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DVD Review HTF REVIEW: "The Last Waltz" (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Ronald Epstein, Apr 17, 2002.

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  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    [​IMG]

    The Last Waltz




    Year: 1978
    Rated: PG
    Film Length: 117 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1




    THIS FILM SHOULD BE PLAYED LOUD!
    "The Band" had been on the road for 16 years
    where they played everything from small clubs
    to large venues. The group had experienced life
    on the road from almost every angle possible.
    As group member Robbie Robertson describes it,
    "it's an impossible way of life".
    [​IMG]
    As the group was planning a final concert to
    mark the end of their long musical journey,
    everyone decided that this event should turn
    into a celebration, and that they should invite
    a couple of the mentors who had been so instrumental
    in their musical journey.
    [​IMG]
    After the list of guest performances were in
    place, the group decided that such a huge event
    could not go undocumented. Robbie Robertson had
    approached Director Martin Scorcese about filming
    the concert. Scorcese took an immediate interest
    and started to put together a detailed, 300-page
    "script" for a concert documentary that was shot
    on 35mm film.
    [​IMG]
    On Thanksgiving Day, 1976, The Band (Robbie
    Robertson, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, Rick Danko,
    Richard Manuel) took to the stage at the Winterland
    Theatre in San Francisco. Joining the band that
    evening were Bob Dylan, Dr. John, Ronnie
    Hawkins, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Neil Young,
    Neil Diamond, Muddy Waters, Bobby Charles and
    Eric Clapton. Both Ringo Starr and
    Ron Wood joined in during the jam session finale.
    While it certainly became a challenge for
    "The Band" to play against the many styles of
    music that took the stage, the group pulled it
    off without a hitch.
    Between each number, members of "The Band"
    recall some of their favorite road stories
    that included stealing food from a supermarket,
    or getting drunk at a party and listening to
    Sonny Boy Williams play a harp as he spit blood.
    [​IMG]
    By the time it was all over, The Last Waltz
    had been heralded by critics as "the most beautiful
    rock film ever made". It was a chronicle of the
    rock-and-roll era, and set a standard for feature
    length concert films. It is still regarded as
    the best concert movie of all time.
    How is the transfer?
    In a word, Remarkable.
    This 25th Anniversary edition of The Last
    Waltz has been meticulously restored to
    perfection with a transfer that shows none of
    the film's age. Through dozens of lighting
    motifs and deep red back lit lighting, the transfer
    remains void of any color over saturation or video
    noise. Picture is pristine clear with absolutely
    no artifacts whatsoever.
    Going back to the original master tapes,
    the soundtrack was remixed in 5.1 Surround
    stereo. The result is a robust, kick-ass
    sonic performance that should be played at
    high levels. The main thrust of music and
    vocals span across the three front channels.
    The rears support the music, adding the sounds
    of the cheering audience whose applause and
    whistles come from different corners of the room.
    I was surprised as to how much bass is evident
    not only from the front mains, but the subwoofer
    as well, which produced loud thumps against the
    beats of the drums.
    Special Features
    [​IMG]
    MGM pulled out all the stops to make the film's
    25th Anniversary debut on DVD a special one.
    Presented in LIMITED EDITION packaging, the
    plastic DVD case is housed in a handsome
    cardboard slipcase with the film's logo in
    raised lettering.
    Inside the box is a collectable booklet authored
    by Robbie Robertson, giving an insightful account
    of the group's journey from its earliest days as
    "The Hawks" to their tours and recordings right
    up to the end of 1976.
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    There are 2 full-length audio commentaries
    included. The first is with Robertson and
    Scorcese. The second is with remaining 'Band'
    members Levon Helm and Garth Hudson, musicians
    Ronnie Hawkins and Mavis Staples, as well as
    production crew members and music journalists.
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    A behind-the-scenes featurette, Revisiting
    The Last Waltz, takes us to present day as
    Robbie Robertson and Martin Scorsese talk about
    their initial meetings to document the concert
    on film. It's interesting to note that Scorcese
    never got paid. There was no contract. The idea
    was to make this film out of love for the music.
    Scorsese recalls bringing aboard Production
    Designer Boris Leven who dreamed of bringing
    the set of La Traviata to stage, highlighting
    it all with hanging chandeliers. Robbie Robertson
    describes his amazement at Scorcese's vision
    for filming this concert, watching him create
    a 300-page musical script that spelled out every
    camera shot, every lighting mood, every angle.
    Scorcese describes his shots comparing it to
    filming a prizefight. (length: approx. 20 min.)
    Archival Outtakes is a never-before-seen
    "Jam Footage" segment that is the only archival
    footage available from the film. The session
    was originally recorded near the end of the
    evening as Paul Butterfield, Eric Clapton,
    Dr. John, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, Carl Radle,
    Robbie Robertson, Ringo Starr, Stephen Stills,
    Ronnie Wood and Neil Young took the
    stage. This rather long musical jam session
    lasts nearly 11 minutes when suddenly the screen
    goes blue. A disclaimer comes up stating that
    the 35mm cameras were not built for such extensive
    shooting and had to be shut down as they were on
    a verge of a meltdown. You can opt to play back
    this session in either 2.0 stereo or 5.1 surround.
    An extensive photo gallery captures the
    promotional photos, poster art and lobby cards.
    Nearly 100 rare images are presented here.
    The original theatrical trailer for the
    film is presented as well as a shorter TV SPOT
    promotion.
    Final Thoughts
    This was my first viewing experience of the
    The Last Waltz When it premiered in 1978,
    I was still listening to 70's pop music. I didn't
    become a fan of rock-and-roll until 1987 when I
    was already in my 20's. It was then I quickly
    listened to every piece of music I could from
    THE BEATLES to PINK FLOYD. Being a fan of most
    all the musicians who appeared in this film, I
    was absolutely in my glory to watch these
    musicians in their prime and remember a piece
    of rock-and-roll history that is forever gone.
    MGM has done more than a tribute to this film.
    They have put together an outstanding transfer
    and package that chronicles the end of a musical
    era.
    For any fan of rock-and-roll, this DVD belongs
    in your collection.
    Release Date: May 7, 2002
     
