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4K Ultra HD Review: Planes, Trains and Automobiles

November 22, 2022

By John Corrado

In honour of its 35th anniversary this year, the 1987 John Hughes classic Planes, Trains and Automobiles is making its 4K Ultra HD debut this week from Paramount, just in time for American Thanksgiving.

The film, of course, stars Steve Martin as Neal Page and John Candy as Del Griffith, two men who end up stuck travelling together from New York to Chicago as Neal tries to get home to his family in time for the holiday.

The main draw of this release, aside from the 4K, is actually the bundled “lost luggage” Blu-ray disc, which includes over an hour of previously unreleased deleted and extended scenes. The material that is presented is quite rough in terms of image quality, having been pulled from VHS tapes found in Hughes’s archive, but it’s fascinating to watch for a variety of reasons.

Presented as a 75 minute block, we get a lot more riffing between Martin and Candy (the scene where Del talks Neal’s ear off on the airplane goes on for over ten minutes, including an inspired bit about the impact that Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho had on the shower curtain industry), and it gives us a really good glimpse into their creative process and their ability to take a scene and just run with it. Seeing the extra footage also helps us appreciate just how tight the finished film is, with the edit allowing everything – both the laughs and emotional beats – to come into sharper focus (for example, the hotel argument is more impactful in its tightened version in the finished film).

As for the 4K disc itself, the film is presented with Dolby Vision and HDR-10. The image has undergone some noticeable digital noise reduction to reduce some of the film’s natural grain, so your feelings on the quality will likely depend on how you feel about DNR. But there are some nice upgrades over the original Blu-ray, and the 2160p transfer does bring out some new details. Still, the main draw of this edition for fans of the film really is the bonus Blu-ray disc.

This is a film that I’ve loved dearly ever since first seeing it on VHS as a kid. I’ve been curious to see this extra footage ever since learning about the existence of an initial, nearly three-hour workprint cut of the film, so I’m beyond thrilled that it has finally been released. While this extra material doesn’t add a ton of new stuff to the story, it absolutely serves as an interesting companion piece to one of the best holiday films of all time, and a further testament to the brilliance of Martin and Candy in these roles.

In short, Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a film that has held up remarkably well over the years. It stands as one of the best things Hughes ever wrote and directed, having pulled off the high-wire act of crafting a buddy comedy with a deeply poignant, beating heart at the centre of it all, as we watch the initial annoyance between Neal and Del develop into a genuine bond between the two men. The newly discovered deleted and extended scenes are just the cherry on top of what is already a classic film.

For more on the film itself, you can read my review of the 30th Anniversary Blu-ray right here.

Bonus Features (4K Ultra HD):

The 4K disc includes the film and a variety of previously released featurettes, while the Blu-ray holds only the deleted and extended scenes and not the film itself. A code for a digital copy is also included in the package, which ships with a slipcover.

4K Ultra HD:

• Getting There is Half the Fun: The Story of Planes, Trains and Automobiles (16 minutes, 38 seconds)

John Hughes: Life Moves Pretty Fast (Play All – 53 minutes, 30 seconds)

• John Hughes: The Voice of a Generation (27 minutes, 39 seconds)

• Heartbreak and Triumph: The Legacy of John Hughes (25 minutes, 51 seconds)

• John Hughes for Adults (4 minutes, 1 second)

• A Tribute to John Candy (3 minutes)

Blu-ray:

Deleted and Extended Scenes (Play All – 75 minutes, 27 seconds): From the disc: “Attention travellers. This collection of deleted and extended scenes from Planes, Trains and Automobiles was recently discovered in the archives of writer, producer and director John Hughes. The low picture and audio quality of this material is due to the age and format of the VHS tapes on which the scenes were found. We hope this offers a unique glimpse into the filmmaking and editing process, and delights fans with even more hilarious moments between Steve Martin and John Candy.”

Waiting to Board (Extended) (4 minutes, 35 seconds)

Seatmates (Extended) (12 minutes, 7 seconds)

Airplane Food (Deleted) (3 minutes, 30 seconds): Presented in HD, and previously available on the Blu-ray and certain TV versions of the film.

Dooby’s Taxiola (Extended) (7 minutes, 18 seconds)

Edelen’s Braideood Inn – Part 1 (Extended) (12 minutes, 5 seconds)

Edelen’s Braideood Inn – Part 2 (Extended) (14 minutes, 58 seconds)

Broke at Breakfast (Extended) (8 minutes, 50 seconds)

99 Bottles of Beer on the Bus (Deleted) (1 minute, 26 seconds)

The El Rancho Motel (Extended) (8 minutes, 20 seconds)

The Oshkonoggin Cheese Truck (Extended) (2 minutes, 14 seconds)

Audition – Dylan Baker “Owen” (3 minutes, 34 seconds): Baker’s audition for the part of the pickup truck driver Owen offers an early glimpse at his memorable line readings. Presented in equally rough VHS form.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a Paramount Home Entertainment release. It’s 92 minutes and rated PG.

Street Date: November 22nd, 2022

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