Finally arriving on Blu-ray is the acclaimed The Grateful Dead Movie, recorded over 4 nights at San Francisco's Winterland Ballroom in 1974 and released theatrically, and commercially via VHS and DVD, now available in high-definition with a bonus DVD filled with bonus material. Basically, if you are new to The Grateful Dead, this is as good a place to start as any.
The reason I say that, is The Grateful Dead Movie is not so much a concert film, but also a close look into the 'DeadHead' culture from the perspective of the fans. Just as much time is allocated here to the live footage as it is to close ups of the audience partying to the music, talking to each other, and scrounging around looking for tickets to get into the shows. The performance of the band is spot on, as they deliver their brand of psychedelia, rock, pop, country, bluegrass, essentially what is now known as the 'jam scene', to a packed house at Winterland. The songs in the movie were picked from the 4 nights, and include a nice variety of popular tracks such as "U.S. Blues", "Eyes of the World", "Truckin'", "Casey Jones", "Sugar Magnolia", and a wild "Playin' In the Band", among others. Though you'll find some long musical explorations here, it was decided not to include many of the long jams in the movie so that more of the footage of the fans, as well as some trippy animation sequences, could be included. Thankfully, there is a wonderful bonus DVD included here that has over 95 minutes of tunes not included in the original film but played that week during those shows. Sprawling renditions of "Scarlet Begonias", "Dark Star", "Uncle John's Band", and a killer "Weather Report Suite" from the amazing Wake of the Flood album, as well as a heart tugging "Sugaree", are all on display, so if you love extended guitar solos and weaving musical passages, you've got a boatload here to enjoy. In addition, the DVD includes bonus documentaries, including one where surviving members of the band & crew discuss the rigors of the road at that time back in 1974.
As far as the technical aspects of the set, the Blu-ray is slightly disappointing as far as picture quality is concerned. The movie has been transferred from the original 35mm film negative in High Definition and presented in 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ration, but despite the transfer, the movie is really showing its age in spots. Plenty of grain can be seen at many points in the movie, especially the first half, though it does clear up after the intermission. Inconsistency is what you'll see here in the overall presentation, but considering the age of the source material, I guess that's to be expected. The audio is fantastic however, and depending on what type of home theater system you have, the options are 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio, DTS 5.1, and PCM 2.0. No matter what you choose, the audio is quite excellent throughout. On the bonus footage, the video is actually quite good for the most part even though not in High Definition, and the audio options are Dolby Digital 5.1 & 2.0, also very good.
As mentioned earlier, The Grateful Dead Movie is a wonderful introduction to the world of The Grateful Dead, and for loyal fans who have Blu-ray players, you'll want to scoop this new release right up. Sure, it has its limitations from a video perspective, but with kick ass audio and tons of bonus features, it's a no brainer of a purchase.
- U.S. Blues
- One More Saturday Night
- Going Down the Road Feeling Bad
- Eyes of the World
- Sugar Magnolia
- Playing in the Band
- Stella Blue
- Casey Jones
- He's Gone
- Morning Dew
- Johnny B. Goode
- It Must Have Been the Roses
More than 95 minutes of never-before-seen concert footage, including:
Uncle John's Band
The Other One> Spanish Jam> Mind Left Body Jam> The Other One
China Cat Sunflower> I Know Your Rider
Weather Report Suite
Bonus Songs transferred from the 16mm camera-original film negative
Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix on all Bonus Songs, mixed from the original multi-track tapes
Dolby Digital 2.0 audio mix on all Bonus Songs, mixed from the original multi-track tapes
Visible Lyrics option on all Bonus Songs
"Making of The Grateful Dead Movie" documentary film
"Making of the Animated Sequence" documentary film
"Making of the DVD" documentary film
Television commercial for "Mars Hotel" album from 1974
Multi-camera and multi-track audio demonstration
Extensive photo gallery of production notes, photos, film stills and other historical items from the Movie's production