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Summer, 2003, I finally tore the shrinkwrap off the Times Square DVD, after letting it sit on the shelf for a year. I'd been afraid it wouldn't be the film I remembered, that it would be bad, embarrassing, whatever... but it was exactly the film I remembered seeing in the theater in 1980. Yadda yadda yadda, here's this site.

I'd bought the disc sometime in 2002, when a friend told me it existed. It had come out in 2000; I had no idea. It has two extras: the original theatrical trailer, and a commentary track by Robin Johnson and Alan Moyle, the director.

I'm guessing the track was recorded in 1999, possibly early 2000, but since the disc came out in 2000 that seems unlikely. Either way, that makes it the last mass-media appearance of Robin Johnson.

If I hadn't known, I don't know if I would have recognized her voice. Mr. Dankwa, webmaster of the Trini Alvarado fan site, says she sounds like Janeane Garofalo; I think she sounds more like Jodie Foster. Either way, it's quite a contrast to the voice of Nicky on the soundtrack. At one point, she mentions "Saturday Night Fevah," and immediately corrects her pronunciation: "FevER."

She laughs constantly, she sounds happy and contented as she leads Mr. Moyle on his journey to come to terms with the film that was taken from him and twisted to Robert Stigwood's commercial vision. Listening to this process is quite an experience, and it sounds like she's mostly responsible: the Anchor Bay people asked her to do a commentary, and she talked Mr. Moyle into watching and discussing a film he hadn't been able to bring himself to watch in twenty years.

The commentary suffers, as so many do, from sounding like what it is: two people watching the film once through and talking while it runs, so there's very little editing or preparation, and quite often something comes up that I'd wish they'd go into more detail about, but they either get distracted and move on to another subject, or just don't remember at that moment... for instance, what was the song David Bowie was contractually prevented from giving to the Times Square soundtrack?

The Truth Squad never sleeps! I now have unconfirmed third-hand information, which I'm gonna accept as gospel until I find out different, that the Bowie song was an updated version of "Life on Mars!" And he also collaborated with Desmond Child on a version of "The Night Was Not." This info apparently appeared in an interview with Desmond Child in some music magazine some years back. (Anyone with a copy of that, email me. Meanwhile, thanks J.S., and thanks to your wife too!)

By the same token, it is very conversational... like watching the movie with Alan on one side of you and Robin on the other, yapping through the whole damn thing. Which is fine since you've probably got the movie pretty much memorized anyway, doncha?

So it's two hours of Robin Johnson talking about Times Square. Can't go wrong with that, even if it is just her voice. But if you have it, you also have a pristine copy of Times Square, so what are you complaining about?

There is one thing that instantly dates the commentary though -- much of the commentary is devoted to mourning places in New York that don't exist anymore, like old Times Square, and Pier 56... but at least twice in the film, from the end of Pier 56, there's a gorgeous shot of the World Trade Center, and of course these pass unremarked since they were still standing at the time of the recording.

I don't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't yet heard the commentary track, but I have to comment on one thing. At the very end, Robin Johnson points out and laughs at how she, as Nicky, turns and leaps from the marquee without looking. That means, it wasn't in the script, and she wasn't directed to do it... and even though she thinks jumping without looking is funny, it's the only possible thing Nicky can do at that point, because it's what Johnny LaGuardia told Pammy to do in the beginning of the film! And it's a million little details like that that make Times Square a great film, I don't care what anybody else thinks.

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