends them off to work on the EM-50 in Italy. Anything in Italy that can go wrong will go wrong! John and Russell steal the EM-50 and run off to West Germany to visit their girlfriends. Stillman decides to launch an unauthorized mission to get it back and Sgt. Hulka is the only one who doesn’t get himself captured by the Soviets. John and Russell hear his mayday call and come to their rescue along with Stella and Louise. They come back as heroes but it’s because of their own immaturity.

Much like When Harry Met Sally…, I have a bone to pick with this film. In the opening scenes, Bill Murray’s John Winger is driving across the Second Street Bridge with a passenger in the backseat. The passenger wants to go to the airport. Murray, however, is not driving her to the airport. Hell, he’s not even driving her to the Kentucky side of the river! Murray was driving to Indiana when he stops the car and walks over to the side of the bridge to throw out the keys in anger. This is one of those things that viewers–such as myself–will know if they’re familiar with the city of Louisville.

This film marks the second major directorial outing for filmmaker Ivan Reitman. He teams up again with his Meatballs star Bill Murray. Reitman would direct Murray and Ramis again for the two Ghostbusters films during the 1980s. Of course, this marked the third of six collaborations between Murray and Ramis following Meatballs and Caddyshack. Their final collaboration came with Groundhog Day in 1993. Funny enough, the film was initially greenlit with Cheech and Chong in mind. When they wanted creative control, Reitman turned to Murray and Ramis. Ramis wasn’t really a film actor at this point in his career but he previously acted on both the Second City Mainstage and SCTV. Reitman uses their improv skills to the film’s advantage.

Meanwhile, a number of actors get a significant role for their first time their careers. Among these actors are John Larroquette, John Diehl, Conrad Dunn, and Judge Reinhold. Some other actors also make early appearances in their careers but don’t see much time on screen. Dave Thomas, Joe Flaherty, Timothy Busfield, and Bill Paxton are among them.

In terms of the 4K UHD upgrade from the original camera negative, the picture couldn’t be more beautiful. While both theatrical and extended versions are included in the new collection, I opted to watch the theatrical version in honor of Reitman’s birthday tonight.

Reitman, Murray, and Ramis aren’t even in the prime of their careers for Stripes but you couldn’t tell this from watching the film.

DIRECTOR: Ivan Reitman
SCREENWRITER: Len Blum & Dan Goldberg and Harold Ramis
CAST: Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Warren Oates, P.J. Soles, John Candy

Columbia Pictures released Stripes in theaters on June 26, 1981.

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.