Roy Orbison

The Anthology

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Details At A Glance

Category Music Theatrical Trailer(s) No
Rating Other Trailer(s) No
Year Released 1999 Commentary Tracks No
Running Time
49:44 minutes
(not 55 minutes as stated on the packaging) 
Other Extras Biography
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 1,2,3,4,5,6 Director Mark Hall
Warner Vision
Starring The Big O
Case Brackley
RPI $39.95 Music Roy Orbison

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

Plot Synopsis

    It is interesting to look at the legacy of Roy Orbison and his influence on rock and roll over the years. Here is a man who is quite possibly the most boring entertainer to ever get up on a stage: he basically just stood there on stage with his guitar and sang. Nothing else. When one looks at the all-time Top 40 charts, his is not a name that really jumps out at you with any regularity. Yet, he influenced so many performers with his unique vocal style and his songwriting ability that his legend is forever assured in the lexicon of rock and roll, and one can hardly argue his longevity in the field, either, given that he had hit records in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.

    So why does a man of this stature end up with a pitiful 50 minutes of very well fleshed-out videos?

    The tracks on offer here run the entire gamut of his career and comprise the following:

    The stand-out tracks are obviously the true greats for which Roy Orbison will forever be remembered: the magnificent Only The Lonely, the under-rated Running Scared, the brilliant Crying, the iconic Oh, Pretty Woman, Blue Bayou, In Dreams and You Got It.

    Interspersed between the videos, and fleshing out the program enormously, are interview snippets with artists such as The Bee Gees, Robert Plant, Jeff Lynne, K.D. Lang, Bernie Taupin, Don Was and Dwight Yoakam, amongst others, who leave you in no doubt as to the influence of The Big O.

    The only problems with this program is that it is too short, and the technical quality leaves a lot to be desired.

Transfer Quality


    This is not one of the best VHS tapes that I have seen recently. Given that it is a DVD, that should give you some indication of how poor the transfer is. Now I will accept that some of the material dates from the late 1950s, but this really looks as if it were mastered from a pirated fourth generation VHS tape - even the reasonably recent stuff from the 1980s is particularly dreadful in this regard. Of course, a clue as to how bad this was going to be comes from the banner across the front slip cover that proudly proclaims: "Superb Digital Picture and Sound Quality - Dolby AC-3 Stereo". I am no lawyer, but I would have to say that this passes the border of false advertising by a significant margin in my view. There is nothing superb about any aspect of this DVD whatsoever - except perhaps the sheer delight when you can finally remove it from the DVD player.

    The transfer is presented Full Frame and is not 16x9 enhanced.

    Have you ever sat down and watched VHS tapes of old black and white westerns from the 1940s? Well then, you will have a fair inkling of what this transfer looks like. If there was any point of this transfer that could be considered sharp and well defined, it must have been an accident: even the (colour) interview material which presumably was recorded relatively recently is barely adequate in this regard, let alone the main interest of the DVD - the videos. This is as diffuse an image as I have seen on DVD and in general is on a par with the lamentable The Story Of O in this regard. This is a real wishy washy style of transfer that really should not have been let loose on DVD in anything like this quality. There is barely anything that needs to be said about the detail as it is virtually non-existent. Obviously, it is not what we could consider a clear transfer at all. Grain and low level noise did not appear to be a problem here, but the transfer is so murky in parts that you really would not know the difference if it were a problem.

    The black and white videos in general are very weak in the depth of their tones and really are just a collection of wishy washy greys. The colour videos are almost as bad, as the colours lack any sort of real tone and solidity to them and they sort of look like they were taped from a bad NTSC television transmission. The overall quality of the colour videos is so bad that they look like they are oversaturated in a glossy sort of way. The overall effect is completely devoid of anything approaching naturalness. Colour bleed is not a problem for the simple reason that there is not enough colour to let it happen. Words like appalling, gross and terrible spring readily to mind here.

    There are no apparent MPEG artefacts in the transfer. There were no real problems with film-to-video artefacts in the transfer, at least as far as the transfer allowed me to see them. Film artefacts were absolutely rife in general with a couple of videos being especially bad - showing all the signs of negative damage that you could possibly think of.

    This would be considered a bad transfer by VHS standards, let alone DVD standards.


    And as for the superb sound quality? Forget it, as it simply is a figment of someone's imagination.

    There is only the one audio track on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack that in all probability is a mono soundtrack tweaked to sound stereo - and failing quite badly.

    Dialogue and vocals were generally clear and easy to understand, in the circumstances.

    There did not appear to be any real problems with audio sync in the transfer.

    Aside from the fact that the overall quality of the soundtrack is poor, it is on occasions blessed with audio dropouts, most especially during Running Scared. The fact that despite the rather frontal mono sounding effort at times, the unique vocals of The Big O shine through is as good a testament as you will ever require to the greatness of the man. Audio dropouts, no surround presence, no bass support, congested sound - what more could we want from a soundtrack?


    Hardly worth the effort really.



    Reasonable but hardly overloaded with detail, this is barely any sort of compensation for a less than 50 minute DVD of one of the true legends of rock and roll.

R4 vs R1

    This appears to be identical around the world, so there is no essential difference to favour this version over any other.


    Roy Orbison - The Anthology is a shocker of a DVD that only escapes the Hall of Shame for two reasons: the source material is up to forty years old, and no matter how bad it is technically, anything by The Big O has to have some merit in it. You would need to be a real die hard fan to indulge in this DVD, and I would urge you all to avoid this and wait until someone decides to do the job of a Roy Orbison anthology properly and with the respect that it deserves.

    A bad VHS quality video transfer.

    A poor audio transfer.

    A completely unworthy extras package.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (have a laugh, check out the bio)
7th August 2000

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 84cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL