Thursday, January 4, 2018

D.O.A.: A RIGHT OF PASSAGE (MVD Rewind Collection Blu-ray Review)

2-Disc DVD/Blu-ray Special Collector's Edition 
Label: MVD Entertainment Group/MVD Rewind Collection
Rating: Unrated 
Region Code: Region-Free
Duration: 95 Minutes
Video: 1080p HD Full Screen (1.33:1)
Audio: English Uncompressed PCM Mono

Director: Lech Kowalski

MVD Entertainment kicks off their new imprint “MVD Rewind Collection” with the first ever U.S. home video release of the Lech Kowalski (East of Paradise) directed punk rock doc D.O.A.: A Right of Passage (1981), following the doomed seven-city U.S. tour of UK punk rockers The Sex Pistols which ended in San Francisco in '78, along the way capturing some electric performance footage on hand held 16mm of both the imploding band and reactions from fan and audience members on various tour stops, The reactions from fans are both fun and weird, with some real interesting freaks commenting on the rumored instances of the band pissing on fans or speaking about their punk rock lifestyle, or shooting down the band as talentless noise, it runs the gamut of love, hate and adoration. Throughout the doc we get the Pistols burning through their short song selection, these include "Anarchy in the U.K.", "Holiday in the Sun", "Bodies", "Pretty Vacant" and "Glad Save the Queen".

While the doc began as a guerrilla-style concert film it was decided after the band broke-up after the SF gig that it would be a broader punk doc with Kowalski and the crew heading to England to document performances from some very key UK punkers, including live performance and rehearsal space footage of Polly Styrene and the X-Ray Spex performing a "Oh Bondage Up Yours" among others.
The Sex Pistols stuff is captured on the fly, so the fidelity of the music is a bit tinny but still quite good, the other UK bands that were filmed were more participatory and the quality goes up, with The Rich Kids (feature ex Sex Pistol Glen Matlock) turn in a blazing performance of the Pistols "Pretty Vacant), so much so that I ordered their only album while still watching the doc, great stuff. Another highlight is Sham 69 pummeling through "Rip Off" and "Borstal Breakout", with the singer chastising the crowd for fighting. Generation X show up to perform "Kiss Me Deadly" in a rehearsal space, even back then Billy Idol was a charismatic presence and hard not to zero in on, I can see why he became arguably one of the only break-out stars of the UK punk scene with a lengthy mainstream career that is still going strong as a touring live act. The shoddiest sound comes by way of the only American punk rock band included on the doc, The Dead Boys, you get short shrift here, but still fun to see them going at it with Stiv Bators and Cheetah Chrome turning in manic performances. 

The doc also interview a sad little UK punk named Terry Sylvester of Terry and the Idiots, a woeful band I only know from the doc but he seems like sad guy, pining at one point that he wished he had more friends, and reading a rather funny banana bread recipe that's laced with sexual innuendo. There's also input from that anti-smut crusader Margaret Whitehouse, she of the Video Nasty infamy, not espousing the dangers of horror flicks this time, but the dangers of this brash new music, I hate that old twat. Even the heir to the Guinness beer fortune Jonathan Guinness shows up at some point for reasons unknown to comment on punk as well, stating that he believes that people who enjoy punk really wish they could be back in the times of people killing people with axes and swords in battle, and I do believe his bit inspired the movie's subtitle "a rite of passage".

The saddest part is watching the domestic Hell of junkies Sid and Nacy Spungen in an infamous clip of them sitting up in bed at the Chelsea Hotel in NYC after the Pistols break-up, the crew attempting an interview Sid as he constantly nodding off under the influence of heroin while Nancy makes excuses about him being "sick" and needing medication, dropping his cigarette on the bed to Nancy's annoyance, she would be dead only a matter of days later. The doc is a bit ramshackle and disjointed, so yeah it's pretty punk rock, but it's a great document of the time, while I think some of the fan interviews border on Decline if the Western Civilization II levels of ridiculousness the performances are what make this punk rock doc so imminently watchable.    

Audio/Video: D.O.A.: A Right of Passage (1981) arrives on dual format Blu-ray/DVD framed in the original fullscreen aspect ratio, sourced from 15mm, not sure of this is coming from a new scan of the negative or not, but the image looks like 16mm documentary footage, grainy and speckled with dirt and debris, print damage, but absolutely watchable. The lossless English Uncompressed PCM Mono audio track on the disc sounds great, the live performances from the Sex Pistols, The Rich Kids, Sham 69. The X-Ray Spex, The Dead Boys and Generation X sound electrifying and amped up, limited by the source recordings but still fantastic and raw.