  2. John Geelan

    John Geelan Well-Known Member

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    Thanks Ron, great review. This is one of those must own Music DVDs that one will reach for often and play LOUD!
    What a great film that captures what 70's rock was like.
    It is a lost era.
    JohnG[​IMG]
     
  3. MartinTeller

    MartinTeller Well-Known Member

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    How are the commentary tracks? With all of the friction between Robertson and the rest of the group, I imagine there might be some stinging remarks.
     
  4. Craig S

    Craig S Premium
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    Great review, Ron! I'm really looking forward to this one.

    I must say I am becoming more & more impressed with the work MGM is doing lately. This looks like a top-notch package in every way.
     
  5. Jeff_A

    Jeff_A Well-Known Member

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    Great review and even better news on the quality of the release. I was purchasing this title regardless, but now my eagerness has doubled in intensity. Thanks, Ron!
     
  6. Heinz W

    Heinz W Well-Known Member

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    Like Jeff I was buying this title regardless of the quality, but I'm just thrilled care has been taken to make it outstanding. Can't wait!

    On my shelf this will go right next to the Year of the Horse, the amazing Neil Young film by Jim Jarmusch.
     
  7. Kevin Leonard

    Kevin Leonard Well-Known Member

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    Thanks the sneak peek, Ron!
    So nice to see that MGM is giving this film the deluxe treatment, considering this is second only to Stop Making Sense as the finest concert movie ever made, IMHO.
    It's also a pleasure to see Scorsese's films getting such wonderful treatment on DVD; MGM also did a stellar audio/video transfer of his film Boxcar Bertha...I wonder if they're sitting on anything else of his in the vaults? [​IMG]
     
  8. Greg_Y

    Greg_Y Well-Known Member

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  9. Jeff Bamberger

    Jeff Bamberger Well-Known Member

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    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    I agree. I was planning on getting this regardless, and Ron's review just puts the icing on the cake.
    I cannot wait!!!
     
  10. SteveGon

    SteveGon Well-Known Member

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    With the release of The Last Waltz and Criterion's Monterey Pop, it's gonna be a great summer for fans of classic rock and roll! Peace! [​IMG]
     
  11. Jesper

    Jesper Well-Known Member

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    Remeber the DVD Audio version is comming May 14 (I have ordered mine! [​IMG]
     
  12. ChrisMatson

    ChrisMatson Well-Known Member

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    I have recently started listenning to 70s rock. I picked up Gimme Shelter on a whim and loved it. For $17.09 shipped, I can't pass on this one.
     
  13. Richard Smith

    Richard Smith Well-Known Member

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    Great to hear that The Last Waltz has been done right on DVD as this is easily my most anticipated May title. It'll be getting near continous play 'round here as my Dad's a big fan of The Band as well.
    Richard
     
  14. Jeff_A

    Jeff_A Well-Known Member

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  15. David James

    David James Well-Known Member

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    Where did you guys find it for $17.09 shipped?
     
  16. Henry Gale

    Henry Gale Well-Known Member

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    Tower is offering the DVD for 15.99. I'd pay that just to hear the Ronnie Hawkins commentary.

    Jim
     
  17. Ed St. Clair

    Ed St. Clair Well-Known Member

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    Anamorphic?
     
  18. ChrisMatson

    ChrisMatson Well-Known Member

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    $17.09 @ deepdiscountdvd.com, CLICK HERE. If you want it on the day of release, look somewhere else. DDD usually gets pre-releases delivered for free a few days after release.
     
  19. Rob Tomlin

    Rob Tomlin Well-Known Member

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    Great review Ron!
    However, I would point out that you (like many other HTFer's here) misspelled the directors name. It is Martin Scorsese, not Scorcese!
    Hey, I had to find something wrong with the review! [​IMG]
     
  20. Jim Ferguson

    Jim Ferguson Well-Known Member

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    This is one of the movies they showed very frequently as the "midnight movie" back in my hometown in the late 70s. I'm sure I've seen it 10 or 15 times. I can't wait to get a copy. I may watch it at midnight just for old times sake [​IMG]
     

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