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Great! (Unless You Already Have Earlier Versions)
on September 5, 2012
So, is it time time to trade up, time to get rid of your earlier versions of Greatest Video Hits I & II?
If you don't have your Queen videos then go ahead, have fun discovering what MTV used to be all about before it went "all reality, all the time." For those of you who already have this stuff, you're safe in passing this one by. I mean, sure, if having the "audio remixed for DTS 5.1 Surround Sound" makes you all moist and tingly then, yes, buy these landmark films all over again. But, what about the visuals?
Visually, there's nothing new here at all. "All videos are restored and shown in 16:9 widescreen." Too bad they weren't FILMED that way. The originals were created when televisions were, roughly speaking, square. 4:3 format. Nowadays, widescreen is the standard, so the "restoration team" had four choices:
One: maintain the entire image as it was created, by plunking the original image down "as is," a square in the middle of a rectangle, meaning there's going to be black areas on either side of your widescreen monitor or screen.
Two: stretch the image to fill the screen; this has the unfortunate effect of squishing everything and making things - like musicians and singers - look as if they were filmed on a planet with ten times the gravity of Earth.
Three: chop off the tops and bottoms of the image in a way that destroys its carefully planned look. It's butchery but it WOULD make the square image fit a wide screen.
Four: give viewers the choice to see these films as Queen created them or as stretched/squished/butchered monstrosities.
As in previous releases of Queen's video legacy, the choice was a combination of Option One, Option Two AND Option Three. Mostly, these wonderful creations get the stretched/squished/butchered treatment although, as in "The Invisible Man," someone forgot to chop or squish the film and, Oh My Goodness, we're actually able to see the video as originally filmed, as originally seen, as originally intended by Queen, their directors, designers, and editors.
Even if you've never seen these videos, many of them look wrong. Since the "restorations" are erratic, the films are incredibly inconsistent. Widescreen is followed by flattened images ("It's a Kind of Magic" gives us compressed members of Queen; your brain will struggle to cope with "The Flat Freddie Effect") or something that looks right. Sorta.
Queen's growth from eclectic glam rockers to accomplished rock virtuosos is worth seeing, going from "Killer Queen" to "Radio Ga Ga" to the touching optimism of "The Miracle," filmed two years before Freddie Mercury's death. The arc of their career is made incomprehensible by the random order the videos are presented in. They start with "Bohemian Rhapsody" (1975) then move ahead five years to "Another One Bites the Dust"(1980) and then jump BACK six years to "Killer Queen," a video done the year BEFORE "Bohemian Rhapsody." then we go to '78, '75, '78, '80, '76, '77, '80, '76, '77, '86, '89, '84, '89, back eight years to '81, then back to '89, '86, '89, '84, '89, '82 . . .
You get the idea. There is no pattern, no logic to any of this. Does it matter? Hell, yes! Ignoring thing like hairstyles going out of fashion and coming back into style and Freddie's moustache coming and going, this is like doing a Beatles collection that begins with "Penny Lane," skips to "Hey Jude," jumps to "Yesterday" to "Blackbird" to "Twist and Shout" to "Yellow Submarine" to "A Hard Day's Night," etc., and ending with "Here Comes the Sun." All I can say is, if you absolutely MUST do cocaine or weed, don't let anyone put you in charge of arranging Queen's music in chronological order - that's just ASKING for people to hate you . . . AND the company you work for (Eagle Rock Entertainment).
Fans of Queen (Heck, fans of looking at things!) have complained about the crappy presentation of these videos for years. All that complaining has led to . . . nothing. Eagle Rock Entertainment didn't do a damn thing and I pity any new Queen fans seeing this 2-DVD mess for the first time.
This is straightforward repackaging - as sloppy, lazy, cheap, and greedy as it gets.
Why did I buy it? Because I didn't have a copy of Queen's Greatest Video Hits I. Even with this set, I'm pretty sure I still don't.
"All videos are restored." Yeah. Right. Sure.