The main extra on this release is a feature length documentary "Dead On Arrival: The Punk Documentary That Almost Never Was" with the participation of of PUNK magazine founder John Holstrom, photographer Roberta Bayley, rock journalist Chris Salewicz (of UK rag NME), Sex Pistols' historian Mick O'Shea, former Rich Kid guitarist and Ultravox lead singer Midge Ure, and original D.O.A. crew members David King, Mary Killen, Rufus Standefer who set the stage and paint quite a picture of the then burgeoning punk scene, and what it was like making the film which was funded by drug-runner/publisher of High Times magazine Tom Forcade, battling the Warner security to get access to the band while aligning themselves with Malcolm McLaren to circumvent certain blockades along the way. The doc even digs up the San Francisco punk chic you see in the movie laying on the ground it Dallas bemoaning how mean cops can be when your different, the now pink-haired granny chimes in via Skype, I though that was a fun inclusion.

It's great stuff, and does a better job at chronically the chrysalis of punk and the doomed '78 tour of the Pistols than the doc does in my opinion, aided by forty-years of hindsight and history, so that's no knock on the doc, but this making of is pretty fantastic, though sadly we do not get any input from director Lech Kowalski himself who has distanced himself from the film after licensing issues prohibited the inclusion of two Iggy Pop songs in their original form on the soundtrack, instead we get alternate live renditions from what I can tell. John Holstrom wraps it up speaking about how he created the title cards for the film, noting the death of Tom Forcode, how the film languished for years and some issues clearing the film with the Sex Pistols and how that was eventually resolved - leading to this proper release, although there is some music clearance issues concerning two Iggy Pop songs. The making-of doc includes never-before-seen interview footage of Pistols founder, Malcolm McLaren plus archival interviews with Billy Idol and John Lydon which add context to the proceedings.

Extras aside from the great making-of doc are slim, we get a trailer for the forthcoming Attack of the Killer Tomatoes Blu-ray release from the MVD Rewind Collection, a theatrical trailer for the doc, and a Sex Pistols image gallery. Aside from wishing we had some input from director Kowalski something I would have loved would be the option to view the raw footage of the bands performances in their full-length versions - not cut with interviews and edits. The 2-disc release includes a DVD with the same main feature and extras, there are no Easter eggs that I've been able to find so far.  

This 2-disc DVD/Blu-ray release comes housed in a clear Blu-ray keepcase with a sleeve of 2-sided work featuring the iconic artwork on the a-side and John Holstrum illustration advertising the original release of the film on the b-side. This release comes with a dual-sided fold-out poster of the original premiere movie poster plus the iconic home video release artwork. , plus a 12-page booklet with writing on the film from John Holstrum with lots of images from the film. The first pressing of the disc includes a limited edition slipcover/o-card with a "Video Store Style" patina, giving it an proper shelf-worn look, the artwork on the keepcase wrap does not have the artificially worn look about it, the spine is numbered. The disc themselves are presented with white background a simple black lettering no images on either disc. I am very impressed with the inaugural release from the MVD Rewind Collection, this is certainly on par with what we are seeing by way of prestigious collector editions from Scream Factory, Vestron Video Collector's Series and Arrow Video, looking forward to what comes next.  

Special Features:

- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of the main feature.
- Original 2.0 Mono Audio (Uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
- "Dead On Arrival: The Punk Documentary That Almost Never Was" - A feature length documentary about the making of D.O.A. A Rite of Passage produced by award-winning filmmaker (and former MTV Senior Producer) Richard Schenkman and featuring exclusive new interviews with PUNK magazine founder and Ramones cover-artist John Holmstrom, renowned music journalist Chris Salewicz, legendary photographer Roberta Bayley, Sex Pistols' historian Mick O'Shea, former Rich Kid guitarist and Ultravox lead singer Midge Ure, and original D.O.A. crew members David King, Mary Killen, Rufus Standefer, plus never-before-seen interview footage of Pistols founder, Malcolm McLaren. (110 min) 

- 12 page booklet with liner notes written by John Holmstrom, founding editor of PUNK Magazine
- Two-Sides Sleeve of Artwork
- Rare Sex Pistols Photo Gallery
- Two-Sided Fold-Out Poster included
- Original Theatrical Trailer (4 min)

- Attack of the Killer Tomatoes Trailer (2 min)
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of the main feature
- Limited Edition Retro 'Video Store Style' Slipcover / O-Card (First Pressing Only)

D.O.A.: A Right of Passage (1981) is a raw and electric guerrilla style doc capturing the excitement and furor surrounding the UK punkers Sex Pistols seven-city American tour in '78, aside from capturing some clamorous live performance footage of the Pistols  they also document some of the best U.K. punk of the era, and offer a semi-comedic look at the fandom and hate for the Pistols from American audiences on that tour. It's take forty years but I am glad to see this rockumentary get such a prestigious release on Blu-ray, this thing has some serious shelf-appeal, if you're a fan this is a must-own and a very fine start to this new imprint from MVD Entertainment Group. 

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