Bob Marley And The Wailers

Catch A Fire

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

Category Music Video Theatrical Trailer(s) None
Rating g.gif (1187 bytes) Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1999 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 60:01 Minutes  Other Extras Discography
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 1,2,3,4,5,6 Director Jeremy Marre
Eagle Rock Entertainment
Warner Vision
Starring Bob Marley
Case Amaray
RPI $39.95 Music Bob Marley

Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None Dolby Digital 2.0
16x9 Enhancement No Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.33:1
Macrovision ? Smoking Yes
Subtitles None Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    The first thing that I will admit for the sake of this review is that I know Bob Marley solely by reputation, not even by any real acquaintance with his music, although some might argue that this is the best way to start in the case of a reviewer such as myself. In any case, I certainly am familiar with artists that cite him as an influence, the Red Hot Chili Peppers among them. This DVD focuses on the recording of Catch A Fire, which appears to be an album from an early part in the career of Bob Marley and The Wailers, judging from some comments about the state of reggae as a popular music form at the time of recording. Quite why I volunteered to review this documentary is beyond me, because when I think of reggae, I think of African men smoking grass and dancing about to the standard beat. In any case, Marley's brand of reggae, which is described as being a bridge between traditional reggae and the commercialized version made to be palatable to the American audience, has quite a surreal or sublime feel to it. I cannot remember the name of the song which this music and the archival footage from the documentary reminds me of, but one particular line goes "I smoke two joints before I smoke two joints, and then I smoke two more", which I feel is an excellent summation of the mood this music puts me in, although "I snort some coke before I snort some coke, and then I snort some more" doesn't have the same ring to it, which is why I gave it up earlier this year, for any authorities who are pricking their ears up at that one.

    Even if you hate reggae with a passion, as I did some years before when I equated reggae with the frankly appalling UB40, you have to respect Bob Marley for his message, which is actually not that far removed from that of an artist who is more to my tastes, namely Burzum. By this, I mean that Marley's music sounds to me like it is largely motivated by a need to bring his people back together after having been thoroughly divided by a very ethnocentric force. Whether or not he was successful depends a great deal on your opinion of the condition of the world since Marley sadly passed away, but to me, one indisputable fact is that he succeeded in making great music. If you want to see people with heavy connections to Marley himself talk about the era and how the fans got behind the man, then this is a very good place to start.

Transfer Quality


    After the problems with the other title in this series that I have looked at, namely Jimi Hendrix's Electric Ladyland album, I was getting ready to review this title with a certain kind of dread. However, the quality of the sound, picture, and presentation on Catch A Fire is far more palatable.

    The video transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and is not 16x9 enhanced. The modern-day footage is razor-sharp, and the historical footage ranges from being very diffuse to moderately sharp, with the diffuse footage also having a great deal of film grain for good measure. The shadow detail also varies according to the age of the footage, but is rarely needed to be anything more than what it is. Low-level noise appeared to be slightly problematic in the archival footage, but was never a serious problem at any time.

    The colour saturation is also variable according to the age of the footage, with most of the archival footage being straight monochrome, and the colour archival footage having a dull saturation. One section of footage that is marked as being "rare tour footage" suffers no end of problems with regard to colour saturation, with Marley himself looking as white as a ghost. Whether this is inherent in the source material, which also shows signs of film warping, or MPEG posterization is something I will leave for the viewer to decide. The modern-day footage, however, is very accurately saturated, with the colours being nicely balanced and kept in strict accordance with the subject matter.

    MPEG artefacts were not noticed at any point in this transfer, with most of the archival footage being allocated nine or more megabits per second. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of some aliasing on such things as keyboards, but this artefact was comparatively well-controlled. Film artefacts consisted of every type of nick, scratch and sign of decay you could imagine, with white flecks showing up in the eldest footage at an alarming rate. Still, when allowances are made for all of the previously mentioned problems, this is definitely a very clean-looking transfer by Classic Albums standards.


    The audio transfer is presented with one soundtrack: the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital Stereo. No alternate dubs or commentaries exist on this disc, which is probably the biggest difference between this documentary and the aforementioned Electric Ladyland. Because the total audio transfer is allowed to only consume a small amount of the space available on this disc, the video looks better than I am used to seeing from this source. Surprisingly, the audio transfer is also of a similar standard to the video transfer, with only the rare tour video footage that closes this documentary showing any real signs of degradation in spite of the many combined sources used to comprise the rest of the transfer. The only time any loss of clarity and distortion occurred that could be blamed upon anything other than the voices of the performers was during Chapter 13, from 51:09 onwards, which happens to be the aforementioned tour footage. Audio sync was certainly not a problem at any time in the transfer.

    As I mentioned in the plot summary, the music by Bob Marley has different meanings to different people, and can either be taken as a call for solidarity among the Jamaican people, or music to get stoned by. Compared to the offerings of the past two decades that will someday become the subjects of these documentaries, this music is a real masterpiece, believe me. Another interesting factor is that Marley's music doesn't necessarily need the highest resolution possible in order to sound good. It is easy to see why this man and his music is still remembered by artists from all walks of life nearly twenty years after his death in 1981, that's for certain.

    Being that this is a straight stereo mix, the surround channels had very little to do except play cards and ask me how the weather was every now and again. The subwoofer, on the other hand, had a whale of a time supporting the bass and drums, and did so in a conspicuous manner that indicated it didn't give a damn who knew about its presence. The bass-heavy nature of the music meant that this frequent pulsing seemed to be perfectly appropriate, even if it did cause the floor to vibrate from time to time.


    Well...there is a menu, I guess.


    The film is based around a static and very hazy composite picture of Bob Marley. It is not 16x9 enhanced, nor does it have any animation or audio of any kind. However, it is functional and easy to navigate, which is what counts in my view.


    Merely a stale listing of each of Marley's releases, with no annotation about production methods, recording techniques, or even a still shot of the covers to accompany listings. This section definitely needs improvement.

Other Titles

    This is merely a listing of other titles available from this source, and most of them are specific to Region 2.

R4 vs R1

    This disc is identically-featured the world over.


    Bob Marley And The Wailers: Catch A Fire is a nice documentary on a nice DVD.

    The video quality is very good, especially considering the source material.

    The audio quality is also very good.

    There are almost no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)
Audio sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sgh.gif (874 bytes)
Extras srh.gif (874 bytes)
Plot sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)
Overall sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sgh.gif (874 bytes)

 © Dean McIntosh (my bio sucks... read it anyway)
July 25, 2000. 
Review Equipment
DVD Grundig GDV 100 D, using composite output; Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output
Display Panasonic TC-29R20 (68 cm), 4:3 mode, using composite input; Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm), 16:9 mode/4:3 mode, using composite and S-video inputs
Audio Decoder Built In (Amplifier)
Amplification Sony STR-DE835
Speakers Panasonic S-J1500D Front Speakers, Philips PH931SSS Rear Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Subwoofer