Screamin' Jay Hawkins-I Put a Spell on Me (2001)

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Released 9-Oct-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Music Main Menu Audio
Discography
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 102:04
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Nicholas Triandafyllidis
Studio
Distributor
IDEEFIXE
Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Screamin' Jay Hawkins
Eric Burdon
Jim Jarmusch
Bo Diddley
Rudi Protrudi
Case ?
RPI $29.95 Music Screamin' Jay Hawkins


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Screamin' Jay Hawkins is someone with a cult following, but was familiar to me for a single song - I Put A Spell On You. He mingled with Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, began having hits in 1956 and continued to perform his music until his death, aged 70, in Paris in 2000. This documentary film follows the resurrection of his career after he left the USA and found a new fan base in Europe. He achieved acclaim mainly for his outrageous stage persona (and from this film, his off-stage one was not too different). His insane stare, voodoo-esque skulls and snakes, infamous stage entrance via a closed coffin and characteristic screaming vocals made him a talent way ahead of his time. Alice Cooper and Marilyn Manson certainly seem to owe something to the ground broken by this crazy performer.

    Whether or not he is a talent you appreciate is ultimately a matter of personal taste. To be honest, I thought his musical skills were somewhat limited and would not consider myself a fan of the man's work. With this documentary, you do at least get a chance to appreciate his quirky, and very individualistic style. The film is composed of scenes of some of his final performances in Greece in 1999, coupled with historical footage and reminiscences from some of his friends and admirers. These include Bo Diddley, Arthur Brown (The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown) and Eric Burdon (The Animals). It is a tale of exploitation - Hawkins saw next to no money from royalties on his music, and spent the later part of his career living in a trailer and playing cover songs in rib joints.

    There is more to the story than just Jay's performances - it is a tale of racism, exploitation, six marriages and the resilience of a proud but crazy man. Personally, I Put A Spell On Me will not warrant much repeat viewing, but as a retrospective of a true original, there will be some entertainment here for fans of Screamin' Jay or his music.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The overall video transfer of this disc is highly variable but overall acceptable. Some of the camera work is a little dodgy, particularly the interview footage with Bo Diddley, and some of the older footage shows its age.

    The footage is presented 16x9 enhanced at 1.78:1 which I assume is the original aspect ratio.

    The transfer is generally free from film grain, but there are occasions where film/video grain does crop up more noticeably (for example at 7:18 and 16:45). The transfer is frequently very soft in the older footage (actually quite appalling around 34:23), but acceptably sharp in the recent Athens concert footage. Generally, the older the footage is the worse the video defects. The older stuff suffers from loss of focus and lens flare, whilst the newer clips are quite satisfactory. Shadow detail is pretty good and blacks are quite deep, but once again the older clips have washed out blacks and low level noise aplenty. Colours in the recent concerts and interviews are quite pleasant due to the coloured lighting and clothing of the performers. Skin tones look fine in the recent shots.

    The transfer doesn't suffer from major MPEG artefacts. There is evidence of mild aliasing on occasion (for example the road markings at 4:57 or the microphone stands at 16:14). Edge enhancement was rarely apparent (for example at 44:03) and is never distracting.

    The transfer is generally free from scratches and flecks, although some of the very old footage is riddled with scratches and flecks.

    There are no subtitles available on this DVD.

    This is a single layered, single sided disc (DVD 5).

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The overall audio quality of this disc is acceptable, but unremarkable.

    There is a single audio track available, which is presented in English Dolby Digital 2.0 encoded at 224 kbps.

    The lyrics were frequently indecipherable, but this is due to the screaming style of Hawkins rather than the audio transfer. Audio sync was not noticed to be a problem at any time. There was some major distortion evident in the oldest footage, but generally the recent footage had a fairly reasonable audio transfer. This is not really a music DVD - it is a documentary with lots of clips from stage performances, so the overall transfer of the dialogue is more important - and that was generally fine.

    With Pro Logic II enabled, the surround channels do provide some effects and carry some of the music, but it is still a pretty frontal soundstage most of the time. The subwoofer is almost never used, but will carry some redirected bass on occasion - depending on your set-up. There are no LFE effects present.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There are a couple of minor extras on this disc.

Menu

    The menu is a static photo of Hawkins accompanied by I Put A Spell On You. It allows the selection of individual track excerpts (essentially fourteen chapter stops), playing the documentary and the selection of the limited extras:

Trailer

    Running for 2:06 and presented at 1.78:1 with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at 224 kbps.

Discography

    This consists of a four silent text pages listing Jay's recordings, presented at 1.33:1.

Propaganda

    This consists of single silent text page showing four other music DVDs available through Umbrella.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This disc does not appear to be available in Region 1 or Region 2.

Summary

    Screamin' Jay Hawkins - I Put A Spell On Me will probably only be of interest to existing fans of the man. There is a mildly interesting story here, but nothing to warrant repeat viewing. Recommended for fans only.

    The video quality is acceptable.

    The audio quality is acceptable.

    There are a couple of trivial extras available.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel O'Donoghue (You think my bio is funny? Funny how?)
Friday, October 24, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDHarmony DVD Video/Audio PAL Progressive, using Component output
DisplayPanasonic TX-47P500H 47" Widescreen RPTV. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR600 with DD-EX and DTS-ES
SpeakersJensenSPX-9 fronts, Jensen SPX-13 Centre, Jensen SPX-5 surrounds, Jensen SPX-17 subwoofer

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