DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
The Grateful Dead Movie, 30th Anniversary (1974)
Published on April 1, 2006
Studio: Monterey Video
Video: 1.78:1 Widescreen Enhanced
Audio: Theatrical 5.1 Mix, New 5.1 Mix, New Stereo Mix
Extras: Audio Commentary; Bonus Songs; Documentaries- A Look Back (28 min); Making of the Animation (17 min); Making of the DVD (15 min); Animation for Mars Hotel album from 1974 (3 mixes); Multi-track/Camera Demo with and without captions (6 min); Photo Gallery (5 sections).
Length: 132 minutes
Rating: ***** (Dead fans), ***1/2 (Everyone Else)
Jerry Garcia had the idea for this film in late 1974 when there was some doubt if the band would playing concerts. A crew was hired to chronicle the band during the hiatus in touring. At first, the plan was to make a straight concert video, but it soon developed into much more. There was collaboration between a few key figures, but when local film editor Susan Crutcher was brought in, the project really started to come together. It took two years of intense work, but all were happy with the result—a true depiction of what The Dead and making their music is all about.
This “movie” starts off with an animated music video full of skeleton figures in all sorts of strange situations. This goes on for about seven minutes and then the viewer is transported to a Dead concert where the focus is heavy on the fans and their connection to the band and music. The crowd loves it and the band is serving up their blend of country music, blues, and rock ‘n’ roll. There are various sections between the mix with background of the production, set up, and everything else going into and between the concerts.
With the original theatrical mix, the surrounds are not in heavy use, but crowd noise shows up on occasion. The new mix is much more exciting and obviously multichannel, but it suffers from a lack of up front focus. Video quality varies a great deal, while much of the concert footage is a bit hazy and grainy.
Disc two is chock full of extras. On the bonus tracks the audio options are DD 5.1 or 2.0. You can also select an option to have lyrics visible while the music plays. The video is presented in a 1.33:1 ratio and the video quality is similar to that in the main movie. The documentary films should be of interest to Dead Heads and anyone else curious about the band. The animated television shorts are definitely worth checking out. The multi-track demo utilizes split screen and captions to show what combines with what in a simple, easy to understand manner. There are over 200 stills included for the viewer’s pleasure. Time has been taken to ensure the most material is presented to the viewer and it has clearly been a successful endeavor. It’s an impressive set anyway you look at it and for those looking to relive the 70s rock concert experience there is no better way to start than with the Dead movie.
Songs included: U.S. Blues; One More Saturday Night; Goin’ Down The Road Feeling Bad; Truckin’; Eyes Of The World; Sugar Magnolia; Playing In The Band; Stella Blue; Casey Jones; Morning Dew; Johnny B. Goode; It Must Have Been The Roses.
Bonus Songs: Uncle John’s Band; Sugaree; The Other One; Spanish Jam; Mind Left Body Jam; The Other One; Scarlet Begonias; China Cat Sunflower; I Know You Rider; Dark Star; Weather Report Suite.
— Brian Bloom